What Deal did Sylvanas Make With the Jailer?
World of Warcraft: Sylvanas
, the new novel by Christie Golden, finally answers some questions about the exact details of the deal that was struck between Sylvanas Windrunner and the Jailer.
Sylvanas Did Not Trust the Jailer At First
One question many people have had is why Sylvanas agreed to align with someone like the Jailer, who uses Domination magic and who helped create the Lich King in the first place. As it turns out, Sylvanas was quite justifiably mistrustful of the Jailer when she first met him.
As we already know, the initial meeting between Sylvanas and the Jailer occurred after her second death, when she threw herself from Icecrown in the
short story Edge of Night
. Instead of the peaceful afterlife she had expected, Sylvanas found herself in the Maw.
In the novel, Zovaal approaches her and introduces himself, telling her that everything she believed about free will was a lie - that there is no freedom or justice in life or death. At first, Sylvanas - who recognizes the runes of Domination carved into the Jailer's skin - strongly rejects his claims.
"I am Zovaal. Before I was the Jailer of this place, I reigned over the realms of Death from the precipice of eternity itself. I stood as Arbiter over every mortal soul whose brief flicker of life had sputtered out. In an instant I knew the entirety of their existance. And time after time, do you know what I saw? Fragile beings left to the fickle whims of fate. Their world, their kin; whether they were wise or simple, hale or sickly; these things were forced upon them. From the moment they drew their first breath until they exhaled their last, the choice was never theirs. And when their lives ended, it was my duty to decide their soul's fate for all eternity."
Anger flared as she thought of her own life. The decisions made for her. "No. I refuse to believe this nonsense."
Her eyes focused on the glowing symbols, and for the first time the hazy shapes hardened into crystal clarity. And in that instant, she summoned forth the banshee's wail to shatter the darkness with her rage.
You bear the mark of the blade that ended me!"
The Jailer's voice remained cold, dispassionate. "A blade designed by the vengeful mind of my brother. The same brother who used Domination to bind me."
"I will listen to nothing you have to say," Sylvanas snarled. "Your words stink of lies! I am dead, I am
, because of you! Why would I ever aid you?"
The Jailer's Claims
Zovaal tells Sylvanas that, as Arbiter, he realized there was no free will in either Life or Death, and that, when he dared to question this, he was punished. He plays heavily on Sylvanas' own sense of injustice, and draws comparisons between them. Even though Sylvanas is still suspicious, she can't help but think of her own trauma. This way, the Jailer establishes a bond of shared pain between them.
From its conception to execution and throughout all that has been, and is, the design is gravely, cruelly, and worst of all
"I dared to defy the will of the makers. I sought to break their flawed design, to replace it with a better one. And for this, my own kin condemned me to this unjust fate.
Again Sylvanas thought of all she had endured in life, and in undeath. Resentment, drowned out by blind agony, crept in again.
"In many ways, your story echoes my own," the Jailer continued. "We were both betrayed... and broken. I, too, was torn asunder, and I understand well what it is like to feel achingly, eternally incomplete."
The Jailer takes care to insist he is not looking for Sylvanas to serve him, but that he sees her as an equal.
"I do not desire a slave, Sylvanas Windrunner. I neeed an ally. Someone whose mind is keen enough to understand my goal, and who is strong enough to see it through, no matter the cost."
"Before you refuse me, remember what I am offering you. We will remake... everything. Life. Death. You will be by my side at each step."
He also makes a show of not expecting Sylvanas to just believe his words, and that he will offer evidence that she can see with her own eyes instead, proposing to have the Val'kyr show her anything she wants in the Shadowlands, so that she can see for herself how unjust everything is.
"You are wise to be skeptical," the Jailer replied. "But a thing is no less true simply because you do not believe it."
"If you distrust my words, then let your own perceptions reveal the truth of them. My Val'kyr can show that everything I am telling you is true."
The Jailer's Lies
From the start, the Jailer can be seen lying to Sylvanas. For example, the Jailer tells Sylvanas she was sent to the Maw by an unjust system.
"You saved so many, some who did not even want your help, who did not deserve your help--but you saved their lives regardless."
"The false Arbiter of the Shadowlands saw that, and still sent you here."
Later, however, he also tells her that Arthas wound up in the Maw because of the choices he made as the Lich King - choices that the Jailer distances himself from.
"Arthas used Frostmourne to end your mortal life, but not by my command. He was too weak to truly master the mourneblade's potential. In the end, he used the tools of Domination to pursue his own selfish desire for power. He betrayed everything. His vows, his family, his friends, even himself, and that is why you can sense him here, powerless, frightened. Weak."
We, of course, know that this isn't true. Uther was the one who sent Arthas directly to the Maw - not the Arbiter.
If the Jailer can lie about the reason why Arthas is in the Maw, then it calls into question his claims about Sylvanas.
We know - though she doesn't at this time - that by the time he met her, Jailer already possessed a shard of Sylvanas' soul. This both suggests he had far more involvement in her death than he's claiming, and also that he could have been responsible for her soul being brought to the Maw.
Later, when Sylvanas sees Zul'jin is in Revendreth rather than the Maw, we can see how the seeds planted by Zovaal's lies have begun to take root.
Sylvanas frowned slightly. Already she was starting to see what the Jailer meant. "If Zul'jin is not in the Maw," Sylvanas said, "then the Arbiter judged
past redemption... but not
In another important scene, Sylvanas comes across a creature that was sent to a perfectly heavenly afterlife as a reward for a supreme act of love for her mate. When Sylvanas asks about the creature's mate, the Val'kyr tells her he was sent to a different afterlife. Sylvanas is shocked, and begins to realize what the Jailer meant by the system being cruelly and "indifferently" flawed.
"Are any families whole... in any afterlife?
"We cannot answer that with certainty, as there are so--"
"Yes, yes, I understand, they are infinite, and you cannot travel everywhere. But in your experience--in all you have seen--are any souls reunited with their loved ones?"
Agatha's strong, beautiful face was grave and etched with sorrow. "In our experience, Lady Sylvanas, no."
Here, Sylvanas believes she's seeing evidence with her own eyes that confirm the things the Jailer has told her. We, however, know otherwise. While it's true some - like Durotan and Draka - do go to different afterlives, it's not true that families are never kept together. In Chapter 5 of the Night Fae Covenant Campaign, we meet the former Night Warrior Thiernax and his husband Qadarin, who are both in Ardenweald together.
This theme of Sylvanas believing she's seeing proof of the Jailer's words continues throughout the book.
Five Signs to Gain Trust
Even after the Jailer has managed to convince Sylvanas that some of what he has said is true, she makes it clear she still doesn't trust him.
"Now you understand," he said.
"I do. But I am... cautious. Careful. I do not give my trust easily, and I still do not trust you," she said.
"Trust between allies is earned," the Jailer agreed, "but if your own eyes do not convince you, I am not certain what will."
In fact, the Jailer sends Sylvanas back without striking a deal. Instead, he promises her that she will grow to realize the truth of his words herself. Now that he has told her there is no justice, she will begin to see injustice wherever she looks.
"Then go," the Jailer said. "When you have made your choice, send a Val'kyr to me, and if it is a yes, watch for a child of blood. With your new insight, you will see injustice everywhere, and fairness not at all."
Finally, he tells her that there will be five signs that will prove the truth of his words.
"Watch for these five signs, and know my words are true. A fiery darkness will return. You must step out of the shadows and lead. A blade will pierce the heart of the world, and you shall hold the blood from that wound and sense its power. And finally... you shall topple a king, and shatter the sky itself."
With this in mind, Sylvanas returns to her undeath, where she does, indeed, begin to notice injustice everywhere. Even so, she's not entirely ready to reach out to the Jailer, and even begins to envision ways to find meaning in her existance.
During the novel
, Sylvanas and her sister Vereesa rekindled their relationship, bonding over their shared hatred for Garrosh. At the time, Sylvanas began to make plans to live with Vereesa in Undercity - twisted plans, she expected Vereesa to die and be raised in undeath - but still plans to live reunited with her sister. When these plans fell through, Sylvanas felt betrayed and abandoned, leaving her in a state that must have made her particularly vulnerable to the Jailer's manipulations. A scene in
The pain was unbearable. It was the same phantom agony she had experienced over the last several days, when she had felt so happy with Vereesa. Except now, even the joy that had accompanied the pain was gone, and there was nothing left but torment.
Sylvanas fell to her knees, buried her face in her hands, and wept, wept like a broken child who had lost everything, everything.
Gradually the sobbing ceased, and the familiar peace of coldness drove out the heated hurting. The pain she had felt at first, when she dared foolishly permit herself to hope for something different from what she had now, to feel something for another... to feel love again... It had been a warning. A warning that she was no longer made for feelings such as hope, or love, or trust, or joy. These things were for the living; these things were for the weak. Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, would never again make the mistake of believing she could love.
The same scene referenced in
In the end, though, it did not matter. When Lirath had died, it had been Sylvanas who had turned away from Vereesa. This time, it was Little Moon who had rejected Sylvanas.
Why do I continue to allow myself to care? It never works.
betrayed, either wittingly or unwittingly, by faith in something or someone false, or the vagaries of the world.
It was madness, to think she could be loved. Once, perhaps, but not now.
The Jailer was right. She needed to divest herself of these pathetic shreds of attachments. The so-called ties that bind were nothing more than chains. She would harden her heart, let it be nothing.
Vol'jin's Death & Sylvanas Makes Her Choice
Everywhere she looks, Sylvanas sees injustice. After Vereesa's betrayal, she loses any hope of finding love in her existence. By the time the Jailer's predictions begin to come true, Sylvanas is ready to be convinced.
"The Burning Legion has returned."
Sylvanas was horrified, too, of course--but her primary response was shock. Shock... and then a slow sense of surprised pleasure, and satisfaction.
A fiery darkness will return.
The first of the Jailer's prophecies. What was the Legion, if not a fiery darkness?
She had been watching and observing, as she told the Jailer she would, and saw injustice and unfairness in nearly every aspect of existence, and now... this. Bit by bit, he was proving true to his word.
By the second prediction, Sylvanas - still shaken by the injustice of Vol'jin's death - is ready to make the deal.
The loa had granted the dying shadow hunter a vision, and a name. "Many will not understand," he said, his voice getting softer. "But you... must step out of the shadows... an' lead."
The words. The very words. Unmistakable.
At last the stream turned to a trickle, and she was alone, staring at the empty throne where Vol'jin had done two things that had this morning been unthinkable:
He had died, and he had named her warchief.
The second prophecy from Zovaal. The first, certainly, regarding the Burning Legion, could be considered a lucky guess by the skeptical. But this... it was word for word what Zovaal had told her he would use when he was ready.
Sylvanas, now convinced, sends the Jailer a message, agreeing to join him. Of course, she does not know that the reason why Zovaal could predict Vol'jin's exact words is because his own ally - Mueh'zala - was the loa who whispered those words to the dying Warchief.
As the Jailer prophecied, Sargeras' blade did, indeed, pierce the heart of Azeroth, and when Sylvanas held the planet's lifeblood, Azerite, in her hand, she did indeed sense its power. The final prophecy was self-fulfilling. Sylvanas did topple Bolvar, the Lich King, and shatter the sky - but by then, it was because she had already agreed to do what the Jailer asked.
The Whispers of Il'gynoth
As you may have already realized, the Jailer's talk of five signs is reminiscent of one of the whispers of Il'gynoth.
Five keys to open our way. Five torches to light our path.
This isn't the first time a whisper of Il'gynoth seems like it's predicted development in the story, and it's likely it won't be the last. Much like the Jailer's promise that Sylvanas will notice injustice, many of these whispers are vague enough to be able to apply to many potential outcomes. We thought we'd share them again anyway:
Flesh is his gift. He is your true creator.
To find him, drown yourself in the circle of stars.
The king of diamonds has been made a pawn.
The lord of ravens will turn the key.
The boy-king serves at the master's table. Three lies will he offer you.
Her heart is a crater, and we have filled it.
Five keys to open our way. Five torches to light our path.
At the hour of her third death, she will usher in our coming.
From the earth, he draws strength. Our earth. Our strength.
Its surface blazes bright, masking shadows below.
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