As discussed in my previous article, I have a copy of the Shadowlands collector’s edition and its art book (Full Disclosure: it was given to me for free by Blizzard). Aside from the artwork that could potentially relate to new cinematics there’s also a surprisingly large amount of passages detailing lore about the Shadowlands. There’s some shocking revelations among the flavor tidbits.
Want to know the Helm of Domination’s true purpose? How Sylvanas really got her val’kyr? Revendreth’s complicated history with the Light? More information about the First Ones and the creation of the Warcraft universe? Read on to find out!
Of course, first things first I should warn that these are SPOILERS for The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and the expansion in general. I’m going to provide word for word transcriptions of some, but not all the lore entries in the book. Right now there won’t be any pictures as I’m not one hundred percent sure how many images of the pages themselves are proper to share, but I might upload the relevant pages later.
At the beginning and end of the book are stills from the Shadowlands opening cinematic (the only art related to it anywhere) with quotes from Bolvar.
Death was not the end I believed it to be. No rest or joyous reunions in the Light awaited me. What I witnessed challenged all I knew. With my final breath, I saw impossible places – worlds within worlds brimming with beings that defied description. It wasn’t until the Helm of Domination was placed upon my head that I understood the truth I had seen: Death is not an end, but a beginning.
-The Lich King
Now you have seen as I have, sights never meant for living eyes. But this knowledge will not save you. Nothing can stop what Sylvanas set into motion. Rending the veil was just the beginning. Beyond the ruined sky awaits an evil older than reality itself.
The Jailer has been amassing power within his Maw, and soon his patience shall be rewarded. Everything we sacrificed to save Azeroth will have been in vane. The only key to saving our world lies within the realm of Death.
Afterwards the book is divided into six chapters, each based on a different zone. The first chapter is on Oribos and provides us with an explanation as to why the Arbiter needs to judge souls. Without her, they would just wander around the Shadowlands going from afterlife to afterlife forever.
By every joy and sorrow, the Arbiter judges all mortal souls and sets them on their intended path. Without her guidance, those souls would be forever lost within the infinite realms of the Shadowlands.
Skipping ahead to chapter three, Maldraxxus (a lot of the lore passages are neat background information, like how stewards work, but I’m trying to not give away the entire book before its full release) we’ve got more details on the enigmatic “First Ones.” Note that these are not the same as the Eternal Ones, the leaders of the covenants, but a different group of entities who appear to have created the Warcraft universe itself.
The First Ones who shaped the cosmos knew they needed to protect the Shadowlands from external threats and beyond. Maldraxxus was their answer.
Chapter Four, Ardenweald has this elaboration on its connection to the Emerald Dream. How the Dream and Ardenweald relate to each other has been a continuous point of debate since Shadowlands‘ announcement. From the passage, I’d assume they’re both different aspects of a singular, unified “Life realm” like the Shadowlands is for Death or the Light realm Crusader Bridenbrad was taken to.
Ardenweald and the Emerald Dream are opposite blooms connected to the same tree.
If the Dream is the personification of life in the waxing stage, the Ardenweald is life when it is waning.
In Chapter Five, Revendreth, we have more details on the battle between the venthyr and the Light. While the information about in on the beta suggested Blizzard was using this an example of the Light being sinister, this passages suggests the venthyr weren’t entirely blameless.
The Ember Ward shall forever bear the scars of the Light’s unjust strike against the venthyr. To even humor the idea that our beloved Sire did anything to incur the Light’s wrath would be an act of sedition.
Again, I’ve skipped almost all the lore passages save for the ones with the biggest implications. Chapter Six, The Maw, is almost all big implications. The chapter header has this summary of the Maw and hints on just how terrible the Jailer’s still unknown crimes are.
In the deepest depths of the Shadowlands lies the inescapable Maw. The souls imprisoned in this hopeless realm are the unforgiven and irredeemable. . .
But even their crimes cannot compare to those of their Jailer.
The page featuring concept art of the Jailer himself has this passage on his backstory. Whatever he could have done, they’re really building it up.
. . .and so, it was decreed that he would be condemned to the Maw, where he would forever be its Jailer.
On a page showing designs for Sylvanas and a Mawsworn kyrian we get a new recounting of how Sylvanas got her val’kyr. They were specifically given to her by the Jailer, suggesting Edge of Night is no longer one hundred percent accurate on how that encounter went down.
He would send those val’kyr to serve as her tethers to mortality. A pact needed to be made. Only then could she return beyond the veil. Only then will the Banshee Queen claim the crown of the false king.
Curiously, the reference to this being how she was able to escape the Maw originally shows this is talking about how she got her initial set of val’kyr. But the concept art of above is of a Mawsworn kyrian. Further retcons/reworkings, or them just putting it with the most relevant piece of concept art even if its not an exact match? Probably the latter.
Next there’s a passage about where the Mawsworn, the various enemy mobs in the maw, come from. They’re the souls that got sent to the Maw, tortured and transformed by the Jailer into his army. The Maw is literally a prison run by its own inmates.
What is known is rumor, and the rumor is a nightmare. His soldiers are the very worst the damned have to offer and are eternally loyal to the very hand that broke them.
And last but not least, the biggest reveal of the whole book. The true purpose of the Helm of Domination:
The veil between realms wanes. The Helm of Domination was crafted to be our way forward; instead, the one seared by the flames of life uses it to keep us at bay.
Between that and the Sylvanas passage, we now know her full plan from Cataclysm to present. Everything she’s done since gaining her val’kyr was to work towards the goal of getting the Helm of Domination from Bolvar. All that death and war was to make her powerful enough to to defeat him. All because Bolvar was able to resist the Jailer’s influence and he needed a new pawn to open the way.
This raises the questions of where Ner’zhul and Arthas fell in the Jailer’s plans. Perhaps they too were the Jailer’s earlier hopeful champions but failed for one reason or another. Ner’zhul spent most of his tenure as Lich King trying to get out of the Legion’s control, which would give him little time to “open the way.” And Arthas, we were told back in Wrath of the Lich King, still had enough of his humanity to hold back to Scourge’s true power. Maybe it also helped him resist the Jailer?
As was pointed out by Kiraser on the Scrolls of Lore discord, that could even be the true meaning of King Terenas’ warning. There must always be a Lich King because someone needed to use the Helm of Domination not to usher the Jailer in, but hold him back as Bolvar would go on to do.
That’s a lot to ruminate on. I’ll leave you with one final detail. It’s not a lore passage, it’s an actual image from the book. But I think it might be a teaser all the same. For some reason there’s an extra piece of concept art on the very last page of the book. It’s after Bolvar’s coda and even the book’s credits. It’s a literal after credits stinger.
I can’t figure out where it’s supposed to be. Maybe its an earlier design for Torghast or Castle Nathria where it would have been on an island rising out an ocean for some reason? But since its also the last page of the book, almost like a teaser, maybe it is one. Concept art for somewhere we’re going next.
After all, we’re lacking in locations for patch raids. . .