Fireside Tales: Vault of the Incarnates Lore
It’s that time again — another Race to World First (RWF) and another raid packed with lore nuggets…not to mention dragons! Ever since the days of Cataclysm, Dragons have played a more supporting role in our lore rather than the focal point, so it’s been a while.
Last week, we hopped on our ships/zeppelins and made our way to the Dragon Isles for the first time, answering the call of the Dragonflights. The coming reset marks our first steps into the Vault of the Incarnates, and it promises to be the culmination of many battlefronts against the Primalists – our first “big bad” in this expansion. While this is certainly not our first encounter with the Primalists, we’re hoping it won’t be the last time we contend with these formidable foes.
Although some of this information is still encrypted and undiscovered until we fight our way through Vault of the Incarnates, some of the narrative threads have been laid out. Today, let’s cozy up at the campfire and take a closer look at the lore to see where the story of Vault of the Incarnates may take us!
Table of Contents
Dawn of the Aspects
To start off, we must discuss the Dragon Aspects, which play a central role in Dragonflight so far and for the foreseeable future of the expansion.
A long time ago, when much of Azeroth was still new and the beginnings of life were forming, the dragons were also evolving. These early dragons (proto-dragons) were populous throughout Azeroth, and the largest, (and the presumed progenitor of all dragons), was Galakrond.
Originally a peaceful being, Galakrond changed quite suddenly. During the conversation between Tyr and the proto-dragons (who would become the Aspects), Tyr vaguely mentions that he is complicit in some way to that change, but he doesn’t elaborate further. The five proto-dragons that would later become the Dragon Aspects were not in a place to question the Titan Watcher just yet.
Galakrond had begun to eat the hunt of other proto-drakes, and even the proto-drakes themselves, and those he cannibalized were raised as the Not-Living, bound to his will. This is a huge problem, as it disrupts the balance that the Titans strove to foster on Azeroth, so Tyr has the idea of five of the proto-dragons banding together, and they would eventually defeat the monster Galakrond had become. Tyr was injured in the fight and retreated before the fight was over.
Afterwards, two Titan Watchers approached the five proto-dragons about Tyr’s plan to empower them, and they met up with Tyr to complete this task. He had reached out to the Pantheon of the Titans, and the proto-dragons became the Dragon Aspects. Alexstrasza, the red dragon, was chosen to safeguard all living creatures. Ysera, the green dragon, was chosen to watch over the wilds, as well as the Emerald Dream. Nozdormu, the bronze dragon, was chosen to guard time itself. Malygos, the blue dragon, was chosen to guard magic. And Neltharion, the black dragon, was to rule over the earth and its deep places.
The Dragon Aspects were all given powers to suit their respective roles. In order to dissuade any following of Galakronds footsteps, the story was formed that the Aspects were created from Galakrond. If you want to read more about this and get a visual of exactly how big he is, check out Dawn of the Aspects by Richard A. Knaak.
The Not-Living weren’t the only ones to follow Galakrond’s wishes. Among his followers were the Primal Incarnates – proto-dragons who stood against the titans, their creations, and even their own kind. The Primal Incarnates believed that lesser races should be subservient to them and lead their own followers called the Primalists.
The Incarnates turned to the elements, as they sought to rebel against the Aspects. They were infused with elemental power, similar to the Titans, empowering the Aspects. Alexstrasza did not have the heart to destroy the Incarnates when the Aspects defeated them, so three of the Incarnates were imprisoned in the Vault of the Incarnates, yet another Titan facility in Azeroth.
Prior to Dragonflight, Raszageth, the youngest of the Primal Incarnates, was freed by the Primalists. This event led to the Dragon Aspects seeking our help on the Dragon Isles.
Pictured: The Four Primal Incarnates feeling festive
We’ll elaborate upon Raszageth shortly.
Neltharion the Earth Warder
Something important to keep in mind about Azeroth is the presence of the Old Gods. They were totally defeated after we fought N’Zoth in Ny’alotha, and have no way of causing more hell, right? Well… let’s take a closer look.
When the Titans first came to Azeroth, Aman’thul attempted to… we’ll say “cleanse” Y’Shaarj. He plucked the Old God off the planet, killing Y’shaarj in the process, but it left a gaping hole on Azeroth. This wound was shaped to become the Well of Eternity.
The Titans realized that they would not be able to eradicate the remaining Old Gods without destroying the planet. This was the beginning of many Titan facilities constructed on Azeroth. In some cases, these facilities were repurposed to instead imprison our tentacle-y overlords Er… Old Gods.
The Old Gods were imprisoned right where they had each entrenched themselves in the planet and burrowed deep into the earth. Many more prisons were made with different purposes in mind, and it’s still not clear exactly how many exist.
Now, let’s remind ourselves what charge Neltharion was given: dominion over the earth and deep places. His dominion isn’t ocean deep; it is core of the planet deep. Because of the exact nature of the Old Gods, Neltharion seems like he would be especially susceptible to them.
Along this vein, we’ve since seen Y’Shaarj still have a hold over Pandaria, countless millennia after he was popped like a pimple. The Klaxxi also served the whispers and the Sha were directly derived from the essence of the Old God, and while they remained dormant for a long time under Pandaria, were re-awoken by the Horde and Alliance arriving on the island’s shores. We also stopped C’thun, and yet Cho’gall still answered his whispers for years later. Yogg-Saron was able to corrupt Loken and mess with the Watchers who kept his prison, and they were even able to gain access to the Emerald Dream by manipulating Fandral Staghelm and Xavius.
We can’t fully attribute many specific events to N’zoth outside the evolution of the Naga, but he was also the sneakiest of them all, and key to Neltharion’s corruption, which we didn’t fully discover until Patch 8.3.
All of this was still ongoing millennia after the Titans somewhat neutralized and imprisoned N’Zoth and the other Old Gods, yet they still held immense power until they were defeated over the course of multiple expansions. However, prior to their ultimate(?) defeat, the whispers of the Old Gods ate at Neltharion’s mind.
Neltharion’s Fall from Grace and the Dracthyr
Dragons are the kind of creatures that like to experiment, but Neltharion took this a step further than the rest. By virtue of being the Earth Warder, Neltharion felt the weight of every stone. He found this to be too heavy of a burden, yet he also believed he had to shoulder it all on his own. Not to mention, the Old Gods were trapped in the very places that Neltharion held dominion and were constantly whispering. In fact, we cannot emphasize enough how creepy and powerful the Old Gods and the Void really are.
It’s not really stated how much each Dragon Aspect knew about what the others were up to at any given time. Aside from Alexstrasza and Ysera being clutchmates, Neltharion and Malygos were close friends as well — like family. Otherwise, the Dragonflights, led by their respective Aspects, largely kept to themselves.
Pictured: Neltharion and his army of Dracthyr.
Source: Warcraft - Dragonflight Legacies: Chapter Three
Source: Warcraft - Dragonflight Legacies: Chapter Three
Neltharion started tinkering and created the Dracthyr, a race of humanoid dragonkin. They were meant to embody the powers of all five dragonflights, and they were a mighty army for him – there is no doubt of that, as we’re shown through Legacies. Neltharion used a Titan artifact in order to control them, which is broken as he is attacked by one of the Primal Incarnates, Raszageth.
Pictured: Raszageth emerging from The Froststone Vault
Upon this attack, Neltharion’s hold over the Dracthyr was broken, and Raszageth seemed responsible. Neltharion succumbed to the whispers of the Old Gods, using their power to seal Raszageth away in The Froststone Vault. He hurried the Dracthyr into the creches of their home where they trained, and he had Malygos seal them away in a magical stasis.
In the coming millennia, many of Neltharion's actions demonstrated how deeply the corruption of the Old Gods had festered within him. From the formation of the Demon Soul (Dragon Soul) and using it to obliterate most of the Blue Dragonflight, to how his body had changed, almost every event that he took part in was at the behest of the whispers of the Old Gods. This same corruption would plague the rest of his dragonflight.
Neltharion revealed to the former Warchief Thrall that he believed the Titans had placed too heavy a burden upon him, and that the Old Gods could free him from their “gift”. All of this eventually led to Neltharion’s undoing in the Maelstrom at the hands of adventurers as well as the Aspects, with Thrall standing in for the Earth Warder. This of course comes at the cost of the Aspect's immortality, power, and ability to procreate.
Details of these events are spread throughout a number of books, namely the entire War of the Ancients trilogy by Richard A. Knaak, and Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects by Christie Golden.
Current Day Implications
In current day, the Dragon Isles began to awaken and our “Stony Danza” (Koranos) has successfully lit the beacon of Tyrhold, calling the dragons home after 10,000 years. The dragons have begun to scour the Isles for answers. With the Primalists successfully freeing Raszageth, the Dragon Aspects are looking to restore even a fraction of their former power to secure the future of the dragonflights.
Ebyssian and Wrathion have discovered the Forbidden Reach, where the Dracthyr are in stasis, and helped them battle the Primalists invading their home. Nozdormu speaks with Scalecommander Emberthal, showing the fall of Deathwing and helping her discover why they were put into stasis in the first place, as well as the moment Neltharion fell from grace.
Shortly after, in the company of Wrathion and Ebyssian, some of the Dracthyr made their way to Orgrimmar and Stormwind to invite us adventurers in the dragons’ quest to save their future as well as Azeroth’s. We now follow the path of destruction laid out by the Primalists as they set about their work, and help our dragon friends to ensure their future.
Dragonflight promotional artwork, Blizzard Entertainment
And this is where our first raid of Dragonflight brings us — yet another Titan facility, the Vault of the Incarnates, where Raszageth and her Primalist followers are working to release the other three Primal Incarnates.
Honestly, we have a feeling that we won't succeed in this encounter. This feels very much like staring down Queen Azshara, with her… escape? Kidnapping? It also feels like when we faced off against Jaina Proudmoore and saw her ultimate retreat. So, although we may “win” the encounter, it feels reminiscent of the trappings of yet another “Xanatos Gambit” trope, which is always welcome.
For now, we eagerly await the final reveal of where the story of Vault of the Incarnates will take us in Dragonflight. Thanks for joining us for this Fireside Tale!
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About the Author
Senppai (they/them) is an Indigenous, 2SLBGTQIA+, Canadian content creator and a huge lore nerd. Their stream consists of almost all different WoW content. They're always down to answer questions about lore. They're also the Lore Walker over at Azeroth: A History, a podcast looking at Warcraft lore and how it fits today. Many times, Senppai is joined everywhere by Jarvis, the ginger demon kitty.