This may be my most difficult letter to write. I was going to save it for the very last, but things outside of Azeroth have gotten in the way of my letter deliveries. I start off doing one thing, headed in one direction, and then a series of unexpected events take me further and further from what I set out to do. It’s become more important that i write the letter than that I write it when I intended to.
I guess you know what that’s like.
I know this must sound strange (though I’m betting you’ve heard stranger), but I have lived many lives on Azeroth. I first set foot in the world of Azeroth on the same day that adventurers were first able to accompany you into Ulduar. I saw the pictures of the wonders inside and said, “I want to go THERE!” Unfortunately, that was an expedition for seasoned adventurers, and I was not one. I was so un-seasoned I hadn’t even been to a cooking trainer to learn to make spice bread yet.
Eventually, I had much more personal reasons for wanting to go to Ulduar. Many of them were related to the things I learned about you. Whether I was traveling the world as a Forsaken warlock, Tauren druid, dwarf hunter (we won’t speak of the elves), my path kept crossing yours.
What is it that I learned about your life? That’s a lot of information to cover in one letter, but I’ll try. I’m sure you could correct a few stories and add a quite a lot to others, but I’ll tell you what it is I’ve gotten from studies in the Ironforge library and my own adventuring. (You may or may not remember that we’ve met a time or two. I was the dwarf lass with the baby bear named after you.) Get yourself a pint or seven and I’ll see how well I can tell the stories.
Your journal was part of what enticed adventurers to leave their everyday lives behind and set off exploring Azeroth. (http://www.wowpedia.org/Brann’s_Journal) Some folks - and by “some”, I mean over 10 million - have made something of a game out of exploring, fighting off demons and the Scourge, and what have you. I’ve been known to say the whole point of the game is to find you. “Everytime you find Brann Bronzebeard,” I tell them, “you’ve won the game. Anything left after that is just to keep you going until he gets to the next place where you’ll find him”. See, no one managed to catch up to you for a long time. It looked like you might be found, but things sort of dead-ended in Sillithus when we went to check on Glibb. (Your letter did ask that we check up on the monkey.) And there’ve been rumors that you went beyond the Dark Portal, but no one caught up with you there. Finally, though, we caught up to you in the Storm Peaks in Northrend! And then caught up to you again in Uldum. Always just before
“the game” ends. And then I go back and look at that journal of yours they made public. They made it public so folks would know you were missing and set off after you… not so folks would run off to fight demons and the Scourge, and earn a reputation with the Society of Lost Murloc Musicians or whoever… those things just happen along the way!
And, of course, that’s the point where someone pats me on the head and says, “Ha ha! That’s almost believable.” Well, I don’t know that I entirely believe it myself. I don’t necessarily think that’s all there is to it. But one thing I have learned is that life’s not just about getting from where you are to where you’re going. It’s about how you get there. What makes you YOU, and what makes your life YOUR life, is exactly which route you take and all the things you run into along the way. Which forests you wander in, and which mountains you climb, and which companions you pick up and which enemies you defeat. And really, that’s what it’s about. Getting where you’re going keeps you moving, but if you never get there in the end the journey itself has been worth so much.
You reminded me of that at a time I most needed to be reminded. I knew those things already, but I wasn’t listening to myself. I listened to you, though. And maybe a little to Prophet Velen, as well. He’s been known to say something that a famous person from beyond Azeroth once said… “Not all who wander are lost.” I think of you every time. Not being where you thought you’d be isn’t the same as not being exactly where you need to be.
I suppose that sounds a bit like destiny or fate. Personally, I’m not too keen on the idea. I suppose I like to believe there is some sort of order within the chaos of the universe, so I guess I do believe we all have roles to fill. I just think there’s a lot more personal choice involved than the idea of fate allows for. But fate does seem to play a role in dwarven culture, and I suppose that makes sense. After all, the Earthen were created for specific jobs. It is a bit disturbing to think about. Unless, I suppose, you’re perfectly comfortable with the idea that someone already decided for you exactly what you should be and do, and that there’s really no way you can mess that up because your life path will self-correct in very painful and discouraging ways if you don’t follow it willingly.
Brann, I can’t be comfortable with that idea. But let’s not think too much about it right now, aye?
I do have to wonder what the original plan the Titans had was. As much as Azeroth has drifted from that plan, it seems some things haven’t strayed too far from how they were designed. Dwarves still dig - troggs, too - and gnomes still tinker. Most trolls still fight among themselves for dominance, and elves just do it with more fashion sense. (Know what you call a bunch of forest trolls dressed up in mooncloth robes? Darnassus.) And you… well, you set off on a journey that keeps leading to secrets about the origins of life on Azeroth and the Old Gods.
Watcher Creteus, who was so careful not to give any information he shouldn’t no matter how much he liked someone, decided not just that your reasons for wanting the keystone were acceptable, but he said, “I believe this dwarf may be the entity for which the keystone was created.” I was right there beside you while you put the pieces together to create the keystone. The voice speaking sounded very much like there had been a series of tests in place to make sure it didn’t end up in the wrong hands, and you passed those tests.
You want to know what I think? Silly question… I’m just going to tell you whether you want to know or not. I think you get blamed for a lot of “button pushing” that might have been done anyway, but gone smoother, had things gone according to the plan of the Titans. I don’t think it’s some odd glitch or limitation in the machinery that made the system call you “Brannbronzan”. I think the system was programmed to call you that because that was supposed to be your name. Or maybe it was supposed to be some other type of official designation, and with all the changes that happened over time it ended up being your name instead. I think Creteus was right… you were always the one this information was intended for. I just don’t necessarily think this is how the Titans expected you to get it.
I’m betting none of this information was ever meant to be lost. Restricted? Probably. The Titans seem to be fond of that. But I’m guessing it was supposed to be known by someone, and passed down in an appropriate manner. Instead, the information was lost from conscious memory when the Earthen went into their deep hibernation and woke up as dwarves. Your intended role is still, for lack of a better term, “programmed” into you, though.
Yeah, that’s edging a bit closer to destiny and fate again than I’m really okay with. And I don’t have a pint or seven on hand to make it easier for myself.
Look, here’s what I’m saying. Yes, you’ve pushed a few buttons that maybe no one else would have pushed. But we always got some good answers and some even better questions out of it, and nothing too big has blown up. Elves, on the other hand… well, the Mages’ Society for Welcoming the Burning Legion wasn’t based in Ironforge, now was it?
You managed to convince the Nerubians who were not undead not to kill the rest of us… to fight alongside us against the Scourge. I wonder how many adventurers don’t realize that we could have gotten to Northrend and immediately become science experiments and anatomy studies for the Nerubians.
Your coin is the only one I’ve ever fished up in Dalaran that didn’t have a wish connected to it. Just a simple statement. “Brann Bronzebeard was here.” I want to be so at peace with myself one day that I can toss in a coin but not make a wish.
Yes, it’s true that folks often laugh at you. They say you’re lost. They say you can’t resist pushing buttons. That everywhere you go, an Old God turns up. That you’re a menace to Azeroth because you blow things up. I think those folks are ignorant, jealous, or a little bit of both.
Have they never felt such a thirst for knowledge that they would go anywhere to find the well to drink from? Have they never had such a passion for their work that any price they paid was negligible when compared to the rewards? Have they never had the confidence to ignore well-intentioned warnings and just go ahead and do what every fiber of their being told them was right? Are they so busy just trying to get where they want to be that they cannot risk the detour that is the real journey?
I fight every day not to be one of those people. Sadly, my world seems to be running short on heroes who will throw well-intentioned but misguided caution to the wind and just go out there and live! We’re becoming a fearful people who trade personal joy and fulfillment for safe, structured lives that experts say we’re supposed to live, exactly the way experts say we’re supposed to live them.
Sometimes we need a reminder that deviation from the plan isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That’s how I ended up wanting to follow you into Ulduar for personal reasons.
I was in Dalaran one night and heard Rhonin talking to you, and… well, I jumped out of a window to follow you. It’s okay. I was a druid, and catform always lands on its feet. I stood there and watched the two of you send the reply code, and I heard Rhonin say this:
“Algalon was sent here to judge the fate of our world. He found a planet whose races had deviated from the titans’ blueprints. A planet where not everything had gone according to plan. Cold logic deemed our world not worth saving. Cold logic however does not account for the power of free will! It’s up to each of us to prove this is a world worth saving! That our lives… our lives are worth living!”
It’s been a hard few years, Brann. Parts of me are breaking down long before they should, and other parts are breaking down in ways that aren’t normal. It’s often painful to be me, physically and emotionally. The thing that keeps me going somedays is insisting to myself that “different” is NOT “wrong”. That it’s okay when I can’t explain to someone why I have the idea I do, or why I can be so damned smart in one way and so damned useless in another way. Why I am not broken just because I can’t do some of the basic things people think everyone can do. That maybe I’m not following “the plan”, but that doesn’t mean I’m a waste. That I have so much to offer, and if other people don’t want those gifts then I will just enjoy them myself by being the me that I am!
So I cried when Rhonin made that speech. And I decided that the most important thing to me was to see Ulduar myself.
It almost happened once. I asked for it for my birthday, but then everyone sort of forgot and made other plans. My husband took me in there anyway, though. I have a picture here. Remember us? I bet you’d remember us if you saw Flame Leviathan crushing that one seige vehicle we were attacking him with.
You saw us again not too long ago. We made it past Flame Leviathan that time, but no further. It turns out gear and levels of experience with high-stress combat environments may explain why one feral druid can get through Ulduar alone, but two other feral druids can’t manage it together. We tried, though. We tried hard. And I’m sorry I’ll never turn in the reply code myself, but I’m not sorry we tried.
You see, I’m leaving Azeroth. It’s time for my path to take me somewhere else. But I do not regret the time I spent here. I learned things I needed to know about myself. I did some crazy things I’ve been told you “can’t do”, and even did some of them successfully. I followed your trail all over the world and, in many ways, found myself.
Thank you, Prince Brann.
Travel safe. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.