There are several references to the Curse of the Flesh in Warcraft lore dating all the way back to the original, vanilla release of World of Warcraft, indicating this was clearly something the writers over at Blizzard had in the works for quite some time. Although it is not mentioned by name, the Curse is first spoken of in the last quest in Uldaman, The Platinum Discs. Interestingly, the NPC that gives players the story of the dwarves origins is called the Lore Keeper of Norgannon, indicating that these Watchers, at least, were placed to archive the world’s history by the titan Norgannon himself. The question that still hasn’t been answered to this date is this: How many of these Watchers are scattered across the world, and how much of Azeroth’s history do they have compilations for? There was an article a couple of weeks ago on wow.com by David Bowers about Warhammer’s “Tome of Knowledge”, an in-game database full of game information like achievements, titles, and quests – but it also includes an extensive database of story, lore and history. I’d like to think that the discs that are used to activate the Watcher’s archives could very well be a method that Blizzard could incorporate an in-game database of lore that is easily accessible by players, but for now it’s wishful thinking. That, and it’d make this blog woefully obsolete. Regardless, let’s continue on with the Gnomes, what little we do know of them, and speculation on what we don’t.
WARNING – THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FOLLOWING: Wrath of the Lich King, and events that take place in the raid zone of Ulduar. If you don’t wish to be spoiled on any of the above material, I would not recommend clicking to read further!
The Development of the Mechagnome
After the imprisonment of the Old Gods, life on Azeroth attempted to return to normal – the Pantheon had created many new Watchers to keep an eye on things, and these Watchers also spent their time rebuilding the seed races – mostly the earthen and the giants. Tauren history, as reported last week, is still woefully lacking – and I doubt the trolls diminished in numbers enough for anyone to need to manufacture more at this point. The Watchers of Ulduar oversaw this repopulation, and also kept an eye on the prison of Yogg-Saron, the Old God imprisoned beneath Ulduar’s walls of stone.
As for the mechagnomes – last time, I suggested that the mechagnomes were originally created to assist the Watcher Mimir in the Temple of Invention. There is again a complete dearth of information on Mimir, although if speculation is correct and he is Mimiron, it can be assumed that he mostly spent his days creating – not the living plants and creatures of the world like Freya or the others, but mechanics, technology, things that would make life more comfortable, more structure, and more…orderly. Order was, after all, what the Titans were all about.
The problem with mechanical creations and computers however is this: there’s only so much one machine can do, and only so many programs a computer can run at one time. So what’s a sentient computer to do but create more sentient computers with the same innate capacity for creation as the mainframe? Thus, mechagnomes. Unfortunately, the Curse of Flesh was still present on Azeroth, and could not be removed without destroying the planet itself – so some of these constructs found themselves growing softer, weaker, the gears and circuits that made up their machinery slowly turning to flesh. This theory is supported by the dialogue in the quest The Mechagnomes, obtained from Fizzcrank Fullthrottle in the Borean Tundra. The dialogue is as follows:
When we first came to this frozen hell, General Arlos, down in Valiance Keep, gave my group of flying daredevils and I a special task: to establish a forward airbase for the Alliance operations. This airstrip is the result. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy, what with all the nasty beasts and the ground rock-hard from being frozen! But we managed, and we did it quickly too!
Anyway, we needed to pump up lots of sand and oil for the machinery. The nearby pools proved to be perfect for that. Some of the sand even proved to have magical properties… can you say possibilities!? But that’s a different tale.
So, we drained most of the water out and build the pumping station smack dab in the middle. Everything was going swimmingly until one day the main suction pipe got clogged. Mind you, this part I learned later because I wasn’t out there at the time. When they ratcheted up the suction on the pump, up came pieces of a robot that looked like a gnome! Of course the fools worked night and day to put it back together without telling us. This is when we lost communication with the pumping station.
After a couple of days of silence, I sent a scouting party out to the platform. They never returned. I sent another group the next day with the same results, and lost a couple of flying machines out on aerial recon. At that point I sent someone south to find help, and we hunkered down to prepare for the worst. We turned all of our attention to making armor, weapons and robots so that we could head out there in full force. When we did a few days ago, we couldn’t believe our eyes! As I was saying, what we saw out there defied explanation.
My people where nowhere to be found, but in their place as a veritable army of robots and androids going about their business! The droids all looked like gnomes and they said that they’d been expecting us. In fact, in their own strange way, they acted like they knew us. We were surrounded and quickly taken to the top of the pumping station.
That’s where we saw their leader and what he was doing to the surviving gnomes!
He called himself Gearmaster Mechazod. When we arrived he was busy transforming the survivors into mechanical beings! He greeted us warmly and explained that he was one of the first gnomes ever to be created by something he called “The Grand Architect”, a Titan keeper from within the halls of fabled Ulduar. Apparently, he was the blockage that my team had accidentally sucked up from where he’d malfunctioned thousands of years ago. It was just our luck that we’d built the pumping station right above him. The station’s mechanics had put him back together, bringing him back to “life”.
And now, by way of thanks, he was going to return the favor by curing all of us of what he called the “Curse of the Flesh”. According to Mechazod, it’s a condition that eventually befalls all creations of the Titans! In other words, we all supposedly start out as robots of some kind, and, over thousands of years, slowly turn into fleshy beings! Preposterous, I know.
It didn’t look like much of a “cure” to me, and I wasn’t about to stand around listening to some crazy robot while he was butchering my people! We did what any sane gnome would do… we ran! Well, actually, most of us parachuted off the side of the platform, but you get the picture.
– Fizzcrank Fullthrottle, located at the Fizzcrank Airstrip in the Borean Tundra
The “Grand Architect” referenced by Gearmaster Mechazod points a firm finger at Mimir as the creator of the mechagnomes, and also opens the way to a few theories on the Curse of Flesh. Gearmaster Mechazod is clearly referenced as being insane, but when the NPC speaks to you, his dialogue tells a different story. He states that he only wants to help return the gnomes and others to a state of immortal perfection, as was intended in the time of the Titans. This is why, when presented with gnomes made of flesh, he immediately sought to rebuild them as mechanical creations. It’s not that he’s a bad guy, it’s that he’s trying to revert the world back to the way it was intended to be under the directive of the Titans. He’s doing his job.
What can be taken from this is that the mechagnomes that were affected by the Curse of Flesh became weaker and less capable of understanding the prime directive of the Titans, their circuits scrambled and mixed in the transformation. While some pieces of lore indicate that the Curse of Flesh was an instantaneous procedure, others indicate it took time – how much time is unknown. However, in the case of the Earthen, the Curse caused them to destabilize into two distinct life forms; the dwarves, and the troggs. As for the mechagnomes, it is heavily implied that they are the origin of gnomes on Azeroth.
Current Gnomes of Azeroth and the Fall of Gnomeregan
Current gnomes of Azeroth don’t really have any memory of their history, most don’t remember events prior to the Second War, during which the gnomes assisted the Alliance in fighting against the Old Horde and pushing them back to the Dark Portal. Thus, gnomish history has a lengthy gap of time in which there simply is no recorded history.
The first widely recorded interaction between gnomes and dwarves occurred only about two hundred years prior to the events in The Burning Crusade expansion. A dwarven explorer came across a small gnomish village, and was shocked to discover the extent of the technology the creatures had at their disposal. While the dwarves had just discovered gunpowder, these gnomes already had a fully automated village with all kinds of helpful gadgets and machines working for them.
Contact between the gnomes and the dwarves grew, and soon the two became quick allies, the dwarves allowing the gnomes to build their capital city, Gnomeregan, in the foothills of Dun Morogh near the dwarven capital of Ironforge. Thriving within Gnomeregan, the gnomes shared their resources and knowledge with the dwarves. A large part of dwarven technology today was taught to them by the gnome race. The gnomes joined the Alliance and aided in the battles of the Second War, not so much because they thought the Alliance was a good idea, but because their friends the dwarves did, and as allies to the dwarves, they followed suit.
When the Burning Legion invaded in the events of the Third War, the gnomes refused to send any personnel to aid their allies. They did, however, send along their designs and technology to aid the cause. The other members of the Alliance were quite shocked at the gnomes’ refusal, as the creatures had always been quite agreeable before. It wasn’t until after the end of the war that they discovered the reason for the gnomes’ sudden refusal.
Gnomeregan was built deep into the earth, and as a result the mechanics and technology had awoken the ire of another of the earth-dwelling denizens; the troggs. Earlier I’d stated that the troggs were one of two results of the Curse of Flesh’s work on the Earthen. The troggs are a dull-witted but brutally savage cousin to the dwarves, almost neanderthal in appearance, cunning and extremely violent. These creatures had invaded Gnomeregan, and while the Alliance was fighting the Burning Legion, the gnomes had problems of their own trying to get rid of the things. This is why the gnomes refused to send any personnel – it wasn’t that they weren’t concerned with the Alliance, it was that they had a much larger problem of their own.
And while the gnomes were quickly overrun and outnumbered by the troggs, they refused to call on the Alliance for aid in their struggles, as the battle against the Burning Legion needed to be addressed with much higher priority. High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque was uncertain of what to do – he was the highest-ranking elected official in the city at the time, and so he led the gnomes. His top advisor, Mekgineer Sicco Thermaplugg had a plan however, one that he managed to talk the High Tinker into. In a last-ditch effort to save their beloved capital; the gnomes released a bomb that bathed the city in toxic radiation. The intent was to kill the troggs for good, and while it did stop the troggs advance, it ultimately killed more gnomes than troggs and forced the gnomes to evacuate.
The gnomes fled to Ironforge, where the elected council still lives today. Led by the High Tinker, the council is constantly trying to devise new ways to reclaim their lost city.
Theories of Gnomish Evolution
But what happened between Ulduar and Gnomeregan? It’s a very, very large chunk of time. My speculation is that Mimir, after observing some of his assistants growing soft and less capable of completing the tasks he had for them to do, sent the inferior creations away, unwilling to destroy them. These little mechagnomes, or what remained of the mechagnomes, traveled across Azeroth and found suitable mountain peaks and caverns in which to build small cities similar to the structures in and surrounding the Temple of Invention. As time passed, the near instant capacity for processing and creation degraded to what it is today.
Gnomes thrive on creating new technology and machines. But the reason they do it isn’t because they’re striving to seek out better ways of living, and it isn’t curiosity. It’s the remnants of the Titan Mimir’s programming, haunting what’s left of their fleshy brains. To the average creature of Azeroth, these gnomes are geniuses with a zest for self-destruction, willing to do anything to make their latest creation work properly. To the mechagnomes, these gnomes of flesh are an inferior result of the deconstruction caused by the Curse of Flesh.
This innate programming may also account for the loss of gnomish history – they were constructs built to assist in technological creation, they were not created for historical recording or notation. So the gnomes focused on their prime directive – technology – and let the history slide by the wayside. Gnomes have very little recorded history because it simply isn’t contained in their programming and is therefore unimportant to them. The few mentions of gnomes in historical documents are written by other races, rather than by the gnomes themselves.
Looking at current gnomish architecture, and comparing it with the Temple of Invention and the buildings and surrounding structures of Ulduar only vaguely support this theory at best. But Gnomeregan does faintly resemble the innards of Mimiron’s hall in Ulduar. Gnomish homes found scattered across Azeroth also bear a faint resemblance to areas found in the Storm Peaks, in particular structures that contain elevators. In addition, the tram run to Mimiron’s home in Ulduar bears a startling resemblance to the Deeprun Tram, an underground passage between Ironforge and Stormwind.
While there is little known of the race beyond present timeline, and far, far in the past, the gnomes are still far more interesting than most give them credit for. As with the tauren, large chunks of their history still remain lost in time – but it has been stated that in the next expansion, Cataclysm, the gnomes may finally be able to reclaim their home of Gnomeregan as a new capital city for the Alliance. A raid zone? A new, higher level instance? Or just a new city altogether? The details are, much like the majority of gnomish lore, unknown – but I hope it means we’ll be learning more about this odd race of tinkers, inventors and gadgeteers.
Come back tomorrow for a summary of what we can take from all this, as I wrap up Gnomish History!