Real Name: Neltharion
Title: The Aspect of Death, The Worldbreaker, Earth-Warder (Formerly)
Featured In: World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (2010)
Voiced By: Michael McConnohie
Out of the many multitudes of evil dragons that have ever been, both in ancient legend and in modern creation, there is none who has my greater sympathies than that of Deathwing, formerly known as Neltharion the Earth-Warder. While I shan’t delve too much into the history of Warcraft and the realm of Azeroth for that can take whole reams of pages alone, I shall say that the game itself is one of the largest and most successful massively multiplayer online role-playing games for a reason and Deathwing is one of them.
While there have been many villains throughout Warcraft’s fantastical history, I feel that that, at the time of this post, there has never been one so great as Deathwing himself whose very existence was enough to cause the literal breaking of the world and whose madness spurred the cooperation of the two warring factions of the Horde and the Alliance into defeating him.
Deathwing is an Aspect, meaning that his very being is equivalent to a god and though his dominion had once been of the earth, his corruption had changed him to such a degree that he had become the Aspect of Death. A single drop of his blood was enough to ensure that nothing could live where it fell for nigh on ten thousand years. Yet his own malformed power became Deathwing’s undoing as his body literally started coming apart at the seams to such a degree that he had to have armor grafted onto his very flesh just to keep his body in one piece.
Despite his newfound monstrosity and armor, could still be slain by the very device that he had created to destroy all other life and resulted in his own body’s slow destruction: the Dragon Soul. A seemingly ordinary golden disk that held within it a mere drop of his uncorrupted blood and the willingly given powers of his fellow Aspects. Yet it is known more commonly as the Demon Soul thanks in no small part to Deathwing using it devastate both sides of the Ancient War before turning on his fellow Aspects and their respected Flights.
However, Deathwing was not always such a vile creature. In point of fact, he is one of the greatest heroes Azeroth had ever known. A position he once shared with the other four Dragon Aspects. For way back in the dawning of Azeroth’s creation, the sky was filled not with true dragons, but proto-drakes, primordial ancestors of the common dragons of Azeroth’s present time. These proto-drakes were intelligent and sentient but no more than Neanderthal in brainpower and possessed only a margin of their mighty powers of today. Neltharion was one such proto-drake but distinct amongst his kin in that he, and four others, were of higher intelligence and greater strength with his firey breath rivaling the molten blood of the world itself.
Together with his four allies, Neltharion slew the sole gray proto-drake of the time, Galakrond whose size rivaled whole mountains with his wings alone. This massive proto-drake had grown to such a scale that he sought to find food in his own kin and in his cannibalism he became something more… In essence, Galakrond became the first true, “lich king” in so much that all whom he devoured arose once more as undead monstrosities whose bite was every bit infectious as the modern zombies of today. While it was with the combined effort of his allies, it was Neltharion and his closest friend Malygos who dealt the killing blow to Galakrond by choking him to death via a boulder large enough to still fit in the massive proto-drake’s gullet.
With this act and countless others before it, Neltharion and his allies were chosen to become the first true dragons and rule over their respected flights as Aspects over elements of their world. Neltharion was chosen to become the aspect of the Earth whose dominion included the very land of Azeroth itself from its highest mountains to its deepest dwellings… including the prisons of the enemies of the Titans known simply as the Old Gods. It was these Old Gods that eventually drove Neltharion to madness in mind and in body, warping him and changing his very being from one of Azeroth’s greatest protectors to its ultimate destroyer.
There is much to Neltharion’s history but the crux of his character is what he had become and what he had done under the name of Deathwing. Imagine if you will the worst kind of monsters that humanity had ever created. The kind of monsters whose marks are still scars upon our history as a species. Combine them together and you have only a faint inkling of what Deathwing had done and was still willing to do. He drove his best friend to madness and eventually death, killed too many lives to count, and even went so far as to create an entirely new species of dragon by experimenting on the eggs of his one-time friends and allies.
That is a mere sample of what Deathwing had done.
And still I cannot find it in my heart to hate him.
More than anything, I pity him, I sympathize for him, and I sincerely wished there had been a way to save him, to bring back Neltharion even if the cost was as great as the Hour of Twilight that Deathwing sought to bring to fruition. But such was not to be. In the end, Deathwing is slain by his first creation, the Dragon Soul, and with the combined efforts of the Horde and the Alliance with the aid of the remaining Aspects, he perished. Yet all is not last for the black dragonflight… for though many presumed that Deathwing had been the last of them needing to be slain and put down like the rabid monsters they had become, there is one more still left out there… One whose ears are deaf to the whispers of the Old Gods and though his anger is great as any proper dragon’s is… there may yet be hope for redemption not in Neltharion himself… but in his son.