The Great Dark Beyond, also known as the Great Dark, Great Beyond, Dark Beyond, or cosmos, is described as the physical universe, an infinite realm composed of innumerable stars, worlds, moons, and mortal civilizations. Azeroth is found in it, and it is merely one of the countless worlds drifting through the Great Dark. Its counterpart is the astral plane called the Twisting Nether. It is essentially the name given to outer space in the Warcraft universe.
The physical universe is governed by the forces of Order and Disorder, while the forces of Life and Death hold sway over every living thing in it. Pure Light and Shadow dwell in a realm outside the borders of reality, but shades of their presence can be found in the Great Dark. The elements serve as the basic buildings blocks of all matter in the physical universe.
Before life began and before even the universe existed, there was only the Light. The Light existed as a boundless sea of living energy, swelling across all of existence, unfettered by time and space. Yet as the ever-shifting sea expanded, pockets of cold nothingness appeared. From these spaces, the Void coalesced. The Void quickly grew and began to move against the Light, and before long, the mounting tension between the two forces ignited a series of explosions that ruptured the very fabric of creation, giving birth to the physical universe.
The energies released from the clashing of Light and Void raged across the nascent cosmos, forming countless primordial worlds. For long epochs, the ever-expanding Great Dark Beyond broiled in a maelstrom of fire and magic. Shards of Light were flung throughout reality, suffusing worlds with the spark of life. Various types of energies came to be (such as death).
The most unstable energies coalesced into the astral dimension known as the Twisting Nether. Light and Void collided and bled together at the edges of this realm, throwing it into turmoil. Although the Twisting Nether existed outside the borders of the physical universe, its volatile energies would occasionally tear through the veil of the Great Dark, flooding into reality and warping creation.
Great Dark Beyond vs. Twisting Nether
The Twisting Nether is the astral plane between worlds. It is a chaotic and magical environment that overlaps with the Great Dark Beyond, yet is normally imperceptible to mortals.
The roles of both have not been clearly confirmed yet. For example, in the novel The Last Guardian, Medivh explained to Khadgar that demons were denizens and rulers of the Great Dark, and referred to the Dark Portal as a gateway that bridged two nodes residing in the Twisting Nether. Later Warcraft material consistently referred to demons dwelling in the Twisting Nether. However, if the information Medivh gave the young Khadgar is to be considered accurate, then the Twisting Nether could be an alternate dimension or a "hyperspace" of sorts where the conventional laws of physics, time, and space do not apply, and thus allows for instantaneous intergalactic travel.
Aegwynn, in her narrative at the start of the Second War, referred to the Great Dark in much the way later sources established the Twisting Nether, so we can assume it was an error or a retcon. The usage of Nether and Great Dark was more ambiguous in Warcraft II than in later games. Though Aegwynn claimed to be responsible for defending Azeroth from forces in the Great Dark, later sources clearly established that her duties dealt with the Nether.
It is possible that Aegwynn chose to use Great Dark instead of specifying the Twisting Nether because her duties extended to defending Azeroth against harmful entities that are not solely restricted to the Twisting Nether. Indeed, it is chillingly possible that there are forces in the Great Dark that rival the Burning Legion and are yet unknown to the powers that vie for Azeroth.
Argus was said to be located on the brink between the Twisting Nether and the Great Dark. Some man'ari eredar say that Argus is the mightiest world in all of the Great Dark. Despite this, A Thousand Years of War later stated that Argus is fully shrouded by the Twisting Nether.
Tome of Blighted Implements confirms that Argus was in the Great Dark before Sargeras came. As there is the fact that time passes differently in the Nether, the statements in the novel and the audiodrama confirm that Argus moved from the Great Dark to the Nether over time.
In the RPG
When debates on cosmology began on Azeroth, scholars quickly tumbled to an obvious question: where does it end? If Azeroth is surrounded by the Emerald Dream, and separated from other material worlds by the Twisting Nether, what lies beyond the boundaries of the Nether? The result eventually agreed upon, as much a philosophical placeholder as an answer, is the Great Dark Beyond. Neither black nor white, hot nor cold, living nor dead, with a beginning hard to define on the chaotic fringe of the Nether and an end impossible to define: the Beyond is all that is unknowable about the cosmos. Were part of it to be journeyed or defined, it would become its own plane — leaving the Beyond on its horizon, eternal and all encompassing.
- The demons of the Burning Legion transcend a near infinity of universes and destroy their possible worlds.
- The druids of Azeroth believe the Rift of Aln in the Emerald Dream bleeds into the Great Dark Beyond.
- While stranded on Outland, Khadgar used his magic to reach out to the Great Dark and found the Sha'tar naaru led by A'dal.
- Overseer Ta'readon in Oribos mentions the multiverse.
- ^ The Warcraft Encyclopedia/The Warcraft Universe
- ^ a b The Warcraft Encyclopedia/Twisting Nether
- ^ a b c d World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 18
- ^ Gadgetzan Times/A Magical History of Azeroth
- ^ Invasion Points, Illidan Stormrage yells: Well done, champions. News of this victory will spread throughout the Dark Beyond.
- ^ Algalon the Observer (tactics)
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 13
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 11
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 19
- ^ Matt Burns on Twitter
- ^ World of Warcraft: Illidan, chapter 24
- ^ During the world quest - Dreadflame Magus says: I am of Argus, the mightiest world in all of the Great Dark.
- ^ Archive lore tweets from loreology: "While normally imperceptible to mortals, the Twisting Nether bleeds into the physical realm. That’s because Outland is truly devastated. Those seen in Outland are most likely other (far away) worlds that you see and not “local” celestial bodies."
- ^ The zone between the regions is labeled "Twisting Nether"
- ^ World of Warcraft: Illidan, chapter 9: He saw that Outland was but a tiny speck in the infinity of the Great Dark Beyond.
- ^ Shadows & Light, pg. 132
- ^ World of Warcraft: Illidan, chapter 9
- ^ Stormrage, chapter 29
- ^ Khadgar#Khadgar's story in his own words