I feel for the poor guy, but…
With three weeks to go until Cataclysm drops, this is the time where people start looking back at the epic two-year ride that Blizzard’s given us with Wrath of the Lich King. And what a ride it was. Blizzard, in my opinion, did an excellent job with Wrath. Sure, there were some clunkers (hello, Icecrown County Fair and Trial of the Big Round Room!), but in general, Wrath was great. Even the quests were awesome. Well, mostly…
The poor bastard in the picture above is Crusader Bridenbrad. We first hear about Bridenbrad from Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Argent Crusade after we’ve helped the Crusade cleanse and secure Crusader’s Pinnacle in Icecrown. Apparently, during the fierce battle on the Broken Front, Bridenbrad distinguished himself by dragging “more than a dozen” Argents to safety after their column was scattered. Fordring wants you to go find Bridenbrad, up in the northeast of Icecrown, and bring him back so he can be honored for his bravery.
Thus begins one of the more interesting–and, for some of us, maddening–questlines in Wrath of the Lich King. First you find Bridenbrad alone in a small cul-de-sac in northeast Icecrown (the subzone is called “Silent Vigil”). Unfortunately, Bridenbrad was wounded by Scourge, and is dying of some sort of Scourge taint. He sends you back to Tirion with his best Jewish-grandmother impersation, something like, “no, you just go, you kids go and have your fun, I’ll be fine. Really. I’ll be OK, just go. I’ll stay here. Alone. In the snow. Turning into a ghoul that you’ll never call or come visit. But I’ll be fine, no, really, it’s OK, I’ll learn to like eating brains.” Tirion, upon your return to Crusader’s Pinnacle, says “fuck that noise” (not in so many words) and sends you on a world-spanning fly-and-fetch questline to bring back something to save the noble Crusader.
Your first stop will be Moonglade, where Keeper Remulos will have you enter the Nightmare to gather some acorns. He will then make the acorns into some sort of chicken soup that he thinks may be able to save Bridenbrad, although he doesn’t sound too optimistic. You go back to Icecrown, Fordring sends you back out to Silent Vigil, and you give Bridenbrad the chicken soup. It’s yummy, and it makes him feel a little better, but he’s still, unfortunately, on the express train to Ghoulville.
Fordring, upon your return to the Pinnacle, then decides to escalate the problem to higher management…that would be Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder, her own twelve-foot-tall bikini-clad self, who agrees to help you if you go to the Ruby Dragonshrine and pick up a Dahlia’s Tear for her. She takes the Tear and creates the Breath of Alexstrasza (which, by the way, Blizz, would be a great name for seriously hot hot sauce–Mr. Morhaime, you can pay me for that idea later), sends you back to Fordring, and he sends you back to Bridenbrad. He takes the hot sauce, which is so spicy that it actually melts the snow and makes flowers grow around him…but all the Scoville units in the world aren’t going to burn the Scourge taint out of him. So far the score is Cooties 2, Major Lore Figures 0.
Tirion, however, won’t give up. He pulls his trump card and sends you to speak to A’dal, the chief naaru in Shattrath. The naaru, after all, are literally personifications of the Light…if anyone would know how to remove the plague of impending undeath from a man, it would be A’dal. So you head to Shattrath and speak with A’dal. A’dal, being the somewhat annoying NPC that he is, says he knows why you’ve come (don’t they always?), and then says this:
I am pleased that you have come to me, Linedan. I know of Crusader Bridenbrad, and of your travels in hope of saving him. Bridenbrad’s valor has sparked remarkable selflessness in you, and this is a miracle unto itself.
The Light will take care of its own. I will extend my blessing to Bridenbrad and he shall not endure the corruption of undeath. I shall return you to Dalaran, and you shall return to him. Know that I remain with you.
This is great news. Sounds like Fordring’s persistence has paid off, right? You catch a portal back to Dalaran (empty-handed) and fly back out to Bridenbrad. By that time, the poor Crusader is very close to death. He thanks you for your Herculean efforts on his behalf, and then…
You have returned to me, warrior. I must admit… it is good to see you again… your face renews my hope that this land will be free of Arthas’s grasp one day soon. I’m proud to have met you…
Bridenbrad’s words trail off, a dim smile on his face. As life seems to slip from him, a gentle ringing fills your ears.
At that point, A’dal and his two sidekicks K’uri and M’ori appear floating over Bridenbrad’s dying body. Instead of the Crusader being healed and standing up, Bridenbrad’s spirit floats out of his body and ascends in a pillar of light as A’dal speaks:
- A’dal says: Fear not, young one, for this crusader shall not taste death.
- A’dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.
- A’dal says: The light does not abandon its champions.
And that’s it. The naaru wink out. Bridenbrad’s dead body disappears. You’re left standing in a snowy wasteland with a dying campfire and a box of possessions that you then take back to Tirion, and receive one of them as a reward.
The first time I did this quest, on Linedan, I just stood there blinking for a minute. I was confused. Apparently A’dal, the most powerful of the naaru, the slightly creepy Shattrath windchimes that basically are the material representation of the vaunted Light, couldn’t be arsed to de-Scourgify Bridenbrad? Or perhaps the taint is so strong that not even A’dal could save him? OK, that makes more sense then. Can’t save the guy, A’dal figured, so why not just vacuum the spirit out of his body so he won’t have to experience being a mindless servant of Arthas?
That sound you heard was the top popping on a big ol’ fresh can of worms.
First of all, one of A’dal’s lines…“in passing, he shall taste only paradise.” I’ve been digging around all day when I could get time, and I can’t find anything on followers of the Light (be they mainline Church of the Holy Light or spin-offs like the Argents or Scarlets) holding a belief in an afterlife or paradise. Shamans talk about the “spirit world,” where there are departed spirits of all kinds running around; troll priests have their Loas, and there are references here and there to ghosts and spirits and such, that’s all well-known. But I can’t find a single thing talking about any sort of afterlife, especially a “paradise,” for Light-worshippers. Maybe I missed it, I don’t know. Maybe Bridenbrad is just so special that he gets into the VIP room in the back of Club Naaru, where the Dom Perignon flows like water and the playahs and ballahs chill with their groupies, while the garden-variety good people are waiting in line out front under the watchful eye of Aldor bouncers in black T-shirts. Something about the whole thing just does not seem to fit into Light lore, at least in my fairly limited view of it. I admit, my knowledge of Warcraftish lore is not all that great–I have access to the usual Internet sources, but don’t own any of the Warcraft d20 sourcebooks or anything like that.
But then, we get to the real kicker…when A’dal says, “The Light does not abandon its champions.”
Then please explain to the court, Mr. A’dal, why there are a metric asston of former Argent paladins walking around Scourgeholme as skeletons, bouncing Hammers of Injustice off my dome willy-nilly. Please explain what happened to the thousands of good, solid, Light-worshipping folk in Lordaeron and environs who did not get the Heavenly Elevator but instead got a few days’ rest in the clay of Tirisfal before rising back up as Arthas’ infantry. Please explain why you can’t swing a dead gnome in north central Icecrown without hitting a Converted Hero, doomed to wander in anguish until somebody on a daily quest to get Valiants’ Seals comes along and puts them out of their misery. Were they not “champions of the Light?” No one’s doubting that Crusader Bridenbrad is an exceptional hero. But haven’t a lot of heroes fallen before the Scourge and been doomed to serve it? Why didn’t they get to “taste only paradise?”
And on top of the potential lore-bending, and the issues caused by the “why him and not them” question, there’s an even more ridiculous element to it. When Bridenbrad was put into the game initially in Wrath, there was nothing up in his neck of the woods but Sindragosa’s Fall, meaning his nearest neighbors were vry’kul and creepy cultists. But with the subsequent 3.1 and 3.2 patches, Blizzard gave us the Argent Tournament (or, as I like to call it, the Icecrown County Fair). And they happened to put it right over the rise from Bridenbrad’s campfire.
So you can imagine…here’s this poor sod, dying out in the snow, leagues from nowhere…and now he sees this steady stream of gryphons and windriders flying north and south over him. He hears on the wind the sounds of hammering, the shouts of workers, the clang of arms…and then the sounds of cheering from the Tournament proper. Hey, maybe if there was an onshore northerly wind, he could even get a whiff of the concessions. A three-minute stagger north of him, hundreds of Argents and adventurers are gathered in what became for a while the focal point of the assault on the Lich King. And there was poor Bridenbrad, alone and forgotten (assuming you hadn’t already done the quests and phased him out).
Ridiculous? Yeah, maybe I’m being ridiculous, or picky, or whatever. But something about that questline has never completely sat right with me. I’ve had trouble articulating it, which is why I haven’t ranted about it until now. Maybe it weirds me out because of my own Christian beliefs, and I’m not comfortable with A’dal pretending to be God and Bridenbrad pretending to be Enoch. The whole thing seemed to bend lore in directions that I didn’t think it should be bent.
But it wasn’t until this morning, when doing some research for this post, that the Wowpedia entry for Bridenbrad snapped this whole thing into focus for me:
Bridenbrad is named for Bradford C. Bridenbecker, the brother of Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies. He was the city manager of La Habra, California, not far from Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, from 2002 until his death from cancer in 2007. He was also an avid player of World of Warcraft. In the Wrath of the Lich King manual, he is listed under “Special Thanks” as “Bradford C. Bridenbecker R.I.P. 6.18.2007″.
Robert Bridenbecker revealed in the World of Warcraft 5th anniversary interviews that shortly after his brother’s death, he sent an e-mail to Blizzard to request a character be created in his honor. Chris Metzen, who had attended Brad Bridenbecker’s funeral, heard of this and offered one of two ways: To add him as part of the main storyline for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, or to give him his own epic quest chain. Under the direction of Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi, the Bridenbrad quest chain was created in tribute to Brad Bridenbecker’s battle against his illness.
I never knew that. Now it all makes sense. This isn’t some silly thing that was casually thrown in…it’s a real tribute, to a real man, who fought a real battle against a real disease, and lost. Knowing that, all my worries about lore and continuity and such things seem rather petty. I still have issues with the way the questline was put into the game, but honestly, they don’t really matter all that much now that I know the real story behind Crusader Bridenbrad.
I hope and pray that the real “Bridenbrad”–Bradford Bridenbecker–just like his fictional counterpart, was able, in the end, to “taste only paradise.” After all, in my own beliefs, the Light doesn’t abandon its fallen champions, either.