SPOILERS!!! Possible Major Story Spoilers Ahead.
Breaking the Machine of Death
At the start of Shadowlands, one of the early cinematics reveals how the previous Arbiter was broken, allowing the Jailer to funnel souls into the Maw and start an Anima drought with serious repercussions, leading up to the events of Shadowlands. As the expansion progressed, we learned more about the motivations of the Jailer for weakening the Arbiter, culminating in the Jailer reclaiming his sigil, stored in the Arbiter, at the end of Sanctum of Domination.
Throughout Shadowlands, there has been no Arbiter to judge the newly-arrived souls and send them to their respective realms, but in the newest Eternity’s End chapters, we try to create a replacement Arbiter. We need to find two things to create a new Arbiter: a Vessel, and a Voice. In Chapter 6 we collect the Vessel, and then in Chapter 7 we raid the Endless Sands to find the Voice.
The Jailer’s Gambit – Argus the Unmaker
After we cleanse the Crypt of the Eternal, we start the ritual of combining the Voice and the Vessel, but the Nathrezim disrupt the ritual (Acquaintances Forgotten) and infuse the vessel with Argus the Unmaker’s soul–the essence of the final boss from the Legion expansion.
With the ritual disrupted, everyone thinks we have lost–until Pelagos offers his soul to fix what was broken. The story then leads into the first cutscene we posted earlier today, where Pelagos says goodbye to Kleia and accepts the mantle of the Arbiter.
Saezurah: The time has come. The halls have healed. A new Arbiter waits in the wings.
Saezurah: The chorus assembles. The vessel awaits. Your voice must join them.
Saezurah: Dissonance…a melody lost long ago…
Pelagos: Something is interfering with the ritual!
Darkseer Corrupter: Long have we awaited this moment. The Banished One’s gambit made manifest…
Darkseer Corrupter: A world-soul twisted by Death. A maul with which to crush the Arbiter…
Darkseer Corrupter: And now it shall take this vessel! Argus will be Eternal!
Did Argus Break the Machine of Death?
The quest dialogue makes it clear that the Argus the Unmaker was part of the Jailer’s plan to destabilize the Arbiter, as we see the soul used to actively disrupt the process of creating a new Eternal One. However, it’s not explicitly stated that Argus was the force that weakened the Arbiter in the Shadowlands cinematic, and due to all the twists and turns in the recent part, it’s difficult to make a clear statement without conclusive dialogue. Still, there are some details that strongly imply Argus the Unmaker was the catalyst that initially broke the machine of Death.
There have been many parallels between Argus and Death teased throughout the years, most recently in the Jailer’s encounter which has the phase “The Unmaking” which sounds very similar to Argus the Unmaker. In addition, the Argus encounter had death-themed abilities such as Death Titan Floating in Space Visual and Death Titan Test as well as his ability Grasp of the Unmaker originally called Grasp of the Death Titan. Several of Argus’ quotes during the encounter reference death, including a line echoing Sylvanas plans to end hope (“No hope. Just pain. Only pain”).
Shadowlands has also revealed through Enemy Infiltration – Preface that the Nathrezim were in league with the Jailer, pretending to ally with all other cosmic forces while secretly weakening them in service of Death–including the Titans (Order) and Burning Legion (Fel). The Jailer may have wanted us to succeed against the Burning Legion, as that would defeat the forces of Fel, imprison Sargeras, wound Azeroth, and send Argus to weaken the Arbiter all in one fell swoop-pretty impressive.
Argus the Unmaker had distinctive red abilities on Mythic difficulty, and the initial Shadowlands cinematic showing the weakening of the Arbiter depicts a large red cosmic force slamming into the Eternal One. However, this color could reference other Legion bosses, such as Xavius from Emerald Nightmare.
The one bit of evidence that’s against Argus the Unmaker is the timeline of events. We know that Ysera was one of the final souls to arrive in Ardenweald before the machine of Death broke, and as she passed away in early Legion and we defeated Argus at the end of Patch 7.3, the timeline doesn’t quite line up.
Regardless of the timeline, we’ve now seen Argus’ soul used to prevent the Arbiter from regenerating. What does this mean for the Shadowlands if the Jailer was able to corrupt and kill Azeroth’s world-soul? Would that break the Shadowlands entirely? The Jailer’s Phase 3 datamining reveals Zovaal will cast targeted spells to damage Azeroth, so we may find ourselves grappling with this issue very soon in Patch 9.2.