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For the last nine years the issue of the Xel’Naga and the hybrids has been the most uncertain part of the StarCraft Universe. All we have had to work with was a bonus mission from the Brood War expansion and some minor details from the manual. But now, as StarCraft II draws closer, we are having more information revealed to us in the form of The Dark Templar Saga by Christie Golden, which has been confirmed to be part of the StarCraft Universe canon. Even though the Xel’Naga remain as ambiguous as ever, we now have a better opportunity to extrapolate some of the events of the StarCraft II storyline.

Let’s start with the mysterious Terran known as Samir Duran. Duran claims he served as part of the Confederate Alpha Squadron before the fall of the Confederacy. He could very well be lying however, since Blizzard was quick to mention that this information is only “by his own account” and that he might have had to make up this story in order to infiltrate the ranks of the UED. During the Brood War mission Dark Origin, Duran reveals more of his enigmatic nature.

I've had many names throughout the millennia, young prodigal. You would know me best as Samir Duran.

I am a servant of a far greater power. A power that has slept for countless ages. And is reflected in the creature within that cell.

This creature is the completion of a cycle. It's role in the cosmic order was preordained when the stars were young. Behold the culmination of your history.

 

The most widely accepted explanation is that Duran is a servant of the Xel’Naga who survived or didn’t participate in the battle over Zerus. Presumably, Duran is a shape shifter who has spent his long existence masquerading as other beings, which at the time of StarCraft was a soldier in the Alpha Squadron. When he saw the Zerg come into conflict with the Protoss he knew that it was time to dust off the cobwebs and restart the ancient Xel’Naga experiments.

However, the Xel’Naga are a seemingly benevolent race, whereas Duran seems more focused on the destruction/subjugation of the entire universe. So who exactly are Duran's masters? Perhaps there is a separate Xel’Naga faction bent on the extermination of all lesser species. Another theory is that the Xel’Naga were trying to speed up their own evolution by attempting to create a ‘perfect’ race to use as host bodies. This would make sense since Duran himself is using a human as a host body. It has also been suggested that, since the Xel’Naga are not native to the Milky Way Galaxy, they are instead refugees that have been forced out of their homeworld by an ancient enemy and have come to the Milky Way Galaxy to produce warrior races in order to help retake their homeworld.

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With all this new material being revealed to us, there is increasing evidence of a “cosmic cycle” which brings about the culmination of the universe. The book Shadow of the Xel’Naga by Gabriel Mesta is referenced in The Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn. In Shadow of the Xel’Naga, a Xel’Naga artifact is uncovered by a violent storm and all three races converge on it to claim it for themselves. However, a strange phoenix-like energy creature emerges from the artifact that absorbs Zerg and Protoss life forms, as well as any energy attacks. This phoenix creature is another race developed by the Xel’Naga. In The Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn another such artifact was found, except this time it was dark because the energy-creature had already left, however no Zerg or Protoss appeared to be absorbed. These phoenix-like energy creatures could be Duran’s masters. They are a power that has slept for countless ages, contain Zerg and Protoss DNA (through absorption) and therefore have both purity of form and essence (thus the ‘reflected by the creature within that cell’ quote). It appears that these mysterious energy creatures awaken whenever the “cosmic cycle” is about to end.

It has been confirmed in the Blizzcon single-player demo that the Xel’Naga are indeed returning. Karune has stated that in the campaign we will be seeing some unique units related to the Xel’Naga. In addition, the StarCraft manual mentions that not all of the Xel’Naga were destroyed above the planet Zerus. It also appears that the Xel’Naga have learned from their mistakes. The Xel’Naga temple on Shakuras, perhaps built as a weapons test after their defeat, is capable of ridding a planet of Zerg. The phoenix-like energy creatures that emerged from the temples on Nemaka and Bhekar-Rho have been specifically designed by the Xel’Naga to absorb both Zerg and Protoss for some special purpose.

But why would the Xel’Naga need two methods for absorbing Zerg and Protoss DNA (Duran’s method and the phoenix creature)? Maybe the phoenix creatures are delivering the DNA straight to the Xel’Naga to use for creating more hybrids. That’s why the phoenix creatures in the novel needed to absorb so many Zerg and Protoss. An alternative is that the Xel’Naga might not be coming here as enemies, but instead as allies. The Xel’Naga have been described as peaceful, so it seems kind of strange that they would want to initiate this kind of experiment in the first place. Zeratul’s apocalyptic warning didn’t necessarily indicate that the Xel’Naga are coming here as enemies.

I bring tidings of doom. The Xel'Naga return, the cycle nears its end, the artifacts are the key... to the end of all things.

 

Just imagine, the Xel'Naga would return to heal the racial wounds they inflicted upon the Protoss those many eons ago. The Protoss morale would sky-rocket, to be able to fight alongside their ancient progenitors. It would also be a total surprise, since many of us were expecting the Xel'Naga to be evil.

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In The Dark Templar Saga: Firstborn, the preserver Zamara talks about this mysterious “cosmic cycle”.

But this knowledge, of the pattern that happened so often before and was about to happen again- ah, this was what made the Preserver more than important to her people. She opened to what was out there, every second that ticked by in its nonlinear, unique majesty challenging her to close in on herself, to not expose herself to the pain of the debris caught in the swollen river. She could not allow herself such luxuries. Not when the horrific knowledge of what had come before, and what was certain to come again, polluted the waters of time in her psyche.

 

Zamara can only hold the memories of Protoss. Have the Protoss been destroyed and recreated many times before? According to the manual, the answer is no. But what does this all mean then? Are we going to see something similar to The Matrix where a civilization is repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt in order to facilitate a method of control for some purpose? The Xel’Naga are hundreds of millions of years old; they most likely evolved when the universe was starting to take shape. When Duran said, “It’s role in the cosmic order was preordained when the stars were young.” he could have been referring to this method of control that the Xel’Naga may have set up. Perhaps this time around, as in many pieces of literature, it will be the human spirit that will be the determinant in irrevocably destroying this cycle.

Even now, there are many possible outcomes for the future of the StarCraft Universe. Perhaps it will even be something that we have predicted. Who knows? Maybe Blizzard will surprise us.

 

This is a StarCraft: Legacy (http://sclegacy.com/) editorial.

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