Stormwind was again prospering and thriving under Varian's reign, but there was the pesky matter of Katrana Prestor, who had been quietly working with the House of Nobles and running the kingdom while Varian was off trying to track down Garona and bring her to justice. It was the House of Nobles that negotiated with the Stonemasons, but when it came time for the Stonemasons to be paid, the House ... politely refused.
King Varian was pretty much shoved into the middle of all of this and tried to negotiate some sort of agreement between the House of Nobles and the Stonemasons, but the nobility held too much political power and outmaneuvered him at every turn. Varian finally managed to negotiate payment for their work -- but it was far, far less that what they had earned. Furious, Edwin VanCleef spurred the Stonemasons into rioting among the streets of Stormwind, demanding just compensation. It was in the midst of these riots that tragedy struck -- an errant rock from a rioter struck Varian's wife Tiffin, killing her instantly. Varian, in utter shock as the idyllic world he'd worked so hard to rebuild came crashing down around his ears, could do nothing. He fell into a deep depression for years.
Part of this depression was undoubtedly fueled by the revelation that his childhood friend, Arthas, had fallen down a dark path and murdered King Terenas. While Stormwind was in no danger from the plague to the north, the situation in Lordaeron doubtless affected Varian deeply as well -- Arthas, the best friend who had commiserated with Varian over the brutal murder of King Llane was apparently capable of performing the very acts he'd consoled Varian over when he was a boy. This likely fueled the fire slowly burning within King Varian -- the hopes for that idyllic, peaceful time from his childhood seeming further and further away with each passing day.
And all the while, Katrana watched and waited, smiling behind closed doors. For Katrana wasn't a noble -- she was Onyxia, daughter of Deathwing. She'd been sent to manipulate the humans while her brother Nefarian worked to cultivate a new brood of dragonkin and take over Blackrock Spire at the behest of their father. What better way to insure little to no opposition than to keep the humans tied up with political nonsense? And so she manipulated the House of Nobles like so many puppets, pulling the strings here and there and creating the riots that killed Varian's wife. And as Varian sank further and further into depression, she cultivated it, meanwhile continuing to manipulate Stormwind as she saw fit.
Requests for help from outlying cities such as Redridge and Darkshire were blatantly refused. Reports of black dragon activity in the area were glossed over, and as for the Stonemasons ... they were exiled from the city. Shocked and disappointed, the homeless workers were once more rallied together by Edwin VanCleef. It was the fault of nobility that they suffered, Edwin reasoned, and thus it was only fair that the Stonemasons take the payment that they were rightfully owed -- one robbery at a time. Edwin -- who coincidentally was also a former master assassin -- brought the Stonemasons together along with other thieves, assassins and pirates, forming the Defias Brotherhood and ravaging the nearby countryside of Elwynn and Westfall.
Westfall's frantic pleas for help were also ignored. The farmers and villagers decided to take matters into their own hands and formed the People's Militia to beat back the Defias and keep Westfall safe. The Defias, however, were far cleverer than any had given them credit for -- they even managed to secure a contact within the House of Nobles itself, and continued their silent takeover.
Over in Stormwind, Varian continued to mourn and brood for nearly ten years as Katrana manipulated the kingdom under his nose and succeeded in keeping everyone's attention entirely away from Blackrock Spire. But something happened that she hadn't accounted for -- Anduin grew up. And as he grew from a baby into a bright, charming, and devilishly clever little boy, Varian began to slowly lift out of his depression. His son was a reminder of the happy childhood Varian had -- a childhood that had been ripped away by his father's death.
This is the key in understanding Varian Wrynn, something that most people tend to overlook -- at his heart, what he wants, what he years for is that idyllic time when his father was loved, his father's kingdom prospered, and he had no worries in the world -- a place where little boys could properly grow up to be men, or kings. Anduin's presence reminded him that there was more to life than simply mourning, that he had someone who was looking up to him just as much as he'd looked up to his father, and Varian began to take more and more note of the goings-on of his kingdom.
This was not something that Katrana Prestor was particularly happy about.
Meanwhile in Theramore, Jaina Proudmoore continued her mission of peace and diplomacy with the orcs, despite distrust from both sides. She and Thrall set out to be an example for their people to follow, and while their intentions were good, their people still didn't understand or were simply unwilling to put their past grievances behind them. Given the sheer amount of destruction that the First and Second wars caused, it was little wonder that the humans were hesitant to even look at the orcs as anything but brutal savages -- and given the internment camps and the slavery that Thrall had liberated the orc race from, it was little wonder that the orcs viewed the humans with anything but contempt.
It was a series of incidents surrounding the resurgence of an organization of cultists called the Burning Blade that fueled the fires of hatred between Theramore and Orgrimmar. Thrall and Jaina managed to uncover the plot and put an end to it, but the tensions still remained. The interesting side effect of this mission was Jaina's discovery of Aegwynn, still whiling away the days in a remote location that her son, Medivh, had banished her to. Jaina managed to convince Aegwynn to return to Theramore with her, although the former Guardian was still bitter and angry over the foolishness and arrogance she had displayed in dealing with the Council, and with her son Medivh's birth and subsequent consequences that the world had to pay as a direct result of her actions.
This all happened just before the launch of World of Warcraft. Somewhere after the Third War, perhaps spurred by the actions of the Burning Blade and further Horde activity in the Eastern Kingdoms, the tentative alliance formed between the night elves, the humans and the orcs had all but evaporated. The orcs continued to encroach upon night elf forests, leaving the night elf leaders with little recourse but to sever all diplomatic ties with the orcs and focus solely on the humans for aid.
That's where the Alliance we know today first meshed together -- no longer a collection of seven human kingdoms and a few other races, the Alliance of today is a mesh of several different races, and only one real human kingdom -- the only human kingdom we have left, Stormwind. King Varian was always one of the Alliance of Lordaeron's strongest supporters, and after Lordaeron's fall, the kingdom of Stormwind was really the last human remnant of the old Alliance. So the last of the human kingdoms forged a new Alliance with the dwarves and gnomes, and the night elves from the Third War joined as well. The main difference between this Alliance and the old is that there isn't really a defined "leader" -- I reference Varian as the leader on occasion simply because he was the human that carried over from that original Alliance, and the original was forged by humans at the outset. Varian could be considered as being the "leader" only by the merit of being the last known surviving human faction leader that was associated with the original formation of the old Alliance, thus, the leadership defaulted to him.
As far as power goes, the new Alliance didn't really have a defining reason for coming into existence like the Alliance of Lordaeron. There was no major war that served as the catalyst for the new Alliance's formation; it was simply born out of the old. The main source of the Alliance's careful watch however was, as always, the Horde. The continual encroachment of the orcs upon night elf forests led to the night elves' decision to join, and the dwarves and gnomes stayed allies as they had since the original Alliance.
As for King Varian, he watched his son grow and thrive into an incredibly intuitive and intelligent boy when yet more events occurred that would continue to shape Varian's view of the world. It was some time between the events with the Horde and the Burning Blade, and the launch of World of Warcraft that Jaina decided to arrange for a formal peace treaty between Warchief Thrall, and the last surviving leader of the former Alliance of Lordaeron, Varian Wrynn. King Varian was at first completely against the very idea of peace talks, but his change of heart came from an unlikely source -- his 10-year-old son, Anduin.
Anduin, being a sharp child, had read and heard much of the orcs' leader and told his father to at least give the peace summit a try. At 10 years old, Anduin was already displaying some of the same traits as Varian's father, King Llane -- a capacity for compassion, the wish for peace and the wisdom and understanding that comes with the realization that fighting may not always be the best answer. This was just what Varian needed, and while it's odd to think of it this way, in a way Anduin almost became something very much like the voice of King Llane. A voice of reason that Varian sorely needed after years of depression and a failing kingdom. At Anduin's insistence, Varian also left Katrana Prestor behind, and agreed to travel to Theramore and hear Thrall out -- after all, what was the worst that could happen?
Anduin was crowned king of Stormwind at Katrana's behest, in order to maintain the façade that all was well, despite the King's sudden absence. It was Bolvar who held the real power behind the throne however, and as regent of Stormwind he did his best to deal with incoming situations and to be a father figure to young Anduin, who was suddenly without mother or father. Various investigations were made and the closest anyone could come to any kind of conclusion was that Varian had somehow ended up on Alcaz Island near Theramore, but the King simply wasn't there.
The reports, as it turns out, were closer than people would've thought. The Defias had, indeed, kidnapped Varian Wrynn and delivered him to Alcaz Island, where Katrana Prestor was waiting along with a host of sorcerers. Varian had been slowly shrugging off the enchantment that Katrana had placed him under some time during his depression, largely due to Anduin -- and so Katrana knew that drastic measures needed to be taken to keep King Varian properly docile and under her control. The sorcerers cast a spell that literally ripped Varian into two people: One of them the pleasant, pliable half of Varian Wrynn, and the other the strong warrior and commander, the clever tactician. Katrana's plan was simple -- once Varian had been split, she would merely have to kill the clever one, and then return to Stormwind with the docile puppet and continue manipulating from behind the scenes as always.
It would have been a perfect plan had they not been discovered by a fleet of naga that lived on the island. In the ensuing fray both Varians were lost -- the tactician leapt off a cliff into rocky waters and was presumed dead, the pliable one was captured by the naga and promptly imprisoned on the island. One year later, he was ransomed back to Stormwind, though the "official" story to the public was that the Defias had held him all this time. His return was triumphant, though there were mutterings among his people -- in order to pay the ransom, a heavy tax had been imposed upon the people of Stormwind, likely put into action by Katrana.
The other Varian, the tactician, had indeed hit a rock during his leap off the cliffs, and washed up on the shores of Durotar. Upon awakening, he was set upon by a crocolisk, and while fighting the thing off, an orc caravan happened by. After observing the man's fighting prowess, he was captured by the caravan -- led by an orc shaman named Rehgar Earthfury -- and taken in to serve on Rehgar's gladiatorial team of pit fighters. Also on Rehgar's team were a night elf druid named Broll Bearmantle, and a blood elf named Valeera Sanguinar. The team didn't quite get along at first, but the man -- now dubbed "Croc-bait" by his captors -- slowly began to regain his memory.
The team proved successful in the gladiatorial arena and eventually traveled to Dire Maul, defeating the strongest gladiatorial team in the circuit and earning Rehgar a substantial amount of coin in the process. Croc-bait's fighting skills were by far the best seen by any, fighter or spectator, in the gladiatorial circuit, earning him a new name -- Lo'gosh, or "ghost wolf." After the win at Dire Maul, Broll, Valeera and Varian managed to escape the Horde's clutches, though Rehgar didn't put up much of a fight in that regard -- he'd made his money, and he let them go.
Lo'gosh struggled to remember more, and with the help of Jaina Proudmoore finally realized he was Varian Wrynn, king of Stormwind. His travels took him closer and closer to home -- where Anduin was beginning to realize that the docile Varian Wrynn that had been returned was not the father he'd remembered. Anduin's suspicions raised the suspicions of Bolvar, and between Bolvar, Marshal Windsor, and Anduin the truth was finally uncovered: Lady Katrana wasn't a lady at all, but the black dragon Onyxia.
Onyxia was confronted in the throne room and after a short battle fled, taking Anduin with her. The two Varians at last were face-to-face, each distrustful of the other, but curious regarding their shared memories. Another trip to Theramore and visit to Jaina Proudmoore finally revealed the truth behind the two Varians, the spell, and the split, and together they vowed to find and kill Onyxia and save their son. In the heat of the battle with Onyxia, she cast a spell meant to shatter both Varians, but instead merged them back into one human being who promptly beheaded her. King Varian Wrynn was whole once more -- but his imprisonment and servitude at the hands of the Horde did little to improve his opinions of the orcs.
Next time we'll be addressing Varian's reputation, sitting in on Thrall and Varian's tea party (complete with surprise guest Garona), discussing Garrosh's uncanny knack for making inappropriate statements at the worst possible moments, tackling the tangled web of Jaina, Arthas, Varian and Icecrown Citadel and attempting to remove the brick wall surrounding King Varian Wrynn. Stay tuned!