The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
To date, we've covered the beginnings of human politics, from the forming of the Arathor Empire and the original Alliance to the dissolution of the Alliance of Lordaeron and the evolution of the Alliance we know today. Along the way we've discussed Jaina Proudmoore and her progress from a young girl of Kul Tiras to the leader of Theramore, and the growth and subsequent kidnapping of King Varian Wrynn. Varian's story is far from over with the death of Onyxia however, and his influence on the Alliance is an interesting matter in and of itself.
When last we left King Wrynn, he'd just finished rescuing his son from the clutches of the black dragon Onyxia, who'd spent the majority of Varian's reign disguised as Lady Katrana Prestor and subsequently running Stormwind into the ground. Fresh from the victory over Onyxia, Jaina chose this moment to suggest that Varian resume the peace summit that he'd been on the way to when he'd been kidnapped -- an idea that didn't really appeal to the King at all. Once again, Prince Anduin stepped up and persuaded his father that it would be an excellent idea, and Varian reluctantly agreed to it.
Keep in mind what Varian is working with at this point -- when he was a child; he witnessed his father's murder at the hands of an orc. After being rescued by Anduin Lothar and taken to Lordaeron, Lothar -- who'd been like a second father to Varian -- was murdered during the Second War, also at the hands of an orc. Lastly we have the kidnapping, during which Varian (or the Lo'gosh half of Varian) was taken captive and forced to fight in gladiatorial matches for the profit of -- you guessed it -- an orc. It's not a far stretch to say that Varian was at this point more than a little tired of the orcs, and the Horde.
Yet despite all of this, all it took was a few choice words from his son to convince him to give the orcs another chance. This is astounding given the events of Varian's life to date, as there was literally no reason for him to even consider the orcs as anything but an enemy save the word of Jaina and the suggestion of his son. Varian is, at this point in his life, tired -- but still willing to extend a hand if it means a peaceful life for his kingdom and more importantly, his son.
Speaking of Anduin -- he spent the time while his father was gone being raised by one of Varian's most trusted friends, Bolvar Fordragon. Bolvar was on the council with Katrana, and while he spent some time oblivious to her machinations, young Anduin's doubts as to his father's identity soon caused Bolvar to take a closer look at Katrana and what she'd done to the kingdom. In Varian's absence, Bolvar was the king, technically -- and he was also Anduin's father in Varian's stead.
And now, back to the peace summit. Thrall arrived, accompanied by Garrosh Hellscream, who was quite possibly the worst choice for a diplomat Thrall could've ever made, and a shaman named Rehgar Earthfury. You may recognize the name -- this was the same orc that had held Varian in captivity, "owned" him as a slave and made a substantial amount of gold off of Varian's successes. Mind you Rehgar had no earthly idea that Varian was indeed the king of Stormwind -- if he had, likely he would've turned Lo'gosh over to Thrall, or simply released him to return to his kingdom. The thing to keep in mind about Rehgar is that while he did take captives and he did force them to fight, he was never really cruel to those on the team. Indeed, when Varian and Broll made their escape, he simply let them go.
As for the peace summit -- despite Garrosh's continued grumbling, everything seemed to be going quite well. Thrall and Varian had a mutual sort of experience as far as pit fighting and captivity were concerned, and both were truly concerned with making sure both sides got a fair deal in the event of a peace treaty being signed. Anduin played a large part in things going smoothly -- for a young boy; Anduin was incredibly bright and knew just the right things to say. It seemed as though the peace treaty was inevitable, but the summit was interrupted by news from Stormwind -- the kingdom was under attack by the Lich King's forces from Northrend and required Varian's immediate presence. Thrall had similar reports of incidents occurring in Orgrimmar, and so the two agreed to continue the summit at a later date.
In all likelihood this may have gone exactly as planned were it not for what happened next: The two parties suddenly found themselves under attack, and the attackers were both Alliance and Horde members, leading to confusion as to just who was responsible for what was going on. But the sudden appearance of Garona halted all thoughts of peace that Varian may have been considering. Here was his father's assassin, now clearly intent on killing him and young Anduin as well. It's little wonder that Varian thought Thrall and the Horde were responsible, given his prior experience with orcs, especially his prior experience with Garona.
Consider this: The last time Varian saw Garona; she was tearfully carving the heart out of King Llane's chest. Varian was just a child -- 12, maybe 13 at the time and in his world his father meant everything to him. Seeing Garona again not only brought back the memory of that moment, but also confirmed that regardless of what his father had said, regardless of Jaina or Anduin's words, the orcs were not to be trusted. Still, despite this, he let Thrall go -- and let Jaina keep Garona in custody on the promise that once she'd determined what Garona was doing there, she'd release the half-orc to Varian for immediate execution. You can read more about Garona, her son, and her part in the assassination attempt in the Know Your Lore concerning Med'an, Cho'gall and the prophecy.
In the meantime, Varian returned to a Stormwind under siege by scourge, complete with a herald of the Lich King. After a lengthy battle, it was decided that troops must be sent to Northrend. Varian chose Bolvar to lead the troops -- as a friend and brother in all but blood, he trusted Bolvar implicitly to do the right thing, and to bring the Lich King to an end. Now why didn't Varian go north himself? Several reasons really, but the most logical is that he was still trying to get his crumbled kingdom under control after all the meddling Katrana had accomplished. Here's a short list of what Varian missed while he was away:
First and foremost were the Defias, who had been terrorizing Westfall even before Varian had been kidnapped. Now that he was whole and no longer under Katrana's influence, Varian needed to step up and do something about the attacks in Westfall and the Defias' hideout in the mines beneath the hills to the south. Because of the lack of support from Stormwind, Westfall had formed the People's Militia, a voluntary military organization dedicated to the eradication of the Defias, and had been largely successful in pushing the organization back into the hills, but the remnants of the organization still remain -- and it would take something truly earth shattering to make them deviate from their goal of bringing down Stormwind for good. Speaking of the People's Militia, that brings us to the next item on the list...
Duskwood, Westfall and the Redridge Mountains
Due to Katrana's meddling, aid had never been sent to any of the outlying kingdoms, leaving both Westfall and Duskwood to take matters into their own hands via the formation of People's Militia and the Night Watch. Varian needed to patch up matters with these outlying kingdoms because they'd been given the distinct impression over the years that it didn't matter how dire the circumstances were; Stormwind simply didn't care about them.
He was apparently successful at regaining the support of at least one of these groups -- the People's Militia, satisfied that the Defias were no longer as major a threat as they once had been, were convinced to move their forces north to Grizzly Hills, renaming themselves the Westfall Brigade. The Night Watch still works in Duskwood however, as the scourge and worgen in the area still prove an imminent threat.
Meanwhile the town of Lakeshire in Redridge would presumably receive the aid it so desperately needed in fending off orc attacks, and the ever-present threat of the black dragonflight, which had been partially taken care of with Onyxia's demise. Presumably as the attacks eased, so would relations with the small town.
Remnants of allied kingdoms
With Lordaeron in ruins and overrun by Forsaken, Kul Tiras mysteriously silent after the death of Daelin Proudmoore, and Gilneas still closed off from the rest of the world, there weren't really any major allies left, save one -- the kingdom of Stromgarde, or rather, what was left of it. While King Varian's been gone, the remnants of the once-proud kingdom have been diligently defending themselves against both attacks from the Horde, and from another old ally -- Alterac.
When we last left Alterac, the kingdom was in ruins, and its leader Lord Aiden Perenolde accused of treason and sentenced to exile. Nothing was done to repair the kingdom of Alterac or restore it to its once former glory; the nobles of the kingdom exiled in much the same manner as their former leader. Lord Perenolde realized at this point that the kingdom and its former occupants would die out entirely if something wasn't done. He brought the nobles together and organized raiding parties on other local towns, stealing what they needed to survive. With this determination to save his shattered kingdom came the hatred of the Alliance that had caused its downfall.
After the Third War, Perenolde began recruiting rogues, thieves and assassins, offering them shelter and aid in return for their assistance. Perenolde's band of nobles and thieves called themselves the Syndicate, and when Aiden was captured by the Alliance and imprisoned for his deeds, where he would eventually die, the Syndicate continued. Their leader was Aiden's son Aliden, who took over despite fighting between himself, his sister Beve Perenolde, and his cousin Isiden.
The Syndicate slowly took over the ruins left behind after the Second War -- Durnholde Keep was recovered, and then the Syndicate moved east to Arathi, promptly taking over what was left of Stromgarde and forcing its citizens out. In addition, it appears that the Syndicate may still be up to Perenolde's old trick of allying with the enemy, as it appears they have more than one member related to the Shadow Council in their midst.
While Varian's been absent, the other members of the Alliance have done their best to help the struggling remnants of Stromgarde, stationed at a small camp in the Arathi Highlands named Refuge Pointe, with the task of retaking Stromgarde. Perenolde's legacy lived on in both his son and the Syndicate, and their intent is still focused on the destruction of the Alliance. While Varian worked with the kingdoms nearer to Stormwind, the possibility of old allies up north surely captured his attention as well.
The Burning Crusade
Perhaps the most important events that Varian missed in his absence were those surrounding The Burning Crusade, and the introduction of the draenei as new members of the Alliance. Despite their benevolence, the draenei's eerie resemblance to the Eredar was no doubt a little off putting to Varian, whose experience with alien races was limited to the orcs. Even though there is a draenei ambassador present in Stormwind's throne room, it's doubtful that Varian has had much time to get to know the new allies, and with all of the action in Northrend, it's doubtful he's heard much about the events in Outland.
With everything Varian had missed, his list of things to do regarding the lower continents was staggering, and required his immediate attention -- he needed to focus on restoring his kingdom and getting things in order again. But foremost on his mind was the matter of a former best friend who'd murdered his own father, and then done the unthinkable and taken up the mantle of one of the most feared villains Azeroth had to offer -- the Lich King.