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.
Kaldorei society and rank has always been complex. Queen Azshara had her court, the Highborne represented the upper reaches of society, and those chosen Highborne were magic users of particular skill and prowess. On the other end of the spectrum were the Sisters of Elune, kaldorei priestesses who were dedicated to the worship of the moon goddess Elune. And somewhere in between were the druids, primarily male kaldorei who followed Malfurion Stormrage after the War of the Ancients and Sundering were over, eventually founding the Cenarion Circle.
In between them all were the Watchers, a group established after the War of the Ancients that survives to this day. Not only has it survived, it's apparently thriving enough that some of these Watchers will be making an appearance in Warlords of Draenor. While the depth of their appearance and how much they will be contributing to the new expansion's story remains to be seen, it's worth it to take a look at this organization, how it came to be, and perhaps the most notorious Watcher of them all -- Maiev Shadowsong.
War of the Ancients
In the days following the Sundering that tore Kalimdor into the continents as we know them today, Illidan Stormrage was on a mission that was unwise at best. He sought to create a second Well of Eternity, determined to prove that the arcane powers of the Well could be controlled, and insistent that the magic of the Well would be needed should the Burning Legion ever return to Azeroth. His deed was discovered by Jarod Shadowsong, and when Shadowsong confronted Illidan, he was nearly killed.
Although Illidan was captured, Jarod's sister Maiev was enraged at what Stormrage had done to her brother, and sought his death. Tyrande Whisperwind stopped her from doing so, pointing out that Jarod yet lived -- and Jarod left the decision of Illidan's fate up to his brother Malfurion. Unwilling to sentence his own brother to death, Malfurion instead ordered that Illidan be imprisoned, locked away in the Barrow Dens and left there for good.
And although Maiev held plenty of respect for Malfurion, she didn't care for his sentencing at all. With little prospect in the Sisterhood of Elune, Maiev chose to instead volunteer to watch over Illidan, guard his prison and make sure he did not escape. Malfurion agreed to this, but asked Maiev to gather additional volunteers to assist her with this task. Thus, the group known as the Watchers was formed -- volunteers from the Sisterhood who willingly agreed to patrol the Barrow Dens and keep Illidan chained away.
As the years passed, other prisoners were captured and passed on to the Watchers, who happily continued their task. Maiev served as Warden, leader of the group, and other sisters joined as time went on. The Warden were not in any way related to the Sentinels -- they worked alone, and took their task with great seriousness. None were quiet as fervently dedicated as Maiev, however -- and she viewed the Watchers not so much a group as a family.
During the Third War, Tyrande decided that Illidan had spent enough time -- ten thousand years, in fact -- imprisoned in the Barrow Dens. Hoping she could use his knowledge of the Legion against the evils that were threatening Ashenvale and Hyjal, Tyrande traveled into the Barrow Dens to set him free. By this time, Maiev and the others had also spent ten thousand years relatively isolated from the rest of society, fulfilling their tasks with almost fanatical devotion. There was absolutely no way they were going to stand for Illidan's release -- Tyrande and her Sentinels had to fight and kill some of the Watchers to set him free.
Enraged, Maiev swore to track down Illidan and see him returned to prison, following his trail to the Tomb of Sargeras with the rest of the Watchers. Yet she was too late -- Illidan claimed the powerful artifact he was after, and used its powers to trap the Watchers within the Tomb, flooding it while he escaped. Maiev was the only one to get out alive. The Watchers were dead, save Maiev -- or so it seemed. Driven by furious resolve, Maiev continued to hunt Illidan down, following him to the Eastern Kingdoms and beyond, to Outland. And then all was silent, Maiev thought long dead, and the Watchers essentially extinct.
In Burning Crusade, we finally discovered what became of Maiev, and her single-minded obsession to have her revenge on Illidan Stormrage was at last fulfilled. Yet Illidan's final words haunted the Warden. "You have won... Maiev. But the huntress... is nothing without the hunt. You... are nothing... without me." There was inherent truth in those words -- Maiev spent ten thousand years keeping Illidan locked away, another few short years tracking him down, and at last, her quarry was dead. The majority of her life was spent wrapped around the idea of Illidan's downfall -- once he was downed, what purpose did she have?
And so, despite her reoccurring clashes with Tyrande Whisperwind, Maiev returned at last to Kalimdor. In Darnassus, she was allowed to begin training a new generation of Watchers. Yet Darnassus, and the kaldorei, were vastly different from when she left them behind. In that time, the once-reclusive race had joined the Alliance. In that time, the worgen had come to reside in the kaldorei capital city. Perhaps worst of all, in that time, Highborne were allowed back within kaldorei society.
This was not the kaldorei society that Maiev had known and loved, the kaldorei she had vowed to serve as Warden for. But when a series of mysterious deaths plagued the newly reintroduced Highborne, Maiev volunteered to lead the investigation into the murders, and bring the murderer to justice. Malfurion and Tyrande agreed, pleased that Maiev had a new cause to dedicate herself to with fierce resolve.
What they did not know was that Maiev was the one behind the killings all along. There was no corruption behind Maiev's actions. She was not influenced by the Old Gods, or some other outside evil. She was simply furious about how the kaldorei had been led, in her opinion, astray. Fresh in her mind were the events of the War of the Ancients, events brought about by the selfsame Highborne that Malfurion and Tyrande sought to bring back into the fold. And she was not alone -- her newly formed Watchers carried the same opinions as the Warden.
As far as she was concerned, the majority of the problem lay solely on Malfurion Stormrage's shoulders. He was just like his twin brother, Illidan's kin through and through, arrogant and unyielding. Malfurion had the arrogance to presume he knew what was best for the kaldorei, ripped away their immortality, embraced the Alliance and brought their problems into night elf society, and welcomed the Highborne back as if they had done nothing wrong at all.
Which is why Maiev murdered the Highborne one by one, attempting to take out their leaders and send them scurrying in fear back from where they'd come. After that task was complete, she planned to take Malfurion out, too -- a slow, painful death. Her efforts were halted by her brother Jarod, who discovered her plot and kept her from killing Malfurion, but was unable to prevent her escape. Saddened beyond belief, Jarod and the others could only surmise that her years of isolation as a Warden, and later her suffering at the hands of Illidan in Outland, had driven her completely mad.
There was little to be done about Maiev Shadowsong -- she had made her escape, and the majority of the new Watchers were slain in the process. Yet Tyrande decided to reform the organization yet again, and this time appointed Jarod Shadowsong as the new leader. He had demonstrated on more than one occasion his proficiency for leadership and his skill in combat, and was well suited to the task, as far as she was concerned.
But this time, the task of the Watchers would be a different one. This time, they would not be buried away in the Barrow Dens, isolated from the rest of kaldorei society. Instead, the Watchers would act as a security force for Darnassus, hunting down any that would threaten the city or its resident. And the first target for these new Watchers was none other than Maiev herself.
Maiev has yet to be found, far too cunning and clever to simply be tracked. After all, who better knows how best to hide, than one who has dedicated nearly all their life to identifying tracks and following trails? Yet the Watchers remain, stalwart and resolute, and dedicated to upholding and protecting Darnassus and its residents. In the new expansion, we will see the Watchers on Draenor -- whether sent simply as a strike force at the command of Tyrande, or to perhaps hunt down and capture Garrosh Hellscream, we don't know. But although the nature of the Watchers may have changed over the years, we can be fairly certain that whatever they are after, they will not stop until it is found and brought to justice, one way or another.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.