Know Your Lore: Current Alliance politics -- the humans, part one

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|06.13.10

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Know Your Lore: Current Alliance politics -- the humans, part one

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.

Over the past several weeks we've looked at the political situation of the Alliance races: night elves, gnomes, dwarves and draenei. This leaves just one race to take a look at, and while it's been around and active for the shortest amount of time in history, it's easily got the largest amount of conflict of any of the Alliance races in game. Without it, the Alliance wouldn't exist in the first place. That's right, this week we're covering the backbone of the Alliance, the human race -- and there is a lot of ground to cover.

Wrath of the Lich King contained several reveals in regard to the history of the Alliance races, but perhaps the most surprising was a neat and tidy explanation for the existence of the humans of Azeroth. While other races have either been around since the dawn of Azeroth or were constructed by the titans, the humans have a unique explanation for their presence that was briefly explained in a quest line in Howling Fjord.

The discovery of the vrykul in Howling Fjord led to further investigation into the species' origins, and with those origins, the cause for humanity was inadvertently discovered. Way back in the dawn of Azeroth's time, the vrykul -- half-giant warriors native to Northrend -- worshipped the titans as gods. It is stated in vrykul history that some time after their gods "abandoned" them, the children of the vrykul were born "weak and ugly." King Ymiron ordered these children to be killed, but some parents instead hid their children away, sending them far from Northrend to grow up and hopefully thrive. As stated by Thoralius the Wise (one of a few draenei quest givers in Northrend, and an important one at that), "There is no extinct 'missing link' to humans as the Explorers' League proposed. The vrykul are the missing link. They are the progenitors of humanity."

And the children of the vrykul thrived, albeit far away from Northrend. Thousands of years later, the quel'dorei who were banished from the continent of Kalimdor encountered these first "primitive" humans, who were anything but. These human tribes were constantly at war with the native trolls of the area, and over time as the trolls became too great of a threat, one tribe named the Arathi went on a mission -- a mission to conquer the surrounding tribes and offer them peace and equality in return for uniting under one banner. Through this, the Arathi tribe were able to form the nation of Arathor, building the capital of Strom as a result.

The peace was still interrupted by the threat of troll invaders however, and thousands of years later, the quel'dorei who had ignored the humans at first finally approached them to ask for their help. It turned out the quel'dorei were being hit even harder by the trolls than the humans, and they sent ambassadors to Strom to ask for assistance in exchange for something far greater -- knowledge. The quel'dorei pledged to teach 100 humans the art of magic in exchange for their help. King Thoradin, the leader of Strom, while originally hesitant and wary about the thought of his people learning arts that were more than likely dangerous, agreed to this after realizing that the knowledge -- while admittedly dangerous -- would be exceedingly useful for the upcoming battles. Together, the quel'dorei and humans were able to shatter the troll empire in an event now known as the Troll Wars.

This turned out to be a major advantage to the human race. Not only were they taught magic as a result of their assistance, the quel'dorei were both grateful and impressed with the human's efforts and with King Thoradin in particular. Anasterian Sunstrider, leader of the quel'dorei at the time, pledged the eternal support of the quel'dorei to the bloodline of King Thoradin in gratitude for the assistance of his people, and this pledge would prove invaluable thousands of years later.

Following the defeat of the trolls however, Strom and the empire of Arathor began to crumble, bit by bit. The human mages who had been taught by the quel'dorei left Strom to found their own nation: Dalaran, a city dedicated to the instruction and use of magical arts. One by one, other city-states were founded: Alterac, Kul Tiras, Lordaeron and Gilneas.

Lordaeron was founded by many of the nobles from Strom, who traveled north as the empire began to fracture. King Thoradin's descendants and heirs meanwhile traveled far, far south to form the kingdom of Azeroth -- later known as Stormwind. There were few left in Strom by this point, and they renamed what remained of the once-great empire Stromgarde, the city we know in game today. All was well and quiet for the human nations, who ruled their own city-states individually, until a day that changed the face of Azeroth and the history of humankind for good. A portal was opened between worlds -- the Dark Portal -- and the orcish Horde burst through, intent on conquering whatever lands lay beyond.

The Dark Portal was actually created by a human, a man named Medivh -- the last Guardian of Azeroth. Medivh deserves some coverage here, because without him, Azeroth would not be what it is today, for bad or for good -- and the Alliance political situation in current Azeroth simply would not exist. In fact, without Medivh, there would be no Horde, no Alliance -- nothing would exist as it does today. The circumstances surrounding Medivh involve one of the city-states formed when the empire of Arathor began to crumble -- Dalaran.

Way back when Dalaran formed into its own city-state (and possibly dating all the way back when they were originally taught by the quel'dorei), the magi of Dalaran learned of the existence of the Burning Legion and how its forces constantly sought to conquer Azeroth. The strong concentration of magi and magical activity in the Dalaran area often attracted the Burning Legion, much like the activity around the Well of Eternity originally attracted Sargeras' attentions thousands of years before. Because of this, the mages realized they needed someone to watch over the world and keep the demons at bay. With this thought in mind, the Council of Tirisfal was formed -- a group of immensely powerful magi, both human and non-human, who were brought together with a single purpose in mind: to create a being powerful enough to keep the Burning Legion in check.

This being was known as the Guardian. The Guardian is chosen by the Council to receive a portion of the powers from each Council member, essentially giving him the power of seven mages as well as whatever latent power he carried himself. The mages of the Council would lose that portion of their power for as long as the Guardian held it, and in many cases, the Guardian held it for as long as he lived or until the surviving Council stripped him of his powers. There was one drawback to this plan, though -- the Guardian could not be stripped of his power if all of the mages who performed the ceremony had died. Instead, that Guardian had to be killed before another Guardian could step up to the plate. Guardians live much longer life spans than normal, so there have been few in Azeroth's timeline; easily the strongest of them all was the second-to-last of her kind, Aegwynn.

Aegwynn was a human woman who was the brightest of her class, and when offered the opportunity to become a Guardian, leapt at the chance. Showing remarkable aptitude, Aegwynn turned out to be a good choice -- approximately 500 years after her rise to power, she faced off against an avatar of Sargeras, leader of the Burning Legion, and won. His physical remains were placed in the Tomb of Sargeras near the Maelstrom. But Aegwynn had her faults, and they only grew stronger over time. As Guardian, she was constantly under the Council's control, a fact that annoyed her as much as the arrogance of the Council of Tirisfal in general. When it came time to choose her successor, she informed them that she would be the one making the choice. Cocky and arrogant, and bent on preventing the Council from trying to manipulate future Guardians, she traveled to the kingdom of Azeroth to the south and seduced the court conjurer of Stormwind, Nielas Aran, to father a child.

It wasn't love that drove her to do this -- it was the simple wish to make sure that the child born would be talented, and far, far away from the Council's prying influence. She gave birth to her son and named him Medivh, or "Keeper of Secrets" in Elvish, and left him for Nielas to raise. Before she left, she did one last thing -- she locked the secrets and the knowledge of Tirisfal, the powers that the young Guardian was to inherit, deep within the baby's mind. Satisfied with her revenge over the Council, she left. But her revenge wasn't what she'd expected. When she'd battled the avatar of Sargeras years before, he didn't die -- his physical form did, but the spirit of Sargeras traveled into Aegwynn's body and lay in wait for the perfect opportunity to strike. Her son turned out to be that opportunity, and when Medivh was born, Sargeras' spirit moved from Aegwynn, to her baby.

Medivh had a relatively normal childhood, friends with both Prince Llane Wrynn, heir to Azeroth's throne, and to a young man named Anduin Lothar. Medivh trained under his father in the magical arts, but it wasn't until he was 14 that his powers fully blossomed. Awakening one night from the midst of a nightmare, he stumbled into his father's room. When his father touched him, the powers that Aegwynn had given him awoke in a backlash of magic that killed his father and threw Medivh into a coma, urged on by Sargeras, which lasted for 20 years. As Medivh slept, Sargeras twisted his thoughts. When Medivh finally woke and reassured his mother and his friends that he was fine, he immediately set about trying to learn everything under the sun, with little fear for the consequences of his actions.

Sargeras continued to twist and work his way into Medivh's thoughts, driving him to consort with darker magics and demons, including the Burning Legion itself. In his madness, Medivh thought that the only way to achieve true power would be to destroy the one thing standing in his way -- the humans of Azeroth. This was why he sought out the warlock Gul'dan and negotiated with the orc, promising him to reveal the location of the Tomb of Sargeras in return for the Horde's cooperation -- that he would find a way to bring them to Azeroth, if they would in return destroy the humans on the way to the Tomb.

Gul'dan agreed, and Medivh began work to open the Dark Portal, though not without interference. His mother Aegwynn finally realized to her horror what exactly she'd done and what was wrong with her son, and fought him shortly after he'd opened the Portal. Although Aegwynn was still powerful in her own right, she was overtaken by Medivh, who not only defeated her, but banished her far, far away, leaving him somewhat weakened with no recourse but to draw power directly from the land itself. He set up magical wards around the area that he sent Aegwynn to, both to keep her from leaving and to keep her safe from any further harm. Despite being under the influence of Sargeras, there were points where Medivh was still very much Medivh, the young boy who fell into a coma one day and woke up a grown man the next, and he wanted his mother kept safe.

It was shortly after this that Medivh was contacted by the half-orc "ambassador" Garona. Thought to be half-orc, half-human, Garona was Medivh's contact for the Horde forces that now rampaged throughout the forests of the kingdom of Azeroth, working their way towards the capital city of Stormwind. As a half-orc, Garona held allegiance to no clan -- but she was the personal spy and assassin of Gul'dan, through a complicated series of events that are explained in the Know Your Lore that covers her son, Med'an. During her time interacting with Medivh, the human mage had managed to earn a large portion of her respect -- he made her feel more "human" and accepted her with no word about her strange heritage. The two had a brief affair that resulted in Garona's pregnancy, though it was unknown to any but her at the time.

It was also during this time that the Kirin Tor, the organization of mages based in Dalaran, sent Medivh an apprentice. They'd done this a few times over the years, perhaps in an effort to get Medivh under the Council of Tirisfal's control, with little success. But this apprentice, named Khadgar, impressed Medivh with his intelligence and resourcefulness and was kept on to organize Medivh's expansive library and study magic under the Guardian's tutelage. It was while under this apprenticeship that Khadgar discovered some of the odd properties of Medivh's home, the tower of Karazhan -- the tower itself was built upon a area of weakened reality, and those who traveled through Karazhan were often treated to visions of the past, present and future.

During one of these visions, Khadgar discovered Medivh's involvement with the Dark Portal, and both he and Garona traveled to see King Llane and Anduin Lothar and let them know what happened. Lothar led a troop of human forces to track down and take care of the now-mad Guardian, and in the ensuing battle, Khadgar found himself prematurely aged by Medivh's power. Now physically decades older, Khadgar managed to grab Lothar's sword and run it through the Guardian's chest -- and Lothar, Medivh's former best friend, severed the Guardian's head from his body and banished Sargeras' spirit back into the nether.

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