Know Your Lore: Cairne Bloodhoof

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|10.24.10

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Know Your Lore: Cairne Bloodhoof

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.

All hail the father of the tauren nation: Cairne of the Bloodhoof, who brought his people from The Barrens to Mulgore, whose alliance with the young orc shaman Thrall led his people into the Horde, wise guide and visionary who saw the way for his people to live free of constant war with the centaur. Powerful in war, wise in his restraint, at one with the spirits of the land and the ancestors of the shu'halo. Beloved chieftain. Today, one of your many sons and daughters salutes you.

We have indeed spoken of you before. But it moots us to revisit you, brave and wizened as you are, for the future comes and those of us who have seen it already know what mourning is. Great have you been in war and in peace. Were it not for you, we would never have found our home in Thunder Bluff, would never have joined the Horde, would never have fought beside the mortal races against Archimonde and his defiling army of demons. When we were on the edge of destruction, and the centaurs hurled waves of bodies against us, you fought for us.

Brave one, we will always remember you, first among us, best among us. Ish-ne-alo por-ah -- may the Earthmother smile upon you. Let us tell tales of the life of Cairne.

The endless war and the dream

We have known war with the centaur for as long as any of us can remember. Even mighty Cairne was born into a world where shu'halo warred upon the debased ones, the tainted, twisted mockeries of nature's daughters and keepers. Apa'ro's get they were not, no matter their descent, and they sought always to steal the gifts of the Earthmother from our people. So it was, so it is. But we shu'halo were nomadic, tribal, scattered into a dozen dozen tribes and could not match the numbers of the centaur, who harried us and hounded us. There was no place in our home land, the place called The Barrens, where we could be free of them.

Cairne saw this. He had been born a Bloodhoof and had grown to leadership of his people all through the rising attacks of The Barrens' centaur tribes. He came to realize that no amount of might would be sufficient to endure the fecundity of the centaur. No matter how many died at the hands and weapons of the shu'halo, more would come. He alone realized that the ancient nomad ways of the people could no longer suffice to keep them safe. We could not stand apart from one another if we hoped to survive. The land was stripped of food by the ravenous, twisted ones and could not sustain us. Their cruelty was as unrelenting as their endless raids.

Yet we are stubborn in our ways. Wise was Cairne, but even his great wisdom did not see a means to break through the centaur hordes and reach safety. Even as he understood that the Bloodhoof must abandon their ancestral home in The Barrens for the grasslands of Mulgore, even as he knew that indeed all of the shu'halo must unite against this common, hated foe, he also knew how difficult it would be to convince them and how impossible it would be for the Bloodhoof to survive the trip to Mulgore alone, unaided, in the face of the centaurs and their greater numbers. Cairne may have even despaired in his great heart and cried out to the Earthmother's eyes An'she and Mu'sha who witness all things to see his people's plight.

See it they did, and perhaps even answer it they may have done, for not even fearsome Cairne could have foreseen the events to come.

The coming of the Horde and the flight to Mulgore

Mighty Cairne, powerful in war and strong in guile, soon found himself face to face with a people no shu'halo had even heard of before. Led by a strong shaman, mysterious in his command of the elements, these "orcs" soon proved themselves both fearsome warriors (well, as fearsome as any people so short could be) and honorable in their way, coming to the aid of a shu'halo under attack by many centaurs. Cairne saw a kinship between the green-skinned new people and the shu'halo. When Thrall, the shaman and Warchief of the orcs, told Cairne that they had come to the shores of our land seeking their destiny, our leader was quick to recognize the hand of the Earthmother in their fortuitous arrival.

Cairne agreed to show the orcs and their troll companions how to reach a mysterious oracle who had arrived recently in the Stonetalon Mountains. In return, Thrall and his orcs would assist Cairne as he led our people to a new home in Mulgore. The bargain was struck, and Thrall proved to be as good as his word. He and his people helped the shu'halo make the dangerous trek across The Barrens and into Mulgore, together fighting off many of the twisted ones.

You ask why we are Horde? This is why. In our moment of greatest need, the Earthmother sent us brothers from across the seas. We are shu'halo, ever obedient to our mother. Cairne knew in this moment that our people owed the orcs a great debt, aye, but he also knew that our fate was joined to theirs. As our people arrived in Mulgore, and the orcs departed for Stonetalon and the oracle, Cairne made a fateful decision.
We are Horde forever

Cairne sought out Thrall and his orcs and pledged his aid in their quest. In so doing, Cairne committed us all to aiding the young Warchief as he cleansed his lieutenant Grom Hellscream of a foul demonic influence, then stood alongside the orcs, the kaldorei of the north (we had long known them but found them to be good enough neighbors when avoided as much as possible) and even the strange pink ones from across the seas. If not for this choice, Hamuul Runetotem would never have received druidic training from the kaldorei Malfurion Stormrage. If not for this choice, it is possible Hellscream would never have been redeemed, the Burning Legion may well have triumphed, and all of the children of the Earthmother (not merely the shu'halo) would have been destroyed.

Cairne then returned to our new home in Mulgore. But events outside our control would push us inexorably and fully into the Horde, as the strange pinkskins would make war against our orcish brothers. Rexxar, the Champion of the Horde, would come to Mulgore to gain Cairne's assistance in battling this threat, but Cairne could not aid him. For mighty Cairne, great of heart, was stricken by despair. Centaurs had harried our people even into Mulgore itself, and Baine the chieftain's son was their captive, possibly even done to death by them. In his sorrow, Cairne could not understand how this could have happened, how on the verge of a new beginning for all shu'halo, his only son could be stolen from him. Even great Cairne was made of flesh and fragile as we all are, and his despair drove him to refuse to aid our brothers, to tell Rexxar that as far as the world was concerned, Cairne was dead with his son. Tagar, our chief's right hand, told Rexxar of Baine's plight and Cairne's grief, and again our orcish brothers showed us a friendship and honor that would stir our hearts.

Rexxar would rescue Baine and return alongside him to Cairne. And in his joy at the sight of his son, mighty Cairne was reborn and took his place alongside our Horde brothers in the defeat of the strange Admiral Proudmoore and his forces. It was this battle and its aftermath that convinced great and wise Cairne to build a city where shu'halo of all tribes could come together, for the betterment of all the people. If we could ally with orcs and trolls and other, stranger allies, could we do less for our own? Could the beloved children of the Earthmother turn forever our backs upon one another? Cairne saw that the answer was no, and so, Thunder Bluff came to be.

Throughout wars with demons and the Scourge, Cairne led our people. From chief of one tribe, he became chief of all shu'halo, leader of the tribes that met at Thunder Bluff, father to a new way of life for us all. Even beyond the shu'halo, Cairne came to see the Horde itself as our kin in honor and duty and never forsook it.

And now he is gone. Grief to the shu'halo that it happened, although we all knew one day it must. Shame to the shu'halo that it was the treachery of one of our own, the accursed Magatha Grimtotem (may never again her face be seen, lest death be her portion and her requital, so Baine has spoken) who encompassed it. Poison in the Mak'gora rite has taken from us the one who showed us the future and then brought us to it with the strength of his arm, the grace of his heart, and the friends his wisdom made for us.
We honor you, Cairne of the Bloodhoof. We mourn you. We will always remember you. May you even now sleep your deserved rest in the arms of the Earthmother.

For more information on the people, places and history mentioned here, check out other Know Your Lore columns, such as:

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.
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