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Know Your Lore: Nathanos Marris and the dark rangers of the Forsaken

Anne Stickney

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.

When looking at the new race and class combinations that are coming out with Cataclysm, some are far easier than others to digest, such as the addition of the hunter class to the human race. Of course the humans can be hunters, that's not a terribly far-fetched statement at all. But what about the other new race that, as of Cataclysm, gets to take up the bow and tame beasts as well? I'm speaking of the Forsaken, of course -- the thought of an undead creature holding a biscuit and coaxing a wolf to be his new best friend is just a little off-putting.

In Wrath, we've seen a sudden return of the dark rangers -- the forsaken remnants of what used to be Sylvanas' corps of elven rangers. As Ranger General of Silvermoon, Sylvanas led and commanded the Farstriders back before the Third War. After the events of the Third War, Sylvanas found herself turned into a banshee, and then after regaining her body, a dark ranger -- the first dark ranger of the Forsaken. But the Forsaken we play in game aren't really elven -- they're humans, the former residents of Lordaeron. How do they fit in? There's a few different and absolutely reasonable theories kicking around, but first we should take a look at the first and only human ranger lord -- Nathanos Marris.

WARNING: The following post may contain some spoilers for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. If you wish to remain unspoiled, stopping here would be advised!

Nathanos Marris was for all purposes a quiet man that didn't lead a particularly notable life in terms of written history -- in fact, there is very, very little information surrounding this human. He made his home in what is now the Eastern Plaguelands at a small farm called the Marris Stead -- however, he can be spotted in the Old Hillsbrad Foothills section of the Caverns of Time, hanging out in the magistrate's building in Southshore with Raleigh the True and Bilger the Straight-laced, both paladins.

The arrival of the Scourge in Lordaeron changed a lot of people's lives -- Raleigh ended up joining the Scarlet Crusade. After witnessing innocent people being tortured because they were not members of the Scarlet Crusade, Raleigh left. He is now known as Raleigh the Devout, and lives in Southshore permanently, giving players a quest to assassinate many of the higher-ranking officials of the Scarlet Crusade. As for Bilger the Straight-laced, the war must not have been good to him, as he's taken to drinking ... heavily. No longer a paladin, Brewmeister Bilger now makes his home in the cellar of Southshore's inn.

As for Nathanos ... his fate was far worse than any could possibly imagine. Nathanos was the first and only ranger lord, appointed as such by Ranger General Sylvanas Windrunner. This is odd for a few different reasons, but the biggest one is that after the Second War, most of the high elves withdrew from society, choosing instead to remain in Quel'Thalas and Silvermoon where they could largely ignore the rest of the world in general. It's therefore a little strange that a human would garner the attention of the high elven rangers, and Sylvanas in particular -- but what we can take from this is that Nathanos must have been one hell of a ranger.
His inclusion in the ranks of the ranger lords was not without its conflicts. Kael'thas Sunstrider opposed the appointment, but Sylvanas did it anyway, impressed with Nathanos' ability. Though trained by high elves, Nathanos appears to have spent much of his time south of Quel'Thalas at his home, the Marris Stead -- but despite the fact that his travels aren't documented, those that remember him, remember him with the reverence of a hero -- much like Bolvar Fordragon or even Anduin Lothar.

His heroics were not to last. After the fall of Stratholme, after the death of Terenas and the corruption of Arthas and as Lordaeron fell, the Scourge swept over the once-great nation. Town after town crumbled under the Scourge's assault, and Nathanos stood his ground on the little farm he called home as the wave of undead grew closer. Despite his training, despite his valiant efforts to defend the kingdom he loved, Nathanos Marris fell as well, murdered by the abomination Ramstein the Gorger. He awoke as Scourge, helpless under the Lich King's thrall.

But things changed, as all things do -- and when the Frozen Throne weakened and Arthas lost his hold over many of the Scourge, Sylvanas broke free. It was at this time that she found her body, reclaimed it and became the first dark ranger; it was also at this time that she attempted to enact her vengeance upon Arthas, an attempt that failed. Arthas fled to Northrend, and Sylvanas was left alone to ponder -- what now would she do? Thus, the birth of the Forsaken -- and Sylvanas, perhaps thinking of her old ally, found Nathanos and appointed him her champion -- the Champion of the Banshee Queen. No longer Nathanos Marris, he took a new name -- Nathanos Blightcaller.
Nathanos appears to care very little for his former life, even sending Horde players to retrieve the Quel'Thalas registry that contained his file. He makes sure to inform players that the registry is not to be read -- and therefore nosy players can read the registry for what little information there is regarding the formerly human ranger lord:

Name: Nathanos Marris, Human Ranger Lord of Lordaeron.

Entry: Kael'thas Sunstrider's dissension in regards to my decision to allow Nathanos Marris into the order is noted. It should also be noted that Nathanos - although a human - is one of the most gifted rangers I have ever had the pleasure of training.

For millennia we have isolated ourselves from outsiders. I will be the first among us to admit that mistakes were made in the past. Humans should never have been exposed to magic. I will not deny this but I will not condemn us to this guarded existence for the blunders of our predecessors. There is much that a coexistence between the Quel'dorei and other races of the world can bring. We must practice tolerance.

It is with these words, then, that I deny Kael's request in regards to Nathanos Marris. He will prove to be an invaluable ally. Mark my words.

Sylvanas Windrunner
Ranger General of Silvermoon
It's no wonder that Sylvanas came back for him -- considering all we know of the banshee queen, both before and after her death, it would take someone very, very special to capture her interest or her favor. Nathanos himself is bitter and cold in undeath, speaking to players as if they were mere insects. After completing several of his tasks, he does warm to players however -- and if you sit very quietly and watch, you might just catch a glimpse of the softer side of Nathanos as he plays fetch with his two trusty blighthounds. Unfortunately it doesn't make a bit of difference whether he warms to you or not, if you're Horde.
Nathanos Marris was, after all, a hero of the Alliance -- and his death did not go unnoticed, nor did the fact that a body had never been found. Master Mathias Shaw, head of SI:7 -- the Stormwind intelligence agency -- received some disturbing reports of unusual Forsaken activity in the Eastern Plaguelands, and sent five agents to investigate. Only one of those agents returned, babbling incoherently about "Nathanos" and the word "Blightcaller." He died in his sleep just days after his return, and Alliance players are asked to go investigate their disappearance.

The only thing SI:7 had to go on was that Nathanos Marris may have been slain by this "Blightcaller," but the truth was far less pleasant. After investigating the grounds around the Marris Stead, players uncover the ugly reality -- Nathanos is the Blightcaller, now a champion of the Banshee Queen. Unfortunately it is up to the player to deliver this unpleasant news to King Varian Wrynn:
No. It... NO! How? An agent of the Forsaken? The CHAMPION of the Banshee Queen???

King Varian Wrynn slumps in defeat.

Do you know how many ranger lords exist in this world? How many human ranger lords have ever existed? Nathanos' accomplishments were unprecedented. He was a tactical genius, responsible for Alliance victories spanning a decade of conflict.

And now... the champion of the Forsaken.

No. This cannot be. Order must be restored. Gather an army, <name>. Return to the Plaguelands with your army and destroy the Blightcaller.

I wish you luck, <name>. Truly, you will need it for this battle.
Varian was right to ask players to bring an army -- a level 62 elite, Nathanos was no easy fight. In the original vanilla days, it was Bolvar that gave out the quest, and the Blightcaller took a full raid of 40 people to kill ... if you were lucky. More often than not people simply skipped this quest, as trying to wrangle 40 people together for something that wasn't Onyxia was generally an exercise in futility. The other catch? Nathanos was PvP flagged, so Horde players that discovered Nathanos under attack could and would quickly decimate an Alliance raid as soon as they opened up on the former ranger lord. For those that managed to succeed in destroying Nathanos, the rewards were pretty sweet. Upon returning to Stormwind and turning in the quest, players will find that King Varian has a few last words about the first, and only, human ranger lord:
It is a tragedy. I think... I believe that our kind is cursed, <name>. We are cursed to lose our greatest warriors; our most noble heroes; our most gifted scholars. We are indebted to you and I assure you, <name>, wherever Nathanos Marris is now, he smiles down upon you.

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