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Know Your Lore: Grommash Hellscream, Page 2

Matthew Rossi

The long doldrums

Grom saw none of the first or second wars against the humans of Stormwind or the Alliance of Lordaeron. He spent the entirety of that conflict trapped on Draenor, forced to endure the slow deterioration of his world, the wasting death of his clan due to starvation on a planet that could not feed them. As you might expect, Grom was not one to sit back and endure such a fate quietly. The elder shaman Ner'zhul found in Grom an enthusiastic participant for a plan to save the orcs of Draenor following the failure of the invasion of Azeroth.

Reopening the Dark Portal, Ner'zhul sent Grom and other orc chieftains on raids to discover various magical artifacts, as well as an attempt to destroy Nethergarde Keep. For his part, Grom welcomed the chance to finally face the humans in battle. In the end, however, Grommash Hellscream was far more canny (and inherently disobedient) than Ner'zhul could have anticipated. He led his Warsong through the human ranks and even through the Dark Portal itself, even as Ner'zhul destroyed Draenor. While the portals ripped the home world of the orcs apart and scattered its fragments throughout the twisted nether (the largest known fragment becoming the Outland), Grom and his people found themselves trapped on a world where his kind were feared, hated and ultimately defeated.

Grom spent the next years leading his Warsong away from being captured by the humans. In the chaos following the wars, the Warsong managed to hide in the wilderness at the edges of the Eastern Kingdoms. Hunted and hounded by Alliance forces, the Warsong remained free at any costs, while Grommash found himself forced to ruminate on how his people had gone from a proud nomadic society, to a blood-crazed mob, to a shattered, demoralized people huddled in human camps, watched over by human guards, barely able to move their heads from their laps. Amazingly, in a moment of introspection rare to him, Grom realized that much of the blame for the sorry state of the orcs was entirely his. When the son of Durotan, named Thrall by the humans, came to find the Warsong Grom eventually allowed him to stay with them for a while and learn the orc language, and the two orcs eventually became close enough for Thrall to call Grommash "big brother." Still, Thrall's presence endangered the Warsong, as the human commander Aedelas Blackmoore sought to recapture his prize gladiator at all costs, so Grom pointed Thrall in the direction of the Frostwolves, after recognizing a scrap of cloth the young orc held as belonging to that clan's standard.

Grommash brought the Warsong to bear alongside Thrall when the young orc enlisted the titular warchief Doomhammer in an attempt to free the orcs from the internment camps. Doomhammer had nothing good to say about Hellscream (calling him a demon haunted dreamer), but it didn't impede their combat prowess any. However, Doomhammer fell on the battlefield at Hammerfall (so named for its being the site of his death; before that, it had been merely another internment camp). Thrall became Warchief with Grom's full support. Grommash knew himself well enough to know that while he could lead his Warsong, he was not suited to overall command of the entirety of the new Horde, as it required someone with a vision all orcs could rally around. Thrall was that orc.

Kalimdor and the death of the wood god

Grom managed to get himself captured by the humans and had to be freed by Thrall, just prior to the Warchief's decision to obey dreams and visitations from the reborn Medivh and take the orcs west to Kalimdor. Stealing ships from a Lordaeron distracted by the rising plague of undeath, they sailed into the Maelstrom, where they encountered the Darkspear tribe and the Sea Witch, then finally shipwrecked on the coast of Kalimdor. By this time, Grom was beginning to become discontented, unable to understand why Thrall was insisting on the course of action on which they'd embarked. Even with a Warchief he considered like a brother, Grom disliked taking orders and was a stubborn, contrary orc. It's also probably that the subtle presence of the Burning Legion was having an effect on him. After disobeying Thrall and murdering a pack of humans in the Stonetalon area, Grom found himself set to a supposedly safe, menial task. He was to gather lumber for the Horde in the forests to the north of Stonetalon.

This led to a whole host of unfortunate circumstances, some of which were Grom's fault and some which were wholly out of his control. The night elves, outraged by the orcs' clearcutting in their forests, attacked them; soon, the demigod Cenarius joined the fight. When Grom tried to convince Cenarius that the orcs were no longer servants of the Burning Legion, the demigod found their protests unconvincing due to the lingering demonic taint on them, and the orcs found that their weapons were unable to strike at Cenarius effectively. Pressed to the brink by the power of the woodland god, Grom next found himself presented with a choice. His witch doctors detected a powerful font of magical energies nearby and led Grom to it, only to grow aghast at the demonic taint swelling in it. Now, it's true that Grom could have simply led his forces in retreat at this point. Many would probably have died, but it's unlikely that they would have followed them further into Stonetalon. Even if Cenarius and the night elves had chosen that course of action, Grom would have had Thrall, their new troll and tauren allies, and the rest of the orcs to assist him.

But Grom was an orc of action. He was not a tactician who led by considering acceptable losses and used complicated strategies and feints. Grom led by example. Grom fought in the front lines. And in the end, Grom's blood sang with the power it had never felt since the day he drank from the demon's blood. Against his witch doctor's advice, he did what he knew Thrall would never countenance rather than have to face a defeat. Grom drank from the demon blood in the tainted fountain and ordered his orcs to do likewise, and Grom led their blood-crazed forces into direct combat with Cenarius.

Grommash Hellscream, Giant's Heart, slew the god of the wood and found himself again a slave to Mannoroth. The demon taunted Grom that he had placed his blood in the fountain intending just this outcome and announced that the orcs would never escape their slavery to him and the demons of the Burning Legion.

So ends a demon

Thrall proved that he really did consider Grommash his brother by leading both his own forces and those of the freshly allied humans under Jaina Proudmoore to capture Grom, after he'd again fallen under Mannoroth's sway as a chaos orc (more clearly tainted than most orcs but less so than a pure fel orc, lacking their bony spikes and massive maws but sharing their red skin). In a powerful ritual, Thrall freed him from Mannoroth's control.

Enraged beyond reason at having again led orcs under his command into demon slavery, Grommash went with Thrall to the wilds of Ashenvale, where they both knew Mannoroth lurked. Thrall struck the first blow, hurling the Doomhammer itself at the pit lord, but Mannoroth shrugged off both the attack and the young shaman and turned his full attention to Grom. Again the demon lord taunted him, saying that the fury in Grom's heart proved that they were akin: "The boy believed you could be saved. But he didn't know, what burns within your soul.When in your heart, you know we are the same!"

Mannoroth's words proved to be the final gall to the soul of the proud, easily angered, guilt-haunted orc warrior. He'd led his people into the depths of madness and addiction, failed them again when entrusted to lead them on a simple mission, and he knew himself to be ultimately responsible for their endless pain and susceptibility to the fel monsters of the Legion. In one burst of fury, Grommash Hellscream flung himself forward, driving Gorehowl into the breast of the pit lord and slicing him open with a wound so great that Mannoroth's very burning heart exploded.

Grommash stood in the center of that explosion.

As Thrall ran to his friend's side, Grommash's burning red eyes slowly dimmed. The last exchange between shaman and warrior has come to define Hellscream's legacy in the modern Horde.

Warcraft III - The Death of Hellscream
Grommash: Thrall, the blood haze has lifted. The demon's fire has burned out in my veins. I ... have ... freed ... myself.
Thrall: No, old friend. You've freed us all.

It may be impossible for anyone but an orc to understand what this moment means to them. Yes, they admit, Hellscream's hand was the one to first lift the goblet; Hellscream was the first to drink. Hellscream struggled with the blood curse every day of his life from that moment on. It's impossible to argue that no one would have drunk if not for Hellscream, however. Someone was likely to -- if not Hellscream, possibly Blackhand or Deadeye or Bladefist. But what is not disputable is that Hellscream ended the curse when even Thrall failed. If it was the hand of Hellscream that doomed them, then too it was the hand of Hellscream that saved them.

Hellscream serves as a cautionary tale and yet as an example of the orcish heart and its true power. Orcs learn from Hellscream to never allow their rage to overwhelm them, but also to trust in that rage when the time for action is at hand.

It is impossible for the modern orcish heart to reject Hellscream. He was their most savage, their most reckless, their bravest, their most impetuous, their most daring, their most contrary. He was the worst of them. He was the best of them. Every orc, somewhere in his or her heart, knows the fire that drove Hellscream every moment of his life and to his death. He was not their most noble soul. He was not their most intelligent soul, their best warleader. He was not the one who saw clearly the danger to their souls and rejected it. He wallowed in it and only overcame it by facing what he himself was, and had been, and had done.

He lived for his people and he died for his people.

Next week, the legacy of Hellscream strides onto the stage.

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's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

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