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Know Your Lore: Garona: A study on stealth and treachery, part 2

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.
Human or orc... An orc would say that it's a human hand -- too slender to be really useful, not enough muscle to hold an ax or bash a skull in properly -- too pale, too weak, and too ugly. You see the parts of me that are orcish. My orcish superiors, and all other orcs, see the parts of me that are human. I am both, and neither, and considered an inferior being by both sides.
-- The Last Guardian

Garona spent the first half of her life unaware of her true bloodline -- and unaware of the mental controls placed in her mind by the Shadow Council. After escaping Doomhammer's forces, she fled, gave birth to her son Med'an, and then handed him over to an old friend for safekeeping. It wasn't that she didn't want to raise the boy; it was that she thought she was a danger to the child.

There were two moments that stuck with Garona the most. The first was that moment in Karazhan's tower, in which she witnessed herself killing King Llane. The second was the moment in which that horrifying vision came to pass -- and there was nothing she could do to stop it. The combination of these two events made Garona realize, in terror, that she seemed to be destined to play the part of the villain, no matter what she had to say to the contrary.

It was the sinking realization that no matter what she thought, no matter what she believed, she had no control over what her body ultimately did, that at any given moment, despite her thoughts on the matter, she would resort to acts of violence. That's why she gave away her son -- she couldn't bear the thought of one day turning on him the same way she unwillingly turned on Llane. Yet despite her carefully thought-out plan, she couldn't keep herself from remaining nearby, always watching over her son, though never revealing her presence.

We've covered the events of the Warcraft comics in a prior Know Your Lore, so I won't touch on them in detail here. There were several key points in Garona's life that were revealed in the comics, however -- points that were absolutely earth-shattering for her. It was revealed that her heritage, long though by both her and those around her to be human, was actually draenei, not human at all. Above and beyond that, the machinations of the Shadow Council, the controls they had placed in her head, the engineering of her birth -- all of this was also revealed to the half-orc.

And it nearly destroyed her. Imagine, if you will, living your life secure and comfortable with who you are. One day, you find yourself committing murder, out of the blue -- despite your mind screaming against it. Garona thought herself completely insane, and she had no idea why. But she knew that she murdered her kinsman of a sort -- half-kinsman, if you will -- despite not wanting to do it. She isolated herself on purpose, to avoid harming anyone else.

There Garona sat, alone -- without even the comfort of her child for company. Oh, she could watch over him from afar, making sure he didn't come to harm, but she wouldn't be able to hold the baby. She wouldn't be able to see his first steps or hear his first words. She was utterly convinced that there was nothing stopping her from one day, out of the blue, turning around and casually murdering her son, even as her mind railed against doing so. She wasn't about to take that chance.

The vision in Karazhan's tower wasn't just a vision; it was a prophecy, a foretelling of the future. Even though she tried with all her might to prevent it from happening, it still happened. There was nothing she could do about it. It seemed as though her fate was already written, and the best way to keep from harming other loved ones was to remove herself from the picture entirely.

Yet in the Warcraft comics series, we see that Garona was never too far away, fiercely devoted to protecting her son at all costs. Despite her fears that she would one day end her son's life just as she'd ended Llane's, she still couldn't bring herself to move too far away. Because despite her body's strange independence of her mind's wishes, Med'an was still the last remnant of a time in which she'd been ... not happy, per se, but content with the moment.

When the truth was revealed, all preconceptions Garona had about her life came falling down around her. She wasn't half-human -- the amount of time she'd spent getting to know the human race, its culture and customs, it was all because of the Shadow Council's wishes. They let her think -- encouraged her to think that she was human, encouraged her to go to the humans and try to figure them out. In reality, her birth wasn't a random act of fate; it was an engineered moment in time. Her existence was not her own; her existence was purely at the whim of Gul'dan and the Shadow Council.

Her life was a complete and utter lie, and what's worse, she didn't even realize it. She went along blindly, bought every lie Gul'dan and the Shadow Council fed her in regards to her origins. In a way, the fact that she met Llane, the fact that she grew close to him was also a product of the Shadow Council. It was much easier to kill a target, when the target assumed you were friendly. That may be why the Shadow Council never questioned Garona's trips to Stormwind and never discouraged her from becoming an emissary to the humans.

And the worst part of it all was the revelation that she was controlled by the Shadow Council and, later, Cho'gall. It wasn't her body acting strangely; it wasn't that there was anything wrong with her mentally that caused her to murder Llane. It was the fact that from her birth, she had been bred to be a tool. She wasn't half-human. At that moment, in her mind, she may not even have considered herself half-orc. She was simply a tool, something the Shadow Council had created to use. The fact that the tool they created had thoughts and feelings of its own didn't really concern the Council, as long as the tool performed as expected.

On top of this, underneath these realizations was the realization that every happy memory she had -- speaking with Medivh, long chats with Llane, even the birth of her son -- none of it would have existed if she had never been created. The Shadow Council wasn't just responsible for her brutal murder of King Llane; they were responsible for every memory, every moment of her life. Without the Shadow Council's intervention, she wouldn't even be alive.

It's enough to drive anyone mad -- and it very nearly drove Garona mad. However, she had the strength of will to snap out of it, save her son, and see Cho'gall destroyed. Or so she thought. At the end of the comic series, Garona left with Meryl Winterstorm in order to destroy any remaining members of the Twilight's Hammer. It can be assumed that Varian Wrynn still searches for her, intent on avenging the murder of his father, but we hear no more of it, in game or out.

"The Twilight's Hammer remains a threat that must be eradicated. And I am good at killing. So together, Meryl and I will teach the Hammer how to die. But Cho'gall -- the last being on Azeroth who held sway over me -- is no more."

Garona's presence is revealed in the Twilight Highlands, where she continues her quest to destroy what's left of the Twilight's Hammer. But there's more to the story: Garona discovered that Cho'gall wasn't really dead. Horde players are sent to assist Garona as she plans her assault on the Twilight's Hammer and Cho'gall, culminating in a final confrontation over The Hammer of Twilight, a weapon imbued with the power of an Old God.

Cho'gall takes the Hammer and flees, leaving the player to fight a gronn named Skullcrusher the Mountain. After all is said and done, the player is told that they must assault the Bastion of Twilight and defeat Cho'gall. But Garona's presence is mysteriously absent. It continues to be absent through the entirety of the Bastion of Twilight raid. Even when Horde raids confront Cho'gall, she is nowhere to be seen, not even in heroic mode. It seems as though Garona has simply disappeared.

And that's incredibly odd. Garona spent the majority of her life under the assumption that she was half-human, half-orc, and quite possibly insane. Once her origins were revealed to her, it became her mission to seek out and destroy Cho'gall. At the end of the comics, she seems content with the fact that Cho'gall is presumably dead. In Cataclysm, it is clear that he is not -- and a good chunk of the quests in Twilight Highlands center around Garona's push to see Cho'gall destroyed.

But when push comes to shove, when Cho'gall finally falls, Garona isn't even there to see it. Either this is a gigantic misstep on the part of the storywriting department, or Garona's attention has been drawn elsewhere. Considering her past, considering her zeal towards seeing Cho'gall destroyed, it would have to be a pretty major something to draw Garona's attention away. So which is it? Has Garona's story simply been forgotten, or have we yet to discover Garona's ultimate fate?

I'm optimistic that we haven't seen the last of Garona, but then I tend to veer on the side of optimism when it comes to Warcraft lore -- where others see strange holes and gaps in storytelling, I see possibilities for other, larger events that can be woven into play. As it stands, Garona remains one of the most fascinating enigmas of Warcraft lore, the strength of character and will she demonstrates in resisting Cho'gall's control is nothing short of astounding. Have we seen the last of Garona? I certainly hope not, but only future patches and events will tell.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:

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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