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.
Around this time last year, Know Your Lore did a series on the politics surrounding both Horde and Alliance, along with some predictions as to what was going to come to pass. Some theories were right, some were wrong -- but as far as the Horde is concerned, there has never been as tumultuous a time as right now in Cataclysm. While some of the conflict is out in the open, other signs of discontent are found in hidden away or in discreet areas, out of sight unless you're directly looking for them.
Garrosh Hellscream's reign as Warchief kicked off with a bang. The first few weeks of his rule as Warchief saw the destruction of Orgrimmar and its subsequent rebuilding as a result of the Shattering's devastation. In addition, the Horde found a new set of allies in the quirky, greedy, and often bizarre goblins, something that could be construed as either good or bad, depending on which way you look. On top of all of this, the duel with and subsequent death of Cairne Bloodhoof affected Garrosh deeply and caused him to create a closer alliance with the tauren race, giving them a special section of Orgrimmar in contrition for what happened.
Garrosh seems to have a somewhat level head on his shoulders and the best of intentions at heart, but a closer look reveals that the Horde is no longer as united a front as it was in the days of vanilla ... and some of that blame can be placed squarely on Hellscream's shoulders.
In last year's article regarding Cataclysm Horde politics, we discussed Vol'jin and his motives in regards to a piece released on the reclaiming of the Echo Isles, which stated, "But it won't be long before Vol'jin trusts you (the new troll player) with vital -- and potentially dangerous -- information about the political struggles plaguing the Horde and, ultimately, the fellow members of your tribe." We now know that the article was speaking of the argument between Garrosh and Vol'jin and the potential threat of the trolls leaving the Horde for good.
But after playing through the troll starting zone, players are treated to a scene in which Vol'jin speaks to Thrall directly about his choice and tells him of his fears for the Horde's future. Thrall clarifies his choice, the decisions behind it, and why he needs Vol'jin now more than ever:
Thrall: Vol'jin, I chose Garrosh because he has the strength to lead our people through these trying times. For all my supposed wisdom, there have been moments that I've barely been able to hold the Horde together. The Wrath Gate and Undercity displayed that clearly.
The Horde cries for a hero of old. An orc of true blood that will bow to no human and bear no betrayal. A warrior that will make our people proud again. Garrosh can be that hero. I did not make this decision lightly. Vol'jin. I know our alliances will suffer for it. I know the Horde will be irreversibly changed. But I made this choice with confidence that Garrosh is exacty what the Horde needs. I'm trusting you and the other leaders to not let this divide our people. You are stronger than that.
Vol'jin: I understand, brotha. I will tink on this and be troublin' ya no furtha. You have a world to be savin'.
Thrall: Throm'ka old friend.
Vol'jin: Dese will not be easy times, but I be suspectin' we will be stayin' with tha Horde for the good of all. Thrall's words are true, as dey always be. The Horde is much more den a few old, stubborn leaders and a handful of heroes from Northrend. The people be cryin' Garrosh's name... at least for now.
For now. But the actions of Garrosh Hellscream have done little to gain Vol'jin's approval. Yes, the Darkspear were given an area of their own in Orgrimmar -- downstream from the obnoxious goblin allies and their polluted waters. And far, far away from the center of Orgrimmar, the heart of the city where the orc race reigns supreme.
One could say that at least Garrosh made the effort of extending a peaceful hand, but other events in Orgrimmar make one wonder why, exactly, Garrosh offered that helping hand. And the actions of other orcs in Orgrimmar lend themselves to the theory that for all his supposed "generosity," Garrosh doesn't really care about the non-orc races of the Horde, particularly the trolls.
Thieves in the temple
This is made blatantly, absolutely clear by a series of quests. These aren't your normal run-around-the-world quests, nor quests with major cut scenes or spectacular rewards, but rather the quiet quests you complete every day and never really take note of -- but you should be.
In Orgrimmar, an orc named Marogg, infantry chef for the Horde army, hands out daily quests for cooking tokens. Most quests are fairly run of the mill; however, there are two that work hand-in-hand to illustrate the current frame of mind in Garrosh's Orgrimmar. The first, called Stealing From Our Own, begins with this text:
As you know, Garrosh has relegated the Trolls of Orgrimmar to the western outskirts of the city. Fortunately, that means that we have easy access to their supplies. I am working on a large batch of jambalaya for the infantry and I need as much rice as possible. Lucky for us, the Trolls keep it stored in barrels near their structures. Retrieve these barrels of Darkspear rice for me and I should be able to finish up.
What this quest is saying is that Garrosh placed the trolls in the city specifically so that we would have easy access to their supplies, which we then steal and deliver for use to feed the orcish troops. This may seem like an innocent quest, but troll players who pick up Stealing From Our Own are not asked to steal from the trolls -- they are instead quietly directed to the goblin portion of Orgrimmar. After all, the goblins are brand new to the Horde and therefore rank on the low end of the totem pole.
What the goblins and trolls don't realize is that both of them are bottom of the barrel as far as Garrosh Hellscream is concerned, and they were placed deliberately on the edge of Orgrimmar not as a badge of any sort of honor but so that they were readily available to take advantage of. It's obvious that the trolls and goblins aren't completely unaware of this situation, however ...
In the cooking quest Even Thieves Get Hungry, Marogg fills you in on some horrible, nasty, terrible thievery that has been going on:
We have had a problem with thieves stealing our infantry rations here in Orgrimmar for the last couple of weeks. I recently received some intelligence of where these crimes are taking place. Anywhere you see piles of crates and supplies, there are likely to be thieves nearby. I need you to hunt these thieves down and recover the stolen rations. Return to me when you are done.
If players watch closely and take note, every thief you are sent to kill is either a troll or a goblin. These aren't thieves -- these are goblins and trolls trying to take back the supplies that the orcish contingent has stolen from them. And guess what we, the players, get to do? We kill the thieves. We kill the trolls and goblins that are simply after their rightful goods, which we have stolen in the name of the Horde.
The orcs have us slowly murdering our allies, and not one person has stepped up to point out the hypocrisy in these orders. We aren't killing thieves -- we are the thieves, and we are killing the owners that have come to take their property back. It doesn't exactly speak wonders for the mind of Hellscream or the minds of the orcs who follow his orders, does it?
Where, oh where have the blood elves gone
Though the orcs, trolls, goblins, and tauren all have a rightful place in Orgrimmar, two races have been completely left out of any city plans: the blood elves and the forsaken. The forsaken are understandable, as it's made pretty clear in Silverpine that Garrosh has no love for the banshee queen, but the blood elves are simply missing altogether.
To perhaps compensate for the lack of an offical blood elf section of Orgrimmar, the blood elves have a small space beside Garrosh Hellscream in his chambers in the center of Orgrimmar. Two guards, three trainers, and an ambassador all take their places in Garrosh's chambers, where he can listen to their input in person.
Or is that really why they are there? Garrosh has made it blatantly clear that the only care he has for the human race is that they be exterminated as quickly as possible, along with their allies. The blood elves, for all their bravado about joining the Horde in their hour of darkness, were former allies of the races of the Alliance. They appear small, delicate, and share the same pink skin as the human race that Garrosh so abhors.
Are the blood elves present because Garrosh would like to listen to them, or are the blood elves present because Garrosh would like to make sure they don't slip back into the hands of the Alliance and betray the Horde? Or maybe, just maybe, the close ties between the forsaken and the blood elves are something that Garrosh would like to use in order to keep a closer eye on Sylvanas.
Speaking of Sylvanas, just what is the Banshee Queen up to, anyway? Her motives aren't really known, but her complete disgust with Garrosh Hellscream is made crystal clear to any player who steps into Silverpine and witnesses the heated exchange between Garrosh and Sylvanas as she introduces him to her new allies, the val'kyr. Sylvanas has some sort of ultimate plan, and it doesn't involve the Horde.
Players who continue through the Silverpine quests are treated to a view of Sylvanas that clearly shows her disdain for Garrosh and the Horde as it stands today. It's not just disdain -- Sylvanas willfully disobeys the orders Garrosh gives her. He tells her further use of the Forsaken Blight that decimated the Wrath Gate in Wrath of the Lich King is expressly forbidden, and Sylvanas promptly uses the blight anyway against the worgen. Later, it is revealed that Sylvanas' forsaken have drenched the former Alliance town of Southshore with the stuff, wiping out any trace of life and rendering the town uninhabitable until the plague has worn off.
The Forsaken Blight is essentially a reworking of the Plague of Undeath that was originally used to transform humans into the mindless Scourge soldiers of the Lich King. The fact that Sylvanas is using this plague, despite the events of the Wrathgate, clearly demonstrates that she holds no remorse over the destruction wreaked at the Wrathgate whatsoever. In fact, it's pretty evident that Sylvanas' only concern during that time was retaking the Undercity from Varimathras and the Royal Apothecary Society so that she could reclaim her place as ruler of the forsaken.
Yet despite the absence of Garrosh after that scene that played out at the beginning of the Undercity, despite his apparent ignorance of the events in Hillsbrad and Sylvanas' insolence, it is clear to anyone that takes a closer look at Garrosh's room in Orgrimmar that Sylvanas is not committing these errors under Garrosh's nose.
Maps in Grommash Hold, casually placed on two tables in the room, tell a different story. One seems like an innocent enough map of Azeroth, but another is clearly a map of Hillsbrad Foothills. The third is a map of the Eastern Kingdoms -- with a knife planted firmly in the territory Sylvanas is currently using as a playground for the Forsaken Blight.
Cataclysm holds the unique distinction of being the first Warcraft expansion to be told in a way that progresses the story as time goes on. Upcoming patches not only release new content but further the story of the expansion with every new dungeon and every new raid instance given to players to surmount. In patch 4.1, we will see Vol'jin and the trolls quietly ask for players' help to address the issue of the Zandalari. In Orgrimmar, the quest giver who starts the chain of events in regards to patch 4.1 is not in Grommash Hold; she's out in the troll district, far from the eyes of Hellscream.
In patch 4.2, the Firelands raid will be introduced, along with a Hyjal that has continued to experience regrowth as a result of player effort in the zone. The story of Hyjal will progress with new dailies and an undoubtedly new story that continues the tale where we left off at level 82. The introduction of Ragnaros and the bosses in the Firelands raid will be directly related to stories that were introduced at the beginning of Cataclysm.
What does this all mean for the future of the Horde? Signs point to a grim future, indeed. Despite the conversation between Thrall and Vol'jin, it appears that Vol'jin doesn't trust Garrosh at all -- to the point that he is unwilling to ask for Garrosh's assistance against the Zandalari. Not only is he unwilling, he even sends a contingent to the Alliance to seek their help, rather than asking for the help of "his" Warchief. The maps on the table may seem innocent enough, but they point to a future in which Sylvanas is somehow going to be dealt with.
And as for Garrosh ... his reign as Warchief has been anything but smooth sailing. Though it hasn't been blatantly rubbed in our faces, all the little pieces in Orgrimmar point to a warchief who clearly has no idea how to be a diplomat and clearly has little regard for the other races in the Horde. It's disheartening to watch right now, but the stories in Hillsbrad, the stories in Durotar, the quiet stories that happen under our noses in Orgrimmar are all going to be addressed, in time -- it's just a question of when.
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.