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Know Your Lore: 5 remarkable relationships from Warcraft lore

Matthew Rossi

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.

Last week, we talked about the orcs' history and culture before the dawn of the Horde period. Now, if you've read Christie Golden's Rise of the Horde (and if not, you should), then you know the outline of what came next. We're going to talk about that more next week, but this week, I wanted to touch upon something else.

What's interesting to me is how the story of the Horde's creation, which is certainly a grand and sweeping tale of betrayals, madness, and ultimately despair, is also a story of how two orcs met, fell in love, and pledged to each other despite the chaos of the dawning nightmare of Gul'dan's Horde. In light of Nyorloth's post discussing favorite relationships in Warcraft lore, it's hard not to think about Draka, daughter of Zuura and Kelkar, and Durotan, son of Geyah and Garad. Their lives would be spent as witnesses to the end of one way of life and the birth of a darker, more terrible chapter than their people had ever known.

This got me thinking about my favorite relationships in the game. These aren't all romantic ones. There are friendships, familial relationships, even enmity. Hating someone still counts as a relationship, after all, if you relate to one another.

Cairne Bloodhoof and his son Baine

The reason this is one of my favorite relationships in World of Warcraft is because it's an honest father/son dynamic with mutual respect, affection and even outright demonstrations of love between them. In a game with Anduin and Varian often struggling to find that common group, where Benedictus Voss and General Abbendis raised their children to be mindless zealots, where Jaina Proudmoore actually turned against her father, it's nice to see at least one family hold together.

Cairne loved his son so much that when he thought Baine was dead, he himself didn't want to go on living any longer. Baine, for his part, learned from his father, respected him, clearly admired him and tries as Chief of the Bloodhoof to carry on his father's legacy. One of my favorite and all too-brief moments in The Shattering novel were the scenes of Cairne and Baine discussing their people and the situation with Magatha Grimtotem. I would have liked to have seen more of the two of them.

Runners-up for this sort of relationship are Fandral Staghelm and his son Valstann (say what you want about Fandral, but the man clearly and deeply loved his son), Moira Thaurissan and her son Dagran Thaurissan II (it's still a somewhat one-sided relationship, as he's just a baby, but clearly Moira loves him to death -- preferably someone else's), and Genn Greymane and Liam Greymane (a fairly close parallel to Cairne/Baine, but tainted slightly by Genn's complicity in the events that led to Liam's death).

Darius Crowley and Lorna Crowley

This relationship is also familial (father and daughter) but it's one I really like, if only because I really like the characters involved. It's similar to the Cairne/Baine relationship and is a mirror to Lilian Voss and her father Benedictus in that both Lilian and Lorna were trained by strong (some might even say harsh) fathers. But where Benedictus just wanted a living weapon to strike at the Forsaken, Lorna is clearly treasured as well as respected by her father. When Darius is imprisoned following the civil war in Gilneas, Lorna steps into his role, and it's Lorna who allies with the agents of Genn Greymane when the worgen invade Gilneas City.

What I really like about these two is not just how similar they are, but also how individual. Lorna is her father's daughter, but she's certainly not some carbon copy of him (the way Brigitte Abbendis turned herself into a near-clone of her father). Darius' attempt to protect her from the worgen curse and his deal with Sylvanas shows that he still feels a father's devotion to her, which she clearly returns. It's a close, loving relationship between Gilnean badasses.

Draka and Durotan

I often find people who complain about Aggra and Thrall to have missed the point entirely. They complain that she only exists to provide Thrall/Go'el with a love interest, for example, which is to me beside the point. The problem with Aggra and Thrall for me is that they're a pale imitation of Draka and Durotan, the couple from Rise of the Horde who made the story relate to me. I didn't care about a world slowly corrupted by war just because I cared about orcs. I cared because I'd gotten to see these two courting in better days, falling in love, deciding to join their fates together only for everything to go to flames around them.

Draka and Durotan each bring something to the courtship and the relationship. Draka is probably the more idealistic of the two, the one more incensed by what she sees happening around her, the one most insistent that her mate not lose the qualities that made her allow him to hunt with her in the first place. It's the fact that theirs is a relationship of equals (and that we have other strong orc models like Geyah and Kashur to serve as examples) that makes the relationship work. We even get to see how they argue with each other, how she relates to his lifelong best friend Orgrim Doomhammer (and Doomhammer's treatment of her, as if she were Durotan, speaks volumes) and how they cope with the fall of their society. You definitely feel as though Draka is responsible for the preservation of the Frostwolves and Garadar as much as Durotan, if not more.

We needed to see more of Thrall and Aggra, I think. We needed to see more of Aggra without Thrall. Draka works because in a very few pages she's established as her own person, and for that matter, so is Durotan.

The Windrunner sisters

I'm on record of thinking Sylvanas Windrunner in her current incarnation is barely one step below her former archenemy Arthas in terms of depravity and evil. Raising legions of the dead to use them as weapons against their former loved ones and invading Gilneas, Alterac and Arathi (none of which were ever part of Lordaeron) while trumpeting a rather stale line of patter about her people needing space is fairly stock evil. But what makes Sylvanas fascinating is that clearly, inside the Banshee Queen there is still some small spark of the Ranger General who took up the family business of defending Silvermoon.

Between the Windrunner Spire quest line that leads players to Undercity to present Sylvanas with a token of her vanished sister Alleria to the statue of Alleria in Stormwind with an engraving by Sylvanas, we have tantalizing glimpses into the family life of this dynasty. The Windrunners are effectively an all-female (there were some males, but none were particularly notable) Kennedy clan for the high elves. Alleria clearly cared a great deal for both of her sisters, seeing herself as the head of their house and even blaming herself for the death of her younger brother Lirath during the Second War. The complicated but clearly close bonds between their family would be twisted by the Third War, and today Vereesa Windrunner leads the Alliance's Silver Covenant while Sylvanas is the Dark Lady of the Forsaken.

The real reason I like this family dynamic so much is its potential. It hasn't really been realized in game, but if and when Alleria ever returns, the three sisters have an enormous chasm to either bridge or become enemies over. Alleria blamed the orcs for Lirath's death, for instance. The very idea of allying with the people who burned their forests and joined with the trolls of Zul'Aman would be anathema to her.

Varok Saurfang and Garrosh Hellscream

These guys were the Murtaugh and Riggs of Northrend.

If you played Horde in Borean Tundra, you got to see the interplay between Saurfang and Garrosh. As petulant and mercurial as Garrosh was, and as quick to argue and posture as he could be, he never actually disrespects Saurfang (well, he calls him "old one" a couple of times) and even allows the older orc to threaten to kill him. And it's clear that Saurfang isn't kidding about it, either, as his threat is part of a story about the rise of the original Horde and what it was like to fight as a soldier in its killing machine. Garrosh, who was a mere infant when he was left behind by Grom and who neither knew his father nor the Horde he served in, seems to want to hear Varok's stories.

Saurfang, for his part, actually treats Garrosh with exactly the right amount of respect and deference while also not flinching from him in the slightest. Why would he, really? He'd dealt with Grom, after all, and Garrosh is a lot kinder than his father. (Yes, really.) Garrosh is actually a younger orc (older than Thrall, but younger than Varok by a lot) who is very concerned with his people. Wisdom comes with time, but the kind of desire to do right by the orcs that Garrosh feels doesn't come along that often. Saurfang seems willing to do his part to try and encourage Garrosh in his sincere desire for honor.

I wouldn't say the two ever become friends, but there is a mutual respect there. Garrosh even quotes Saurfang's words while dispatching Krom'gar. I don't give Garrosh a pass for his many bellicose actions or his mistakes, but I do think he's sincere in wanting what's best for the orcs first and the Horde overall, and I think Saurfang saw that in him. When Garrosh asks Saurfang "How have you managed to survive for so long, Saurfang? Not fallen victim to your own memories?" I believe he sincerely wants to know. Garrosh can like Thrall, but Thrall is an atypical orc, one with a special destiny and an unconventional upbringing. Saurfang is an orc of his father's generation, one who drank the blood as he did, fought in the same wars he did, and who had to grapple with the blood curse and the consequences as he did.

And there we go, my answers to Nyorloth's question. I didn't get to mention Varian and Bolvar, Arthas and Invincible (seriously), or Turalyon and Alleria, so perhaps another post like this one is in the offing. Just plain ran out of time.

Next week, we return to the orcs.

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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