Know Your Lore: Durotan, son of Garad

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|03.10.14

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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.

Durotan, son of Garad, chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan. A mighty warrior to be certain, yet there is far more to Durotan than what is widely known. Yes, he was a warrior, but he was also a conflicted soul, one who could only watch from the sidelines as the height of orcish civilization crumbled under the influence of the Burning Legion. Durotan may never have fully understood exactly what happened to the orcish race, but it affected him deeply.

Yet Durotan's most notable legacy is his son, Thrall. Found by humans, raised as a gladiator, liberating the orcish race and rallying a new Horde by his side. When Thrall took the new Horde to Kalimdor, he named the land they settled on Durotan, after his father -- a father who likely would have been very proud of his son. In Warlords, we'll see Durotan again -- Horde players will have the unique opportunity to work with this legend of the past, surprisingly alive and well. What kind of orc is Durotan -- and what will he think of his son?

A leader born

Durotan was the son of Frostwolf chieftain Garad -- destined to be a leader the moment he was born. But even though he was heir to the clan, the boy was certainly different from other orcs his age. Durotan was ... sensitive, for want of a better word, far more concerned than most orcs with the world around him and the people in it. To some, it may have been the first sign of a talent for shamanism, to Durotan, it was simply how he saw the world. And it was this sensitivity that had him pushing boundaries even before he took the rite of passage to become an adult.

Orc clans on Draenor didn't really interact with each other more than twice a year, spring and autumn, when all clans came together for the Kosh'arg celebration. Held in the shadow of Oshu'gun, it was a chance for clans to meet and discuss various matters, and for the shaman of each clan to travel to the peaks of Oshu'gun, there presumably to commune with the ancestors, and with each other. But the festival only happened twice a year -- the rest of the time, orcish clans rarely interacted.

Yet Durotan was different -- and during the Oshu'gun just before his rite of passage, he rankled at being sent to bed early like a child. That led to him sneaking out to see just what kinds of important matters the adults were up to, and also led to his first encounter with Orgrim, son of Telkar Doomhammer. While Orgrim was not in line to be a chieftain, he was a member of the Blackrock clan. And much to the surprise of both Blackrock and Frostwolf clans, the two struck up a friendship, ignoring the boundaries between clans because, as Durotan said, just because something had not been done before, did not mean that it was not possible.

Prophets and prophecies

The two young orcs challenged each other often to feats of strength and skill -- and one such test led them both racing into forests of Terrokar. Orgrim won the race, but neither really had a chance to celebrate before an ogre appeared. And, as neither orc had gone on their first solo hunt or passed the rite of passage into adulthood, they took the smarter alternative and fled, the ogre hot on their heels. If it had caught them, they surely would have died -- but it didn't. Blue-skinned creatures appeared and shot the thing down, asking the young orcs if they were injured in passable enough orcish. They were the draenei, other denizens of the world that they had named Draenor.

Their skill and prowess at taking the ogre down was astonishing to Durotan, but even more astonishing was their offered hospitality. Restalaan, the leader of the guard draenei that were patrolling the area when the ogre appeared, offered to take both orcs into the hidden draenei city of Telmor for the evening, using a magic crystal and some softly-spoke words to make the city appear as if from thin air. More importantly, Telmor was hosting another very important guest -- the Prophet Velen, leader of the draenei. Thus began one of the most extraordinary nights of Durotan's young life to date. They were both invited to dine and stay with the Prophet.

While Orgrim spent most of the evening speaking of the strength of his bloodline and the unusual prophecy surrounding his father's weapon, the Doomhammer, it was Durotan that simply chose to watch the Prophet. And perhaps it was that unusual sensitivity that made Durotan note the Prophet's reactions. He seemed interested in the information, but the countless stories of blood and battle seemed to sadden him as well. Durotan took the opportunity to ask Velen questions of the draenei, perplexed by their longevity and their strange magics. Later that evening, as both orcs slept peacefully, an ancestor appeared to the Frostwolf shaman Kashur, demanding she bring Durotan to the ancestors at Oshu'gun once he passed his initiation rite into adulthood.


Durotan passed his first solo hunt, and the initiation rite, with flying colors. And, as promised, Kashur took him to Oshu'gun, though Durotan couldn't understand why. The place was sacred to shaman, the home of the ancestors -- certainly no place for a young orc warrior who'd only just completed his rite of passage. Kashur didn't understand, either -- but when the two reached their destination and Kashur saw the ancestor Tal'kraa, Durotan did not. It was clear in that moment that Durotan was not destined to be a shaman.

"I sensed . . . something," Tal'kraa said. "I had thought he would be a shaman, but if he cannot see me now, then he never will. But although he will not see spirits or summon the elements, he is born to a great destiny. He will be an important asset to the Frostwolf clan ... indeed, to all his people." "He will be ... a hero?" Kashur asked, her breath catching. All orcs strove to uphold a code of courage and honor, but only a few were powerful enough to have their names engraved upon the memory of their descendants. At her words Durotan inhaled swiftly, and she could see the wanting on his face. "I cannot tell," said Tal'kraa, frowning a little. "Teach him well, Kashur, for one thing is certain: From his line will come salvation."

Durotan returned to the Frostwolf clan, and soon after met Draka, enchanted by her fierceness, strength, and beauty. The two grew close, and it was soon clear to all that they were intended for each other. Yet tragedy struck soon after -- Durotan's father, Garad, was killed in a battle against ogres and gronn. Durotan was now chieftain of the Frostwolves by birthright, and he was well on the way to whatever destiny Tal'kraa had sensed.

Rise of the Horde

When Ner'zhul called the orcish clans together at Oshu'gun and told them of their supposed draenei enemies, Durotan wasn't sure what to think. Yes, the idea of bringing the orc clans together as one was a good one. But he had been afforded in his childhood an experience that very, very few had ever seen -- he'd been in a draenei city, he'd received their hospitality, he'd spoken with their leader. In none of these things were any air of menace or wrongdoing. Orgrim, too, was at first startled by the news, but he was more willing than Durotan, participating in the first battle against a draenei hunting party and moving on from there.

Durotan's reticence did not slip by Ner'zhul, however. He was asked to meet with Prophet Velen at the foot of Oshu'gun as a test of his obedience, to take the Prophet prisoner and deliver him to Ner'zhul. And despite Velen's blasphemous words about the home of the orcish ancestors, his insistence that some sort of creature dwelt within that caused those same ancestors to appear, Durotan did not deliver the Prophet to Nerz'hul. Instead, he let him go, taking only the ata'mal crystals that Velen had brought with them. Artifacts of great power, he delivered them to Ner'zhul, hoping that this would make up for his reluctance to deliver a prisoner who had willingly been taken a prisoner. And it was at this that Ner'zhul at last had his first flash of guilt, the first inkling that something was terribly wrong.

Ner'zhul soon discovered Kil'jaeden's treachery, and Kil'jaeden in turn discovered Ner'zhul's attempt at disobedience due to the report given from Gul'dan. Ner'zhul was displaced, Gul'dan taking his spot at the side of Kil'jaeden as the favored servant -- and thus began orcish race's spiral into corruption. Durotan could only watch as the elements refused to speak to the shaman, the new, dark, warlock magic was introduced. He could barely contain his rage as children of his clan were unnaturally aged by dark magic, throwing the Blackrock warlock that had performed the task out as soon as it was completed. Durotan's rage, his reluctance, his anger was duly noted, and he was given one final task to either prove his loyalty to the Horde, or seal his clan's fate.

Telmor, the beautiful city hidden in the mountains, the draenei home that he'd visited in his youth, had to be destroyed.

Telmor's Fall

Blackhand now led the united Horde, no more than a puppet of Gul'dan, and he was not happy with Durotan's reluctance in the war. He might very well have ordered all of the Frostwolves exiled, Durotan and Draka executed as traitors or worse, but he instead gave Durotan one more chance. Blackhand knew that Orgrim and Durotan were guests of Telmor in their youth. He knew that Durotan had an amazing memory, and could recall exactly where the crystal that hid the city was located, and the words Restalaan used to deactivate it. Durotan was the key, and if he did not perform this task, the lives of himself, his mate, and possibly his entire clan would be forfeit.

So Durotan did the only thing he could do. He did what had to be done: he obeyed. The draenei of Telmor never saw the attack coming, and members of all the united clans of the Horde poured into the city and systematically tore it apart. Durotan met once more with Restalaan, the draenei who had saved his life as a child -- and it would be their last meeting. Given no other choice, Durotan gave Restalaan a swift, merciful death, ended his suffering as quickly as he could, sickened as the carnage continued around him, some small part of him quietly wishing that death had taken him, instead.

Death did not come.

Conflicted loyalties

Although Durotan had proved his supposed loyalty to the Horde, Blackhand still did not trust the Frostwolf chieftain. But Gul'dan wanted Durotan alive -- Durotan was respected by the other clans, even though he was known as someone who questioned every move the Horde made. As long as Durotan was following the Horde's orders, any other would-be dissenters would follow as well -- and that kept the entirety of the Horde in line, and kept the slaughter of the draenei running smoothly. It was perhaps because of this that Ner'zhul, his powers stripped, his heart aching for the downfall of his people, heard of Gul'dan and Kil'jaeden's next plan for the orcs and wrote a missive to Durotan in response.

Durotan certainly carried out orders ... but his heart ached with every blow he was forced to strike. The missive from Ner'zhul was a surprise, its contents even more surprising. "You will be asked to drink. Refuse. It is the blood of twisted souls, and it will twist yours and those of all who imbibe. It will enslave you forever. By the love of all we once held dear, refuse." And Durotan did. He defied Gul'dan, Blackhand, and the rest of the Horde, refusing to drink the Blood of Mannoroth when it was offered, and refusing the right to every member of his clan -- but he did not reveal why, instead telling Gul'dan that the warlock had given the clan leaders a choice, and Durotan was simply choosing what he felt was best. Orgrim of the Blackrock Clan also refused to drink, although he couched it in different language, telling Blackhand he did not deserve the honor.

It was the beginning of the end for the orcish race. Fueled by the bloodlust pouring through their veins as a result of Mannoroth's blood, Kil'jaeden directed the orcish Horde at its last target, the gleaming city of Shattrath. Upon the city's destruction, Kil'jaeden vanished, satisfied with the vengeance carried out against Velen and his people. Later, Gul'dan would be contacted by Sargeras under the guide of Medivh, and open a portal to a new world ripe for conquest -- Azeroth. Durotan and the Frostwolves followed, but were exiled in disgrace shortly after arriving on the new world.

Leader in flux

The rest of Durotan's tale is well known -- he fathered a son, an infant who bore no name the day that his mother and father traveled to seek out the new Warchief. Orgrim, his old friend, had slain Blackhand and taken his place, and it was with hope in his heart that Durotan told his old friend what he had learned of Gul'dan's deception. If Gul'dan's spies and assassins had not been present, perhaps Durotan would have lived. But as he, Draka, and his infant son were being escorted back to their camp, they were killed, their son left howling his distress into the woods. From Durotan's line would come salvation -- but Durotan himself would never live to see it.

Did Durotan slaughter the draenei? Yes. Did he murder countless innocents? Yes, absolutely. But Durotan didn't really have a choice. In a way, Durotan is the Lor'themar Theron of the Old Horde -- forced into actions he'd rather not take, for the sake of preserving his people. Lor'themar may be loyal to the Horde, but during Mists of Pandaria that loyalty was sharply brought into contention as he and his people were asked again and again to engage in questionable activities by Garrosh and his soldiers. It nearly sent Lor'themar back to the Alliance, although Jaina Proudmoore's actions quickly put at halt to that.

Durotan had a choice. He could follow orders, or he could let his people and his clan die. It wasn't really a choice at all -- and Durotan had no Alliance to turn to if the situation in the Horde became more than he could bear. Could he, perhaps, have asked the draenei for sanctuary? Certainly he could have, if the thought had occurred to him. But whether or not that tactic would've worked is another story altogether. As it stood, the draenei simply were not and never have been a race engineered for war, for senseless violence -- even if Durotan had asked Velen for protection, it's doubtful the ploy would have been a successful one.

Instead, Durotan had to make those difficult choices on his own. And given the choice between life or death, he chose life for himself, his mate, his clan. His tale was a tragic one -- but that tale will be told again in Warlords. Durotan lives, hale and healthy, his clan strong. And perhaps it was because of that curious meeting in his childhood that Durotan refused to join the Iron Horde, instead focusing on his own clan's survival. As Velen once told Durotan, "The future is not like a book one can read, it is ever changing, like the rush of water, or the swirl of sand. The river's course can be changed. But you are the ones who must change it."

We don't know if the Durotan in the alternate reality of Warlords ever had that particular conversation with the Prophet, before Garrosh's arrival. But the wisdom of the Prophet's words still stands. Will Durotan's stand as well? We'll have to see when Warlords launches.

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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