Know Your Lore: General Nazgrim

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.

The war between Alliance and Horde has been the thematic highlight of Mists of Pandaria. Certainly Pandaria itself has held its share of mysteries, but those mysteries have been repeatedly plundered, the continent's horrors unleashed, all in the name of war. It's a war that's been a long time coming -- tensions between the Alliance and Horde have been slowly rising ever since the wintery days of Northrend, the frozen peaks of Icecrown.

And it was in the chill air of Northrend that we first met a character who would become one of the more important players of the Mists expansion. Nazgrim had an innocent enough start in the Horde storyline, simply one of many questgivers up in Northrend. But as the expansions continued to roll out, Nazgrim's role grew substantially, until, at last, he was found fighting for the wrong side, defending Garrosh Hellscream's citadel to his last inevitable breath.

But who was Nazgrim, really? Were there any merits to his choices, given that they ultimately brought about his demise? Was Nazgrim's life, his career, a vain exercise in futility?


Where, exactly, Nazgrim hailed from originally is unclear -- as is exactly how long he served in the Horde before being given the title of Sergeant. Judging from sheer timeline necessity, it's likely he was one of the orcs freed by Thrall from the internment camps before the Third War. Nazgrim served dutifully as a grunt in the Horde for years before finally being promoted to Sergeant and relocated to Northrend during the war against the Lich King and his Scourge, which is where players first encounter him.

In Conquest Hold, Nazgrim is well aware of tensions arising between Conqueror Krenna and ... just about everyone else under her service. But he never got in the way, instead quietly directing those that arrived in tasks that dealt not with the Alliance, but with the vrykul threat to the south. When Krenna was ultimately defeated and replace by her sister Gorgonna, Nazgrim continued in his duties just as well. The squabbles didn't matter, as long as the Hold and the Horde within were safe, and completing their duties as directed.

It's where we get our first glimpse of Nazgrim himself, and that glimpse is a surprising one. He's not concerned with the vicious fists of Krenna or her somewhat tyrannical methods of leading Conquest Hold. He's not concerned with Gorgonna and her attempts to quietly cover for her sister's harsh words and harsher orders. What he is concerned with are the vrykul, the threat they pose to Conquest Hold and the Horde, and handling the situation as swiftly as possible -- whether Krenna happened to be paying attention to that particular threat or not.


And perhaps it was that single-minded determination to divest himself of petty squabbles and simply deal with the situation at hand that led to his next promotion. The new Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream, promoted Nazgrim to Legionnaire and sent him at once to capture a new island that surfaced near Alliance territory in the name of the Horde. What should have been a routine mission turned foul when the ship was destroyed by a kraken, its inhabitants sent flying overboard, including Nazgrim. Thus began a zone-long quest chain in which players and Nazgrim worked together to try and escape the depths of Vash'jir -- and discover its secrets as well.

What is perhaps surprising is that throughout the journey, Nazgrim is aided by Erunak Stonespeaker, a broken shaman, a member of the Earthen Ring. Although the Earthen Ring is a neutral organization, the broken are usually associated with the draenei in the Alliance. Not once did this thought seem to cross Nazgrim's mind -- he simply accepted Erunak as an ally and a rescuer, and turned his attention, once again, to what was really important: putting together a method of getting himself and his men out of Vash'jir.

Did Nazgrim threaten the Alliance while he was there? Absolutely, the entirety of the Horde fleet did. But his focus was primarily on survival -- and when it became clear that the naga were attempting to overthrow Neptulon, Nazgrim threw himself into the fray to try and prevent the destruction of Vash'jir itself, and through it, possibly the rest of the world as well. The mission failed, Erunak was captured by the naga, and it was Nazgrim that stayed behind to launch a rescue mission to get the shaman back, a mission that eventually succeeded.


Through it all, Nazgrim continued to climb in ranks. After his mission in Vash'jir, Hellscream once again promoted the orc, this time to General. And Nazgrim was tasked with perhaps the most important mission that had been laid on his head to date -- get out there and land on the newly found continent of Pandaria, keep it out of Alliance hands however necessary, and claim the land in the name of the Horde. Nazgrim was determined to do just that, even after his fleet was crippled in a skirmish with the Alliance upon its arrival.

But in Pandaria, Nazgrim found a golden ticket in the slightly less than intelligent hozen allies, and in the unlikely capture of Prince Anduin Wrynn. He didn't kill the boy. He kept him prisoner. It was probably the smartest move he could have made -- captured, the Prince represented a bargaining chip far more valuable than any other. But Nazgrim's single-minded obsession with carrying out his orders soon led to disaster. As the hozen allies of the Horde and the jinyu allies of the Alliance clashed beneath the great statue of the Jade Serpent, their combined violence unleashed the sha, destroying the statue and very nearly killing Nazgrim in the process.

General Nazgrim was recovered, and taken to Binan Village in Kun-Lai to recuperate -- along with the Alliance leader, Admiral Taylor. After suitably recovering, Nazgrim established Eastwind Rest, and attempted to strike up an alliance with the pandaren natives. Smarter than the hozen, Nazgrim was certain they would make far more useful allies.


But things slowly began to unravel and fall apart, starting with Warchief Hellscream's arrival on Pandaria. Nazgrim was there to meet him, and directed Horde forces at Domination Point on Garrosh's orders. Yet ... despite his loyalty to the Horde, and thus his Warchief as well, Nazgrim noted the rising tensions between the sin'dorei and Hellscream. The Divine Bell was stolen by Alliance, and Nazgrim sent his forces to Darnassus to retrieve it -- but when the attempt was discovered by Jaina Proudmoore, he had to send more forces to Dalaran to evacuate the Sunreavers as well.

And later still, Nazgrim was deliberately set against his former allies, instructed to strengthen defenses around Orgrimmar itself in an attempt to crush the Darkspear's rebellion once and for all. He did so, dutifully carrying out his tasks as ordered. But at the same time ... perhaps something was beginning to bother the General, though he said nothing of it. Something about Warchief Hellscream, the escalating situation, the pitting of Horde against Horde.

When Thrall and High Overlord Saurfang came to Orgrimmar, they were going to attempt to speak some reason to the new Warchief. They were met instead by Kor'kron forces who barred their way. Yet Nazgrim himself showed up and ordered the Kor'kron back into the city, allowing Thrall and Saurfang entry. With this one, small action, Nazgrim sealed his fate, and the fate of his Warchief. With this one concession, Nazgrim signed his own death warrant. He took his place defending the main entrance of Orgrimmar, retreating and guarding the depths of Garrosh's new fortress beneath the city as the mighty Iron Juggernaut fell before the might of Alliance and Horde alike.

And when Alliance and Horde forces burst through those defenses as well, Nazgrim didn't back down. He fought, as was his duty, and he fell beneath their hands, dying with his honor intact.

So, it has come to this. Together, we have learned and grown over the years, and now we find ourselves face to face on the battlefield. Do not think I will go easy on you, nor do I expect any quarter. What we do now, we do for the Horde, both of us.


Ah... you have learned much... and learned well... an honorable battle. In the end, I stood by the warchief, because it was my duty, and I am glad that it was you who struck me down. May your strength... lead the horde... into a new era of prosperity...

Nazgrim was not being stupid, the day he let Thrall and Saurfang in. He likely knew full well what was just over the horizon, the reckoning that was about to strike. He knew that Horde was pitted against Horde in a vicious struggle, one that weakened the Horde as a whole from within. He may have held some small, brief glimmer of hope that Thrall and Saurfang could talk some sense into the Warchief, but it's far more likely he knew their efforts would be fruitless -- but that they could perhaps do something, anything to bring an end to the fighting, even if it meant bringing Hellscream to his knees.

Because, in the end, Nazgrim did what he had always done, what he had done since his early days in Conquest Hold -- defend the Horde and protect it from harm. He wasn't concerned with Warchief Hellscream's reign, he wasn't concerned with the possible departure of the sin'dorei, he wasn't concerned with the Darkspear Rebellion, he was concerned with what all of these things together represented: the fall of the Horde, not by honorable battle with enemies, but from within. The shameful, honorless dismantling of that thing that he had sworn his loyalty to, so many years ago.

Nazgrim represented the height of what it meant to be Horde, to be an orc. In a way, the General represented the Horde itself -- bowed, but never broken. Conflicted from within, but never weak, always fierce, always strong. He took his oath to that selfsame Horde as a solemn vow, one that once taken, would not be backed out of.

Lok'tar ogar! Victory or death - it is these words that bind me to the Horde. For they are the most sacred and fundamental of truths to any warrior of the Horde. I give my flesh and blood freely to the Warchief. I am the instrument of my Warchief's desire. I am a weapon of my Warchief's command. From this moment until the end of days I live and die - For the Horde!

Not once did Nazgrim break his vow. The only moment that might have been considered wavering from that vow was the moment he saw Thrall, his former Warchief, and High Overlord Saurfang, an orc of high regard, and allowed them into Orgrimmar. That was the moment that he chose not to act as a weapon of his Warchief's command, but simply as Horde -- putting the Horde's vitality and life before his own. He did not live to see where the Horde would go from here, but he gave his life in service to the Horde, as he swore to do, upholding that vow, and his honor, at all cost. He fought with honor. He died with honor.

He was orc. He was warrior. He was Horde.

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.