Know Your Lore: When did Garrosh Hellscream go?

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.

Yes, we're still spoiling War Crimes. After this sentence, the spoilers.

No, man. I wasn't kidding. That's not cool to jump to the next sentence to see if that's where the spoilers were. Let it be on your head if you are spoiled, for spoilers there will be.

Anyway, at the end of War Crimes, through chicanery, trickery, and dragon interference, Garrosh Hellscream escapes his trial. He appears in what the bronze dragon Kairoz claims to be Nagrand, a Nagrand that does not lie on a shattered continent drifting in the Twisting Nether, but rather on a whole, intact world. The last scene of the book is Garrosh hearing the name Hellscream called out, and turning to behold his own father Grommash screaming the Warsong Clan's traditional battle cry (the one the clan is named for) and holding forth Gorehowl, without any sign of the demonic taint he gained when he drank the blood of Mannorth in our history. This means this - we know Garrosh escaped to the past of his home world before Grommash drank the blood. We already knew this.

But by showing us Grommash, untainted and present as Garrosh arrives, it tells us a few things. The first is that the Draenor we'll be visiting diverged from the history we know before Grommash drank the demon blood, but he was at least an adult if not outright chieftain of the Warsong when Garrosh arrived. This gives us a limited window - Garrosh didn't travel back sixty or so years, he could have traveled back no more than 40 or so. (Grommash was said to be 46 during the Third War, which was roughly ten years ago. If Garrosh traveled back 40 years, Grommash would be in his teens, not the adult warrior wielding Gorehowl that we see.) This means that certain things from Rise of the Horde must have already happened in our alternate Draenor.

For starters, Orgrim Doomhammer and Durotan almost certainly still were rescued by Restalaan and taken to meet Velen in Telmor. This is something we've been teased with before, implying that in the Draenor Garrosh will somehow create, Telmor is still attacked by the Iron Horde. It would therefore stand to reason that somehow, the Iron Horde gains the knowledge of how Leafshadow works, and since Durotan seems to be opposed to it, that leaves only one other orc who witnessed its use.

Similarly, the presence of Grommash seemingly as the chieftain of the Warsong puts Garrosh's arrival close to the Kosh'harg Celebration from the novel Rise of the Horde. In that novel, Grom is already chief of the Warsong, and there are dark whispers that he achieved that position through assassination. It's never clearly said one way or another. This means that Durotan and Draka are likely to have already met and become mates, especially if Garrosh appeared after that festival.

This means that it is extremely likely that Garrosh arrived on this Draenor either just before or just after Kil'jaeden began his plan to corrupt the orcs and use them as a weapon against the draenei. My money is on after - the fact that the Iron Horde seems very hostile to its neigbors and that Gul'dan exists and has clearly become a warlock implies that the following have happened.

  • Kil'jaeden made contact with someone. Gul'dan's warped appearance and the Warlords of Draenor flavor text on the website imply that Gul'dan still betrayed Ner'zhul, and is attempting to lure the orcs of the Iron Horde into demonic corruption. Did Kil'jaeden leapfrog over Ner'zhul this time? Did the elder shaman refuse him? Or did events unfold exactly as we saw in Rise of the Horde until Garrosh somehow warned the orcs?

  • The war with the draenei began. It may have started exactly as we saw in Rise of the Horde, or it may have changed at some point - we know that Ner'zhul appears to have his full shamanic powers, implying that the ancestor spirits of the dead have not abandoned him.

  • The drinking of the blood did not occur. This isn't surprising - not only is it the premise of the expansion, but even in our reality the blood wasn't consumed until after the draenei were all but beaten and only Shattrath was left. The Iron Horde has clearly not chosen the same battle plan as the Old Horde in our history - Shattrath has been seized by the Iron Horde, but the Temple of Karabor remains intact.

  • Durotan and the Frostwolves are even less welcome in the Iron Horde than they were in the original Horde created by Gul'dan. Since Gul'dan never created the old Horde here, and Ner'zhul still has his powers, it's likely Garrosh actually appeared before the orcs had fully unified and prevented Ner'zhul from committing actions that would completely break his bond with the spirits. It also seems likely that Garrosh may have influenced his father against Durotan as a slight against Thrall, Durotan's son.

Right now we're getting a picture of a Garrosh who has traveled back to a time of his own infancy, or even just before it - the Rise of the Horde period takes place before the Third War, which itself is some thirty years before the Siege of Orgrimmar. This means that Grom, who was 46 during the Third War (and thus 56 today) was a relatively young orc of twenty-six or so during the Third War, and thus, it's likely Garrosh has traveled back no further than the immediate period of Ner'zhul's mistake and Gul'dan's corruption. Too far back, and his father would simply be too young to be Warsong Clan chieftain, which is what we see when Garrosh arrives.

This establishes a few things. Garrosh doesn't have time to do anything overly elaborate, like engage in a complicated plan to discredit Ner'zhul or Gul'dan. The fact that Ner'zhul remains in the Iron Horde implies that he wasn't disgraced or discredited. So what did Garrosh do?

It seems likely that Garrosh took the most straightforward was possible to change his future - he simply gave the orcs the technology they'd need to crush the draenei without demonic help. Perhaps he also pointed out Gul'dan's corruption and betrayal a little sooner. What he didn't do, because he couldn't have, was change key events that took place before or just during his arrival. And that means that we arrive not too far behind him.

We're told that Garrosh will not be a killable boss this expansion, which I'm fine with. But what I do want to know is, where is he? What happened to him? Did Grom see a strange unarmed orc and ride him down with his worg, discover the plans on his corpse, and build up the Iron Horde all on his own? Did Kairoz play a role in the revelations Garrosh would have wanted to make, or was he killed by an orc clan that decided to call itself the Dragonmaw after they killed him? We know that the window was and is short - where do we fall, exactly? What time will we be going?

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.