Know Your Lore: Warlord Grommash Hellscream

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|08.17.14

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Know Your Lore: Warlord Grommash Hellscream
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.

Strength personified. That might be the best way to describe Grommash Hellscream, leader of the Warsong clan, trusted friend of Thrall, father of Garrosh Hellscream, and the orc who killed Mannoroth and released the orcish race from their servitude to the Burning Legion. Certainly all of those accomplishments under his belt might make Grommash sound like a shining example of exemplary heroism to some ... but in truth, that's only part of the story.

Still, the tales of his father's heroic death were more than enough to spur Garrosh Hellscream from listless would-be leader of Garadar to Azeroth. They were enough to light a fire that fueled his leadership of the campaign against the Lich King in Northrend. They were more than enough to fill Garrosh's heart with pride at the thought of a Horde war machine, one that he led with steadfast dedication as Warchief. But Garrosh's heart is the heart of a Hellscream, and another look at Grommash Hellscream's past shows that Hellscream's son is very much cut from the same cloth as his father.


Who was Grommash Hellscream? Originally, he was leader of the Warsong clan of orcs. That leadership, however, was something that the other clans questioned -- he didn't gain the role via hereditary line, he simply claimed it after the prior chieftain's death, a death that was suspicious at best. But nobody challenged Hellscream, who led uncontested, and likely lacked challengers simply because he was who he was -- brutal, unforgiving, strong, a force of nature that most did not wish to reckon with, lest they lose their honor and their lives in the process.

And when Ner'zhul came to the orcs at Oshu'gun and told them the lies he'd been fed regarding the treachery of the draenei, Grommash was one of the first to step up against them. He reveled in combat, and the prospect of an all-out war was something he eagerly embraced. The Warsong were never a docile clan, they were a clan of warriors and fighters, and their penchant for brutality and thirst for killing did not go unnoticed.

When the draenei cities fell, and the draenei with them, Grommash and his clan were firmly in the middle of it all, leading coordinated assaults with other clans, running their own attacks, and simply flat-out murdering any draenei they could find, regardless of whether or not the draenei in question were aggressive at all. And when Ner'zhul was quietly usurped by Gul'dan, and Blackhand was named Warchief of the Horde, Grommash supported that decision -- because it meant more killing, and more glory, in store for the Warsong.

Demon's blood

This is why Hellscream was the first to drink from the cup that contained Mannoroth's blood. It wasn't out of some loyalty to Gul'dan, or even to Blackhand, it was because that cup presumably held more power than they'd ever known. According to Gul'dan, drinking from the cup was both a pledge of loyalty to the creatures that had helped the orcs dominate thus far, and a blessing from said creatures -- something Hellscream wasn't about to pass up.

"How do you feel, Grom Hellscream, of the Warsong clan?" asked Gul'dan with a peculiar mildness.

Grom's expression of ecstasy was so keen it was almost pain, and he seemed to grope for words. "I feel ... magnificent! I feel ..." He broke off and screamed a third time, as if only the primal cry would do. "Give me draenei flesh to tear and rip! Draenei blood on my face... I will drink it down until I can hold no more! Give me their blood!"

His chest heaved with the passion of his emotions, his fists clenching and unclenching. He looked prepared to attack an entire city with nothing but his bare hands ... and Durotan thought he would win that battle. Hellscream motioned to his clan. "Voices of the Warsong! Come forth! Not a one of you will be denied this ecstasy!"

This was the doom of the Warsong clan -- and the doom of the orcish race. Once Hellscream raised that cup to his lips and drank, the other clans eagerly followed his leave, save for the Frostwolves. And once the orc clans were filled with the bloodlust fueled by Mannoroth's blood, Shattrath was taken, the remaining draenei slaughtered, save for those few that had managed to escape and hide away. With nothing left to fight, the orc clans began to squabble with each other, until Gul'dan revealed the Dark Portal and sent the Horde into Azeroth ... to crush, destroy, and conquer whatever they might find.


That reign of conquest ended during the Second War, and the Dark Portal was closed. Grom and the Warsong were spared that defeat, having been manipulated into staying behind on Draenor. Yet without anything to fight, the orcs threatened to fall under the same lethargy that plagued those captured on Azeroth -- so the Warsong continued to spar and squabble with any other, weaker clans left behind. When Ner'zhul approached Grom about once again uniting the clans, Hellscream was doubtful to say the least -- he recognized, by that time, what the demon's blood had done, what Gul'dan had done to the orcish race. But the promise of a reopened Portal to that world he'd been denied the pleasure of conquering was too sweet to resist.

Grom and his clan made it through the Portal and attacked Nethergarde Keep, allowing another team of orcs to sneak their way through and into Azeroth proper in order to retrieve artifacts for Ner'zhul's ultimate plan -- opening many, many portals on Draenor, each with another world ripe for conquest. Yet Grom and his clan were stranded on Azeroth when the Dark Portal was at last destroyed, Draenor shattered, Outland created. And on Azeroth, Grommash no longer had the upper hand. He and the Warsong hid away in the forests of Lordaeron, continuing to fight against the lethargy that had, by then, claimed most of the orcish race. To Grom, it seemed as if the orcs were destined for oblivion, consumed by the demonic curse he'd unwittingly embraced.

Which is when Thrall showed up. A curiosity, Thrall was raised by humans -- yet he seemed to possess plenty of strength and courage, none of the lethargy that haunted the orcs, and a keen desire to see the orc race freed and reunited. He also knew next to nothing about his people. Impressed, Grommash took the young orc under his wing and began teaching him what he knew of orc history. This is where Thrall learned of the other orc clans, of what it meant to be an orc -- from a former bloodthirsty warmonger who fell into ruin and looked back on the days of battle with the eyes of one who had had glory in his grasp ... and lost.


Grommash Hellscream followed Thrall and supported him as he united the clans, watched him rise to Warchief, followed him to Kalimdor. And as the victories began to once again outweigh the defeats, Grom began to fall back into the ways and thinking of old. With the fires of battle reignited, he began to disobey Thrall's orders, hunting down and attacking a human settlement. Angered, Thrall ordered Grom and his followers to the forests of Ashenvale in order to gather lumber and resources -- an act that in turn angered the native night elves, and earned the ire of the demigod Cenarius. And there, in the forests of Ashenvale, Hellscream was once again given a choice when a strange fountain of blood was found.

Drink the blood, claim the power, or deny it and remain what they were. And Grom chose to drink the blood, along with the rest of the clan, promptly turning and tearing the demigod Cenarius to shreds. At that moment Mannoroth appeared, gloating over his second victory and letting Grommash know what exactly he'd done -- doomed his clan a second time to the Legion's will. Horrified, Grommash told Thrall what he had done, explained the curse of the demon's blood in full, and together, Grommash and Thrall traveled to strike down Mannoroth.

It was the last journey that Hellscream and Thrall would make together. In one last act of proud defiance, Hellscream charged the pit lord and buried Gorehowl deep in the Mannoroth's chest. Mortally wounded, the demon exploded in a roaring inferno of hellfire, Hellscream catching the full brunt of the blast. And although Mannoroth was dead, the blood curse lifted and the orc race freed, Hellscream passed on. He would be remembered by Thrall as a hero, one who had triumphed over a dark past that the young Warchief did not and could never really fully understand.


That Grommash Hellscream is gone, his legacy never forgotten. That Grommash Hellscream, the orc who had lived a full life and seen with his own eyes the disastrous consequences of his actions, is no more. Those lessons born of shame and regret were taken to that Hellscream's grave, as the blood-red haze lifted from his eyes and he saw, in his last breaths, the future he'd won for his people, a future he would never live to see. A future in which his son would rise just as his father had before him, a leader, a conqueror. A Hellscream, through and through.

That is not the Grommash Hellscream we are facing on Draenor.

In Warlords of Draenor, we are about to bear witness to a Hellscream who never lived through his mistakes, never saw the consequences of an overwhelming lust for power. He never saw the downfall of orcish civilization, he never saw the wars, the lethargy, the ruin. Instead, due to the timely intervention of a prophet named Garrosh, Grommash was warned of what would happen if he drank the demon's blood -- warned that it would enslave his people to a demonic Legion of unfathomable evil.

"We will never be slaves! ... but we will be conquerors ..."

We are facing the mightiest of the Warsong at the height of his life and the height of his power, with none of the corruption that eventually ate him away. A bloodthirsty warmonger who never fell into ruin, never looked back on the days of battle with the eyes of one who had had glory in his grasp and lost it. A conqueror guided not by the hateful hand of the Legion, but something far worse -- the burning vengeance of his son, whose wrath is solely directed at us.

And Garrosh Hellscream may have saved his father from the Burning Legion's corruption ... but he guaranteed that Grommash will face the wrath of an army that brought an end to Archimonde, a halt to Kil'jaeden, that has stopped the Legion's advance time and time again. In his haze for vengeance, Garrosh Hellscream forgot one very important thing: We are the heroes the Legion fears. We are the heroes, the armies, the conquerors that even the mighty Burning Legion cannot seem to control. And we will put an end to Grommash Hellscream and the Iron Horde, whether he is backed by the Legion or not.

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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