Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The mystery of Archmage Khadgar

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 history of Khadgar -- a mage who had the unfortunate fortune of being apprenticed to Medivh, the Guardian of Tirisfal, just as the Guardian unleashed an angry bloodthirsty rampaging army of orcs upon Azeroth. It wasn't Medivh that carried out this task, but the spirit of Sargeras that lingered on inside him, passed on from his mother, Aegwynn. Although Khadgar eventually figured out this plot and confronted and defeated Medivh directly, the consequences for doing so were dire -- Khadgar found his magic and his vitality sapped away, aging from a youth to an old man near instantly.

The loss of so much of his precious mortality weighed hard on Khadgar, but it didn't stop him from accomplishing the seemingly impossible -- closing down the Dark Portal not once, but twice. The second time would be the last anyone would see of Khadgar for years, because he shut it down on the Draenor side of the Portal, stranding himself and the rest of the Alliance Expedition on the shattered wastelands of Outland until we found him again in Burning Crusade. And now, it seems Khadgar has closed the Dark Portal for a third time, with the aid of heroes both Alliance and Horde. Yet there's something strange about Khadgar, a peculiar mystery that keeps getting stranger the longer I look at it.

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Strange happenings

Let's look at what we know of Khadgar so far, and what we've seen him do so far in Warlords. The Dark Portal opened up on Azeroth again, and the Iron Horde poured through into the Blasted Lands and tore apart Nethergarde Keep with little difficulty. Given that we'd found Khadgar in Burning Crusade, and given that the man had successfully closed the Dark Portal a couple of times, it was only natural that we'd ask him to join us in combating the Iron Horde and trying to do something about that portal a third time. And he was more than willing to help us out.

But the Khadgar who joined us looked quite a bit different than the aged, wizened man we saw in Shattrath City. Now one could argue that maybe it was just time for Khadgar to get a different model, but every piece of art we've seen of Khadgar, even in the Warcraft comic, has portrayed him as a wizened old man, long beard and all. And the Khadgar we've got right now hasn't just shaved off his beard, he appears younger -- much, much younger than the ancient man we met in Shattrath. It's a little odd.

Given that Khadgar eventually got his powers back, one could assume that perhaps the aging spell cast on him by Medivh has also begun to wear off a little -- it just took longer to do so. But there are other strange things going on. On Draenor, Khadgar is almost obsessed with Gul'dan and taking Gul'dan down for good. He speaks of the orc as if he knows him, as if he's met him before. But Khadgar never really met Gul'dan -- at least not while he was alive. As I mentioned last week, Khadgar had more interactions with Gul'dan's skull than he did with the orc himself. Partner that with the reappearance of Atiesh, and Khadgar's strange and sudden proclivity for turning himself into a raven, and you have to ask yourself ... are we really talking to Khadgar at all, here?


On Draenor, Khadgar has made it his mission to arm us with a powerful and unique item -- a ring, one that he augments and will continue to augment with various items and pieces found across Draenor over the course of the expansion. This is to presumably dismantle the Shadow Council and bring down Gul'dan -- again, an admirable enough task. But where did Atiesh come from? And how did Khadgar suddenly come up with the power and knowledge to start turning into a raven? There's only one man in lore who did both of these things, and it's a person that both Khadgar and Gul'dan are well acquainted with -- Medivh.

What if this Khadgar we're dealing with currently isn't Khadgar at all? What if the man that showed up to help combat the efforts of the Iron Horde at the Dark Portal didn't just pop in from Shattrath -- what if a legend of the past, as Medivh put it at the end of Warcraft III, decided to come help us deal with our troubles of the past, suddenly come back to haunt us? He puts on a familiar face so we don't recognize him, and quietly helps us in our efforts to prevent a disaster eerily similar to the one that he brought down upon Azeroth years ago.

Medivh knows Gul'dan. He knows what Gul'dan and the Shadow Council are capable of with far more familiarity than Khadgar -- more familiarity than pretty much anyone on Azeroth, save Garona. Are we being bolstered and propped up by a Guardian from the past? It would almost make sense that Medivh would step in at this point -- after all, that tentative peace he helped foster between the Alliance and Horde during the Third War pretty much went up in smoke and ashes. That victory, and that alliance, was Medivh's redemption. We stepped on it when we severed those diplomatic ties, and now that victory over the Burning Legion we fought so hard to win is in danger of simply being negated because of this alternate universe and its Legion presence.


But at the same time, Khadgar -- or who we call Khadgar -- seems to be focused not so much on our heroic efforts as he is obtaining these items of power. He uses the word power several times. He almost focuses on it. Which makes me wonder if this Khadgar or Medivh or whatever you want to call him is from our universe at all. The thing is, there is definitely an alternate Azeroth out there somewhere, and we have no idea what's on that Azeroth, or how events played out in terms of its history. Obviously when the Dark Portal reopened, it brought with it the Iron Horde. But what if it brought something else along as well -- what if it brought a Khadgar with a different history?

It seems highly unlikely. But here's the thing -- our powers are being amplified by Khadgar. He's gone out of his way to find a hero -- us -- a powerful hero, one capable of bringing down the Iron Horde and supposedly Gul'dan right along with it. We assume that Khadgar is helping us for the noblest of reasons, we assume that like us, he has the best interests and ideals of Azeroth at heart. So here's what we know: We were brought through the Dark Portal to bring down the Iron Horde. The Iron Horde turned down Gul'dan's gift of demonic blood, and wants to invade Azeroth on its own terms, thanks to Garrosh Hellscream. The Iron Horde went so far as to actually capture and use Gul'dan and his lieutenants to fuel the Dark Portal and keep it up and running. We showed up and interrupted that.

We not only interrupted that, but we set Gul'dan free in the process. And we assume that was just a mistake made in the heat of the moment -- we only had so much time before our lines collapsed, after all. But there comes a point where we have to really look at the situation and ask ourselves, what is going on here? What is really going on here? Khadgar conveniently shows up when we need him the most, looking younger and more powerful than he has in years. He rallies us together to beat back the orcish forces that seek to invade Azeroth -- orc forces that turned down the dark gift Gul'dan offered, the blood that would bind them to the Burning Legion.

Khadgar gathers us together. All of us. Azeroth's most powerful heroes, every single last one of us. And then Khadgar says "Here's our chance! Let's run through the Dark Portal and stop them on the other side! It's a suicide mission, but Azeroth will be saved!" So we go through the Portal, despite the fact that we are expected to die.

And Azeroth is suddenly bereft of nearly every soldier capable of fighting the worst the universe has to offer.

Wicked game

It feels like we are stuck in the middle of a game we have barely begun to comprehend, doesn't it? Sure, we're fighting the Iron Horde. Those guys are the bad guys -- they hate Azeroth, they want to conquer it. Why? Because Garrosh Hellscream, the one they refer to as a Prophet, has told them we need to do so. But the Iron Horde just traded one master for another -- and sooner or later they're going to realize that's the case. On the other end of the game board are the draenei, who have fought desperately for their freedom and survival. They outwitted fate, saved Karabor, pushed back the Iron Horde because Kil'jaeden's puppet, Gul'dan, failed to get the orcs to drink the blood of Mannoroth.

And yet ... somewhere in the middle of it all are the Sargerei, a group of draenei who have turned and now serve the Shadow Council. Or do they? That's a good question as well. According to propaganda material found on Socrethar's Rise, these draenei have sided with the eredar because they were promised immortality -- which again, makes very little sense, because it seemed as though the draenei were, if not already immortal, very close to it. They've promised themselves to the Legion -- not the Shadow Council that serves it. They call themselves the Sargerei, which indicates they are serving the leader of the Burning Legion himself. The fallen titan, Sargeras.

The Legion's plan, Kil'jaeden's plan to conquer the orcs failed. The Legion isn't happy about this. Yet they found another way -- a way that doesn't involve Kil'jaeden's petty reasons for destroying the draenei, a way that involves actually allying with them. Why did Kil'jaeden originally contact the orcs? For revenge against Velen, yes -- but also because Sargeras wanted an army capable of conquering worlds, a bloodthirsty, powerful army capable of bringing worlds to their knees, capable of killing demigods like Cenarius without a second thought.

An army capable of defeating Old Gods. An army capable of bringing down a tool of the Legion, rebellious master of the damned and leader of a Scourge army. An army capable of bringing down a lieutenant of the Burning Legion in another universe, through the united efforts of three sets of forces, human, night elf and orc, and the well-timed detonation of a bunch of wisps. How convenient, then, that just such an army rushed through the Portal right into the Legion's arms, and destroyed that Portal behind them, sealing them in and perhaps sealing their fate as well.

An army capable of all these things and more, if only it can be used. Turned. Pointed right back where it came from through a Portal fueled not by Gul'dan and his lieutenants, but by the most powerful member of that army, whose powers have been suitably amplified by a ring, augmented by the most powerful artifacts Draenor holds and the clever, cunning hands of one who knows exactly how to best use them.

It took Medivh reaching maturity and coming into his powers as Guardian for Sargeras to finally wrest hold of the lad and control the Guardian for his purposes. How long then, do you think it took Sargeras to finally wrest hold of the vessel that spirit moved to at the moment of Medivh's untimely demise?

Perhaps we're going to find out.

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.