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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Through the Twisting Nether

Matthew Rossi

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.

I got distracted by warlocks, but now, here's that Tinfoil Hat I promised you two weeks ago. You'll need to keep in mind the state of Azeroth as it was before the opening of the Dark Portal in order to grasp what this particular KYL is all about, so go ahead and read that post.

Remember, in a Tinfoil Hat edition, we deviate from established lore to take a look at the possibilities - what might have happened, what could happen? This isn't about what did happen, so don't mistake it for that. Let's get on with the speculation, because that's where things get the most fun for me. There will also be spoilers for War Crimes and Warlords of Draenor in this particular KYL.

In a way, the rise of the Iron Horde on the Draenor changed by Garrosh Hellscream and Kairoz's journey through time and space has ultimately created a situation where we, as the defenders of Azeroth, actually invert the invasion that took place in Warcraft - Orcs and Humans. In the lore of our Azeroth, Medivh contacted Gul'dan, and together they created a portal to enlist Gul'dan's Horde to come through and invade Azeroth. With the Iron Horde, Kairoz brough Garrosh back through his own history to the world of his birth, and together they created a portal through which we invade Draenor, to prevent the Iron Horde from coming through.

I got to thinking about this inversion, and about the Draenor we're going to. It's been described as savage. Another word for it would be lush - it teems with so much life that life itself is a struggle between the beasts and creatures of the world, a constant battle red in tooth and claw. It is a world where the struggle to survive elevates the fit, and where the alien draenei came to live a scant few hundred years ago, a pittance to them. It's fascinating to consider what secrets exist there.

What if someone else grew curious about it?

In the history of our Azeroth, Medivh grew tired of humanity and their tendency to meddle in his affairs, preventing him from acquiring knowledge and power. Twisted by Sargeras, he chose to destroy all humans (and, one assumes, in time all life on Azeroth) in order that nothing might impede his quest for ultimate knowledge. He sought out a being malevolent enough to assist him in this quest, and found in Gul'dan a towering selfishness and lust for power equal to that of the Dark Titan sleeping in his soul.

Now imagine the Draenor we're about to explore. One assumes at the end, we're going to defeat the Iron Horde and prevent this Draenor from suffering the same fate as Outland. This means no army to come through the Dark Portal and destroy all humans, but at the same time, an even more avaricious, more power hungry Gul'dan (who probably has a great need of that power to keep an angry Kil'jaeden at bay) who would make an excellent agent. After all, if you have an angry Kil'jaeden demanding to know where his army of bloodthirsty fel addicts went and why the draenei aren't extinct, well, who better to answer his questions than Sargeras? The two could easily make another deal. Build the Dark Portal (or rebuild it, if Kairoz's portal is considered) and lead an army through.

Now, Gul'dan wouldn't have an army at this point. But if Medivh wants to know everything, then Draenor is an irresistible target. It clearly contains many secrets - the ancient knowledge of the ogre empire and its ogron and gronn forebears, the Apexis crystals of the Arakkoa, the origins of the orcs, and the draenei themselves! A treasure trove to Medivh, and another chance to corrupt them for Sargeras living inside him. So imagine this.

Medivh was childhood friends with King Llane Wrynn and Anduin Lothar. How hard would it be for the man, widely regarded as one of the wisest and most powerful mages in existence, known by the Council of Tirisfal as the inheritor of their power, respected from Dalaran to the elven city of Quel'Thalas (his name means 'Keeper of Secrets' in Thalassian) to convince the King and his best friend, the greatest general and last descendant of the Arathor bloodline, that there's danger to Stormwind just through a magical portal that's suddenly appeared in the Black Morass? Especially with Gul'dan on the other side sending a few of his most corrupt followers through to wreak havoc and retreat back? A few villages annihilated by warlock magic, and suddenly Llane Wrynn and Anduin Lothar are preparing for the defense of their people. With Medivh there whispering exactly the right words into their ears, soon the Brotherhood of the Horde has raised an army of heroic volunteers.

Now, most of the Eastern Kingdoms wouldn't be all that interested - one has a very hard time imagining isolationist Gilneas sending anyone for a trip through a magical portal. But the armies of Stormwind held off the entire Old Horde until Llane's death - bolstered by those adventurous volunteers attracted by Lothar and Medivh's reputations, it should more than suffice to storm through the Dark Portal and invade Draenor, especially a Draenor already weakened by the recent rise and fall of the Iron Horde. Human magic was so powerful that in the Second War Gul'dan needed to invent Death Knights to counter it, and this time Gul'dan and his warlocks are curiously absent, while those draenei who attempt to confront Stormwind's armies find the Holy Light wielded by the priests of these invaders, who insist they've come to protect their world from the evil natives of this one.

With Medivh on their side, it seems unlikely that the people of Draenor could possibly hold the armies of Stormwind off. Which is where we come in, of course, but having just spent time fighting the Iron Horde, we're probably very interested in going home ourselves... but we can't with the Dark Portal firmly tied to this new, aggressive force from Azeroth. Meanwhile, we can't allow this Medivh to find the secrets of this Draenor, for clearly he'll use them for evil purposes. But those that follow him believe him, and they're some of the most heroic figures in Azeroth's history. Can you imagine slaughtering your way through Azeroth's greatest heroes to face down Medivh? And what choice would you have?

Worse, what if Sargeras tires of being trapped within a Medivh who doesn't truly want to be his host, and seeks out another who would eagerly accept the power the Dark Titan has to offer? After all, as we pointed out earlier, Gul'dan needs protection against Kil'jaeden - how better to gain that protection than to become part of Sargeras? Imagine that Gul'dan and Sargeras tricked Medivh into bringing an army to Draenor only to abandon the Guardian and bring about the presence of a far darker and more sinister entity, one who seeks the utter annihilation of all that exists, and has the power to back it up? Sargeras in Gul'dan wouldn't have to work to erode his host's mind or will, because Sargeras could simply offer Gul'dan the kind of power the warlock has always craved, the power of a god and rulership over all creation for as long as it takes to wipe it all out, a process that could take literally forever. Gul'dan offered his own people into demonic slavery for an offer far less tempting.

This would leave Medivh now holding the bag for the invasion of Draenor, with a demoralized army of followers no longer inclined to listen to him and a group of heroes from an alternate timeline with no real reason to heed his warnings about the return of Sargeras. What would Gul'dan do with that kind of power? Based on how quickly he went from a shamanic apprentice to the most powerful warlock who ever existed outside of the Eredar, Gul'dan with Sargeras within him would be frightening indeed.

Draenor might yet be destroyed, this time so utterly that not even fragments would remain in the Nether, if Lothar can't unite his people and those that were opposing them and somehow bring these strangers from another time and place into the fold in time. Imagine the forces of the New Horde serving alongside the heroes of Azeroth, and Sargeras waiting to devour all.

Next week, something else - a look into what it means to be a mage.
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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