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Know Your Lore: The vengeance of Vindicator Maraad

Anne Stickney
09.28.14
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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.

We don't exactly know a lot about Vindicator Maraad, despite the fact that he is one of the first draenei we ever saw, one of the featured characters in the original trailer for Burning Crusade. What small pieces we've seen of the Vindicator have been largely isolated to comics and short stories, capped with a small appearance in game that was never really expanded upon. For a character with a background like Maraad, it's almost a pity that he hasn't been properly utilized until now.

Lords of War aired its final episode earlier this week, featuring Maraad and more of his story -- a tragic tale of an era we've only really read about, but never actually seen. The brutality of Shattrath's slaughter was hard to watch, but harder to watch was Maraad's struggle -- a struggle shared by the remainder of the draenei race on Azeroth. But if Maraad is seeking vengeance, retribution, or vindication on Draenor, he may be sorely disappointed.



Draenor's fall

In our history, the story of the draenei was a different tale than the one we'll be seeing on Draenor. Ner'zhul was completely duped by Kil'jaeden into thinking that the draenei were plotting against the orcish race in some sort of diabolical plan to wipe them off the face of the planet -- a lie he was surprised to hear initially, but eventually believed. And with the belief in that lie came a full out campaign to convince his people of the same thing -- something that not everyone was quite as willing to believe as Ner'zhul. But it wasn't until the spirits angrily told him the truth that he realized what he had done -- and by then, it was far too late for Ner'zhul to do anything other than watch the orc clans fall to ruin.

The result was a demon-fueled bloodbath. We know, from Durotan's edition of Lords of War, that the orcish race is one of brutality, one that can easily be consumed by the siren song of bloodlust if they cross the line and go too far. Gul'dan and the Shadow Council used that to their advantage, and the only clan that really fell out of favor, the only clan that didn't readily embrace the call to arms was the Frostwolf Clan -- and the story of Durotan's past illuminates exactly why the Frostwolves were never allowed to do the same. Durotan knew the dangers, and he was unwilling to let that happen to his clan.

But the rest of the orcish race? They embraced the call to battle with open arms. This was the way of the orcs, not quite as shamanistic as Drek'thar would have had Thrall believe in Lord of the Clans. And this is who the draenei had to face at Karabor, at Telmor, at Farahlon. Once those cities had fallen, the offer of Mannoroth's blood was laid on the table and Grom Hellscream was the first to gladly take it. Fueled by demonically-charged bloodlust, the orcs descended on Shattrath -- and that's the battle we see play out in Maraad's edition of Lords of War. It was a slaughter, but it was the last in a series of increasingly violent slaughters that had taken place over the course of the rise of the Horde.


Sins of the past

Lest anyone blame Maraad for leaving the refugees to their own fate, one should first consider that information. Shattrath was the last attack. Maraad had, by that point in time, likely seen thousands of deaths, all at orcish hands. Shattrath was the final straw, and what made it worse was that it was blatantly obvious the orcs had embraced the demonic energies of the Burning Legion -- there's no doubt the draenei recognized that fact. The reddened eyes, the green skin, the stench of demonic magic made it blatantly obvious.

It wasn't just that the orcs were killing the draenei. It was that they were spurred on by the Burning Legion -- by the former eredar, now mana'ari. Demon-corrupted eredar who once shared home and lineage with the draenei they sought to destroy. To the draenei, Draenor was home -- it was the last refuge. K'ure was dying, there was nowhere left for the draenei to go. The draenei race thought they had, at last, after thousands upon thousands of years found a place in which they could simply live peacefully, yet the Legion still found them.

And in the eyes of that orc Maraad encountered was irrevocable proof that it didn't matter how long they fled, how well they hid, how far they traveled -- the Legion would always find a way to them, and they would die. In the eyes of that orc were the deaths of who knows how many that Maraad had known and loved -- and the orc showed absolutely no remorse for what he had done. Yes, it was foolish for Maraad to stray from his assignment and kill one lone orc -- the death of one orc wasn't going to make up for the countless others who were still alive and killing.

Maraad killed one orc, and for that one orc's death, almost a dozen draenei refugees lost their lives. This was, in essence, the battle the draenei had been fighting ever since Kil'jaeden first spoke to Ner'zhul and Ner'zhul had brought together the orc clans. Maraad and the draenei may have had the Light on their side, but it seemed, in that darkest hour, that not even the Light could stop the Legion. This is the burden that Maraad bears.


Draenor's return

It's that burden that is pushing Maraad to head to Draenor -- a wish to change history, to prevent what has gone before. But that's the saddest part of Maraad's tale, because this Draenor isn't our own history. This Draenor was never Maraad's past. It might look the same in many ways, but the people that live on in Warlords of Draenor, the draenei that never died, or have yet to die, are not the same people that Maraad watched on that fateful day in Shattrath. Maraad may think he's going to go back and change history, but history cannot be changed. What has happened in Maraad's past has already happened.

This is the interesting conflict that draenei traveling through the Dark Portal have to face, and it's a strange, bizarre dynamic that I hope is highlighted at some point during the expansion. We have draenei history, yes, but it's a changed history. Names seem familiar, but they bear slightly different titles, they have slightly different paths. The draenei of this Draenor have never born witness to what Maraad saw -- what all the draenei of Azeroth saw, years ago. They never suffered through the same battles, they never saw their race casually whittled away to nothing, never saw their people succumb to prolonged exposure to demonic energy, never saw them twist into the Broken.

The draenei of this Draenor have suffered, yes -- but they have never experienced quite the same degree of suffering as the survivors of Shattrath, the refugees that hid in Zangarmarsh and eventually fled to another world. They never experienced quite the same despair, they never watched their people cut down like so many blades of grass. They still have that one thing that Maraad is looking for -- the thing that Maraad has been trying to find ever since that day. Hope. It's still there. It hasn't been smashed into oblivion, lost in the caved-in skull of a nameless orc, in the dead eyes of a child's toy left to rest by the body of one who once held it dear.


Vengeance

"Home? There is no home for us, brother. Not truly. We are the wanderers of the universe, the exiles of lost Argus."


In the short story Prophet's Lesson, we see Maraad return from Northrend to the Exodar, his tasks complete, victory assured, and the same question on his mind as on every other draenei living in the crystalline city -- what now? Over the course of the story, Velen finds his way, but Maraad never really seems to find his. It's fitting, then, that at the first mention of Garrosh's whereabouts, the thought of another Draenor, Maraad would be itching to go. The Maraad we've seen in comics and short stories isn't just some noble vindicator of the Light -- by the time we see him in Prophet's Lesson, it's clear that he's become almost bitter about the fate of his kind.

And why shouldn't he be? They have nothing left, as far as he is concerned. The world they called home, the last refuge of the draenei is in shattered ruins, rent asunder by the chaotic energies of the Twisting Nether. The cities and halls they had proudly built over time were scattered ruins, the culture they had carefully cultivated was all but extinct. The answer to Maraad's question in Prophet's Lesson was that the draenei would go nowhere. They would stay, help their allies on Azeroth in the wake of the cataclysm. There is peace to be found in helping others, there are wars to be waged against the dark that require more than just the combined efforts of the draenei.

But in Maraad's eyes, perhaps that simply wasn't enough. Maraad's ageless eyes bore witness to the attempted extinction of his race, and his simmering hatred of the orcish race, of the Legion with whom they had allied, had never really been resolved. His need for vengeance cost the lives of those he was sworn to protect -- but the thought of a second chance gives him the hope he needs to carry on. Maraad's battle is far from over. It isn't a battle against Legion, or orcs, it's a battle against himself, in a way. A battle against the raging fire that calls for death and revenge, and the noble Light that continually seeks retribution for those faltering moments that haunt him still.


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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