Know Your Lore: Maiev Shadowsong
The huntress is nothing without the hunt. And Maiev Shadowsong may not have started out as the huntress we know today, but she wholeheartedly embodies the spirit of vengeance itself — and when she at last exacts that vengeance upon one quarry, you can be certain she will find another. Some call her mad, these days, driven to vigilante justice for her own reasons, wholly convinced of her righteousness and the wrongs of those she pursues.
But is Maiev really mad? It’s an interesting question, with far more layers than one might think upon first glance, and far more answers than you’d think upon first glance. Maiev wasn’t always a huntress, but she did, and still does, believe in one thing — the strength of her people. Woe befall any who dare to test her resolve, or the resolve of the Night Elves … even if those people are as much a part of the Kaldorei as she is. For Maiev, much like her most noteworthy charge, is wholly convinced that above all else, she is right.
And perhaps she is.
War of the Ancients
During the tumultuous War of the Ancients, Maiev was neither Warden nor huntress at all. Instead, she was a priestess of the moon, a member of the Sisters of Elune just like Tyrande Whisperwind. And she may not have been a huntress at the time, but she was a fighter — just like the rest of the sisterhood, Maiev rose to fight the Burning Legion. Maiev had experience, promise, and seniority in the order, yet when High Priestess Dejahna was mortally wounded, it was not Maiev she named as successor. Instead, it was the novice Tyrande. And while admittedly Tyrande was exceptionally gifted, Maiev was still bitter at being overlooked, convinced that she would have made a far better leader.
Adding salt to the wound were the actions of her brother, Jarod. While Jarod sought no notoriety among his people, his deeds soon vaulted him to heights he didn’t really care to tread. And when Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest was assassinated, Jarod stepped into place to lead the Night Elf defenders, displaying an excellent grasp of tactics and combat. She and her brother were reunited, and she viewed his promotion with amazement, but it soon gave way to pride in her brother’s deeds and heroism. And Maiev would, in fact, have her chance to lead as well — Tyrande Whisperwind disappeared, and her named successor was killed, leaving Maiev as the new High Priestess in her absence. Although she served her duty and served it well, when Tyrande returned, Maiev was forced to relinquish the office back to Whisperwind.
And all the while, Maiev watched as her people tore each other apart, and as the demons of the Burning Legion, relentless and deadly, carved a swath of death through the Kaldorei. Yes, the War of the Ancients was eventually won, albeit at the cost of the Sundering. But although victory was sweet, Maiev knew where that War had begun. When she discovered that her brother had been attacked on Mount Hyjal, the attack itself only fueled half of her fury — the rest was directed at the attacker, Illidan Stormrage, and his actions: He was trying to create a new Well of Eternity atop the mountain’s peak.
The attack on her brother was one thing. The fact that Illidan was trying to create another Well, another source of power, another of that very thing which brought the Legion down on their heads in the first place, was entirely another. No one had forgotten that Illidan left the Kaldorei to serve Sargeras, and although he protested that he was only doing so to learn, to gather enough power to defeat the Legion, there were few that believed him, least of all, Maiev. She wanted his head, both for his actions, and for the injuries her brother obtained — and Malfurion wouldn’t let her have it.
Soft, weak Malfurion Stormrage instead chose to imprison his brother instead. And while Maiev respected Malfurion, she hardly agreed with the decision. But she volunteered herself to watch over Illidan, and Malfurion agreed to let her do so, told her to gather those that were willing to join her on her long vigil from the Sisterhood of Elune. Maiev did so, and the former priestesses formed a new order — the Watchers. Maiev was given the rank of Warden, overseeing the Watchers in their task.
Somewhere after it all ended, somewhere after Maiev began her duty, Jarod left the Kaldorei without a word. It stung, but Maiev had the Watchers as her companions, and in a way, as her family — a family far more devoted and united than she and Jarod had ever been. Illidan was but one of many the Watchers guarded over the next ten thousand years, their duties extending not just to guarding, but also to capturing known criminals as well, and hunting down those who had escaped.
And of all those criminals, none were as notorious, none were as dangerous as Illidan. Just before the onset of the Third War, Tyrande noted with horror the return of the Burning Legion to the forests of Kalimdor. And to Tyrande, there was only one option to consider — Illidan needed to be freed. As someone who had fought against the Legion and witnessed their inner workings and dealings during the War of the Ancients, he could be an invaluable ally. Maiev was off on another mission when Tyrande arrived at the Barrow Dens. And Maiev returned to find Illidan gone, some of her Watchers dead, and Tyrande to blame.
Not only was Illidan free, in her absence he’d traveled to Felwood and turned into a demon himself. Enraged beyond all reason, Maiev at once took up the hunt, gathering her Watchers and seeking out Stormrage, through Ashenvale and to the Broken Isles. It was there, at the Tomb of Sargeras, that they at last confronted Illidan, but it was too late to prevent him from obtaining what he was after — the Eye of Sargeras.
And Illidan wasn’t happy to see Maiev again. He hadn’t learned a thing from his centuries of punishment other than overwhelming hatred for his captor. Thinking he would be rid of her once and for all, Illidan collapsed the Tomb, flooded it, and left, certain that he was free once and for all. He wasn’t. Maiev was the only one to escape the Tomb — her sisters died in the watery depths. And Illidan’s actions did nothing but fuel her thirst for vengeance to new heights. She sent word to Malfurion, and the hunt began anew.
Malfurion and Tyrande saved Maiev from the Broken Isles and the Naga, but while grateful, Maiev had no love in her heart for Tyrande, blaming the woman — rightfully — for Illidan’s escape and the subsequent deaths of her Watchers. Forced to work together while Malfurion communed with the land to locate Illidan, Tyrande and Maiev continued their pursuit, allying with Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider along the way. And when Tyrande was swept down a river while fending off a Scourge attack, Maiev made a choice. She told Malfurion that Tyrande was dead, not washed away, that she had been torn apart, not swept up in a current. Malfurion grieved, but the hunt went on, just as Maiev had hoped.
Illidan was cornered, but the lie was revealed, and Malfurion was furious at the deception. Illidan escaped again, this time to rescue Tyrande, leaving Maiev to face the brunt of Malfurion’s wrath. He left her there, called roots from the ground to keep her ensnared, and went after his brother alone. Later, Malfurion discovered that his brother had in fact rescued Tyrande, to his immense relief. In fact, when Maiev managed to escape her ensnarement and find the three, Malfurion and Tyrande were actually saying goodbye to Illidan.
They weren’t trying to capture him. They weren’t trying to detain him. Apparently, saving Tyrande was all it took for Malfurion to forget what his brother had done. What his brother was — a demon, one who had ended countless lives in cold-blooded murder. In that moment, Maiev realized her leaders were willing to overlook Illidan’s crimes. That the Watchers had fallen in service to a people who had, in the end, betrayed them all. And Maiev was not about to let that stand. When Illidan opened a portal and stepped through it, Maiev and her remaining soldiers immediately followed.
There would be no escape for Illidan Stormrage. She would see to that.
And just beyond that portal lay the ruins of another world. Illidan wasn’t expecting Maiev to follow, and found himself almost immediately captured. But he was not without his allies — while bringing Illidan back to her base, Maiev and the others were overrun by Illidan’s allies — the Naga and Blood Elves, the very same Blood Elves Maiev had originally assisted on Azeroth. And somewhere, between Illidan’s rise to power on Outland, his defeat at the hands of Arthas, and his return to the shattered world, Maiev found herself captured by her prey, imprisoned underground and guarded by Akama and the Ashtongue Deathsworn.
Until one day, Akama spoke to her, offering her an alliance that would at last bring Illidan to justice. She immediately agreed, and in Burning Crusade, Maiev Shadowsong at last completed her hunt, tracking Illidan to the heights of the Black Temple thanks to the assistance of Azeroth’s heroes, and striking the final blow. Illidan Stormrage died atop the Temple, but his last words continued to haunt Maiev. “You have won, Maiev. But the huntress is nothing without the hunt. You are nothing without me.”
Perhaps she was. But this prey, at least, would never escape again. She took Illidan’s body to the Vault of the Wardens, locked it away. And while she was at it, she locked away any surviving Illidari, vowing that they would never be free again. And then, Maiev returned to Azeroth, searching for a new purpose, something to live for. A new quarry.
In the novel Wolfheart, Maiev returned at last to Darnassus and her people, tasked with the purpose of training a new generation of Watchers. And yet she almost immediately discovered there was much to be desired about the state of Kaldorei society. Malfurion and Tyrande agreed to allow Highborne Mages back into Darnassus, convinced they would need their help in the tumultuous times ahead — and they also allowed the Worgen to take up residence in Darnassus, after the disastrous events in Gilneas. Neither decision sat well with Maiev.
Her brother, Jarod, returned to Darnassus as well, and she wasn’t particularly happy with him, either. He had abandoned the Kaldorei in pursuit of a simple, uncomplicated life, and Maiev could not understand why he would choose that over his duty to his people. When the corpse of a Highborne Mage was found near the Watcher’s training area, Maiev offered to track down whoever was responsible and bring the criminal in. Malfurion and Tyrande agreed, but over the course of the novel, it was revealed that Maiev herself was the one responsible.
She wanted the Highborne dead. And once they were dead, Malfurion was next on her list. To Maiev, he was just as bad as his brother, arrogant and so convinced of his own righteousness that he would lead the Kaldorei to certain ruin. She tried to kill him, failed, and Jarod confronted her — but let her escape, unwilling to kill his own sister. Today, Maiev’s whereabouts are unknown, and whatever quarry she pursues, it is in secret. But she vowed that she would be the one to restore the night elves to greatness, and if we have learned anything from Maiev’s life, she might just possess the utter tenaciousness to do it.
There were some that said that her years of isolation as a Warden, combined with the torture she endured while imprisoned by Illidan, slowly drove her mad. But was Maiev really mad, or was she right? Because that’s the interesting part about Maiev Shadowsong — her accusations, while often seen as spiteful, have an uncomfortable ring of truth to them. Illidan Stormrage should have been killed, perhaps, after the stunt he pulled on Mount Hyjal. The world had only just seen the end of a War that nearly tore the Kaldorei to pieces, and yet Illidan was dead set on creating another of the very thing that had brought the Legion upon them in the first place.
Maiev served her years as Warden with unwavering devotion to her duty, and her reward was the death of her comrades — at the hand of the leader of the Kaldorei. Illidan didn’t waste any time after his release, immediately seeking out an object of immense power and consuming it, becoming a demon — the very thing they fought during that war. And then, once some of the Watchers had been killed to release Illidan, he turned around and killed even more of them. And when the leaders of the Kaldorei finally confronted him … they let him go. Again. With no remorse expressed for his actions, no justice served.
Speaking of leaders … what, exactly, have Tyrande and Malfurion done for the Night Elves? They unleashed a monster, they grew a new World Tree — one that was not blessed as the old one was. They allowed the Highborne — the very people who had brought about the War of the Ancients in the first place — back into the Kaldorei. And they insisted on allying with the Alliance, with other mortal races, forgoing the seclusion their race preferred … and to what end? Because you really have to ask, when you look at it from that angle, what has the Alliance done for the Kaldorei? What have the Night Elves gained? In the few short years since the end of the Third War, the Night Elves have suffered more losses and more destruction than they ever did during the ten thousand years that they lived, peacefully, alone.
Is Maiev mad? Or does she make an uncomfortable point that the Night Elves, that Tyrande and Malfurion are unwilling to examine too closely? We don’t know, just yet, what Maiev’s role will ultimately be in the upcoming Legion expansion. She may just appear in a flashback, or she may show up to once again hurl her words at the Kaldorei, in hopes that at last they stick, sink in, take hold. In the face of an onslaught bigger than even the War of the Ancients brought to bear, perhaps someone will finally listen.
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