Know Your Lore: The wrath of Sylvanas Windrunner
We looked at her life, her death, and her rise to become the Banshee Queen. But Sylvanas’ story didn’t end with the destruction of her Dreadlord enemies and the ascension to the throne of the Undercity. After bending the Nathrezim Varimathras to her will, she took steps to secure her power, both for her own sake and for her new people.
Once a loyal High Elf who sacrificed herself for Quel’Thalas, then a pawn of the Lich King and his chosen knight, Arthas Menethil, Sylvanas was determined to maintain her freedom and that of her people from those who would control or destroy them. Amazingly, despite her change in priorities — her death having made her a less than sentimental being — she would seek out allies in the days to come.
In a world of war
With her grip on Undercity secured, Sylvanas began to consider her position. While the former residents of Lordaeron that had escaped the Legion and the Scourge were in no position to reclaim the city, she knew that wasn’t necessarily a permanent state of affairs. Despite their best efforts the Scourge and the Cult of the Damned under Arthas had not killed even half of them all. A great many survivors fled to Kalimdor with Jaina Proudmoore or south to Stormwind. With Lordaeron gone, Gilneas sealed up behind its wall, Kul Tiras no longer sending ships out into the world (as far as she knew, anyway), Arathi and Alterac in ruins, and the High Elves of Silvermoon essentially destroyed, Sylvanas was the power in the North. But she couldn’t count on that remaining the case — she’d seen Anasterian’s complacency destroy his people and she wouldn’t emulate her former king.
Of all the attempts to secure allies, it was the Tauren of Mulgore who helped the Forsaken join the Horde. Both Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem and Elder Crone Magatha Grimtotem spoke on their behalf, and while Warchief Thrall distrusted them, he may have felt a kinship to them as his Orcs were also seen by many as dangerous monsters. Talks between the Horde and the Forsaken eventually led to the Banshee Queen joining the organization, which Sylvanas saw as a bulwark against aggression from remaining Alliance forces to the south.
It was also during this time Sylvanas became aware of events around the lost Sunwell. and the return of the traitor Dar’Khan Drathir — whose betrayal of their people led to her death and return as a banshee. She ended him once and for all, in the process opening communication with her former people who were now under the leadership Lor’themar Theron and Halduron Brightwing.
Until the reopening of the Dark Portal, Sylvanas and Varimathras ruled Undercity and seemed content to hold the territories they’d gained during their rise to power, including much of the former Lordaeron and parts of Gilneas and Alterac. If they had territorial ambitions in this period, they kept them well hidden.
Expansion, revenge, and redirection
When the Blood Elves found themselves in dire straits, Sylvanas who suggested Horde membership and sponsored them. She went so far as to send Forsaken advisers north to help the Blood Elves deal with remaining Scourge forces, although Lor’themar never allowed himself to grow complacent or trust her too much. During this time, Sylvanas was fully cognizant of and supportive of her Royal Apothecary Society as they delved into research on the same Plague of Undeath that made them and the Scourge alike. It was a good move, because when the Lich King stirred from his Frozen Throne it was Grand Apothecary Putress who helped put an end to plague attacks on both Alliance and Horde cities.
It’s true that the Royal Apothecaries took captives of many races, including Humans and Gnomes, subjecting them to torturous experiments. Sylvanas was fully aware of this and signed off on it, hoping to create a new strain of the Plague to solve the Forsaken’s greatest weakness as a people: their inability reproduce. The only means to make new Forsaken was the plague-soaked soil of the Plaguelands and the Tirisfal Glades, but both were finite sources. Sylvanas sought a weapon that could not only destroy her enemies (and her allies, if it came to it) but convert them.
With evidence of the Lich King’s return, Sylvanas wasted no time in sending Forsaken forces north to strike against the Scourge. This was a chance at a revenge long denied her, and she sent Putress and many of her Royal Apothecaries north to attack the hated Scourge.
Unfortunately Putress was not truly loyal to Sylvanas: Varimathras had managed to suborn the apothecary. At the Wrathgate, Putress used the plague on both the Alliance and Horde forces confronting the Lich King. Once this was done, he used it on those loyal to Sylvanas, forcing her to seek aid from Thrall — and amazingly, he granted it. A Horde force stormed the Undercity and dealt with Varimathras, destroying the Dreadlord (although not permanently, as we’ve since discovered) only to find an Alliance war party that had hunted down and destroyed Putress for his actions at the Wrathgate.
A tense confrontation between Thrall and King Varian of Stormwind — who’d grown up in Lordaeron and thus was affronted by the sight of it under Forsaken rule — was headed off by Jaina Proudmoore. However, the damage was done. Horde and Alliance relations deteriorated and Sylvanas’ security as the Banshee Queen faltered. She found herself forced to endure Kor’kron guards throughout her city as a condition of her return to power following Putress’ coup.
Icecrown and beyond
Still, Sylvanas was fixed on her goal: vengeance on Arthas Menethil, who had murdered her, forced her into undeath, and then escaped with Kel’Thuzad. When the Argent Crusade led the assault on Icecrown, Sylvanas led a band of heroes through the Pit of Saron and into the Halls of Reflection, where she confronted Arthas, now the Lich King. She failed to destroy him, but learned much of the power he commanded and his plans for Azeroth.
Following his ultimate destruction, Sylvanas made her way to the top of the citadel, where she discovered there was another atop the Frozen Throne. wearing the Helm of Domination. As the shade of Uther had told her, there would always be a Lich King. Despondent at losing her chance for revenge and seeing no purpose to her continued existence, Sylvanas flung herself from the top of the spire, which would have destroyed her if not for Arthas’ former Val’kyr servitors. The pact Sylvanas made with them not only saved her, but gave her a renewed purpose to ensure the Forsaken’s continued existence.
Stay tuned: when we talk about Sylvanas next week we’ll discuss her role in the Cataclysm and beyond.
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