Know Your Lore: Khadgar’s destiny
Once, when just a young lad of 17, Khadgar of the Kirin Tor — apprentice to the great Guardian Medivh — found himself facing down his mentor. In truth, Medivh may have been a Guardian at one point in time, but he’d since been taken over by Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion, consumed with Azeroth’s destruction, responsible for the opening of the Dark Portal.
And in that moment of confrontation, Khadgar’s youth and powers were brutally stripped away. He may have been 17 at the time, but his body was aged to that of an old man. Eventually, his powers returned – stronger for the experience. But his youth never did.
At 47 years of age or so, Khadgar has caught up with himself.
Khadgar’s obsession with the Burning Legion and Gul’dan in particular always seemed a little odd to me. He never really interacted with Gul’dan directly — in fact, he’d spent more time with Gul’dan’s skull than Gul’dan himself. But he knew of Gul’dan’s involvement with the Dark Portal, and he knew what that portal signified — he knew it all too well.
After Medivh’s demise, Khadgar remained with Stormwind until its fall at the end of the First War. He traveled with Anduin Lothar and the rest of Stormwind’s refugees to Lordaeron. Lothar noticed that Khadgar’s powers were returning — and stronger for their absence — but the boy’s youth? That was gone, seemingly never to return.
And Khadgar explained Medivh’s fall to the Council of Six. He told them what had happened in detail. They knew nothing of the Order of Tirisfal — and they weren’t particularly happy that Khadgar had little to convey on the subject. The secret order would remain a secret, and the line of Guardians would apparently die with Medivh.
As for Khadgar, he was faced with a decision after he finished explaining what had happened to the Council.
“You are still a subject of Dalaran,” the woman pointed out. “If we called you back here and assigned you necessary work, would you obey the summons?”
Khadgar thought about it for a few seconds. “No,” he answered slowly. “I cannot return to that. After this war, if we survive, I will return to my studies, though whether I do that here or at Medivh’s tower or at some other location is entirely uncertain.”
The council members studied him and he them. It was Krasus who finally broke the silence. “You left here a mere boy, a fledgling apprentice,” he said, and Khadgar could hear the approval in his voice. “But you have returned a master, and a man.” Khadgar dipped his head to acknowledge the compliment but did not say anything.
“You will not be ordered to do anything,” Antonidas assured him. “We shall respect your wishes, and your independence. Though we would like to be kept up-to-date, particularly for anything involving Medivh, the necromancers, the Order, and that portal.”
Khadgar didn’t fade out of history. In fact, he was one of the major faces of the Second War, destroying the Dark Portal after the Alliance of Lordaeron proved victorious. He oversaw the construction of Nethergarde Keep once the war was over as well. When the Orcs threatened Azeroth again, he charged through the Dark Portal with the rest of the Alliance Expedition in order to stop them. And when the time came to defend Azeroth, Khadgar didn’t hesitate to shut down the Dark Portal on Draenor, stranding what remained of that expedition on the ruined remains of Draenor, now Outland.
And there, he stayed. He waited. And he had plenty of time to think, before Azeroth suddenly made its return known in Burning Crusade.
Aged in an instant
But those are just the things that happened to Khadgar. What do those events do to a man? Or more accurately, what do those events do to a boy? Because Khadgar may have had his body aged, but his mind was just as sharp and perceptive as it has ever been. And he was keenly aware of what happened to him, and of what it meant for the rest of his life.
“Why do you care how I choose to live my life?”
“I care because I don’t get to choose!”
The confession burst from him before he could stop it, and they both fell silent, staring at each other. He hadn’t realized the truth himself, but there it was, out in the open now, naked and raw. “I know you think of our lives as shockingly brief. Our youths are even briefer. What, ten years to be young and strong, at the most… most alive we’ll ever be? I didn’t even get that. I became an old man at seventeen. Alleria, I’m even younger than Turalyon! Look at this face. I’m twenty-two—but what twenty-two year old girl would have this old man?”
He pointed angrily at his face—lined, framed by snow-white beard and hair.
In an odd way, his fate mirrored what had happened to Medivh. Medivh was thrown into a coma when he came into his powers at age 14. Twenty years later, he awoke to find himself fully-grown and no longer fully in control of himself – Sargeras had taken over. It was Sargeras who dealt with Gul’dan, Sargeras who machinated the opening of the Dark Portal – and Sargeras who took Khadgar’s youth from him as they fought.
In his episode of Harbingers, Khadgar returns to Karazhan in hopes of finding something that can be used against the Burning Legion. Instead, he finds the spirit of his old mentor, Medivh. Medivh offers Khadgar the powers of a Guardian, and while Khadgar admits the offer is tempting, admits that he’s thought about it before, he turns “Medivh” down. Of course it wasn’t really Medivh at all – it was an agent of the Burning Legion. But would Khadgar have said the same even if the offer were real?
I don’t think so. I think Khadgar was telling the truth, when he said he’d thought about it before. He’d yearned to wield that kind of power, and that he’d dreamed of seeing the Burning Legion cringe in the face of his wrath. It’s a tempting thought. And Khadgar is powerful. He’s proven it again and again.
Isn’t it strange, though, that Khadgar spent so much time on Outland? That he didn’t come back to Azeroth, even though he was clearly capable of doing so? After all, he opened a portal between realities to establish our garrisons on Draenor. Sure, it might have drained him to do so – but Outland and Azeroth, they don’t exist in different realities. It should have been simple enough to go home… shouldn’t it?
In the last Know Your Lore regarding Khadgar, I theorized that maybe there was more to the Archmage than he appeared to be. I suggested that it might just be possible that Khadgar is in fact the next Guardian. When Medivh siphoned Khadgar’s powers and aged him, those powers came back fairly quickly – and they were stronger than before.
Both The Tomb of Sargeras and Harbingers seem to almost support that theory. Kil’jaeden initially tells Gul’dan not to kill Khadgar – implying that the Legion has plans for the Archmage. In Harbingers, the demon posing as Medivh says that his brethren were right – that Khadgar would have served the Legion well.
More importantly, though, are the words that are exchanged just before that reveal.
Medivh: Be honest with yourself, if not with me. You know you are destined for this.
Khadgar: Oh it is true, I have thought about becoming a Guardian every day. Even now…I desire it. I’ve yearned for the Legion to cringe before the fury I would unleash. And that is why I can never accept your offer.
Why can’t Khadgar accept that offer and take what the Legion is offering? First of all, he’s a good guy, of course. He’s not going to side with the Legion. But maybe it’s also because he can’t accept that offer. He can’t accept that offer because he already has the potential. The power. He’s just not using it.
Have you ever wondered why exactly Khadgar sends us on a mad quest for legendary items to give us rings and empower us against the Legion? Have you ever wondered why a mage as powerful as Khadgar – a mage that shut down the Dark Portal all by himself, not once but twice – would prefer to have us go after the Legion, instead of doing so himself?
It’s odd, isn’t it? Odd that we’d be the ones put into play, when Khadgar is clearly capable of taking care of that sort of thing. And he spends the entirety of Warlords of Draenor focusing not on the Iron Horde, but on Gul’dan and the Legion. The Iron Horde is almost an afterthought to him. He’s downright obsessed with tracking down Gul’dan at any cost.
The entire reason Guardians were created was to protect the world from the Burning Legion. And maybe Khadgar just can’t help himself – he can’t deny the purpose that was bestowed upon him. He can’t stop looking for the Legion around every corner. But he hasn’t utilized his own incredibly powerful abilities to try and stop them himself – why not?
The price of power
I think we’re learning a lot more about Khadgar, about who he is and who he’s become. If he was in fact bestowed with the powers of a Guardian that fateful day when he confronted Medivh, he’s not using them. More often than not, he’s been avoiding using them, being wise about when and where he uses his magic, and how much attention he calls to himself – because that’s the part that frightens him most.
If anyone knows the weight of that kind of power, it’s Khadgar. He saw what happened to Aegwynn, through visions in Karazhan. He saw what happened to Medivh, during the First War. And he’s seen just what that kind of power can do in the wrong hands every day, every time he looks into a mirror. Being a Guardian doesn’t just mean defending Azeroth – it means the Burning Legion is drawn to you like a moth to a flame.
And he’s terrified. If anyone has the right to fear the Burning Legion, it’s Khadgar. If anyone has the right to fear power, it’s Khadgar. And, I feel, if anyone has been avoiding his own destiny… it’s Khadgar.
Khadgar craned his head upward. The sun was now touching the top half of the tower. “Perhaps there should not be Guardians then, if this has been the price.”
“Agreed,” said the trespasser, and as the strong light of day began to grow, he began to fade. “But for the moment, for your moment, we must all play our part. We all must pay this price. And then, when we have the chance, we will start anew.”
I’m interested to see where the next expansion takes the Archmage, and what we’ll see him become. It’s obvious that Guardian or not, he has the Burning Legion’s attention. Will he continue playing this game of chess with the Legion? Or will we see him finally give in, acknowledge the power we know he holds, and give the Legion the pummeling it richly deserves?
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