Know Your Lore
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Know Your Lore: The Windrunner sisters

Nothing forms a bond quite like family. And no other family has been quite as high-profile as the Windrunners. Each of the Windrunner sisters has experienced what could be considered a uniquely tragic history. Yet all three share similarities that continue to haunt them to this day.

It’s not often that we see true blood-related families in Warcraft lore. Of course we have royal situations, like Varian and Anduin, or Genn and the rest of the Greymane clan. But typically these family situations tend to focus on one person over the other. Genn has a much larger story focus than his wife or daughter. Varian and Anduin tended to trade the spotlight, coming together briefly to share a clash or two before heading off to their own separate questlines.

Outwardly, the Windrunner sisters appear to have done the same. But their stories echo one another, and as a whole, they paint a family picture the likes of which we don’t often seen in Warcraft.

Alleria

As the eldest sister, it was expected that Alleria would inherit her mother’s position as Silvermoon’s Ranger-General. Yet she passed on that opportunity to instead join up with the Farstriders. There, she earned a reputation for her ruthless skill in battle. But it wasn’t just her prowess — she killed an incredible number of Trolls during the Troll Wars.

Alleria has always been devoted to her family. She loved her parents, her sisters, and her youngest brother, Lirath. Her parents gave her an exquisite necklace that never left her neck, not even in the heat of battle. You could almost say it was a reminder of what she was fighting for, what she was trying to protect.

Yet despite her deep love for her family, she held no such warmth for the expectations or trappings of Elven society. When the Alliance of Lordaeron came calling, she left to join them, even though she wasn’t expressly ordered to do so. Her instincts told her the Horde was a far greater threat than Silvermoon was willing to see.

During the Second War, a surprise attack on the forests of Quel’Thalas resulted in the murder of most of her family — including Lirath. It hit her harder than she wanted to admit. Devastated, she grimly set to work systematically killing any Orc she laid eyes on. This eventually led to her disappearance after joining the Alliance Expedition, driven by revenge.

Along her journey she found support — and eventually love — not from one of her own kind, but from a Human Paladin named Turalyon. He comforted her through her losses, supported her through her sorrows, and pushed her when she might very well have given in to her blind quest for revenge. Together, their journeys took them far beyond Azeroth.

Sylvanas

As the middle sister, Sylvanas took Alleria’s place in familial expectations. She joined with the rangers just as her mother had done, and eventually inherited the Ranger-General title. But despite her willingness to take that position, it seemed at times she was just as ambivalent about societal expectations. Sylvanas surprised everyone by admitting a Human — Nathanos Marris — into the ranks of the Farstriders.

It was unheard of. And perhaps there was more than just an appreciation of skill involved in the promotion. Rumors swirled around the two, suggesting they were in a romantic relationship — but it was never confirmed as anything other than a rumor. However, her stubborn persistence in the choice of Nathanos was rewarded by a loyal ally who worked just as diligently and skillfully as any of his Elven comrades.

Sylvanas rose to infamy when the Scourge laid waste to the forests of Quel’Thalas during the Third War. Arthas’ relentless assault was stymied time and time again due to her efforts. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to single-handedly stop the Scourge — and Arthas’ wrath would prove her undoing. He killed her, using Frostmourne to deny her a clean death and instead ripping her soul back into the world, creating one of the first banshees.

Eventually, Sylvanas would have her revenge. She broke free of the Lich King’s thrall and reclaimed her body. She rallied together those who had also shrugged off the Lich King’s control, and created an empire of Forsaken. Eventually, she and her followers would join the Horde — and in due time, she took her place as its Warchief.

Sylvanas lost her family when she lost her life. The Forsaken became her new family — but she never forgot the sisters she left behind.

Vereesa

As the youngest sister, Vereesa Windrunner looked up to Sylvanas throughout her childhood. She eagerly followed in the footsteps of both of her sisters, joining the Farstriders at a young age. Vereesa was too young to fight in the Second War, but experienced its sorrows and the loss of her family all the same. And although she eventually became a ranger, her first task was an unusual one — she was to escort a Human sorcerer named Rhonin to Hasic, on the eastern shores of Lordaeron.

Become a Watcher

Vereesa’s impetuous nature and general impatience was often compared to that of a Human. It was almost no surprise that she became close with Rhonin over the course of their journey. The two were married soon after, and she was appointed as an Alliance Ambassador. As the years passed, she mourned her people’s troubles, but remained distant — the rise of the Blood Elves and the teachings of Kael’thas Sunstrider never sat right with her.

Without Rhonin’s support, she might very well have fallen into the same spiral of magical withdrawal as her kin. As it stood, she remained as one of the few High Elves untainted by Kael’Thas’ fel “solution.” It was a solution she held no small amount of contempt for, as she witnessed what it did to her cousin, Zendarin. Although she was close to Zendarin, his hatred for Humans and his willing embrace of Kael’thas’ teachings led to his eventual downfall.

Zendarin was obsessed with obtaining more magical power. He thought Vereesa’s twin sons would be a good source of it. It was perhaps his actions that led to her contempt for the Blood Elves, and eventual formation of the Silver Covenant. The group vehemently stood in opposition of the Blood Elves’ inclusion in the Kirin Tor.

Torn apart

All three sisters suffered tragedy over the course of their lifetimes. They lost a substantial part of their family in the Second War. And one by one, the sisters themselves split apart — Alleria lost beyond the Dark Portal. Sylvanas lost her life in the Third War. And Vereesa slipped away from Elven society as a whole when she married Rhonin — her sisters were gone, and she had little reason left to stay.

And despite the well-known and respected Windrunner name, none of the sisters cleaved to expected paths. They each held a reputation for the unconventional, reflecting viewpoints that stood out from the rest of their kin. It almost seems, in a way, as though the Windrunners were searching for something Elven society just couldn’t give them.

Perhaps Humanity could. Vereesa and Alleria both chose to start families with Human men. Sylvanas, had she not died during the Third War, might have eventually done the same with Nathanos. Despite the difference in life span, there was something about Humanity that appealed to all three sisters. All three held an innate instinct to protect and defend their families — maybe that passion was best reflected in Human eyes and hearts.

But they also shared another aspect held deep within — a thirst for vengeance. It was most easily seen in Sylvanas’ single-minded pursuit of revenge against Arthas. However, Alleria held much the same attitude in her pursuit of Orcs after her exploits in the Second War. And even Vereesa held stubbornly to her wish for vengeance after her husband Rhonin’s death. She wanted Hellscream to pay — she wanted him to die for what he’d done, and she was willing to murder him to accomplish it.

Family ties

Yet all three still loved each other — or the memory of what they once were. In War Crimes, Vereesa reunited with her sister Sylvanas. Initially it was in the name of procuring a poison to murder Garrosh Hellscream, but over the course of their meetings, they began to rekindle their familial ties. Although undead, it seemed as though Sylvanas was being drawn out of her fugue of sorrow. She’d spent years building her family of Forsaken — but it was her true family she missed the most.

Sylvanas even made Vereesa a shocking offer — join her, and co-lead the Forsaken. But Vereesa eventually came to her senses, realizing her children had no place in the Undercity. That decision nearly broke Sylvanas, who then redoubled her efforts to strengthen the Forsaken. It was a cruel reminder that regardless of feelings, she could never really rejoin the family she’d left behind.

In Legion, Alleria has finally returned. But her fate took her far from her kin — and while Vereesa made it a point to tell her about Sylvanas’ role as Warchief of the Horde, she has yet to reveal just what Sylvanas has become. As it stands, Alleria still has a lot to take in. Her son, Arator, hasn’t seen his mother or father in years — a thousand of them, for Alleria and Turalyon. And the path of her future is still up in the air, as uncertain as the swirling chaos of the Void.

Reunion

While all three Windrunner sisters followed drastically different paths, there are still similarities between them.  They still share the same beliefs — some more twisted than others. But they also share the love for each other that they’ve held their entire lives. Even Sylvanas, as much as she might protest to the contrary. Her relationship with Vereesa seemed all but destroyed after the events of War Crimes — what will she do in the face of Alleria’s reappearance?

Whether or not we’ll ever see the Windrunner sisters truly reunited is unknown — but I hope we do, eventually. Each is a force to be reckoned with in her own right. As a united trio, strengthened by their family ties? The possibilities are terrifying.

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