Know Your Lore: Azuka Bladefury, Warlord of the Burning Blade
When the opening came, she took it, becoming the latest Warlord of the Burning Blade and immediately setting to work to try and seal her place as the best and the brightest of the Iron Horde. And it worked, to a degree — Azuka Bladefury may have had to prove her worth in a collection of more notable names like Blackhand or Kargath Bladefist, but she did so with swift and unerring efficiency. Her efforts did not go unnoticed, either — not by Grommash Hellscream, and definitely not by us.
As far as the pantheon of villains goes in Warlords of Draenor, Azuka ranks right up there with the best of them. To be perfectly honest, she went so far as to outrank the bigger names, in my mind. This wasn’t because she was somehow more evil or calculating than the other Warlords featured so far. No, it was because Azuka Bladefury did one thing right, something that Kargath, Blackhand, Kilrogg, Ner’zhul and even Gul’dan haven’t managed to do.
She made it personal.
Please Note: The following Know Your Lore contains spoilers for the Garrison Campaign. If you have not completed all Campaign quests, you might want to come back once they are complete.
The Burning Blade
Azuka Bladefury didn’t even exist until this expansion. Prior iterations of the Burning Blade did not include Dharl of the Thrice-Bloodied Blade’s daughter. In fact, Dharl himself only existed in the Warcraft RPG guides, which are no longer canon. Since he made the leap from the RPG guides to the game itself, Dharl and his kin now exist in canon lore — but the RPG guides never made mention of Azuka, only of her father, her brother, and her two nephews.
This is, however, an alternate version of Draenor. And as we discovered in the short story Hellscream, just because a person may exist in one world, doesn’t necessarily mean they exist in another version of it. Garrosh Hellscream was never born in this alternate version of Draenor — it could be that Azuka never existed in our own world, either. Unfortunately, her father, brother, and nephews no longer exist in hers.
But that doesn’t seem to deter Azuka in the slightest. In fact, she wasted absolutely no time stepping up to take over as leader of the Burning Blade once her nephews and father were defeated. She denounced Lantresor, casting him from the Burning Blade … and she let players live, because they had won in honorable combat, but warned them if she saw them again, she would not let them go a second time.
Plan of Attack
Here’s the interesting part about Azuka — despite her status as the daughter of the Burning Blade’s Warlord, she did not jump in to the fray in The Master’s Cavern until her father was dead. He didn’t ask her to fight, as he did his nephews — he simply took on the task himself. And she seemed more than content to let him do so. It may have been that she had designs on being the next Warlord, and players simply helped her move into that position a little more elegantly than she might have planned — certainly she doesn’t seem to spend much time grieving any of her relatives, instead moving on with joining the Iron Horde.
Grommash Hellscream was more than pleased with her efforts as well. And he should have been — Azuka was part of a plan, a really good plan, to get the Iron Horde a weapon far more powerful than anything Blackhand could throw together in a forge. Azuka’s task was two-fold, she had to find an artifact of immense power in Gorgrond, and she was also asked to deal with the “other-worlders” — us. As it happened, the two tasks overlapped in Gorgrond, when we intercepted orders to Lieutenant O’rok and captured the heart of Gorgorek, an alpha magnaron rumored to pre-date even the orc’s existence on Draenor.
Not only was he ancient, the elders of the Warsong believed that he was capable of commanding all lesser magnaron. If under the Iron Horde’s control, Gorgorek could easily swing victory to the Iron Horde — but we took the heart, and we took it back to the one place we thought it would be safest. Our garrison, in the middle of the army we’d been throwing together since we managed to escape Tanaan.
Making it Personal
And that’s where the story diverges just a little on both sides, and where Azuka makes her mark as a villain like none other we’d encountered thus far. For Alliance players, Azuka hit way, way too close to home, leading an attack on the garrison, an attack that ended with the death of Baros Alexston and the eternal heartbreak of Lieutenant Thorn. Baros is replaced by his dwarven assistant, and Thorn remains forever in worgen form, a rose — Baros’ final gift to her — placed in a vase on her desk with tender care.
Unfortunately, the Horde don’t see this kind of story at all. Azuka is merely responsible for the death of a grunt who bears little to no importance to the story, and there are no heartbreaking deaths to consider. But the outcome remains the same on both sides — Azuka takes Gorgorek’s heart, and heads for Gorgrond to resurrect the creature in the name of the Iron Horde.
And maybe that plan would have worked, had Azuka used the magnaron to command the others in Gorgrond. Instead, she took him to Talador, to defend Tanaan’s gates. And there, confronted by the entirety of the army that players had gathered over the course of the expansion so far, Gorgorek fell again. So too did Azuka, her fate both started and finished by the hand of the player, her blade left to be claimed. Thus fell the last Warlord of the Burning Blade — and so far, it seems none have risen to take her place.
Villains of Draenor
Azuka is easily the best villain we’ve seen so far this expansion, purely because her story, lopsided as it was, actually intertwined with players in a way that worked. We were responsible for her rise to power through no fault of our own — we simply wanted to help Lantresor out, after all — and we were responsible for bringing her down in the end. She is the only Warlord to confront us directly, taking the fight to us, instead of waiting for us to come knocking at her door.
Unfortunately, Azuka’s story has far, far more impact with Alliance players than Horde players — and the Alliance lost another important NPC as a result. On the one hand, it’s a pity to see Baros’ story end so sadly. On the other, it’s a pity that the Horde didn’t get that moment of heartbreak, because what followed for Alliance players was a desperate wish to see Azuka put down as quickly as possible. For Horde players, that sense of urgency, that sense of vengeance needing to be served was altogether lost.
With so many Warlords choosing to take a more passive role this expansion, it was nice to see at least one character play a far more active role in posing some kind of threat. While I understand why Azuka needed to die, it’s almost a pity that she fell so early on in the expansion’s life — had she lived, had she fled to Tanaan, she could have been even more of a threat. It would have been interesting to see her turn from proud and arrogant to a character who had been beaten, one who thirsted for vengeance for better reasons than simply proving herself to Grommash Hellscream. Although her role as villain was short-lived, Azuka was an interesting new addition to the Iron Horde — unexpected, and far more effective at getting under our skin.
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