Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Archmage “Khadgar”
One of the major players in Warlords has been a source of suspicious contention in my mind ever since we got a look at his new model. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the last major player to give us a legendary quest chain was suspicious and shady. While Khadgar is certainly no Wrathion, his appearance, his motives, his strange knowledge, and his obsession with power are all similar to what we saw from the Black Prince last expansion. It’s not just enough to make me wonder how Khadgar knows these things — it’s enough to make me seriously question whether or not we’re dealing with Khadgar at all. And although chances are good that we’ve just got an incredibly knowledgeable Archmage fighting the good fight at our sides, the thought that there just might be something bigger going on here is tantalizing, to say the least.
Besides, you didn’t really think we retired those tinfoil hats, did you?
Today’s Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn’t be taken as fact or official lore.
What’s with all the questioning regarding the identity of the Archmage? There are several factors that play into this. First, Khadgar’s age appears to have reversed from the wizened old man we saw during the Burning Crusade days. This could be because that aspect of Medivh’s spell finally began to wear off, or perhaps Khadgar found a way to reverse the spell … or perhaps Khadgar simply isn’t who he claims to be. It’s a wild theory, yes, but here’s the thing — Khadgar has made claims since the moment we arrived on Draenor that simply don’t make sense. He seems to know and understand that Gul’dan is some kind of major threat, yet Khadgar never had any direct dealings with Gul’dan. Ever.
In fact, the obvious connection you’d think that the Archmage would make would be Ner’zhul — because Ner’zhul was responsible for the destruction of Draenor that stranded Khadgar on Outland in the first place. It’s almost bizarre that the Archmage spends little to no time at all thinking about the orc who would eventually become the Lich King, instead focusing his attentions on an orc who he’s never been associated with at all. And even then, Gul’dan’s place in this expansion so far hasn’t exactly been extraordinary. Has he been plotting things? Absolutely. But when we first run into Gul’dan, he’s been captured by the Iron Horde, imprisoned beneath the base of the Dark Portal and essentially used as some kind of diabolical battery. Given how easily we’ve systematically torn the Iron Horde apart, it stands to reason that the orc they have unwillingly imprisoned would be weaker than that threat, wouldn’t he?
Then there’s the telling nature of Gul’dan himself. He doesn’t seem to view Khadgar as a particularly noteworthy threat, more like a pest that he occasionally needs to spend a moment or two batting away — or sending assassins after. But when Gul’dan finally gets a moment to speak to Khadgar during the legendary quest chain, he has the following to say: “I’ve been inquiring about you, “Khadgar.” It would seem we have a history.”
But they don’t. The most “history” Khadgar has with Gul’dan is hunting down the dead orc’s skull and keeping it out of the hands of Ner’zhul. That’s it. Which means one of two things — either there is more to Khadgar than we’ve ever been told, lore that we’ve never seen before … or Khadgar isn’t actually Khadgar. So if he’s not Khadgar, just who is that guy, anyway? Let’s look at a few possibilities.
If there is one man who has actually had history with Gul’dan, it’s Medivh. It was Medivh, or rather, the spirit of Sargeras that inhabited Medivh, that originally got in touch with Gul’dan to build that original Dark Portal in the first place. It was Medivh who brought the orcs to Azeroth, although he was acting under the will of Sargeras at the time. And it was Medivh, in the end, who supposedly perished, only to be somehow brought back by his mother, Aegwynn — sans Sargeras, this time around. What did he do after his return to something that seemed almost like being alive again? He immediately began to atone for what he’d done.
He orchestrated the alliance between the night elves, humans, and Thrall’s brand-new Horde during the Third war, bringing about the end of Archimonde and the end of the threat that the Burning Legion posed to Azeroth. And then, his task completed, he simply disappeared — as he called it, “taking his place among the legends of the past.” And in that last, wonderful speech at the end of Warcraft III, he pointed out that he returned to teach the world that it longer had any need for Guardians, that the hope for future generations has always resided in mortal hands. Sound familiar? It’s pretty close to what Alexstraza said at the end of Cataclysm, when speaking of the dawn of the Age of Mortals. We went to Pandaria after that, and promptly proved that perhaps the world wasn’t exactly in the best of hands after all.
Khadgar carries Atiesh, with no mention of how he got his hands on the staff. He transforms into a raven, just as Medivh did throughout the course of Warcraft III. He performs some pretty amazing, almost guardian-worthy spells over the course of our interactions with him — and he seems absolutely bent on making sure Gul’dan doesn’t get away with whatever nefarious plot he is almost certain to be up to, even though he has no real, concrete evidence of a plot in progress until we’ve already settled in our garrisons and started addressing Draenor’s problems. Is Khadgar in actuality Medivh? It’s a possibility, but there are others out there to consider.
In the original timeline, on our version of Draenor, Kil’jaeden the Deceiver was responsible for bringing the orcs into the Burning Legion. How did he accomplish this task? By cleverly impersonating the spirit of Rulkan, Ner’zhul’s dead mate, and convincing him that the draenei posed a threat to be reckoned with. That was the foot in the door that Kil’jaeden needed to begin his slow infiltration — by the time Ner’zhul realized his error, it was too late, the orcs were too far gone, and Gul’dan’s betrayal pretty much sealed the deal on that front. Obviously, this is a different universe, one in which Rulkan is still very much alive, and in which Kil’jaeden has apparently failed in his task … and the Burning Legion isn’t very happy about that.
What’s a demonic overlord to do? How about … infiltrate the very world they want to conquer, impersonate one of the most powerful mages left on that world, and bring those people into Draenor to systematically wipe out the problem while the Burning Legion has its way with the draenei, instead of the orcs? And in the meantime, work on getting rid of Gul’dan, since the little pest failed to deliver the orcish race as promised? This one, single, solitary moment of deception does more than Kil’jaeden ever did in our original universe.
First, the Iron Horde is dealt with, from a seemingly logical source. Second, Gul’dan is taken care of, under the guise of a pesky outsider from another world. Third and perhaps most importantly, it brings Azeroth’s best, brightest and strongest to Draenor … far away from the world they are bent on protecting. With the Dark Portal destroyed, traffic between Azeroth and Draenor is presumably limited, leaving the world defenseless and ready for a Legion invasion. Diabolical? Yes. Convoluted? Yes. And it’s absolutely the way a demon like Kil’jaeden would choose to deal with a problem like this — after all, they don’t call him the deceiver for nothing. This would also explain why Khadgar, injured and poisoned at the end of the legendary quest Hunter: Hunted flat out refuses to see a priest, instead asking Cordana to stitch him up … because a priest would know exactly what they were dealing with, and the Light would poison Khadgar with far more efficiency than anything on Garona’s blades.
But maybe we’re wrong, and maybe we need to move a step farther up the chain.
After all, while Gul’dan had history with Medivh, that history wasn’t really with Medivh, it was with the essence of Sargeras that dwelt within the mage. Moments before Medivh’s death by beheading in the novel The Last Guardian, he placed the infamous spell on Khadgar that drained his powers and aged him from just a young man to an elderly one in the span of a few seconds. Drained and helpless, Khadgar managed to muster enough strength to strike at his former master, which led the way for Lothar to decapitate the Guardian, supposedly both ending Medivh’s life, and sending Sargeras spinning back to where he came from. We haven’t heard from him since then.
But Khadgar’s powers eventually came back. Judging by his appearance in Warlords, he’s beginning to regain those lost years as well. Evidently whatever powers Medivh drained from Khadgar didn’t actually help him prevent his own demise … so what if he drained Khadgar for a different reason entirely? Seeing that his host was about to meet a swift and violent end, Sargeras prepared a new one, transferring to it the moment Khadgar struck that blow to Medivh’s heart. And there, Sargeras lay dormant, regaining the power he’d expended making the transfer and waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Because Sargeras is nothing if persistent — and so incredibly long-lived that the span of 20, 30 years would pass like the blink of an eye. In the meantime, Khadgar went on doing what he wanted to do, blissfully unaware, as Medivh was, of the dark soul that slept inside of him … until it awoke and took over.
When, exactly, Sargeras took over we don’t know. But Khadgar’s insatiable thirst for power this expansion, his single-minded determination to wipe out Gul’dan, his strangely unwavering devotion to getting us through that Dark Portal — away from Azeroth — and destroying it on the other side … it’s all highly questionable. It also leaves Azeroth wide open for an assault from the Burning Legion. And of course there’s the added bonus of finding Archimonde alive and well in this alternate universe. All in all, a fitting gift for the leader of the Burning Legion — one that delivers Azeroth right into his hands.
Yet there’s one more person that might be wearing Khadgar’s face, and it’s an incredibly strange idea.
In that struggle between Medivh/Sargeras and Khadgar, there was one more soul present — Gul’dan’s. In fact, the shock of Medivh’s sudden death supposedly sent the orc into a coma — he awoke later, only to find himself face to face with Orgrim Doomhammer and having to come up with a hasty reason as to why he shouldn’t be put to death. He came up with a very good reason: Death Knights. The first death knights ever created, by taking the souls of dead orc warlocks and placing them in the bodies of dead human soldiers. It took a lot to make it work correctly — he worked with Cho’gall and his necrolytes, performing a ritual that ended in mass slaughter. Once complete, he took the hearts of the dead necrolytes and transformed them into gems, placed those gems into truncheons, and gave the truncheons to the bodies of the orc-possessed dead soldiers. Suddenly, death knights. Death knights who were ultimately loyal to Gul’dan over Doomhammer, and followed Gul’dan when he deserted the Horde and headed for the seas of Azeroth to bring up a little island called the Tomb of Sargeras. Once inside, Gul’dan died. Horribly.
His skull, on the other hand, was transferred back and forth, here and there, and was said to whisper things to those who chose to listen — suggesting that perhaps that dead orc warlock wasn’t quite as dead as you’d surmise, and a chunk of his soul remained with the skull. Which is where this theory gets really weird. Think about this for a moment: How did Gul’dan get the idea to take an orc soul and place it in the body of a human, and why would he think this would work? Because he’d already done it. With Khadgar. A piece of his dark soul existed within the apprentice mage, and it would lie there, dormant, until it decided to awaken.
Who better to have a “history” with Gul’dan, than Gul’dan himself? Who would better know just what Gul’dan was capable of? And why, you wonder, would Gul’dan be so insistent upon killing himself, in this alternate universe? Because this Gul’dan is nothing. This Gul’dan failed. This Gul’dan was captured by the Iron Horde, forced to power the Dark Portal. He was weak. Unworthy of the powers that the Legion had bestowed upon him.
If Gul’dan was successfully able to transfer a piece of his soul into Khadgar, successfully able to transfer the souls of others into Stormwind’s fallen soldiers … then there was no reason he could not take back what was his by right, on this alternate Draenor — his body. And who knows what kind of power he would wield at that point.
Obviously, this is the most far-fetched of the theories I’m currently kicking around. But it’s also one of the more intriguing, because Draenor’s Gul’dan might just be beginning to realize what’s really going on here, and that looking at Khadgar is like looking into a mirror. Regardless, these are all just theories. Perhaps Khadgar is simply Khadgar, revitalized by the idea of adventure, slowly regaining the years stolen by Medivh and inexplicably, impossibly familiar with Gul’dan, regardless of what the lore prior to this expansion happened to say. But it’s still fun to think about what might be, and pull apart the possibilities from what, by all appearances, seems to be a tantalizing series of clues.
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