Know Your Lore: Who is the Cowled Ranger?
Warlords of Draenor plays with time and space in ways that aren’t as obvious as the initial step through the Dark Portal. One of these includes the means by which we recruit Archmage Vargoth to be our follower. One of the strangest is the Cowled Ranger, because while she appears to be a simple night elf on a mission, things get complicated once she reveals what that mission is – the Cowled Ranger is attempting to answer a question players have asked since The Burning Crusade came out.
The Cowled Ranger appears to be a night elf. Whether you’re Horde or Alliance, she can appear in your garrison if you have the Lunarfall Inn or Frostwolf Tavern constructed. And at first, she’s fairly standoffish in terms of what she’ll tell you.
I do not wish to come out of the shadows, but I mean you no harm. My purpose here is my own secret to keep, I simply needed a warm place to bed down for the night.
I can see that you are not the type to be easily swayed into leaving. Very well, perhaps you can aid me in my search.
I am looking for someone, it is not important who. All you need to know is that I will reward you for any sign of high elven weaponry that you should come across.
One might balk at this – how would high elven weaponry arrive on this Draenor, after all – but if you complete the quest, you will in fact find a Silver-Lined Arrow at the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, exactly where it shouldn’t be. Once you return it, the Cowled Ranger becomes strangely evasive, saying that it can’t be before departing. And she’s right – it absolutely can’t be there. Especially once you encounter the Cowled Ranger again, because she explains her mission in more detail, if not who she is herself.
I feel that I can trust you, perhaps. You have, at least, not spoken of my secret to anyone, and for that I thank you.
I have need of your aid again, and in return, I will share some of my own information. I am here, you see, to find an elf by the name of Alleria. She was lost years ago, on Draenor. It is my faint hope that the twisting nether brought her here.
I do not know if such a thing is even possible, but do keep an eye out for any signs of high elves as you travel.
So what we have here is a disguised night elf woman who appears on the Draenor of Warlords, the alternate timeway selected by Kairoz because it was very close to but not exactly the same as the Draenor we know (the one that became Outland) and who is looking for Alleria Windrunner, long since lost from Outland after vanishing mysteriously (along with Turalyon, the father of her son Arator) some time after the destruction that warped that world. You’ll remember I talked last week about how we might never have returned to the original Draenor we first see in Warcraft II – the Cowled Ranger provides us with a mystery that hints at a far deeper conundrum.
But first we need to ask – who is this Cowled Ranger?
There are various theories, and I’ll talk about a few of the candidates now. Two are night elves, one is a high elf, and one isn’t.
Our first suspect is Shandris Feathermoon. For starters, a lot of players believe that the physical details visible on the Cowled Ranger – her facial markings and hair – match up with Shandris. Also, since the quest The Huntresses offers a Sentinel’s Companion and Shandris is a sentinel (in fact, she’s the General of the Sentinel Army) that’s another detail in her favor. However, there are a few problems with this. For starters, why would Shandris be on Draenor, any Draenor, looking for Alleria? She didn’t know Alleria, or have any particular personal ties with the woman, making the Cowled Ranger’s statement that she was ‘brought comfort’ by the discovery of the Silver-Lined Arrow somewhat odd. Not only would Shandris have no particular reason to look for Alleria Windrunner, the only people who could possibly order her to do so – Tyrande Whisperwind and Malfurion Stormrage – have no more reason to do so than she does to do it without being ordered.
Our second suspect is Maiev Shadowsong. We’ve never seen her outside of her Warden gear, (she takes her helmet off in Wolfheart, but not in any actual Warcraft game) so it’s possible she has similar facial markings to Shandris. She’s persona non grata with the Alliance, and not likely to be more respected by the Horde, so a disguise while visiting their garrisons makes sense. The real problem here is why? Why would Maiev be looking for Alleria Windrunner? When last we saw Maiev she was outraged by the inclusion of the highborne into night elf society, to the point where she plotted to kill Malfurion and assassinated several of the returning mages before her own brother helped expose her – it’s hard to imagine her interested in the fate of a high elf, the descendants of those same highborne. Although is Maiev is involved with the Draenor of the Iron Horde, it raises questions about those night elf Wardens that are working alongside Khadgar and their true loyalties. If the Cowled Ranger is Maiev, it seems unlikely that she would be looking for Alleria for any beneficial purpose.
Our third suspect is Vereesa Windrunner. She would certainly need a disguise to work in Horde territories, especially after the events of Mists of Pandaria and War Crimes. (The blood elves and Aethas Sunreaver would likely love to get their hands on Vereesa.) Obviously, Vereesa would be interested in finding her sister. However, Vereesa would have no need of a disguise to operate in Alliance territory, she’s not even remotely night elven in appearance and her taking on the guise of one would be a bit odd. However, Vereesa knows Shandris – the two of them met during the siege of Theramore, and even worked together. If for some reason she disguised herself as a night elf, Shandris would be one she’d have a decent chance of approximating. The question would again be why? Going undisguised in Alliance territory and disguising herself as a blood elf in Horde territory would be a lot simpler. One complication would be that going to Draenor as herself might lead to too many questions being asked. Also, Vereesa deeply upset our last suspect the last time they interacted.
That suspect is Sylvanas Windrunner. She has just as good a reason to look for her sister as Vereesa does, having discovered during the events of War Crimes that she still misses the companionship of her siblings and having nearly had (and then lost) Vereesa, she may have decided to try and gain Alleria instead. (For that matter, being devious, amoral at best and downright vicious at worst, and fully willing to murder her own sister in order to raise her into undeath, perhaps she’s using the hunt to try and gain Vereesa as an immortal companion yet again. Or perhaps both of her sisters.) She doesn’t trust most of the Horde any more than she would the Alliance, and isn’t trusted by them, so a disguise isn’t beyond the realm of possibility and a night elf disguise would be a nice nod to the original model Sylvanas had back when World of Warcraft launched.
To my mind, since Shandris and Vereesa worked together during Tides of War and Shandris has indicated close ties to Jaina Proudmoore, and attended the trial of Garrosh Hellscream, it’s feasible that she was recruited for this mission by Vereesa, either directly or through Jaina. Jaina as head of the Kirin Tor should be privy to at least some of Khadgar’s operations on Draenor, and once Vargoth managed to send artifacts through to this new timeway the possibility that Alleria may have ended up there as well would have been one Vereesa would have wanted to check up on. Why she wouldn’t just go herself, I couldn’t say. After Shandris, I’d put Sylvanas and Vereesa as the most likely to be the Cowled Ranger, with Maiev as a dark horse only made credible by the strange Wardens following Khadgar around.
What’s interesting is this – what does the presence of that arrow in the Shadowmoon Burial Grounds say? How did it get there? Why is there more than one there? Is there a deeper reason that the history of this Draenor seems different – Rulkan alive, Grom’s wife never having a child – than just Kairoz’s ‘blades of grass’ explanation? Did a high elf woman stagger out of a rift and onto a Draenor both like and unlike the one she knew and alter its history?
We don’t know. Nor do we know who the Cowled Ranger really is.
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