Know Your Lore: The unsettling puzzle of Garona Halforcen
Last week, we discussed the Garona of our world. Cunning yet always haunted by the shadows of those who sought to control her, Garona thought she fought her way to freedom with the supposed death of Cho’gall in the Warcraft comics series. But he was not, in fact, dead, making a reappearance in Cataclysm as the final boss of the Bastion of Twilight. For Horde players, Garona made her first appearance in World of Warcraft and led the way to information that would hopefully result in Cho’gall’s final downfall. Although her first efforts were thwarted by Cho’gall himself, players later stormed the Bastion and took down Cho’gall for good.
But Garona was nowhere to be seen. And as we moved on to other expansions and other continents, she never reappeared. In Warlords of Draenor, we meet a different Garona, one whose origins began on this alternate version of Draenor. Oddly enough, no mention is made of her past, a past which was unusual to say the least in our version of history, and it appears that whatever ties she had to Maraad don’t exist on this world. Which makes one wonder — where did she come from?
Please note: Today’s Know Your Lore contains spoilers for the current portion of the legendary quest chain.
Her name hasn’t changed on this world — she still bears the last name of Halforcen, indicating a half-blooded lineage similar to our own. Yet with the altered path of history on this Draenor, one wonders where and how she came to be. Grommash and the rest of the orcs never consumed the blood of Mannoroth in this timeline. But in the original timeline, Gul’dan held power over the orcs well before the gift was offered and imbibed. This makes the timeline of Warlords a little sketchy. We know Garrosh Hellscream arrived at some point, he spoke to Grommash at some point, and at some point after that, he went to meet Gul’dan in the comic Gul’dan and the Stranger. Presumably there was a fairly large stretch of time involved, because the comic takes place three days before the events of the Warlords of Draenor trailer.
And when we find Gul’dan, he’s been captured by the Iron Horde and he and his cohorts are being used to somehow power the Dark Portal, connecting it to our world. We know that events have changed significantly, because Ner’zhul doesn’t seem to have anything remotely resembling the prestige or influence that originally set the orc clans on the draenei. In fact, it seems as though his clan was perfectly fine with co-existing somewhat peacefully alongside the draenei of Shadowmoon Valley until he was approached by Grommash and Garrosh and told to demonstrate his worth. Rulkan is still alive in this Draenor, which means that Kil’jaeden must have originally contacted Gul’dan.
So where, in all of this, does Garona fit in? When was she created? How did she fall into Gul’dan’s clutches? Did he have some kind of method of aging orcs that we simply never witnessed? Garona is as green as Gul’dan and the rest of the Shadow Council orcs on Draenor — was she created by Gul’dan as she was in our timeline, or was she originally a half-orc simply coerced into consuming the blood of Mannoroth? Gul’dan supposedly holds her under the same powerful compulsion as the Shadow Council of our timeline — when did he find time to make this happen? Where did she come from, and how was he able to expertly place her under his thumb so quickly?
Unfortunately, these are all questions we may never get the answers to.
Garona and Khadgar
Garona’s first appearance on Draenor is in direct response to Khadgar’s meddling. After sending players on a journey that ultimately leads to a confrontation with Gul’dan himself, Khadgar is unexpectedly assaulted by none other than Garona, who fails at her assassination attempt and vanishes without a trace. We don’t see her again until much later, when she successfully manages to wound Khadgar and makes her escape, leaving the player to chase after and finally apprehend her. From there, she simply sits imprisoned — that is, until the player gathers the elemental tablets necessary for the legendary ring upgrade. Khadgar states that after consulting all the information you’ve brought him, he thinks he’s found a way to nullify Gul’dan’s mind control over Garona. And that’s when things get fairly uncomfortable.
Khadgar doesn’t seem to be too overly concerned with Garona’s well being. He instead demands to know the location of Gul’dan, ignoring her protests and cries and repeatedly grilling her for the information he wants. Cordana Felsong rightfully tells him to stop, and asks him, “What’s the difference between this and torture?” Khadgar’s response isn’t an immediate cessation. Instead, he weakly protests — “But she knows…” before admitting Cordana is right and that Gul’dan has butchered Garona’s mind already. He returns to his tower, and then immediately turns around and informs the player that has learned of a place where an Orb of Domination can be found, a powerful object that can break Gul’dan’s hold if used correctly. Once returned, Khadgar proceeds to use the orb on Garona, freeing her. She thanks him, says that she owes everything to him, and follows him in full support of his efforts to bring Gul’dan down. Once you complete a stealth mission with Garona, she decides that she’s going to follow you and serve in your garrison.
Now maybe it’s just me, but I found the torture of Garona a little hard to watch. What was even more difficult to watch was her immediate capitulation to Khadgar after he’d “freed” her from Gul’dan’s control, using an Orb of Domination. The thing that mind controls people and bends them to perform at the behest of the caster. And part of me wonders why, exactly, an orc born and raised on Draenor, an orc who supposedly seemed to be willingly serving Gul’dan, an orc with no history outside of Gul’dan’s control, an orc with no past directly connected to the human race at all would suddenly throw up her hands, thank a perfect stranger from a race she doesn’t know for his supposed “deliverance” shortly after he tortured her, and agree to do his bidding?
Did we, in fact, “free” Garona, or is she serving us because she is now under Khadgar’s control? And how does this make us any better than Gul’dan?
We don’t know. We won’t ever fully know, because a follower isn’t exactly going to give us any answers, nor is she going to give us any more story, nor is she going to give us any more quests. And this makes me feel intensely uncomfortable, because it feels like we have just robbed a major player in Warcraft lore of her life, such as it was, and replaced it with “heroic deeds” we’ll never get to witness, all for the sake of adding an orange follower to the stable. It feels like we have forced Garona to trade in one form of servitude for another, and that doesn’t feel like the actions of a hero. Part of this is because of Garona herself, and the way she so agreeably switches sides without a second thought — and that’s what makes me question what exactly Khadgar was doing when he cast the spell to free her.
Because the thing is, Khadgar didn’t really know if this Garona was under Gul’dan’s control — how could he? He didn’t know how long she’d been serving him, he didn’t know where her loyalties ultimately rested. He was basing his entire impression of this Garona on the Garona he knew from our world, the one who was, in fact, unhappy — the one who was desperately trying to escape a fate she’d never agreed to. He knew our Garona, he saw her frightened beyond all reason in Karazhan at the vision of a future she never wanted to come to pass. He watched her tearfully witness the hour of her own unimaginable betrayal of the one human who never treated her as anything other than a decent person. And then he turned around and assumed this world’s Garona was under the same compulsions as our own.
And despite knowing what he knew of our Garona, he imprisoned this one, tortured her, and ultimately set her “free,” conveniently using one of the tools of the Shadow Council to do so.
If this was in fact true, if Garona really did want to escape Gul’dan’s control, we were never given any indication of it until the moment she was “freed,” at which point her story effectively came to a convenient end. That’s the problem, and that’s what I find so uncomfortable — we don’t have any proof, any evidence to support what Khadgar was saying. We only have his word — the word of a man who was perfectly content to torture her to gain his answers, only stopping because his companion finally protested loud enough to be heard. And given everything else we’ve seen Khadgar do this expansion, that’s not the kind of word I really feel comfortable trusting. Which is incredibly ironic for a man whose name literally translates to “Trust” in the dwarven tongue.
And that brings me to another uncomfortable question that I’ve been wondering ever since this world’s Garona made an appearance — where is our Garona? Why didn’t she accompany us to Draenor, now that she’s freed from the shackles that bound her? Surely if anyone knows Gul’dan utterly and completely, it’s her, not Khadgar. And given her status the last time we saw her, still a fugitive from Varian’s wrath, wouldn’t it have made sense for her to try and atone for the sins she committed while under Gul’dan’s control by stopping his second coming? Assisting both Horde and Alliance equally, far from Stormwind’s reach, simply letting her actions speak for themselves and hopefully being able to return to Azeroth, freed at least a little from the guilt that has haunted her since the night she tore out King Llane’s heart?
Because that’s the thing about Garona — she’s tough as nails, willing to work for her freedom, and utterly devoted to that idea of personal freedom. She lost her childhood before it even began, lived a life of mockery and servitude, reviled by her own kin. What happened to her, the way in which she was used by the Shadow Council is something she has constantly fought to escape. She went into hiding from her own son to avoid hurting him, aware that there were still those who could compel her to do harm. She thought she had her freedom at the end of the Warcraft comics series, but discovered Cho’gall yet lived in Cataclysm. And instead of going into hiding a second time, she came back to help us — because she of all people knew what kind of threat Cho’gall and his ilk ultimately posed, and she wanted to do everything in her power to stop them.
This was, of course, the Garona from our world — not the Garona of Warlords. In the end, this alternate version of Garona will remain an unsettling footnote in the expansion, her life and her motives unexplained, her future as uncertain as her counterpart on Azeroth. I have her in my garrison now. From there, she mindlessly goes on missions, bringing back salvage and treasure without protest or anything particularly noteworthy to say, apparently all too willing to simply follow a person who produced the implements that led to her torture. And I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t feel very legendary to me.
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