Know Your Lore: Why the Iron Horde?
We traveled to Draenor for one reason at the onset of Warlords — to somehow disable the Dark Portal. At the time, it seemed that at best, we’d be stranded, at worst, we were headed on a suicide mission that we simply were never intended to survive. But once we burst through and stepped foot on Draenor, every priority we had suddenly changed. Certainly we disabled the Dark Portal, but in doing so we freed Gul’dan, who was arguably a far greater threat. As for the Iron Horde, it still existed in mass numbers, and it seemed only a matter of time before it would threaten Azeroth again.
And so we shifted our focus not to destroying the Dark Portal — after all, we’d succeeded in that task — but instead on simple matters of survival, establishing a base, gathering allies, building our forces until we could tackle the Iron Horde and tear it apart from within. And we’ve done that. Methodically, choosing our strikes and hitting where it would mean the most, dismantling their allies and depriving them of resources. One could argue that by the end of the events that play out in 6.0 and 6.1, the Iron Horde has been effectively shut down, backs against the wall, leaving them with no other apparent alternative than to turn to tactics they weren’t originally going to use.
But the one thing we haven’t done is really look at the situation and ask ourselves — why the Iron Horde to begin with?
The thing is, we’ve spent all this time methodically pouring over the best way to defeat the enemy, without even considering or questioning why that enemy appeared to begin with. The Iron Horde are a collection of old villains that we have seen before. They made rubble of Stormwind in the First War, but we defeated them soundly in the Second War — partially due to Gul’dan’s betrayal, but a lot of it likely had to do with the fact that we knew what they were capable of and we had time to form some sort of counter-attack. The formation of the Alliance of Lordaeron wasn’t just retaliation, it was the only logical method by which to defeat what was, in essence, a world invasion. If the world is being invaded, then the world needs to strike back — not just the human race, but other races that would undoubtedly be crushed beneath the feet of the enemy at some point as well.
And that’s been a common theme in Warcraft ever since, the idea that we need to unite, to merge, to come together if we ever hope to defend our world. What’s odd about the orcs of the first invasion is that we didn’t just conquer them, we absorbed them. They became as much a part of the planet as any other race on Azeroth. And when push came to shove in the Third War, they took their place beside those who had once imprisoned them in the name of the greater good, defending the only planet left that they could conceivably call home. They’ve been doing it ever since — every conflict we’ve come across has been a matter of unification. Even when that enemy was the leader of the Horde itself.
The Iron Horde arguably doesn’t have the bite of that first Horde invasion, because it doesn’t have the Burning Legion backing it. Sure, Garrosh Hellscream introduced new technology, gave them plans for weapons the likes of which the orcs on Draenor had never before seen. But the point is that we’ve seen it all before. We saw all his weapons and technology during the siege of Orgrimmar, and we defeated them. The old Horde had one victory under its belt, and then found itself taken down and dismantled because we found a way to counter it. And in between the First War and now, we’ve done nothing but perfect our methods of dealing with outside threats.
Garrosh Hellscream was taken from his trial and transplanted to Draenor by the bronze dragon Kairoz, with the assistance of Wrathion. Kairoz was well aware that this was a different version of the old world. He intentionally chose this version of the world, because his plans required a few favorable conditions that could only be met on this version of Draenor. His plans required a Grommash Hellscream who had no son, a world in which the ogres were almost, but not quite at their decline. A world in which Ner’zhul wasn’t apparently the spiritual leader that he was in the original timeline — a world where Rulkan lived, where Gul’dan seemed to be the point of contact for the Burning Legion. And Kairoz had to have known this, had to have known the Legion had some kind of presence on this world.
“You think because I’m now mortal, I’m weak?” Kairoz hissed. “You are warchief no longer, Hellscream. You are free because I will it. You live because I will it. You will join your father and rally the old orc clans because I will it.”
But one also has to assume that if Kairoz knew all this information, if he was so invested in the timeways, he would also be aware of the fact that Azeroth was protected and prepared to face whatever threat might bloom out of Draenor. And when he spoke to Garrosh and told him of his plan, he very specifically stated that Garrosh was supposed to rally the orc clans together. He was supposed to make the Horde and form it free of demonic taint. Garrosh wanted to save his people from a live they should never have lived, as far as he was concerned — Kairoz wanted to cultivate an infinite number of Hordes.
The interesting part of this is that when he revealed his plans to Garrosh, going back to Azeroth was merely an afterthought — something he admitted they could do as a stop on a universe-wide tour of conquering planets and building armies. But all Garrosh wanted was a chance to revisit our world and crush it beneath the might of whatever Horde he managed to pull together, free of the Legion’s fel grasp. And the moment Kairoz became a little too cocky, a little too arrogant, Garrosh stabbed him in the back and left him dead, taking the last shard of the Vision of Time and heading off to find his father and find a way to remake history the way he felt it was supposed to be.
But why did Kairoz want an infinite number of Hordes? Why did he want to conquer worlds? What exactly what Kairoz trying to accomplish? According to what we uncovered during the Legendary quest chain, the answer is simple: He wanted to become infinite — suggesting what he really wanted was to become one of the Infinite dragonflight. This may have been going on for quite some time, maybe even prior to Cataclysm, when the flight first started showing up in Wrath. In War Crimes, Chromie makes mention that there are those among the Bronze Dragonflight who think that the past should be altered to change the future to something better. But who can really define what’s better? Is there anyone who can really make that call, especially when the bronze have all but lost the ability to clearly see through time? Presumably, this is what led Kairoz to the Timeless Isle to being with — to fashion a tool capable of allowing the flight to once more see clearly through time. The Vision of Time, used during Garrosh Hellscream’s trial.
The Vision wasn’t perfect. Kairoz had us take the hourglass and calibrate it by witnessing various visions of time. During this quest chain, he makes mention of a supposed traitor among the bronze. One by one, the visions are witnessed, until the very last — a vision of Soridormi, Nozdormu’s consort, supposedly murdered by Kairoz. Here’s the weird part: Every vision we see during the course of this quest chain does, in fact, come true. The destruction of Stormwind isn’t real, it doesn’t actually come to pass, but if you fight Garrosh Hellscream on the highest difficulty level, the last phase will take you into Garrosh’s mind, to that vision of Stormwind in ruins. Anduin Wrynn does visit Garrosh in prison, in the novel War Crimes. Obviously when Garrosh was taken into custody, Kairoz was nowhere to be found, but the event did happen as witnessed.
In fact, the only vision that did not come true was the vision in which Soridormi was murdered. She’s still very much alive in the Caverns of Time, no mentions were made of any attempt on her life. Instead, Kairoz somehow contacts Hellscream after he is taken into custody, offering him the deal of a lifetime — escape to his home. His home before the orcs were corrupted, before his father drank the blood of Mannoroth. A chance to change history, and build the Horde without the fel taint of the Burning Legion. Of course Hellscream took the offer — a chance to save his father and the name of his bloodline, and get his revenge? There was no question he’d take the offer.
But the uneasy, unsettling fact of the matter is this — Kairoz likely wasn’t telling Garrosh the truth, either. He wanted to build not just one Horde, but an infinite number of Hordes. He wanted to cultivate not just one army, but thousands upon thousands. He spoke of not just Azeroth, but other worlds — did he want to conquer them? Recruit them? To what end? Was he trying to rule the universe? Rule time itself? What made him choose Garrosh, of all people, for this task? If he could traverse time and even realities with the Vision of Time, what stopped him from doing so and visiting a world we hadn’t seen? An enemy we simply weren’t prepared to encounter? And why, if conquering the universe was his ultimate goal, did he agree to avoid any and all contact with the Burning Legion? Recruiting vast armies and destroying worlds is pretty much what the Legion is all about, isn’t it?
Unfortunately, two of the three people involved in this plan are no longer able to answer these questions, because they’re dead. Garrosh murdered Kairoz before his plans even had a chance to come to fruition, and Garrosh was taken care of before he could be questioned about how he got where he was going, what he was promised, what he was told. The only other person who might have any insight on this situation is Wrathion — who somehow made it to Draenor, but has vanished without a trace. However, Wrathion seems to be on our side, or at the very least he stepped in to warn Admiral Taylor that something bad was going on … not the actions of a dragon who wants to see us fail.
We’ve been systematically addressing everything the Iron Horde throws at us with almost mechanical effort. Take down Highmaul, destroy the Foundry, head to Tanaan and deal with Gul’dan. But what was the ultimate point of our journey? Why were any of us — including Garrosh Hellscream — taken to this particular era of time? What truths did Kairoz uncover in his visions of the future, and are there others like him, waiting to act? Is there an Azeroth somewhere in this version of the universe, with another Kairoz — was he somehow in contact with himself? I don’t know if we’ll ever find the answers, but I hope for our sake that someone thinks to ask them. Because where there is one bronze dragon gone wrong, there are doubtless many, many more — an infinite number, each with an infinite number of horrifying possibilities.
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