Know Your Lore: Khadgar
The last time I talked about Khadgar, it wasn’t really so much of a history and more a questioning Tinfoil Hat Edition, because frankly, Khadgar’s place in Warlords has been just a little odd. His familiarity with Garona isn’t at all out of place, but his single-minded obsession with Gul’dan’s downfall certainly is — the most interaction the man has had with Gul’dan prior to Warlords has been with the orc’s skull.
Which means there’s something inherently fishy about Khadgar, something just off enough about his presence in the expansion that it bears closer examination. And while I’ve examined it before, it’s always been from a space where Khadgar must be up to something, must not be what he appears to be, must be something sinister or malevolent — and that’s not necessarily the case. And with a hero like Khadgar, and his upcoming appearance in Legion, we should probably be looking at the other side of the coin, too … and maybe throwing in just a little speculation while we’re at it.
Khadgar began his rise to notoriety through a simple enough assignment: he was sent at age 17 to travel to Karazhan, to study under the sorcerer Medivh as his apprentice. And that in and of itself was a rarity — Medivh didn’t take apprentices, and the few that the Kirin Tor had dared send never actually lasted very long once they’d gotten a good look at some of the bizarre quirks of Medivh’s home. Khadgar was not exempt from these quirks, visions of places and events that had yet to come to pass. He witnessed an elderly man fighting green-skinned creatures in one of these visions, and the elderly man had Khadgar’s eyes.
But over time and true to his name, Khadgar managed to gain Medivh’s trust. He learned of the Orc invasion, he traveled to the Black Morass and back again, and Medivh finally acknowledged him as an apprentice. And then it all started to go wrong. Khadgar discovered that Medivh was a Guardian, tasked and empowered by the Council of Tirisfal to fight the Burning Legion, a task Khadgar barely understood. And he realized something wasn’t quite right with Medivh, though he couldn’t pinpoint it.
Eventually, this led to the confrontation in Medivh’s tower, with Garona and Anduin Lothar at his side. And it led to the most pivotal moment of Khadgar’s young life. In that final confrontation, Medivh placed a spell on the boy, aging him in an instant from that 17 year old apprentice to the elderly, white-haired man of his vision. And it was up to him to help fight the Orcs — the green-skinned creatures in that same vision. He saw it all, and he knew what needed to be done.
During the Second War, he did just that. While he was now elderly in appearance, his mind was still young — and although Medivh had stripped him of his powers in the tower, they gradually returned to him over time. The Alliance of Lordaeron was formed, and Khadgar returned to Dalaran, told them of his apprenticeship under Medivh, and then asked to return to Lothar, determined to fight the Orcish threat. The Council of Six let him leave, appointing him as their official liaison, and Khadgar proceeded to do what he’d seen in his visions — fight the Orcs at Lothar’s side.
Unfortunately, Anduin Lothar met his end at the hands of the Horde’s leader. But rather than shatter the Alliance, it only strengthened their resolve, and they soundly defeated the Horde, pushing them all the way back to the Dark Portal. There, Khadgar called on his powers and tore down the link between Azeroth and Draenor. And after that task was accomplished, he stayed there, overseeing the construction of Nethergarde Keep just in case a second attack ever occurred.
It was a good plan because sure enough, a year after Nethergarde’s construction the portal opened again, and this time, the Orcs were after powerful artifacts. After a consultation with Archmage Antonidas, Khadgar put together an expedition to Draenor, determined to put a stop to whatever it was the orcs were planning to do with all these artifacts. One of these artifacts? The Skull of Gul’dan. Khadgar had it, briefly, but it was lost when the Dark Portal was destroyed a second time…leaving Khadgar and the rest of the Alliance Expedition stranded, thought lost for good.
They weren’t, though. Oh, some of them had disappeared, but others survived, and Khadgar was one of the survivors. He traveled to Shattrath and became an advisor to the Naaru A’dal. We found him when we traveled back to Draenor in Burning Crusade, and it was pretty clear that Khadgar had spent at least some of that time learning about the Legion from A’dal — who doubtless had all kinds of history to share. Some time after that, he met Med’an, the son of Garona and Medivh. And some time after that, he returned to Azeroth as a member of the Council of Six, suggesting that Jaina Proudmoore become leader of the Kirin Tor after Rhonin’s death.
So here’s what we know: Khadgar spent a lot of time on Draenor, or what was left of it. There’s no doubt that he learned plenty about Draenor’s history while acting as advisor to A’dal. It may be that A’dal taught him about the Burning Legion, and what the Legion had done to the Orcs — of Kil’jaeden’s corruption, and of the eventual destruction of Shattrath. After all, Khadgar was stranded on Draenor for 18 years — the Dark Portal was destroyed in year 8, and Burning Crusade began in year 26. Whether A’dal knew anything of Gul’dan is unknown, but not beyond the scope of possibility.
Alternatively, Khadgar had the Skull of Gul’dan in his possession for at least some short period of time…and that skull contained at least some small part of Gul’dan’s soul. It was known to whisper to those that held it, and it’s possible that Khadgar heard enough while in possession of the skull to realize just what had happened, and how dangerous that orc must have been while he was alive.
Warlords and Legion
Khadgar’s appearance in Warlords is still a little odd, but it might just be that Medivh’s aging spell has finally worn off — enough so that Khadgar now looks far closer to his actual age. He’s 47 now, give or take a year or two, and he’s lived through some of the most tumultuous events on Azeroth, the events that started it all. It’s not unreasonable to think that Khadgar would be concerned with the Iron Horde or the reopening of the Dark Portal and sudden appearance of Orcs — after all, he destroyed that Dark Portal not once, but twice. Seeing it open to a rampaging horde of orcs must have been very much like watching the nightmares of his past come back to life.
It’s not odd that he’s obsessed with Gul’dan, if he did indeed learn things about the Orc from contact with his skull or consultation with A’dal while he was stranded on Draenor. It’s odd that he’s so familiar with Gul’dan — and that Gul’dan is familiar with him as well. The two never met face-to-face, and at the time that Gul’dan was still very much alive, Khadgar was simply an apprentice to Medivh, not really noteworthy. But it all comes back to one moment, one that I keep looking at and trying to sort out: the moment of Medivh’s demise.
There were four people physically present in that tower: Medivh, Garona, Anduin Lothar, and Khadgar. And there were two people who weren’t there physically, but were there in spirit — Sargeras, who had at that point possessed Medivh and was controlling his actions, and Gul’dan, who was trying to pry the whereabouts of the Tomb of Sargeras from Medivh’s mind before the Guardian was killed. The backlash from Medivh’s beheading was enough to send Sargeras back to the Twisting Nether and Gul’dan into a coma.
But just prior to that moment, something transpired that I think we still don’t fully understand. There was a moment in which Medivh cast that spell on Khadgar — and Khadgar’s powers were sapped, and he was aged into an old man instantaneously. Here’s the thing: Khadgar wasn’t a particularly big threat. He was a 17 year old boy. He was trying to throw a curse on Medivh, and Medivh retaliated and drained him of his powers and his youth simultaneously. I’ve pointed out before that perhaps it was Sargeras, trying to empty a vessel before his inevitable demise, but the more I look at that passage from The Last Guardian, the more I wonder if it wasn’t the other way around.
Medivh managed a small sigh, and his features softened. “I never meant to really harm anyone,” he said. “I only wanted to have my own life.” As he spoke, he jerked his hand upward, his palm glowing with mystic energy, seeking to scramble Khadgar’s mind as he had Garona’s.
What if, in that instant, Medivh wasn’t draining Khadgar’s power? What if, instead, Medivh was giving Khadgar all the years that Medivh would never get? Shortly afterwards, Medivh dies and the story flashes back to present day, where Khadgar confronts a figure who most certainly should be dead.
Khadgar craned his head upward. The sun was now touching the top half of the tower. “Perhaps there should not be Guardians then, if this has been the price.”
“Agreed,” said the trespasser, and as the strong light of day began to grow, he began to fade. “But for the moment, for your moment, we must all play our part. We all must pay this price. And then, when we have the chance, we will start anew.”
Medivh might agree that there should be no more Guardians, but for Khadgar’s moment, all must play their parts. Did Medivh really drain Khadgar of his powers in that moment on the tower — or did he intentionally pass on the powers of a Guardian to Khadgar? Here’s what we know:
- According to the comics, the powers of a Guardian are usually given by siphoning the powers of several mages into one individual, someone chosen, prepared, and trained for the task. Aegwynn, however, broke that cycle when she essentially gave the Council the finger and had a son, passing her powers down to him.
- Khadgar remained aged, but his powers came back after a period of time — and they were strong enough that they were able to shut down the Dark Portal that Medivh opened. Twice.
- When approached by Vindicator Maraad and Medivh’s own son to join the new Council of Tirisfal and make Med’an a new Guardian, Khadgar declined, sending another mage in his place.
- Khadgar’s wielding Atiesh. He’s also pulling off the same shapeshifting magic that Medivh used.
A lot of people have theorized that Khadgar is actually Medivh, but I think there may be another step in between. Khadgar isn’t Medivh. But he may very well be a Guardian. And somewhere in his journeys he realized what had happened, which is why he didn’t join the new Council of Tirisfal: they would have immediately known. It also explains why Khadgar has that odd familiarity with Gul’dan — he gathered it from Medivh. And it explains why he’s so focused on getting rid of the Burning Legion, above and beyond taking care of the Iron Horde … because that’s what Guardians are for. It’s the purpose for which they were created, and he knows it.
Although this is just a theory at this point, it’s entirely possible we’ll see more about this in Legion, especially since Khadgar features on the expansion’s cast page. We’ll have to wait and see to find out, but it may very well be that Khadgar isn’t actually bad: he’s one of the best lines of defense we have, and we simply haven’t realized it…yet.
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