Know Your Lore: The making of Varian Wrynn
Kings are born like anyone else. They don’t come into the world ready to wear a crown or bear the weight of it. This was certainly true for Varian Wrynn, who came into the world utterly unprepared for the life he would live. The first few years of his childhood were idyllic — born in a time of peace, he lived under the protection of his royal father Llane Wrynn. In his youth, Stormwind was but one of Humanity’s great cities, the last redoubt of the Arathor bloodline, settled by those that had come south to escape the conflicts of the other human nations.
Within his lifetime, a war unlike any his people had ever seen would begin. Varian would see all three of the Wars referred to today as simply the First, Second and Third War in his lifetime, although Stormwind was mostly spared the results of the Third. He would see Stormwind destroyed and rebuilt. He would witness the deaths of those who were important to him. He would grow from a boy who lived in peace with a great destiny in his future to a man who knew war and conflict as constant companions.
He was born in peace, but he would not live in it.
The First Ten Years
Varian’s life seemed to be destined for indolence. Born a decade before what would become known as the First War, he seemed like any young prince might, interested in horses and combat training (Stormwind expected her Kings to know how to fight) but there certainly didn’t seem to be any great threats on the horizon. Varian’s father Llane was not yet King when he was born, so his grandfather Barathen ruled as he had for many years. Still, it was Llane who saw to his son’s education, personally training him to ride a horse and seeing to his combat tutelage. With friends like Anduin Lothar to assist him, it’s not surprising that Varian would grow to be a skilled combatant. Truthfully, it ran in the bloodline — Barathen would earn the name Adamant for his personal combat prowess during the war against the Gnolls, many years before Llane or Varian were born.
When Varian was ten, the First War began. He was sent to Northshire Abbey alongside his grandmother and namesake Varia and his father, the Prince, while his grandfather Barathen led the defense of his people. A year later, Barathen was dead, Llane was crowned and assumed the role of defender of his people, and Varian had his first taste of loss and death. It would not be the last.
Varian knew little of the machinations of the Horde. He didn’t know of Medivh’s treachery, or how Anduin Lothar and Medivh’s own apprentice Khadgar were forced to strike him down. He didn’t know how Garona, the half-orc his father had come to treat with respect as a friend, had been a plant by the Shadow Council. A pawn of Gul’dan and his purposes, as the Horde pressed the attack on Stormwind, Garona assassinated Llane Wrynn.
This last part, however, Varian knew, because he witnessed it. The War had raged on for three years, and so Varian was thirteen years old when his father died and he lost the last remaining piece of his childhood. No longer a prince, he was now King, king of a country that had been sacked by the Horde. He was rescued from death by his father’s old friend Anduin Lothar, who took on the duties of regent of Stormwind as Varian simply wasn’t prepared to lead his people through the War and travails they were now facing. Thus Varian found himself an orphan in Lordaeron, hosted by King Terenas Menethil, as the Alliance of Lordaeron came to be.
While the Second War raged on, and Varian’s people fought in the Alliance to defeat the Horde and hopefully liberate their homeland, Varian trained to become the King in fact that he was in name. Still, while residing in Terenas’s court he made the acquaintance of Prince Arthas Menethil, who despite being six years his junior became his friend and sparring partner. If Varian seemed tired and dispirited to his new friend, he had reason to be. And his reasons only became the more compelling when Anduin Lothar, his father’s dearest friend, the man who’d rescued him from Stormwind and fought the Horde back to Blackrock Mountain, died in the final battle against Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer. This was a bitter blow, tempered only by the realization that at last the War was over and Stormwind would be free.
The Young Lion
When Varian returned to Stormwind, it was a return to a city in ruins. The Horde had sacked and burned the city. While King Terenas had sheltered young Varian during the War, it was in its aftermath that he truly proved to be a friend and indeed a father figure to young Varian. First, it was Terenas who convinced the Alliance of Lordaeron to help fund the reconstruction of Stormwind, as the Kingdom had been sacked and was destitute following the defeat of the Horde. When Varian was crowned King at the age of eighteen, Terenas attended his coronation and was said to view Varian as a second son, taking a great interest in his development as King. The two would often support one another at meetings of the Alliance, such as when Daval Prestor sought to become recognized as King of Alterac. Varian would support Terenas in disputes with Genn Greymane and Thoras Trollbane as well.
During the period of Stormwind’s restoration, the House of Nobles (Stormwind’s assembly of nobility that advises the King) was often left in charge of the city. Varian was an active ruler, and he rode the length and breadth of his kingdom, seeking out any stragglers from the Horde who imperiled his people as well as meeting up with agents he had assigned the task of finding his father’s assassin Garona. He also reacquainted himself with Tiffin Ellerian, the young woman he’d been betrothed to as a child. They didn’t take to each other at first, but each came to respect and even love the other and it was Tiffin who taught the young King about economics. Their son Anduin was born of this union, and for a brief moment Varian had everything he could ever want — a Kingdom at peace, a loving wife, a son and heir, Terenas as a surrogate father and Arthas as a younger brother. He had a family again.
It would not last.
During this period, the House of Nobles grew somewhat arrogant, potentially spurred on by a new arrival, noblewoman Katrana Prestor. A divide arose between those in the House of Nobles who wanted to pay the Stonemasons the agreed-upon price for their labors to restore the city (Tiffin was one of the most vocal supporters of this position) and those who believed that the sum would beggar the kingdom. Varian sought to mediate the dispute, but a riot broke out, and Queen Tiffin was struck by a rock thrown during the crowd’s outburst.
With her death the light went out of Varian’s world. Once again he’d loved someone, just as he’d loved Barathen and Llane (and likely his mother as well, although the histories are unusually silent on her part) and once again, that love was wrenched from him. Lothar had stood to defend him, and Lothar had died — now Tiffin had stood to try and defend his kingdom and paid the price. Varian had no idea how much worse things could get.
The Shadow of Black Wings
Katrana Prestor was not who she appeared to be. Far from a simple noblewoman, she was in fact the Black Dragon Onyxia, heir to the position of Broodmother. Along with her brother Nefarian she plotted against the mortal kingdoms, and the death of Tiffin gave her the opening she needed to deepen the King’s depression over her death into a decade long malaise. His only moments of joy were times spent with Anduin, teaching the young prince to ride and hunt as his father had taught him — otherwise he let the day to day affairs of state reside in the House of Nobles’ hands, and Katrana had long since learned how to manipulate the House. Using her sorcery, she continued to press Varian further into a state of utter depression. In this, she was aided by the coming of the Third War.
The combat never came south, but Varian was shocked by it nonetheless. In one moment, most of the kingdoms of Humanity were wiped from the map. Lordaeron was gone, Gilneas sealed behind its wall, Dalaran utterly destroyed, Kul Tiras no longer sailed the oceans, Stromgarde fell into conflict between opposing forces. Where once Stormwind had been the southernmost and youngest of the nations of Humanity, it was now the last holdout. Furthermore, the news from the refugees that reached Stormwind from Lordaeron was horrific. Terenas murdered, assassinated on his throne by a blade to the heart just as Llane had been all those years before. But this time the assassin was his own son, Prince Arthas, in betrayal of his oaths as a Paladin as well as heir and son. Varian couldn’t understand it.
Arthas had everything Varian could possibly want — his father alive, the freedom to act instead of rule, the regard of his people instead of riots in the streets striking down those he loved — and he threw it all away and in the process utterly destroyed the Alliance of Lordaeron. The institution that Anduin Lothar and Terenas Menethil brought into existence, the brainchild of Varian’s two surrogate fathers was now in ashes, the greatest city of that Alliance a plague choked ruin ruled by a monster. A monster Varian had once called brother.
But with the War’s end came a renewal. Varian would no longer let himself sit idle, would not accept the toxic whispers that Lady Prestor’s spells would force upon him. Stormwind was the bastion of Humanity now, the last refuge, the redoubt. It could never fall again. He wouldn’t allow it. Energized by his need to provide a better world for his son and return something of what had been lost, Varian clawed his way out of the fugue state and regained control of his nation. He was determined to right what he saw wrong in the land.
Lady Prestor was all smiles, of course, as she planned to do away with this arrogant mortal once and for all.
Next time we talk about how Varian was lost, found, and returned to his throne.
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