Know Your Lore: The fall and rise of Tirion Fordring
Tirion Fordring is one of the oldest characters in Warcraft lore — not by age, of course. He doesn’t hold a candle to Velen. But in terms of written lore, Tirion’s first appearance predates even Thrall’s debut in Lord of the Clans. However, that wasn’t where most WoW players first met him — no, they didn’t find Tirion Fordring until years later, while exploring the Eastern Plaguelands in WoW. And although he appeared to be no more than a bitter hermit, there was far more to Tirion’s story.
Because Tirion Fordring had every right to be bitter. He wasn’t a hermit by his own choice. Instead, he’d been thrown out of the Silver Hand, sent away from his wife, son, and home. But what did he do? Why, you might ask, was Fordring exiled? The answer is simple enough. But the story surrounding that answer? That’s a little more complicated.
Tirion’s early years
Tirion was originally a warrior of Lordaeron, knighted at the age of 18. But he wouldn’t remain a warrior for long — years later, he found his faith and joined the Church of the Light. There, he studied under Archbishop Alonsus Faol, and when the Second War began, he was one of four candidates chosen by Faol to establish the Knights of the Silver Hand along with Uther, Turalyon, and Saidan Dathrohan.
And his career as a paladin took him much farther than his career as a warrior ever would have. As one of the founding members of the Silver Hand, Fordring fought in the final battle of the Second War — the battle that secured victory for the Alliance. Afterwards, he married, settled down and became governor of Hearthglen, a small town in northern Lordaeron. Fordring was well respected, viewed as a just ruler and a military hero. And when his wife Karandra gave him a son — Taelan — he added father to his long list of accomplishments.
If there was one thing Tirion learned in all his years of combat, it was that peace was something to be cherished. It was something to strive for. Maybe there was glory to be found in war, but Fordring was done with those days. He wanted his son to grow up in a world without wars. Unfortunately, the world had other ideas: Rumor had it that the Orcs were planning an uprising, and that the wars would start anew.
Eitrigg, an Orc uninterested in war
While out hunting one day, he discovered his worst fear — Orcs. Or rather, one Orc, living in an abandoned tower. But as far as Tirion was concerned, one Orc was more than enough cause for alarm — he’d seen what happened during the Second War. He knew what Orcs were capable of. He attacked, and of course the Orc fought back — but as they fought, pieces of the ruined tower fell around them. The tower collapsed, and Tirion was knocked unconscious by a piece of the debris.
When he woke up, it was in his own bed at home, four days later. According to Karandra he was healed by his second, a young paladin named Barthilas, after he was found wounded and tied to his horse. Tirion was left with only one conclusion to make — the Orc had inexplicably saved him. Seeking answers, Tirion returned to the abandoned tower and found the Orc there, but wounded. And to Tirion’s surprise, the Orc could speak his language. Eitrigg, as he called himself, had been in hiding for quite some time.
He told Tirion of his experiences with the Horde, how the Orcs used to practice shamanism, and how corruption took everything away. In light of it all, Eitrigg abandoned the Horde entirely. As far as he knew, there was no second coming of the Horde, as the rumors said. Tirion believed Eitrigg’s words, and vowed on his honor that he would keep the Orc’s presence a secret — and then he returned home.
The capture of Eitrigg and Tirion
But that vow would cost Fordring dearly. After returning home, he informed Barthilas that the matter had been dealt with, and was an isolated incident, nothing to be concerned with. Barthilas was immediately suspicious of Tirion’s claims. In the name of protecting Hearthglen, he asked Saidan Dathrohan to travel from Stratholme and investigate the matter himself. Despite Tirion’s protests, Saidan sided with Barthilas, and asked Tirion to lead them to where he’d encountered the Orc.
Tirion had no choice but to agree, and hope that Eitrigg somehow managed to hide before he was discovered. Unfortunately, Eitrigg was still wounded from the fight with Fordring — and easily captured. Tirion’s heart sank at the look in Eitrigg’s eyes, a look of silent disgust in the face of Tiron’s “honorable vow.” And faced with that look, Tirion snapped. He struck back at the guards that whipped Eitrigg, prompting Barthilas to joyously accuse Fordring of treason.
Eitrigg wasn’t the only prisoner taken to Stratholme that day — Tirion joined him. And while Eitrigg faced daily beatings and certain execution, Tirion stood trial before his peers. All Tirion had to do was tell the jury what they wanted to hear — that he swore his allegiance to the Alliance. Tirion loved the Alliance with all his heart but saw no honor in killing a lone, defenseless, elderly Orc who hadn’t committed any crimes. It went against everything he knew as a Paladin.
In light of Fordring’s unwillingness to compromise his own honor, Uther stripped him of his powers, tossed him out of the Silver Hand, and sentenced him to exile. But out of respect to Tirion, he didn’t extend that exile to Fordring’s family. Tirion returned home in disgrace, with nothing left to do but tell his wife what had happened. And Karandra was furious. In her eyes, Tirion was throwing away everything he’d ever accomplished to help an Orc. Unwilling to see reason, she informed Tirion that both she and Taelan would remain in Hearthglen — without him.
Left with nothing but his honor, Tirion wrote his son a letter explaining what he had done, hoping that one day, at least the boy would understand. He left that evening, and headed to Stratholme. Even if it was too late to save himself, it wasn’t too late to save Eitrigg from an unjust fate. Although he arrived just in time, Fordring was quickly subdued by guards — but before anything could be done, Orcs stormed the city, killing Barthilas in the process. Seeing a distraction, Fordring seized the opportunity to take Eitrigg and escape.
Eitrigg was dying, and Tirion despaired — he was too late. But he called on his faith in the Light, and discovered he was still able to use his powers. Uther could strip him of his titles, but the Light would never forsake him. After healing Eitrigg, the two found themselves abruptly surrounded by Orcs — and Tirion finally met the Orc who led the new Horde. Thrall didn’t attack, he simply told Eitrigg he was glad that he’d been found at last. And though Tirion thought this meant more war, it wasn’t the case at all. Thrall simply wanted to gather his people and live in peace.
Tirion’s long exile
Years later, Tirion returned to Hearthglen in disguise, to witness his son’s induction into the Silver Hand. He slipped out before anyone noticed he was there. And then he returned to exile, forgotten, for Karandra had told Taelan that his father died long ago. Maybe some part of Tirion did: the part that clung to old hatreds. The part that fought so vigilantly for war. The part that couldn’t look at an Orc without seeing an enemy.
What was left of Tirion Fordring was a hermit — bitter, perhaps. Because the only thing he stood for, the only thing he wanted was peace. Peace for his home, peace for his wife and son. Eitrigg showed him that peace was possible between Orc and Human … but the rest of the world wasn’t so ready to see it. Whether fueled by grief or rage, there were those that would never forgive — and they vastly outnumbered people like Fordring.
Why was Tirion Fordring exiled? Some would say because he was a traitor. He sided with an Orc over the Alliance. But if you ask Tirion Fordring, he’d tell you the tale of Eitrigg, his brother in blood and honor. And he’d tell you that he’d sacrifice everything for the Alliance — but he wouldn’t sacrifice himself. Despite his exile, Tirion still had his honor, and even though the Silver Hand couldn’t see it, the Light reminded him of it every day.
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