With the release of World of Warcraft’s latest expansion: Battle for Azeroth, Blizzard have been ramping up the game’s story for a new era of conflict between the Horde and Alliance. We’ve taken a look at the new zones, races, and gameplay in Battle for Azeroth and in our story recap we followed the timeline of events that brought Legion to a close, killed leaders, and saw cities raised to the ground. But Blizzard have also been building up characters’ internal conflicts and giving us glimpses of their lives behind the battlefront.
This lore recap takes a look at some of those characters, specifically the Warbringers cinematic series which has championed some of Warcraft’s most fearsome women: Sylvanas Windrunner, Jaina Proudmoore, and Azshara, Queen of the Naga. Here are their stories.
Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth content.
Jaina is one of the most powerful sorceresses in Azeroth, heir to the Kingdom of Kul Tiras, and former leader of Theramore. Jaina has long stood as a peacekeeper between the Horde and Alliance, believing that violence must be forgiven in order for peace to come to Azeroth, but her attempts have all too often fallen in vain.
In Mists of Pandaria Theramore was destroyed by a mana-bomb planted by the Horde, as led by Garrosh Hellscream. The horror of the attack caused Jaina’s hair to turn white, and sent her into a spiral of self-contemplation. By Legion, that horror had turned to anger, and Jaina left the council of the Kirin Tor in protest as they welcomed the Horde into their ranks despite their open ‘betrayal’ at the Battle of Broken Shore.
The Warbringers cinematic shows us a Jaina transformed: disillusioned with peace, repentant for her past, and resolved to head into war. In it, she visits the graves of the soldiers fallen at Theramore, and with a silver pendant of Kul Tiras she pays a ferryman to lead her to the place where her father’s ship sank. The spirits of sailors follow them as they sail through the mists, until Jaina arrives at the place where her father died.
The video is beautifully illustrated, and scored with the haunting Kul Tiran song ‘Daughter of the Sea’ as sung by Jaina (Laura Bailey). The song tells of Jaina’s father, Dealin Proudmoore, Grand Admiral of Kul Tiras, and how he sailed to Theramore after the Third War to save his daughter from the Horde. But instead of finding her prisoner there, he found Jaina making peace. In his rage he demanded that she stand down, and when Jaina refused Dealin attacked the Horde whom, in his eyes, could never be trusted. Dealin was killed, and Jaina was named a betrayer in the land of Kul Tiras. The nation broke away from the Alliance, and her mother, Katherine Proudmoore, took over as Grand Admiral. In her last words to her father Jaina asked him why he didn’t listen. In the cinematic, she stands over his grave and tells her father: “I’m listening now”.
With that, Jaina raises a ghostly ship from the depths of the ocean, the same ship she sails to the Battle of Lordaeron and uses to obliterate the Forsaken forces. After Sylvanas destroys Undercity, Jaina’s resolve is clear. She tells Anduin that she will seek the aid of the Kul Tirans, and reunite their kingdom as part of the Alliance, and we see the start of this quest in the comic ‘Reunion’. Though the people of Kul Tiras have not forgotten her betrayal, Jaina is facing the ghosts of her past, and now seeks to reunite her home, and lead them in the fight against the Horde.
Sylvanas Windrunner is the leader of the Forsaken, and the Warchief of the Horde. She was raised alongside her sisters, Vereesa and Alleria, and led the blood elves into battle against the Burning Legion as a Ranger-General of Silvermoon. During the Third War, Sylvanas was killed by Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, who raised her as a monstrous banshee fuelled by anger and hatred.
Sylvanas fought for the Scourge as the Lich King’s puppet, but he could not hold her forever. Eventually, Sylvanas broke free, and possessing her own corpse she led an uprising. Her people called themselves the Forsaken, and banded together with the Horde to hunt down the Scourge. As their Banshee Queen, Sylvanas made her seat in the Ruins of Lordaeron, today know as Undercity, and vowed revenge for her tortured people.
Today, the Lich King lies dead in the frozen wastes, and Sylvanas seeks a new future for her race. With Sargeras defeated, Sylvanas now turns her attention towards her final enemy: the Alliance, who would see her people wiped from the face of Azeroth.
The Warbringers cinematic shows us Sylvanas at the Burning of Teldrassil, and how in her rage she has come to resemble the Lich King himself, but Blizzard have also released a comic: ‘Three Sisters’, which delves a little deeper into Sylvanas’ vulnerabilities. In the comic she meets with her sisters, Vereesa and Alleria, at their childhood home of Windrunner Spire, and the three discuss how each have changed.
Vereesa betrayed Sylvanas when last they met. After the sorrow of losing her husband, Rhonin, at the Battle of Theramore, Vereesa plotted to poison Garrosh Hellscream for the pain he had caused her. Sylvanas was eager to reunite with her sister, and offered to allow Vereesa to co-rule over the Forsaken, though secretly she plotted to kill her and see her rule as a deathless banshee, rather than let a living creature lead the Forsaken. But Vereesa’s will failed, she told Anduin of the poison, and fled the camp, leaving only a letter to Sylvanas to explain what she had done.
Alleria, meanwhile, has finally returned after years of being trapped on Argus, released after the events of Legion. She was lost on an expedition through the Dark Portal during the second war, and became trapped on Draenor alongside the Alliance hero Turalyon. Yet while Turalyon became a vessel of the Light, Alleria became a host to the Void: a power known only by the Old Gods and ancient shadows. She now leads the void elves in the name of Alliance, and used her shadow magic to fight Sylvanas at the Battle for Lordaeron.
The ‘Three Sisters’ comic shows us that Sylvanas is not so far lost that she would kill her own sisters, though she comes close. In it, each of the sisters still wears their gemstone pendants: an emerald for Alleria, a ruby for Vereesa, and a sapphire for Sylvanas, three pieces that once made up a single necklace, given to Alleria by her parents. Vereesa apologizes to Sylvanas for abandoning her in the plot to poison Garrosh Hellscream. To the sisters, Sylvanas seems not to respond, but in the final scene, we see Sylvanas leave, followed by her dark rangers. Sylvanas planned to ambush her sisters, but Vereesa’s words seem to change her mind.
Sylvanas has destroyed the ancient home of the Kal’dorei, and will stop at nothing to secure her peoples’ future, but there are people yet on Azeroth who hold sway with her, or whom at least can give her pause before she desecrates her past. Sylvanas has always been ruthless, cold, and calculating, but now her methods go too far even for the Horde. It will not be long now, perhaps, before the Forsaken must choose a new leader, and change their way of ‘life’ forever.
Last, but not least, is one of Azeroth’s most ancient enemies. Queen Azhara was a Highborne elf, born with golden eyes and unrivaled beauty. In her younger years, she ruled over Azshara, the city named in her glory, and wielded the great Scepter of Tides, Sharas’dal. She was one of the world’s most formidable magic users, but vain and self-obsessed.
Her power attracted the attention of Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion, and she told him of her wish to cleanse the world of lesser races. He promised her great power if she opened a rift to his world, and thus began the first invasion of the Burning Legion, which became known as the War of the Ancients.
However this battle did not go to plan, Malfurion Stormrage shattered Azshara’s portal between Azeroth and Argus, and the Well of Eternity itself exploded in the Sundering that followed. Betrayed by Sargeras, and swept up in a great wave that would destroy all of Azshara, the Queen used her magic to protect herself and her Highborne followers, as she watched the city sink into the sea. We once thought that it was Azshara’s power alone that turned her people into Naga, but the Warbringers cinematic revealed something else: the influence of an Old God.
As Azshara sinks beneath the waves, the Old God N’zoth appears before her: a Cthulhu-esque monster who ruled in the Black Empire during the very first days of Azeroth’s history. He says he will save her life if she will serve him, but Azshara is no slave. On the brink of death, she commands the Old God to raise her as a Queen, or to let her die there and then – and N’zoth, though enraged, complies.
Since that day Azshara has ruled as Queen of the Naga, rebuilding an empire beneath the waves and plotting Azeroth’s destruction. In Battle for Azeroth, Azshara’s influence is ever-growing in the kingdom of Kul Tiras, and along with Zul of the Zandalari she plots to release the Old Gods upon the world once more.