The next chapter of the World of Warcraft story is setting both ‘factions’, Horde and Alliance, to the task of invading Orgrimmar and slaying our own homegrown big bad, Garrosh.
We knew Garrosh from his days as an emo punk in Outlands, where we had to jolly him out of his funk and convince him that his dear old dad Grommash “Grom” Hellscream wasn’t really such a bad guy, for an orc that willingly drank the blood of a demon to gain the power to crush his foes, and inspired others to do the same.
Hold that thought.
Since those humble beginnings, we have seen Garrosh become the fiery hothead, rising as a trusted if impulsive hero in Northrend. One jarring note to his heroism, though, was the way he put his personal pride before duty to his people. When the threat of the Old Gods rose in Ulduar, it was Garrosh that refused to work together with any Alliance that held Varian Wrynn. All that lived might have been at risk of death and destruction, but Garrosh would not waver. He would rather die than join forces with Varian and the Alliance. Yes, even in the face of an Old God rising in Ulduar.
From this history, Garrosh has now risen as a fascist tyrant, expelling the ‘lesser’ races from his Horde.
It is his people that Garrosh sees as the only true Horde. The orcs are to be the masters, and all others are tools to serve his purpose, only to be cast aside once broken or useless to his needs.
To further his goal, he has even gone so far as to use the remains of an Old God to empower the orcs of the Horde.
Where his father drunk the blood of the demon Mannoroth to gain power for himself and his people, the son takes in the power of the Old Gods themselves.
When we were teaching Garrosh of the heroic history of his father, which was the lesson he learned?
Did he focus on what Thrall felt the heart of the story was, the redemption and freedom Grommash bought his people at the cost of his death, slaying Mannoroth?
Or did he instead focus on the goal of his father, the empowering of the Horde through supernatural means, and decide that the real problem was Grom chose the wrong source to gain his power from?
I know that there are ambivalent feelings concerning the story. First, once again we the players are not the core of the story driving it forward. We’re the bit players brought in to act for the protagonists. Also, the Alliance is not taking much of an active role in the story, we are merely helping out our new friends, the Trolls.
They’re not heavy, they be our bruddas.
It seems pretty reasonable to me. As horribly jarring as the bloodthirsty, impatient portrayal of Tyrande was in “A Little Patience”, the scenario went to great lengths to show Varian as a war leader who had finally learned to make a cold, clear assessment of what is best for his people, and act accordingly, putting personal feelings aside.
For the King we are introduced to in that scenario, and for the King who feels his incredible sorrow and rage at what happens to his son with the Divine Bell but manages to control his feelings, it makes sense.
For the Alliance, the smart thing is to seek allies, allow the Trolls and other cast-aside enemy races of the Horde to bear the brunt of the war, and be prepared to take advantage of how things play out, one way or another, without overcommitting his own people.
Will we see Varian the statesman emerge, ready to join with the Trolls and Tauren in the aftermath, help them rebuild? Extend the hand of friendship, help ease their pain?
Or will Varian take advantage of their moment of greatest weakness?
It doesn’t matter. This isn’t a story to highlight the personalities of the Alliance, we’ll see that when it’s all said and done in Orgrimmar.
This is all about the fracture within the Horde leadership, and what is driving it is the insecurity of the orcs within the Horde itself, es evidenced by the most insecure orc leader of them all, Garrosh.
When we the players stepped foot in Azeroth, the Horde were the underdogs, scratching out an existence and bound to each other for survival against the threat of the mighty Alliance who lay just over the horizon, ready to fall upon them in vast fleets and crush the life from their families, their children.
Each of the races of the Horde, individually, had to choose to hang together or surely they would fall apart.
The persecuted and the mongrels, yes. The unwanted, or the feared. But these underdogs weren’t laying down waiting for master to come and kick them. They were junkyard dogs ready to tear the throat out of anyone that came uninvited to their patch of dirt.
At the heart of this Horde, this band of misfits, were the orcs, a people who had been subjugated by the Burning Legion, uprooted from their homeland and dumped in a new world to slaughter and burn, and when the Burning Legion failed, were scattered and lost in Azeroth.
The remains of the fallen orcs were lost, on another world, without hope for the future, no chance to return home or ever know what became of families or kin. Existing without purpose or design, under the iron heel of the Alliance boot.
And then Thrall came, Thrall who had been a slave in the truest sense, treated not as an equal but as a dog that could be taught to do tricks and take scraps from the hand of the master.
Thrall proved that no man was his master, and his passion revived the orcs. He brought them hope, took them to a land they could try to make their own, with nothing but the strength in their backs and hope.
Hope that in this strange, alien world they could make a life for their families on their own terms, and be slaves to nobody and nothing ever again.
Not the Burning Legion, not the Alliance. Live free or die.
Look at where things have gone since that beginning.
Thrall took the Horde from being the underdogs, and made them a true equal with the Alliance. Equal enough to force a peace. One or the other faction may at times have held the upper hand in Alterac Valley, but in the end a balance was maintained.
Then Deathwing shattered the world, and Thrall left.
Thrall was a statesman. Passionate, full of grief and rage and loss, he still placed himself and his life in the service of the Horde as a collection of families, as a whole people, and directed his efforts towards safeguarding the future of these his adopted peoples and trying to accomodate all of their varied goals and needs.
When the world was threatened with destruction, Thrall left to do what he could, for if the world was destroyed so too would be the Horde. And sure, the Alliance too, so I guess he was saving them as well. But whatever, it’s not like he could only save the bits that he liked.
But what he did when he left was choose to place a fiery, passionate warrior in the position of Warchief of the Horde. He had others he trusted he could have chosen, but he chose a brother orc, one that was proven to be a hothead with a hatred for the Alliance who could inspire, and gave him an advisor with a cooler head to restrain his wilder impulses.
He chose someone that would never be satisfied with passive acceptance. He chose someone that would never sit idle under the watchful eye of the Alliance.
He chose someone that would push the Alliance, work to build stronger safeguards for the Horde, expand territory, protect borders, and lead with passion.
He chose someone to lead the Horde that was the exact opposite of what the orcs had been when interned in their concentration camps. Someone that would never, ever revert to that state once Thrall was gone.
Did Thrall choose Garrosh not because he trusted Garrosh more than the other leaders, but because he feared the effect passive leadership might have on his people? Does Thrall fear a return to the days of hopelessness and apathy?
Does Thrall, in his heart, think the orcs of Azeroth lack spirit and passion? Does he place greater faith in the passion and heart of the orcs who remained behind on Draenor?
Is that partly why he placed Garrosh in power as Warchief of the Horde, and found true love in an orc from Draenor who had never lived a life beyond the Dark Portal, lost and spiritless?
Thrall led the orcs of Azeroth, but did he fail, in his heart, to place his faith in them?
Now, the Horde have come full circle.
The Horde were founded by a band of refugees who formed alliances with a scattering of strong races, each outside of the human “Alliance”.
That has all changed. The orcs stand strong, proclaiming themselves as the only true Horde, full of pride and rage, determined to stand supreme, and their former allies are cast out and abused, treated as tools, nothing more.
Whatever else you may say about Garrosh, he has strengthed, inspired and expanded the orc empire in Kalimdor.
He has sought with an ever-growing frenzy to find some source of power to ensure the survival of the orcs and the Horde, a survival against a threat only Garrosh seems to see.
Has Garrosh done all this because he is still working from what he learned about the fate of his father?
Is the reason that Garrosh wants all of this power under his control, that he fears the one thing strong enough to kill his father, the return of the Burning Legion?
I wonder about why Garrosh is counting on all the armies of Azeroth coming to him, to kill him in Orgrimmar. Is he hoping to use the power of the Old Gods and his new allies to corrupt all the finest warriors of the world, place them under his command as the one who controls the Heart, and thereby prepare the planet for the arrival of the Burning Legion?
Or, maybe he’s just a crazy mo-fo, standing on top of the tallest hill in the junkyard, screaming at the world, “Come at me, bro!”