Sylvanas’s reign as Warchief would be a short but brutal one.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner’s path was one of mistrust, blood, and death. She may have become a phoenix, but the ashes she rose from were the icy remnants of the Lich King’s legacy. Azeroth saw the Banshee Queen as an extravagant extension of her former master, believing that one day she would wreak havoc on the world as he did before her. In many ways, they were right. Her reign as Warchief was one of the most significant examples of her far-reaching devastation.
A Good War
Warchief Windrunner approached Varok Saurfang asking him what it would take to assault Stormwind. Saurfang responded angrily, listing the myriad of reasons such a thing would be impossible. Sylvanas then inquired if the same could be said for Orgrimmar. The old orc realized that it could not.
Sylvanas told Saurfang that the history between the Alliance and Horde was too bloody for them to know peace. She believed the Horde was more vulnerable if they did not initiate aggression. With the discovery of Azerite, Sylvanas thought the balance of power would tip in their favor. If Saurfang headed the first strike, she believed the Horde would claim a decisive victory over the Alliance.
Saurfang still believed striking Stormwind would be a fool’s errand, but Sylvanas had a counter-proposal: Stormwind did not have to be their first target. The Burning Legion’s defeat cost the Horde and Alliance dearly in terms of their navies, leaving the most significant Alliance presence in Kalimdor -Teldrassil- vulnerable. Sylvanas proposed conquering the Great Tree to either force the Alliance to recapture it or attack the Horde’s Eastern Kingdom settlements to divide the Alliance across political and racial lines. Either outcome would split the Alliance’s forces. The Warchief also aimed to kill Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage, for his death would shatter the night elves’ spirit and -hopefully- end their resistance against the Horde and its mission.
A Cunning Deception
Sylvanas and Saurfang devised an intricate deception that led the Alliance to believe Saurfang wanted war and that he was moving to obtain the Azerite pouring from the sword wound in Silithus. King Anduin responded as Sylvanas expected, ordering the night elves to send ships to Tanaris. Tyrande Whisperwind also went to Stormwind to aid in planning the war effort. As a result, only a small number of night elves remained under the command of Malfurion Stormrage in Teldrassil, Darkshore, and Ashenvale.
With the Alliance actively responding to the Horde’s deception, Sylvanas and Saurfang moved to make their first strike. The banshee queen’s ultimate goal was Malfurion Stormrage, for she felt his death would shatter the spirit of the Kaldorei. Her efforts drove the night elves into the northern reaches of Darkshore until Malfurion erected a wisp wall that incinerated anyone that approached it.
Sylvanas’s frustration flared as another issue arose: the Alliance fleet sent to Tanaris had returned. The Horde sought refuge as their Warchief mapped out another course of action. Sylvanas decided to split her forces into groups. Saurfang and Nathanos went to distract the wisps to the north, Morka Bruggu went after the night elven fleet, and Sylvanas stayed to battle Malfurion. When the elves came face to face, Malfurion promised Sylvanas that there would be no forgiveness for this. Sylvanas, unbothered, told the archdruid she knew.
A Dishonorable Blow
The Warchief had Malfurion outnumbered, but Malfurion had Sylvanas’s guards outmatched. The archdruid made quick work of the group until he and Sylvanas were alone beneath the trees of Darkshore. The elves dueled viciously, years of resentment making its way to the surface with each blow, but something cut the battle short before either could rightfully win.
Saurfang interrupted, dishonorably hurling his ax into Malfurion’s back while Sylvanas held the druid’s attention. Though the orc regretted his actions, Sylvanas commended his stealthy attack. “Finish it and be done with him,” she declared, for ending the great legacy of Malfurion Stormrage would be Saurfang’s reward.
With Malfurion out of the way, Sylvanas headed to the World Tree for the next phase of her plan. Saurfang arrived upon Teldrassil’s shores shortly after, but not with the report Sylvanas expected. Rather than ending Malfurion once and for all, Saurfang had remained kneeling where Sylvanas left him while Tyrande rescued her husband. The Warchief was angry enough to kill Saurfang but refrained, for she had to think of another plan now that Malfurion was out of reach. Sylvanas realized the archdruid’s survival would fuel hope among the Alliance, and the opposing faction would rise to ruin her true objectives.
Seething, Sylvanas ordered Nathanos and Saurfang to prepare to invade Teldrassil. Delaryn Summermoon, a gravely wounded Sentinel leader, called out to the Warchief that only innocents remained in the tree. She said it was not war Sylvanas waged but hatred.
“Windrunner, you were a defender of your people,” Delaryn rasped. “Do you not remember?”
Sylvanas flashed back to her initial demise at the hands of Arthas Menethil. The banshee queen told Delaryn that she remembered a fool. Just as Sylvanas failed to save Quel’thalas, Delaryn had failed to save Teldrassil. However, she bid the dying night elf not to grieve, for Delaryn would join her loved ones soon.
Delaryn said she did grieve, but for the undead Warchief and her war on life. Sylvanas could kill Delaryn’s people, but she could not -would not- kill hope.
“Can’t I?” Sylvanas challenged as she turned Delaryn’s eyes towards Teldrassil. In Delaryn’s final moments, she witnessed one of the most heinous decisions Sylvanas would ever make: the Warchief ordered Nathanos to burn the World Tree. The ashes of Teldrassil served as a substitute for the devastation Malfurion’s death would have brought.
After the Battle for Darkshore, Nathanos successfully raised Delaryn and Sira Moonwarden into undeath. However, his success was minimal, for Tyrande managed to kill one of the last four Val’kyr with the ability to resurrect Sylvanas. Only three remained to bring the banshee queen back should she fall in battle again.
Experience The War of the Thorns from the Horde’s perspective in Robert Brooks’s A Good War by following the link provided: https://worldofwarcraft.com/en-us/story/short-story/a-good-war
Experience The War of the Thorns from the Alliance’s perspective in Christie Golden’s Elegy by following the link provided: https://worldofwarcraft.com/en-us/story/short-story/elegy
“Ours is a cycle of hatred -alliances forged and broken. We have paid the price for sharing this world, and we have forgotten what makes us strong.”
–Sylvanas Windrunner during the Battle for Lordaeron
The day the Alliance besieged Lordaeron was also devastating, albeit on a much smaller scale. When the young King Anduin Wrynn destroyed Sylvanas’s azerite war machine, the Warchief drenched the battlefield in blight. Those that fell to the plague were raised into undeath as skeletons that would serve to push the Alliance’s forces back.
Sylvanas was nearly successful in doing so until Jaina Proudmoore arrived, clearing the battlefield of blight and destroying the wall that barred Anduin and his troops from entering Lordaeron. The Horde was being driven further and further into the ruined city.
Left to Die
As they retreated, Saurfang confronted Sylvanas and declared that her motives could result only in dishonorable tragedy. Despite the growing misfortune of their circumstances, the banshee queen was nonchalant with her response. Honor, she told the High Overlord, was nothing to a corpse. Saurfang was permitted to do as he pleased and die his warrior’s death so Sylvanas could raise him. Then perhaps he would serve her properly.
As Baine Bloodhoof and Nathanos Blightcaller followed Sylvanas into the throne room of Lordaeron, Baine expressed his aggravation that the Warchief had chosen to abandon Saurfang on the battlefield. The tauren chieftain received a choice: he could follow Saurfang into death or see to those still living. She handed her bow to Nathanos, urging him to do what must be done, and then dismissed the pair so she could wait for Anduin alone.
Ruins of Lordaeron
The young king did not keep Sylvanas waiting for long. Anduin made his way into the throne room with Genn Greymane, Jaina Proudmoore, and Sylvanas’s older sister Alleria Windrunner on his heels. He declared the battle over and accused the Warchief of leading the Horde into a place without honor.
Hoping for peace still, Anduin offered Sylvanas the choice to die or surrender. The dark lady rose from her throne with confidence, silence heavy around them as she crossed the space between the faction’s leaders. She told Anduin that he had won nothing and then departed with a dizzying scream. Blight exploded from multiple places in the throne room while she landed on an airship with the Horde’s racial leaders on board.
Nathanos, waiting patiently for his lady, handed Sylvanas her bow once she landed. Though the Alliance’s leaders managed to escape, Lordaeron was drenched in blight and ruined -just as Gilneas was years before. Sylvanas smirked as the sight faded away.
Friends and Benefits
The next step in the Warchief’s plans was to free Princess Talanji of Zandalar from the Stormwind stockades. In exchange for help with problems Zandalar faced, Talanji agreed to send the Golden Fleet to aid the Horde in the battle against the Alliance. The Horde eventually set up a base in Zandalar so that they could move forward with their campaign while also assisting Talanji with the difficulties in her homelands.
Moves in the Shadows
Sylvanas began to play a tactical game, carefully analyzing her movements before committing to them. She sent the Honorbound, a small Horde delegation that managed to infiltrate Kul Tiras, to retrieve the body of Derek Proudmoore for future use. The fallen Proudmoore was resurrected after the Siege of Zuldazar, during which King Rastakhan of Zandalar died, to serve as a weapon against Katherine and Jaina Proudmoore.
Sylvanas stood witness to Talanji’s coronation following the death of King Rastakhan, where the new queen pledged to stand as an equal ally alongside the Horde.
Word reached the Warchief that High Overlord Saurfang, who the Alliance took prisoner during the Battle for Lordaeron, managed to escape the Stormwind stockades. Sylvanas ordered Dark Ranger Lyana and a Horde champion to track the orc down and report his whereabouts to her.
Upon Saurfang’s discovery, Lyana and the adventurer went their separate ways. Lyana went to divulge her findings with the Warchief while Zekhan, a troll shaman, approached the champion and urged them to help Saurfang rather than hand him over to the banshee queen.
Horde players came to a crossroads at this point in the expansion. Those that chose to aid Saurfang learned that Sylvanas ordered the High Overlord’s assassination. The player and Zekhan met up with Saurfang and killed Lyana and the other assassins in the dark ranger’s party.
Afterward, the trio devised a plan to keep the champion in Sylvanas’s favor. Saurfang struck the champion in the face to further the ruse of a lost battle, and then Zekhan and his Horde companion returned to Orgrimmar. There, the player told Sylvanas that Saurfang ambushed them and escaped alive. While annoyed to hear about Saurfang’s survival, Sylvanas was undeterred: the orc would eventually be brought to her one way or another.
Players denying Zekhan’s request reported Sylvanas of the shaman’s plans. The dark lady promised to arrange something special for the troll when the time came.
Solace in Family
Saurfang’s death was not the only plan of Sylvanas’s to be foiled -and by her own faction, no less. Baine Bloodhoof, with the help of Thomas Zelling, snatched Derek Proudmoore from the Warchief’s clutches and returned him to Jaina Proudmoore.
Shortly afterward, Sylvanas summoned the Horde leaders to Warfang Hold in Stormsong Valley to tell them she knew Derek Proudmoore did not escape on his own. Nathanos held Zelling at bow point before the leaders, questioning the Forsaken about his fellow undead Kul Tiran. Baine stepped forward, hoping to spare Zelling by confessing his role in Derek’s return to the Alliance.
The Banshee Queen told the tauren chieftain she appreciated his honesty, and then Nathanos killed Zelling. Furious, Bane wondered aloud if Sylvanas saw any of them as something more than game pieces. He openly declared his belief that Sylvanas was a betrayer, guiding the Horde down a path to ruin from which there would be no return.
Sylvanas found the tauren’s notion charming but ironic in light of his recent actions. Because of his role in Derek’s escape, Baine was publicly declared a traitor to the Horde and arrested. The Warchief then turned her attention to the Horde’s other racial leaders and stated there was no room for weakness or disloyalty among their faction’s ranks. While none of them spoke out during the meeting, many of the racial leaders expressed their reservations to a Horde champion that had attended the gathering after its conclusion.
A Dark Omen
Following Baine’s imprisonment, a group of Horde adventurers presented Sylvanas with Xal’atath, Blade of the Black Empire. Though the blade was empty now, Sylvanas could still feel remnants of power; she believed the weapon would be crucial to their eventual victory.
The Banshee Queen chose to gift her personal champion, Nathanos, the blade. The dark ranger used it to guide his Horde party and the Alliance ships pursuing them toward the underwater stronghold of Nazjatar. Within this city, both factions faced off against Queen Azshara’s naga.
Stay of Execution
While the Horde pursued its objectives in Nazjatar, Alliance spies discovered that Sylvanas planned to have Baine publicly executed for treason. In response, King Anduin commanded Jaina and the spymaster, Mathias Shaw, to rescue the tauren. Lor’themar Theron, Regent Lord of Silvermoon, also asked that Thrall and Saurfang liberate Baine.
The rescue parties converged and agreed to work together for Baine’s sake. Unfortunately, Sylvanas anticipated this, and Magister Halthorel -a blood elf with a grudge against Jaina for the purging of Dalaran- managed to intercept the group before they reached their objective.
Halthorel empowered Baine’s chains to torture the tauren while he faced off with the tauren’s would-be rescuers. The battle ended with Halthorel summoning an ice block to preserve his life while Jaina teleported herself and her companions to Thunder Bluff.
Sylvanas put Orgrimmar on lockdown after Baine was set free. Only Overlord Geya’rah of the Mag’har orcs and Jastor Gallywix of the goblins stood beside the Warchief. The other racial leaders of the Horde joined Saurfang and his rebels.
Tensions came to a head on the hard, cracked ground of Durotar just outside Ogrimmar’s gates. Unwilling to see more Horde blood spilled, Saurfang challenged Sylvanas to a Mak’gora. Orcs and ogres used the Mak’gora, or duel of honor, to determine leadership. Saurfang’s challenge was public, a statement for all to witness.
The Warchief questioned why the Overlord’s challenge was worth accepting. Saurfang answered, “You want to make me suffer.”
And so Sylvanas wordlessly agreed to face her former ally in one-on-one combat. She turned from the orc and beckoned for her weapons.
Warchief No More
The battle favored Sylvanas initially, and she mocked Saurfang as her blows brought him to his knees. “The High Overlord falls,” she said. Then, leaning closer, she hissed into the orc’s ear, “I trusted you, and so did they,” she referenced his rebels, standing side-by-side with the Alliance army. “Death comes, old soldier, and all their hope dies with you.”
Credits: Blizzardwatch.com, Wowhead.com, Gnomecore.com
“You cannot kill hope.” Saurfang recovered, finding the strength not only to stand once more but strike back at the Dark Lady. He mocked her as she had mocked him, saying, “You tried at Teldrassil. You failed. Hope remains. You set us to kill each other at Lordaeron. You failed. Here we stand. You just keep failing.” A physical blow accompanied each verbal one, infuriating Sylvanas further and further as the battle progressed. “The Horde will endure.” He shouted at the undead elf, “The Horde is strong!”
Saurfang’s last powerful blow cut Sylvanas across one of her eyes. Having had enough, Sylvanas declared, “The Horde is nothing!” A quiet followed her words, the weight of her statement setting heavy on the shoulders of those in attendance. “You are all nothing!”
The banshee killed Saurfang with a blast of dark magic. He struck the ground with a thud that left the entirety of the audience shaken. Sylvanas fled the battlefield in the aftermath of her victory, leaving King Anduin, Thrall, and their forces to mourn the fallen High Overlord.
The Horde champions that chose loyalty to Sylvanas earlier in the expansion found her at Windrunner Spire, deep in conversation with Nathanos. She revealed that Saurfang’s sacrifice ended the war, and nothing more. Each soul that fell in battle was fed to the darkness of the Maw, an endless realm of torment for irredeemable souls in the Shadowlands afterlife.
Sylvanas also detailed her dealings with Queen Azshara and explained how both the naga queen and her master would ultimately serve death as well. The Banshee Queen went into hiding afterward with Lor’themar’s Farstriders and the agents of SI:7 in pursuit.
Shattering the Prison
When Sylvanas revealed herself again, she was in Icecrown Citadel. The Banshee Queen came to face off against the Lich King, Bolvar Fordragon. Despite Bolvar’s best efforts, Sylvanas soundly defeated him and removed the Helm of Domination from his head. Bolvar declared that the helm would be her prison, but Sylvanas responded by saying that the world itself was a prison and that she would set them all free. She then split the helm, effectively shattering the veil between Azeroth and the realm of death, the Shadowlands.
After escaping Icecrown, Sylvanas met up with Nathanos, who reported that he failed to kill Bwonsamdi. Though she was frustrated by his failure, Sylvanas decided that they could overcome the potential obstacle with a different plan. Nathanos declared his intention to return to the Marris Stead where he would reroute their course of action. His Banshee Queen warned him not to remain idle for long.
Sylvanas’s next destination was the Maw, where she planned to meet with her master, the Jailer. At his behest, she sent Mawsworn Kyrian to kidnap Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall, Baine Bloodhoof, Anduin Wrynn, and Tyrande Whisperwind. Tyrande was the only one who managed to neutralize her attackers. The others were captured, and taken into the heart of the Maw.
Experience how Sylvanas Windrunner’s association with the Jailer began in Dave Kosak’s Sylvanas Windrunner: Edge of Night by following the link provided: https://worldofwarcraft.com/en-us/story/short-story/leader-story/sylvanas-windrunner
In hate, there is passion. Sylvanas Windrunner, Warchief of the Horde, led, fought, and killed with passion heavy in her still heart. Though the Lich King was a villain unlike any other in Azeroth’s history, the Banshee Queen came to echo her former master through her hate for him. As Arthas did before her, Sylvanas waged war on life itself. This time, however, it would take the heroes of Azeroth into the realms of death itself.
To find out more about the fate of Sylvanas Windrunner, please follow the links provided to read part two, or to continue to part four.
Next: Part IV coming soon.
Author’s Note: Sylvanas by Christie Golden
Due to personal circumstances, I have yet to read Christie Golden’s Sylvanas. Therefore, any changes, clarifications, or alterations mentioned in the book will not (yet) be featured in my article. Please enjoy nonetheless. This novel can be purchased at your nearest bookstore or through various sites online.
I’m a Wonder Woman fanatic, married to my Superman, with a mild addiction to tea and World of Warcraft. One day I hope to write a book that history recognizes as a classic; it will most likely involve dragons.