A Soul in Twain
When glass shatters, the edges left are always jagged and threatening. Although one can see the pieces glued back together, they’ll never fit as they once did. There will always be a line marring the surface, a scar that tells the world it was once broken. What does that mean for a shattered soul, then; or, more accurately, what does that mean for Sylvanas Windrunner?
A Dark Bargain
Sylvanas Windrunner: Edge of Night by Dave Kosak told hidden pieces of the fallen Warchief’s past, including how her relationship with a feared deity known as Zovaal the Jailer began. Zovaal ruled over a hellish realm known as the Maw, and he had a plan for which the Banshee Queen was imperative.
The short story also revealed that Sylvanas chose to incite the Fourth War to send an influx of souls to the Maw and strengthen both her and the Jailer.
Her growing strength was not the only benefit Sylvanas received from her pact with Zovaal. The Jailer also gave the Dark Lady control over his Mawsworn forces, which she used to abduct Baine Bloodhoof, Thrall, Jaina Proudmoore, and King Anduin Wrynn. The Mawsworn also attempted to take Tyrande Whisperwind but were defeated in battle.
Experience secrets from the fallen Ranger-General’s past 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
For the Good of All
Though each of the prisoners had the potential to serve the Jailer’s plans, Anduin proved to be the most worthy. However, the young king made it clear he had no intention of cooperating with Sylvanas. After Maw Walkers rescued his allies, Anduin demanded Sylvanas stop the games she was playing and tell him the truth about her intentions.
The Banshee Queen complied, revealing that she and the Jailer planned to use Anduin as a weapon to shatter and rebuild the unjust cycle of life and death. Anduin found the plan futile, for such a thing would never take away anyone’s suffering, but Sylvanas dismissed his observations. She believed he lacked vision and the ability to understand such a great concept.
Anduin found Sylvanas’s supposed quest for justice curious considering what havoc she had wreaked in the realm of the living, but Sylvanas dismissed this notion as well. She claimed every action she had taken was for the greater good of them all, even if others were too small-minded to appreciate the purpose of her journey.
No Matter the Cost
Through Sylvanas, the Jailer offered Anduin a choice: join their cause willingly or be forced into servitude. The irony of Sylvanas’s promise to grant all beings free will even as she threatened to take Anduin’s from him was not lost on the young king, but the Dark Lady claimed this was a necessary means to obtaining her goal.
Sometime later, Sire Denathrius of Revendreth (another accomplice of the Jailer’s) was captured. Sylvanas wondered how they would free the Eternal One from their enemies; the Jailer, however, felt the Venthyr’s former leader had served his purpose, so there was no reason to rescue him. Instead, Zovaal wanted to press forward with the next phase of his plan -a plan for which Anduin was essential. Though Sylvanas felt Anduin was not ready, Zovaal insisted that they had come too far for the Banshee Queen to falter.
No Choice at All
When Sylvanas approached Anduin this time, she did so with a mournblade in her grasp. She told him this would be his last chance to join them freely, for the Jailer’s patience had run out. Anduin asked why, if they were going to force him nonetheless, Sylvanas had bothered to offer him a choice.
“It’s the choice you never had,” he realized. Anduin deduced that in spite of all the Banshee Queen had done, the Ranger-General was not yet dead in the vessel of Sylvanas Windrunner. He believed she had pressed for him to give up hope so that she could do so as well.
“Enough!” Sylvanas shouted as she raised the tip of the mournblade to point it at the center of Anduin’s breastplate. “You’re only making this harder on yourself.”
Anduin believed he was making the circumstances harder not on himself but Sylvanas. The choice was not, had never been, his: it was hers.
A Darkness in the Forest
After Sylvanas decided to dominate Anduin, subjecting him to the Jailer’s bidding, Zovaal sent the tainted king to attack Kyrestia the Firstborn of Bastion, and obtain her sigil -the first of the five he required for his plans.
The following covenant to be attacked was the night fae of Ardenweald. The Winter Queen could not abandon the Heart of the Forest, so her subjects volunteered to confuse their enemies. Tensions came to a head when the other covenants, headed by the Wild Hunt, met Sylvanas and her Mawsworn in battle beneath the forests of Ardenweald.
The first wave fell to Sylvanas’s banshee form, which she used to cut through the Maw Walkers and their allies. Hoping to force the queen to reveal herself, Sylvanas commanded her soldiers to steal wildseeds from the groves of Ardenweald. She threatened to destroy the seeds and the souls within, but this plan fell through when the Maw Walkers and the covenants managed to save the seeds before harm could befall them.
Heads Will Roll
The Dark Lady’s next course of action was to summon reinforcements from the Maw and a massive charred behemoth. Unfortunately for her, this plan was also foiled by Tyrande Whisperwind. The priestess cut through the behemoth easily, fueled by the wrath and power of the Night Warrior.
Such a confrontation between Sylvanas and Tyrande had been building for quite some time, and their clash was vicious. As much power as Sylvanas had through the Jailer, Tyrande’s anguish over losing Teldrassil and the kaldorei citizens within the World Tree -coupled with Elune’s wrath- gave the priestess the initial upper hand.
Tyrande vowed to Sylvanas that she would claim the banshee’s head just as she had claimed her champion’s. This comment struck Sylvanas, for she was unaware that Nathanos had been killed amid her absence.
While the she-elves battled, the Wild Hunt drew back into the Heart of the Forest to fend off converging Mawsworn. The shifting battlefield distracted Tyrande just long enough for Sylvanas to attempt an escape in banshee form. In response, the priestess called forth Elune’s power so that she could leap into the air after her fleeing opponent. They collided midair, and their momentum sent them both crashing into the grove.
Tyrande believed the moment she had been waiting for was finally upon her. She curled her fingers around Sylvanas’s neck, prepared to snap it and claim vengeance for Teldrassil and the kaldorei. However, it was at that moment the goddess’s power began to fade.
Smug at the sight of Elune’s fading power and Tyrande’s devastation, the Banshee Queen left her enemy with the exact words she left the Horde with: “Nothing lasts.”
Sylvanas escaped, and Anduin was able to break through the Wild Hunt’s forces and claim the Winter Queen’s sigil.
City on the Edge of Battle
After Zovaal and Sylvanas successfully obtained the covenants’ sigils, the Jailer set his sights on Oribos and the Arbiter for the final piece of his greater objective. The Maw Walkers realized the Jailer’s next step and chose to take the fight to him at his very seat of power, the Sanctum of Domination.
Because Zovaal’s base stood within the apex of the Maw’s most notorious prison -Torghast, Tower of the Damned- the Jailer had no shortage of defenses to use against the Maw Walkers. In addition to the mass of Mawsworn at the fallen Ranger-General’s command, her nine Val’kyr had also been reborn to serve the Jailer’s greater purpose.
Unfortunately, the Nine were steadily defeated until only Sylvanas herself remained to face their attackers. She never gained the upper hand against Bolvar Fordragon, Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall, and their Maw Walker allies. However, Sylvanas did manage to distract them thoroughly while Zovaal forced the boundaries of the Maw to expand until Oribos was within reach.
If I Only had a Heart
The Jailer never planned to free himself from the Maw, as he led the heroes to believe but to stretch the Maw’s perimeter until the Eternal City was within its borders. Once Oribos was part of his domain, the Jailer latched onto the city with his chains so that he could ascend to the Arbiter’s seat of power within the Crucible and tear the sigil from her chest.
Sylvanas watched as the Arbiter’s essence sailed into the hole at the center of Zovaal’s chest. A change rippled across the Jailer as the entirety of his power was restored. His tattered armor, hanging chains, and bare feet were no more. Now Zovaal stood with a complete set of imposing armor in place, letting all who stood witness know that his weakened state was a thing of the past.
While a portal opened behind the Jailer, he turned towards Bolvar, Jaina, Thrall, and the Maw Walkers.
A Reflection of Pain
“Kneel,” he commanded. Chains took shape around the heroes, pinning their arms to their sides as they were forced to their knees. They looked at him with blank expressions, eyes a cold, swirling blue.
“The way is open, Zovaal. We already have what we need!” Sylvanas shouted at her ally with a dawning realization, for the image in front of her was familiar. Even as the Jailer declared his true intentions, she understood that Zovaal had never intended to free the world from the cycle of life and death. Instead, he planned to forge a new reality where all would serve him.
Credits: PCGamer.com, YouTube.com
The Banshee Queen looked to the possessed vessel of Anduin Wrynn, a champion of peace, who stood with the same lack of expression as Bolvar, Jaina, and Thrall. Sylvanas knew then that all she had done and sacrificed had been for nothing. The creature she had worked alongside was no better than the Lich King she had despised for so long.
A Gift Never Asked For
Sylvanas drew an arrow from her quiver and fired, aiming for the Jailer’s turned face. He caught it, the shaft dissipating in his hand. The Dark Lady never imagined her arrow would hit its mark, but it sent a clear message to Zovaal that left no room for argument regarding its intention.
Moreso, the action surprised him. Or, at the very least, demanded his full attention.
“I will never serve,” the Banshee Queen told the Jailer.
“Pity,” Zovaal said. Anduin shifted, drawing his tainted sword so that the blade pressed against Sylvanas’s neck just beneath the curve of her chin. “You are still chained by mortality.”
A conjured portal appeared beside the Jailer. He reached into it and said, “You did help restore something stolen from me. Allow me to repay you in kind.” He pulled a blue crystal from its depths and crushed it in his palm before sending its essence straight into the heart of Sylvanas. Then, rather than kill her himself, the Jailer set Bolvar, Jaina, Thrall, and the Maw Walkers free. “I leave you to their mercy.”
Zovaal beckoned for Anduin to follow him through the original portal he summoned while Sylvanas stumbled to her knees. The crystal the Jailer threw at her was the fragment of her soul that Frostmourne had cut away so many years ago. Upon receiving it, Sylvanas’s red eyes turned the blue they had been in life. The Jailer disappeared, the portal closing in his wake, and Sylvanas collapsed unconscious.
After Sylvanas collapsed, she was taken into custody by the Knights of the Ebon Blade. Uther the Lightbringer, another significant victim of Arthas’s, chose to examine her fractured soul by placing his hand against the wound on her neck Anduin had inflicted.
Within Sylvanas, Uther found a vicious tug of war over the fallen queen’s psyche. Silvermoon’s once shining Ranger-General sobbed on her knees before the undead version of herself, and they shouted at each other while Teldrassil burned beyond them.
The Ranger-General did not, could not, believe that she and the Banshee Queen were one and the same. The Ranger-General thought that this murderer before her had merely stolen her face, for there was no way she would ever take the lives of so many innocents.
Thrall, Jaina Proudmoore, and even Baine Bloodhoof believed it best to let Sylvanas stay in her comatose state of torment. Bolvar Fordragon reminded his allies that Sylvanas alone knew how to save Anduin.
Credits: YouTube Account World of Warcraft, Screenshot by slore07
Ranger-General vs Banshee Queen
Ultimately, Uther pressed Sylvanas’s limp hand to the scar left by Frostmourne on his chest so that he could speak directly to the long-lost Ranger-General. Through their shared fate at the hands of Arthas, Sylvanas found a kindred soul in the memory of Uther’s former glory. He convinced her the monster with her face was, in fact, another version of herself.
Though the blood elf was sickened at the thought, Uther insisted that the banshee’s path began once she had fallen to the might of Arthas Menethil. To prove that she was not alone in her choices, the paladin split himself into what he once was and what he had become -a Forsworn Kyrian of Bastion. Uther claimed that he had also been a pawn in the Jailer’s games, and the realization had tortured him just as Sylvanas’s decisions beneath the Jailer’s tutelage were tormenting her.
Uther begged Sylvanas not to let the Jailer destroy her, as he had always known he would, and to accept the Banshee Queen’s choices so that she could begin to repair her own shattered legacy. Only then could she begin to move forward and correct her past mistakes.
The former paladin stayed beside the Dark Lady even after retreating from her mind until she finally woke.
Let It Be Finished
After Sylvanas’s restoration, she accompanied Uther to meet up with Jaina, Bolvar, and the Maw Walkers outside of the Sepulcher of the First Ones -a place the physics of Azeroth could not comprehend- within Zereth Mortis. Though Jaina viewed Sylvanas warily, the she-elf had earned Uther’s trust and was subsequently granted the chance to join the group as they entered the Sepulcher together.
Sylvanas believed Anduin was the key to the Jailer’s defeat. If they could free the young king from Zovaal’s grasp, they might be able to resist his sinister domination magic. Uther’s hopes hinged on the fact that Sylvanas had been the one to hold Kingsmourne when the mourneblade corrupted Anduin, then perhaps her presence would help him break free.
Alongside the Maw Walkers, Sylvanas and her newfound allies managed to fight their way into Domination’s Grasp, where Anduin waited. The Jailer believed that his hold on Anduin was ironclad, but the young Wrynn managed to free himself by pulling Kingsmourne in half, as his father and Varok Saurfang had done before him.
By splitting the sword in two, Anduin also freed the very source of his Domination -the final fragment of Arthas Menethil’s soul.
3rd Time’s the Charm
As his wisp drifted before her, Sylvanas finally made peace with the man that so destroyed her. The encounter was none so devastating as Uther’s had been, nor was it the drawn-out acceptance that Jaina endured. Instead, Sylvanas received a brief moment to realize where the Lich King’s decisions had landed him. Arthas had no crown, no throne, and no soul for judgment.
At this moment, Sylvanas also finally accepted that after each selfish act, she had become no better than her nemesis. Unlike Arthas, however, Sylvanas’s legacy was not at an end, and the burden of it was hers alone.
“Be gone, then, Arthas Menethil,” she told the wisp. “May the last whisper of your name fade and be forgotten.”
Sylvanas and her companions watched silently as the last of Arthas Menethil, the infamous Lich King, faded into nothingness.
Killing the Jailer by Bill O’Reilly
Before the heroes could face Zovaal once and for all, they sought a way to resist the Jailer’s domination. They convened in Bastion’s Chamber of Reflection to perform a ritual that would redesign the Helm of Domination Arthas, and Bolvar had worn during their reigns as the Lich King.
Anduin volunteered to be part of the ritual, but his memories of the Maw and what he had done for the Jailer consumed him. Only after Sylvanas recounted how she freed herself from Arthas and infused the helm with said memory could Anduin overcome his turmoil to infuse the final shards of the helm.
Once complete, the heroes met with the Primus of Maldraxxus in Torghast so that he could reforge the Helm of Domination into the Crown of Wills. This instrument allowed the Jailer’s enemies to resist his domination entirely so they could, at last, bring about his defeat.
Submitting to Judgement
Zovaal’s blessed death, coupled with the rise of the new Arbiter Pelagos, marked the beginning of a new era for not only the Shadowlands but for Sylvanas Windrunner as well. For her, it began with a trial during which Sylvanas agreed to face the consequences of her actions under the new Arbiter’s judgment.
Uther and a Maw Walker escorted her to the Crucible atop Oribos before an audience of Shadowlands denizens and Azerothians. Among the onlookers stood Alleria and Vereesa Windrunner. Though they hurled insults and obscenities at her while she walked, the she-elf never reacted to their harsh words.
Once the trial had commenced, Pegalos noted that Sylvanas’s actions bore signs of the Jailer’s influence. Rather than accept such an easy way out, Sylvanas declared that she was well aware of herself and that the consequences of her actions were hers alone. The Arbiter proclaimed that if this was true, Sylvanas knew whose judgment should determine the outcome of her fate. The decision was not his but Tyrande Whisperwind’s.
When asked if anyone in the audience objected to this decision, all present remained silent.
Tyrande held her glaive to Sylvanas’s throat, convinced that this was but another trick of the Banshee Queen’s. However, Sylvanas remained calm. Though Tyrande reacted with a blade, the undead elf did not expect death -that would be far too merciful, and Sylvanas did not want or expect the priestess’s mercy.
Sylvanas was proven right when Tyrande declared, for all to hear, “There will be no peace for you, Sylvanas Windrunner until there is peace for all of the souls of your victims.”
At the behest of their leader, Shandris Feathermoon and Maiev Shadowsong escorted Sylvanas to the Ring of Transference, where Oribos opened up to the Maw.
Before Sylvanas’s sentence, she exchanged a quick goodbye with the Maw Walkers and her sisters. She declared gratitude to the Alliance troops present that Azeroth had them. To the Horde that followed Saurfang during the Fourth War, she hoped they would always fight for the good of their faction. As for her followers, Sylvanas proclaimed that while her fate was uncertain, she knew to call on them should she ever need trusted allies again.
Let’s Go to the Maw, Forever
“Below lies the Maw, an unjust fate to which you doomed so many.” Tyrande told her foe harshly, “It will be there that your penance begins.”
Sylvanas held still, eyes downcast even as they followed the priestess that circled her. The night elf went on, speaking roughly, “Every soul lost in its depths, betrayed or condemned, you shall find and send forth to the Arbiter to be judged with the compassion all souls deserve.
You shall toil there, under Dori’thur’s watchful eye, scouring every darkened reach until the final soul is free, and you are all that remains. This is how you shall bring renewal to your victims and my people.”
Sylvanas met Tyrande’s eyes, both now an ethereal shade of blue, and promised, “However long it takes, it shall be done.”
Memories of the Ranger-General
With one last glance toward her sisters, Sylvanas and Dori’thur plunged into the swirl of souls and faded into the Maw’s darkness below.
While opinions on the fate of Sylvanas Windrunner varied, most of the witnesses seemed to agree that Tyrande’s decision had been the right one. Uther believed Tyrande’s compassion would act as Sylvanas’s salvation, while Baine Bloodhoof, who had once hated the undead elf, thought it was just that his former Warchief faced judgment for her crimes.
Maiev Shadowsong wasn’t sure her leader’s judgment was indeed justice, but she did believe it was the right decision. Shandris Feathermoon thought her mother’s decision would prove more beneficial to Sylvanas in the long run than execution would have.
Alleria and Vereesa hoped that Sylvanas’s penance would serve her well and that perhaps one day she would return to them as the sister and Ranger-General they had known and loved.
The only one truly dissatisfied with Tyrande Whisperwind’s choice was King Genn Greymane of Gilneas, who felt he would know no peace until the monster that took his kingdom and his son no longer existed.
All’s Well That Ends Well (Not)
The Maw gave Sylvanas time to reflect on what and who she was now. The Ranger-General was gone, but so was the Banshee Queen. All that remained was Sylvanas Windrunner, whatever that would come to mean. Though the task before her was heavy, she held tight to the idea of once again seeing the family she had lost. Sylvanas was also determined to find her beloved Nathanos, no matter how long it may take.
Suddenly the sound of armor heavily clanking cut into the silence of the Maw, suggesting someone had come to aid her in the sprawling task Tyrande had given her. Sylvanas remembered a time not so long ago when Anduin urged her to hope, for sometimes, just that could inspire possibility.
For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Sylvanas allowed herself to hope.
Long Road to Perdition
Anduin Wrynn came to the Maw to aid the Ranger-General in her mission. Though she was thankful for his help, she eventually came to question why he chose to help her when so many awaited him on Azeroth.
“Why are you here, Anduin?” She asked. “Your kingdom and your friends are awaiting your return.”
Anduin responded that he couldn’t bring himself to face the friends he had nearly killed when they believed his hands to be clean even though he felt them soiled. While Sylvanas understood her companion’s point, she did not want to watch Anduin lose himself. “It is perilous to confuse what you are made to do with what you choose to do.”
But Anduin admitted that the two had blurred together. His actions had been horrific and exhilarating; the young Wrynn was sickened to think any satisfaction felt could have been entirely his.
Sylvanas realized then that Anduin was questioning who he’d believed himself to be. When she voiced this to Anduin, his eyes drifted downwards in shame. “I’m starting to wonder if I ever knew.
For the first time in my life, I’m afraid if I call on the Light, it won’t answer,” he admitted. “If I’ve no trust in myself, how can I expect my kingdom to trust me? To put their faith in me… When mine has faltered?”
The Prodigal Son
Sylvanas turned towards the young man that had been her enemy not so long ago, saddened. “Must you bear that weight?” She asked him softly.
Anduin answered her readily. “A king does not have a choice.”
“No choice?” Sylvanas echoed. “I thought you believed in free will.” Her words summoned laughter and a sigh from Anduin, who declared his need for time to think about many things.
“Anduin,” she said gently but firmly, “I have faced who I was and accepted what I’ve done. Now, the work begins.”
Anduin agreed, a new light coming into his eyes. He bid Sylvanas farewell until their paths crossed again. As she watched him go, Sylvanas said to herself, “Farewell… Little Lion.” Perhaps the name was a nod to her endearments for Vareesa, her Little Moon, and Lirath, her Little Sun. Whatever the reason, Sylvanas spoke the pet name with a soft fondness the Banshee Queen had never genuinely known.
A Ranger-General’s Life, A Banshee Queen’s Undeath
Silvermoon’s shining Ranger-General passed away heroically, dying so that her people could persevere. The Banshee Queen betrayed all that her past self stood for, and they suffered together as a result. This new incarnation of Sylvanas is neither a hero nor a villain but something of both. Her future is full of potential and exponentially uncertain. Only time will tell what is to come for the restored soul that is now Sylvanas Windrunner.
A bit fuzzy on things before the Ranger-General’s excursions in the Shadowlands? Find out more about the fate of Sylvanas Windrunner by following the link provided to read part three.
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.