Sylvanas Windrunner betrayed all she stood for and now must face her shattered legacy.
From Silvermoon’s shining Ranger-General to the Under City’s vicious Banshee Queen, Sylvanas Windrunner has been at the frontlines of battle since her introduction. Throughout Warcraft’s timeline, she has proven to be both an incredible ally and a powerful enemy. Those around her have witnessed her amazing power and suffered at her strange magic’s mercy. While many of her campaigns have been valiant, others have been cruel at heart. Causes such as the decimation of Gilneas and the devastation of Teldrassil have bloodied the Banshee Queen’s path.
A Bright Future
Sylvanas was one of four children born to Verath and Lireesa Windrunner of Quel’Thalas. Like her mother and elder sister Alleria before her, she joined the rangers of Silvermoon. Alleria succeeded their mother as Ranger-General of the Farstriders first, but Sylvanas took the mantle when her sister chose to pursue a different path. Sylvanas, on the other hand, made a name for herself in the battles against the Amani Empire.
Also making a name for himself was Nathanos Marris, an extremely talented human ranger that Sylvanas welcomed into the Farstriders. Her willingness to receive a human into the ranks of the elven rangers inspired a great deal of speculation about the relationship between the two, for many wondered if it was romantic at the core. Sylvanas often visited Nathanos at the Marris Stead, even meeting his younger cousin Stephon. She gave Stephon enough gold to purchase his first sword and then spent the night at Nathanos’s home.
Many high elves questioned Sylvanas and her choice to accept a human into the Farstriders, renowned though she was. Halduron Brightwing, Lor’themar Theron, and Renthar Hawkspear were few of the many that expressed their surprise at the decision. Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider commanded Nathanos’s dismissal, but Sylvanas denied him, for she believed that Nathanos would prove a loyal ally. He was the first and last human to rise to the rank of Ranger Lord.
War On The Horizon
When the Second War began, the high elves intended to keep their support of the Alliance at a minimum. Their standpoint changed when the forests of Quel’Thalas started to burn. During an outing to investigate the cause of the fires, Sylvanas came across her sisters. Alleria and Vereesa told their sister who was responsible for the flames -the orcish Horde. This threat to Quel’Thalas set the Farstriders into action; they moved to trap the Horde between their forces and the Alliance forces under the command of the paladin Turalyon. A long battle with many turns drove the Horde to abandon Quel’Thalas. While others went on to end the Second War, Sylvanas remained in her homelands to hunt down any remaining orcs. Sometime after the war’s conclusion, she chose to promote her comrade Lor’themar Theron to the rank of Ranger Lord.
Everything for the ranger-general changed with Arthas Menethil’s march upon Quel’Thalas. The high elves had chosen to withdraw from the Alliance, placing the Farstriders as their people’s primary source of protection. When Lordaeron’s fallen prince set foot in the elven lands, an undead army at his back, Sylvanas and her rangers met him at the first elfgate. Lady Windrunner’s efforts were courageous, unyielding, and dedicated, but she and her surviving rangers retreated to the second elfgate. Hoping that the magisters at the Sunwell may turn the tide of battle, Sylvanas sent one of her rangers to warn them of the approaching Scourge.
Sylvanas’s Tragic Fate
There were a few ways that Sylvanas believed her people could emerge victoriously. Or, at the very least, survive. The first option depended on moon crystals hidden within the wilds of Quel’Thalas; the only way to pass the second elfgate was with the Key of the Moons, which required the monocrystals to form. Unfortunately, Arthas managed to collect the required pieces. The ranger-general also attempted to halt the undead assault by destroying the bridge that led to the second elfgate; her endeavors proved fruitless, for Arthas commanded his mindless throng of corpses to form a bridge with their decaying bodies.
When the future Lich King arrived at the gates of Silvermoon, Sylvanas chose to push back one last time against their lifeless enemies. Her runners fell to their enemies, and an aerial assault she deployed proved futile. When the time came for a final stand against the lost prince, only he and Sylvanas fought. During this battle, Arthas’s frustration with the high elf’s diligent resistance came to a head. The encounter ended tragically with Frostmourne embedded in Sylvanas’s abdomen. Thus the life of Sylvanas Windrunner, Ranger-General of Silvermoon, came to an end.
Rumors swirled after Sylvanas fell. The high elves of Silvermoon claimed Sylvanas’s body burned in the fires that ravaged the city after she gave her last breath on the battlefield. The truth was a very different story; for all of the trouble Sylvanas caused Arthas, he chose to provide her with the unwanted gift of becoming the first of the high elven banshees. He held her soul captive and locked her body in an iron coffin for safekeeping. Though she was entirely under Arthas’s control, the death knight let his new prisoner maintain her self-awareness. He wanted her to understand the depths of destruction she was bringing to the people she had fought so hard to protect.
Arthas also wanted to punish the high elven population for their continued insolence against him. He used Sylvanas for this, parading the truth of her downfall before them as a macabre trophy. The message was clear: their struggles were in vain, for he would emerge victorious one way other another. Despite how shocked they were at the sight of their fallen ranger-general, the citizens of Quel’Thalas made her proud with their refusal to back down. Sylvanas told Arthas he would not be so lucky to use her people’s corpses as a bridge a second time. The death knight forced her to watch as he drove Frostmourne into the ocean to create a path of frost that would lead him and his army to the Sunwell.
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King Anasterian Sunstrider was the banshee’s next hope, but he, too, lost his life to the vengeful blade. Kel’Thuzad, alive once again, rose from the ruins of the Sunwell, an occasion marked by Sylvanas’s grief-stricken screech. The sound left most of the invading forces nearly deaf, but Arthas merely found the ordeal amusing. The fallen high elf got a chance to indulge her amusement when the demon Archimonde commanded Arthas to attack the magical city of Dalaran. She sensed a sliver of hesitation, likely linked to his past love for Jaina Proudmoore, and kept a smirk in place even after Arthas used his influence to silence her.
Much to Sylvanas’s chagrin, Arthas likened her to one of his main generals. She stayed in Lordaeron until Archimonde fell at the Battle of Mount Hyjal, and then Arthas returned to the ruined city to declare his intention to take control of the Scourge. He commanded his forces to cleanse the area of all life in honor of Ner’zhul, the essence of the Lich King. Sylvanas was a leading force against humans fleeing the undead invasion, slaying any and every human she found in the area. She, alongside Arthas and Kel’Thuzad, executed the paladins at their headquarters, successfully ridding Lordaeron of all living existence.
Sylvanas, A Queen On The Rise
Ner’zhul’s hold on Sylvanas’s mind was weakening, though she kept this to herself as Arthas continued with his plans. She met with dreadlords behind her master’s back, and the nathrezim told her they intended to seize Lordaeron from a weakening Arthas. While the banshee agreed to aid them, she made a contingency plan: she ordered her banshees to escort their master to a place in the woods where she would be waiting for them.
When the dreadlords’ ambush inevitably failed, Sylvanas’s sisters could lure Arthas to the meeting point they had predetermined and kill his bodyguards. Now alone, Arthas was at the banshees’ mercy. Sylvanas struck her tormentor with an arrow she crafted, its tip poisoned with paralyzing venom. However their roles were reversed; this time it was Arthas demanding Sylvanas kill him -as she demanded before. As Arthas had denied her pleas, now she rejected his. She wanted to make him suffer as she had been under his control. Kel’Thuzad arrived just in time to save the lost prince and kill Sylvanas’s banshees before Arthas succumbed to death. Sometime during this, the banshee managed to locate the iron coffin that contained her body.
Arthas’s departure to Northrend was the start of a new chapter for Sylvanas Windrunner. Though she was no longer under his control, her troubles seemed to be just beginning. Varimathras, one of the dreadlords involved in the original plot against Arthas, approached her. He demanded her allegiance, but she had no interest in giving up her newfound freedom to anyone. Sylvanas realized that without allies, however, she would quickly fall. The allies she sought came from numerous sources -ogres, humans, or gnolls. The banshee possessed most of them and killed those that resisted her.
This new army proved to be too much for Varimathras, and he became one of the first to fall before her. Before Sylvanas could kill him, he begged for his life and promised knowledge of the other dreadlords tactics and locations. Though the banshee did not trust the cunning dreadlord, she did recognize the benefits he could provide. If nothing else, she felt she could control him enough to serve her purposes. Their first target was Detheroc, a dreadlord who had gained control of the human commander Garithos and his men.
Claiming a Homeland
Her banshees disabled Detheroc’s scouts, possessing them and infiltrating their base so that she could slaughter any living soul she came across. Her bloody path eventually lead to Detheroc, who was swiftly and easily dealt with. Once free from the dreadlord, Garithos became another to serve Sylvanas’s agenda. She told the fallen dreadlord’s puppet that she would gift him the Capital so long as he helped her annihilate Balnazzar -a lie. The night before their march upon the Capital City, Sylvanas met with the free undead and promised them a new purpose if they fought alongside her. An undead alchemist named Lydon wondered about the fate of Garithos’s men, but the banshee made it clear their only use would be for the upcoming battle.
Sylvanas and Varimathras attacked from the front while Garithos targeted the rear entrance of the city. Lady Windrunner’s army destroyed Balnazzar’s demonic forces, though she did not kill the dreadlord. Rather, Sylvanas declared that it was time for Varimathras to truly prove his loyalty and that he would do so by killing Balnazzar. The declaration unsettled Varimathras because it was forbidden for nathrezim to kill one another; Sylvanas had no intention of accepting any other proof of loyalty. With no other choice, Varimathras struck his fellow dreadlord down. This was not the last they would see of Balnazzar -he later resurfaced as the leader of the Scarlet Crusade. When Sylvanas demanded that Varimathras kill Garithos, the dreadlord showed no hesitation this time. Their enemies vanquished, Sylvanas told Varimathras that they would rule the Plaguelands as the Forsaken, and be the masters of their destiny.
Time of The Forsaken
Sylvanas made quick work of building her undead empire. She freed as many undead from the Lich King’s hold as she was able, and together they created a nation. They attacked and claimed the catacombs of Capital City as their own, and declared it the Undercity. With this, Sylvanas Windrunner became the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken.
Establishing an empire was only the beginning of the forsaken’s campaign to exact vengeance upon Arthas Menethil. Their next step was to secure their place in the world as an active, growing civilization. While Sylvanas had been successful in claiming the ruins of Lordaeron for her people, there was no guarantee the area would remain under her control. She sent ambassadors to the Alliance and the Horde, hoping that at least one -if not both- of the factions might affiliate with the undead.
The emissaries sent to negotiate with the Alliance never returned, but Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem of the Horde saw potential in the Forsaken. Cairne Bloodhoof, after meeting with Sylvanas’s messengers, convinced the Horde’s Warchief Thrall to welcome the forsaken into the ranks of the Horde. The forsaken stronghold was now secure, even in the largely Alliance-controlled Eastern Kingdoms, with the might of the Horde supporting Sylvanas.
The banshee queen also managed to free her former disciple Nathanos Marris. Sylvanas declared the ranger-lord her champion, and he was given the task of training the Banshee Queen’s new followers. As for Varimathras, the dreadlord was charged with clearing dwarven and human establishments from the Southern lands in Lordaeron.
After some time spent developing relationships with the Horde, it became clear that the Scourge needed to be dealt with. Sylvanas was present when Thrall declared war on Arthas, now known to the world as the Lich King; she dispensed her chief apothecary Putress to join the Horde campaign in Northrend.
The next disaster Sylvanas was to deal with began in her very city. While the Horde and Alliance were launching an attack on Angrathar the Wrathgate, Varimathras instigated an uprising. His demonic brethren and Putress, who had recently set loose a plague on not only the Lich King but both factions as well, joined him. Sylvanas and her loyalists were driven from Undercity to Orgrimmar, where the banshee planned a counterattack with Thrall so that the dreadlords have no foothold in Horde territory.
At the same time, in retribution for Putress’s actions, the Alliance were launching an invasion of the Undercity. Putress fell to the Alliance, and Sylvanas herself killed Varimathras. Before full-scale war could break out between the factions then and there, Jaina Proudmoore teleported King Varian and the Alliance forces away.
Vengeance at Any Cost
Once she reclaimed her throne, Sylvanas was ready to see the Lich King fall at any cost. The banshee queen wanted vengeance for Quel’Thalas, for her people -alive and undead, and for her own damnation; the time to obtain it was at hand. She led Horde forces through the frozen halls of Icecrown Citadel, instructing heroes through battles and fighting alongside champions of the Argent Tournament. Krick, one of the bosses Sylvanas and her comrades defeated, tried to negotiate with Sylvanas by offering information on Frostmourne’s unguarded whereabouts. He and several other monsters that the Lich King created were disposed of. Onward Lady Windrunner went towards the Halls of Reflection.
The Halls of Reflection served as Arthas’s personal chambers. As Sylvanas stood within the confines of the room, Frostmourne indeed present and unattended, she felt the pain of her death reinvigorated. The spirit of Uther the Lightbringer, trapped in Frostmourne after Arthas had slain him earlier, came to Sylvanas and her comrades. He warned them that the Lich King was approaching, and to face him within the Halls of Reflection would be suicide. Uther also told Sylvanas that the Lich King must be destroyed where he was created: the Frozen Throne. When Arthas fell, there needed to be another prepared to take his place to control the Scourge.
Arthas summoned two of his top lieutenants, Falric and Marwyn, to deal with the intruders. While the adventurers faced the death knights, Sylvanas and one of her dark rangers chased the Lich King into his inner sanctum. After the adventurers defeated the lieutenants, they spilled into the hallway to find the dark ranger that had followed Sylvanas dead. As for the banshee queen, she was engaged in combat with none other than Arthas. The battle was short-lived, for the dark lady quickly realized Uther’s warnings rang true. Sylvanas fled with her comrades, surviving only thanks to the arrival of the gunship Orgrim’s Hammer. In the aftermath, Sylvanas realized they needed an army greater than the Horde could muster to end the Lich King’s reign.
A Dark Pact
After Arthas Menethil finally fell to Tirion Fordring, Sylvanas was thrilled that the Lich King was dead; she was also irked she had not witnessed his demise. Furthermore, old aches of everything she had lost when Arthas turned her into a banshee haunted her still. Standing before the Frozen Throne, Lady Windrunner prepared to throw herself from the platform to end this life of undeath. As these thoughts tumbled about her dark mind, nine Val’kyr came to the forsaken queen with visions of the past. She jumped despite their presence but then was granted another vision.
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She saw a future in which Garrosh Hellscream sacrificed most of the forsaken population during an assault on Gilneas. The sight faded, leaving in its wake an endless void; Sylvanas drifted in the cold darkness, feeling regretful and hopeless and fearful. Arthas, now a frightened child, was lost within the void as well. Even with everything he had done, Sylvanas realized she would feel pity for him had her soul not been fractured. The Val’kyr appeared to her again, this time with a bargain: instead of Sylvanas remaining in the horrid realm, Annhylde the Caller would take the dark lady’s place so long as she bound herself to the remaining Val’kyr. Sylvanas agreed, and the Val’kyr returned her to the land of the living.
Tragedy, In Two Parts
The fall of the Lich King was, in many ways, only the beginning for Sylvanas Windrunner. As the ranger-general of Silvermoon, her heart and soul were dedicated entirely to protecting those that could not protect themselves. When Sylvanas’s soul was splintered, she lost much of the goodness that guided her. Arthas did much worse than kill this brave elf -he split her apart, and set her against everything she stood for. And the path before had only just begun.
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.