WARNING: The following post contains spoilers for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. Players still leveling or playing through this expansion may want to veer away, especially if you want to avoid Icecrown Citadel spoilers. I'll throw another message in before we get to the really huge stuff, just in case!
The above image is a little special to me, as it is a screenshot of the first moment I saw Bolvar Fordragon in action, taken January 19th, 2005. I was playing with a friend, and we saw an odd procession in Stormwind headed to the throne room -- upon arriving, a level 60 told us that we probably ought to stand back. Being what I thought was a resourceful player, I hid behind one of the guards, counting on them to protect me. Needless to say, Onyxia appeared, the guards turned into dragonkin, and I had a split second of sheer panic before I got a "6 Minutes until release" message.
But this article isn't about my untimely death and subsequent 'when someone says stay far away, stay far, far away' lesson. This is about the man under that pile of dragonkin, who we observed in awe as he fought and killed the entire pack of elites single-handed -- Bolvar Fordragon. Bolvar in that moment became one of my favorite characters in the game, and I didn't even know who he was. It didn't matter.
To many players, this was their first exposure to Bolvar and it was more than enough to create an indelible impression of the character in their minds. The degree of this impression is what makes Bolvar's ultimate fate one of the most heartbreaking moments in World of Warcraft for many players -- and the story of the road he took, fascinating.
Bolvar Fordragon has very little history to be found -- his first appearance was in World of Warcraft, as the de facto leader of Stormwind along with a little boy named Anduin Wrynn, and a particularly testy woman by the name of Katrana Prestor. It was explained during the course of a questline that left many players begging for continuity that Varian Wrynn wasn't just away on some mission or another -- he'd been kidnapped. Bolvar and Katrana were ruling the kingdom in his absence, and keeping the nature of his disappearance a mystery.
Much like any quest in World of Warcraft, the events of the future would play out over and over, in an endless circle. Bolvar Fordragon was under Katrana's control, and she wasn't just some snotty noblewoman -- she was the black dragon Onyxia in disguise. Through another completely epic chain of quests, players inevitably reached that moment in time pictured in the screenshot at the beginning of this article -- Onyxia, her plans foiled, abruptly revealing just how much control she had over the kingdom. The guards suddenly unveiled as her personal bodyguards; Bolvar's attack, Reginald Windsor's untimely death, and the strange amulet that Bolvar wore, shattered to pieces. Apparently Onyxia had been controlling Bolvar all along with the amulet, and it wasn't until it was shattered that the thrall she held him under faded away.
Every level 60 that wanted to raid Onyxia's lair had to go through the chain. But with the release of Wrath of the Lich King, suddenly Varian Wrynn had returned, and a lot of people were scratching their heads over where Bolvar had gone, and how Varian got back, and why Katrana and Bolvar were no longer a fixture in Stormwind as they had been before. These questions were answered in the Warcraft comic series, which also shed a little background on Bolvar.
As it turns out Bolvar Fordragon has been a part of Stormwind for a very long time. In the comics, Varian remembers sword fighting and training with Bolvar when he was a boy. From this, we can assume that Fordragon was the son of a member or close friend of the court, and was present for Stormwind's downfall during the First War. Upon Varian's return to the newly rebuilt Stormwind, Fordragon and Prestor were appointed the King's main advisors, serving him as part of the Council of Nobles that helped run Stormwind while Varian was off attempting to hunt down any remaining orc survivors -- particular the half-orc Garona, who had slain his father right in front of him.
Bolvar was not only a loyal subject and advisor to King Varian Wrynn -- he was one of the King's closest friends, and incredibly devoted to the kingdom of Stormwind itself. He'd seen the city fall; he'd watched Varian grow up from a boy who'd lost his father, to a strong young man ready to take over where his father left off, and he was filled with the same devotion to the kingdom as young King Wrynn. Unfortunately what he failed to realize was that the Council of Nobles he served on had a dragon in its midst, in the form of Lady Katrana Prestor. Prestor was cunning, shrewd, and utterly devious with her machinations. Katrana convinced the Council of Nobles that the Stonemasons Guild that had rebuilt Stormwind's walls were not worth the money they were asking for in payment, and had the Council offer a much, much smaller amount. This led to riots in the streets as the guild members let their anger be known -- and a much larger tragedy. Varian's beloved wife, Tiffin, was killed by an errant rock thrown by an angry rioter, and Varian's world was shattered.
Varian sank into a depression for ten years -- part of which was the gut-wrenching loss of his wife and the betrayal of the people of his beloved kingdom, but a larger part was doubtless Katrana Prestor's doing. Bolvar and Katrana kept careful watch over the kingdom during this time, and the only thing that seemed to bring Wrynn out of his depression was his son, Anduin. Anduin's a good kid in the comics -- determined to help bring about peace, he encouraged his father to attend a conference in Theramore to discuss a pact between Thrall and Stormwind. While Varian was...less than thrilled with the idea of a peace agreement between his kingdom and the green-skinned creatures that had slain his father and destroyed his kingdom years before, Anduin's encouragement convinced him to go and at least listen to Thrall.
Varian Wrynn disappeared on the journey, lost somewhere between Stormwind and Theramore. Bolvar and Katrana took over in his absence, and this is where World of Warcraft players stepped in. Quests that involved speaking with Katrana revealed that she wasn't a sweetheart by any stretch of the imagination -- and Bolvar seemed to defer to her judgment. What was going on? In the questline The Grand Masquerade, it was revealed that Katrana, or rather Onyxia, was influencing Bolvar directly via an amulet that soothed and controlled his mind. When Onyxia was at last revealed, the amulet was shattered in the subsequent fight with the guards, and Bolvar's mind was cleared.
In the comics, the story plays out a little differently. Bolvar watched over young Anduin much like a son, and when King Wrynn returned suddenly, full of cheer and flirting outrageously with Lady Prestor. When Anduin tried to tell his father that the Council of Nobles had raised taxes once again, making the people of the kingdom angry, Varian shrugged it off. Anduin immediately turned to Bolvar and pointed out that something was wrong. This was not something his father would do, and it set the wheels in motion for a Great Masquerade -- this time not played out by players, but by a strange man named Lo'gosh who had been revealed to be the true king of Stormwind, and his friends Broll Bearmantle, and Valeera Sanguinar. The three were even then on their way to Stormwind, and helping out the dwarves of Ironforge along the way.
Meanwhile, Anduin's words had set the wheels turning in Bolvar's head. In the comics, there was no mention of a magic amulet keeping Bolvar under control -- rather it seemed like Bolvar was trying to reason with Katrana, and work with her out of respect for her position, and also out of respect for the kingdom. It wouldn't do for the two people leading Stormwind to be arguing senselessly, after all. But Prestor's interference grew more and more irritating, and with the return of the 'King', she began to directly work against anything Bolvar had ordered. King Magni of Ironforge stopped by to request aid against the Dark Irons that were threatening his people, and King Wrynn, with Lady Prestor on his arm and whispering in his ear, declined the offer. Bolvar ordered reinforcements sent after Magni received word that his forces were failing -- and Lady Prestor countermanded the orders, explaining that Stormwind's forces were already stretched too thin.
Bolvar, perplexed and worried about both the legitimacy of this strange man who looked so much like the King Wrynn he remembers, and for young Anduin's safety, worked with Marshal Windsor to figure out what exactly was going on. This King Varian that had returned to the kingdom certainly didn't act like the King Varian that Bolvar had known all these years -- and it was odd that Lady Prestor's touch seemed to befuddle and bewitch the King. Bolvar vowed to keep himself, Anduin, and King Wrynn as far away from Lady Prestor as possible while he worked on Windsor's theory surrounding the events in Stormwind.
Lo'gosh and his crew found Windsor, discovered the plot, and returned to Stormwind with Marshal Windsor in tow, playing out the events of the Grand Masquerade. Onyxia was revealed, the guards turning into her dragonkin forces, and in the ensuing fight, Anduin was captured and taken to Onyxia's lair. Lo'gosh and King Varian were left to go retrieve him -- and to figure out why the heck they looked like each other, and what the link was between them. King Varian asked Bolvar to stay behind -- he knew that Bolvar loved his son, and would willingly die to restore Stormwind for the boy, but he also knew that of anyone in Stormwind presently, Anduin himself would've chosen Bolvar to lead in the King's absence in a heartbeat.
And so once more Bolvar Fordragon was the de facto ruler of Stormwind, and set about mopping up Lady Prestor's mess. While the king was away, another much more disturbing element arose -- simultaneous attacks on both Southshore and Goldshire by the Scourge. Bolvar sent word to Varian, who returned immediately, and Stormwind itself was soon under attack by the Lich King's servants. The armed forces of Stormwind led by Varian and Bolvar managed to fight back and send the servants running back to Northrend, but not without a last parting shot -- the Lich King's avatar bid Varian and company to come to Northrend and face off against his forces. King Wrynn knew at this point that the Lich King was no longer an idle threat -- this was something that would have to be faced directly. It was war, and he had an able-bodied champion to send north and lead the forces.
The above image is the last time Anduin Wrynn would see the man who'd acted as advisor and father in his real father's absence. King Varian sent Bolvar Fordragon north, to build a base at Angrathar at the footsteps of Icecrown itself. He told Bolvar that he was more of a brother to the King than even blood, and Varian and Anduin waved goodbye. It would be the last goodbye.
FINAL WARNING! The next page is chock full of spoilers for Wrath of the Lich King, in particular the events at Angrathar, and fights and events in the Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel raid zones. If you'd rather not be spoiled on this information, DO NOT CLICK. If you'd like to throw caution to the wind and read about all of this, please continue!