In Cataclysm, the Greymane Wall that separated Gilneas from the rest of the Eastern Kingdoms shattered, and the Horde asked Sylvanas to claim Gilneas so that they would have a port in southern Lordaeron. Sylvanas took to this task with the same ferocity that she stalked the Lich King, but her efforts were fraught with problems, largely due to the Gilnean natives and the worgen. Players starting the game as worgen are plopped directly in the middle of this conflict and can watch as the whole of it plays out.
King Genn Greymane tried to pull together his kingdom, but the place was in tatters. Not only were there reports of Forsaken activity, but the worgen curse was ripping through his people and nobody, not even himself, was safe from its effects. In addition, Gilnean nobility chafed under his rule, most notably Lord Vincent Godfrey. After Godfrey discovered that Greymane had succumbed to the worgen curse, he turned on his king, kidnapping him and holding him for ransom. Once Greymane was rescued, Godfrey leapt from the cliffs to his death, because he preferred death to having a worgen as his king.
This played into Sylvanas' hands quite nicely. Intelligence reports brought word of Godfrey to her, and she ordered his body found, to be raised by val'kyr as one of the Forsaken. Lord Godfrey was intended to be an ally that would provide useful intelligence in regards to Gilneas and those still in power -- including Lord Darius Crowley, who was the largest obstacle standing in Sylvanas' way.
For the Horde, of course. Though Sylvanas is quick to state that all of her actions are in the name of the Horde, her comments when not under the scrutiny of any orcs assigned to watch her tell a different story entirely. Since the Wrathgate, use of the Forsaken blight was forbidden, but Sylvanas continued to use it at every opportunity. Is the blight that useful of a tool, or are Sylvanas and the Forsaken planning another coup -- not of the Undercity, but of the Horde itself?Sylvanas Windrunner says: Rise, Lord Vincent Godfrey. Be reborn as an instrument of my vengeance!
Arthura rises in the air and proceeds to reanimate Lord Godfrey, Baron Ashbury and Lord Walden.
Lord Godfrey says: I live again...
Sylvanas Windrunner says: You live to serve me, Godfrey. Together we will crush the worgen uprising and retake Gilneas for the Forsaken.
High Warlord Cromush says: For the Horde ...
Sylvanas Windrunner says: Yes, of course ...
In Silverpine, Lord Godfrey and his men began their work for Sylvanas by wiping out Pyrewood Village and the worgen inhabitants of the area. But the worgen of Gilneas, led by Darius Crowley, weren't without their own allies. Crowley managed to forge an alliance with Ivar Bloodfang, the leader of the Bloodfang worgen. Together, the two groups continued to create havoc and destroy Sylvanas' forces. In short time, the banshee queen found herself in danger of losing not only the war in Gilneas but possibly Silverpine as well. And so she hatched a plan for victory, with Lord Godfrey's help.
Godfrey and his men managed to kidnap Crowley's daughter Lorna to use as a bargaining chip with the leader of the worgen forces. The choice was simple: Crowley and his troops could leave Gilneas to the Horde, or his daughter would be killed and raised as a Forsaken. Lord Godfrey happily brought Lorna out for display, and Crowley, faced with a terrible decision, bowed out of the fight in order to keep his daughter safe.
The Horde had claimed Gilneas, and victory was Sylvanas' at last. The victory was to be short-lived. Suddenly, Lord Godfrey pulled out a gun, shot Sylvanas at point blank range, and the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken fell to the ground, dead. But the val'kyr weren't about to let that stand.
This is potentially the most terrifying moment of Cataclysm. Why? Because the implications of what exactly occurred haven't been defined. What we do know is this: Sylvanas made some sort of pact with the val'kyr. The details of that pact, the terms and conditions are completely unknown. But that pact contained something that was powerful enough that the val'kyr in Sylvanas' service would kill themselves in order to save her life.High Warlord Cromush says: Fix her... FIX HER!
Agatha says: We are bound to her, sisters...
Arthura says: It will destroy us, sister...
Daschla says: It is our sacred duty. The pact was sealed, the bargain made...
Arthura says: Then let it be done.
The group of val'kyr resurrects Sylvanas, sacrificing themselves in the process.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: I saw... only darkness.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: And as I drifted towards nothingness, a brilliant light appeared, then another, and another... My dear val'kyr.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: I know now - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that the val'kyr are our future.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: We will never stop fighting for Lordaeron. Never...
Think about that for a minute. Sylvanas had to have promised the val'kyr something, and whatever it was was so good that the val'kyr -- a group of beings that cannot continue their existence because their creator, the Lich King, is dead -- would die for it. What did the banshee queen do? What did she promise these creatures? What has Sylvanas got in her pocket that would be that valuable to the val'kyr?
Alternatively, is the woman who stood up, looked around, and proudly proclaimed that the val'kyr are the future -- is that Sylvanas Windrunner? Or are we dealing with someone, something else entirely now? The val'kyr were able to resurrect thousands of dead soldiers with no consequence to them at all -- why did they have to die to bring Sylvanas back? Is it because she's already Forsaken, or is it because they weren't dying at all -- they were simply taking over Sylvanas' corpse?
Sylvanas Windrunner has always shown herself to be a woman of single-minded determination -- once she had her eyes set on something, she would stop at nothing until she obtained whatever it was she was after. In life, it was the defense of Silvermoon and the Sunwell -- and she was close to succeeding until her death at Arthas' hands. After her death, once Arthas' hold over her began to slip, it was to kill Arthas and make him suffer for every ounce of torment he'd put her through. When Arthas escaped to Northrend, Sylvanas bided her time with her newfound people, the Forsaken, waiting for the opportunity to strike.
In Wrath, her quest for vengeance was completed, and the Lich King destroyed. In Cataclysm, her main objective seems to be establishing a home for her people and increasing their numbers -- but for what cause? Sylvanas is no longer content to sit in Lordaeron with her people, defending against would be attackers; now she is out for more territory, and more Forsaken -- regardless of the Horde's thoughts on the matter.
The Horde may have forbidden the use of the Forsaken blight, but this made little to no difference to Sylvanas, who continued to use the blight at every opportunity when it looked as though it would give her the upper hand. She claimed to work for the Horde, but casual comments dropped here and there lead to the conclusion that Sylvanas isn't really working for the Horde -- she's working for herself and her people, and woe betide anyone who happens to be standing in her way.
She succeeded in snatching Gilneas from the worgen for now, and paid her life -- or unlife, such as it is -- for it. She was brought back by the val'kyr -- but at what cost? What does the banshee queen owe the val'kyr now, and when will we see the results of the undefined pact with the former servants of the Lich King?
Speaking of the Lich King, Garrosh asked a very important question -- what is the difference between Sylvanas and the Lich King, now? When we look at Arthas, he was a young man driven by one thing -- total eradication of the Scourge. Instead, he ended up becoming a kingpin in their forces, manipulated by the Lich King into serving him eternally, entwined as one being. With Sylvanas, she spent her life devoted to the defense of her people, and in the end, died trying to eradicate the Scourge that threatened the Sunwell.
After her death, she was raised as a servant of the Lich King. She managed to break free of that grasp, becoming her own entity, but her fate was perilously close to the one that Arthas suffered. In Northrend, the Lich King raised the undead as servants to his cause -- total eradication of life on Azeroth. Now, it seems as though Sylvanas is doing exactly the same thing. Perhaps the most chilling comparison can be found in the cinematic of Arthas' death:
"I see .. only darkness before me."
Sound familiar? It's exactly what Sylvanas said after her resurrection. The parallel to Arthas is made blatantly clear -- leading us to believe that there really is very little preventing Sylvanas from stepping up as a Lich Queen of sorts. For a time -- particularly during her attempts to get the blood elves included as members of the Horde -- it seemed as though Sylvanas was perhaps reaching back to her living roots in an attempt to steady herself, but those connections have all but slipped away in Cataclysm.
As for the answer to Garrosh's question ...
From tortured leader to triumphant overlord, in Cataclysm, Sylvanas has stepped up her role as leader of the Forsaken in a major way. But her plans beyond expanding Forsaken borders and boosting the population of the formerly living residents of Lordaeron are for now unclear. Will Sylvanas ultimately bow to the might of the Horde and take her place as a valuable ally, or will her continued use of the Forsaken blight and her odd alliance with the val'kyr prove to be her downfall? Hopefully we'll see some of these questions addressed with future Cataclysm content.Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: Isn't it obvious, Warchief? I serve the Horde.
Sylvanas mockingly salutes Garrosh.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.