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Know Your Lore: Garona: A Study on Stealth and Treachery, part 1


The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
The stories of battle and victory have always been told, and in the past, it was up to the leaders of each assault to document the past. While fine leaders in war, these chieftains lacked the ability to convey those actions with written words. I present as an example:
"Thok go through shiny hole. Then me fall down, but me good. Me find many good things to eat. We find village. We mash them and eat their food. Thok stop now. Head hurt from write."
The fact that I am of both Orc and Human lineage, combined with the skills and schooling I have acquired from my journeys, has elevated me to the position I now hold. As chief interpreter to the Shadow Council, the duty of preserving the accounts of our conquering of this world and the eventual crusade into the land of Humanity, has fallen now upon my shoulders. I, Garona, now humbly present that history. . .

-- The Destiny of the Orcish Hordes
What kind of terror courses through you when your body will not respond to the thoughts in your mind? Garona Halforcen was originally introduced in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Throughout the course of the story, Garona continually referred to herself as half human. Garona's heritage was something that had been brought into question on more than one occasion in Warcraft lore. Since humans hadn't been seen on Draenor at that point in time, how could Garona be a full-grown half-orc by the time the Horde stepped through the Dark Portal?

Garona's life was relatively lonely on Draenor. She spent most of it traveling and learning the culture of the orcs. This caught the attention of the Shadow Council, which marveled at her intelligent and cunning. Judging her an invaluable asset, they recruited her as Gul'dan's personal spy and assassin. Despite her standing, she was still vastly alone; as a half-orc, she held no particular allegiance to any clan. It wasn't until she arrived on Azeroth with the rest of the orcs that her keen intelligence and mixed blood came into play.

Garona was a member of one of the first raiding parties in Azeroth. During this time, she met the Guardian Medivh, who spoke with her, spared her life, and sent her back to Gul'dan to deliver a message. Granted the title Emissary, she spent most of her time going back and forth from Medivh to Gul'dan, delivering messages and learning more about her human side. It was this curiosity that caused what little loyalty she had to the Horde to waver; it was Medivh's trust in her that shattered it entirely.

At some point, while on one mission or another in Karazhan, Medivh and Garona shared a moment that would ultimately result in a child. But Medivh wasn't alone in Karazhan; his apprentice Khadgar also spoke to the half-orc, slowly gaining her trust as well. When Medivh's behavior took a turn for the strange, Khadgar and Garona began to investigate and uncovered the truth: Medivh was the one ultimately responsible for the orcs' arrival in Azeroth. The two fled to Stormwind, thus beginning one of the most unfortunate tragedies of Garona's life. It was there that she met King Llane Wrynn.

King Wrynn was unlike any other human Garona had met. Despite her mixed race and obvious orcish features, Llane treated her with respect, kindness, and dignity. After all, she was an emissary and no apparent threat to the kingdom, so why shouldn't she be treated appropriately? This impressed Garona more than words could possibly say. King Llane became one of a very few humans that Garona could trust. Though Llane was kind, he still couldn't believe that Medivh had gone mad or that Medivh was capable of betraying Azeroth in such a fashion. Khadgar and Garona managed to convince Anduin Lothar of Medivh's betrayal, and he in turn convinced King Llane.

Lothar, Garona, and Khadgar left for Karazhan, to confront Medivh in his tower. Garona wore the colors of Azeroth -- why not? It wasn't as though she had any particular allegiance to the Horde. And the few humans she'd met from the Alliance treated her better than any member of the Horde ever had. It was only fair that if her orcish side wouldn't embrace her, she would turn to her human half.

In Karazhan, Khadgar and Garona searched for Medivh, but they stumbled across something that would change Garona's life forever: a vision, an errant pocket of the future that had yet to come to pass. The half-orc standing over King Llane's lifeless corpse, bloodied dagger in hand -- it was her destiny to murder one of the few men in her life who had treated her kindly, that she considered a friend. Shocked, Garona later tried to kill herself by throwing herself at Medivh, and failed.

Though Medivh was defeated, beheaded by Anduin Lothar, Garona couldn't shake the vision that she'd seen. She sought out King Llane and continued to speak with him, becoming a trusted confidante to the king, but she couldn't form a true allegiance due to her doubts and fears regarding Llane's fate and what hand she would have in it. Garona gave Llane every piece of information on the Horde that she could find, hoping beyond hope that the information would lead to Stormwind's victory over the Horde.

But it wasn't meant to be. You can't outrun fate. And after being "released" by orc forces during a raid, she was ordered to kill King Llane. Her mind fought against it; tears streamed down her face as she did it -- but she couldn't stop herself from carrying out her destiny, the destiny shown to her in Karazhan. The deed done, Garona slipped away, only to be captured by Orgrim Doomhammer's forces and tortured until she gave up the location of the Shadow Council. The Council disintegrated under the assault of Doomhammer's forces. As for Garona, she vanished -- though search parties looked for her, they would never find the half-orc, half-human.

This was, of course, because Garona wasn't half-human at all. Garona's history has been called into question time and time again due to ... well, time. According to timelines set by Blizzard, it was impossible for Garona to be half-human unless she managed to age almost overnight to a full-grown orc. It wasn't until years later during the run of the Warcraft comics series that we finally learned the full story and learned why an orc woman would kill a man she considered one of her closest friends and allies at the behest of those she could barely tolerate.

Garona's birth was orchestrated by Gul'dan, and so was her service to the Horde. Her allegiance to the Shadow Council was never questioned because it didn't have to be. Well before the events of the First War, when the orcs were still slaughtering draenei by the thousands, Gul'dan captured a draenei woman, forcing her to breed with one of his orcish warriors. The result was half-orc, half-draenei, looking like neither parent in particular. It wasn't until later, when the orcs discovered Azeroth and the humans that lived there, that Garona's odd genetic makeup would be mistaken for human -- and Gul'dan and the Shadow Council went ahead and encouraged that misconception.

Garona was magically aged, tortured, and enslaved. Gul'dan placed controls on her mind, ensuring her obedience. She wasn't half-human -- she was a weapon of sorts, deliberately created to be intelligent, cunning, and strong. Garona was raised among the barracks of the orcish army, hated by the larger orcs for her small stature, her "deformities" -- and years later, she would set out to travel Draenor and learn more of orcish history and culture.

This was extremely useful to the Shadow Council, as they now had a woman who held in her head knowledge about almost every orc tribe on the planet. If there were any uprising in the works, they'd know about it -- and so Garona was brought back, inducted into the Stormreaver clan and placed at Gul'dan's side. It wasn't that he found her special; it was that that was her place, all along. She just didn't know it.

When she arrived on Azeroth, all future contacts with the humans were more than likely closely supervised, though her dalliance with the Guardian Medivh wasn't something immediately known by anyone. But her relationship with King Llane, on the other hand -- this was something that the Shadow Council could and would take advantage of. In her vision in Karazhan, Garona was absolutely horrified at her actions because she couldn't imagine herself doing such a thing.

And she didn't, technically. When the Shadow Council ordered King Llane's assassination, she had absolutely no choice in the matter. The controls in her mind forced her to walk past Stormwind's gates like an unwitting puppet. They forced her to walk into the throne room; they forced her to raise the dagger and plunge it into Llane's chest. Even as tears streamed down her cheeks, even as she sobbed, she tore King Llane's heart from his body. And though she wanted to stop, though she hated herself for what she was doing, she couldn't keep her body from performing the actions her mind screamed against.

Had she been more observant, she would have noticed King Llane's son, Varian, hiding terrified in the corner and watching the whole thing take place. On the other hand, it's probably best she didn't realize he was there. Varian Wrynn didn't understand why the half-orc was weeping, but then he was only a child; to him all that mattered was that his father was dead, and the woman that performed the deed carried orcish blood in her veins. The fear, the shock, the sadness would eventually fade, replaced by blind fury directed at any of green skin.

Doomhammer's spies had no idea that Garona was with child. They tortured her for information, and once they had that information, Garona slipped away, her mind in turmoil. Despite every attempt to avoid the fate shown to her in Karazhan, it seemed she couldn't avoid her destiny -- and it would continue to haunt her in the years to come. After giving birth to Medivh's child, she handed him over to an old friend -- an ancient mage named Meryl Winterstorm. Despite the joy of having a child, the inability to control her own actions led her to believe she would ultimately be a danger to the child. After forbidding Meryl from ever telling her son about his parents, she fled into the wild.

Garona's story seemed quite simple at the release of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, but the seemingly uncomplicated character was far more than most realized. In her youth, she was convinced that she was destined to lead a life alone, neither orc nor human. In fact, what she was destined for was a lifetime of unwitting slavery to agents of the Burning Legion. The tragedy lies in her ignorance; had she known of the controls placed carefully in her mind, had she known of her true origins, she may have been able to do something about it.

Though Garona was done with society, society was hardly done with her -- or with her son. Next week, we'll cover the rest of Garona's story: the prophecy surrounding her son, her supposed defeat of those that controlled her, and her desperate, never-ending struggle to escape the strings of fate.

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.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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