It's been three years since we looked at what's happening with the Grimtotem tribe. Since that time, a lot has changed for the malcontents of the shu'halo, and it's worth our time to go back and take a look at the events that have turned them from the opposition to Cairne Bloodhoof from within the Horde to a dispossessed enemy tribe cast out from Thunder Bluff and the Horde. Who are the Grimtotem? What are their goals, and how do they mean to achieve them?
Even before the death of Cairne Bloodhoof the Grimtotem were less than pleased with his influence on the tauren people and his acceptance of their Horde allies. Under the leadership of Magatha Grimtotem, the elder crone of their tribe, they were involved in plots against both their supposed Horde allies as well as Alliance forces in Dustwallow Marsh. Strangely, though, it was Magatha and the Grimtotems who counseled that the Forsaken be allowed to join the Horde, and the Grimtotems seemed most likely to ally with the Forsaken of any of the Horde. The presence of Forsaken even today in the Pools of Vision inside the Spirit Rise is due to the Grimtotems.
Cairne allowed Magatha to stay in Thunder Bluff to watch her, and check her influence. In the end, it was not enough. To understand the current state of the Grimtotem, one must first understand the Elder Crone.
Blessed by the elements, cursed by her own hand
Magatha Grimtotem was strong with the elemental spirits since before she was an adult. A powerful shaman, she became leader of the tribe by marriage and death. Her marriage was an arranged one to the then-leader of the tribe (who has, as yet, gone nameless in the telling); his death was the event that led her to assuming power over the entire tribe. A climbing accident, they said, and if anyone had suspicions that the strong young shaman could have spoken to the earth and asked it to give way, none voiced them. Since before Cairne united the tauren people and led them to Thunder Bluff, Magatha has ruled the Grimtotem tribe. A stern and powerful shaman and a leader with a penchant for her own tribe, then her own people, over all others, Magatha never fully accepted Cairne as leader of all tauren or the Bloodhoof as the tribe that would bring all shu'halo together. None denied her power, her acumen or her knowledge but few outside her tribe were comfortable with following where she seemed likely to lead.
Even while Magatha resided in Thunder Bluff under Cairne's watchful eye, the Grimtotem in Stonetalon were attacking and burning villages belonging to the Horde, and her own nephew Arnak Grimtotem was a wanted murderer pursued by Horde justice. Magatha was also suspected in the operations of the Grimtotem in Dustwallow Marsh, where suspicious deaths could be traced to her tribe and Forsaken operatives working with them. Still, while Cairne lived, the fragile relationship between the Grimtotem tribe and the rest of the tauren people remained an uneasy peace.
"Either way, I look forward to hearing of your demise"
Make no mistake. While Garrosh Hellscream may be many things, he does not seek outside aid in personal combat. He did not wish to kill Cairne via poison. It was Magatha Grimtotem who anointed his axe with a deadly toxin. Magatha killed Cairne Bloodhoof, and it was Magatha most of all who engineered the brief Grimtotem seizure of Thunder Bluff. If not for the actions of one of her own tribe who was disgusted by her dishonor, Baine Bloodhoof too would have died, and the shu'halo today might well be led by the Grimtotem. Betrayed by Jevan, one of her own, Magatha was defeated by Baine's forces (a request for aid from Garrosh in return for her poisoning Cairne revealed that the Elder Crone had greatly and grossly misunderstood the new warchief of the Horde). The son of Cairne destroyed her totems, thus breaking the pacts she'd made over the years with the elemental spirits and greatly reducing her power. He then banished her from Thunder Bluff and all lands held by his people on penalty of death. A fraction of the tribe stayed with the Horde under Jevan's leadership, but the majority followed the Elder Crone into exile.
If Baine believed that exile would forever end the threat of Magatha Grimtotem, he was mistaken.
After making her way to the Grimtotem stronghold of Darkcloud Pinnacle, Magatha disappeared. While the Grimtotem tribe went on a rampage following the Cataclysm's opening up of Thousand Needles to the ocean, the Elder Crone was nowhere to be found. As might surprise no one, so powerful a shaman was a prize to the Twilight's Hammer, who took Magatha prisoner alongside many others in the region. However, the Twilight Cultists may have miscalculated in taking her prisoner, as she seems to have gained a great deal of understanding of their operations in Thousand Needles and even manages to manipulate others into not only opposing the Hammer, but in giving her access to several powerful artifacts in the process, including the Doomstone, a magical device capable of absorbing and amplifying elemental power. While the Twilights intended to use the Elemental Animus powered by the Doomstone to destroy all of Thousand Needles, it is as yet unknown what Magatha intends to do with the device.
What is clear is that Magatha managed to not only defeat the Twilight cult and gain several powerful magical items that could well catapult her well beyond her previous abilities, she did so while solidifying her hold over the Grimtotem tribe. The brief Alliance/Grimtotem detente founded in Stonetalon is most likely severed and she's still hunted by the Horde, but Magatha is now a powerful wild card in the struggle against Deathwing's servants. Whether she ends up the Aspect of Death's enemy or an ally, it's clear that Magatha will always plan for her own survival. It is very likely we will hear more of her soon. For one thing, the warchief of the Horde wants to put her head on a pike and carry it around, and it's not likely that the Alliance will extend themselves to protect her after her Grimtotem attacked their settlements in Feralas. The Elder Crone is powerful, but she has a positive gift for making enemies.
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.