Last week, we talked about Lothar's life up to the end of the First War and the destruction of Stormwind. I also stated that he was the greatest warrior ever to walk the face of Azeroth, and some of you demurred. You put up other contenders, like Hellscream, Doomhammer, Saurfang, Broxigar, and all of these figures were great warriors, it's true. They were great at half of what makes a warrior great. They were great at fighting. Hellscream was a masterful combatant on the field, and he could inspire loyalty in his men. Doomhammer was an excellent tactician and ruthless in the name of victory. Saurfang is awe-inspiring in battle; Broxigar, his brother, had the courage to challenge Sargeras knowing it would be his death. How then can I say that Lothar is greater than these?
The glory that guides, the greatness that preserves
Lothar was greater than any other warrior, greater than his student and ward Varian Wrynn, greater than Garrosh, greater then Jarod Shadowsong or Shandris Feathermoon, greater than Muradin Bronzebeard, not through the strength of his arm. Many of these warriors could have defeated him in single combat, possibly. I'll admit that I personally don't think any of them could have, but let's pretend I do. It would not change things if they did.
Lothar's greatness did not come from his prowess in battle, fearsome though he was. It did not come from his tactical acumen, skilled though he was. It did not come even from his ability to inspire and lead men, able though he was. No, Lothar's greatness was the greatness of the man who never puts his own desires above his people. When called upon, he struck down his childhood companion, a cherished friend, a man he loved like a brother to save his people. He did not want to. He did it for the people of his kingdom, who he had sworn to protect.
Lothar took no actions for vainglory. He took no actions to conquer for profit. He did not make war on helpless farmers scratching out a meager existence in a swamp, he did not sell his people to demons, he never once went along with evil because it was easier than fighting for good, he did not throw himself into death rather than live with the dishonor of his life because he never dishonored himself. He did not hate his enemies even as he fought them. A mortal man, given only a mortal lifespan, he fought against an otherworldly enemy with no magical power, no gift of the Light, no clear and present sign of divine favor. Born of kings, he never reached for power. Leader of the combined armies of man, dwarf, gnome and elf, he never once acted for his own aggrandizement. He was greater than all because not once did he seek to be greater than anyone.
In death, Lothar bought life for his world. A man, he knew death would most likely be just that. He did not live thousands of years. He did not bring about a new order. He lived, and he died, fighting solely for the preservation of countless innocents who had done nothing to deserve the death that came out of a Dark Portal to savage his world.
Why is Lothar supreme among those who have born the sword? Because, in the end, only Lothar can truly be said to have purely and without restraint sold every last inch of his mortal frame, his life, his legacy, his birthright, and even his death so that others might live.
The forging of the last hope for life
When Stormwind burned and the orcs capered over the bodies of the men and women who had died so that their people might survive, Lothar led the remainder of a once great nation north across the Great Sea to the city of Lordaeron. It was the reputation of the Lion of Azeroth, the last scion of the Arathor, that opened the gates of Lordaeron to these ragtag refugees, the orphan prince who was now king. And it was Lothar's force of will that impressed upon King Terenas Menethil the danger his own kingdom faced, the danger all the kingdoms of man faced, the ruin that had befallen a once mighty people.
Each king and potentate would need to be convinced in turn. Lothar convinced them. Some, like Thoras Trollbane, required the bluntness of a soldier's words, and so these were the words Lothar used. Perenold of Alterac and the archmage Antonidas of Dalaran required a more diplomatic touch, and Lothar found the means to speak so to them. Gilneas barely participated, sending a token force, but Lothar realized that even a token was better than nothing and used their reluctant participation to present a unified humanity to the high elves of Quel'thalas. When this proved insufficient to convince them to come to humanity's aid, Lothar played his trump card.
As the last of the Arathor, the kings of the Sunstrider dynasty owed Lothar and humanity a debt for their salvation during the Troll Wars. Lothar called this debt due. No king of any human nation could have done so. Only Lothar, as blood descendant of the Arathor, had the right, and he used this debt that his family had held inviolate for thousands of years to save not himself, not even just humanity, but all of Azeroth as he knew it against the Horde.
Battle against the Horde
With the Alliance formed, Lothar and his hand-picked second-in-command Turalyon turned their efforts toward its victory. Turalyon grew to revere his commander as someone who never seemed to suffer the same doubts that the paladin did, yet never trumpeted himself as one always correct, seemingly simply content with doing his absolute most for his people and owning the results. Much as Varian Wrynn, son of Lothar's old friend Llane, Turalyon came to view Anduin Lothar as a kind of second father. The army they commanded also viewed him as such.
Turalyon led a force to the north that eventually prevented the Horde and their allies the trolls of Zul'Aman from destroying Quel'thalas, repaying the high elves for their membership in the Alliance. Lothar faced off against Doomhammer, the slayer of Blackhand and sacker of Stormwind, and fought him up and down the countryside from Hillsbrad to, ultimately, the gates of Lordaeron itself. Doomhammer's use of the traitor Perenolde had given him a path straight through Alterac, and he came within a hair's breadth of conquering the city.
It was not Lothar's superior skill or command of tactics that defeated Doomhammer. It was one simple fact. Lothar's men served him out of absolute loyalty, respect, and admiration. Doomhammer's forces were not so united. On the very cusp of victory, Doomhammer was again betrayed by Gul'dan and the forces loyal to the puppetmaster who had ruled the previous Warchief and assassinated Doomhammer's oldest friends, Durotan and Draka.
Doomhammer had chosen to forgive the warlock for his murder and deceit, because to Doomhammer, nothing was more important than victory. Not honor nor honorable conduct, not respect or self respect, not even the fate of his people under warlock rule was more important to Doomhammer than survival and victory. Victory at all costs. This policy proved to be the undoing of Doomhammer's forces. Divided and further divided by Doomhammer's enraged order to seek out Gul'dan's forces and destroy them, they could not stand against Lothar from the city and Turalyon from the deck of high elven ships, and they were crushed.
Doomhammer's orcs did not love him; they loved battle and victory, and the carnage of their destructive wake. Lothar's men loved him, loved themselves because he told them they should, and they pushed the orcs south in his name -- literally so. The Alliance battle cry wasn't the name of a city or nation. It was his name. "For Lothar!" It rang out as the orcs found themselves pushed ever further south. "For Lothar!"
The last trumpet, the last ride against darkness
When the end came, neither side expected it. The last stronghold before the Black Morass was the reinforced fortress of Blackrock Mountain, and on the slopes of that mountain, the two commanders met. Did Lothar and Doomhammer meet in single combat? Was Lothar ambushed? Different tales have told different stories. What I know is this: On that mountainside, Doomhammer showed that he did not understand, that his people did not understand and never could understand who they were fighting. Doomhammer knew that if he died, his Horde would fall apart, and so he assumed the same for humanity. When the end came for Lothar, Doomhammer exulted, believing his foes defeated.
Alive, Lothar was a man. A symbol, to some extent. An inspiration, perhaps. But still a man, older, gray-haired and grey-bearded, a man who had lived a hard life and seen war and death. A man who could grow tired, make mistakes. Indomitable, but fallible. But once he was dead, Lothar ceased to be a man. Lothar the man died on Blackrock Mountain, his sword broken.
That broken sword destroyed the orcish Horde completely. Doomhammer's laughter was flung back into his face by Turalyon, bearing his general's sword, his general's name bursting from his throat. "For Lothar!" the High General screamed, and for Lothar the armies of the Alliance of Lordaeron destroyed the Horde, ground the invaders, the murderers, the thieves who ruined their own world at the behest of genocidal demons and power-hungry madmen into the rock of the mountain slopes. The Horde that had thrown decapitated mothers and slaughtered children onto piles at the former temple of Karabor would never do the same thing to Azeroth. The ruined remnants of that demon-blood-drinking Horde were swept before the fury of Lothar's name, sparks thrown aside by the hammer crashing onto the anvil.
In death, Lothar's name would live on. It was given to the band of adventurous heroes led by his second, Turalyon, to the alien world that had invaded his own. It was given to the son of Varian, his fosterling, to honor the life of the kingdom he had saved. It rings out to this day when the sons and daughters of the people he saved from annihilation need to remember his example and his sacrifice. As the Cataclysm rages and his people feel themselves pressed on all sides, the spirit of Lothar can only be called upon more and more often.
He was the Lion of Azeroth. He was the one man who always put others first. He could have conquered a kingdom of his own. He could have ruled. He could have used his prodigious gifts to serve his own vanity and ego. He did none of these things. And because he did not, his people still exist. Long may the lions roar over the gates of Stormwind, and know that as they do, they roar for him as he roared for them.
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.