There have been many paladins in the lands of Azeroth. Some hail from other worlds, such as the Vindicators of the Draenei. Still others are newly come to their powers, such as the Sunwalkers of the Shu'Halo. Ultimately, to be a paladin is to trust in a greater power than yourself to be your sword, shield and balm against the forces that threaten all you hold dear.
Interestingly, the Horde has not one but two unique paladin orders formed in recent years. Of these two, the Blood Knights of the Sin'dorei are interesting not only for the means of their foundation, but also the evolution they have gone through. This evolution is mirrored by that of their Matriarch, Liadrin. A former priest who survived the Scourge onslaught on Quel'thalas and the destruction of the original Sunwell, she lost her faith in the Light and took up the power of a Blood Knight in order to show her spite and derision for the magical force that did nothing to save her city and her people. Yet in time, Liadrin would learn that things were not as they seemed, turning against the Blood Prince Kael'thas himself for the sake of her people.
Liadrin, the first Blood Knight, became in truth as well in power a paladin. All she had to do was suffer the destruction of everything she thought she knew.
Liadrin was (as far as has been established) entirely unremarkable before the shadow fell on Quel'thalas. If she took part in the high elven defense of Silvermoon during the Second War, we have not heard of it. She seems to have lived a life of quiet religious contemplation of the Holy Light and its mysteries in the particular high elven way that made emphasis on its connection to the Light of the Sun and the magical Sunwell. In a different world, Liadrin may well have lived her life in peace and relative obscurity.
This different world would have had to have been one where Arthas Menethil did not come to Quel'thalas, of course. But come the traitor king did, to use the Sunwell to raise Kel'Thuzad the necromancer as a lich. Despite the best efforts of the high elves, nothing could stand against him. Thalorien Dawnseeker and the blade Quel'Delar failed. Ranger General Sylvanas Windrunner could not halt his advance. Even King Anasterian Sunstrider, wielding the Runeblade Felo'melorn (Flamestrike), could not prevent the former Knight of the Silver Hand from achieving his aims. Cutting a swath through Liadrin's home, her people, and everything she had ever believed sacred, the fallen paladin defiled even the Sunwell itself to violate the natural order and bring perverse unlife to Kel'Thuzad. The Scourge departed and left the survivors to envy the dead.
A sun sets the color of blood
Prince Kael'thas arrived too late to do anything but destroy the polluted Sunwell, cutting the quel'dorei off from its energies but also saving them from its undead taint. Kael'thas' actions saved his people and yet doomed them. His decision to join forces with the remaining humans in Lordaeron proved a costly mistake. Just like their former prince Arthas, they could not be trusted. Soon, Kael was forced to take many of his soldiers and escape to Outland, leaving the remnants of his father's kingdom to fend for themselves in a hostile land, bounded by undead and trolls who sought their deaths.
It's hardly surprising that Liadrin found her faith damaged, even destroyed by these events. What is surprising is that Liadrin herself found the courage to stand and refuse to lie down and die. Enraged and saddened, she turned her back on the Light that had turned its back on her people. Had the Light not allowed one of its former servants to become a thing of evil that slaughtered her people? Where was the Light when the Scourge armies struck down Thalorien, murdered and then desecrated Sylvanas, destroyed King Anasterian? Where was the Light when Prince Kael had been forced to destroy the Sunwell and rename their people sin'dorei, the blood elves? Why had it not answered her prayers, she who had been its servant and its priestess? There was no answer, and so she stopped asking.
Soon, Kael'thas restored contact with his people in the ruins of Silvermoon. Unlike the Light, it seemed Kael'thas had not forgotten them, and his chief mage and servant Rommath returned to Silvermoon City with a precious gift -- a being that served as a font of pure Light, a mystical entity that radiated power and magic like a beacon, a fountain, a font. Like the Sunwell had. Rommath explained that the entity was a naaru, a being allied to some of the strange natives of the Outland, and that Kael'thas had sent it back to be used to ease the savage withdrawal the elves were suffering after the destruction of the Sunwell. They were to feed on it, pull the powerful magical energies out of it to sustain themselves. Rommath presented this idea of the elves of Silvermoon.
The bloody pinions of the phoenix
A young magister named Astalor Bloodsworn, however, dared to find fault with Prince Kael'thas' suggested use of the naaru. While it was true that they could simply batten upon the thing and drain it to death using their mastery of the arcane, where was the art in that? Where the poetry in simply devouring it, when instead the entity could be kept alive indefinitely and used not as a supply of the magic they craved, but rather in a way few had ever dreamed? The Naaru was infused with Light, a magical energy they barely understood that could replenish the sick and heal wounds. The high elves had seen this power at work in their own priests before the coming of the Scourge. Astalor posited that a sufficiently strong will could find a way to make use of this power again. But he needed someone willing to test what might well lead to his or her destruction.
Liadrin heard of this, and before Astalor could find her, she went to him and volunteered. Her rage and bitterness would no longer allow her (or many others formerly sworn to the Light) to bend her knee to it. But she could willingly bend it to her. Liadrin became the first of her people to undergo Astalor's process of draining the Light from M'uru and infuse it into a sin'dorei champion -- the first of the Blood Knights, sworn not to the Light but to the blood elves, Silvermoon, and themselves.
Liadrin proved an able and fierce politician, a savvy leader, and a powerful foe capable of using the Light aggressively and decisively. Under her guidance, the Blood Knights rose to challenge the venerable Farstriders for influence in the new Silvermoon and replaced the Spellbreaker warrior tradition almost completely.
Ironically, what they say about the abyss is also true for the radiance. Stare too long into the glare and the glare stares also into you. Despite her and her people's anger and contempt, will they nil they, the Light was not so easily bent as they had thought. However, it took the actions of Prince Kael'thas to show the Blood Knights what they were becoming. Astalor and Liadrin were shocked to discover their Prince's change of heart and alliance with Kil'jaeden of the Burning Legion when Sunstrider and a force of demonic fel elves stormed Silvermoon and removed M'uru to the Sunwell Plateau -- Kil'jaeden, who had created the Lich King that sent Arthas to destroy their people! And in the service of that arch demon, Kael'thas had stolen the one gift that his people had learned to use better than he himself ever did. Without M'uru, how would the Blood Knights hold onto their wrested powers? To raise the dead, heal the sick, and smite their enemies they had believed themselves the Light's masters forcing it to their desires and now, they had no means to continue. This was a blow to the resurgent blood elf pride that few could have endured.
Rise and raise your fist at the return of the end
Liadrin managed to do more than endure it. She cast her anger, her pride, her vanity, her wounded faith, and all else aside and placed herself at the mercy of A'dal for the sake of her people and her order. Having lost everything once, she would not do so again without first making every effort to secure her people's future. Amazingly, A'dal welcomed her and revealed to her the truth. The Light had not abandoned her.
M'uru came to Silvermoon as a willing sacrifice, to give of himself and his own Light to heal her people's wounded hearts. The Light cannot always prevent evil from occuring, because it cannot oppose the free choice of every being to fall to darkness. But it can work to restore, and to rebuild, just as the blood elves had done. In her way, Liadrin had been in danger of falling just as Arthas had done, but M'uru's sacrifice gave her and her order a chance. Seeing the truth of this and the prophecy of Velen the Prophet, Liadrin swore that she and her Blood Knights would oppose Prince Kael'thas.
The results of this were many. Kael'thas died in the Magister's Terrace. The Sunwell Plateau was raided and restored to the control of the people of Silvermoon. Kil'jaeden was defeated and banished. And the remains of the Naaru M'uru were placed in the remnants of the Sunwell, reigniting it as a font of pure Light and Arcane power that instantly restored the original connection of those who, like Liadrin, had lost their faith in the Light -- neither masters nor servants, neither supplicants nor manipulators, but in tune with the Light and its goals once again.
Today, Liadrin serves her people as a combination of the teacher and priest she was once and the martial leader and politician she became. The foremost paladin of the Horde, the defender of the sin'dorei from all foes, the sword, the shield, and even the balm-- in the Light of the restored Sunwell, she is all these things to her people. When the War of the Light and the Darkness comes to Azeroth, Liadrin will be found on the battlefield.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
- The paladin tradition
- The sources of magic, part 1
- The Prophet Velen, the Light, and the Darkness
- Interbellum part 2 -- Into the Outland
- Blood elf politics
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.