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Know Your Lore: Broxigar the Red

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.

It's time for me to give the Horde some love in KYL -- if not for its future (an uncertain one), then for its past and for the family that comes closest to personifying its tragic history, current state and potential future. The Hellscream line has produced great warriors, the line of Durotan a world shaman, but only the Saurfangs can boast those who succumbed to the blood curse and those that strove to defy it. Ten thousand years before he was born, a Saurfang stood against a Titan and defied it, knowing he would die to save a world he didn't really know and had no reason to care about. A Saurfang stood at the Wrathgate, side by side with a human in opposition to evil, possibly the last time man and orc could look past their recent enmity. A niece even struck the blow that freed Malfurion Stormrage from being trapped forever in the Emerald Dream.

The Saurfangs have fought in every incarnation of the Horde.The eldest, Broxigar, fought in all three of the recent wars with distinction, becoming known as a hero to his people. His younger brother Varok also fought with the Horde from the time of the drinking of the Blood of Mannoroth, even serving as second-in-command of the Blackrock Clan under Orgrim Doomhammer. Varok Saurfang led Horde forces right up until the defeat at Blackrock Mountain and was one of the few orcs not entirely crippled by their aftermath.

Both brothers were the Horde made manifest, in both their triumphs and their defeats. Both struggled with what they had done and what they had failed to do. Varok felt himself forever tainted by the innocents he had killed while under the effects of the Blood Curse, while Broxigar lamented his own life continuing when so many of his friends and fellows had died.

Each would find his own way forward. For Broxigar, the path would lead backward.

Blackrock born

Even for an orc, Broxigar the Red was obsessed with honor and felt he had lost his by living. While he served the Horde with distinction all his life, his true shame came from an action he took long after the Blood Curse had lifted and Thrall has assumed the mantle of Warchief. During the Third War, as the Horde struggled to prevent the demonic army of the Burning Legion from claiming Mount Hyjal as their own, Broxigar led a force of orc warriors in the defense of a vital choke point that would give the Legion their path. Rather than allow the demons to proceed, the orcs stood and died. All of them.

All of them save Broxigar.

It can be seen as a form of survivor's guilt, but it goes beyond that. Broxigar's comrades died with honor, which itself has value, but they died with honor directly opposing the same demons that had tricked and curse their people. Brox, by living, had been denied that potent combination of glory and revenge.

It's one thing to survive, to grow old as an orc. Broxigar was of the generation that predated the war with the draenei. He remembered how things had been for his people before the rise of Ner'zhul and then Gul'dan, before Blackhand's Horde. The orcs had honored their elders and their ancestors, so it wasn't purely survival that shamed Brox. It was survival without purpose.

His fellows had died defeating the Legion, in some manner paying them back for what they'd made of the orcs. In essence, by standing against the Legion during the Third War, the orcs were saying, "Here we are, the weapon you forged -- and we will never let you use us again." Neither Broxigar's brother nor the rest of the extended family of siblings and half-siblings and their children could truly understand, or at least so Brox felt. He did not simply wish to die; he wished to die in a way that would redeem and fulfill his life. To die with honor, and with purpose.

Born after his time, back again borne by time

When the shaman Kalthar detected something amiss in the recently claimed Stonetalon Mountains, Broxigar was sent alongside a young orc named Gaskal. The younger orc was, as one might expect from an orc who had effectively grown up on Azeroth, a bellicose young warrior full of dreams of glory and adventure who got on Brox's nerves to some extent. Together they discovered the anomaly, and together they were pulled into its vortex. Gaskal of course died in the process, and Broxigar of course did not. This evidence of the perversity of fate did not surprise Broxigar, but it did anger him.

Few orcs grow to an old age if they can't adapt to changes on the battlefield. Broxigar adapted surprisingly well to being thrown 10,000 years into the past and forced to ally with night elves, a human mage, and an ancient dragon. When he first arrived in the past, the night elves of Suramar believed him to be part of the Legion itself and placed him in a cage, which is ironically how Broxigar came to meet Tyrande Whisperwind. For her part, Tyrande came to realize that Broxigar wasn't a maddened beast or a part of the Legion, while Brox himself respected her healing abilities and dubbed her "shaman," as it was the closest analog he could think for her ability to channel healing magic. It was via this meeting that Broxigar became part of the Kaldorei resistance and found himself fighting the Burning Legion once more.

Blood from a demon brings demons down to death

Since Broxigar's axe had been taken by Suramar's Moon Guard when they imprisoned him, Malfurion and Cenarius made him a new magical axe out of wood with the strength of steel and the hardness of diamond. And using that axe, Broxigar did what came naturally to his blood line, and he killed. He killed demons this time, and it was sweet to him like a soft breeze over the Nagrand hills.

For an orc who felt he had outlived his purpose, who felt guilt at survival when so many others had died, this was no dire battle for survival. Survival was never the goal, never the aspiration for Broxigar. Displaced in time, confronted with events he had no grounding to understand and people who he had never heard of, he did not allow himself to be distracted by contemplation. He acted, and the foe died. It was Broxigar who guarded Malfurion's body when the shan'do used his druid magic against Highborne magic.

Neither a grand strategist nor a leader, Broxigar made his final contribution to the War of Ancients in a most direct manner. While the others conceived and executed the plan that would lead to the final battle above the Well of Eternity, it was Broxigar who saw what they could not. His long experience with the demons both as a foot soldier in their army and an enemy showed him tactically what no one else could see: The plan was doomed. The demons would come pouring through the portal before it could be destroyed, and they would infest the world, destroying all who stood against them in a fel wave that could not be stopped. Their numbers were too great. On an open field of conflict, there was no chance to defeat them.

All the orcs who had ever lived could not balk the Legion on an open plain. Once past the portal, the demons would be able to bring their vast numbers to bear, and the resistance would die. Broxigar saw it with the clarity of vision of an old veteran adapting to a new battleground, and he acted before any of his allies could even conceive of his plan. He leapt from the back of a dragon and into the maw of the portal, directly through its passage and into the elsewhere beyond it.

The End of the Red and the Salvation of the World

All the orcs in existence could not stop the Legion past that portal. In front of it, one orc could, if he was the right orc. Broxigar was that orc. In the misty netherworld beyond Azeroth, he brandished the axe given him by Cenarius and blocked the way forward. The demons came for him.

The demons died.

Denied their numbers, they could not pass that whirling edge of wood held in the hands of an orc who had long since come to terms with death. Death held no terror for Broxigar. He had seen it on a thousand battelfields, caused it, endured it, watched it take those he loved and those he hated and leave him behind forever. Death had courted him and rejected him. Death had toyed with him.

Now, at the edges of that otherplace no orc could understand, one orc did better and defied the entire host of the Burning Legion. They could not pass. Death itself could no longer avoid Broxigar. It would be forced to their final meeting. The Red, as Brox's friends and family often called him, stood atop a pile of demon corpses and howled defiance back at themm as if to say "Here stands your weapon, forged by you, honed by you, twisted into flesh by you. And I will never be used by you again."

Brox killed so many demons that their carcasses actually provided him a platform for his long-delayed final act. A mere orc, he stood defiant as the Titan Sargeras came to the portal, seething in all his dark magnificence. This makes Broxigar the only mortal to ever stand in combat against Sargeras in his true form -- even more amazing, although the conflict itself was never in doubt, and Sargeras cut Broxigar down with one stroke from his broken sword Gorribal.

But first, Broxigar actually wounded Sargeras. True, it was a mere scratch on the leg, barely even a wound at all. But the significance of it was massive. Not only did this minor injury (the first Sargeras had suffered in eons, if ever) serve as a focus that allowed Krasus to distract Sargeras enough that Malfurion could blow the portal up right in his face, it showed that mortals were capable of standing defiant and striking at the Titans themselves. Fallen or no, Sargeras is a Titan, a member of the race that shaped Azeroth and much of the known cosmos, perhaps even Draenor.

Broxigar died, but his death saved the past, the future, the entire world of Azeroth and perhaps the destiny of mortals entire. It was a death with purpose as well as glory.

Not a deep thinker, not a general, not a warleader or champion of a great host, Broxigar the Red was an orc who lived through his people's greatest evil and made from it an act of pure defiance that redeemed it. Without the Blood Curse, without the Dark Portal, without the coming to Azeroth, Sargeras could not have been stopped. By an orc.

By Broxigar Saurfang, known as the Red. Broxigar bought the future at the cost of his own life, a price he had been longing to pay.

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: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore

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