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.
We're going to shift gears today. Last week, I got kind of crazy, and Anne posed some pretty interesting questions about the TCG this weekend, so now I want to downshift and take advantage of this last week before Mists launches and we can finally explode in our lorepaloozas about Mogu and Yaungol and Vermings oh my.
But this week, with Theramore's fall, I wanted to touch upon a little story that may be lost. Sure, it's all big Horde invasions and mana bombs and vengeance, and that's all great, but who remembers the Hyal family? Who remembers a nice little inn on the Gold Road between Theramore and Ashenvale? Remember Theramore, of course, but let's also mourn for Smiling Jim, who lost everything already before the mana bomb ended his life. Perhaps mercifully, in his case.
- He'll bring you mead
- He'll bring you beer
- A grinning face from ear to ear
- He's served us all from year to year
- We call him Smiling Jim.
Mysteries of the Marsh
For a lot of people, the big unsolved mystery of the Marsh in those days was the Missing Diplomat quest chain, and I understand why, since it was ultimately a story of important figures with large lore implications. But as important as lost kings, the machinations of the Defias, and the hints of the naga were for me that one burned out inn to the west of the zone loomed huge in the imagination. Who had burned it? Why had they done so? The Hyal family wasn't hurting anyone. They were running an out of the way place for travelers of all stripes to stop, get a meal, and rest from the road. Horde, Alliance, they weren't concerned with the conflicts of factions. Thrall himself had ordered that they be left unmolested, and yet someone had burned the place down. I investigated on both Horde and Alliance characters, yet the mystery remained, until finally patch 2.3.0 brought it to an end.
Justice doesn't heal loss
I took some small pleasure in bringing the murderers of the Hyal family to justice, and briefly putting the spirits of Lynn and Jimmy Hyal to rest. But I couldn't really give Smiling Jim back his sanity. He'd lost everything, after all. The Hyals came to Kalimdor with Jaina Proudmoore, one of many such families of ordinary people who made the trip to escape a doomed Lordaeron and the flesh-craving undead to try and make a new life. Being a skilled cook (according to his brother Vincent, who ended up in Menethil Harbor) opening an inn seemed like a natural fit for his talents, and his wife and later son could help in the running of the place. Perhaps with the example of the combined forces of the night elves, tauren, orcs and humans all having worked to bring an end to Archimonde and the Burning Legion, the Hyals believed their inn could serve as a neutral ground for all these disparate peoples to come together.
It wasn't until patch 2.3.0 that we finally learned who dared defy Thrall's order and risk both the wrath of the Alliance and the Horde to burn the inn and kill Lynn and Jimmy Hyal - it was in fact entirely hoping to provoke both factions into direct conflict that led to the burning of the Shady Rest. The local Grimtotem were in fact planning to drive the Alliance out of the Marsh and to make it look like the Horde entire was behind it, forcing Thrall to either back their power play or deal with an enraged Alliance. In the end, both the Alliance and the Horde, for their own reasons, moved against the Direhorn Post and set the Grimtotem plans for the Marsh back significantly.
The lost legacy of the Shady Rest inn
For me the poignancy came from the fact that, in the end, it didn't really matter. Sure, the Grimtotems paid for what they did, but the Horde covered up their own involvement (and that of the Forsaken, specifically, in supplying and supporting them) for fear of internal political strife. The Alliance had bigger concerns (missing Kings and all) and didn't really have the interest in pursuing it any further. Lynn and Jimmy were still dead, James still a broken man squatting near the Theramore inn singing his sad little song. I couldn't fix any of that, I could (and did) bring down the killers but that's cold comfort at best for a man who lost everything.
The destruction of Theramore brings it all to an end. The Hyal family attempted to build a little place of peace and comfort where all could come, rest, and refresh themselves on their journeys. With Smiling Jim's death, the last victim of that dream of peace can finally rest with his family. I'm sad I won't be able to visit with him anymore, or see Captain Vimes again, but I can't say I'm sorry Smiling Jim at least gets to be with Lynn and Jimmy again. He's earned some measure of peace, and I hope he gets it.
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.