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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The whereabouts of Medivh

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.
As for me, I came back to ensure that there would be a future, to teach the world that it no longer needed Guardians. The hope for future generations has always resided in mortal hands. And now that my task is done, I will take my place amongst the legends of the past.

Medivh, former Guardian of Azeroth, had a tough life to put it mildly. Born to a mother who had him solely to insure that her powers passed on to someone of her choosing, Medivh was promptly left to be raised by his father, Stormwind's court conjurer Nielas Aran. When he reached the age of fourteen, Medivh came into the powers he'd inherited -- and promptly killed his father when those powers were unleashed, sinking into a twenty-year coma from which he eventually awakened, now in his mid-30's and a fully grown man.

Yet that wasn't all that he had to contend with. He also carried within himself the spirit of Sargeras, fallen Titan and leader of the Burning Legion. Sargeras used Medivh as if he were a puppet, orchestrating the opening of the Dark Portal and unleashing the orc Horde on Azeroth. He was ultimately stopped when his plans were uncovered and he was confronted by Garona, Anduin Lothar, and his apprentice, Khadgar -- and lost his head in the process. Oddly enough, Medivh came back years later to orchestrate the unification of orc, human and night elf troops to defeat Archimonde at Hyjal, before disappearing for good. Or what seemed like it was for good.

But have we really seen the last of Medivh?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Reborn

How, exactly, did Medivh return to life after being decapitated, anyway? It was the efforts of his mother, Aegwynn that did the deed -- she spent those years after his death pulling together the power to return him to life. The Medivh we see in Warcraft III is not some sort of mysterious ghost -- he's alive. After he was revived, he returned to Karazhan briefly, collecting the energies and visions from his former home and remembering all that transpired leading up to his demise. Once he had closed up shop, so to speak, Medivh went to work.

He traveled to Lordaeron, and began warning people of the threat that was about to hit the kingdom -- unfortunately, his words went unheeded by many. Only two people really listened to what Medivh had to say. One was Lady Jaina Proudmoore, daughter of Grand Admiral Daelas Proudmoore, the leader of Kul Tiras. Jaina heeded Medivh's warning, gathered as many as she could, and went where he told her to go -- to Kalimdor. The other was an unlikely source -- Thrall, liberator of the orcs and Warchief of the new Horde. Thrall took his people and left as well, seeking out Durotar and his people's destiny, finding new allies along the way.

And once both were on Kalimdor's soil, they were subtly brought together by Medivh, along with the night elves that were native to the continent. A threat loomed over the peaks of Hyjal -- the demon lord Archimonde sought to drain the World Tree Nordrassil of its powers and presumably conquer Azeroth in the name of the Burning Legion once he'd finished doing so. Although all three sides were wary, they agreed to work together in the name of defeating the Legion -- and the mission was a success, though Nordrassil was nearly destroyed in the process. Content that he'd atoned for his sins, Medivh simply departed for parts unknown, and nobody has seen him since.

It's a nice story. It's a wonderful tale of corruption and retribution. It also might not technically be one hundred percent true, or it might be far more truthful than we'd ever guessed.

Sargeras

Hidden within Medivh was the essence of Sargeras, leader of the Burning Legion. How'd he get there? Once again, the answer lies at the feet of Aegwynn. While serving her term as Guardian of Azeroth, Aegwynn confronted an avatar of Sargeras, defeating it soundly in combat. What she didn't realize was that the avatar was, in fact, a trap -- once freed from his physical form, the spirit of Sargeras was able to reside within Aegwynn's body for as long as it needed to. Once Aegwynn eventually conceived her son, the spirit of Sargeras took the opportunity to move to the unborn child instead.

While Medivh was shackled in that twenty-year coma, Sargeras went to work, gaining control of Medivh's mind. When he awoke at age 34, Sargeras' spirit twisted his thoughts, emotions, and actions, convincing the Guardian that the human race was doing nothing more than standing in the way of true power. To that end, it needed to be destroyed -- and the Dark Portal was just the trick to accomplish that task. Medivh simply wasn't able to escape that which lie within him.

The only escape, it seemed, was his own demise. Certainly Sargeras was in control when Medivh was confronted by Khadgar, Lothar, and Garona. He was in control when Khadgar was unnaturally aged. He was likely in control right up to the moment that Medivh was run through with a blade. Lothar dealt the final blow, a mercy strike that took the Guardian's head from his shoulders, and sent Sargeras, reeling, back to the Twisting Nether. We haven't heard from him since, although the rest of the Legion has been active enough.

Medivh's first actions upon reawakening were to try and pull together human and orc forces, make them work with each other, show them that there was in fact a chance for peace, if both sides truly wished it to be so.

But is that really what he intended?

The long game

Sargeras isn't just another run of the mill demon. He's the leader of the Burning Legion. He was once a Titan. He is far, far stronger than any of the rest of his army, Archimonde and Kil'jaeden included. He's a powerhouse of chaotic corruption, evil in its purest form. When you think about that, it's kind of odd that he was defeated and sent running so easily. Archimonde took the combined efforts of three armies to defeat. Kil'jaeden took a united army to bring down in Burning Crusade. But Sargeras? He was sent limping home by two quick strikes of a sword. He was defeated by three people -- technically two, because Garona did little to damage Medivh.

That's a little odd, to say the least. One could argue that it was just his spirit in Medivh -- but it was the spirit of a fallen Titan with the powers of a Guardian at his back. Shouldn't it have been more difficult? One sword blow, and suddenly Sargeras is gone, Medivh is dead, the world can rest at ease and deal with the threat of the Horde with Medivh out of the way. Doesn't it seem kind of ... stupid of Sargeras, to leave himself so vulnerable? Sargeras is many things, but I don't think he's stupid.

Sargeras spent a great deal of time slowly corrupting the kaldorei and introducing the Legion to Azeroth in the War of the Ancients. When his plans were thwarted, he spent an even longer time preparing to strike -- ten thousand years passed between the War of the Ancients and the events of Warcraft. That's an impossibly long time to think and to plan, by our standards -- but to a creature as long-lived as Sargeras, it may have seemed like the blink of an eye. Which is why it's odd that he was so easily defeated by so few -- and that it's been so very long since we've heard anything from him at all.

Unless we hadn't actually seen the last of him. In fact, maybe he never really left at all.

Conflict and chaos

What if Medivh never actually lost the spirit of Sargeras? Certainly it seems more than a little far-fetched, especially given Medivh's actions once he was resurrected. He went out of his way to atone for his sins, out of his way to unite the orcs and humans, spawning a friendship between Warchief Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore that would have the two of them steadfastly trying to promote peace between their people for decades. He went out of his way to put a halt to Archimonde's plans, to keep Nordrassil from being drained.

But let's stop for a second and look -- I mean really look -- at what these actions actually accomplished.
  • Archimonde was defeated -- but Nordrassil was completely destroyed in the process. The night elves lost the immortality that had been granted to them after the War of the Ancients, never to see it again.
  • Jaina Proudmoore and Warchief Thrall became friends, allies of sorts -- and it fostered all kinds of tension in both the Alliance and Horde. Their rose-tinted view of the world was shared by few others.
  • In fact, you could say that the more Jaina and Thrall pressed the two factions together, the more the two factions rankled at the very idea.
  • The higher Jaina and Thrall built their hopes up behind that idea of peace, the farther it had to eventually fall -- resulting in Thrall abandoning the Horde entirely and appointing Garrosh Hellscream in his place, and the traumatic destruction of Theramore, which ended any hope Jaina had for peace in explosive fashion.
  • And when, at last, war broke out again between the two factions, it was blatantly clear to both sides that peace was not and never would be an option. Jaina tried, Thrall tried -- look where it got them.
Wrathion said it flat-out. "A divided Azeroth cannot possibly stand against the darkness." He's been saying it ever since he saw that vision of Azeroth devoured by Legion's flame. If Horde and Alliance are too busy attacking each other, they make themselves a dead easy target for the Legion to simply swoop in and destroy the world. End of story. Bye bye Azeroth. Yet Wrathion didn't try to unite the two factions -- he set the war into fast-forward, with the intent of having one side declared the true victor, the other to meekly turn over and join the winning faction. Why? Because Jaina and Thrall had tried for peace, and it didn't work.

So here's the million dollar question -- was Medivh actually trying to atone for his sins at all? Or was Sargeras elegantly orchestrating a very, very long plan in which we were pitted against each other with the intent of making sure we could never be united, and thus never combat the inevitable second coming of the Burning Legion?


Medivh

It's a complicated waterfall of events, but at the same time, it makes perfect sense. Here we have the orcish Horde -- skillfully crafted by Kil'jaeden to be a bloodthirsty army of monsters -- abandoned by Kil'jaeden once Shattrath City was destroyed. Gul'dan was then contacted by Medivh, possessed by the spirit of Sargeras, and together they opened the Dark Portal. Chaos reigned. Stormwind was destroyed. But it wasn't the Legion fully at work at this point -- it was a tool of the Legion. It was a race that was nothing more than the Legion's puppets.

And once Medivh's head had been lopped from his shoulders, supposedly Sargeras was banished back to the Twisting Nether. But we don't really have any proof of that. Nobody has any proof of that. The only one that really had the truth of that particular moment in time was Medivh himself. Once resurrected, of course he would say Sargeras was banished -- because it provided a perfect guise for Sargeras to get back to work. And he had a lot of work to do. In his downtime, the Horde had been defeated, captured, freed, and then reunited by a curious orc with strangely noble ideals.

Why would Medivh, on his own, without the influence of Sargeras, go to talk to -- and preserve -- the creatures who had once been killing machines of the Burning Legion? Medivh didn't know about the corruption of the orcs. He didn't know what or who they were before they were corrupted. It doesn't make sense that he would go out of his way to speak with them -- unless he wanted to subtly try and foment the tides of war, by pushing orc and human together, knowing full well that they'd never actually work together. Knowing full well that eventually, somewhere down the line, many years for the mortal races, but a blink of an eye for Sargeras, it would all fall apart in spectacular fashion.

And when it all eventually fell apart, there would be little to no hope for peace between the factions. They would be forever divided. Even Wrathion, possessing whatever wisdom he'd received from that terrifying vision of the future, didn't bother to consider the option of peace, because it was no longer an option. Clever, that. Yet while all of this is an interesting line of speculation, it really doesn't answer the question posed at the beginning of this column. Where, exactly is Medivh? Where did he go, once the deed was done upon Mount Hyjal? Exactly where he said he'd go -- to take his place among the legends of the past. Literally.

Not our past. Draenor's.


I don't think we've seen the last of Medivh. Nor have we seen the last of the darkness that lies within, waiting for the perfect moment to be fully unleashed.


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: Lore, Know your Lore

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