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Old 04-05-2013, 09:09 AM
BaronGrackle BaronGrackle is offline

Echo of the Past
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Join Date: May 2012
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Medivh Earliest Retcons

Applicable Resources
Human story - Lothar's account
Human units
Orc story - Garona's account
Orc units
Other units
Mission briefings
Warcraft II full manual

Retcons to the World of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans

There is a certain appealing mystique to the First War. Some events from the original Warcraft have been set in stone, some have been definitively retconned, and some are in a dubious state of attempted retcon so that it's difficult to determine which lore is still valid. We'll get more into that when we cover The Last Guardian.

I'll be the first to admit that Warcraft II killed some beautiful lore from Warcraft. For me, the most regrettable loss was the three class-based subfaction balance of the Orcs, which at the time was described as three "clans": warlocks, necrolytes, and warriors (the latter of course having the most unit variety and presumably, further subfactional divisions). There was no historical or cultural connection between warlock magic and necromancy--no more than the connection between the Human Clerics (holy light) and Conjurers (arcane). Politically, the warlocks were the true heroes of the orcs at this time. Whereas the warrior orcs fell into civil war in the absence of a common enemy, and the necrolytes were content to have the dead pile up, it was only the warlocks who were far-sighted enough to see that this self-bloodshed was destroying the orcish people. In the language of environmentalism, the orcs were out of a critical natural resource. And it was the warlocks, not the necrolytes, who actively sought a solution.

In Warcraft II these two castes are retconned as branches from the same tree: Gul'dan. We're used to thinking of shamanism as the original orc cultural magic, with warlockery introduced by Kil'jaeden. Yet when the concept of shamans was introduced in Warcraft II, the relationship between them and the warlocks is extremely vague. Ner'zhul is briefly mentioned as a tribal shaman and as Gul'dan's teacher, and then a few sentences later Gul'dan claims to have become the greatest warlock the clans had seen in generations. But we'll talk more about shamanism when we get to the Dragonmaw and the Shadowmoon. Suffice to say for now, all three orc magical titles (shaman, warlock, necrolyte) had some relation to exploring the Twisting Nether.

Regardless, the point is that warlocks were historical and mainstream in this version of the Horde. Then Gul'dan made contact with Kil'jaeden and learned a powerful new magic: necromancy. And thus Gul'dan taught the secrets of the dead to his select clique of warlocks, which he shaped into the Shadow Council. He then set up a school for necrolytes. And what was the difference between necrolytes and warlocks-with-necromancy? The lore was unclear here, though we see that there was some difference during the forming of the Death Knights. More on that later. Any which way, the distinction that Warcraft set between these two magical classes was shattered by Gul'dan and Kil'jaeden's introduction to the franchise. I consider this the greatest sin that Warcraft II committed against the lore of the original game, in that it made the world a little smaller with no real payoff.

In terms of storyline, perhaps the most significant change Warcraft II brought was the relationship between Medivh and the orcs. In Warcraft, Medivh created the rift accidentally while battling his father during his historic outburst. The orc warlocks discovered this rift on their own initiative, leaping at the answer to their people's resource crisis and expanding the rift into a proper Portal. There is an attractive quality to this version--the idea of chaos being inadvertently released, of a villainous megalomaniac (Medivh) reaching too far and accidentally unleashing an entity that threatens to overwhelm him alongside his enemies (we'll see this theme return in later works, with summoned daemons instead of summoned orcs), and upon learning of his mistake, fortifying his own position and allowing the two forces to destroy each other. At least, until Azeroth struck to take him down anyway, not willing to risk Medivh recovering full power after the battle with his mother. Plus, it also depicts the orcs as remarkably independent.

In Warcraft II, Medivh is established to be in league with the orcs through Gul'dan. And I'm not saying this retcon is "better" than the Warcraft version, but it does add an entertaining element. This lore change (which more or less endures today, despite the clarification of Sargeras being a responsible party) establishes that the first example of a Human and Orc cooperating together was between Medivh and Gul'dan. If only humans and orcs today could follow their example of collaboration and brotherhood, right?

The villains' motivations aren't very complex. Medivh, already at the apex of magical power, wants an ally/weapon to gain him military-political strength by destroying the Kingdom of Azeroth--the only force that he thinks could physically stop him. And how right he was. Gul'dan, in turn, seeks to climb the magical totem pole. Feeling he has learned enough from the Daemon Kil'jaeden, he is ready to consume directly from a much more powerful source: the Tomb of Sargeras. Gul'dan's own words describe his goal the best:

Originally Posted by Gul'dan
Within me an unfathomable lust was sewn - a desire to wield the fury of ethereal storms and to stand unscathed within the dying hearts of burning suns.
Really, it's a little more awe-inspiring if you don't think in terms of artifact macguffins like an "Eye" or a "Jeweled Scepter" and more in line with direct arcane absorption. Also consider... though this is a potentially contentious and debatable point... but at this time in lore, Sargeras was not quite as "titanic" a character as he is now. In a sense, he seems a Daemonlord on the level of Archimonde's or Kil'jaeden's current depiction--imposing, but realistically beatable or perhaps even killable--as Aegwyn did in fact defeat Sargeras legitimately, per my interpretation. We'll revisit this also at The Last Guardian.

But likewise, that bumps Kil'jaeden to a standard daemon, albeit one important enough to be named, knowledgeable enough to reveal to Gul'dan a new realm of understanding the aspects of the Twisting Nether, but still lacking enough to flee at the mentioning of Medivh--son of mighty Sargeras's slayer, who was passed his mother's power and knowledge, including the location of Sargeras's tomb. And again, it is debatable; one could easily argue that Blizzard already considered Medivh possessed by Sargeras as evidenced by his dramatic coma, and Kil'jaeden merely recognized this. I don't ascribe to the theory, but I can see how others might.

One final possible retcon we'll explore in this post is the length of the first phase of the First War, or the leadup to the First War, depending on whether you mark the start the First War at the opening of the Portal and first raids, or the first attack on Stormwind Keep and acknowledgement by Azeroth's king, or the ascension of Blackhand and start of the Warcraft campaign missions. In the Warcraft manual, Lothar's account gives us the only timeline we'll have until the modern era. In the Warcraft II manual, Aegwyn's account actually verifies some of these years (559 for Medivh's birth and 583 for the Portal's opening) and "corrects" one (Medivh's age of ascension at age thirteen; the Warcraft timeline marked Medivh's ascension twelve years after his birth while marking Llane's ascension thirteen years after his), but it leaves uncertainty on the length of the actual fighting.

From the Warcraft manual, Garona's account lists 15 years between the first attack on Stormwind Keep and the rise of Blackhand. Lothar's timeline seems to mark 10 years between these same events but (as has been pointed out to me in a recent discussion here) may instead simply mark 10 years from the Stormwind attack to the visit from Medivh's mother, leaving room for a further 5 year gap to Blackhand's reign. Now, in Warcraft II, Aegwyn's account simply states:

Originally Posted by Aegwyn
The arrival of Gul'dan and the Horde War Chief Blackhand heralded a war that tore the realm of Azeroth asunder for nearly five years.
There are two main interpretations of this text. Either:

1) The Warcraft campaign events alone lasted 5 years, tacked onto the 10-15 years after First Stormwind (a maximum of 30 years of conflict), or

2) The large time span had a flat retcon, lasting only 5 years total.

At this point in lore development, it is difficult to determine Blizzard's intentions. Personally, I think it was a straight retcon. Let me tell you why.

In Warcraft, we didn't have very many characters set in place, and those established could foreseeably been on the scene for 10-15 years. Medivh is easily believable as timeless, Lothar could have started as a young adult and aged from there, Garona could have matured to adulthood as the long war progressed, Llane specifically did grow into his adulthood during this time (with a presumed year of regency for him to grow old enough to succeed his fallen father), and Blackhand didn't take the stage until at least a decade in. The latter two examples are particularly notable; we see that both King Llane and Warchief Blackhand gained their respective leaderships after the warfare had begun, and they both died before it ended--in both endings, no less. We can see this First War not as an event for a single set of leaders, but as a generational conflict. Not only would many die in this war, but many would be born in it and have it ingrained on their earliest memories as the only reality they've known.

In real history, we've had medieval wars that spanned these lengths and greater, sometimes named for the number of decades they lasted, fought in phases with different kings and leaders coming and leaving before the conflicts had run their toll.

With Warcraft II, in contrast, we take a step closer to individuals getting a fuller limelight. We now have Gul'dan, Cho'gall, and Kilrogg Deadeye as confirmed leaders through the full length of events. We further have implication that each Alliance king or leader has reigned since before the events of the First War--specifically so with Proudmoore, who is said to be a personal friend of Lothar. Therefore, my speculation is that this was a retcon of the First War's length, done to make room for a variety of fully veteran leaders--of characters--to assert themselves as iconic figures and "legends of the land", as the Warcraft II manual puts it.

Or, maybe, they just thought 10-20 years was way too long. Who knows.

EDIT: I have double-posted. If that's a problem, the thread can be moved to the fanfiction area.

Next: Aftermath of the First War

Last edited by BaronGrackle; 08-20-2013 at 07:12 AM..
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