50 Shades of Grey: The IntPiPoMo edition

Karazhan in the rain

Incy wincy spider

A Tree

The Theramore Graveyard

Sunday Storytime: The Aftermath of Theramore

Just three little stories charting the reaction of my three very different Priests to the events of Theramore.

Night Elf

Twisting the soft shining fabric of her robes, the Nightelf Priestess lent against the Temple Garden walls. Eyes closed she tried to bring peace to her turbulent thoughts. Every time she felt she was winning the battle, pushing her unchecked emotions back into the pool of her subconscious, the image of a dark blue haired elf rose like a drowning woman, gasping for air and vengeance. As a tide of rage washed over the Priestess, her magic rose to answer it’s song and for a moment everything felt right. Then opening her eyes, she glanced down to see instead of the familiar golden light bathing her hands, ribbons of shadows twisting around them. For the first time in her long life, fear enveloped her in it’s dark embrace. An alien emotion, it sat smugly on her tongue like a toad, poisoning her mind. She could taste it’s sourness every time she swallowed and in response, the shadows weaved around her like a shroud.

Forsaken

The heat of Orgrimmar was just as oppressive as it’s walls, rich red sand coated everything and turned even the finest food to ashes on your tongue. Not that particular issue was a problem to  the Forsaken Priest surveying the city from her vantage point by the waterfall, watching the Orcs below as if they were ants on the dust. Stretching her aching bones, she moved to the shade, Garrosh was keeping them waiting on purpose, probably hoping the sun and the implied insults would push their tongues over the edge. He had a lot to learn, no one does patience like the dead. In dark crypts and in dusty coffins it pays to turn a blind eye to the passing of time, no point in measuring it out in cobwebs or decaying flesh. Hearing heavy footsteps, she looked up to see her escort heading her way, clearly it was time. Wrapping her long dark cloak around her boney shoulders, the Priest acknowledged their salutes and stalked towards her meeting with the Warchief. Once a soldier, always a soldier and for a brief second imagining the conflict to come, she felt almost alive again.

Gnome

Scurrying through the Mage quarter, wrapped in her heavy cloak, the Gnome slid from shadow to shadow, drawing no attention. Past the increased military patrols and past the gossiping Mages sitting outside the Blue Recluse she hurried. Up the winding staircase she ran, stopping only in the safety of her own little apartment on the top floor. It was only then, in private as she unwrapped herself from the woolly cloak, discarding her gloves and scarf that she allowed herself to weep. Spilling hot salty tears for those considered friends now nothing more than dust in the wind. Poor Cassa Crimsonwing who had wanted nothing more than to fly with her gryphons and Spot, whose excited barking would no longer echo through the stone passage ways of Theramore Keep. Eyes red and sore from crying, she started to collect her bits and pieces. Spell books, herbs, warm clothes, cool clothes, dried Heaven Peaches from Darnassus and a jar of pickled eggs all disappeared into the travelling bag. Throwing her tiny green ragdoll on top, the Gnome proceeded to bounce up and down on the case until protestingly it shut. Justice and revenge, when it comes down to it, they’re sisters under the skin and in that moment, Sprout didn’t care which she got.

The Destruction of Theramore: How I would have designed it.

I know I and quite a few others have been pretty critical of the Theramore event so I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and describe how I would played out the destruction had I been in charge of the design team. On the plus side it would have been epic but on the negative, MoP might have had half the budget but omelette/broken eggs and all that.

There will be some spoilers for the Tides of War so if you haven’t read the book feel free to look away now.

An event as momentous as the destruction of Theramore should be available to more than just those players at the level cap, therefore I would have made the first stages available to everyone of a level high enough to play in Dustwallow Marsh. Hitting level 35 especially after the changes they made to the level sizes would be easily within reach of everyone. The final “world event” bits would be available to everyone regardless of level.

So in the Beginning (Phase 1): This would have started around five weeks before the expansion start date.

Horde: Start with a spot of bullying in Orgrimmar helping Malkorok  (if you haven’t read the book lets just say he’s a really nasty Orc) weed out some of the more “misguided” of it’s citizens. After all, Garrosh needs to know he can trust you and what better way of discovering if you’re made of the right stuff by sending you out to do his dirty work. Once Garrosh felt you were loyal to the cause, you would be despatched to Dalaran to pass on a secret message to certain Bloodelf.

Alliance: Theramore is in danger and the heroes of the Alliance are once again called to Stormwind. Despite being battle hardened, you know little about spycraft and spend a few hours learning from the master himself, Mattias Shaw. From sneaking around the Palace learning a few dubious facts about Harrison Jones (I always knew he was a bad man!) to weeding out a Horde spy in the basement of the Blue Recluse you have to prove your mettle to the best S1: 7 has to offer.

Rewards:

Horde – Mind-forg’d Manacles (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): A vanity item equipped in the bracer slot which allows the wearer to disappear in a cloud of smoke a la vanish. A must for all good spies and anyone fancying a career in the circus. Unfortunately where you reappear can’t always be relied on, 98.3 percent of the time it’s twenty yards away, other times it might be on a different continent. Wearer beware and all that.

Alliance – Binded Briars (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): Basically the same as the Horde version only with a more flowery name.

Phase 2: Around three weeks before the expansion start date.

Would have seen both sides head towards Dustwallow Marsh. The Alliance to Theramore itself and the Horde to  a zeppelin parked in the hills between the Barrens and Theramore. This phase would involve a daily style hub, one for each faction with a range of quests involving both subtle spying and actual skirmishes. Everything from aerial missions to try and discover what the opposing faction are actually up to, a spot of deep sea diving to plant mines/defuse them depending on your faction and collecting ingredients to weave magic spells to either weaken or strengthen the city walls. If you were Alliance that might involve going out alongside Shandris Feathermoon or General Marcus Jonathan or as Horde you might find yourself standing next to Baine in the battle lines.

In general though, there would be an increase in troop movements with the Alliance and Horde armies amassing ready for battle. In the cities, even those of the Eastern Kingdoms there would have a been a larger martial presence than normal too as both factions geared up for full out war.

Phase 3: A week before the expansion start date.

For the Alliance the actual explosion would come as the end of a daily. Players would complete the quest as normal but at the end would be shown a cut scene of the zeppelin flying over Theramore, Kalecgos trying to fight it off and then the huge purple glow as what was once a thriving city became nothing but a few burnt out buildings and a massive flickering crater.

At this point the Scenario would become available for characters in their 85th season.

On the Horde side, things would be slightly different. On the completion of your daily if you were 85, you would be offered the chance to queue for the Scenario and when that was over, you’d see the same cut scene as the Alliance. Players lower than 85 would just see the cutscene, the same as the Alliance.

Scenario: Basically as is currently is, rewarding the mini mana bomb and the tabard respectively.

Phase 4: The aftermath. Starting one day after the Scenario became available.

This would be a bit of a world event. It and it’s rewards would be available to everyone regardless of level and regardless of whether or not they’d completed the scenario. So for example lev 1s could take part and get involved.

In Orgrimmar the Horde would be celebrating the destruction of Theramore with victory marches, fireworks and speeches. Tables laden with food, roasted clefthoof imported from Outland and other expensive and delicious foods transported from the far reaches of Azeroth. Baine and Vol’jin would be noticeably absent. Just like with the Wickerman festival, things would kick off with a speech from Garrosh every night at 7.00pm server time. During the day, drunken celebrating soldiers would be sprawled around their benches sleeping off the excesses of the night before or talking up their part in the war effort.

In Stormwind the civilian population of Theramore (at least those who were safely evacuated) would be set up in a small refugee camp within the city walls. A new statue would be erected in the graveyard to give remembrance to those that died bravely defending their home. Instead of a victory march, there would be a vigil in the cemetery with candles and speeches from Jaina and Varian, remembering the dead and spurring on the living into seeking justice for their friends and loved ones. Again, things would begin at 7.00 pm only this time the event would start with the refugees moving slowly from their camp to the graveyard, in single file with their candles in hand.

Once players had witnessed these events, they would receive a “reward package” containing various vanity items.

Rewards:

Alliance:

  • A wand which is usable by everyone which conjures the smokey golden image of little giggling Gnome girl. At night if you’re by any street lamps which aren’t currently lit, as she floats past, they would automatically light. A permanent version of the one mentioned in the book which made me cry so much.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a blue haired Nightelf warrior to fight alongside you for five minutes.

Horde:

  • A wand which summons the image of a blackrock Orc, despite him only being there as a shadow any NPC Horde characters in the vicinity will immediately start talking about their allegiance to Garrosh and how he’s ten times the Warchief that Thrall was.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a Bloodelf Mage in a Sunreaver outfit to fight alongside you for five minutes.

When all four fade into nothingness, the last thing they would say is “Remember Theramore”.

Basically I’d want the scenario to feel like a chapter from the story rather than just a random event dropped into the game. I also think that the game world working more closely with the book would have the added and extra benefit of then making people who perhaps wouldn’t normally buy tie in books decide that yes, they would like to read the whole story to help put things completely into context.

How would you have done it?

Theramore: The Aftermath

99 red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky as 99 red balloons go by

From ’99 Luftballons

Much has already been written about Theramore and I suspect the deluge is far from over.

Scenarios: In principle I love the concept of scenarios, quick little bites which you and two others can run through picking up shinies and having fun and when looked at purely in that light, Theramore is fine. You kill some Orcs, blow up a few ships and help Jaina, great I had a blast as Mr Harpy and a random hunter competed to pull as many mobs as possible. In practise, I agree with those who have already stated that Theramore was the wrong story for a scenario.  Without having read the book, there is a huge crater sized hole in your knowledge (and yes, my book “review” with Victorian overtones will be coming soon) and that to me is wrong. Too much of the plot recently has taken place in pages rather than in pixels, Deathwing destroying Auberdine for example or the Forsaken overrunning Southshore. We as players who are invested in this world, in these characters are powerless to do anything as some deus ex machina wrecks havoc on all we hold dear. That is a hard pill to swallow time and time again.

On the destruction of a much loved city: I am still grumpy about this. Theramore was always a home from home for many of my characters, in part because of it’s outstanding sunsets and sunrises. I’m also disappointed with Jaina’s character development as seen through the Tides of War (something I will cover in later post). However that I find myself wondering whether perhaps it was necessary.

You see, despite thinking I had lost the hunger to raid, thinking that I was happy running around collecting pets and pvping, I find Theramore has created a shift in that perception. Now I want to march on Orgrimmar, I want to see Garrosh fall and then I want to spit on his corpse and plant my Theramore banner on it. I want to dance on his face with my cute little Gnome feet and I want to see him burn just like Theramore did. Do I rate the book, no not really and do I like the scenario, no but it’s had a physical and emotional effect on me. I didn’t want to kill Deathwing even though he destroyed a plethora of my favourite places, but Garrosh….. oh he’s going down. In the end, that’s all storytelling is meant to do isn’t it.

Screenshot Saturday – A farewell to Theramore

Two factions, both alike in dignity,
In fair Theramore, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

With apologises to Mr Shakespeare but I’m sure he’d understand

Theramore as it currently exists is one of my favourite cities, a place which holds many happy memories for me. From my first and rather pathetic foray into dubious RP with long forgotten Nightelves in the Inn to pvp on the long and twisting road through the marshes. Disembarking on the dock having sailed from the Wetlands to take on a dragon in her lair and sitting fishing on the pier watching the sun sink behind the horizon, painting the waves pink in it’s wake, so many things spring to mind when I think of Theramore.

The scene is set and the players assembled. Soon the Marsh will never be the same again.

Something Wicked this way comes: Magatha and Macbeth

This post was inspired by many things, by my own post on the Women of Warcraft through a watery lens of Victorian Literature, by Anne Stickney’s recent WoW Insider post, by Red Cow Rise’s post about the lack of Women in the Panderian start zone and finally by a random snippet of conversion I happened to over hear in trade chat. Magatha Grimtotem, three dimensional female character or a paper villain, a coward, a prop to further the stories of the men who surround her? Trade Chat was dismissive, calling her a pathetic cow amongst other things too impolite to print, although given the usual quality of trade chat (at least on my server) … this was still an improvement  on the normal conversions.

Wind Serpents, Forsaken and Strange Tablets

Our first introduction to Magatha came in classic WoW where she was a fixture in Thunderbluff handing out quests. Right from the start it was made clear that she was a delightful villain with her own agenda, one who glorifies in taking the opposing but “correct” view point to many of her fellow Taurens. Her use of her own summoned wind serpent to try and scare Cairne and perhaps to turn his supporters against him is inspired as is of course her use of us (questers) as dupes, both to spread the arrival of this troubling new omen,

I fear she may be stalking Cairne Bloodhoof; too much Tauren lore has changed, and I fear this has angered Arikara. Move quickly before all is lost, 

and then to help her deal with this “threat” to Cairne. She couldn’t be seen to either announce the creature nor to be directly involved with it, in case it created suspicions in the minds of those already suspicious of her loyalty so she came up with a perfect plan. One that even included helping to destroy said creature to make her look blameless.

In fact her strategy could be summed up perfectly by the advice Lady Macbeth offers her husband,

Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
May read strange matters: – to beguile the time,
Look like the time; bear welcome in your eyes,
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
But be the serpent under’t, (Act 1, scene V)

and Magatha even nailed the serpent bit perfectly.

Her encouragement and aid to the Forsaken also made her stand out. For example when the Goblins were destroying the forests of Stonetalon, it’s the Forsaken in the Pools of Vision that Magatha sends you to.

But I fear that to heal the land, we must first remove the disease upon it. Is it not fortunate, then, that the Forsaken are allied with us? They know much of disease.

Her creative solution to the problem is to get the Forsaken to poison those pesky Goblins. Note again that whilst she sent you to talk to the Forsaken, her hands remain clean of anything which might follow. All she did was suggest you talk to a nice Forsaken Lady. This is a pattern which keeps emerging, Magatha prefers getting other, more expendable people to do her actual dirty work. Although  surely that’s just the sign of a good leader, one who intends making old bones.

Finally, there was the Tablet of Beth’Amana, that strange tablet Magatha happened to really want from Azshara. Why would the Elder Crone want something written by one of the Highborne’s most influential Alchemists, a wizard who it is claimed could transmute metals amongst other things.  It makes you wonder just what came under the heading of “other things”.

“A drum, A drum…”

When I was at University, I had the pleasure of watching two people act out Macbeth and that is how I see Magatha, especially in The Shattering, she’s Lady Macbeth, Macbeth himself and of course the Three Witches all rolled into one glorious character. Switching from role to role as the scenes require, first the witch planting poisonous seeds in fertile ground, then the confidant, the wife/the mother, making sure everything goes to plan and finally playing Macbeth attempting to secure what she bought in bloodshed.

It’s her words softly spoken into Garrosh’s emotional ears which lay the ground work. She picks her moment perfectly, Garrosh, like Macbeth has returned from a great and successful campaign when he’s waylaid by his very own Crone. Both of them have new and shiny titles,

I have heard you called the Hero of Northrend, and I think that an apt title (Pg 47 of the Shattering, Thrall to Garrosh)

and Macbeth is newly called Thane of Cawdor on top of his own existing title yet both have a hunger for more. Magatha pushes the right buttons, mentioning first Garrosh’s father and then his own deeds claiming to be impressed by them, knowing that the boy inside Garrosh will fall for her flattery, especially in the light of his “treatment” by Cairne and Thrall. Just like the Three Witches, Magatha influences the events which follow. Her title too, “The Elder Crone” plays into this idea of her as a witch, a wise woman with the answer to everything, even the question not yet asked. Even those that don’t trust her, respect her abilities and her opinions.

Then later, she reinforces what has already been said, making sure Garrosh “does the right thing”. She doesn’t want his weakness getting in the way. It’s not hard to imagine Lady Macbeth’s words coming from Magatha’s mouth.

That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;

And chastise with the valour of my tongue

Of course she is helped by Garrosh’s personality and his fear of looking stupid. He doesn’t want to question her motives because that might highlight his own lack of knowledge. He accepts because she has offered him a prize, already mentioned, the support of her clan, her tribe and to bring the Grimtotem to heel, to accomplish something so quickly that both Thrall and Cairne never managed, of course he’s going to leap at the chance.

Her need then to dispose of Baine also harks back to Macbeth, just like him she needs to rid the world of anyone who might contest her claim. Macbeth needs to remove Banquo because his prophecy proved true, so might Banquo’s which would mean Macbeth murdered for nothing and Magatha can’t let Baine live for the same reason. What’s the point of going to all this trouble of removing one obstacle to your’s hearts desire if you don’t clear the path completely, if you leave their offspring behind for your enemies to unite behind. Unfortunately for Magatha, you just can’t trust anyone these days and her efforts fail.

Their downfalls have marked similarities too. Both Magatha and Macbeth are undone by what could be classed as their own dominion. As King of Scotland, regardless of how he came to the crown, it was his own forests which turned on him. The land itself rebelling against a traitor and a murderer is a powerful symbolic moment even if those trees move because there is an army of angry men beneath them. Magatha is a powerful Shaman and yet during the attack on Thunderbluff, storm clouds shield the zeppelins from prying eyes until it’s too late.

It emerged from it’s cover, as garishly colored as the concealing thundercloud had been subdued, an airborne ship with a bright purple balloon hovering over it. (The Shattering, pg 282)

Both Macbeth and Magatha “win” through deceit and trickery, so it’s only fitting I suppose that both lose the same way. The true size of avenging forces hidden by a moving forest on the one hand and by stormclouds on the other. Macduff lost a wife and his children to Macbeth’s hand and Baine lost a father so perhaps it’s not surprising how similar their words are to the respective objects of their wrath.

Then yield thee, coward,

And live to be the show and gaze o’ the time:
We’ll have thee, as our rarer monsters are,
Painted upon a pole, and underwrit,
Here may you see the tyrant. (Act V, Scene VIII)

Can be easily compared to,

Baine Bloodhoof was crouched over her, holding the peculiar weapon high. “Yield!” he cried. “Yield, murderess and traitor!”. (The Shattering, pg 286)

Coward, traitor, tyrant and murderer, all four words could be applied both Magatha and Macbeth. It doesn’t matter what they did before, the great warrior and the powerful shaman were both reduced to nothingness in the eyes of those passing judgement upon them.

The Doomstone 

We next encounter her in the Thousand Needles, where it seems that she’s slipped away from her exile in Stonetalon Mountains. Somehow her capture by the Twilight Cultists seems a bit off, even with her totems broken you have to question if she got captured because that happened to suit her purpose, not because a bunch of fairly inept “we want to bring about the end of the world” cultists managed to overpower her. That perhaps her ultimate aim was always to get her hands on the Doomstone using us and the Cultists, just like she used Garrosh.

“At the core of Animus is an artifact known as the Doomstone. One of its properties is an ability to absorb a great deal of energy.”

I wonder if the tablet of Beth’Amara and the Doomstone are linked in anyway. It certainly sounds like something a Highborne might cook up. Perhaps the tablet either described the creation of such an artefact or included a map to it’s last location. There are a lot of Highborne ruins littering Stonetalon Mountains and who knows what they might have left behind.

So what’s next for Magatha?

I think we can be assured of one thing, she will be back, it’s in her nature. She has reasons to hate both Garrosh and Baine but I imagine that she of all people understands the benefit of revenge as dish served cold.

Could the Doomstone be used to help destroy Theramore? A case of one (Doom)stone, two birds perhaps. We know from the excerpt from the forthcoming Jaina book (Tides of War) that the Focusing Iris is likely to play a part but could the two items be used together to create a very nasty weapon? When we first encounter the Doomstone, the Cultists were trying to overload it using Animus but since we killed him, anyone wanting to unleash the Doomstone might have to find another source and the Focusing Iris would fit that brief perfectly as it “pull[s] arcane magic from Azeroth’s ley lines”. Magatha also has every reason to hate Jaina and her city, after all, she gave Baine sanctuary from Magatha’s malice and troops from Theramore have been a constant thorn in the side of the Marsh’s Grimtotems.

She might manipulate them all, offering the Doomstone could help her regain some favour with Garrosh and the rest of the Horde but Garrosh doesn’t seem the type for second chances. It might even be more underhand, perhaps just like the Queen in Snow White, maybe an old Crone or a passing pretty young Orc might offer Garrosh aid with his war plans, with the Doomstone acting as a poisoned apple. All Magatha would have to do is sit back and watch the chaos unfold, potentially getting her revenge on Garrosh, Baine and Jaina as the tides of war spill across Azeroth once more.

There are similarities too between Magatha and Fandral Staghelm. For much of vanilla they were both the proverbial thorns in the side of their respective faction leaders so perhaps Magatha will follow in his footsteps and become a raid boss. Certainly her last comment to us, the players indicates that as a potential possibility:

For rendering me faithful service, I grant you your life. Take it and be gone from my sight. Let your people know of all that has transpired.

And <name>, if we ever cross paths again, you will die.

If she does “trick” Garrosh once again, seeing her as a raid boss in a fall of Orgrimmar type raid would make sense, although I think she’d be wasted that way. I’d like to see her continue to make plans and plot away, WoW needs more characters like her. There is a shortage of female Tauren raid bosses though so perhaps she should become one.

Finally, a little while ago Matty at Sugar and Blood asked this question:

“Why can’t the Queen “win” because she’s smart, not because she’s evil?”

I think this sums up why Magatha is so important to WoW, she does win because she’s smarter than the rest, okay, she’s temporarily having a bit of a setback but they happen to best people. She’s definitely ruthless but she stands in stark contrast to a lot her male counterparts in both her patience and in her planning. Would Garrosh or Varian have waited and watched for the perfect moment to strike? Given their track records to date, I’d say not. Even Cairne managed to lose his temper with Garrosh in a relatively short period time. I suppose I like Magatha because unlike most female baddies, she’s not driven by emotions. She doesn’t scream or shout or whine, she just does and that’s rather refreshing.

Is she evil? Well taken at face value what has she actually done? Her husband died in a climbing accident, but that could have more to do with the unsuitability of hooves for climbing rock faces than anything else (They called it Head-Smashed in Buffalo Jump, not “Buffalo gracefully skipping down cliff” for a reason). If we look at some of the other men of the Grimtotem tribe we could also argue that if she did do it, well then “he had it coming” (writing this post left me with a definite desire to do a Magatha Grimtotem version of both that song and also the old classic, “50 ways to kill your lover”). She assisted in Caine’s demise for sure, but we have to remember it was a “fight to the death”. One of them was going to die regardless, Magatha merely ensured that “her Warchief” prevailed. Pragmatic yes, practical yes, but evil?

The attack on Thunderbluff and the other Tauren encampments were messy sure but there are distinct similarities between that and Varian’s attack on Ironforge, both were ruthless and show a clear lack of regard for life. Now yes, Varian was attempting to rescue his son but Magatha too was trying to ensure the best for her “family” (and her). What’s right or wrong is often determined purely by the winners and this time, Magatha ended up on the wrong side of the line. In many ways she’s the archtypical Matriarch, just like my own Grandmamma. All that matters is blood and there are no lines that she wouldn’t cross for her own because the “other” are nothing but vermin in her eyes.

She doesn’t want to end the World, where’s the fun in that and she doesn’t want to turn everyone into mindless monsters which makes her fairly mild in comparison to some of the really malignant creatures Azeroth is inhabited by. If evil in WoW is defined simply by your body count, then by that definition we’re all evil, there is no shade of grey and if not, then Magatha might err on the murky side but most of her choices can be understood and justified if even you don’t support them.

A world at war needs it’s Elder Crones.

Check Mate: Jaina and the Fall of Theramore

This was inspired by a comment Majoto left on my blog in response to this post.

“Unfortunately, because she’s [Jaina] a female character in WoW, this probably won’t happen. Blizzard is terrible at strong female characters. :-/

As I read it, I found myself back in a lecture theatre listening to my tutor talk about the themes of Victorian Literature. At length she discussed the two polarising roles of women in the Art and Literature of the period. The Angel of the Hearth in her guises as Mother, Madonna, Wife and her antithesis, the more popular Fallen Woman. To illustrate her point, along with lines of poetry she showed paintings of domestic bliss followed by image after image of dead girls floating down rivers trailing flowers in their wake or tearfully hurling themselves into angry rivers. Idly at first I found myself applying the same concept to the women of WoW, but then something dawned on me. Just like their Victorian counterparts, all our fleshed out female leaders are defined not by their own abilities but by their relationships with the men that surround them.

Take Sylvanas, the Dark Lady, the Banshee Queen, in a sense she’s the perfect embodiment of a fallen woman. Defined by Arthas, by the man who made her in his own image, who violated her and destroyed her. Her’s was literally a fate worse than death.

The grinning face of Arthas Menethil, with his lopsided smile and dead eyes, leers at her as he pulls her back into the world. Violates her. His laughter—that hollow laugh—the memory of it makes her skin crawl!”

Those are Dave Kosak’s words, describing a flashback she experiences at the start of his short story “Edge of Night“. Now I’m pretty sure if I read those sentences to someone out of context, the conclusion they’d jump to would be one of sexual assault. Again, when in Stormrage, she falls prey to the nightmares, it’s the Lich King who stalks her mind like an incubus. Her prowess with a bow is all but forgotten, it doesn’t matter that she was the Ranger-General because the second she met Arthas, her identity became bound up in his spiderweb. Then, when finally he’s defeated and she should be able to forge ahead with her own undeath, she seeks to kill herself because without him, without the hunt for revenge, life has no purpose to her. It doesn’t matter that she has obligations to both the Horde and the Forsaken, her intent is to throw that all away.

“She hurled the armor from the peak, watching it disappear into the roiling mists”

Kosak’s choice of verb to describe the mists conjures up angry turbulent waters, the kind that the Victorian Painters and Poets were so fond of casting fallen women. Like them, Sylvanas seeks oblivion by falling to her death, a suitably Victorian end for a woman who fell from grace. Of course falling in itself suggests the possibility of redemption, of being raised up again and through the Val’kyr, Sylvanas is given another chance. We will just to have to wait and see whether the rest of her story will be defined by her relationship with another male, her old adversary Garrosh perhaps.

Moira Bronzebeard straddles both worlds, embodying both the Mother and the fallen woman. When we first encountered her in Classic WoW, she was presented as the archetypical damsel in distress. Dragged off to a kingdom beneath a mountain by foul and unnatural magics, we needed to save her and break the evil spell.

It would seem as if my old adversary, Dagran Thaurissan, has me and the kingdom of Ironforge at his mercy.You may be my last hope, <name>. You must rescue my dear daughter, Moira! There is only one way to make sure that the spell Thaurissan has cast on Moira is broken: Kill him. And <name>, do not harm her! Remember, she is being controlled by Thaurissan! The things she may do or say are a result of Thaurissan’s evil spell!

The quest text is interesting, implying that perhaps Thaurissan only took Moira to further his quarrel with her father, which further weakens her position. She wasn’t even kidnapped for her own attributes but was merely a pawn in the game of men. Her actions too are not her own, she’s too weak to overcome this magic. However, once she is rescued over Dagran’s dead body, it seems that perhaps the truth is that she sought to replace a controlling father with a husband she loved. In the Council of the Three Hammers: Fire and Iron short story, she has moved from possible victim to the villain of the piece. She’s manipulative, cunning and sly, unlike the two male representatives of the Council who have proven track records in battle and who are portrayed as proud upstanding men. What I find particularly interesting is that she is the heir to the throne through blood and yet she’s a side character in the Council’s story.

In unison Muradin and Kurdran looked to Moira, as did the entire gathering in the Great Forge. She stood alone.

The Ironforge heiress glanced around as if she were searching for some escape.

Despite being in her own city, despite being the legitimate heir to the throne, like the Victorian fallen women, Moira is ultimately on her own. Outmanoeuvred, caught out in her lies and snared in a trap of her own making. It doesn’t matter that she did what she did to try and strengthen her position and that of her son, her motivation is unimportant because like Shakespeare’s Richard III, she just needed to “prove a villain”.

On the other side of the scale, we see the “Madonnas”, the wives and the mothers of Azeroth. For the Alliance we have Tyrande Whisperwind, from strong powerful woman to a Stepford wife in the time it takes a Druid to yawn, stretch and wake up from the Emerald Dream. Her passivity is reinforced in her name, “Whisperwind”, it’s gentle, non-threatening and relaxing especially when compared to Malfurion’s. “Stormrage” screams with aggression and anger, whilst Tyrande is almost mute. It’s not surprising then that he is the one telling her to “hush”.

Then we come to Aggra, the receptacle for Thrall’s sperm and his reward for being a totally awesome Orc. Like Tyrande, she’s powerful and smart in her own right and yet all that becomes eclipsed as soon as she becomes a wife. Her own story stagnates because now she serves as a mirror to reflect the greatness of her mate. I’m not denying there are strong women populating Azeroth, but most of them are bit parts. Quest givers who show up once or twice before sinking back into obscurity. Thisalee Crow, Sergra Darkthorn, Magatha Grimtotem and Stormcaller Mylra (better known as the “tiny, angry woman”) all spring to mind. There are women in S1:7, women in the Kor’kron Elite, women in the 7th Legion but when it comes to leadership, to the women who should have strong personalities the writing seems to fall flat.

Which brings me to Jaina. With the coming destruction of Theramore, Blizzard have an opportunity to break the mould. Give us a woman who isn’t defined by a man, give us a woman who can stand on her own two feet and doesn’t need rescuing or saving or protecting. Up this point, Jaina has mostly been a sidekick of some sort, chasing after a variety of unsuitable and/or bad tempered men (Arthas, Varian, Kael, her father and Thrall). For most of Wrath, she was the angel of the hearth to the Banshee Queen’s fallen woman, believing that there was still something of the man she loved within the monster and risking everything to try and save him. When she wasn’t chasing Arthas, she was holding Varian’s hand to make sure he wasn’t smashing stuff. Surely now is the time to let her forge her own identity.

The cover of the forth-coming book “Jaina Proudmoore: The Tides of War” doesn’t give me much hope for that however as we’re right back to the Victorians and their fondness for drowning women. (Image borrowed from here).

As I see it, there are four possible options for Jaina once Theramore is nothing more than ashes, bricks and bones.

  • Jaina dies. Nothing motivates armies more than a dead white women.
  • Jaina becomes a damsel in distress. Varian rides in, saves the day, rescuing her from Dragon Garrosh. Next thing we know, she and Aggra are sharing pregnancy tips and Anduin has a sibling to play with. Well, they say you should always have a “heir and a spare” and given the mortality rate in Azeroth, having half a dozen “spares” probably makes sense. Also Royal Weddings inspire the populace and since people are probably claiming Horde bias at the fact that Thrall got one, Blizzard need to give the Alliance one too.
  • As with 2, Jaina needs rescuing from something but manages to go a bit mad in the process, her desire for revenge makes her unstable and as everyone who has ever played Dragon Age 2 knows, angry mages are a dangerous thing. Think Jane Eyre “madwoman in the attic” and she ends up locked up somewhere in Stormwind talking to herself and trying to burn her prison down.
  • Jaina surprises everyone, but especially the Horde by being awesome all by herself. She manages to hold her city for as long as possible and then escapes, saving lots of people and of course rescuing Spot the dog in the process. In an ideal world, she ports her tower to safety or at least out of the range of the Horde weaponry, even if she ends up getting rather wet in the process.

Of all these possible scenarios, I’d like to think that 1 and 3 are the most unlikely. Jaina is an iconic figure and I don’t see Blizzard killing her off. Plus if she dies, the “Tides of War” would be a rather short book. As for 3, Jaina lost Arthas to the same madness. She saw first hand where his quest for revenge at all costs led him. Surely having seen that, she won’t make the same mistakes he did. It would be completely out of character for her, after all, she’s meant to be smart, a quick thinker, surely all that studying paid off. As a Mage, I’d like to think she subscribes to the “Revenge is dish best served cold” school of thought. That sure, you can get mad, set things on fire and yell at people but you don’t rush off a suicide mission only to need rescuing (see 2) or take a leaf out of the Garrosh Hellscream tactical manual just because you’ve realised that the whole “blessed are the peacemakers” line is a total lie propagated by people who want to invade you but not have the inconvenience of you invading them. You wait, you plot and then when the moment is right, you strike.

Whilst I desperately want it to be 4, the cynic in me errs towards 2. We know that the developers are on a campaign to make Varian cool and nothing says “awesome” and “heroic” like rescuing damsels and puppies from burning buildings. I used to play Chess a lot when I was younger and sacrificing your Queen is perfectly acceptable strategy which when applied to WoW, could be extrapolated that the entire destruction of Theramore is nothing more than the chance to advance Varian’s story at some point in the future (especially if Varian’s story = the Alliance story).

Certainly I think Varian Wrynn for the Alliance really needs to be the kind of character that players really look up to and see as a major world figure. And I think if you ask players right now, they don’t quite see him that way yet.” Dave Kosak.

Now yes, he could rescue her without any romance being involved anywhere down the line but given how love seems to flourish under Azeroth’s angry skies, I can’t help but think if saving is involved, it’s probably going to come with a soundtrack of wedding bells.

Thanks to Tzufit’s post on Archbishop Benedictus, I found myself re-reading “The Blood of our Fathers“, Varian’s Leader short story and something stood out. Jaina is mentioned through out, which is fair enough. She and Varian have plenty of history, from fighting in Undercity side by side to watching the Argent Tournament together. However on the last page, this line caught my attention.

As the crowd continued to shout, Varian glanced over at Jaina and Anduin, fighting down his own wave of deep emotions

Why include Jaina? Anduin just saved his father’s life, so Varian’s feelings for his son who is his only living family are one thing but to include an advisor and a friend in that moment seems a little odd. A little later we come to this:

As the crowd cheered, the king stole a glance back at the Honor Delegation. Jaina was smiling and Anduin was applauding louder than anyone

Once could be considered a strange oversight but twice.. yes, Jaina’s a friend of both Varian and Anduin but so are many of the other people thronging the Keep and yet they aren’t mentioned. Throughout the whole of Varian’s story, the theme is one of putting the past to bed, of beginning anew. Is there more symbolisation in the handing over of Tiffin’s locket to Anduin than is made obvious in the story? Is it just about giving the Prince something tangible of his mother’s to keep him safe or is Varian perhaps subconsciously getting rid of the past so he can begin again.

“I have not always been the best leader… or father… or husband.” Varian’s eyes became glassy with memories. He turned and nodded to his son.

“A wise man once said, ‘We each must grow in every direction, every day.’ Well, I still have some growth left in my bones. And behind me, I see a city rising from disaster, with fresh hope and gleaming new spires!”

Given that’s he’s still king, he can improve on his leadership skills, he can work on being a better and more understanding father but without a wife, it’s hard to be a better husband.

Regardless of how the Destruction of Theramore plays out, I hope Jaina demonstrates the annoying survivability of the average frost mage. Please let her stick her tongue out at Garrosh before blinking to safety and let her kite the Horde forces from Dustwallow to Ashenvale. We already have enough female leaders who barely deserve the title, so here’s to hoping that Jaina goes for channelling Elizabeth the First rather than having the vapours and collapsing on the floor.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,307 other followers