World of Warcraft | Varian Wrynn, Warlord?

Throughout the lead up to Warlords of Draenor, one figure has played a prominent role but received very little discussion. Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind, has a story that certainly rivals that of Thrall for its variety and importance.

Early years

Varian Wrynn was the son of King Llane Wrynn. He was born before the first war brought the orcs through the Dark Portal. As such, his early life was peaceful. The orcs changed that. His father was betrayed to his death and Stormwind was destroyed. He left his homeland with Anduin Lothar, Champion of Stormwind, Khadgar, and as as many people as they could rescue.

The refugees travelled to Southshore by ship, with the intention of warning King Terenas of Lordaeron of the orc threat. Varian was warmly greeted by Terenas and treated as an equal, despite having lost his kingdom. Further, Terenas pledged to help reclaim Stormwind. It was at this time Varian developed a friendship with Arthas Menethil, son of Terenas. The two were similar in age and such a friendship seemed natural. Varian was the more physically able of the two, and tried to help Arthas develop his own fighting skills.

King Terenas formed the Alliance of Lordaeron, led by Anduin Lothar. The Second War saw the retaking of the orc held lands. Lothar died in the process, but Varian was now King of Stormwind. He was just 18 years of age. He was an active king, travelling around his kingdom to protect his people from orcs and other threats. He married Tiffin, who bore him a son. Anduin Wrynn was named for Anduin Lothar.

The Third War

Following his ascension to the throne and the restoration of Stormwind, Varian faced a number of challenges. The Alliance of Lordaeron had begun to fracture, with no foe to face. Quel'Thalas, Stromgarde and Gilneas seceeded. Varian remained loyal to Terenas, however. The bond forged during the time he had spent in the north would not be easily broken.

At the same time, Stormwind faced internal strife. Stonemasons, led by Edwin van Cleef, had undertaken the work to restore the city. A price had been agreed upon. However, the House of Nobles who helped Varian lead Stormwind, were reluctant to pay it. The political structure was such that Varian could not simply overrule them and Lady Katrana Prestor led opposition to him. His frequent trips around the kingdom had left the House of Nobles in a position of power and he found himself the negotiator.

Varian's wife, Tiffin, supported the Stonemasons cause to her husband. Despite their best efforts, the pay handed over was far less than had been agreed. The Stonemasons Guild rioted in the streets. During the riot, a stone hit Tiffin and she was killed. Van Cleef ran and Varian had lost another loved one.

Varian did his best to remain a good king and was loyal to his alliances. During the Third War, he sent troops to support Lordaeron against the scourge and gave succor to her refugees. His support was to no avail. His long time friend Arthas, corrupted by his seeming inadequacy against the scourge and the legion, fell. Arthas had found himself lacking in comparison to those he kept company with, but had been unwilling to admit it. The nobility and prowess of Varian was just another of those comparisons. Arthas murdered his father, Terenas, and became the Lich King. Varian became leader of the Alliance and Stormwind the centre of human strength on Azeroth.

Classic World of Warcraft

During the classic version of World of Warcraft, Varian is missing. A trip to the citadel would find only a young Prince Anduin, surrounded by his advisors - Bolvar Fordragon, the Regent-Lord and Lady Prestor.

Through quests, the player discovered that the king had been travelling to Theramore when he was abducted by the Defias. A spy within Stormwind had passed them details of his route. He was taken to Alcaz Island and held captive. He managed to escape, but the route was difficult. Varian was washed up on the shores of Durotar with no memory of who he was.

Varian was found by a caravan of Orcs led by a Rehgar Earthfury. Rehgar was a shaman and a trainer of Gladiators. Seeing Varian fight off a crocolisk with only a stick, Rehgar decided to enslave this human and train him. He had two other gladiator-slaves at this time - Broll Bearmantle and Valeera Sanguinar.

Broll was a Night Elf druid. He attempted to help Varian recover his memories, but was not entirely successful, Varian began to have flashbacks - standing in a burning city, seeing an older man on a ship call him lad and, importantly, of a young woman, babe in arms, telling him his son and his people needed him. The team fought in the arena together and the crowd gave Varian a new name - Lo'Gosh, meaning Ghost Wolf.

Varian's successes and adventures eventually brought him into the presence of the Tauren druid Hamuul Runetotem. Hamuul did not tell Varian who he was, but must have had some idea. He gave Lo'Gosh a feather. Broll worked out that this was from a hippogryph and managed to use it to summon said creature - Sharptalon. Together, Broll and Varian escaped.

Broll took Varian with him to Darnassus. There they met with Tyrande Whisperwind. The priestess sent them to Jaina Proudmoore in Theramore, thinking the mage could help restore Lo'Gosh's memories. She did not identify Varian, and neither did Jaina.

Jaina, with the help of her chamberlain Aegwynn, attempted to help him. They could not access all of his memories, but they did uncover his identity. Varian had finally arrived at his destination. They could not, however, completely restore his memories or his sense of identity. Importantly, he could remember little of his abduction and incarceration.

Varian's Return?

In Stormwind, Varian had headed home and was warmly greeted by his people. He had changed, however. He was arrogant and careless. He showed little concern for his people's welfare and concentrated on Katrana Prestor. Anduin was distraught by the change, but his father cared little. The people were told Varian had been ransomed and that they would have to pay a substantial tax to cover it.

In Menethil, as this was taking place, Lo'Gosh, Broll and Valeera had a chance encounter with a Defias. Horrified to see Lo'Gosh alive, the Defias ran for allies to help kill him. There was, apparently, a hefty price on the head of the former king. The Defias were confident in their scheme, even under questioning. Lo'Gosh was told his son would also die.

Now accompanied by the dwarf Thargas Anvilmar, the Lo'Gosh, Broll and Valeera made their way to Stormwind. At the same time, King Magni Bronzebeard was visiting Stormwind to discuss the problem of the Dark Iron dwarves. Varian refused him help and Magni headed for the Deeprun Tram. On the way he was met by Anduin, who suspected something was wrong with his father. Magni enlisted both Bolvar Fordragon and Marshal Windsor to help him uncover the truth. Windsor, who had spent much time with Varian, quickly agreed he was an imposter. Further, he became certain the false king was a dragon.

Lo'Gosh contacted Magni and the two discussed the events in Stormwind. During the discussions a black dragon attempted

to kill Lo'Gosh. An attempt was made on Anduin also. The fake Varian saves him and the two share a vision of Varian's abduction and a dark ritual. Varian is about to discuss the vision, when Lady Prestor touches him. He then becomes confused. It seems the false Varian is unaware he is false.

Windsor had continued his investigations. On the brink of success, he was abducted by Dark Iron dwarves and taken to their stronghold in Blackrock Depths. The player actually rescues Windsor, who now knowns the name of the dragon at the heart of the conspiracy.

Lo'Gosh and his companions head to Stormwind with Windsor. Katrana Prestor has them immediately arrested and charged as traitors. She orders their execution. However, the General she has sent, Marcus Jonathan, is convinced by Windsor of the truth. Lo'Gosh faces Lady Prestor and the false-Varian even turns against her, pointing out that he is the king. Katrana is revealed ... as Onyxia.

Lo'Gosh is distracted by the false Varian. The false Varian was beginning to fight against Onyxia's control and placed the blame for his poor actions on the head of the dragon. Just then, Anduin arrives and is confused by the two Varians. The prince is abducted by Onyxia who takes him to her lair, taunting the King/s to follow.

Not so false?

The two Varian's go to Theramore where Jaina has discovered what was done. Katrana began to exert her influence over Varian after the death of Tiffin, but he was strong willed and his love for his son sustained him against her. She arranged the kidnapping and used dark magic to split Varian into two aspects - a strong willed and a weak willed man. She had intended to kill the strong willed Varian, but had been interrupted by Naga. The strong willed Varian had escaped to become Lo'Gosh whilst the weak willed Varian was captured.

The personality of the original Varian has been split amongst the two copies. Neither is the true Varian. Both, however, share the love of their son and vow to reclaim him. Jaina presents them with two ancient elven swords - Shalla'tor and Ellemayne.

During the fight, with Broll and Jaina taken out, Onyxia seeks to kill Lo'Gosh as she had originally intended. The false Varian, however, steps into the path of the spell. Lo'Gosh, also being Varian, is unwilling to stand aside and attempts to save his double. The spell misfires and the two parts of Varian become one again. The swords also become one - Shalamayne. Varian uses his new weapon to defeat Onyxia.

Struggling for balance

Following these events, a peace between the Horde and Alliance looks possible. At the summit, however, the Twilight's Hammer intervenes. Not only does it attack, but it does so in such a way as to convince each faction that the other is responsible. Varian faces Garona during this attack and comes close to killing her.  She is captured, but can give no answers.

Following this, we see the events of Wrath of the Lich King. A tentative peace is the result of the greater threat that is the Lich King. During this, the Scourge, led by Apothecary Putress, betrays both the Horde and the Alliance, killing Varian's friend Bolvar Fordragon. Upon hearing this, Varian leads a force against the Undercity. Thrall is also attempting to deal with the rogue Scourge and the two face each other. Violence is prevented only by Jaina, who teleports the Alliance party home. Peace seems impossible.

The only hint of hope is when Varian allows Vorak Saurfang to reclaim the body of his son in Icecrown Citadel. This continues during the Stormrage novel, when Varian leads a joint army against the Emerald Nightmare. However, Varian continues to see the Horde in every attack. During Cataclysm, Jaina and Anduin spend a great deal of time attempting to prevent him from starting a war. Now made whole, the aggressive Lo'Gosh personality remains a part of Varian, and he struggled to control it.

Eventually, during the novel Wolfheart, Varian learns control. At first he is against the Worgen joining the Alliance, but eventually he finds common ground with them. Genn Greymane helps him to achieve control through the rituals the Worgen use to control their wolfish side. Successful in these, he becomes the champion of Goldrinn. He and the Worgen fight back against Garrosh Hellscream in Ashenvale.

It takes him some time to reconcile with Anduin, who had left to study with Velen. Anduin believed strongly in pacifism and was not happy with his aggressive father. By the time Garrosh Hellscream, now leader of the Horde, begins his aggressive attack, Varian has finally resolved his inner conflict. He does not give in to Jaina's vengeful pleadings. He has become the man Anduin hoped for. Varian is with the player as they advance on Garrosh, but also agrees to hand Garrosh over to the Pandaren for judgement at the end.

Warlords of Draenor finds him struggling to deal with a new Horde invasion. This time, the Iron Horde are attacking. Maraad tells him of the Warlords he will face, giving him the strength and knowledge to move against these new foes.