Every raid tier has an iconic final boss with an ending often shrouded in secrecy. This tier, the final boss of the Sanctum of Domination
, is the Lady Sylvanas Windrunner
herself. Now, while we know how this fight will end, it is worth looking into what has led up to this moment in her life, leading to us fighting her in the first place. Until the Sylvanas novel is released, we can only speculate about her motives behind this epic culmination of events. However, with an abundance of material ranging from in-game sources, novels, comics, and short stories to examine, here is the story of Sylvanas Windrunner and what we think will happen after Sanctum of Domination.
Table of Contents
There are a lot of things we do not know about Sylvanas Windrunner’s early life until just before the start of Battle For Azeroth when the Three Sisters comic
was released. We got the briefest of glimpses into the three Windrunner sisters dancing as children while their brother Lirath
would play a flute for them.
We also do not know too much else about the Sylvanas’s early life, with her sisters, Alleria
, aside from some of what we are shown in the very short comic until around the time of the First War and the orcs invading Azeroth. Their mother, Lireesa
, was Ranger-General at the time, and it was expected that she would pass the title down to her eldest daughter, Alleria, which ultimately did not happen after Alleria had volunteered to head through the Dark Portal. Instead, Sylvanas, the middle sister, would become the new Ranger-General.
The Quel’dorei Crest
It is important to note exactly how respected Sylvanas was in the court of Silvermoon. As Ranger-General, she inducted the only human into the Farstriders
, Nathanos Marris
, without permission, because she could, whom she even named the Ranger Lord. While it was rumored the two were probably an “item”, it was mostly in hushed tones. Kael’thas
, the crown prince of Quel’thalas
did not like this, nor did Lor’themar Theron
, or any other elf, mostly because of racism towards the human race. However, she basically told them, too bad, I’m in charge, and they couldn’t do a thing about it. Even the PRINCE couldn’t do anything about it.
We don’t know a lot about Lireesa in any capacity aside from that she is the mother of the three Windrunner sisters. But looking at where the three sisters have ended up, we can guess that she instilled a strong sense of duty and loyalty in all three of her daughters, and this becomes very apparent when we discuss what came next for Sylvanas. All three were very well-trained in the art of marksmanship as well.The Third War
was when things really took a turn for Sylvanas. Arthas Menethil
, a paladin-turned-Death-Knight under the control of the Lich King, had started his advance upon Quel’thalas. Fresh from the murder of his father, he sought out the Sunwell
in order to both desecrate it and resurrect Kel’Thuzad
as an undead lich.
Of course, the Ranger-General herself, Sylvanas, would not have it. She attempted to stop him every chance she could, which was not easy. For one thing, Arthas was using necromantic magic, raising the dead for his own army. For another thing, there was a traitor in Silvermoon City
itself, weakening the shield that had protected Silvermoon from Amani Troll forces for a long time before.Dar’khan Drathir
… Honestly, it’s a little messy what happened at this point. He was egotistical and ambitious, which likely left him vulnerable to manipulation because Arthas had reached out, loosely promising to help the elf. Dar’khan used his friendship with Lor’themar to be able to weaken the guard of the shield around the city and kingdom.
Back to Sylvanas’s attempt to thwart Arthas, time and time again, they fought back his forces for just a little bit, only to be pushed back again and again. Finally, Arthas had enough. He killed the Ranger-General, impaling her with Frostmourne
, and then raising her soul and twisting it into a banshee and enslaving her to the will of the Lich King, just as the other Scourge were controlled.
Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee in Warbringers
If that wasn’t traumatizing enough, what’s worse is how the High Elves, the Quel’Dorei
, of Silvermoon handled the entire situation. They lied. The High Elves told everyone that Sylvanas was dead. There were a few rumours that maybe she had been left to roam the kingdom as an undead monstrosity, but for the most part, they believed her to be gone forever, and her body burned to ashes.
Here’s the thing, though. It gets worse, and this is where I start to really dislike Arthas. Well… more than that. Arthas had her body locked into an iron coffin and kept it around just to torment the Ranger-General for daring to stand against him.
Regardless, Arthas did finally make the rest of the way to the Sunwell and resurrected Kel’Thuzad. And while there, Dar’khan tried to betray Arthas just like he did his people before, and he gets killed for it. Sylvanas, at this point being kept around, was inspired by this. So, I guess, at least she got the knowledge of who betrayed her and her people, and also got to see him die? He did later get brought back up again and put into the service of the Scourge.
That’s not to say it was worth the absolute horror of seeing her kingdom be razed by a Death Knight and his army, or seeing King Anasterian
defeated, or the beloved Sunwell destroyed. Sylvanas has been through a lot of absolutely horrifying incidents by this point.
Arthas then placed both Kel’Thuzad and Sylvanas in Lordaeron, along with the three Dreadlords
, and Balnazzar
, to oversee them on behalf of the Burning Legion. Let’s not forget that the reason the Lich King exists is because of Kil’Jaeden
and his “need” to torture Ner’zhul. This eventually would not turn out that great for the Dreadlords...sort of.
Varimathras, Detheroc, and Balnazzar in Warcraft III
Arthas had left for his own expedition, but upon his return, Sylvanas witnessed the Death Knight storm into the stronghold and tell the three Nathrezim that not only had the Legion
failed in their attempts to invade Azeroth, but he intended to take control of the Scourge for himself. They fled, because who wants to fight an army of undead under the control of Arthas?
Arthas then approached his servants, ordering a full purge of life of the kingdom in tribute to Ner’zhul
. This included sending Sylvanas and her banshees into battle, slaughtering any human trying to escape the kingdom. She, Kel’Thuzad, and Arthas made the final push against the paladin headquarters and destroyed the last civilian presence in Lordaeron.
The Scourge vs. The Alliance in the Third War
The Lich King’s power began waning after some time, also helped by Illidan Stormrage
trying a ritual from Dalaran
to start breaking apart the Frozen Throne
. The attempt on the Throne itself failed, but it did do enough damage to the Lich King’s hold over the Scourge, for some of them felt less control over their mind. Some of the scourge even completely regained their own control. Sylvanas Windrunner was one of those that regained control, but she hid it from Arthas and Kel’Thuzad, continuing to serve. This is when the Nathrezim approached her, they knew of what’s gone on, they knew that the power of Ner’zhul, as well as Arthas, were waning. It would be a shame if someone were to take control of Lordaeron, wouldn’t it? Sylvanas agreed, but on her own terms.
For one thing, the Dreadlords planned on ambushing Arthas in the city, but Sylvanas knew better. Arthas might be able to escape, so Sylvanas crafted a special arrow, just for her tormentor, and arranged for her banshees to meet him if he were to escape, and lead him to a place where she would be waiting. Then she set off to find her body, still locked into that iron coffin from earlier, and reclaim it.
After her banshees killed Arthas’s bodyguards, from the shadows, she let loose this special arrow of hers, a venomous sting to paralyze him. She intended to make him suffer as he had made her suffer. This was not a good decision, because it gave time for Kel’Thuzad to find his way there and intervene, killing the banshees and chasing off Sylvanas. Kel’Thuzad and Arthas made their way to Northrend
Rise of the Forsaken
Reclaiming the ruins of the city of Lordaeron was not an easy task, and required that Sylvanas work with Varimathras, and would also be helped by her amassing an army of other Scourge soldiers who had regained their free will, as well as some local ogres, gnolls and murlocs that her banshees possessed. They moved against Detheroc, who had entrenched himself in the city, using supplies left by the Lordaeron royals. She also forced Varimathras to prove his loyalty by killing Balnazzar, even though it was forbidden for a Nathrezim to kill another.
She then took the time to free more of the Undead, reclaiming them as the Forsaken
. Sylvanas gathered and organized them into a new nation of their own, and work began to extend the catacombs, dungeons and tombs below Lordaeron to form the Undercity
. She took the time to raise her dark rangers, former Farstriders under her command. She also set out to find Nathanos Marris somewhere in what was now the Plaguelands
, intending to free him from the Lich King’s control as well.
The Lament of the Highborn
She also sent ambassadors to both the Horde
and the Alliance
, likely expecting to need allies. The people of Silvermoon feared a trick by the Lich King, and had refused anything to do with their former Ranger-General, and the ambassadors sent to Stormwind
never came back, likely killed before they could even get into the city. There was too much fear that they were still under the control of the Lich King. The Horde, however, specifically the Tauren
, would facilitate meetings between Thrall
and Sylvanas. Hamuul Runetotem
and Cairne Bloodhoof
believed the Forsaken could be redeemed spiritually, and Thrall’s sympathy for the corruption that had befallen them led to their inclusion into the Horde.
Though Sylvanas had been spurned by the Blood Elves
of Quel’thalas, she still considered herself a protector of the kingdom, even years later. She even convinced Thrall to accept the Blood Elves into the Horde as well. Not that it would regain her any friends in Lor’themar Theron, who now served as Regent of Silvermoon, but he also never really liked her anyway, likely stemming from her appointment of a human into the Farstriders ranks.
Sylvanas and The Lich King
While much of the time after the Forsaken had joined the Horde, much of the time was spent just dealing with the Scourge around the kingdom on a regular basis. Sylvanas had also tasked her apothecaries with creating a weapon to use against the Scourge. A new Plague
, like the one that had been used to turn the citizens of Lordaeron into the Scourge, except that it would kill the Scourge and everything else.
Meanwhile, Arthas’s time in gaining control over the Frozen Throne and the Scourge
after devouring what remained of Ner’zhul had finally come to a close as he opened his eyes again as the Lich King
. Arthas was no more, and Sylvanas knew that something terrible was happening.
Arthas Menethil on the Frozen Throne by Glenn Rane “Raneman”
In Dragonblight came the opportunity for the Plague to be used. Sylvanas’s leading apothecary Putress
hurled the Plague as the Lich King stepped through the Wrathgate
, catching both Horde and Alliance in the blast. Many were killed in the assault, and it didn’t turn out too great. Bolvar Fordragon
ended up being burned by the life-giving fires of the Red Dragonflight
, trapping him in a state that would not let him die, and Dranosh Saurfang
would end up being raised as a Death Knight in the Lich King’s service, while Bolvar was chained up at the Frozen Throne to be tortured.
Sylvanas played all this pretty cool. Clearly, she had no idea what Putress had planned, and played into this, saying that the Undercity was under siege
by Putress’s forces and Varimathras. Thrall led a counter attack with Sylvanas and Vol’jin
on the city, successfully slaying the Dreadlord Varimathras and restoring the throne to the Banshee Queen. The Alliance had also been led in by King Varian Wrynn
, along with Jaina Proudmoore
, likely in the hopes of claiming the Undercity for the Alliance, but Jaina teleported them away before more violence could ensue. Thrall didn’t fully trust that Sylvanas was being honest that she didn’t know what Putress and Varimathras had been planning, and ordered some of the Kor’kron
to stay behind to keep an eye on affairs in Undercity.
Sylvanas later headed to Northrend to exact revenge on the Lich King herself. While she did lead some of the attacks into the Forge of Souls
, the Pit of Saron
and the Halls of Reflection
, she would not be present for the final fall of the Lich King. She later ventured up alone to the Throne where she would be watched by nine Val’kyr
, servants of the Lich King. With Arthas dead, her goal was complete, even though she hadn’t been there to see it happen, but the fact that another person was now on the Frozen Throne did not sit well with her. She thought it foolish, and ignored the Val’kyr around her and hurled herself off the spire onto the saronite
Sylvanas was dead, but now trapped. She saw a vision of the future of the Forsaken, who would be sacrificed by Garrosh Hellscream
in an attempt to take Gilneas
. They would lose against the Alliance. The vision ended and Sylvanas was trapped in darkness, feeling only terror, and regret. She also sensed a presence here, Arthas himself — except that he seemed more like a frightened little boy than the ruthless death knight that tortured her.
Then the Val’kyr appeared before her. Their leader Annhylde
offered Sylvanas a pact. One of them would remain here, in this realm of torment, and she would live again with the Val’kyr bound to her. They saw her as a way to exist as more than slaves to the Lich King, and did not want to serve the new holder of the Frozen Throne. And so the deal was struck, and Sylvanas lived again surrounded by the eight remaining Val’kyr.
The Cataclysm and the Val’kyr
Following the expedition to Northrend and the mostly return home for both the Horde and the Alliance, the Forsaken, and especially Sylvanas, were put under some pretty tight scrutiny. Probably warranted, considering the use of the Forsaken Blight at the Wrathgate. That Blight was banned, however, the apothecaries were allowed to work on a drastically weaker strain of it.
Sylvanas was also ordered further south in order to secure a port in northern Lordaeron, and so she moved on to Gilneas. While she did succeed at taking the city, she hadn’t counted on the Gilneans gaining control of the Worgen curse. As King Genn Greyman
, his son Liam
, and Darius Crowley
along with a resistance force are closing in on her, Sylvanas made a last ditch attempt to turn the tables and fired a poisoned arrow at Genn. Liam was able to throw himself in the way, but he died in the process of saving his father. And so is born the hatred in the heart of an already arrogant and strong-willed man, one who has been known to be kind of a jerk.
After Sylvanas fled the immediate area, she still had the new Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream, breathing down her neck, and it was frustrating for her. She orders Gilneas to be drenched in Blight, and retreats with the area in her people’s hands. The Gilneans are able to escape after hearing of her plan, and overnight, the 7th Legion of the Alliance raids and reclaims the territory.
With Garrosh still in Silverpine Forest
to oversee her movements, Sylvanas finally unveiled to him the new allies of the Forsaken, three of the Val’kyr. The same Val’kyr that were once tied to the Lich King and have now tied themselves to the Banshee Queen, and they raise some of the dead to bolster the ranks of the Forsaken. Sure, they can’t procreate, but their enemies become their new allies. Garrosh is revolted and ends up leaving, leaving High Warlord Cromush
to keep an eye on Sylvanas.
Sylvanas Windrunner and three Val'kyr in Silverpine Forest
She took to the battle herself once more, leading her forces against the Gilneas Liberation Front and the Alliance forces backing them up. She had Lord Godfrey resurrected, and had him capture Lorna Crowley
. With her in tow, she presents her father Darius with a choice; surrender, or Lorna becomes one of her own. He agreed to surrender, and was allowed to leave with his daughter, but Lord Godfrey killed Sylvanas shortly afterward, and fled to Shadowfang Keep.
Cromush scrambled, and ordered the Val’kyr to fix the Banshee Queen. The three of them, Agatha
, and Daschla
, were all needed for sacrifice this time, unlike the first resurrection in IceCrown. But Sylvanas “lives” once more, leaving no doubt in her mind that the Val’kyr are the future of the Forsaken. A note here, that only five of her Val’kyr remained at this point from the original nine.
She later took to the field again in the Battle for Andorhal, in disguise as Linsay Ravensun
. To put it lightly, she did not take kindly to Koltira Deathweaver
’s dealings with the Alliance, nor his truce with Thassarian
, the Alliance commander in the area. I’m not fully sure whether she knew that the two of them had been brothers-in-arms while under the control of the Lich King, and continued to be so as Knights of the Ebon Blade
Sylvanas sent her Val’kyr in to ensure victory, and then after scolding Koltira, had him very unceremoniously brought to Undercity via portal and hooked chain, intending to make him a servant of the Forsaken, by force if necessary. This also didn’t make her any friends among the Ebon Blade either, and she completely refused to negotiate the Elf’s release.
Koltira Deathweaver at Andorhal
This was not altogether a victory for Sylvanas or the Horde. While they did hold back the Alliance in Andorhal, one of the Val’kyr, Aradne
, was killed by the Alliance, bringing the number to four remaining Val’kyr. There were some lesser Val’kyr that did join in this and many other battles, but they were not specifically tied to Sylvanas herself as part of the nine.
Throughout the expedition to Pandaria
, Sylvanas largely took a step back, only really stepping in as an ally against Garrosh Hellscream. It was no secret she didn’t think highly of the orc, and the way he treated her shortly after the fall of the Lich King and the Cataclysm definitely didn’t do him any favours.
After he was defeated below Orgrimmar, she was… Not happy, to put it nicely, that he would have a trial instead of just being executed outright. The appointment of Baine Bloodhoof
also proved to be displeasing, and she saw the Tauren as an Alliance sympathizer. The two nearly came to blows at this point as Baine defended himself.
But it did catch the attention of Vereesa Windrunner. The two of them share a mutual hatred of the now former Warchief, albeit for different reasons; Sylvanas because of his treatment and arrogance, while Vereesa’s husband Rhonin
perished in the destruction of Theramore Isle
that Garrosh orchestrated. So, who better to plan vengeance with? She summons her older sister to Windrunner Spire.
The two of them plotted to poison Garrosh’s meal instead of allowing his fate to be imprisonment. Over the course of their meetings, Vereesa and Sylvanas rekindled a positive bond between them, so much so that Sylvanas offered her sister a place with the Forsaken. They could rule together, and Vereesa honestly thought about accepting it.
Though, Sylvanas knew she would not be accepted as a living
ruler by the Forsaken, so part of this also included a plan to murder her own sister and raise her as a banshee like her. She did plan to do this as painlessly as possible, so that’s some relief, but still pretty messed up, all things considered.
The time came to poison Garrosh’s food. Vereesa planted herself in the kitchens in order to have access, and laced the meal, and then began to have doubts. Her time spent with the Pandaren cooks, as well as a meeting with Anduin Wrynn
reminded her of her children in Dalaran, Rhonin’s children. Joining Sylvanas in Undercity to rule the Forsaken would mean abandoning them.
She also was not able to face Sylvanas with this decision again, so she wrote a letter to her dear sister; she would not be joining her. Vereesa then told Anduin of the poison in Garrosh’s food, leaving his fate in the human’s hands.
This was a blow to Sylvanas. When she learned of Garrosh’s survival, she rampaged through the wilderness, slaying anything and everything in her way, and promising herself she would never attempt to love anyone else ever again.
After Garrosh’s escape to Dreanor of the past
, Sylvanas stayed behind on Azeroth, only really sending one of her dark rangers, a mage, and a spy through with the Horde champions.
As the Legion began to invade Azeroth once again, she had Nathanos partake in a ritual meant to make him stronger. Now this is a pretty crazy ritual and it becomes very obvious why it can’t be done for every Forsaken, despite the fact that they are literally rotting away. It requires a sacrifice of someone related to the person, and Nathanos feels absolutely no regret, even as he looks at his younger cousin, Stephon Marris
, now a grown man, bound to a table for the Val’kyr to sacrifice.
A few other things are illustrated for us for this ritual. It is incredibly painful to undergo, and as Nathanos leaves the room, he notices that the Val’kyr who performed the ritual is pretty spent. These rituals also take a portion of the Val’kyr essence, so they won’t just do this for anyone.
Nathanos himself is… I don’t know whether to call him a little dense or just clueless, but as the Dark Ranger Anya
leads him to the armory to choose new gear to wear with his new body, she pointed out how many times Sylvanas has stuck her neck out for the man. As Ranger-General, inducting him into the Farstriders and even naming him Ranger Lord, she defied a kingdom. After the weakening of the Lich King’s hold over the Scourge, she searched the Plaguelands to find him and break the hold on his mind. And now, by her will, one of her precious Val’kyr paid a decently hefty price to restore his strength.
The Banshee Queen then took part in the assault on the Legion’s invasion on the Broken Shore
, alongside the other Horde leaders, as well as the Alliance forces. As the Horde took the upper ridge, they were quickly overwhelmed and Vol’jin suffered a blow from a poisoned spear. Sylvanas scooped him up, and he pleaded with her to not let the Horde die, and she called a retreat. This obviously left the Alliance vulnerable, and led to the death of Varian Wrynn by disenchantment at the hands of Gul’dan
Sylvanas Windrunner - Warchief of the Horde
Back in Orgrimmar
, as Vol’jin sat dying in Grommash Hold
, he called for her to be brought in. He’s heard whispers, and it’s time for her to step out of the shadows and lead, Sylvanas is to be Warchief. In a move that almost seems to solidify her leadership, Sylvanas turned from the funeral pyre to the gathered Horde asking them who would help her avenge their fallen Warchief. Of course, all of those gathered were in. Obviously. Their leader had just been killed by an invading force.
Sylvanas Windrunner stunned, having just been named Warchief
Onward to the Broken Isles
, for not only just the Horde, but for Sylvanas herself as well. She set sail with the Forsaken fleet to Stormheim
while the Horde focused on finding the Aegis of Aggramar
. When the fleet is attacked by the Skyfire
, Sylvanas decided to search for whatever treasure it was she sought on her own, and took off.
Later on, both Alliance and Horde stumbled into Helheim
’s own little pocket dimension of death. And who else do we find there but Sylvanas, seemingly brokering a deal with the Titan Watcher. Only the tail end of their conversation was caught, but Sylvanas took off with instructions to keep looking for the Aegis; it cannot fall into enemy hands.
Later on, at least part of her plan was revealed. Sylvanas was able to gain entry into the vault at Skold-Ashil
, a Vrykul matriarchal city where Eyir
, the leader of Odyn
’s Val'kyr, stayed. Inside, Sylvanas revealed the Soulcage
, and attempted to bind Eyir to her will. At this point, she wanted more Val’kyr for herself. And in walked Genn Greymane. The two had a very short scuffle, mostly aided by the fact that Sylvanas’s arrow was able to transform Genn back to his human form, but he does get his own start to his vengeance, both for his son and Gilneas, as well as Varian; he broke the Soulcage, freeing Eyir from the chains. As he walked away, he asserted that she stole his son’s future, now he’s taken hers.
After the defeat of the Legion, Sylvanas reunited once again with both of her sisters. Vereesa, she had not seen since Garrosh’s trial, but this is the first time she’s seen Alleria since before the elder sister went through the Portal to Outland. For Alleria, it was much longer, as she and the Grand Army of the Light
were trapped in a time pocket in the Twisting Nether
for a thousand years.
The three made their way to Windrunner Spire one last time while playing a game called “One is a lie” where each makes three statements, with only one of them being a lie. Sylvanas’s statements were that she was proud to be Warchief of the Horde, there were times she wished she still lived, and that she would never betray her sisters.
At a certain point, Alleria and Sylvanas got into an argument, leading Sylvanas to unleash her full Banshee powers against a shade in their path. The two both believe that the sister they once knew was gone, Alleria having chosen to abandon them to become an abomination of the Void
, and Sylvanas’s savage brutality in Undeath.
Sylvanas never revealed which statement of hers was a lie to her sisters, and instead called the game short. She nearly gave a hand signal, until she was caught off guard by Vereesa’s next words; she apologized to her sister for only writing her a letter to let her know of her change of mind. She had been a coward by not meeting with her.
After the three parted ways, Sylvanas is rejoined again at the Spire by her dark rangers, and they were surprised they were never signaled to assassinate the other Windrunner sisters. Sylvanas told them it didn’t matter, because in the end, both of them would serve her
Before the Storm
Sylvanas’s duties as Warchief took a lot of her attention and time away from the Undercity as well, and Nathanos would report to her the ongoings of the city while she was away. Many of the Forsaken were proud that their queen had been named the leader of the Horde, but many of them also claimed she gave the rest of the Horde too much attention as opposed to them. Meanwhile, Baine Bloodhoof and Varok Saurfang believed she didn’t give them enough.
However, in answer to the Undercity’s needs, some of the Forsaken formed the Desolate Council
to take care of day to day business while she was gone. The council had also heard of her attempts to gather more Val’kyr in Stormheim and requested an audience with her for future disagreements with her actions. Sylvanas wasn’t exactly happy with this on the whole, but did also confide in Nathanos her ultimate plan to conquer Stormwind. She planned to raise the humans killed into the ranks of the Forsaken, seeing it as kindness, as those who had fled Lordaeron would be reunited with their lost loved ones in undeath.
Next came something that would end up being fortuitous to Sylvanas as a leader. Anduin Wrynn had sent a letter to her hoping to arrange a gathering between those who were undead within Lordaeron and their living relatives and loved ones living in Stormwind. Nathanos even urged her to publicly endorse the gathering, because if it failed, she could use her own people’s emotions to her advantage, and if it went well, it may give them more reason to fight to propagate the existence of the Forsaken as a people. It may also give her a way to exploit Stormwind’s trust.
So it was agreed, but only for the members of the Desolate Council. They would meet in the Arathi Highlands
. And it was agreed that neither faction would move against the other’s people. For some, the gathering did not go well. There were those among the families in Stormwind that could not go through with meeting their lost relatives at the last minute, and the Forsaken walked away, hurt. For others, it went well. They met with their families, and all was peaceful... until it wasn’t.
Sylvanas stood atop Thoradin’s wall, and started noticing that some of the Forsaken seemed to be defecting. She signaled for a retreat back to Horde territory, and was ignored. That was it, then. After she was informed of Calia Menethil’s presence, darkness was all but spelled out for the Forsaken gathered. Calia Menethil
, the older sister of Arthas Menethil, and also heir to the throne of Lordaeron. It’s almost inevitable that some of the citizens of Lordaeron would want to swear fealty to the person who should have been their queen had it not been for the Scourge in the first place.
Sylvanas let loose her dark rangers on all the Forsaken in Arathi, including those returning towards the wall. If there was any hope and sympathy within them, she would not let it fester. She, herself, shot the killing blow on Calia Menethil in front of Anduin, no less, and when called out on this, she states that Calia was a subject of Lordaeron, and therefore under her jurisdiction. He takes Calia’s corpse with him as he leaves the field in Arathi.
In the wake of the gathering, Sylvanas had set her sights on her final goal, Stormwind. She had spoken to Nathanos about this, but it was time to get a little bit more going. She called Varok Saurfang
into a meeting. She wanted to know how he would make a move on the human city.
It was decided that there would be no way for the Horde to take Stormwind by force. Even had both navies not been weakened by the war against the Legion, Sylvanas reasoned that there could be no peace for the Horde unless they dominated the Alliance. But keeping in mind the lack of ships to transport troops to far off lands, the Horde could secure Kalimdor without much trouble. It would, however, mean that the Undercity would be susceptible to a retaliatory attack, but that was a price they planned for.
First, they baited out the Kaldorei, planning to divide the Alliance forces, and hold Darnassus hostage. The plan was to use this to splinter the ties between the Gilneans and the Night Elves, seeing as how Gilneas had been lost so many years ago. The ultimate plan to defeat Stormwind was not by force, but by politically severing each individual nation as they would move to defend their own interests.
Sylvanas knew that most of the Horde did not trust her to lead them to an honorable victory, and thus unite the Alliance against them, so she trusted Saurfang with the battle plans. She suggested luring the Kaldorei forces from Ashenvale
by creating a false narrative, and the Alliance spies were fed information showing that the Horde planned on moving into Silithus
in order to claim the Azerite. It worked. The Night Elves sent most of their army to Silithus as a deterrence, Tyrande travelled to Stormwind to help plan the war, and this left much of the territory with a skeleton crew.
The Horde army finally set out, making a decent show that they were heading to Silithus for the Alliance spies in Orgrimmar, and then instead of heading south, Saurfang ordered the army north into Ashenvale.
The Burning of Teldrassil
Small battles ended up breaking out throughout Ashenvale and in Darkshore
but ultimately, the Horde secured the land. Sylvanas, Nathanos, and Varok stood ready to invade Teldrassil
, and she noticed a dying elf on the beach. Delaryn Summermoon
, explained that only the innocent remained in the tree. After Delaryn tried to remind Sylvanas of her life as a defender of her people, and this didn't work, Sylvanas remembered herself to be a fool. Delaryn realized that the Banshee has instead made life her enemy, grieving for her… and enraging Sylvanas.
Sylvanas turned to Varok and Nathanos, telling them instead to burn the tree. Nathanos paused only for a brief moment to ensure he had heard her, and started letting loose the catapults, and the World Tree was set ablaze.
Sylvanas Windrunner watching Teldrassil burn
Saurfang knew this would mean that the Alliance would absolutely be united against the Horde, but she calmly proceeded with plans to defend and evacuate Undercity. She also reminded Saurfang that this was her way of fixing his blunder by sparing Malfurion
instead of using the archdruid’s death as a wedge to splinter the Alliance.
Later on in Lordaeron, the Alliance very much seemed to have the upper hand as they pushed the Horde armies back through the ruins of the city. Saurfang found out about Sylvanas’s ultimate plan, calling it honorless and a travesty. He stood as the last of the Horde before the throne room, and Anduin, Genn, Alleria, and Jaina pushed their way in to find a waiting Sylvanas. She’d given the final orders to evacuate the city. Finally her plan came to fruition. Sort of.
I’m going to guess that she was not planning for Jaina to be there, after all, Jaina Proudmoore has been MIA since the Kirin Tor
voted to include the Horde into Dalaran again. Regardless, she lets out her banshee wail, setting off Blight bombs that were planted around the ceiling, and flies out to rejoin the other Horde leaders on a zeppelin leaving the area. But with Jaina there, the Alliance leaders are ported to safety on Jaina’s new ghost flying ship.
At some point, Princess Talanji
of the Zandalari Trolls
had reached out and begun negotiations with the Warchief. Sylvanas wanted the navy and Talanji sought out help with some of the threats within the Zandalari borders. But the princess was captured by the Alliance, and Sylvanas sent a team in to liberate her from the Stockades
. She would later need to travel to Zuldazar, but mostly delegated the war campaign to Nathanos.
When Derek Proudmoore
was discovered in a watery grave, he was brought to Sylvanas herself, and she had him raised as a Forsaken, and then had him tortured in order to brainwash him. Also, why did his body look so good? He was down there for like 20 years! Okay, a little less, but he’s still been dead, underwater since the Second War
. Anyways, he was also used as a tool to attempt to plunge a dagger into the hearts of the Kul Tirans.
There was also the matter of Darkshore to attend to. Sylvanas also wanted those that were killed in the initial assault leading up to the burning of Teldrassil to be raised, and sent Nathanos as well as two of her Val’kyr in order to raise the Kaldorei that had been killed. As Nathanos ordered them to raise Delaryn Summermoon, and the newly slain Sira Moonwarden
happened upon them after having become the Night Warrior
, demanding Elune
grant her the strength to bring down her enemies. Tyrande succeeded in slaying Brynja
, bringing the number of Val’kyr over which Sylvanas held dominion down to 3.
Brynja in Darkshore
After discovering the plan, too late for her, of returning Derek Proudmoore to the Alliance, Sylvanas gathered the leaders of the Horde in order to confront the problem within their ranks. The betrayal of Baine Bloodhoof. She had the Tauren chieftain imprisoned below Orgrimmar, but not before he accused her of leading the Horde to ruins.
Betraying the Horde
Later on, Sylvanas was given the empty dagger, Xal’atath
, and we’re still not sure exactly how, but it seemed to facilitate a deal between her and Azshara
, a deal that would see both the Horde and Alliance navies crippled on the bottom of the ocean in Nazjatar
, meanwhile, planning to execute Baine. Lor’themar turned to Thrall and Saurfang for help to save the Tauren, and the Alliance sent in a force as well. In saving him, Thrall believed that Sylvanas would set her sights on Thunder Bluff
, burning it like she had Teldrassil.
Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore speak as Varok Saurfang and Mathias Shaw help Baine Bloodhoof to his feet
Tensions began to rise, leading to a full out rebellion against the Warchief. At the last moment, Saurfang looked around at the Horde and Alliance gathered, and the Horde on the ramparts of Orgrimmar. He didn’t want to spill anymore blood, least of all the brothers and sisters of the Horde. So he instead challenged Sylvanas Windrunner to Mak’gora
, a ritual fight to the death with no magic, just weapons and what they wore in that moment.
Thrall gave Saurfang his own axe, and Anduin handed him Shalamayne
, his father’s sword that he had put back together after finding the pieces on the Broken Shore. As the two leaders fought, something seemed a little bit off. As someone probably about Sylvanas’s size myself, who spars with friends with about the same size difference that Saurfang has, there should be no way that she is able to take such an upper hand, at least not without help in some way.
After she taunted the old orc, Sylvanas believed she’d won, but Saurfang turned the tables. Lesson here, don’t mock an old soldier’s hope. Because he will probably use that against you immediately. He reminded her of every loss she’s had; she failed to kill any hope at Teldrassil, she failed in getting the Horde and Alliance to eradicate each other. She just keeps failing. He split Shalamayne and slashed at Sylvanas with both swords, managing to slash her eye.
My reaction to the betrayal
Sylvanas, enraged and barely able to reign in her emotions, lets out a sentence that would ultimately turn the tide against her. “The Horde is nothing.” She asserts that all those gathered are nothing. The delivery of these lines, while shocking to me initially
, you have to hand it to Patty Mattson. Sylvanas may be a little unhinged at this moment, but the voice given to her by Patty and the rest of the cinematics team is absolutely haunting. Also, when they did a sort of live reenactment of this cinematic
at BlizzCon 2019 and she turned to the crowd screaming “You are all nothing!” I quite literally got chills. I may feel betrayed by Sylvanas for my own reasons, but I love Patty and everything she has brought to Sylvanas.
”You are all nothing!” — Patty Mattson as Sylvanas on stage at BlizzCon 2019
She killed Saurfang using some of the new magic she has gotten her hands on, that Thalyssra
and Jaina both don’t recognize when you speak to them later. Of course, after a lovely if slightly unhinged monologue from Sylvanas
, she flew off to continue with whatever her plans were at that point.
"You are all nothing!" - Sylvanas Windrunner
She did meet up with Nathanos one last time at Windrunner Spire to deliver some final orders before heading off their separate ways. Sylvanas loyalists were also treated to a quick peek at the plan, that right now, countless souls were being fed to the hungering darkness. She admitted pitying the Forsaken for what befell them, and their pointless clinging to hope. She also revealed that she had a bargain with Azshara, and that everyone fighting Azshara’s master
would leave the streets lined with the dead, and that even he would serve Death. And off she went, not to be seen for a very long while.
The Helm of Domination
Then came the day Sylvanas Windrunner finally set her sights on her goal. The Lich King, Bolvar Fordragon. After soloing all of IceCrown Citadel
herself (I mean, are we really surprised?) she makes her way up to the Frozen Throne, where she once decided to throw herself from so many years ago. After battling and winning against the Lich King, and stripping Bolvar Fordragon of the Helm of Domination
, she proceeded to rip it to pieces using whatever new power that she seems to have.
Sylvanas tearing the Helm of Domination
Now, regardless of how she got this power, I just wanna say… This is impressive. And I’m honestly a little scared to fight Sylvanas. But hey, that’s where we’re being sent.
She then sent her and the Jailer
into IceCrown and around Azeroth, and it was time to begin our own defense, but not before Anduin Wrynn, Thrall, Jaina Proudmoore, and Baine Bloodhoof were taken. We also heard that they had attempted to go after Tyrande Whisperwind as well, and got rightly shut down… probably painfully, knowing the Night Warrior’s power.
Spies from both the Horde and the Alliance had also spotted Nathanos, the Blightcaller himself, at the Marris stead, his once family home. Now, no one could find Sylvanas up to this point, not the Alliance, not the Horde, but we can hit her where it might hurt her, the person we’re pretty sure she has feelings for.
Of course, we didn’t get to finish him off. Nah, Tyrande came in and stole the kill, but honestly, I’m not even mad. Because that was a glorious fight to watch
. The rage and the anger practically radiating from the Night Warrior, the arrogant nonchalance of the Blightcaller along with his self-assured belief that he would just end up at Sylvanas’s side once again.
Nathanos Blightcaller goading the Night Warrior
Finally we get to make our way into the Maw
, using what Bolvar Fordragon understands of the Helm of Domination. We head in, searching for our lost leaders and slowly gather them up, and look for a way to escape. We also keep an eye out for Tyrande, as she had jumped through the portal before we were able to, but we don’t end up seeing her anywhere, or any sign of her.
Now, of course, none of this really has anything to do with Sylvanas, aside from just that she is one of the leaders of these forces, the ultimate leader being the Jailer. She’s not present aside from speaking with Anduin when we get there, and then she mists away. But her presence is felt through every second spent in the Maw.
On a side note, do you ever do this on an alt in, like, the Wendigo PJs? Because that final cinematic in those is just absolutely fantastic. I would highly recommend it just for that.
We don’t see Sylvanas again for a while. We accidentally pop in on her speaking to the Jailer while we’re going through Torghast
at one point, but it’s very brief. It isn’t until Taelia
, Bolvar’s long lost daughter, pleads with him to look through the Helm once more to find our friends that some of her plans become a little more clear as we witness her speaking with Anduin
and urging him to choose whatever it is that she and the Jailer have in store for him.
The one other thing that does have something to do with Sylvanas however, is when we stumble into Bwonsamdi
’s little pocket realm, De Other Side
, and come to find Mueh’zala
holding our poor Bwonners hostage. We don’t get a lot out of this, aside from some clues about Bwon not being a loa from the beginning, and some hints at his dating history, but there is one very important thing. Mueh’zala fully confirms that it was he, on the Jailer’s behalf, that whispered to Vol’jin in order to have Sylvanas Windrunner named Warchief.
Bwonsamdi with a captured Mueh'zala in De Other Side
But this is all we’ve seen of Sylvanas for a while… That is until Patch 9.1.
Chains of Domination
After Anduin was sent to Bastion
to claim a sigil from Kyrestia, Sylvanas Windrunner leads some of her forces into Ardenweald
, and the other three covenants band together to defend the forest as Sylvanas sets her eyes on the Heart of the Forest
Sylvanas summons forth the Tarragrue
from the Maw, which is quickly dealt with by Tyrande, much to everyone’s surprise. Now, I know we’re here to talk about Sylvanas, but I would be remiss to not point out that Tyrande goes full Elune-flavoured Demon Hunter
. And her taunting of Sylvanas
also makes something very clear here.
Tyrande Whisperwind, the Night Warrior, with terrifying glee
Tyrande makes absolutely no secret that she wants the Banshee’s head, and she’ll take it just like she took his. Sylvanas is legitimately surprised. She didn’t know Nathanos Blightcaller was killed. Tyrande saying “You didn’t know?” completely dripping with malice is probably my new favourite thing in a cinematic. She’s taking a lot of joy in this. Honestly, I am too, you don’t leave your top man alone, at his home, when you’ve just pissed off BOTH factions and not expect him to be killed. My dear, sweet, Sylvanas, we need to have a talk.
I’m going to take a moment here to also applaud the cinematic team. So much is said just through both Sylvanas and Tyrande’s facial expressions. The animation upgrades have been absolutely phenomenal to see, and the absolute surprise from Sylvanas, the malicious glee turning to disgust on Tyrande, is absolutely beautiful.
Probably the only thing that saves Tyrande’s life in the next few moments is Ysera
coming to her defense as Elune’s power seems to wane. There’s a lot of speculation to be had as to why this happens, but we don’t know any of it for sure just yet.
"Nothing lasts." Sylvanas Windrunner to Tyrande
So far, we haven’t seen Sylvanas again after this, but we do see Anduin claim the Winter Queen’s sigil from the Heart of the Forest. We do, however, have to talk about just one more thing; The Eye of the Jailer
The Eye of the Jailer
First, we find out that this was Odyn
’s eye, the one he gave up in order to learn how to make Helya into a Val’kyr to ferry souls for him. Which is all well and good, but the important thing in this line of quests is we do eventually see Helya again, and we’re confronted by her.
Helya empowering Annhylde
While we’re sneaking around, she’s empowering Annhylde. Now that’s a familiar name. She’s the first of the nine Val’kyr atop IceCrown Citadel that sacrificed herself in order to resurrect Sylvanas again so many years ago. I’m honestly a little surprised that it took this long for her to be powered up into a Mawsworn, especially if they were the ones who brokered any kind of meeting or deal between Sylvanas and the Jailer. We also now know that they are the ones who facilitated this, and The Nine
’s presence in the Sanctum of Domination
makes this very clear once and for all.
What Comes Next? (SPOILER AHEAD!)
Now, whether or not you agree with how this fight ends, there is a lot set up here for Sylvanas's story. For one thing, we don't fully know what her plans were or even how they will have to change. We're pretty sure that whatever she had planned, her motives were for the greater good, in her eyes, to give us what she feels she never truly had; free will. We know that since speaking with Anduin, she's had doubts filling her mind, and this is clear from the cinematics team and their amazing work with her facial expressions all expansion long.
This is 100% speculation from this point, but I'm also like 90% sure I'm right: Sylvanas is likely to be redeemed by the end of all of this, and her sadly very futile attempt to shoot Zovaal in the face with an arrow and asserting that she will never serve is nothing if not proof of that.
Keep in mind that she hears not only Zovaal say "serve", but the Lich King, and Arthas, separately. They still haunt her. All these years later, she still hears their voices in her head, chaining her to something that she doesn't want any part in.
Does any of this absolve her of the horrible things she's done? Absolutely not, but it is the beginning of redemption and making amends. And with what I'm pretty sure is the portion of her soul that splintered away when she was killed by Frostmourne at the hands of Arthas, I'm very curious to know how she will change, and I'm sure it will feed into her will to make amends for the wrongs that she's done.
I’m going to put one last reminder here; there is a lot of stuff that still has not been fully made clear to us, and we won’t know until we can get our hands on Christie Golden’s book
in February 2022, which feels so far away. Plus we still get more of Patty Mattson
now, and isn’t that just great?
About the Author
(they/them) is an Indigenous, 2SLBGTQIA+, Canadian content creator and a huge lore nerd. Their stream consists of almost all different WoW content. They're always down to answer questions about lore. They're also the Lore Walker over at Azeroth: A History
, a podcast looking at Warcraft lore and how it fits today. Many times, Senppai is joined everywhere by Jarvis, the ginger demon