Welcome to Character Corner, where we dive into the life and exploits of various lore figures in the Warcraft universe. This week features the fierce and proud Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind!
Varian Wrynn is the son of the late King Llane Wrynn. His journey to adulthood and kingship is marked by the constant loss of loved ones to treachery and betrayal. Varian is wary of outsiders and distrustful of most. As a child, he watched his father get stabbed in the back by Garona, the half-orc assassin they had come to know and trust. While Stormwind burned around him, Varian was forced to flee with Anduin Lothar, the mage Khadgar, and the band of Stormwind refugees.
The survivors found refuge in Lordaeron under the shelter of King Terenas Menethil. Varian grew grew close to Prince Arthas, a couple of years his junior. The two were best friends and King Terenas thought of Varian like a son. Prompted by Terenas, the Alliance of Lordaeron was formed with the other surrounding human kingdoms. After a brutal war, Stormwind was reclaimed and Varian ascended its throne at age 18. With the threat of orcs still present, Varian himself rode throughout his kingdom to fight the orc remnants. In his absence, the House of Nobles looked after Stormwind City.
Unbeknownst to Varian, the House of Nobles had been infiltrated and bewitched by Lady Katrana Prestor, better known as the black dragon Onyxia. Under Onyxia’s influence, the House of Nobles refused to pay the Stonemasons guild the full compensation for their work rebuilding Stormwind. This caused the Stonemasons to riot in the streets, during which Varian’s wife, Tiffin, was struck by a stray rock and killed. Tiffin’s death sent the king into a deep depression. The Stonemasons, led by Edwin Van Cleef, left Stormwind and formed the Defias Brotherhood. Since that day, the Defias proved to be a constant thorn in the King’s side.
During the Third War, Varian was forced to confront yet another horrifying betrayal. His childhood friend, Prince Arthas, murdered King Terenas and led an army of undead across Lordaeron. Varian took in groups of refugees from the ravaged kingdom, as Terenas had once done for him. With each loss, Varian finds it harder and harder to pull himself from despair. However, he finds hope in his young son, Anduin Wrynn, named in honor of Anduin Lothar.
Varian is thrown into another life-shaping ordeal when he is kidnapped by the Defias and taken to Alcaz Isle, where Onyxia tries to kill his willpower by splitting him into two beings. One Varian is easily cowed and manipulated, while the other possesses a strong will and fighting spirit. Onyxia intended to keep the weaker Varian alive and use him to rule Stormwind from the shadows. However, a naga attack allowed the strong-willed Varian to escape the island, eventually washing up on Durotar with no memory. The other Varian was taken by the naga. While the king was missing, Bolvar Fordragon became regent-lord of Stormwind.
The weaker-willed Varian was eventually ransomed back to Stormwind, while the other was captured by the orc Rehgar Earthfury to serve on his gladiator team alongside the night elf Broll Bearmantle and the blood elf Valeera Sanguinar. Varian’s team won bout after bout, earning him the nickname Lo’Gosh, after an ancient and ferocious white wolf. Eventually, Lo’Gosh and his teammates escape from Rehgar and make their way to Theramore, where Jaina Proudmoore helps him remember his real identity. In Stormwind, the other Varian has been easily puppeted by Onyxia, but as he bonds with his son, he is able to slowly shake off her magic. In a desperate move, Onyxia kidnaps Anduin and takes him to her lair.
Together, the two Varians, armed with the elven blades Shalla’tor and Ellemayne, assault Onyxia’s Lair. As she tries to cast a spell to kill the stronger Varian, both halves step into the spell together, fusing them once more. The blades too are fused, becoming Shalamayne. The now-whole Varian plunges his sword through the dragon, killing her. Varian would forever be changed by his experience, often falling into Lo’Gosh’s persona when threatened or angry. His relationship with Anduin became more strained. Varian valued physical strength and fighting prowess while Anduin was a pacifist by nature and more interested in academics and peace. Often the two would clash on ideology, particularly where it concerned the Horde.
Varian has always placed the Alliance’s wellbeing first and foremost, never hesitating to threaten enemy leaders at the drop of a hat. Many times it was quick-thinking by Jaina that kept the King from coming to blows with Thrall or Garrosh. In Northrend, the betrayal at Wrathgate and the loss of Bolvar Fordragon only served to fuel his hatred, even refusing to ally with the Horde against Yogg-Saron. However much he despises the Horde, he is still a man of principles. While marching on Icecrown Citadel to confront the Lich King, he allowed the orc Varok Saurfang to recover the corpse of his fallen son, Dranosh. That act alone brought Jaina to tears as it proved for the first time since Wrathgate, Varian would consider letting old wounds heal.
Any hint of peace between the factions was again destroyed when Garrosh ascended to Warchief and destroyed Theramore. Never one to shy away from battle, Varian put himself on the frontlines to retaliate. His command of tactics and strategies serves him well throughout every campaign, breaking Garrosh’s hold on Kalimdor while preserving innocent lives. While Jaina was ready to obliterate Orgrimmar, it was Varian who proved to be the cooler head. As the events in Pandaria unfolded, this would continue to be true. Countless years of sobering war and bloodshed, along with Anduin’s stubborn yet gentle demeanor, have tempered the hotheaded King.
After Garrosh’s defeat in the Siege of Orgimmar, Vol’jin ascends to Warchief. Despite Jaina’s urgings, Varian chooses to enter an uneasy peace, though he threatens he will destroy them should they try to start anything.
The Legion rains down on Azeroth once again, prompting Varian to fight alongside the Horde as the two armies assault the Broken Shore. After cutting down swathes of demons, the Alliance confronts Gul’dan while the Horde covers them from a ledge above. When Vol’jin is mortally wounded and more demons start to pour onto the ledge, the Horde retreats, leaving the Alliance surrounded. Most of their forces make it to the Skyfire, but a summoned Fel Reaver threatens the safety of all aboard it. Varian leaps atop the Fel Reaver, piercing its head with Shalamayne and destroying the construct. Alone and surrounded by demons, Varian fights until he is impaled by fel guard. In his final moments, he defiantly stares down Gul’dan and utters his last words, “For the Alliance” as Gul’dan uses fel magic to detonate his body.
Varian left a letter to Anduin, explaining that he had learned much from Anduin. Anduin taught him that peace is a noble and worthwhile cause. In turn, Anduin knows he learned much from Varian about being a king. To protect peace, he must be willing to fight against those who threaten it. Jaina Proudmoore and Genn Greymane lay his death at the feet of the Horde, and clash with the other Alliance leaders as they thirst for vengeance. The burden of picking up the pieces falls to Anduin. Varian Wrynn will always be remembered for his valor. No matter what, he put the Alliance and the safety of his people first.