Lady Sylvanas Windrunner & The Future of the Forsaken

Sylvanas Windrunner

I’m going to start this post differently.  There have been a lot of requests to discuss Sylvanas Windrunner, so I imagine many of you will be happy to see this.  That said, if you really want to understand Sylvanas Windrunner in our post-Cataclysm world, you need to read the short story Edge of Night.  Period.  I won’t spoil the nitty-gritty details, but I will say this:  In between the end of WotLK and the beginning of Cataclysm, Lady Sylvanas Windrunner tried to kill herself, and in doing so she saw the agonizing Hell that awaits her.

The Val’kyr we now see at her side were the ones who saved her, and her fate is now tied with theirs.  While it is they who serve her, should the remaining Val’kyr perish, she will die with them.  That was their pact, and as of now, there are only four Val’kyr left.

And now that we’re all on the same page….

For the past five years, Sylvanas Windrunner has seen the Forsaken as little more than a weapon for taking her revenge on Arthas.  She outright says this in Edge of Night. (Hey, what were you expecting from her?  Warmth?).  With Arthas dead though, the role of the entire Forasken race has now shifted in Sylvanas’ eyes.  Instead of a weapon, Sylvanas now sees them as a fortress to protect her from the horrible afterlife that awaits her.

Here lies the issue.  The Forsaken are not a weapon, nor are they a fortress.  They are a people as varied as any other race, despite what the Forsaken stereotype may tell you.   Sure, we’ve had Forsaken in the Argent Dawn, and there are other examples of “good” within the undead, but I believe there is one example that shines above the others, and it isn’t very well known.  It’s a scene in the novel The Shattering:

In that novel, Cairne has been killed and the Grimtotem have taken Thunderbluff.  Baine is in exile, trying to amass an army to take back his father’s city.  While various Horde and even Alliance groups lend money and aid, there is one particular group that stands out:  A battalion of Forsaken soldiers show up, ready to fight for Baine.

Consider this for a moment.  The Forsaken have actually sent their own soldiers to defend another race.  When Baine asks why they have come, they reply that Cairne Bloodhoof championed their entry into the Horde and they are there, because of that favor.

There is a common misconception that the Forsaken are quick to hold a grudge.  No, that is incorrect.  What the Forsaken do is “keep score”.  They remember who has slighted them, but they also remember who has shown them good-will.

Now sure, there are cynics out there who spout that the Forsaken soldiers were only there, because the Grimtotem had been scheming with the Scourge.  Frankly– that’s a load of bunk.  Why?  Because the Forsaken simply had no reason to lie.  “Oh, you’re here because you hate the Grimtotem?  Great, welcome aboard!”  Beyond that, logistically, the whole point of that portion of the book was to show just how much everyone loved Cairne, even the Forsaken.

When the Forsaken arrived in remembrance of Cairne, it showed us they are capable of good-will, and more importantly, it also showed us that they are capable of honor.

So what’s my point?  The Forsaken are anything but one sided.  If anything, they’re incredibly complicated.  The Forsaken keep score, and the Horde has been good to them.  What started out as an “alliance of convenience”, has undoubtedly evolved.  The Horde has proven they will stand up for the Undercity, and much of the Forsaken has undoubtedly noticed.

At this moment there is one question predominantly surrounding Sylvanas and the Forsaken, “What do the other races of Azeroth think of Sylvanas raising the dead with her Val’kyr?  Is she becoming a Lich Queen?”  That said, there’s an even better question; one much more intriguing:  “What are the Forsaken going to think of Sylvanas raising the dead with her Val’kyr?”

We’ve established that the Forsaken are individuals, let alone complicated.  It is therefore a complete misnomer to assume that the entire Forsaken race would be okay with this.  Now don’t get me wrong, the Forsaken keep score and Lady Sylvanas has done a lot for them, and that could possibly win her the unquestioning support of her people.  However…

Keep in mind where the Forsaken cynicism comes from.  The Forsaken are a race of victims.  Each and every one of them has had their death violated.  That is what they all share, and that is what gave them their communal hatred of Arthas.  With that in mind, what does it mean to the Forsaken now that Sylvanas is doing the same?  It’s logical that at least some of them (probably a lot of them) aren’t going to like it.  And how about those who Sylvanas has actually risen?  Unless they’re under mind control, the undead tend to not think too fondly of those who raised them.

Granted, Sylvanas is only doing what she thinks is best for herself and her people.  The Forsaken can not reproduce, so this is the only way to ensure their culture does not go extinct.  The thing is, we’ve seen this before, and that gives us a pretty good guess as to what’s going to happen.  Who am I talking about?  The Blood Elves.

When the Sunwell was destroyed, the Elven leadership believed they had no choice but to accept a vile solution to a devastating problem in order to preserve their culture.  And what happened?  It split their people in two.

And that is what will inevitably happen now to the Forsaken.  There will be those who agree with Sylvanas’ solution, and those who do not.  Unlike the elves, however, those splinter groups who disagree with Sylvanas will (by definition) be unable to reproduce.  Given time, this means they’ll die out.

That leaves us with a vicious cycle.  Sylvanas will continue to raise the dead, splinter groups will break away then die out, and so this will go on indefinitely until something changes.  What could change?  Well– the Horde or Alliance could finally react.  One of those splinter groups could even plausibly push the Horde into action.  And consider this… As time goes by, the Forsaken risen by Sylvanas will inevitably begin to outnumber those raised by Arthas.  Unless Sylvanas controls them, she could definitely find herself ruling over a population that hates her.

And what if she did control them?  An undead queen, raising an army of undead under her complete control.  If that didn’t stir the Argent Dawn into action, I don’t know what will.

So is it really inevitable that Sylvanas will be overthrown?  If she continues on her current path, I’d say it is.

Keep in mind though that Blizzard has been a bit weird lately with their payoffs.  For all we know, a Naaru could show up in the Undercity and announce, “Hey, you know– if you guys went and jumped into the Sunwell, it’d make you alive again.  It won’t incinerate you.”  Blizzard sometimes does stuff like that.

Either way though, it does leave us with a question.  Who could possibly replace Sylvanas?  Well… we do now arguably have a benevolent Lich King.

At the end of the day, Sylvanas now walks a very dark path.  Her motives are no longer anger towards Arthas, but instead fear of the afterlife.  What will it mean for the Forsaken to have Sylvanas now ruling in fear instead of anger?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Architech October - 2011 at 6:52 am

I think Blizzard got some huge plans with Lilian Voss.

2 KristyKat182 October - 2011 at 7:36 am

I love Lilian Voss. Such a great character! Very well written and interesting. Thank you very much!

3 Aevilynne October - 2011 at 1:26 pm

You know what hero class I’d like to see? Dark Ranger – here’s why.
When WOTLK was on the way, death knights showed up as NPCs. Currently, there are several dark rangers around as NPCs. I think it would take the idea of death knights as being a sort of cross of dark Paladins and Warlocks, and run with it – a Dark Ranger could be a hunter/warlock hybrid sort of thing.

I say this because Sylvanas is my favorite character in all of WoW. And I want to be in her elite squad.

4 Gigi October - 2011 at 12:09 pm

Where are you getting there are only four left? By my count there was 9, then one took her place, so eight was left. If you do the quests in Silverpine Forests three of them take her place in death so that she may live. This means there are five left. Unless I am missing one?

5 Milan Sovilj October - 2011 at 2:34 pm

Koltira? Could he be the ruler of the forsaken?

6 Cocles October - 2011 at 2:10 pm

Yes, there was also one killed by the Alliance in the Battle of Andorhal.

7 Architech October - 2011 at 2:39 pm

@Milan There are too many male leaders, also ally’s got female leader, so horde have to get one as well, and im betting on Lilian Voss.

8 Milan Sovilj October - 2011 at 3:43 pm

I am just going to go out on a limb and say they wont replace Sylvanas. TBH she is probably one of the communities favorite leaders. Lilian voss is some random undead that has some strange powers, and not an interesting back story at all.

9 Architech October - 2011 at 4:29 pm

@Milan She’s the DAUGHTER of High Priest Benedictus Voss! Make an undead, do the quest chain, it will only take you up to lvl15 i think and you’ll see how AWESOME she is!
Or you can always read m0ar on

10 Cocles October - 2011 at 4:40 pm

What’s strange about Lilian Voss is she’s a pop culture reference character (Lilian Vess from Magic: The Gathering), who has been given one hell of a backstory. Blizzard usually doesn’t do much with their pop culture characters, which leads me to believe they won’t do much more with her. That said… the sheer prevalence of Lilian’s quest-line for Forsaken players has me wondering if Blizzard will make an exception.

To be honest, while I wouldn’t be opposed to Voss vying for control of the forsaken, I’m a bit more intrigued with the idea of either elements of the Ebon Blade, or the new Lich King taking over. Obviously the Lich King would be the most ironic– but if we’re talking him, my one hope above all is we get to see Bolvar unleash the Scourge onto the Burning Legion in expansion 5 (undead demons anyone?).

11 Architech October - 2011 at 5:31 pm

I know that, but still, she’s too strong to be left alone. I know she’s raised to be the weapon against Forsakens but now she’s on of them. I wont be surprised if she start killing Scarlet Crusaders and turns them into her followers. Either Sylvana’s or Lilian will be final boss of one of the next expansions, we’ll see which one.

12 Milan Sovilj October - 2011 at 5:53 pm

@Architech I have made 3 undeads and have done the leveling many times. She in no way compares to the epicness of Sylvanas IMO. I think Lillian deserves more of a role, but lets be honest many people deserve a greater lore in WoW. At this point I feel like blizzard is not even thinking on the level we are thinking, because they have been focused on other things. They are not tying up loose ends like I would like them to.

13 Gigi October - 2011 at 2:20 pm

I have to agree with Milan, they will probably never touch Voss again, although it would be awesome if they did… I mean hello that is a pretty epic quest line for for a beginning toon…. I wish all racial starting areas had something that epic… plus who wouldn’t want some purple fire abilities?

14 Stormcrow October - 2011 at 3:05 am

Though i love wow lore i am still fairly new to it so i have huge gaps in knowledge. Saying that i am curious if there is any chance of redemption for Sylvanas? Not so much being cured from being undead but maybe letting go of her hatred or something like that. Also another thing i’m sure i’ve missed but has her family basically shunned her or was that her own doing? Just curious if her sisters have played a role in her life since she was raised by Arthas. I would love any info on that or atleast be pointed to where i can read more about it.

15 Cocles October - 2011 at 12:41 am

It’s Blizzard, there’s *always* a chance for redemption. Some seeds have planted in that we know Sylvanas hasn’t entirely lost her humanity. She still misses her sister, she came to the aid of her original people. As far her family is concerned most of them are dead or missing. She has a nephew in Outland, and a sister in Dalaran/Northrend along with a brother-in-law and two other nephews. That sister, Vereesa, hasn’t made much of an effort to meet Sylvanas, but mourned what happened to her, and doesn’t like it when people speak ill of her. I’m sure eventually they’ll meet.

16 Izzie October - 2011 at 8:48 am

Sylvanas used to be one of my favorite characters in all of WoW; not because she was likable, but she had an amazing story that was complex and even garnered sympathy. She was also pretty badass for a hell-bent psychopath, lol.
When it became clear we were going to kill Arthas in WotLK, I also wondered what was going to happen to her once he was gone.

But the deal with the Val’Kr and her raising the dead, I grew to really dislike her. I was pretty outraged that she would hypocritically start putting people through what she went through, knowing how torturous it is. I guess the side-story kind of “justifies” it, but still. While her fate really sucks, going to “hell” as it were is on her. She used the forsaken as a tool without much regard, chose suicide and then opted for death a second time, knowing that by doing so she’d be dooming her “people” to yet another terrible end. Perhaps if she had for a moment tried to think of someone other than herself, it wouldn’t have been that way.

I suppose it’s hard to say. Yes, the forsaken will eventually die out, but isn’t that technically what they would want? Their purpose fulfilled, I feel like peace of death would be welcome.

17 suzylux January - 2012 at 6:36 pm

I don’t think Sylvanas doing what she’s doing now in Cata takes anything away from her loyalty to her people. If anything it shows what *lengths* she’ll go to in order to keep The Forsaken ‘alive’, protected and secure with at least some sort of future. What else can she do? She’s desperate. I believe Blizz are putting her through a sort of soul journey and a cycle. Sometimes it isn’t enough to exact revenge–some of us need to become what we hate, and then come full circle so we can grow and evolve into our destiny. She has siezed a power that she herself fell victim to because somewhere within her, it will bring her peace, satsisfaction, dignity and redemption.

Although, I think what she’s doing to the fallen, while not exactly pleasant, isn’t exactly what the Lich King did at all. The newly risen Forsaken have free will and aren’t under any form of mind control. Again she’s acting out of desperation and cunning–to survive. Just look what she did in Silverpine Forest to try and finally take Lordaeron for the Forsaken. Yes, it backfired on her, but while doing those quests and seeing her plan revealed I just marvelled at her strategy, her cleverness and resourcefulness, all in the name of survival against all odds.

I hope Blizz keeps her in the game for the future (pshh, they better)…She is far too much of an icon and a compelling character to ever let go. Lillian Voss as the new leader of the Forsaken? lol, please. Maybe after her lore has been built up a bit more in a few patches and maybe an expansion; add some tension and story between her and Sylvanas. Afterall, not only would it be interesting but, as a girl, I think it would be nice to see some storylines involving the female characters–working together, not working together, hating eachother, battling, allying..whatever. As of now there…really aren’t many, if any.

18 Chris May - 2012 at 4:40 am

I believe that Sylvanas has gotten a taste of power and decided she wants more. I really disagreed with her using the Val’kyr to raise new undead from the Human refugees in Silverpine forest, her excuse was to “Save ‘her’ people”. I would like to point out that the Forsake are not a “people”, they are a refugee population. Plus she tries to sound like she actually gives two cents about any Forsaken when she says “Her people”. She’s an Elf. And last time I checked the Elves didn’t seem to feel any kinship with Humans before the plague.

Like any despot she makes the people (Forsaken) believe that it’s in their best interest to follow her. Heck they even have a cult-of-personality with her. You’ll hear them say “Dark lady watch over you”, proving that they’re deifying her. I understand that she attacked Arthas when he was vulnerable but that doesn’t mean she did it with the pure intention of freeing the undead under his already dwindling control. As a matter of fact I don’t believe she has any good intentions at all concerning the plight of the Forsaken.

I especially don’t like how Blizzard has pigeon-holed the Forsaken as evil. I think they have the richest history of any race. These were people who were sitting around with their families one day and then “BAM!”; they wake up in a grave and everything is Hellraiser.

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20 Mindaugas August - 2013 at 11:51 pm

Hello, i was reading and i want to say something about lillian, i wasnt been paying big attention at her while questing, but her family dont like her anymore because, shess undead now, soo what if lillian wants her revenge? She have some sort of dark magic, and she been in some alliance killing leaders dungeon… low lv… what if she thinks that everyone hates her, and she dont understand that forsaken ir her only home, or maybe she thinks that if her family would be forsakens they would love her again, soo maybe she would become lich king, just to kill her family raise them and live with them? But then sylvanas would abbond her, or start hear lich whispers again?

21 Architech August - 2013 at 2:09 am

@Mindaugas You had no idea how sad i was when i find out that she’s one of the “bosses” in Scholomance. So, after all, i guess we won’t see more of her because in that boss fight, we “left her for dead” 🙁

22 Jimmyvader July - 2014 at 10:09 pm

Guys, Lillian Voss is dead, she died in Scholomance.

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