Blizzard released the pre-patch for World of Warcraft’s upcoming Shadowlands expansion on Tuesday, an update that includes a slew of new character customization options, class changes, and more. It also features a new cutscene, which takes place after the cinematic we saw at BlizzCon 2019, and this one is a treat for lore fans. It turns out that tons of major NPCs have been kidnapped and escorted to the realms of death, where they are presumably being tortured and tormented.
Bolvar Fordragon, the Lich King, monologues that Sylvanas Windrunner is on the loose and has cracked open the barrier between the normal world and the realms of death. Apparently, she’s only getting started. Then, we see key lore characters being abducted by her servants. One of these victims is especially tragic — and a little funny. Anduin Wrynn, the High King of Stormwind, is having a bad time.
Anduin Wrynn is one of the biggest characters in World of Warcraft; he’s also one of the characters that doesn’t hail from the Warcraft strategy games. When players first met him in the original game, he was just a little boy. We’ve watched him grow up and go through a whole coming-of-age character arc, where he accepted that he could rule as King of Stormwind.
Now he seems to be on a whole new journey of misery and sorrow. The last couple of years have just been awful for him. First, his dad dies in a super messy and public way. Just when he finds his feet, Sylvanas Windrunner pulls a genocide on his elven allies, and everyone gets really mad at him about it. He has to fight a bloody war against the Horde, watches his ally in the coup get murdered by Sylvanas at the gates of Orgrimmar, and now he’s been kidnapped by death angels at his dad’s grave, while his surrogate dad watches on and screams in horror.
Because World of Warcraft runs on a very accelerated timeline, basically all of this happened in the span of about 18 months.
Fans have been getting hints for some time now that something isn’t quite right with Anduin. For instance, in the Legion expansion, we received a creepy Old God prophecy in the Emerald Nightmare: “The boy-king serves at the master’s table. Three lies will he offer you.”
In the book Shadows Rising, which was released in July, Anduin gets some more characterization. He likes to dress up as a commoner and visit the local inn to drink and flirt. Sounds cool, right? Well, he has some troubling thoughts about it:
Sometimes he felt like a coin satchel, and every worry, every problem, every mistake, every crisis was another fat, heavy coin falling into that bag. [...] After a while, however, the fabric started to strain. Some of the coins had to go or the satchel would rip, the bottom falling out, the coins spilling everywhere. Every breath he drew in, every moment that passed, another coin came—Sylvanas evading them—plink—Alliance soldiers washing up on shore—plink—Alleria and Turalyon—plink—Jaina questioning him—plink—Tyrande—plink—Teldrassil—plink—the Forsaken in the Highlands—his spymaster taken prisoner—plink, plink.
When the coins spilled, Anduin found himself before the great carved fireplace in his bedroom on the floor, legs tucked up to chest, catatonic, eyes unable to close, mind unable to clear, the flames just inches before him searing into his vision until tears poured down his cheeks.
All of this seems pretty understandable — it’s 2020, I’ve had a few moments like that myself — but this dude also has access to an entire army, a spaceship capable of orbital bombardment, and the ability to control people’s minds.
At the end of Shadows Rising, there’s another hint that things are going badly.
Anduin made a soft sound of disgust and stood, hovering over her, considering her for a long and tense spell. A wisp of purple energy traveled down his arm, gathering in his palm. It happened in a blink, coming and going, dissipating before Mathias could see for certain what the king had done. [...] Shaw felt Jaina’s eyes upon him, and he glanced her way. If he was rattled before, the fear etched upon Jaina’s brow shook him to the core.
Maybe this situation isn’t great! That text was written before he got kidnapped. It looks like he’s starting to respec out of Holy and into Shadow. We’ve gotten a hint of what that might look like with the Hearthstone card Shadowreaper Anduin, who is literally a shadowy and eternally screaming wraith. On one hand, that’s a whole mood. On the other hand, I have some concerns.
No one can actually save Anduin until Shadowlands, which got delayed to an unknown date in 2020. There are new customization options in the pre-patch, but that just means everyone is crowding into barber shops and showing off their sick new eyebrows and haircuts on social media, while our king is being tortured in Hell by an evil elf.