For World of Warcraft fans who have been playing through Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands, Calia Menethil is always popping up in the background of the story. If there’s some kind of big lore event about the Horde, the undead, or the end of the fourth war, she’s there to preach love and acceptance. She seems benevolent, except some World of Warcraft players distrust her — and every time she shows up, their concern grows.
It takes a bit of work to figure out who Calia Menethil is, because her backstory is hidden in books, the priest campaign from Legion, and a little knowledge of Warcraft history. She’s the sister of Arthas Menethil, the prince who ended up murdering their dad, killing his way through their kingdom, and raising an army of undead.
In Legion, she wants to be called “just Calia,” which makes sense. It’s pretty common to disavow relatives for crimes like a string of consecutive genocides and mass necromancy incidents. But while working as a priest, she meets King Anduin, and helps set up a meeting between humans in the Alliance and undead Forsaken in the Horde.
Calia’s first big active story decision is pulling a solo stealth maneuver to get a bunch of Forsaken to defect from the Horde and join the Alliance in the climax of the novel Before the Storm. Sylvanas, as the leader of the Forsaken, is not OK with this, and kills all of the fleeing undead and Calia.
But in World of Warcraft, death isn’t super permanent. Anduin is upset that his new friend is dead, so he brings her back to the Netherlight Temple. With the power of holy magic, the priests manage to bring Calia back as a whole new kind of undead. Calia’s resurrected body is powered by the light, not by the usual method of necromancy.
Fans don’t know what that means — and no one in World of Warcraft knows what it means, either. It has fueled tons of speculation, with players noting that we could get an undead Allied Race for the Alliance.
Calia has since shown up to meetings with the Horde, but she’s not a political leader. That would be a tricky move. Fans have been concerned since Before the Storm that Calia is being set up as a replacement for the Leader for the Forsaken. The former leader is Sylvanas, who is currently wearing the villain hat alongside the Jailer in Shadowlands. Sylvanas may be a future raid boss, but she’s one of the game’s most beloved characters.
“Does ‘Calia’ being undead suddenly give her legitimacy to lead the undead?” asks Emsrelda, a World of Warcraft lore fan, who spoke with Polygon over Twitter. “Who even let her into Orgrimmar to hang out with the blood elf leader for a bit? Will the undead faction suddenly be buddy buddy with the rest of the Alliance? Like, her part in the larger story leaves me with more questions than answers.”
Calia Menethil has a lot of lore cred, but she’s pretty new to the game itself. Taking Sylvanas’ spot, even with some nifty powers, is a tough sell to fans invested in the Forsaken. It’s a night-and-day difference — Sylvanas is a dark character who led the Forsaken to be the villains of the Horde. Calia is a nice lady who wants everyone to get along.
Some fans also have a hard time getting attached to this character due to her long introduction, seeded through class-specific content and out-of-game media.
“I’m disappointed that her transformation into an undead took place outside of the game,” says Hieronyma, another World of Warcraft fan who spoke to Polygon over Twitter. “It’s disappointing that her formal introduction into the game was only available for priests in Legion. People like myself don’t divest much time into alts and I didn’t even know her until mid-way into [Battle for Azeroth] when I decided to do the Priest order hall after seeing her with Derek Proudmoore in Stormsong.”
Calia has a few plots going on in recent Warcraft media, so it’s unlikely she’s going anywhere. In the game, a faction of light zealots are sharing fake news that they have found Calia’s lost son — but we know that’s wrong, because Calia mentions she had a daughter during Before the Storm. One of the lore books, Exploring Azeroth: Eastern Kingdoms, has people speculating on forums and social media about the lost crown of Calia’s dad and the legacy of the Menethils.
These are the sorts of things that suggest a character will be around in the long run, even if we don’t know exactly where the story will take her. Some fans view these developments with apprehension and dread. If you don’t particularly like Calia, it’s tough to welcome her into the cast. But Calia has a lot of elements that could go to interesting places, and her story roots go down back to the RTS games. Perhaps she’ll win over skeptical fans eventually.