With the Legion constantly scheming to invade and destroy the world of Azeroth, we are forced to face their agents with extreme prejudice whenever they rear their heads. Gul’dan has been one of their most influential pawns in every stand against Azeroth. Without him, who knows if they Burning Legion could have gotten as far as they have with their schemes? His importance can only further be emphasized with the fact that there are now two Gul’dans who have served the Burning Legion. I am, of course, talking about our Gul’dan and the alternate reality Gul’dan. Today I wish to discuss both, as their story may shed light on the goals of the Legion.
Gul’dan was a member of the Shadowmoon clan where he served as the apprentice to Ner’zhul, Chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan and spiritual leader of the Orcish people. Gul’dan was given the honor to work under Ner’zhul due to Gul’dan’s talent to work with the elements. The time which the seeds of manipulation were planted are unknown, but what is known is that Rulkan, Ner’zhul’s deceased mate, began to warn Ner’zhul from the afterlife, of a threat which the Draenei possessed. She told him how these intruders sought to annihilate the Orcish people. After several conversations, Rulkan introduced Kil’jaeden to Ner’zhul. Kil’jaeden informed Ner’zhul that these Draenei were a serious threat and that they must be destroyed. The burning Eredar offered Ner’zhul power, something he has secretly craved. Quickly, with Gul’dan’s support, the Orc clans began slaughtering the Draenei without mercy and destroyed their settlements. In the meantime, Ner’zhul was intrigued by this strange being; He noted that Kil’jaeden looked a lot like the Draenei, and that the ancestral Orc spirits no longer spoke to him. His search for answers brought him to Oshu’gun, and it would be here that the real Rulkan revealed herself to Ner’zhul to inform him that he had been manipulated by the Demon lord. Horrified by what he had done, Ner’zhul sought a way to defy Kil’jaeden. Unfortunately for Ner’zhul, Gul’dan had followed him to Oshu’gun and overheard the truth. Gul’dan told Kil’jaeden of Ner’zhul’s plan to defy him, and as a reward for his act of betrayal, Gul’dan was offered the power of Fel, under the condition that he would unite the Orcs under his singular banner. Without question, Gul’dan accepted this offer and became the first Orcish Warlock.
Gul’dan was no regular Warlock: Kil’jaeden made him a master of the Fel magic, and with the knowledge he possessed, Gul’dan would train like-minded Orcs in the way of the Warlock. These Orcs, along with Gul’dan, formed the Shadow Council, which used their power to control every aspect of their society, so that none would question their true intent. Over time, Shamans lost their connection with the elements, and it is believed that the very presence and use of fel magic prevented their communion. With Shamans unable to speakt with the elements, Gul’dan trained them to become Necromancers and Warlocks. The final act of controlling the united clans was to have them drink from the Blood of Mannoroth. The Chieftains were promised power beyond their imagination, but what they gained instead was a never ending bloodlust. To test the Horde’s strength, Gul’dan sent them to eradicate all Draenei from their planet under the orders of Kil’jaeden and these new, crazed Orcs were ruthless in their endeavor. With the Draenei almost entirely eradicated or driven off the planet, the Horde proved themselves worthy weapons of the Legion. During these events, two important individuals became Gul’dan’s pawn; First was a half-Orc, half-Draenei named Garona, born from a breeding experiment with an Orc male and Draenei female. Gul’dan magically aged Garona, tortured her and wove spells to control her mind and force obedience. Equipped with the daggers Anguish and Sorrow, she became the Shadow Council’s personal spy and assassin. The other Orc to fall under Gul’dan’s power would be Blackhand of the Blackrock clan. Gul’dan manipulated the election to ensure Blackhand was made Warchief of the Horde. Despite Blackhand’s impressive strategic and combat abilities, he always sought more power which made him easy prey for Gul’dan’s manipulation.
After an unknown amount of time, Medivh, who was possessed by Sargeras, contacted Gul’dan with a promise of extreme power which was attainable inside the Tomb of Sargeras. Gul’dan instantly craved this power and accepted the offer to invade Azeroth. With his Shadow Council and Medivh, the Dark Portal was opened, allowing the Orcish Horde to flood into Azeroth. In concert with the Ogre Mage Cho’gall, Gul’dan controlled the Horde through Blackhand as it clashed violently against the humans of Azeroth. Another notable event during the First War is that Grom Hellscream was asked to stay back on Draenor. Along with this, Gul’dan ordered Durotan and Draka to be killed early in the invasion after Durotan returned from exile to warn Ogrim Doomhammer of Gul’dan’s betrayal. Three years later Gul’dan discovered that a force belonging to the humans were attacking Medivh in his tower. Desperation for the location of the Tomb of Sargeras latched onto Gul’dan, however Medivh was killed while Gul’dan was combing his mind which pushed him into a coma. While in this coma, Blackhand was killed by Orgrim Doomhammer. After having gained information from torturing Garona, Ogrim was able to hunt down and slaughter almost all of the Warlocks and Shadow Council.
When Gul’dan awoke, all that remained of his followers were a few Necrolytes and Cho’gall, who lead the Twilight Hammer. Doomhammer was willing to spare Gul’dan’s life in exchange for information on the remainder of Blackhand’s followers. Those who were left were Blackhand’s sons Maim and Rend. These two had never pledged themselves to Gul’dan as their father had and so without hesitation Gul’dan betrayed them. He informed Ogrim that the raiders, wolf riding warriors, were plotting to join the sons of Blackhand to overthrow Ogrim. It is unclear if this information is true or not, however Ogrim did disband the raiders and dispersed them among the ranks of grunts. Under the facade of loyalty Gul’dan promised an army of undead warriors who would fight for Ogrim. Attempts to make these warriors were met with failure at first. Eventually Gul’dan was able to use a powerful ritual with the aid of Cho’gall and his necrolytes to make the riders. This ritual involved killing the necrolytes at the height of the ritual and placing their souls inside the fallen bodies of the Stormwind knights. These riders would then be named Death Knights. Despite their supposed loyalty to Doomhammer, ultimately it would be Gul’dan that pulled the strings of these first generation Death Knights who served as almost perfect weapons against the unsuspecting humans.
With his history of betrayal, Gul’dan would not remain loyal to the Horde as they made their attack on Lordaeron’s capital. Instead, he took the Stormreavers, a clan which he had formed, and the Twilight Hammer, to search for the Tomb of Sargeras. Half of Ogrim Doomhammer’s forces disappeared overnight, forcing him to retreat. This is the moment where the fate of Azeroth could have drastically changed: If Gul’dan had stayed with Ogrim, it is likely that the Alliance would have crumbled, however since the Horde had to retreat, the Alliance was given the chance to regroup and retaliate.
Gul’dan did eventually find the Tomb of Sargeras, which was lifted from the ocean floor, creating what is now known as the Broken Shore. With his most loyal followers, Gul’dan entered the tomb and searched for an artifact of great power, known as the Eye of Sargeras. He did not find any power inside, instead he was slaughtered by demons who were drawn to the tomb by the energy that the remains of the Avatar of Sargeras radiated. All that remained was his skull, which was used to channel demonic energy long after the Warlock’s death. Some feats which were achieved with the aid of the skull include Ner’zhul opening portals to hundreds of worlds across Draenor as well as Khadgar closing the Dark Portal. Eventually, Illidan Stormrage would come across the skull and absorb the power stored within. The Fel power it contained turned him into the half-Night Elf, half-Demon that he is today. He subsequently used the skull to train Demon Hunters, and of the five he trained with the skull, three died, one went mad, and only one survived.
In case you missed it, you can catch Gul’dan’s Harbingers story here.
In the alternate reality presented during the Warlords of Draenor expansion, Gul’dan lived a much more meaningless life without the Burning Legion. He was born to a village which none know the name of, and unlike the embodiment of physical strength which most Orcs represent, this Gul’dan was weak and crippled. His deformity brought mockery by those of his clan, yet Gul’dan believed that he was destined for things far beyond the understanding of his tribe and grew to hate them for their abuse. One day, the Chieftain and other tribal members beat Gul’dan for refusing to accept his place in the clan as the runt. Were it not for the intervention of a village Shaman, Gul’dan could have died that day. This Shaman told Gul’dan that he could do nothing to help, but he should instead seek out the Throne of the Elements. Gul’dan was then banished from the clan and thrown into the wastes. With no people to support him, Gul’dan fell into misery and starvation. After a fight with large scavenger birds Gul’dan collapsed in exhaustion. Upon awakening, he would heed the words of the Shaman and seek the Throne of the Elements. Once at his destination he threw himself to the earth in a state of desperation and agony, “There, humbled and broken, I offered myself in the service of whatever would end my anguish.”
Streams of all four elements swirled around him in a beautiful display, but just as Gul’dan reached outward, they recoiled and vanished. In their place rose a green energy. With the elements gone, he could hear the whispers of the Burning Legion; He was given a gift, and in exchange for service he became their agent. Gul’dan would return to his village with his newfound power only to be greeted by an infuriated Chieftain who spouted that Gul’dan had no place among his people. Gul’dan single handedly massacred the entire village that day and burned it to the ground in a brilliant blaze of Fel magic.
This is where I am going to end the telling of alternate Gul’dan. We know that story doesn’t end here: Legion is just around the corner and there is so much more to be told. For now, I want to leave you guys with this thought: Gul’dan is simply a pawn on the chessboard. Are you ready to face the King?
Check out our lore commentary on the Illidan and Khadgar Harbinger shorts. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!