Exclusive Advance Excerpt from Sylvanas Novel
In advance of the release of
, the upcoming novel by Christie Golden, Blizzard has sent us an exclusive excerpt to whet our appetites. The novel, detailing the life of the Ranger General, Banshee Queen, War Chief, and erstwhile renegade, Sylvanas Windrunner, is due to be released in a week, on March 29th.
Love her or hate her, Sylvanas has affected all of our World of Warcraft lives, and now we can learn about hers as she tells her tale to the imprisoned Anduin Wrynn. This excerpt takes place around or during the events of Shadowlands Patch 9.0 as Sylvanas attempts to woo the young King of Stormwind to her point of view.
Nathanos Blightcaller has been a constant background character in World of Warcraft. The Champion of the Banshee Queen rarely featured and although he was a Hunter Trainer in Undercity, his character was a bit of a mystery until Sylvanas assumed the role of Warchief of the Horde at the beginning of Legion. In Battle for Azeroth Nathanos became a quest hub and players learned to love to hate the acerbic, temperamental Forsaken. When Sylvanas went off the rails at the end of Battle for Azeroth, Nathanos stood by her side, finally becoming a World Boss in the lead up to Shadowlands.
But who was Nathanos Blightcaller and what kept him by Sylvanas' side even through the darkest of times?
, the new World of Warcraft novel by Christie Golden, has given us an unprecedented look into this enigmatic character and what Sylvanas both saw and had in him.
Nathanos Marris was a citizen of Lordaeron. His family lived at a stead in the Eastweald, now known as the Eastern Plaguelands. We know very little about Nathanos' early life. We do know that he became a Ranger Captain and was visiting Southshore when Thrall escaped from Durnholde, but apart from his presence in the town we know of no connection to that event. We do know that Nathanos had a young cousin, Stephon, who resembled him. Stephon was around nine years old when Nathanos became a Farstrider, but although awed by Sylvanas and his cousin's rank, Stephon aspired to become a paladin. There is also a Marshal Marris who who is stationed in Lakeshire, but while he bears a basic resemblance to Nathanos, we do not know if this disillusioned soldier is any relation.
Ranger Captain, Farstrider, Ranger Lord
Nathanos was sent on a covert mission to Quel'Thalas to share information that that the Alliance had gathered on the Amani trolls as well as on the new Horde of orcs that had formed. During this trip he met a few Farstriders, the elven rangers who guarded the border of Quel'Thalas, including Sylvanas Windrunner and Lor'themar Theron. Sylvanas was intrigued by Nathanos' irreverent smart-ass style and skill as an archer; she encouraged him to spend more time in Quel'thalas. They became friends, and then more than friends. Nathanos was Sylvanas' retreat from the mundane life of an elf living surrounded by beauty and duty and boredom.
And there was another feeling she had not experienced before, one she had never has time or patience to pursue. Or, frankly, interest. But Nathanos Marris, the oft-scowling, sharp-witted, irreverent human, interested her greatly.
She did not shirk her duties, but she also allowed herself to indulge in something that she hadn't for a long, long time. Sylvanas let herself
Nathanos was almost as often the object of her amusement as he was her interest, but his tongue was as sharp as hers and he had no hesitation in firing off a scathing retort.
It was delightful, and heady, and heart pounding, and Sylvanas loved it. —
Sylvanas, Chapter 9
When Sylvanas' parents were killed, Nathanos was her rock. He was there for her emotionally, and professionally, helping to figure out who had murdered them, and looking after her when she was too stressed to look after herself. Sylvanas inherited her mother's position as Ranger-General, and now that she was in charge she offered Nathanos a position in the Farstriders despite the objections of her officers. Nathanos was easily a good enough archer to stand with the Farstriders, and he excelled in melee combat, wielding double axes. He was smart, he was capable, and he had experience that the insular elves lacked. As one of Sylvanas' most trusted, he was quickly elevated to the highest possible rank, Ranger Lord.
Death and Undeath
Arthas and his Scourge laid waste to northern Lordaeron and Quel'Thalas. Many fell to the Scourge and Nathanos was no exception. After the fall of Stratholme he was killed at the Marris Stead by Ramstein the Gorger, and subsequently raised to serve the Scourge.
The world swam through a thick, smoky haze. There was no reason, no sense. Only hatred. A hatred rooted deep in the corners of his mind, its tendrils twisting, vinelike, through his fetid core. The man he'd been was murdered, his blood now salting the farmlands he had once called home. This creature might inhabit the dead man's body, but it possessed no will of its own. It didn't need one. It existed only to serve the Lich King. —
After Sylvanas broke free of Arthas and established herself as the leader of the Forsaken, she sent out patrols of Dark Rangers to look for Nathanos and discover what had become of him. They found him a mindless Scourge, but buried deep in his mind was his love for Sylvanas and her banshee voice cut through the fog and reached him.
A swell of sorrow choked his throat as he realized that Sylvanas, too, had fallen. But his heartbreak gave way to awe at the terrible majesty her new form held. In life, he'd always thought she had the bearing of a queen. In undeath, she radiated the might of a goddess.
His eyes drifted down to the mottled skin of his gnarled fingers, stained deep red by his recent kill. A rush of shame banished the thrill of his reunion with Sylvanas. The thought that she would see him like this, a decrepit, nightmarish mockery of his former self, filled him with disgust. Almost of its own volition, his forearm rose to hide his rotting face.
"Sylvanas," he rasped through parched lips. His voice sounded foreign, and he realized it was the first word he'd spoken since his death. Conscription to the Lich King's service had never required him to speak—only to kill.
"I have come for you, Nathanos, to call you back to my side." —
It took time, but Sylvanas took that time and brought Nathanos back to himself, back to her.
"You are still my champion," Sylvanas said intensely. "You are strong — stronger than ever. Maybe even more so. I will
let our state dictate who we are. We
be what we once were to each other. I
make it happen."
"If anyone can," said Nathanos, "it is you, my lady." —
Sylvanas, Chapter 7
Champion of the Banshee Queen
Nathanos was instated as Champion of the Banshee Queen, taking the name Blightcaller. He spent time in Undercity with Sylvanas, and time in the Eastern Plaguelands at the ruins of the Marris stead, doing the Dark Lady's bidding.
He had lingered at the farm on orders from his queen, luring her enemies to the slaughter. He'd taken special delight in tormenting the high elf rangers of the northern foothills, the very Farstriders he'd once served alongside and commanded. Their haughty outrage bled away as they died, or twisted into a garish grimace upon those raised into undeath. And through all of it, no matter how noble the hero or how close a friend his victim might have been, Nathanos felt neither pity nor remorse. He felt nothing. He had done his duty, one to which he was well suited. His victories had earned the Dark Lady's favor. There was nothing else he could ever conceive of wanting. —
He also arranged a personal matter, engaging adventurers to go into Stratholme and execute his revenge on Ramstein the Gorger.
I was overwhelmed. On this very stead, I stood... held my ground in defense of Lordaeron. The farm and all on it were waylaid by a gigantic wave of Scourge.
The wretch. The filth. It hovered above me, entrails hanging from its gaping chest cavity.
I woke as Scourge. For so long I was helpless. My mind had coalesced with the Lich King's.
She came for me... somewhere, somehow, I knew she would. Free.
And now, I must have my vengeance - my vengeance on that which took from me my life. Destroy it.
After Sylvanas freed me, I hunted the beast across these wastes for months. It fled to the safety of Stratholme. The monster...
I wonder... did it beg for mercy? Could it know what mercy is?
I will hang this beast's head upon my wall.
You have earned a spot amongst one of my champions, <name>. —
Nathanos Blightcaller, Quest Text,
Former Champion of the Alliance
In life Nathanos had been of great service to the Alliance. He was a tactical genius and well respected for having been accepted into the ranks of the Farstriders. When word came to the Alliance of the Blightcaller, they investigated the possibility that this Blightcaller had murdered Nathanos. Mathias Shaw sent a hero to investigate, and Stephon Marris, now grown, looked into the matter himself.
Five of my best field agents were assigned the Marris case. One returned, only to end up dead in his sleep three days later.
What little information we did manage to get out of him was incoherent gibberish. We made out two words: "Nathanos," and "Blightcaller."
I do not have the available manpower to continue this investigation and Ravenholdt will not assist us. We must get to the bottom of this; if only to provide closure to the families of the deceased. Will you help?. —
Mathias Shaw, Quest Text,
I often asked what became of you, only to be met by shrugs and awkward silences. Then I began hearing stories of a horror called the Blightcaller haunting the Marris stead, hunting down heroes of the Alliance who sought to restore peace. I feared this was the creature that murdered Nathanos, and I vowed to take its head. It was only when I overheard two refugees of Darrowshire whisper the fiend's true name that I learned what you had become. —
Once it was confirmed that Nathanos had not been killed by the Blightcaller, he actually
the Blightcaller and the Champion of the Banshee Queen, Highlord Bolvar Fordragon, Regent Lord of Stormwind, tasked adventurers with tracking down and slaying Nathanos once and for all.
Do you know how many ranger lords exist in this world? How many human ranger lords have ever existed?
Nathanos' accomplishments were unprecedented. He was a tactical genius, responsible for Alliance victories spanning a decade of conflict.
And now... the champion of the Forsaken.
No. This cannot be. Order must be restored.
Gather an army, <name>. Return to the Plagues with your army and destroy the Blightcaller.
I wish you luck, <name>. Truly, you will need it for this battle.
It is a tragedy. I think... I believe that our kind is cursed, <name>. We are cursed to lose our greatest warriors; our most noble heroes; our most gifted scholars.
We are indebted to you and I assure you, <name>, wherever Nathanos Marris is now, he smiles down upon you. —
Highlord Bolvar Fordragon, Quest Text,
Bolvar Fordragon may have believed Nathanos dealt with, but Nathanos was wily and smart. Like the good Hunter he was, he feigned death and lived to fight another day. Nathanos continued to serve by Sylvanas' side, providing valuable perspective and ruling Undercity when she was absent. After the Cataclysm, he moved to Undercity full time to help train new Hunters. His pets of choice were his hounds,
Surviving Undeath Intact
Nathanos was Forsaken, undead, strong beyond his strength in life, but undead bodies can decay and Nathanos fell victim to this. Sylvanas, realizing that his body would fail him, devised a plan to give him a new body.
... if his queen had been lost, there would be no reason for him to continue this mockery of a life. If she were condemned to an eternity of torment in the darkness, at least he could end his own existence and endure damnation at her side.
"Perhaps," he said, "it would be best to let me go."
The fire faded from her eyes. For an instant, he caught a glimmer of the blue-gray light that used to shine within them. But a moment later, they turned cold and demanding again. "Twice now I have summoned you to my service, Nathanos Blightcaller. You will not be released from it until I command it to be so!" —
Unbeknownst to Nathanos, Sylvanas had captured Stephon and arranged with her Val'kyr to transfer Nathanos' soul to Stephon's body. She kept the details of the plan from Nathanos until the deed was done, but she needn't have been concerned, Nathanos was completely loyal and despite his love for his cousin, his love for his Lady was greater.
As he peered down at his cousin, helpless before him, a wave of something unfamiliar rose up in Nathanos's chest. Pity? No, he knew he was incapable of that. But he didn't hate the paladin, not the way he hated other living men. It was pride, he realized. Part of him was actually proud that Stephon had fulfilled the dream he'd clung to as a boy. Even if that dream was about to be undone.
Nathanos looked up at Sylvanas and met her gaze. Was this the true test? Did she suspect that love for his cousin might move him to betray her? Did she wonder if he, in the moment of decision, might give up everything in one final, desperate glimmer of humanity?
But of course there was no choice. The whims of a man long dead could not sway Nathanos Blightcaller from his oath. —
While Nathanos supported Sylvanas without question, he was not entirely on board with her pact with the Jailer and even began to feel that death may be a far better option for them. The long darkness of a final death, so feared by Sylvanas, was not what he had in mind.
His newfound strength would serve her well in the war to come. And after their victory, if he was very, very lucky, they would die their true deaths and welcome damnation together. —
Champion of the Warchief
When Sylvanas took on the role of Warchief after the death of Vol'jin, Nathanos was by her side, her second and confidante in every way. He represented her at the Desolate Council, the group set up to govern Undercity in their absence. He led the Horde against Gilnean forces in Stormheim, led the rescue of the Zandalari Princess Talanji from Stormwind, and managed horde forces in Zuldazar and on the Seething Shore as well as in Silithus and Darkshore, all while working on special side projects for his queen including managing covert operations in Kul Tiras, finding the body of Derek Proudmoore, Lady Jaina Proudmoore's brother, and leading the Horde fleet to Nazjatar.
As the Battle for Azeroth came to a head and victory seemed certain, Nathanos once again uncomfortable with the direction of events, tried to sway Sylvanas, divert her from the Jailer's plan.
"My lady," said Nathanos, his voice unusually soft, uncharacteristically tentative, "for all the Jailer's words to the contrary we do have one, you know."
"A choice." He turned toward her now, red eyes blazing, brow furrowed. "We do not have to stay here."
"What do you mean? Of course we must stay here! Of course I must join Zovaal. This is everything we have worked toward! Have you not been listening? What is done here today, and the next day, and the next - this world,
worlds, will rejoice when we have achieved our goal!"
"My lady, " he said, and his strong, proud, acerbic voice trembled slightly, "
... are my world."
She had not expected that, and stared, mute.
"I care not for life, or afterlife. I have all I need here. This little world that is ours and ours alone. We can walk away, disappear, and be forgotten. Be together." —
Sylvanas, Chapter 29
Sylvanas was obviously not swayed by this plea, but something happened between them, something that led to this small interaction when they met later at Windrunner tower.
Nathanos: As do I Dark Lady, but when the time comes there can be no hesitation.
Sylvanas: There won’t be. Safe journey, Nathanos.
Nathanos: Safe journey, my love.br] —
After Sylvanas' defeat at the gates of Orgrimmar, she sent Nathanos on a mission to return to Zandalar and destroy Bwonsamdi. For perhaps the first time, he failed her. Not intentionally and not easily, but failed nevertheless. Sylvanas had just defeated Bolvar Fordragon, now the Lich King, and shattered the Helm of Domination, breaking the veil between Azeroth and the Shadowlands, when Nathanos returned with the news that Bwonsamdi escaped him. Furious, Sylvanas dismissed him. Disappointed and upset at his own failure he returned to the Marris Stead in the Eastern Plaguelands to await her bidding.
It was back at the Marris Stead, waiting with his hounds for word from Sylvanas, waiting for a call that never came, that the Heroes of Azeroth caught up with Nathanos. Furious at Sylvanas' actions, both the Alliance and the Horde had been searching for them. Nathanos gave the Heroes a good fight, but when Tyrande Whisperwind joined the fray, he was no match for the Night Warrior.
This time Nathanos welcomed death. Perhaps he felt, in part, that Tyrande was justified in killing him as retribution for the burning of Teldrassil, certainly he knew that his soul would go to the Maw, where Sylvanas was. Without her call, it was the only way for him to have a chance of joining her. He taunted Tyrande, inviting her to kill him, and she obliged. Nathanos experienced his second death in the same place as his first. At home.
Relationship With Sylvanas
There has been much discussion about the relationship between Sylvanas Windrunner and Nathanos Blightcaller. Is it a friendship? Is it a partnership of convenience? Is it a servant/master relationship? Is it love? Sylvanas and Nathanos were very private people, and they didn't talk about such things in public, but there is no doubt whatsoever that they loved each other deeply, a love that went beyond life and death, a love that the rest of us could only aspire to.
In life they were friends and lovers, keeping their relationship out of the public eye, denying deeper feelings, and fooling absolutely no one. After Arthas and the Scourge invasion, in which both had died and Sylvanas had been raised by Arthas, she missed Nathanos terribly and remembered visiting him at the Marris Stead.
She had visited him there, lain with him in the little bed, woken to the sound of birdcalls, blinking sleepily as she lay in his arms. It was a simple, sweet, cruel memory and it hurt so greatly her body cringed when she recalled it. She had loved him, though the word had not been shared between them, and now it was too late. —
Sylvanas, Chapter 14
In death, that love only grew deeper. Sylvanas went to great lengths to find Nathanos and keep him by her side.
The corners of Anya's lips rose in a brazen curl. "Sylvanas defied a kingdom to name you ranger lord. She scoured the Plaguelands to reclaim you from the Scourge. And today she drew upon her most precious resource to restore your strength. Think upon these things, Blightcaller, and tell me how someone so cunning can be blind to the simplest of truths."
For his part, loving her became the most important thing in his life, and in death, she became the only thing. The thought of losing her after she told him about her suicide attempt at Ice Crown solidified this.
"My lady," he said, his voice a raspy whisper, "if I'd lost you, it would have meant the end of me." —
Sylvanas, Chapter 23
It was Tyrande who told Sylvanas about Nathanos' death when they fought in Ardenweald, and it was there that we saw the first crack beginning to form in the pact between Sylvanas and the Jailer. Perhaps it was that tiny crack that also stayed Elune's hand and prevented Tyrande from killing her. It's a sweet thought.
After Sylvanas' defeat and judgement, Tyrande sentenced her to the Maw to find every single soul there and allow them to be judged fairly. It's a fitting punishment for the atrocities that Sylvanas committed, but Tyrande had to know that one of those souls would be Nathanos. The punishment is bittersweet.
So many regrets. Not just for the great injustices she had performed, but the lesser ones, though in their own way they were just as painful. The failure to recognize that what she and Nathanos had in life could have made them happy. Nathanos had seen it. With conscience and kindness restored to her, Sylvanas could too. Her champion was here somewhere in the seemingly infinite Maw, with all the other souls her bargain had doomed. Sylvanas would find him. She would always find him. —
Sylvanas must once again search the wronged dead to find Nathanos; perhaps he will get his wish and they will finally welcome damnation together.
Nathanos was gruff, irreverent, irascible, cantankerous, and loyal to a fault. Despite this rough exterior, Nathanos was a man who felt and cared deeply. As a human he seemed to have few connections and a preference towards hiding his feelings. As a Forsaken he had only one true connection and feelings he denied to any who pried.
He was a man of firsts and onlys. The first and only human to become a Farstrider. The first and possibly only Scourge to be reclaimed after rising as a mindless undead. The first and only Forsaken to have had his soul transplanted into a completely new intact body.
The first and only person to win the heart of Sylvanas Windrunner. And that, as they say, ain't nothing.
To read more about Nathanos Marris, known as the Blightcaller, check out the following:
Wowhead: Lore of Nathanos Blightcaller
by Steve Danuser
Before the Storm
by Christie Golden
by Madelaine Roux
by Christie Golden
If you enjoyed this and want to read more, pick up a copy of
by Christie Golden
on March 29th, 2022. Stay tuned to Wowhead for much more coming up after the release of the book.
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