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Lore Spotlight: Sylvanas Book Provides New Insight into the Character of Nathanos Blightcaller
08.04.2022 um 15:51
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.
What We Already Know: a Brief History of Nathanos Marris, the Blightcaller
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 Marris, 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, an aspiration that was realized once he reached adulthood. 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.
Nathanos was an exceptional archer, and over the protests of the other Farstriders, was granted his commission by Sylvanas Windrunner, the Ranger-General herself. Although the only human - actually the only non-elven - person to have become a Farstrider, Nathanos must have excelled for he reached the rank of Ranger Lord, the highest possible rank under the Ranger-General. This put him at the same rank as Lor'themar Theron.
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. 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 Sylvanas was able to reach what was left of his mind and he became Forsaken, undead but sentient.
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 also arranged a personal matter, engaging adventurers to go into Stratholme and execute his revenge on Ramstein the Gorger.
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 a creature called the Blightcaller wreaking havoc on Alliance and High Elven forces in the area of the Marris Stead, 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.
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. 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. After the Cataclysm, he moved to Undercity full time to help train new Hunters. His pets of choice were his hounds,
, and he also had a mount,
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. 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 loyalty to the Dark Lady was greater.
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.
After Sylvanas' defeat at the gates of Orgrimmar, she sent Nathanos on a mission to return to Zandalar and destroy Bwonsamdi. He failed in this endeavor. 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. Sylvanas dismissed him and he returned to the Marris Stead in the Eastern Plaguelands to await her bidding.
Both Horde and Alliance operatives were looking for Sylvanas and Nathanos. They found Nathanos at the Marris Stead, his home. Heroes of Azeroth from both the Horde and the Alliance were sent to dispatch him, and Tyrande Whisperwind herself joined the fight. Nathanos fell in battle, killed by Tyrande.
What is in the Book: New Details
We have never doubted that Nathanos Blightcaller loves Sylvanas Windrunner; in Battle for Azeroth loyalists were even treated to a brief exchange proving this.
: As do I Dark Lady, but when the time comes there can be no hesitation.
: There won’t be. Safe journey, Nathanos.
: Safe journey, my love. —
As a quest giver in both
Battle for Azeroth
, Nathanos was gruff and occasionally rude, leading many players to dislike him and wonder what on Azeroth Sylvanas even saw in him. The new World of Warcraft novel,
, by Christie Golden, has given us new insights into the character of Nathanos Blightcaller and his relationship with Sylvanas Windrunner.
How did they meet and what was their relationship in life?
While we knew that Sylvanas and Nathanos were comrades before Arthas tore their lives apart, we new very little about how they met or their relationship in life.
Nathanos had been 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.
"You want to do what?"
Lor'themar seldom raised his voice. Even rarer was the note of utter bafflement in his tone.
"I intend to offer Nathanos a position in the Farstriders." Sylvanas's voice was calm.
"You..." Halduron laughed, slightly nervous. "You cannot possibly be serious."
"Oh, I am. Deadly."
"But ... he is
," Lor'themar said, still lost in the perceived illogic of it all." —
Sylvanas, Chapter 10
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. Sylvanas was smart enough to see that, and to see that they would need his perspective now that the outside world was opening up to them. The book goes into very few details about their time together as Farstriders. Instead it jumps straight from the orc invasion to her time with Arthas as a banshee.
Why did she make him Forsaken and what did it take?
Once Sylvanas had broken free of Arthas and found her body she was able to be her own person again, somewhat. She was deeply scarred and very angry, but she missed Nathanos terribly.
Had he fallen, her Nathanos? And if he had fallen ... had he, like her, been able to claw his way back to sentience? Or had he beaten them? —
Sylvanas, Chapter 14
She decided to lead the Forsaken in an unholy crusade against the Lich King and the Living, and after a little waffling she managed to convince herself of a reason to find Nathanos that wasn't emotionally driven. Of course it was totally emotional, but, to her credit, her reason was also sound. She she needed to retrieve Nathanos, wherever and whatever he was, because he would be loyal. And she loved him.
Hope. The most illogical, deceptive, and dangerous thing in the world. Sylvanas rejected the idea that her plan was one of "hope." It was simple logic. In life she had always been at her best with Nathanos at her side. Surely it would be the same in undeath. He would stand, loyal beyond any other, as together they destroyed the monster who had destroyed them.
And maybe, just maybe, she would discover that Arthas had not destroyed what they once had. —
Sylvanas, Chapter 15
It is in this task that Sylvanas sets herself that we really see how she deluded herself. Finding and reclaiming Nathanos was a mission of hope, of love, yet she convinced herself that it was not, that since she could no longer feel such things it was logic. This theme carries forward throughout her life up to the end of Shadowlands, and it was never as explicit as it was where Nathanos was concerned.
There would be no comfort, no forgiveness, no compassion from the living. Her only allies were her own kind, the Forsaken. But she did not wish to be alone any longer, and she needed her champion by her side if she was to take down Arthas.
She would have to hope then, she did not find Nathanos Marris alive. —
Sylvanas, Chapter 15
She scoured the Plaguelands to find him, assuming that he would be near the Marris Stead had he fallen. Eventually he was found, and he was Scourge. Sylvanas then poured herself into doing something that had not been done before. She worked to find what was left of Nathanos in the mind of that zombie. 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 16
Logic, or hope, paid off. Nathanos continued to serve Sylvanas, providing valuable perspective and ruling Undercity when she was absent.
What did he think about her pact with the Jailer and how much did he know?
Sylvanas tells Nathanos absolutely everything. He is her confidante, her sounding board. In fact, many events are glossed over in the book, things we know because we were there, and we get her perspective as she tells Nathanos of them, or they discuss events. Nathanos had not had his mind raped in the way that Sylvanas had. He was Forsaken but he did not have the trauma and PTSD that she exhibits. He could see where she deluded herself, and was perhaps a voice of reason, but he would not question her decisions.
While Nathanos supported Sylvanas without question, he was not entirely on board with her pact with the Jailer. As the Battle for Azeroth came to a head and victory seemed certain, Nathanos, 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 rejected this - she was far too far along the Jailer's path, and at that moment Varok Saurfang issued his challenge of Mak'gora, giving Nathanos no time to argue his case. After Sylvanas, Nathanos, and the loyalists rendezvous at Windrunner spire, the aforementioned exchange between Sylvanas and Nathanos happened. So they did talk, but Sylvanas pressed on with the Jailer's plan, and Nathanos, as always, went along with it.
Does she love him?
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, even finding and sacrificing his cousin Stephon to restore Nathanos physically.
She would seek out the adult Stephon had become, and rest comfortably knowing that his sacrifice to prolong Nathanos' existence was for the worthiest of causes. Long or short, Stephon's life, like all life, was only a momentary flicker. —
Sylvanas, Chapter 23
For his part, loving her became the most important thing in his life, and in death, she became the only thing. After the death of Arthas, Sylvanas did lose hope and did kill herself by jumping off Icecrown, her second death. It was then that she met the Jailer, and ironically it was he who gave her unlife and hope back, saving both of them. The thought of losing her after she told him about her suicide at Icecrown solidified Nathanos' feelings.
"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
Why is he such a dick?
There is no doubt that Nathanos was not an easy man to know. Many players hated him for his blind loyalty to her, his blunt and often rude demeanor, and his lack of respect for anyone or anything but her. But Nathanos was that guy who hid fondness with criticism, always had a sharp retort, and would never, ever let anyone see him care. He was that master of snark who you cannot like until you know him well. "Speaker for the Horde. Hmph!" It was likely the best compliment he could give you.
What will their future be?
Nathanos' second death is not in the book. The book is about Sylvanas. But his death is important to events later in the book. Unlike his first death, 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.
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.
Nevertheless, this event is also not covered in the book; the book assumes we know the story of Shadowlands and jumps from the breaking of the Helm of Domination all the way to the Maw after Sylvanas' judgement.
Tyrande sentenced Sylvanas to the Maw to find every single soul there and allow them to be judged by the Arbiter. 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.
Who was Nathanos Blightcaller?
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
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