Chastity's superb recent post on Wrathgate from the perspective of the Forsaken has prompted me to write about something that's been brewing at the back of my mind for several months now. Just what exactly is going on at Wrathgate?
Let's go back to the cinematic. If you want to re-view it, it's available here or hidden away in your main Warcraft folder, under Data->(Folder name depending on your language)->Interface->Cinematics.
It starts off with Bolvar Fordragon calling out Arthas from Icecrown Citadel, surrounded by a group of Alliance troops. The Horde forces are up on the hill and there is no sign of Fordring any of the Argent Crusade. The dragons (who appear later) are still back in Wyrmrest Temple. So this isn't (at first, anyway) a combined assault, it's an Alliance-only operation. This leads us to the first big question: why?
At first sight, it seems to be foolish to assault Icecrown when more than half your forces are missing. Why not inform the Horde that the attack was about to start? The only conclusion I reach is that this is a deliberate choice, made in the (mistaken) belief that the Alliance was strong enough on its own to defeat the Lich King. Perhaps they were taken in by the ease of progress so far, but whoever made that decision seriously miscalculated. This brings us to the second big question. Who made that decision? That kind of recklessness hardly seems very Bolvar-like, which leads me to suspect that it's King DumbVarian Wrynn behind it all.
Why would he do such a thing? His wariness about involving the Horde may be understandable, but not bringing in Fordring? Unfathomable. This leaves us with two possibilities: either his ego is just so huge that he thinks he doesn't need the help of the only man who has actually stood against Arthas successfully so far, or he did tell Fordring and the Argent Crusade refused to take part, as they regarded the whole venture as ill-judged.
The results, of course, are catastrophic. The Horde forces are caught on the hop and end up rushing down the forces they have on the scene at the time. That means there's only Saurfang Jr there to command them. Bolvar may be the best hero the Alliance has to offer, but Saurfang Jr certainly isn't the best the Horde have. He's the kind of guy you put in charge of doing the preparation work, with the intention of calling in the old man for the actual battle. Do you really think Saurfang Sr would have failed to secure the high land overlooking the battle or rage-charged in against Arthas? The poor boy was completely out of his depth.
Of course we can't be certain that the Alliance kept the Horde in the dark about the attack. But that leads us down an even more sinister path. It's hard to see Thrall or Saurfang Sr being this disorganised, but that leaves Overlord DumbererGarrosh as the person who was told. Did he deliberately withhold that information from the rest of the Horde command?And who leaked news of the attack to Putress, giving him enough time to bring up his plague-wagons?
It's hard to see this as a bid for personal glory on Garrosh's part, as he wasn't there. A cunning plan to wipe out the Alliance forces and Arthas at the same time, with the added benefit of hurting Saurfang Sr? Maybe Garrosh isn't so dumb after all - he's cunning, playing dumb. Or perhaps he's being manipulated by the same demonic forces that controlled his father, whose intention is to weaken Arthas, the Horde and Alliance simultaneously. In other words, is this the start of an even greater plot-line, where the orcs start to fall under demonic influence once more? That would have massive repercussions for the game later on.
All of this brings us to our final question: why did the dragons turn up when they did? Five minutes earlier and Arthas would have been toast. Game over. But they held back, and the reason why has yet to be explained. Were they afraid that they couldn't defeat Arthas? Not told about it? The know it's due to happen, because they're involved in some of the pre-wrathgate quests, and they've got Chromie there, so knowing the future shouldn't be a big deal. Perhaps they foresee the consequences of arriving earlier as being worse. Arthas isn't worth intervening against, but the Forsaken plague is? How potent was that stuff?
Perhaps the dragons foresaw the role that Bolvar was later to play and felt they had to allow Wrathgate to happen to have him in the right place at the right time in future. That doesn't answer the other questions, though.
Wrathgate seemed like such a simple, dramatic event the first time I saw it. But every time I think about it, it seems more mysterious.