Know Your Lore: Aegwynn, Guardian of Tirisfal
For all we’ve talked about her when discussing other important players in Warcraft lore, we’ve never really taken a direct look at Aegwynn, the second-to-last Guardian of Tirisfal. Certainly her place in history is most often defined by her choice to have a son, and her son’s ultimate fate — but Aegwynn herself is an interesting character in her own right. Her life was magically extended far, far beyond any other Human on Azeroth, and as a result, she lived through the entirety of Azeroth’s most tumultuous period of history. A period of history that she, by all rights, was directly responsible for fostering. Without Aegwynn, we would not have had Medivh, we would not have had the Dark Portal, and it’s entirely possible we would not have had the Orcs.
But what made Aegwynn unique was that despite being placed in a position of power, despite being ushered into what ended up being her life’s work, she always held her fate firmly in her own hands. She knew her duty, she knew what she was expected to do: Defend Azeroth from the Burning Legion. And she took to that task with a zeal that few others can compete with.
Council of Tirisfal
Aegwynn was not the first Guardian of Tirisfal, but she definitely held the position far longer than any other Guardian ever did. Over one thousand years before the Orcs stepped through the Dark Portal, Aegwynn was simply an apprentice — but her master was Guardian Magna Scavell, a member of the Council of Tirisfal who had served for several centuries in the role. She was one of a group of five apprentices, and the only girl among them. But Aegwynn impressed Scavell and the rest of the Council with her magical aptitude. Within the order were artifacts known as the Meitre scrolls — spells and rituals passed down from one of the most powerful Highborne wizards in history. While most mages were quietly discouraged from even looking at the scrolls until they were well beyond apprenticeship, Aegwynn not only looked at them, she mastered them before her first year of apprenticeship was up.
Needless to say, despite her fellow apprentices telling her there was no way she could become a wizard, she outperformed them all. When the time came to choose a new Guardian of Tirisfal, the Council of Tirisfal chose Aegwynn, stating that the position of Guardian required the best, and Aegwynn was the obvious choice in that respect. And so Aegwynn received the power of the Tirisfalen — she became the single mortal champion invested with the task of secretly fighting the Burning Legion on Azeroth. But how could one person expect to stand against such horror?
That was the secret of the Tirisfalen. Certainly whoever was chosen as Guardian was a powerful mage in their own right. But as Guardian, they were then further empowered by the Council itself. Each member of the Council of Tirisfal sacrificed part of their own power, handing it over to the chosen Guardian, and that loss of power continued until the Guardian either was stripped of their power when they stepped down, or the Guardian died. If a member of the Council of Tirisfal died while the Guardian still served, the Guardian would simply retain their power. Only a handful of Guardians are known to have served in that position — Guardians usually lived for a least a few centuries.
Aegwynn as Guardian of Tirisfal
One of her first tasks as guardian was taking care of a demon called Zmodlor, who had begun possessing children in a schoolhouse. Aegwynn, still new her role as Guardian, simply rushed in and destroyed the demon without a second thought, before any lasting damage could be done to the children. But she was subsequently chastised for her actions by members of the Council, who pointed out that by destroying Zmodlor, she’d eliminated any chance of finding out what the demon’s plans actually were.
Frustrated by the Council’s criticism, Aegwynn lashed out, pointing out that there were children suffering as a result of the demon, and she wasn’t about to simply stand there and let that happen just because the Council deemed it necessary. Thus began Aegwynn’s long tenure as Guardian of Tirisfal, not as an obedient servant of the Council, but as one who took to her task with unbridled ferocity. For five hundred years, Aegwynn dutifully served as Guardian, until one fateful day she sensed the presence of demons to the north. Traveling to Northrend, she discovered demons of the Burning Legion were hunting down the blue dragonflight, draining the dragons of their magical power. Together with the dragons, she put a fairly swift end to the demons.
Yet as the last demon fell, a storm erupted, and from it emerged none other than Sargeras, leader of the Burning Legion. He told her, with all due menace, that the time of Tirisfal was about to end, and the world would soon bow before the onslaught of the Legion. And Aegwynn didn’t waste any time at all in proving him wrong. With almost disconcerting ease, she killed the avatar of Sargeras. But his spirit could pose a threat, and so the remains of his physical shell, she reasoned, needed to be dealt with — which led her to taking the remains to an as-yet undiscovered site, blasted beneath the sea when the Well of Eternity was destroyed in the Sundering. There, she hid them away where none would find them.
A child to succeed her
What Aegwynn didn’t realize was that the ease with which she’d defeated Sargeras’ avatar should have been a cause of suspicion. He wanted her to do so, and she was right to be worried about his spirit, because the moment his physical shell was destroyed, his spirit transferred from that shell to another — her. She had no idea it had happened, and Sargeras gave no sign of ever being present. Instead, her life simply went on as it always had, destroying any demons she happened across, heedless of the demon’s spirit that dwelt within her. Nine hundred years or so after being chosen as the Guardian of Tirisfal, Aegwynn was contacted by the Council, ordered to return to Dalaran so that they could choose a new Guardian and pass her powers on.
Aegwynn wasn’t having any of it. Over her long years serving as Guardian, she’d often disagreed with the Council’s decisions, and had grown to question their supposed wisdom. How could they possibly know who was suited for the task, when none of them had ever served in that capacity? Did they really want a new Guardian, or did they simply want to replace her with someone who would be a far more obedient puppet — the kind of person who would’ve let a demon possess children in a schoolhouse, simply to find out what the demon was up to? Aegwynn ignored their summons, deciding that as Guardian, she was best suited to choose who would succeed her. Someone who had no contact with the Council. A son.
Determined to see her powers passed on on her own terms, Aegwynn sought out a father, eventually settling on Nielas Aran, court conjurer of Stormwind. Nielas was delighted at the Guardian’s attention, but soon realized she didn’t love him — she simply needed someone to sire an heir and bypass the Council’s choice for next Guardian. And, later that year, he was given a son to raise — his son, named Medivh. Aegwynn left soon after, content with the knowledge that her son would eventually come into his powers, and serve as Guardian without the Council’s direction.
Flight to Kalimdor
Yet when her son came into power, something was wrong. The child was thrown into a coma, awakening twenty years later as a full grown man, fully in control of his powers. Aegwynn observed him in secret, and eventually realized the truth — she hadn’t killed Sargeras after all, and now the leader of the Burning Legion lived again, this time in the form of her only child. Aegwynn attempted to confront Medivh, but he proved far too powerful, stripping her of all her magic, save the spells that kept her from aging. In a desperate bid to escape, Aegwynn used the power from those spells to teleport herself away — far away, all the way to Kalimdor. There, she hid away, appearing once more when she felt Medivh’s death, and using the magic she’d managed to save up to piece him back together just in time for his orchestration of the events of the Third War.
For years, Aegwynn lived in solitude, until one day her self-imposed exile was interrupted by Jaina Proudmoore, who was simply trying to relocate an errant herd of thunder lizards. Jaina was understandably awed by the fact that Aegwynn still lived, and slightly hurt at Aegwynn’s less-than-friendly reception. Yet when Jaina tried to leave, she found she could not. Apparently there was some wisdom to what the Council had told Aegwynn on that first assignment so long ago — for Zmodlor had returned, and was working on quietly fostering a war between the Orcs and Humans, recruiting both into a restored version of the Burning Blade cult and setting them against each other.
Working together, Jaina and Aegwynn managed to defeat Zmodlor, and Aegwynn decided to return to Theramore with Jaina, acting as both chamberlain and advisor under an alias. There she remained, until an untimely interruption to a supposed peace summit between Orgrimmar and Stormwind heralded the arrival of an unexpected guest — her grandson, Med’an. Aegwynn wasn’t quite sure whether or not she should tell the boy about his father, but it mattered little — Med’an discovered his heritage soon enough. And when the ogre mage Cho’gall reappeared in Kalimdor, seeking to unleash the chaos of the Old God C’thun on Azeroth, Aegwynn knew there was only one real viable way to stop him.
New Council of Tirisfal
Together with Jaina Proudmoore and Meryl Winterstorm, Aegwynn formed a new Council of Tirisfal — only this time, the formation would be a little different. Rather than using just Mages, representatives would be found from all schools of magic, their power channeled into a mortal chosen for the task. That mortal was Aegwynn’s grandson, and with the help of the new Council of Tirisfal, he confronted and fought Cho’gall in Ahn’qiraj. In that final battle, Aegwynn channeled the last of her power into Med’an, sacrificing herself so that her grandson would succeed.
Afterwards, the new Council took her remains to Karazhan, burying her at Morgan’s plot, next to her son. Her presence on Azeroth was largely unknown after her son’s rise to power, but Aegwynn would be remembered by those that cared about her, and would not forget her contributions or her dedication to her cause: Protecting Azeroth. Aegwynn was a powerful sorcerer even before she became Guardian, and she never forgot her duty. In a way, it’s almost a pity she’s gone — because she’s the sort of person we could use in Legion, and so far, none have been able to take her place.
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