Fire, Iron, and the Red Shirt
Posting on a weekend is something I usually never do. Posting about lore is also something I usually never do. Today, however, is not a usual day.
Dwarven lore is, in my opinion, the most interesting component of the story of Warcraft. Last night’s release of the short story “Fire and Iron” by Matt Burns reinforced my view. This was the story I had most looked forward to out of all the faction leader short stories, and it didn’t disappoint me. If you have not read it yet and would not like to be spoiled, I’d recommend you not read further.
Without further ado, I present to you the story of the Council of Three Hammers, “What If?”
“Fire and Iron” is told from the perspective of Kurdran Wildhammer, who had returned from his stronghold in Outland to take his place on the newly formed Council of Three Hammers. He was not asked to be on the Council, however; he took it by force from none other than Falstad Wildhammer. This is the same Falstad who ruled Aerie Peak in Kurdran’s stead in the 20 years since the end of the Second War.
While the story is meant to give more background about the Council members, Kurdran’s tale dominated the other two members, Muradin and Moira. Forced into a tense working relationship with the Bronzebeards and the Dark Irons after the events following Magni’s petrification, the Wildhammers begrudgingly accepted the creation of the Council.
Many players are familiar with the famed “Red Shirt Guy” from Blizzcon 2010 who asked about the absence of Falstad even though his name was mentioned in The Shattering as the intended occupant of the Wildhammer seat on the Council. A quick check on the Wowpedia article on the Council of Three Hammers also reveals something interesting. A screenshot from the earliest Cataclysm build reveals that Falstad was originally already in the game as the Wildhammer representative on the Council. However, he was later replaced by Kurdran until the Blizzcon question brought back Falstad into the Ironforge High Seat.
From my view, this confusion is brought about by the lore that is written in “Fire and Iron”. It is clear that Falstad is the intended occupant of the Wildhammer seat, but perhaps the game’s developers already knew of the contents of the short story before Cataclysm was released. They also knew that this story is an epilogue to The Shattering.
We know that, in The Shattering, Varian specifically had Falstad in mind as the Wildhammer representative. It is natural that loremaster players would be confused as to why Kurdran is seen in the High Seat in-game instead of Falstad. However, loremaster players also did not know the contents of “Fire and Iron”, leading to the Red Shirt Guy question of “Why is Kurdran there instead of Falstad?”
Blizzard then realized that they cannot explain why Kurdran is sitting in Ironforge without revealing the content of “Fire and Iron”, and so they reinstated Falstad as the Wildhammer representative in late beta. Suddenly, their intended lore mystery went up in smoke. But what if it hadn’t?
If Kurdran had stayed on the Council when Cataclysm went live, there could have been a series of exciting ways to hint at the development of Kurdran’s character. What we get instead is a surprise in finding Kurdran already waiting for the arrival of Alliance players in the Highbank keep after we last saw him in Shadowmoon Valley. What we get instead is a duplicate of the Falstad that was already sitting in Aerie Peak.
If Kurdran had stayed in Ironforge, we could have seen some cool phasing methods be put into place. Before Alliance players begin the first quest to travel to Twilight Highlands, Kurdran would have been the Wildhammer representative. The moment we enter the final Cataclysm zone, however, Kurdran is replaced by Falstad in Ironforge. Falstad will then disappear from Aerie Peak for higher level players. This would then mean the story “Fire and Iron” developed along with the players, but it cannot be told in the game and had to be written out for reading.
For many people, the first hint of the death of Sky’ree (Kurdran’s gryphon) in the quests leading to the Wildhammer wedding came as a bitter surprise. What if, instead of suddenly introducing this turn of events, Sky’ree had been present in-game in Ironforge while Kurdran was there? Perhaps then it would have given better closure for loremasters, especially the fact that her sole remaining egg in “Fire and Iron” was gifted to Keegan Firebeard as a token of Kurdran’s commitment to uniting the Wildhammers.
All of this could have been were it not for the Red Shirt Guy’s question.
In memory of Sky’ree.