Something different this time; I wanted to go over Zul’jin’s history, because most of the people who play the WoW game and don’t have a background with WC2 aren’t really going to know what he’s about. And since we’re coming up on Warlords of Draenor, an expansion poised to bring a lot of WC1/2 heroes back into the limelight, I thought it might be nice to remind people about Zul’jin and what he was about.
Do note that this will have some shades of my account on the Zandalari, though hopefully, nothing here will contradict official lore in an overt manner. Oh, and also; some analysis at the end, which may contain spoilers for Mike Stackpole’s Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde, if you haven’t read that yet.
Zul’jin was not a shadow hunter. He was not a witch doctor. There came a point in his life where if he smelled the loa on you, he’d put an axe in your skull just for fouling his presence with them. But Zul’jin’s relationship with the loa was complicated.
Zul’jin was fairly simple to understand: he was the Chieftain of the Amani, a forest troll bred for strength, for cunning, who had survived the predations of quel’dorei Farstriders and Stromgarde’s arrogant nobility his whole life. Under him the Amani were almost strong enough to threaten the elves in their shiny towers… almost. His people had waited a long time for their vengeance, and they could wait a bit longer.
When he had first heard tell of the orcs, it was from a Zandalari emissary. The tale the emissary told went something like this:
Apparently, some Gurubashi fools had been wandering about in the forbidden swamps around the Temple of Atal’Hakkar. Their loa had whispered of a disturbance, and what they found made “disturbance” into an understatement. The southern reaches of the swamp had been taken over by a horde of warriors who were coming and going through a massive portal. Heavily armed and armored, with green skin and wicked steel, they were clearly establishing themselves for an invasion. When the Gurubashi returned to their witch doctors for advice, the loa whispered “these invaders are no different from the humans, or the elves. They are not-trolls, and they do not know the loa. They are of no concern.”
Still, the empty-headed jungle trolls had enough sense to send someone to Zandalar to inform the God-king. And the God-king, after confirming this by sending his Hands and Eyes to bear witness (and also to ensure that the Blood God’s temple remained untouched), was kind enough to send his straight-backed Zandalari to every corner of the world, telling the troll chieftains of the news.
How kind of the God-king.
So the loa said to ignore the orcs, since they were not-trolls, even if the Gurubashi reported that the orcs had made straight for the humans’ southernmost castle. Zul’jin had thought, “they fight our enemies, maybe there’s something to be had in fighting with them.” But the witch doctors said no. And the Zandalari said that the God-king said no. And Zul’jin knew that trolls who defied the loa, or defied the God-king, well… they had a bad time.
Even when the orc warchief, Blackhand, sent an emissary to Zul’jin and asked for his aid in fighting the humans, Zul’jin declined, because it’s what the witch doctors said to do.
But then something happened that changed Zul’jin’s mind.
He got captured by some Farstriders. He’d gotten out of scrapes like this before, but these Farstriders knew him for who he was. They took precautions. Zul’jin knew he had no way out. And as they started to torture the other trolls who’d been caught with him, he started to wonder what would happen next.
It turns out that what happened next surprised him. The orcs came to his rescue, butchering the elves who held him captive. They said that they had a new leader, Doomhammer, who promised not just glorious battle but aid in destroying the elves if the trolls joined their Horde. And Zul’jin said yes without hesitation.
When he returned to Zul’Aman to gather his forces, the witch doctors were upset. They said the loa wanted nothing to do with the orcs. They said the God-king would not take kindly to Amani defiance.
Zul’jin reminded them, rather harshly, that it had not been the God-king who had rescued Zul’jin from torture and death. It had not been the loa, whom he had served his whole life. He’d made the sacrifices. He’d said the words. He’d done everything the loa had asked him to do, but he’d never seen them, never heard their voices, never witnessed their strength. And they could not deign to even afford the precious little effort it would have taken to free him from his bonds.
“De loa t’ink dey can leave me to die? De loa t’ink dey know what it means ta be a troll? Dey know not’ing.”
The orcs promised victory at last over their enemies. They promised the Amani an empire like none they had ever known. In the darkest recesses of his heart, Zul’jin believed that he could overthrow the God-king himself, and bring trolls the world over back to what was really important: strength, and the willingness to exercise that strength against one’s enemies. That was something the Zandalari had forgotten in their archaic preaching, their stagnating role as “preservers of troll culture.” If only Zul’jin had enough strength to show them all the truth… and maybe with the help of the orcs, and their ogres, their death knights, the goblins they had somehow employed, Zul’jin would be able to do what no troll had ever done with the blessings of the loa, or the auspices of the God-king.
He would bring truth to the world. Truth on the sharpened edge of an axe.
When it all came crashing down, Zul’jin could not help but laugh. The orcs failed because the Doomhammer had put his trust in someone who was obviously untrustworthy. And when Doomhammer took the bulk of his troops to correct what Gul’dan’s multiple schemes had wrought, Zul’jin saw his dreams of empire and truth crumble before him. And when the Farstriders surrounded him once again, and called him by his name in their nasal, pompous voices, and he bore witness to the bitter humor of fate, he laughed long and loud.
Their torturer took his eye, and still Zul’jin laughed. Matis promised to make the suffering last as long as possible, to try and exact vengeance for every elven life Zul’jin had taken, and Zul’jin squinted his empty-socket to squirt blood on the elf’s pretty face. Days or weeks later, when some random hunting party of trolls bungled into the camp and caused a ruckus, Zul’jin cut off his arm and escaped, careless about who had died for him. He returned to Zul’Aman, a smile on his face, having cheated death and the loa from their prize. He waited for his arm to grow back.
He swallowed his pride and asked what few witch doctors were left for help. One had the temerity to say he’d offended the loa with his defiance, and they had taken his regeneration away. Zul’jin put a hatchet in that one’s chest. While other witch doctors were more careful with their words, none had better answers, and none could make his arm grow back. Or his eye. Every shadow hunter who came back from the war told him of his mistake, and he killed most of them for the insult. Those who held their tongues quietly left, until no shadow hunters remained. At some point he was told that they’d built a new settlement on the other side of the mountains, called Zul’Mashar, and he found that he cared very little.
He’d been taught his lesson, though he would never admit it to anyone, even himself. Maybe defying the loa had been a mistake. The emissaries from the God-king never returned, though the Eyes of Rastakhan, the spies, did nothing to conceal themselves on the borders of Zul’Aman. While he still had a tribe behind him that was a force to be reckoned with, he had gambled on Doomhammer and lost much. So he sat in Zul’Aman, content to wait once again. He had plenty of time to waste.
Part Two will cover the rest of Zul’jin’s fate, as well as some analysis on why he’s a pertinent figure to call to mind right now. Stay tuned. ^_^