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November 19, 2008
Flashback is the 13th installment of the World of Warcraft comic.
In Stormwind Keep, Lo'Gosh tells Bolvar to order a zeppelin for deployment to Theramore, where the group can meet up with Jaina Proudmoore while Bolvar remains in Stormwind. The highlord begins to protest, but the other Varian interrupts him to point out that while Lo'Gosh doesn't have the authority to issue orders, in this case Varian agrees that Bolvar should stay behind and hold the kingdom together while the two Varians and their companions confront Onyxia.
Every member of the Stormwind guard volunteers to go with the two Varians to face the dragon. While they, Broll, Thargas, and Valeera prepare to board the zeppelin to Kalimdor, Bolvar reflects on the situation. While for a short time he felt that Lo'Gosh was the true King of Stormwind and that the one they had called Varian was an impostor, Varian seems to have regained his old self after being freed from Onyxia's control. Now, it instead seems that Lo'Gosh is the embodiment of the king's grim will while Varian has the king's charm; two faces of the same coin. The heroes board the zeppelin and embark for Kalimdor, but note with worry that they have no choice but to fly through a gathering storm.
Meanwhile, Onyxia is holding Anduin captive in her lair in Dustwallow Marsh. Having tied the prince to a rock, Onyxia — wearing her human form — informs him that she plans to make his entire bloodline her slaves for eternity. She further tells Anduin that she has thinned the crust on which he rests; if he manages to slip out of the ropes that bind him, a wrong step will send him crashing into the lava below, and if he somehow survives and reaches solid ground, he will be devoured by Onyxia's whelps. However, Anduin manages to move his arms in such a way that the ropes are exposed to lava cracks in the crust, setting the ropes on fire and allowing him to slip free. Unfazed, Onyxia shifts into her dragon form and sends her whelps to feast on Stormwind's future king.
On the zeppelin, Lo'Gosh and Varian reminisce about their shared past. Varian was younger than Anduin is now when the orcs invaded Azeroth and sparked the First War. Varian's father initially underestimated the threat and sent only a small force to face the invading army. When the humans learned that Medivh had betrayed them by opening the Dark Portal from Draenor, Anduin Lothar and Khadgar slew the wizard. Varian notes that Lo'Gosh is wearing Lothar's belt, and he explains that it was a gladiatorial prize that sparked a memory when he first touched it. Lo'Gosh remembers seeing his father being murdered by Garona Halforcen, who had tears running down her cheeks, and says that to this day he doesn't understand. After the orcs destroyed Stormwind, Lothar took Varian to sanctuary in Lordaeron.
After the Second War, Varian was crowned on his eighteenth birthday. He spent much of his early reign absent from Stormwind — riding from one end of his nation to the other to protect his subjects from orc stragglers, meeting with the spies searching for Garona, and directing the restoration of his kingdom — and delegated the rebuilding of Stormwind to the House of Nobles. The king married his beloved Tiffin, and Anduin — named for Anduin Lothar — was their blessing. Upon returning from a foray, Varian discovered that the council of nobles, under the influence of Katrana Prestor, had refused to pay the Stonemasons Guild what they felt they were due. Varian interjects that he suspects half the nobles and half the stonemasons were likely ensorcelled, though it could also have been simple greed.
Varian and Lo'Gosh both recall their saddest memory, when Tiffin was killed during a riot. Varian's mind and will were destroyed, and he could hardly hold a thought. Lo'Gosh wonders if this was the result of depression or more of Katrana's sorcery. Varian replies that it perhaps began as depression, but for ten years he was like one of the undead, and Lo'Gosh points out that such magic would have been child's play for a millennia-old dragon like Onyxia. In any case, the only thing that could hold the lethargic king's attention in those days was Anduin. As the prince grew and his focus expanded to the world around him, so did Varian's, who began to fight off his lethargy. Then, Jaina Proudmoore suggested that Varian attend a peace summit in Theramore with the orcs' leader Thrall. At first, the king balked at the thought of cooperating with the monsters who killed his father and destroyed his kingdom, but at Anduin's urging and against Katrana's objections, Varian agreed to at least go and hear Thrall out while leaving Lady Prestor behind in Stormwind. Varian and Lo'Gosh conclude that Prestor must have then made a deal with the Defias Brotherhood. While the thugs failed at their first attempt to get at Varian, during their second they hid among the crew on Varian's ship, drugged the king while he slept, killed his men, and left him on an island, after which both Varians have only partial memories of hooded men and naga.
The conversation is interrupted when a pack of black drakes appear and attack the zeppelin, but Broll makes quick work of them by calling down lightning strikes from the clouds and summoning huge tendrils of seaweed from the ocean to pull them beneath the waves. The zeppelin reaches Theramore, where Jaina greets the two Varians and notes that were it not for Lo'Gosh's scar, the two men would be as alike as twins, even down to the aura of arcane sorcery surrounding them. Meanwhile, Valeera reunites with Aegwynn and begins telling her about the dream she had in which the chamberlain saved her, but the elder woman tells Valeera that she knows what she said and that she's old, not senile. Aegwynn promises to help Valeera as much as she can and takes her aside for a talk. Jaina begins telling Varian and Lo'Gosh about references to a dark spell she found in a nearly forgotten tome, but the two men agree that they need to know the location of Onyxia's Lair so they can rescue Anduin as soon as possible.
Back in Onyxia's Lair, Anduin does his best to avoid Onyxia's spawn and fight them off with a sharp splinter. He manages to creep into a narrow opening where only a single whelp can enter at a time, allowing him to dispatch them one by one while he clings to the hope that his father will come and rescue him soon.
Jaina sympathizes with Lo'Gosh's impatience, but insists that before they face Onyxia, they need to know exactly what she did to Varian. In the mage tower, she explains to Varian and Lo'Gosh that Onyxia's need to reassert control over the king after he began to shake off her enchantment led to her pact with the Defias, followed by the dark ceremony on the island. The spell Onyxia used was designed to remove and destroy Varian's conscience and will, making him once again her puppet, but the attempt failed. Having placed an enchantment on the tower that will free Varian and Lo'Gosh to remember what happened, Jaina tells the two men to place their right hands on each other's shoulders. Varian and Lo'Gosh do so, and experience a vision of what really happened on the island.
Varian was tied to the ground, surrounded by chanting wizards who ignored his attempts to talk to them. He fought to break free when his rage suddenly arced from the center of his being and he experienced ripping pain before being torn in two. The embodiment of Varian's will fought his way to consciousness and saw another copy of himself lying next to him. Looking around, he realized that he was a separate being torn from himself, and that one of the hooded figures around him was Katrana Prestor. Prestor prepared to destroy Varian's sundered will but was interrupted when a group of naga led by Morgala Darksquall arrived and attacked Prestor's forces for intruding upon their island. While Morgala and Katrana's forces fought, Varian's will managed to cut himself and his passive other half to freedom before picking up a sword and telling his reluctant other self to do the same. Katrana ordered her dragonspawn to shed their human disguises, grab the passive human, kill the willful one, and destroy the naga who had witnessed the ritual.
The passive Varian tried to dodge the combatants as best he could until he was grabbed and pulled into the sea by the naga. The willful Varian remained, still surrounded by many naga, and things got worse when Onyxia assumed her true form to begin incinerating Morgala's minions. Varian noticed one of Onyxia's wizards trying to sneak up behind him, knocked the man aside, pulled the wizard's cloak over his body, and used him as cover when the dragon unleashed her lava breath again. With smoke and lava limiting her vision, Onyxia assumed that she had destroyed the will of Varian and departed the island. However, naga remained and prepared to grab the human. Telling them that he would always be grateful for their intervention, Varian spared the creatures and jumped into the sea. Morgala told her minions that leaping into the rocky shoals around the island is suicide and that the naga had better get to work ransoming the human's "twin". The will of Varian struck something as he entered the water, but he somehow survived to wash ashore in Durotar with amnesia.
Back in the Theramore mage tower, Varian and Lo'Gosh realize that they are each only half of a man. Jaina disagrees, telling them that they both found the strength to live their lives, albeit in very different ways, and offers the twins a twin gift: Shalla'tor and Ellemayne, a pair of magical elven blades originally forged during the War of the Ancients and wielded by the twin warriors Vor'Illian and Lo'Vellian. Jaina tells Varian and Lo'Gosh that between the two of them, they have twice the strength, wisdom, and will to strike at Onyxia's heart. As they lift their new weapons in unison, the two Varians declare that together, they shall be the dragon's bane.
Alternate cover artwork by Samwise Didier.