The mysterious tower of Karazhan is an abandoned citadel located in Deadwind Pass. It’s best-known as the former home of Medivh, the Guardian.
The story of Karazhan begins even before the tower’s actual construction, when an ambitious demon named Sataiel was sent by the fallen titan Sargeras to reap the souls of Azeroth’s inhabitants and break their will. Wielding a powerful demonic scythe called Ulthalesh, the Deadwind Harvester, Sataiel reaped the souls of many trolls in the area, but decided it wasn’t enough. Determined to strike at the heart of the land itself and cause unending despair for all who live in it, Sataiel used the scythe to drain the surrounding area of all life. In the process, it also redirected several magical ley lines—sources of arcane magic—into a new fount of power that Sataiel could draw on. She was eventually slain by Scavell, the current Guardian of Trisfal.
Ghostly image of Sataiel wielding Ulthalesh
The Guardian of Trisfal was a position taken up by a chosen mage to protect the world from the demonic Burning Legion. Empowered by the other mages of the Council of Trisfal, their own power and life-span were vastly increased to enable them to carry out their duty for a century before willingly passing it on to the next Guardian. When Scavell retired, his apprentice, Aegwynn, became the new Guardian.
Aegwynn was a more independent Guardian than her predecessors, her anti-authority mentality causing her to butt heads with the Council of Trisfal. Nevertheless, she was effective in her duty over her century of stewardship. However, near the end of her term, she was tricked into doing battle with the avatar of Sargeras in Northrend. While she defeated the avatar, the battle weakened her enough that Sargeras was able to transferred part of his spirit into her soul, giving him the ability to manipulate her.
With the spirit of Sargeras twisting her thoughts, Aegwynn became even more distrustful of the Council and refused to give up her power. As a personal secluded refuge, she used the magical staff Aluneth to construct Karazhan over the powerful ley lines in Deadwind Pass. From her new hideaway, Aegwynn could siphon extra power from these arcane lines to boost her own power. Frustrated by her continued hostility and refusal of cooperation, the Council formed a secret order of magi called the Tirisgarde that would hunt down the rogue Guardian so her power could be properly transferred to a successor. While they didn’t find her, they did find Karazhan, causing Aegwynn to magically seal off the tower and find a new hideout.
One of the members of the Tirisgarde, Nielas Aran, dogged Aegwynn in a long game of cat and mouse, each of them gaining insight into the other. Eventually, Nielas began to sympathize with Aegwynn’s distrust of the Council, partly due to their increasing involvement in politics which he did not condone. Sensing that Aegwynn was also wrestling with some unknown darkness within her, Nielas abandoned his hunt and the two former enemies became friends and lovers. Knowing that she couldn’t be Guardian forever, Aegwynn convinced Nielas to father her a child that she could pass her powers on to. When the child was born, she named him Medivh, but had unknowingly allowed the spirit of Sargeras to possess the baby while he was still in her womb.
Medivh would move with his father to Stormwind, where he would be tutored in harnessing his natural powers, eventually having the secrets of his heritage revealed to him. Under enormous pressure from his father, Medivh’s dormant powers suddenly erupted on his fourteenth birthday. The uncontrolled magic accidently resulted in the death of his father and Medivh himself falling into a coma for many years. When he awakened, he struggled to control his power and used it to protect the world, but the spirit of Sargeras would work to twist his every thought to darker purposes. He would sometimes have dreams of a woman urging him to go to Karahzan and the darkness in his own mind, but didn’t understand them.
After an ill-fated quest by Medivh and his friends Anduin Lothar and Llane Wrynn to take out the threat of the Gurubashi trolls, Medivh was forced to call upon his great power to protect Stormwind from the troll’s retaliation. Upon realized that he was enjoying making the trolls suffer, he decided that he didn’t have the mental fortitude to control his Guardian birthright. Out of options, he traveled to Karazhan and found that the woman in his dreams was Aegwynn, his mother. She taught him to never trust anyone, especially the Council of Tirisfal, as well as the need for secrecy. With his servant, Moroes, as his only constant companion, Medivh was to distance himself from other mages, including the Kirin Tor of Dalaran. After his mother left, Medivh retreated into the libraries of the tower and immersed himself in study.
Eventually, the Council would learn of Medivh and track him to Karazhan and, fearing to anger someone of his power, opted to politely establish contact, which Medivh always ignored. Sensing the darkness growing inside him, and thinking that his isolation was the cause, he took Moroes’ advice to hold lavish parties for the people of the surrounding regions. These galas would become renowned by the nobles of Stormwind as high-society events. Among the servants who aided in these parties was Barnes, who was in charge of the theater. One of these grand events in particular would later become the source of an exaggerated tale told in the Hearthstone Tavern about the famed “One Night in Karazhan”.
The "One Night in Karazhan" as imagined by residents of the Hearthstone Tavern
Alas, the happiness that these parties brought to Medivh faded over time as Sargeras’ influence over him grew and twisted his thoughts while he studied. Unknowingly guided by these whispers within himself, the Guardian came to believe that the only way for him to protect Azeroth from the demons was to build an army of his own and conquer the world so he could properly defend it with a united Azeroth behind him. Using his Guardian powers to explore other worlds, he was subtly influenced by Sargeras to notice the orcs of Draenor, which at this time had been made servants of the Burning Legion. Seeing them as the perfect army, he was convinced that he could use the Burning Legion’s own puppets against them by taking control of the orcs himself. Establishing contact with the orc warlock Gul'dan, he made plans to bring the orcish Horde to Azeroth by constructing the Dark Portal.
Medivh magically constructs the Dark Portal
The amount of power required to open the Dark Portal attracted the attention of Aegwynn and a blue dragon named Arcanagos. Upon finding the hostile orcs emerging from the portal, and sensing Guardian magic behind it, she rushed to Karazhan to confront her son, only to find the tower filled with nobles who were expecting another party. Hoping to convince Medivh to give up his power willingly, she was forced to fight when Sargeras took full control over his body and revealed to Aegwynn how she had been his vessel all along. Angry at having fallen for Sargeras’ deception and determined to defeat him, Aegwynn battled her mind-controlled son and eventually started to gain the upper hand. Desperate, Sargeras ripped the life out of the hundreds of people in the tower, with only Moroes surviving and being driven half-mad from the horrific ordeal. The blue dragon Arcanagos was burned from the inside out and Aegwynn was thrown to an unknown location. After the battle, Sargeras retreated into the depths of Medivh’s mind, leaving him with no memory of what happened and leaving Karazhan darker and haunted by the ghosts of the slain party guests.
After suffering from being burned, the blue dragon Arcanagos would haunt the tower and become known as Nightbane
While no one knew of the battle at Karazhan, thanks to the fact that there were no survivors to report it, the mages of the Kirin Tor certainly noticed the invading orcs and desperately wanted to recruit Medivh as an ally. To accomplish this, they sent a young mage named Khadgar to become apprenticed to the Guardian and establish contact. Karazhan was also occasionally visited by the half-orc Garona, whom Khadgar and Medivh befriended. As time passed, Medivh became more and more erratic, which greatly worried Khadgar and made him suspicious of his mentor’s motivations.
Medivh and Garona
After the orcish Horde failed in its first attack on Stormwind, Karazhan became more and more twisted, subjecting Khadgar and Garona to horrific visions of the past, present, and future, as well as tormented spirits. Through one of these visions, they witnessed Medivh conversing with Gul’dan and realized that he had been the one to let the orcs into Azeroth in the first place. They recruited Medivh’s childhood friend and commander of Stormwind’s forces, Anduin Lothar, and set out to put a stop to Medivh’s madness. Once again, Sargeras assumed full control over the Guardian during this fight, nearly killing Khadgar and ripping some of the life force from his body, prematurely aging him before Khadgar managed to bury his blade in his mentor’s chest. In his last moments, Medivh’s mind was clear at last and he thanks his friends for freeing him before he died.
Medivh’s death was not the end of dangerous goings-on in Karazhan, however. Thanks to the tower’s position on the ley lines and its cursed state from the haunting of those who died in it, the tower continued to house threats and serve as a magical nexus that attracted demons and other dangerous entities. During the Burning Legion’s invasion of Outland, the shattered remains of Dreanor, adventurers would be recruited by the Kirin Tor to purge the tower of its dark denizens. These included the demons Prince Malchezaar and Terestian Illhoof, ghostly/undead versions of Moroes, Barnes, Nielas Aran, and Medivh himself, as well as other spirits and magical anomalies or constructs, such as the arcane construct known as The Curator.
The living remains and echos of Moroes, Barnes, Aran, and Medivh that haunt Karazhan
When the Burning Legion launched its third invasion of Azeroth, Khadgar searched for answers and lost knowledge in Karazhan that could aid in defeating the demons. While there, he was faced with temptation from the spirit of Medivh to take the powers of the Guardian, only for the spirit to be reveled as a dreadlord in disguise. Khadgar fought the demon back after refusing to accept the power and become another puppet of the Legion.
Khadgar tempted by a dreadlord to seize the powers of the Guardian for himself
Later, the Legion launched an assault on the tower to use as a warfront and seize the power of the tower’s ley lines. They were defeated once again by adventures. After the invasion ended with the imprisonment of Sargeras by the titans and the Legion Lord’s last ditch attempt to claim Azeroth by thrusting his sword into it, the Azerite flowing from the wound caused by the sword renewed hostilities between the Alliances and Horde. Frustrated by this, Khadgar retreated to Karazhan to study and converse with the real spirit of Medivh regarding the future of the world.
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Several images in this post were sourced from Gamepedia.