|Author(s)||Walter Simonson, Louise Simonson|
|Publication date||October 21, 2009|
|Retail price||US: $2.99|
Hard Choices is the 24th installment of the World of Warcraft comic.
As the new Council of Tirisfal recruits its final member, a battle rages in Theramore. In the chaos of the fight, can Med'an, aided by his growing knowledge of his parentage and true powers, save his friends and claim his destiny?
As Med'an, Maraad, and Dalynnia return to Azeroth through the Dark Portal, Med'an once again hears his father Medivh's voice beckoning him to Karazhan. Reflecting on what A'dal told him in Shattrath, Med'an decides that he needs to know what his father can tell him if he is to make the right choices. While flying above Deadwind Pass, Med'an tells Maraad that he'll meet his uncle back in Theramore and proceeds to suddenly teleport off of his gryphon, arriving in a room in Karazhan where a projection of Medivh is standing in front of a chess board.
First, the illusion explains that it is not Medivh himself, but a vessel of his remaining power that has been waiting for years to deliver Medivh's message to his son. He continues that Med'an needs to know the true meaning of the game he is about to play, and for that he must know his history so that he doesn't repeat his father's mistakes. The echo knocks the game board aside, transforming the room into a giant chess board with life-sized pieces resembling Garona, Nielas Aran, Aegwynn, Khadgar, and Anduin Lothar, with Medivh in the king's position. Med'an's clothing is also transformed from his simple vest into a suit of armor.
Med'an's echo begins to recount the Guardian's life, starting with how his mother Aegwynn refused to surrender her Guardian powers and instead transferred them into her son, not knowing that he had been possessed by Sargeras before his birth. Aegwynn gave Medivh to his father Nielas Aran to raise, but when the boy came of age, Sargeras' power instantly awakened within him, killing Nielas and throwing Medivh into a coma for twenty years. Upon awakening, Medivh warred with Sargeras, but the titan proved the stronger and led the Guardian to create the Dark Portal and unleash the orcs on Azeroth. The orcs sent Medivh an emissary in the form of Garona, whom Medivh even then realized was of mixed orc and draenei descent. Garona was unaware of Medivh's possession and his actions; she knew only that she came to care for him. Medivh reciprocated her feelings, and in a moment of defiance when Sargeras' attention was turned elsewhere, they conceived Med'an. Shortly after, Garona and Khadgar discovered Medivh's crimes and informed Anduin Lothar, leading to the Guardian's demise. Later, Medivh returned and became a true Guardian of Tirisfal by using his remaining power to forge the union of mortal races that achieved victory over the Burning Legion at Mount Hyjal. Now, however, Medivh is gone, and only his "last echo" remains on Azeroth.
Medivh's echo finishes that the knowledge he has kept hidden for years is now Med'an's, for the old game is ended and a new one is about to begin. Med'an's garb transforms again, this time into a mix of the plate armor and his usual, humbler gear. When Med'an asks what he should do, Medivh's echo replies that he and Garona's fates were fixed before they were born, but their son's power is his birthright to use in any way he wishes; his path and destiny will be of his own choosing. This is Medivh's greatest gift to his son, and he asks that Med'an use it wisely in whatever game he chooses to play. With that, the echo vanishes, and Med'an finds himself on a transformed chess board, this time with himself in the king's position and with Valeera, Maraad, Aegwynn, Meryl, and Garona as the pieces around him. On the opposing side of the board are pieces representing Cho'gall and his elemental minions. Med'an declares that he will "play the game before him" by facing — and destroying — Cho'gall in Silithus. With that, he teleports away, leaving Karazhan behind.
Meanwhile, Cho'gall's elementals rampage through Sentry Point on their path to Theramore. As the elementals surround the island keep, Krank reminds the other council members of his invention and asks them to place the helmets on their heads. Meryl objects, but Aegwynn and the others feel that there is little to lose and agree to do as Krank says. Wearing the master helmet, the gnome climbs up onto a window ledge and tells the others to channel their power into the machine so that it'll meld their different magic forms into a single blast that Krank can unleash on their attackers. The power in the machine steadily builds until it reaches a crescendo, at which point the device suddenly explodes, instantly killing Krank and blowing open a giant hole in the side of the mage tower.
The elementals descend on the remaining council members, who are left with no choice but to fight back as best they can. Not long after, Dalynnia and Maraad arrive on their mounts and join the battle. Hamuul is struck down by one of the elementals. Kathra'natir tells Meryl that he is too weak to prevail against the attackers and offers to help him, which Meryl accepts. The mage drains the life force from Maraad's injured gryphon to power a blast of fel magic that he and the dreadlord unleash on the elementals. Aegwynn admonishes Meryl, but only a few moments later, Med'an finally returns from Karazhan to join the fight.
Meanwhile in Ahn'Qiraj, Cho'gall is busy conducting a ritual. He tells his Twilight's Hammer followers to stand back, declaring that soon the anubisaths will awaken and there will be "an evocation of power such as this world has never seen". With the ogre distracted, Garona slips into C'Thun's chamber and begins to climb into the dead god's body to search for the base of Atiesh.
In Theramore, the battle continues. Med'an calls on his arcane power and the blessing of the Light to drive off the elementals. Meryl asks why he doesn't just kill them, to which Med'an replies that the elementals don't serve their master willingly and should be freed rather than destroyed. Kathra'natir concurs and points out that Meryl is weakening; soon, the dreadlord will be the master. While Meryl is busy arguing with his inner demon, an elemental appears and knocks him to the ground. The mage manages to tell Jaina to begin the ritual of sharing and feed her power into Med'an. Jaina does so, with Maraad and Rehgar quickly joining in on the effort. Greatly empowered, Med'an unleashes a single massive blast against the elementals, but is himself knocked unconscious by the feedback of power.
An unexpected visitor arrives in : Broll Bearmantle. Seeing that the battle is not yet done, he lands on the ruined tower and summons roots from the ground to crush all of the remaining elementals. Afterwards, Hamuul and Valeera bid Broll welcome. The night elf explains that Teldrassil is rapidly recovering and, since Fandral can handle the rest of the healing process alone, he gave Broll leave to go to Theramore. Meryl and Aegwynn tend to the unconscious Med'an, remarking that they simply shoved the power at him even though he hadn't been properly prepared, and that the feedback problem is one of the reasons for why a Guardian needs to be consecrated in a formal ceremony.
Some time thereafter, while the rest of the council convenes, Med'an awakens in his room with Aegwynn sitting by the side of his bed. He states that he knows Aegwynn is his grandmother and recounts his meeting with Medivh's echo in Karazhan. Aegwynn comments that her arrogance was her son's undoing, but Med'an is her redemption. She continues that the rest of the council will want Med'an to be their Guardian, but he must keep the identity of his father a secret since they'll shun him if they find out he is Medivh's son. However, Med'an believes that the council will understand and states that he has had enough of lies and secrets; the council must know and accept who he is if he is to be their Guardian.
Meanwhile, in a nearby chamber, Meryl is reciting the prophecy he overheard from Cho'gall in Ahn'Qiraj to Broll, Valeera, Rehgar, Hamuul, Dalynnia, Rohan, Jaina, and Maraad. Med'an and his grandmother enter the room, and they, Maraad, and Meryl openly reveal Med'an's parentage to the rest of the council. As the boy is the only person among them with the necessary abilities, the council unanimously agrees to make him their Guardian. Meryl points out that they'll need to perform the investiture ceremony, but first also create a place safe from Cho'gall's attacks where the council can reside. Meryl also states that he himself will not be on the council, as Kathra'natir is growing in power and he can't allow the dreadlord access to the other council members, since he has wielded fel magic. The demon angrily replies that Meryl will soon be his, in both body and soul.
In Ahn'Qiraj, Cho'gall — standing in a burning ritual circle and surrounded by anubisaths — declares that the winds have carried Med'an's boast to him and his master. As the ogre's visage appears in the clouds above Theramore, he announces that all the preparations have been made and that he awaits meeting Med'an in Silithus.