So there will be a few spoilers if you want to avoid that then turn away. There you have your warning.
So Cairne as a character in the Lore of the New Horde is a huge part. Called by many the greatest warrior Azeroth has ever seen. Now you compare this to past warriors and realize how big of a statement is. Lothar, Hellscream, Llane, and Ogrim just to name a few. As with other characters who have been one dimensional he has, of course, the wisdom, pride, and honor. He would do anything to protect the Horde. It was because of him that I chose to roll a Tauren Warrior myself.
The problem is this. Cairne was old when he was introduced in the lore to begin with. You run into problems when someone becomes timeless, as we have seen with Drek'Thar. Cairne deserved an epic ending. When I first heard that he was being killed off I was completely against. This is supposed to be the greatest warrior who ever lived and someone is going to best him? That just isn't right at all.
So reading "The Shattering" was going to be a big deal. I wanted justice to be done. The challenge of Garrosh was marvelous. Old vs Young. Also the fact that in the arena Cairne was who Cairne was. Garrosh was not a match for him and it was obvious. Even as an "old bull" he held his own and was teaching Garrosh the lesson. The best part of the fight was and I will quote it here
"Save your breath for battle, and I will save mine to speak well of you at your funeral"
Garrosh had only nicked Cairne once, but that was all that was needed for the poison to take effect and for Garrosh to come back and land a blow that Cairne was unable to defend against. The fight showed what it should of that no one could have bested Cairne regardless of age. He was the warrior among warriors. It also served the purpose of him not being so old that he was not who he really was. Something that I think was extremely important for the character as a whole.
The end of the Cairne story was not done there. Thrall had returned and wanted to see Cairne before the funeral. And of the entire "conversation" he had with Cairne I think two things are worth mentioning.
"I never told you this before. I wish I had. Do you know," he continued quietly, "that to my mind, you always held the heart of the Horde, Cairne? You, and the tauren. When many others in the Horde hungered for war and darker paths, you listened to the wisdom of your Earth Mother, and counseled us to try other ways, other ideas. You reminded us of forgiveness and compassion. You were our heart, our true spiritual center."
and lastly when Thrall finally says goodbye to his old friend
"Thrall reached out a hand and placed it on Cairne's brow, then, gently reverently, picked up the smallest piece of the broken runespear. He turned it in his hand, and a shiver went through him. The piece he had selected bore the single rune: Healing. He would keep this, to remember Cairne by. To always be in touch with his heart. "
And so ended the story of Cairne. There are many things that Blizzard has not done well, but I am glad this one was done right.
Ish-ne-alo por-ah, may the Earthmother smile upon you.