The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
Now that we're done with the dragonflights coverage, it's time to move on to other, more... explosive topics of conversation. Yes, that was a thinly veiled attempt at a Cataclysm reference. With the events of Cataclysm, both the Alliance and the Horde are due for some shake-ups, but it's the Horde that stands in a particularly shaky position, politically speaking. Cataclysm promises to shake up not just the physical world, but the political world of the Horde as we currently know it -- so I'll be taking a look at each of the Horde races, what they've been up to in the World of Warcraft, and why Cataclysm may do much more than simply set the Alliance and the Horde at odds.
Today's topic, the orcs -- the green-skinned Draenor natives that have established a foothold and a home on Azeroth, for better or for worse, and founded the current Horde as we know it today. While rumors are just that, rumors for now, they're well founded in current events and lore regarding the orcs and quite frankly, the rumors do not surprise me in the least. To begin, let's go back to the beginning of the current Horde and talk a little bit about their leader, their savior, the orc behind all the current stress the Horde is experiencing -- Thrall.
What most people don't realize about Thrall is this: he's young. Very young. According to the current timeline, Thrall was born on Azeroth, not on Draenor. In the novel Lord of the Clans, he was only a baby when found by Aedelas Blackmoore -- by the Warcraft timeline; this would be year 0, when the Frostwolf clan was exiled from Draenor for speaking out against Gul'dan and the warlocks of the Shadow Council. Thrall had never seen Draenor prior to the Burning Crusade expansion-- or if he had, it was with the eyes of an infant not even a year old. This is important information; file it away for later.
Thrall spent the first year of his life with Tammis, Clannia, and Taretha Foxton -- players may recall Taretha as that girl locked up in Tarren Mill by the Infinite Dragonflight in the Caverns of Time: Old Hillsbrad instance. When the baby orc Blackmoore had recovered was refusing to eat the meat it was being fed, close to dying, it was the insight of Tammis's five-year old daughter Taretha that kept the child alive -- babies need milk to survive after all, not meat. Thrall was taken from the Foxton's after only a year in the household, but Taretha forever thought of him as a baby brother.
After being taken from the Foxton's, Thrall spent the next several years of his life learning to read and write, and eventually how to fight. He was taught the concept of mercy by the Sergeant who trained him in the ways of fighting as a gladiator, and was an exceptionally good fighter in the pit, much to Blackmoore's glee. Raking in money off of Thrall's wins, Blackmoore was still nothing more than a black-hearted drunkard who beat Thrall mercilessly when he failed, or seemed to fail, or if Blackmoore had simply had too much to drink that day. It was Taretha, now several years older and having established a way to write letters back and forth to the orc that eventually arranged Thrall's escape from Durnholde Keep.
The orcs by this time had fallen under lethargy -- locked up in internment camps across Lordaeron, the former denizens of Draenor were sluggish, aloof. It was Archmage Antonidas of Dalaran that had the correct idea -- the orcs had been under the influence of a demonic pact that granted them heightened strength and aggression -- in the absence of the warlock magic that granted this pact, the orcs were simply going through a withdrawal of sorts. After Thrall's escape from Durnholde with the help of Taretha, he was recaptured and placed into one of these camps. Horrified at his people's apparent lack of caring for their situation, he escaped once more, to find the last undefeated orc chieftain, Grom Hellscream of the Warsong clan. Grom held the distinction of being the first orc to drink the Blood of Mannoroth and enter into the blood pact that tainted the orcs and bound them to the Burning Legion -- something that he wasn't particularly proud of.
Hellscream wasn't sure what to make of the young orc -- barely eighteen and fluent in the human tongue, but hardly able to speak orcish at all. Thrall spoke to Hellscream of what he wanted -- to free the orcs of the internment camps and bring them back to their former glory. Despite Thrall's apparent ignorance of the orc language, his cause was a noble one. The young orc's courage, strength and mercy impressed Hellscream, and his goal was one that Hellscream himself wished to see -- so he agreed to help Thrall, suggesting that perhaps if he gave the orcs something worth fighting for, they'd break out of their lethargic stupor. Thrall next sought out the remnants of the clan he'd come from, the Frostwolf. After finding them, he spent some time with them, training to be a shaman under Drek'Thar. While there, he met Orgrim Doomhammer, the current Warchief of the Horde. Doomhammer was impressed with Thrall's efforts in bringing both the Warsong clan, and the elusive Frostwolf clan to his cause, and asked Thrall to join him as second-in-command of the Horde.
And so the orc internment camps were freed, one by one. The lethargy that had haunted the orcs for so long was slowly lifted -- not by Doomhammer, not by Hellscream, not by Drek'Thar -- but by the soft spoken and well chosen words of an Azerothian orc. When Doomhammer fell, he charged Thrall with taking up his warhammer and leading the orcs as the next Warchief of the Horde, to bring them to victory, and to peace. Thrall agreed, and Doomhammer died. Aedelas Blackmoore fell too, at Thrall's hands -- the man had discovered Taretha's role in Thrall's escape, and when Thrall returned to Durnholde Keep to demand that Blackmoore release the orcs he'd imprisoned, Aedelas responded by throwing the Warchief a bag that contained Taretha's head.
Needless to say, the current state of Durnholde Keep -- the broken buildings, the shattered walls, are all because of one very, very angry Warchief with the power of the elements at his control.
Thrall took his people and left, never looking back. Soon after, he experienced a vision -- a dream of fire raining from the sky, and a man that spoke of destiny. Shortly after that, he met a man called the Prophet, who informed him that Thrall needed to take his people and head to Kalimdor to meet their destiny. On the way to Kalimdor, Thrall met with the Darkspear Trolls, who swore their allegiance to the Horde. Once in Kalimdor, the Warchief met the Tauren, who also swore their allegiance to Thrall's every growing band. Grom Hellscream continued to be an advisor and a friend to Thrall, though his temper, fueled by the remains of the demonic influence that had originally corrupted him, was a constant source of contention for the peace-seeking Warchief.
It was there, on Kalimdor, that Thrall's destiny would be found -- the oracle revealed that Thrall's destiny was none other than to repel the return of the Burning Legion, the same group responsible for the original corruption of his people back on Draenor. And it was there that Thrall's odd perceptions of the world would change the perceptions of who the orcs were, and who they were meant to be -- he was introduced to a human mage by the name of Jaina Proudmoore, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Taretha. Thrall ordered the Horde to work with Jaina's Alliance troops, as well as the strange Night Elves that were natives to the forests the orcs had been harvesting. They managed to hold back the Legion's advances long enough for the night elf leader, Malfurion Stormrage, to gather his forces for the final attack. The World Tree, object of the Legion's desire, detonated, taking the Legion's leader Archimonde along with it.
There were casualties, however -- Grom Hellscream, leader of the Warsong clan, the first orc to drink the Blood of Mannoroth and willingly fall under the Burning Legion's corruption, was slain. Not by Alliance hands, but at the hands of Mannoroth himself. Grom sought to kill Mannoroth and end the blood pact that tied the demon and the orcs together once and for all, and he succeeded -- at the cost of his own life. Warchief Thrall lost a friend, advisor, companion, and brother.
His supposed 'destiny' completed, Thrall led his people south, away from the night elf lands and established a new home in a land that he called Durotar, in honor of the orc father he never knew. The orc capital was dubbed Orgrimmar in honor of Orgrim Doomhammer, without whom Thrall's rise to power, and the rise of the Horde, would not have been possible. Thrall had agreed to a non-aggression pact with Jaina and the humans of Theramore, but strangely his outposts were being attacked and destroyed by human soldiers and marines. Despite efforts to parlay with the humans, it was clear that they were intent on capturing and killing the Warchief. Thrall, unwilling to believe that Jaina would order such a thing, went to meet with Jaina and learned that the attacking forces were not from her at all, but her father, Daelin Proudmoore -- the leader of Kul Tiras. Daelin, unlike his daughter, had very harsh views of the orcs and wished nothing more than to see them all slaughtered.
Despite the fact that this man was her father, Jaina's experiences with the Scourge and the Burning Legion had shown her that there were much larger things in the world to be worried about than petty bickering and useless vendettas. Jaina agreed to have the Theramore troops stand down, and the Horde attacked, killing Daelin Proudmoore. The orcs of Durotar and the humans of Theramore parted ways again, remaining at peace for another three years before tensions rose once more -- the orcs and the humans fought again, although it was revealed that just like the last time the two races were at odds, this was a result of another force at work. This time it was the Burning Blade clan, a group of warlocks brought together by the minor demon Zmodlor and dead set against Thrall's new Horde. The Burning Blade had been playing the two sides against each other right under Jaina and Thrall's noses.
But this wasn't particularly difficult for them to do. Why? Because despite Jaina Proudmoore and Warchief Thrall's idealistic vision of a world in which orcs and humans could simply exist together in peace, there were far, far too many of said orcs and humans that were unwilling to even consider it. Humans that remembered the First and Second wars, and the fall of Anduin Lothar at the hand of Orgrim Doomhammer -- the same Doomhammer that Warchief Thrall now wielded with pride, the same orc that their capital city had been named after. As for the orcs, the majority of them still held fresh in their minds the treatment at the internment camps in Lordaeron, the First and Second Wars, and the fighting.