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.
Last week, we discussed the story behind the paladin's charger -- a unique mount that both dwarf and human paladins could obtain in vanilla WoW, and in Burning Crusade, the draenei. In addition to the draenei, Burning Crusade also introduced blood elves, and blood elf paladins. Unlike the noble paladins of the Alliance, these Blood Knights took the Light by force, siphoning it from the captured naaru M'uru and bending it to their whim.
Although the events of Burning Crusade and the restoration of the Sunwell dramatically changed the Blood Knights method of operation, we can't really forget where their origins began. It was a much darker place, a place born of Light lost, and the desperation of a downtrodden people to prove to the world that they were still a force to be reckoned with -- and perhaps prove the same to themselves, as well.
In the time before the Third War, blood elves were simply called high elves. Although largely reclusive, the high elves made allies every now and again. These high elves, formerly night elves that had been cast out of Kalimdor due to their obsession with arcane magic, were the original practitioners of arcane magic on Azeroth. The human race learned magic from the high elves in exchange for their assistance in the Troll Wars against the Amani, long before the seven kingdoms existed. That bargain, and the successful defeat of the Amani, led to the high elves eventually joining the original Alliance of Lordaeron, thousands of years later.
But the high elves didn't just teach the humans magic -- they also learned about the Light from the humans, who had discovered it at some nebulous point during their evolution. There aren't really any clear stories or definitions of how the Light came to be, but it is known that the humans originally practiced it, and shared this information with the high elves at some point in their long history. Although practicing the arcane was an easy task for the high elves, the Light proved a challenge for many to master. After all, humans and high elves could not simply wield the Light like the arcane -- they were servants of the Light, and the Light answered their call.
And perhaps that was part of the reason the Light began to fail the high elves when their kingdom was set upon by Arthas and the Scourge in the Third War. There was no time for respect, tenacity, or compassion, there was simply the stark terror of watching the Scourge carve a deadly path through Quel'thalas and exterminating 90% of the high elf population. It was absolute chaos, and in that chaos, those high elves that practiced the Light found their faith beginning to falter. After the Sunwell's destruction and the death of Anasterian Sunstrider, his son, Kael'thas, gave the surviving remnants of what had once been a powerful race the name blood elves, in memory of all those that had fallen.
This wasn't an idle name. Quel'thalas was awash in blood.
In the aftermath of the Sunwell's destruction, the newly named blood elves began to experience the symptoms of withdrawal. Having been bathed in the arcane energies of the Sunwell for thousands of years, the sudden cessation of that energy had an adverse effect on the blood elf population, one that quickly led to illness among the oldest and youngest of the population, and even death in some circumstances. Kael'thas set out to find a cure for this condition, leaving his people behind and traveling to Outland with Illidan Stormrage.
In his absence, the blood elves survived as best they could. One such blood elf was Lady Liadrin, a former priestess of the Light. Like many of her Light-practicing comrades, Liadrin had lost all faith in the Light during the horrific events of the Third War. Rather than succumb to sorrow, she took up a sword and began taking out her aggression on the remnants of the Scourge as a warrior. Her efforts did not go unnoticed. Grand Magister Rommath was sent back to Azeroth from Outland with word from Kael'thas and new methods of tempering the addiction that plagued the blood elf race -- methods that included siphoning fel energy.
As for Liadrin, she was called to Silvermoon and approached by Rommath with a unique offer. As a priest, she had shown proficiency with the Light. As a warrior, she was ruthless and deadly. And Kael'thas had captured and provided the bloods elves with a creature that could be used to create a useful fusion of both of Liadrin's talents -- a captured being suffused with the Light. Its name was M'uru, although that mattered little to those that kept it contained. Rommath handed Liadrin a blood-tempered ranseur, and suggested that through M'uru, she could guarantee that she'd never be abandoned by the Light ever again. And Liadrin took the offer, becoming the first in a new order of Light-infused warriors for Quel'thalas -- Blood Knights.
With the help of Rommath and Magister Astalor Bloodsworn, Liadrin forged a link with M'uru. And through the captured naaru, she was able to channel the Light. There was no joy in it, no warmth, no love -- but there was power that could be wielded and used. This is where the blood knights began. The paladins of the elven race weren't born of some altruistic notion of compassion and benevolence. They were blades tempered by unspeakable loss and sorrow, born of vengeance and blood. And in this process, they were no longer servants of the Light -- they were its masters, cold, analytical, and breathtakingly efficient.
But the practice was not without its cost. M'uru's voice was described by some as the sound of shattering glass, riddling some knights with headaches, others with madness. Some elves were suffused with pain throughout the process, others dealt with raw emotion suddenly being reawakened. And the new order, while effective in battle, was not met with immediate acceptance or accolades by the rest of the blood elves. Many viewed the blood knights with suspicion and even outright derision, wary of the practices used to wield the Light.
In an almost odd twist of circumstance, Liadrin and her fellow blood knights, and how they were viewed by the rest of blood elf society, were a mirror of the way that blood elves were viewed by their new Horde allies. The blood knights had to prove themselves to their kin, prove that they held merit and strength, just as the blood elves themselves had to prove themselves to the Horde. And in the end, it was Liadrin and the blood knights that showed the Horde that their race had power and strength enough to be a viable contribution to the Horde as allies, even if they weren't anywhere near as readily accepted by their own kin.
The Thalassian charger
Like the Alliance, the blood knights had their own unique mount to use. In fact, the methods of obtaining that mount were fairly similar in terms of materials and cost, but the story behind the mount was vastly different. Instead of releasing the tortured soul of a steed, blood knights instead were granted the ability to summon their unique mounts after they had proven their mastery over the Light. Not to Liadrin, or Lord Solanar, or any of the other high-ranked leaders in the Blood Knights -- to the rest of the paladins of the world.
In that quest, a glimpse was shown of how the Horde paladins differentiated from Alliance. Much like the rest of blood elf society, the paladins of the Silver Hand and followers of the Holy Light looked at the actions and methods of the Blood Knights with disgust. What they had done, how they had obtained their powers was a warped mockery of everything the Light represented. Yet again, the Blood Knights chose to prove themselves in an unconventional way -- by demonstrating that they were far more powerful than any paladin that chose to be a servant of the Light, instead of its master.
To accomplish this, paladins were asked to gather the required materials, travel to Stratholme, and douse the eternal flame that burned in Alonsus Chapel -- the church in which the Order of the Silver Hand was founded, long ago. In the chapel resided a man named Aurius, who was once a paladin of the Silver Hand. In vanilla WoW, Aurius would join players in killing Baron Rivendare if given a Medallion of Faith, and perish once the deed was done. In Burning Crusade, he watched over the eternal flame in the chapel -- and when blood elf paladins doused the flame, he would immediately turn hostile and attack.
Over the course of the fight, the spirits of five ghostly paladins would join him. Once all were defeated, the blood knight was free to return to Silvermoon, having proven their strength and given the Silver Hand the equivalent of a middle finger. While it hasn't been clearly defined exactly how Aurius died, what happened next was revealed with Stratholme's revamp in Cataclysm -- Aurius was, in fact, Aurius Rivendare, raised as a death knight after his death and taking the place of his father, Baron Rivendare, as leader of the Scourge in Stratholme.
The quest to obtain the Thalassian charger has since been removed from the game, but in the case of the blood elves, it was likely for the best. Their story continued throughout the course of Burning Crusade, and by the expansion's end, their origins and methods of practice had shifted dramatically. It was revealed that M'uru let himself be captured, that Velen had foretold a prophecy regarding the blood knights, their formation, and their eventual redemption. Kael'thas Sunstrider returned to Silvermoon and stole M'uru away to the Isle of Quel'Danas, intent on bringing Kil'jaeden to Azeroth.
M'uru perished in the ensuing battle to stop Kil'jaeden's summoning, and the Sunwell lay in ruin. But Velen arrived at the final hour with a message of hope and forgiveness: the heart of M'uru. With the heart of the fallen naaru, the Sunwell's energies were restored -- not just with the arcane powers that once flowed freely from it, but with M'uru's powers of the Light as well.
Liadrin witnessed that moment, and witnessed something else, too -- the utterly unending capacity of the Light's forgiveness. In that moment, she saw M'uru's sacrifice first hand, a sacrifice the naaru had willingly made, all for the sake of her people, for the sake of all that they had suffered. And her faith the Light was reborn a thousandfold as a result. With it, the understanding that no matter the hardship, the Light would never truly abandon those that chose to follow its path. The blood elves may have lost their faith in the Light when their people were nearly destroyed, but the Light never lost its faith in them.
These days, blood knights take their powers from the Sunwell, the same as practitioners of the arcane. They no longer have need to prove their strength to their people -- they've demonstrated it, in spades. They no longer have need to take the Light by force, to siphon it from a captured being -- because the Light has been freely given to them through the greatest sacrifice of all. And perhaps in that journey was a lesson well learned: the Light has no masters, nor servants, simply those that choose to learn, follow in its wisdom, and guide others along the way.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.