10. Battle of the Crimson Watch (Alliance/Horde, 70)
This is sort of a personal favorite, which is why I've put it as number 10. It's not a super-long quest chain and it doesn't get deep into the history of Outlands. However, it has the distinction of being the most difficult quest I've ever done in WoW, with one of the best lore-related rewards.
Basically, you and some friends need to get together, kill a Blood Elf general on the Path of Conquest in Shadowmoon Valley, and loot a journal from his corpse. The journal tells you that the Illidari have recently captured a Sha'tari general, and you head up to his crystal prison to free him. Unfortunately, you're spotted by Illidan's personal guards, the Crimson Sigil. You have to fight four waves of elite enemies, including several demons, beholders, and many angry blood elves. I did it early in BC with some well-known top raiders from my realm, and we still had to bring in an extra person to stand outside the group and heal us to keep from getting creamed.
But the best part of the quest is the end. Illidan himself yells out through the whole zone, "So you have defeated the Crimson Sigil. You now seek to challenge my rule? Not even Arthas could defeat me, yet you dare to even harbor such thoughts? Then I say to you, come! Come <name>! The Black Temple awaits..." And then you get the same tabard that the Illidari troops wear! The first week I had it, a bunch of people asked if I had killed Illidan to get it. I told them yes.
9. The Fate of the Kingdom (Alliance)
Ah, those silly dwarves. They don't have a lot of heroic lore figures, or a tragic backstory, and they spend most of their time acting like the stereotypical hard-drinking, mining, vaguely Scottish dwarves of mythology. So it's nice that their story gets fleshed out a little more in this quest -- even though it requires you to go into (shudder) Blackrock Depths.
King Magni Bronzebeard is upset. His only daughter, Moira, has disappeared, and he suspects that the Dark Iron clan has something to do with it. The Dark Iron dwarves had fought the Bronzebeard clan for control of Ironforge, and when they lost, their emperor Thaurissan created a city of his own in the Redridge Mountains. However, they still wanted to take over Ironforge, and when they lost in their second attempt at this, Thaurissan decided to summon the Firelord Ragnaros. Whoops. Ragnaros's emergence created the Burning Steppes and Searing Gorge, killed Thaurissan, and caused the Dark Iron dwarves to become the slaves of the elemental.
So at Bronzebeard's request, you head into BRD to talk to the dwarf that was taking care of Moira. He tells you that the current Emperor, Dagran Thaurissan, bewitched her into becoming his, uh, sex slave or something. You have to find the Emperor and kill him while keeping Moira alive. After he's dead, Moira shows you that she's developed a bit of Stockholm Syndrome and is carrying Thaurissan's baby. The heir to the throne of Ironforge will also be the heir to the Dark Iron Dwarves! Take that, daddy! That's what you get for not buying me a pony! She refuses to come back with you, and you're left to deliver the news to a highly depressed King Bronzebeard.
8. The Lady's Necklace (Horde)
This is a lowbie Blood Elf quest, but most Horde players I know have completed it just to see the reward.
While fighting ghosts at Windrunner Spire in Ghostlands, you discover a glimmering necklace. The inscription reads, "To Sylvanas. Love always, Alleria." This necklace was given from Alliance heroine Alleria Windrunner to her sister, the former ranger general and now Banshee Queen Sylvanas Windrunner. The Tranquillien NPCs get all excited and tell you to bring the necklace back to Sylvanas. But after all, she is the Banshee Queen. Instead of congratulating you, she snaps, "You thought this would amuse me? Do you think I long for a time before I was the queen of the Forsaken? Like you, it means nothing to me, and Alleria Windrunner is a long dead memory!" and tells you to go away. But don't leave yet, or you'll miss her haunting song to her lost sister. It almost makes you think that the Forsaken aren't evil after all.
7. The Defias Brotherhood/The Missing Diplomat (Alliance)
Dang humans, always taking our jobs and our cool multi-stage quest chains. These two extraordinarily long chains, along with another one that will be discussed later, set the framework for the whole human arc in World of Warcraft.
The city of Stormwind was destroyed by the Horde in the First War. Stormwind's ruling elite decided to hire some contractors to rebuild the city, but after the city was built, they stiffed them on the payment and kicked them out of the kingdom. The contractors got angry and decided to take their revenge on the local humans, forming a gang called the Defias Brotherhood. As a lowbie Alliance in Westfall, you'll be told that the Defias Brotherhood is "working on something big." You'll have to kill a Defias messenger and defend a traitor if you want to find out where the head of the gang, Edwin VanCleef, is hiding. When you finally work your way through the Deadmines, one of the coolest instances in the game, you'll discover that VanCleef is building ... a giant pirate ship to attack Stormwind! Which, y'know, would work well through all those stone walls. You kill VanCleef and the world is safe for about ten levels.
In your mid-20s, you'll be approached by an altar boy at the Stormwind Cathedral about "an urgent matter." A diplomat has disappeared while on his way to meet Jaina Proudmoore in Theramore, and the Bishop wants you to investigate what happened to him. "Investigate", in WoW terms, means "run around two continents delivering letters for people and occasionally beating them up." Eventually, a man you meet in a bar (of course!) tells you that the "missing diplomat" was actually the King of Stormwind, Varian Wrynn, and the whole thing is being hushed up because the kingdom doesn't want to be embarassed. The King was supposedly captured by the Defias Brotherhood. You have to track down and kill the Defias operative in Theramore and then ... well, and then nothing. The quest just ends, and you don't get to find out where the King is. He was stationed on Alcaz Island off of Theramore for a while, but disappeared around the time Ahn'Qiraj came out.
6. Teron Gorefiend, I Am (Horde/Alliance)
Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about? Teron Gorefiend! Shadowmoon Valley is the center of some great lore quests, and this is one of the best, with a neat gimmick at the end.
Some wandering spirits in Shadowmoon Valley have been speaking about Teron Gorefiend, the former leader of the Death Knights of the Old Horde and a bloodthirsty maniac. This worries your respective Alliance/Horde apothecaries enough that they give you a magic ghost-seeing helmet and ask you to clean out some of the spirits before heading off to an ancient orc spirit in the middle of freaking nowhere. The orc spirit tells you that Gorefiend killed himself in Outland, which doesn't really fit with his personality type. The spirit also tells you that he can figure out where Gorefiend is, but he's going to need three of Gorefiend's earthly possessions to do it. You take his cloak from some murdered clerics of Karabor, his truncheon from some decapitated Death Knight riders, and his armor from a vanquished black dragon. Sounds like a pleasant fellow.
Anyway, if you return all of Gorefiend's possessions, the orc spirit does exactly what he promised, and tells you that the location of Teron Gorefiend is directly in front of your nose. Yes, Gorefiend played you big time so that he could get his weapons and armor back and break out of his prison. I am vaguely amused at the idea of an enemy using you to get phat lootz. Anyway, he needs a body to fight his captor, so he decides to possess you and have you kill a local draenei who's imprisoning him. No, you cannot refuse. You get some super-awesome abilities, so you can win this one easy. In "gratitude", Gorefiend lets you go free so you can slink back to your superiors and report your screw-up. They're angry at you but still give you nice weapons for your work. Gorefiend himself heads off to the Black Temple, where he works for Illidan Stormrage.
Join us next week, when we count down quests 5-1, because frankly I'm too tired for another 1500 words tonight and you're probably too tired to read it. What are your favorite lore quests?