Know Your Lore: The naga, part 1

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|10.10.10

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Know Your Lore: The naga, part 1

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.
You will be more than you have ever been ... promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you ... you will serve us well ...
The scaly, serpentine naga of Azeroth's oceans have been plaguing players since Warcraft 3, and in Cataclysm, their influence grows even more prevalent than before. Though we've heard tales of the naga throughout the game, only the motivations of Lady Vashj in The Burning Crusade were made somewhat clear. As for the naga on Azeroth, they simply seem to be out to kill ... well, everything. It's the origins of the naga, however, that bring them into play in Cataclysm, and with the introduction of Vash'jir, we'll be seeing a lot more of them.

The naga were originally the Highborne nobles that sought to control the powers of the Well of Eternity. Led by Queen Azshara, leader of all kaldorei prior to the Sundering, the Highborne were magic users and high-ranked members of kaldorei nobility who wanted nothing more than to worship their beloved queen and grant her anything she wished. Unfortunately, what she wished was total global domination -- and the way to achieve that presented itself in the form of the Burning Legion.

WARNING: The following post contains some small spoilers for the upcoming Cataclysm expansion. If you wish to remain spoiler-free, do not continue.

Queen Azshara was intent on harnessing and using the powers of the Well of Eternity, and one member of her court promised her more than simple power. Her chief advisor, Counselor Xavius, suggested using the power of the Well in order to cleanse the world. Rather than simply ruling the world, as imperfect as it was, she would instead rule over a world that had been made perfect by her exacting standards, thus guaranteeing that her empire would be as lovely as the queen herself. The thought of this pleased Azshara greatly, and the Highborne continued to work with the magical waters of the Well in order to bring this about. Unfortunately, the sheer power of the spells they were casting caught the attention of Sargeras, lord of the Burning Legion.

Sargeras quickly gained control of Xavius and then Azshara herself, promising to cleanse the world just as she wished. Xavius and the Highborne created a portal so that Sargeras could enter the world, at which point, Azshara imagined, she would become the consort of this powerful being and rule over the world as she saw fit. It was these events that triggered the War of the Ancients. Although Azshara didn't see anything wrong with her plans, the kaldorei who were being relentlessly slaughtered by the Burning Legion because they did not fit within the queen's idea of a perfect world certainly did.

As the war raged, Azshara grew more and more irritated with the lack of progress -- and it was at this point of the history that we learn some startling information revealed in the War of the Ancients trilogy by Richard Knaak. The queen approached Mannoroth and demanded to know what was going on. The pit lord considered destroying her but then realized Azshara held within her a power that was so great, only Sargeras and his lieutenants, Archimonde and Kil'jaeden, could ever hope to defeat her. Queen Azshara wasn't simply a pretty face, nor was she a spoiled, selfish woman intent on being the consort of a god -- she was arguably the most powerful creature native to Azeroth in the planet's short history at the time.

Unfortunately, her reign ended when the portal that was to allow Sargeras' entry into Azeroth was destroyed by Malfurion Stormrage. Soon after, the world began to crumble apart in the Sundering of the continent of Kalimdor, and as icy water rushed into Azshara's once-glorious palace, she gathered her most loyal servants and followers in her throne room, protecting them with a magical shield. And then something happened that would change the fate of Azshara and the remaining loyal Highborne forever.
I am Azshara! she silently insisted, her expression constant. With but a thought, the queen created a shield that surrounded her and those still remaining. My desires are absolute!

Her power kept the water at bay, but the pressure of maintaining her shield quickly grew troublesome. Azshara's brow furrowed and beads of sweat-the first sweat of her life-appeared on her forehead.

Then ... voices whispered from the gloom, voices calling to her, promising her escape.

There is a way ... there is a way ... you will become more than you ever were ... more than you ever were ... we can help ... we can help ...

The queen was no fool. She knew her shield would not last much longer. Then the Well would claim her and her followers and the glory that was Azshara would be lost to the world.

The silver-tressed night elf nodded.

"Ungh!" The goblet fell from her hand. Her body was wracked with pain. She felt her limbs twisting, curling. Her spine felt fluid, as if much of it had instantly melted away ...

You will be more than you have ever been ... promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you ... you will serve us well ...

The last vestiges of her shield spell failed. Azshara shrieked as the waters overwhelmed her. In the background, she heard other cries as well ... her handmaidens, the guards, and the rest of the Highborne who still served her.

The Well filled her lungs ...

But ... she did not drown.
Azshara and her followers were transformed into the naga as a favor from the Old Gods. Now why would the Old Gods willingly "gift" a kaldorei with a new form, when the plan of the Old Gods had failed? More than likely, they saw whatever it was that Mannoroth saw -- the power that the queen held -- and saved her so that she would ally with them out of gratitude. To date, we have only seen the Old Gods in relation to Ahn'Qiraj and Ulduar, which aren't exactly in naga territory. But with Cataclysm, there are more Old Gods to reckon with. For centuries, nothing was heard from the Highborne of Zin'Azshari, and it was assumed that they'd all perished in the Sundering, until Queen Azshara decided to make the naga's existence known.

The most favored of Azshara's handmaidens in the court of Zin'Azshari was a kaldorei woman named Lady Vashj, daughter of a noblewoman named Lestharia Vashj, who was ruler of her own city called Vashj'ir. When Zin'Azshari fell, Vashj was right there alongside her beloved queen and fell to the same fate as the rest of Azshara's Highborne followers. Lady Vashj was just as favored after the transformation as she was prior to it, and when Azshara decided it was time to reveal their new race to the rest of the world, she chose Lady Vashj to go to the surface and make contact.

The first contact of Lady Vashj was the night elf Illidan Stormrage, who had been transformed into a demon by the Skull of Gul'dan, much to his brother Malfurion's horror. Illidan was banished from night elf lands as a result of his reckless bargaining with demons and then met by Kil'jaeden, who offered Illidan great power if the now-demonic kaldorei would destroy an object known as the Frozen Throne. Illidan sought allies to help him with his task, and he found those allies with Lady Vashj and the naga. Lady Vashj, Queen Azshara and the rest of the naga wanted one thing -- revenge. Revenge against the night elves who survived the Sundering, even as their queen and her court sank beneath the ocean waves.

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