In the Emerald Dream, war raged. Malfurion was being held captive by something called the Nightmare Lord -- a formless voice that taunted Malfurion, trapped him within the dark recesses of a shadowy tree and threatened to put an end to him. Thura arrived during a moment when the Nightmare Lord was distracted by the fighting, and as she raised her axe to strike, the Arch Druid urged her on. Before she could strike, Tyrande interrupted her and the two fought -- and the green dragons, Ysera's forces, flew into the battle, intent on saving Malfurion as well. In the moment of distraction, Thura struck. The axe, forged by Cenarius centuries ago, managed to free the Arch Druid from the prison within the shadow tree.
That's why Thura had been having her visions -- it wasn't the Emerald Nightmare, it was Malfurion, hoping that he could bait her into bringing the ancient axe to the Emerald Dream and severing his bonds. Malfurion was free. This would have been fine, had it not been for the Nightmare Lord's plan. See, he wasn't really after Malfurion at all; the real target was Ysera, who had foolishly come right to him. The shadow tree that held Malfurion snatched the green Aspect away and revealed its true intentions.
All along the Emerald Dream, the Nightmare forces grew, bolstered by every sleeping creature in Azeroth that fitfully tossed and turned, unable to awaken. The armies that Malfurion, Tyrande, Broll, and the Green Dragonflight fought weren't mindless Scourge or horrific demons of the Burning Legion. They were the citizens of Azeroth itself, helpless under the Nightmare's control. And as druid after sleeping druid fell to the Nightmare, they became a part of it.
One of Ysera's kin carried Malfurion, Tyrande, Broll, and the others away from the gruesome scene, as Malfurion struggled to escape. In his efforts, he didn't just manage to break free of the green dragon's grasp; he awoke to his physical body. In the barrow dens of Moonglade, Malfurion clutched his chest in agony and sensed something deeply wrong -- some dark presence within him that sought his physical demise.
Show of hands -- how many vanilla players remember the trials and tribulations of the morrowgrain
quest line? This quest sent players off to cultivate the strange herb
called morrowgrain that only grew in Un'goro Crater. Night elves were asked to gather large quantities of it by Fandral Staghelm, who claimed to be gathering it for "research purposes" for the Cenarion Circle. Down in Feathermoon Stronghold, players were asked to gather it
because the elves of the Cenarion Circle had no idea what Fandral was gathering it for, but they really wanted to find out, especially since he'd been telling people he was gathering it on their behalf.
Meanwhile in Thunder Bluff, the tauren druids wanted a stockpile of it because Fandral was stockpiling it for no apparent reason, and not only was he doing it, but Feathermoon was doing it, which meant it must have some sort of significance. Given that, the tauren druids wanted it as well -- at least until they figured out what it was for. Down in Feathermoon, a researcher named Quintis Jonespyre
had heard that morrowgrain, under the right conditions, contained properties similar to herbs commonly used in primitive curses.
Players who completed the quest were able to repeat it for more rewards and a small amount of reputation. Guess what you did? If you guessed "supplied Fandral Staghelm with a wonderful means to murder Malfurion Stormrage," you get a gold star and the knowledge that you in some small part helped with this entire mess. Enjoy your guilt!
In Darnassus, Shandris Feathermoon
heard reports of the damage being done around the world -- yet strangely, none of it was to be found in any of Teldrassil. She also caught Hamuul Runetotem skulking around, and in an effort to catch him, nearly fell prey to being trapped and crushed alive within a tree in the Cenarion Enclave. Hamuul and a druid named Naralex rescued her and tried to warn her that there was a traitor in Darnassus who was threatening not only the World Tree but the rest of the world. The three were interrupted as they came under attack by mysterious shadows that quickly overtook the party. As they lay unconscious, the traitor made himself known.
"I'm sorry," Fandral Staghelm honestly told them, though they were not conscious enough to hear him. "You must believe me that I am."
The lead archdruid walked among the shadows, who moved respectfully out of his way. Fandral went to Naralex, who lay unmoving. Leaning down, Fandral touched the other night elf's neck.
Rising, Fandral eyed the party with disappointment.
"Something will have to be done with you." He considered, a smile coming to his face. "Valstann will know just what! My son will have the answer..."
Valstann Staghelm perished in the War of the Shifting Sands. Players who have completed the Scepter of the Shifting Sands quest line witnessed Fandral's reaction to his son's death in the quest A Pawn on the Eternal Board
Anachronos the Ancient says: Before I leave this place, I make one final offering to you, Lord Staghelm. Should a time arise in which you must gain entry to this accursed fortress, use the Scepter of the Shifting Sands on the sacred gong. The magic holding the barrier together will dissipate and the horrors of Ahn'Qiraj will be unleashed upon the world once more.
Anachronos the Ancient hands the Scepter of the Shifting Sands to Fandral Staghelm.
Fandral Staghelm says: After the savagery that my people have witnessed and felt, you expect me to accept another burden dragon? Surely you are mad.
Fandral Staghelm says: I want nothing to do with Silithus, the Qiraji and least of all, any damned dragons!
Fandral Staghelm hurls the Scepter of the Shifting Sands into the barrier, shattering it.
Anachronos the Ancient says: Lord Staghelm, where are you going? You would shatter our bond for the sake of pride?
Fandral Staghelm says: My son's soul will find no comfort in this hollow victory, dragon. I will have him back. Though it takes a millennia, I WILL have my son back!
Fandral's not exactly ... sane anymore. Malfurion managed to expel the morrowgrain from his system and flew to the second World Tree -- a World Tree that Malfurion had warned Fandral against making, years before. As he looked at the tree, he realized the Emerald Nightmare tainted the thing, far more than anything else on Azeroth. Outwardly, the tree appeared normal, but his senses found the evil that infested it, causing the corruption we've been witnessing the effects of since vanilla WoW