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.
Long ago, before Human civilization had progressed into kingdoms and civilized society, the Kaldorei of Kalimdor participated in a war that ultimately split the world apart. The war was about power, as all wars ultimately are in Azeroth -- this time, the powers of a mysterious font of energy known as the Well of Eternity. Suffused with arcane magics, the Well commanded the attentions of countless Highborne who grew dependent on its powers. So too, did the Well draw the attention of the dark forces of the Burning Legion and its leader, Sargeras.
Though the War of the Ancients ended in a victory for the Night Elves, it wasn't the last they'd see of the Well of Eternity. In an act of desperation to keep the arcane font alive one way or another, Illidan Stormrage used a vial of water from the original Well to create a new one, high atop the peaks of Hyjal. Horrified by his actions, his brother Malfurion had him imprisoned, and the Aspects created the World Tree and charged the Kaldorei with guarding the new Well. The practice of arcane magic was forbidden from use in Kaldorei society, punishable by death.
But the Kaldorei underestimated the depths of the Highborne's addiction. And both Highborne and Kaldorei alike didn't realize there were far worse, darker powers to worry about ...
Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on why it happened. The events presented are events that happened in Azeroth's history, but the conclusions are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact.
Roughly 7,000 years prior to the opening of the Dark Portal and the arrival of the Orcs, the Highborne survivors grew listless, restless. Denied the right to use the arcane magics that they had become so dependent on, the Highborne finally lashed out in desperation, unleashing an arcane storm on Ashenvale. Malfurion, awakened from his slumber by the disturbance, could not bring himself to put so many Night Elves to death. Instead, he decided to simply exile the Highborne and their leader Dath'Remar. For their part, the Highborne were glad to be rid of the Kaldorei and struck out across the oceans in search of a land in which they could practice the arcane in peace.
This is how the High Elves came to land at last on the beaches of a land that would later be called Lordaeron, forging their way into the lush forests that would later be called Tirisfal Glades. These were the first recorded settlers in Tirisfal, long before the Humans created their kingdoms. Tirisfal Glades is now a hollow echo of the quiet, tranquil forests it used to be, due in large part to the rise of the Scourge and the fall of Arthas. As the Scourge drove across the land, so too did rot and decay.
But not all of Tirisfal Glades is tinged with decay. High above Deathknell, nestled in the mountains, is a shady glen simply called Whispering Forest. And though the animals that lie within are just as diseased as the trees below, the grass and trees seem healthier here. It could simply be less proximity to the shattered kingdom of Lordaeron, or it could be due to the strange inhabitants that flit in and out of reality -- or in and out of the Emerald Dream.
Faerie dragons have long been one of those little mysteries of Warcraft, first appearing back in Warcraft 3. Long known as allies of the Night Elves, faerie dragons live primarily in the Emerald Dream, where they patrol and police the natural realm from magic. Because of this, faerie dragons are immune to most magics -- and because of their home, they possess the ability to phase in and out of reality, or rather, in and out of the Emerald Dream at any point they wish to. Basically, faerie dragons make it a point to disrupt any corrupted magic. In Whispering Forest, it appears these rumors have the ring of truth.
Nestled in the heart of Whispering Forest is a ring of mushrooms, glowing with some sort of strange energy. A cloud of mist hovers over the circle, and the circle sits, glowing and otherwise unremarkable for hours on end. But every now and again, the faerie dragons -- Fey Drunk Darters -- begin to appear, one by one, and fly erratically in the general area of the mushroom ring. Over time seven of them will fade in out of seemingly nowhere, and at some point all seven darters seem to come to some forgone conclusion and they converge on the ring.
What happens next is puzzling, to say the least.
The Fey Drunk Darters begin to sing. And as they sing, beams of light shine from each darter, converging on the center of the mushroom ring. The other animals of the glen come to watch, curious about the lights and sounds no doubt, and just as suddenly as the mysterious ritual starts, it stops. The darters slowly fly away, and fade out to wherever they happened to come from. Hours later, the event begins again.
This in-game event may have more to do with the lore of the region that most realize, quite possibly taking its origins in that group of High Elves who took the first steps onto the Eastern Kingdoms and into history. Oh, Dath'Remar and his people eventually changed into the pale-skinned Quel'dorei and Sin'dorei we see in game today, but when they first landed on the Eastern Kingdom's shores, they were still very much Night Elves. As such, they had ties to the faerie dragons -- and ties to their curious properties, even if none of the Highborne had spent time in the Emerald Dream.
What's telling about Tirisfal isn't the region itself, but the names given to the various parts of the region. The Highborne first landed upon Tirisfal's shore, also known today as the Whispering Shore. Far to the east lie the Whispering Gardens, the name presumably given because of the battle that once took place there between Scarlet Crusade and Scourge. It's said that the spirits of those who fell in battle can still be heard here, as faint whispers in the night. And far to the west, high above Deathknell is Whispering Forest.
Tirisfal whispers, but what does it have to say? The answer may lie with Dath'Remar and the original settlers of the region. The nomenclature for the region, the reoccurrence of the Whispering theme, may have nothing to do with spirits or battles of the future, but creatures of the past -- creatures that predate the Kaldorei by countless years.
It is said that when Dath'Remar and the Highborne settlers arrived in Tirisfal, they experienced many changes. One of these was the physical evolution of the former Kaldorei. So far removed from the World Tree Nordrassil, the Highborne began to shrink in size, their skin growing paler, and the immortality that Nordrassil granted to them, lost. But as the years passed in Tirisfal, some of those original settlers began to go mad -- and the rumors were that something evil slept beneath the earth in that region. These rumors suggest the existence of an Old God, one that had theoretically broken free of its bonds when the world was split apart during the Sundering.
If we look at C'thun and Yogg-Saron, the two Old Gods we've had the distinct displeasure of encountering in game so far, these Old Gods seem to have a common theme. They seek to corrupt the mortals who dwell near them, and they corrupt via whispers, quiet suggestions that are sure to drive any mortal insane. Anyone heading into Ahn'Qiraj can hear the voice of C'thun. In Howling Fjord, the area known as Whisper Gulch has driven countless explorers insane, the quiet voice that haunts the region insistent that those listening must give in to their fear, that there is no escape.
If there is indeed an Old God somewhere beneath Tirisfal or nearby, it would explain the sudden madness of the Highborne. But it may also explain the curious appearance of the Fey Drunk Darters in Whispering Forest as well. Faerie dragons are responsible for disrupting corrupted energy and magic -- and the presence of an Old God would present enough of a disturbance to drive the faerie dragons to appear.
So what is the mysterious ceremony, the song, and the mushroom circle all about? It could be that the dragons are continuing a ritual that they've been taking part in since the original Kaldorei settlers came to the land, that they are trying to disrupt the Old God's corruption. Or it could be that they appeared when the Scourge first made an appearance, seeking to cleanse the Glades from the undead taint that plagues it. Both options are likely, but the dragon's continued appearances suggest that whatever the reason for its existence, the ritual isn't working properly.
And if you look at it from either standpoint, it isn't really, is it? The Scourge may have disappeared, but the Forsaken are still around and the land is still in a state of decay. As for the Old God and whether or not it actually exists ... well, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it? Old Gods are powerful creatures that have existed for thousands upon thousands of years -- long before any mortal civilization save the Trolls had risen to power. In fact, it could be argued that the Old Gods are just as powerful as whatever energies may have been in the Well of Eternity.
When the Burning Legion came back to Azeroth and brought the Lich King with it, the Legion's armies didn't begin on Kalimdor. They began on the Eastern Kingdoms. There was power on the Eastern Kingdoms to be certain, in the form of the Sunwell -- but perhaps there was more power there than the Legion realized. The Lich King created the Scourge, and the Forsaken broke free after the Lich King was harmed. Arthas simply couldn't keep as much of a hold over his undead army as he'd had previously.
And so it came down to Sylvanas Windrunner, who one day realized that her life as a banshee servant to Arthas seemed to be coming to a close. His power over her had waned, and suddenly she was in control of her senses again. And the one thing Sylvanas wanted more than anything else was revenge and the death of the man who'd raised her and stuck her in that wretched banshee husk. She nearly had Arthas, too -- it was only the intervention of Kel'Thuzad that let Arthas slip free from her grasp.
What happened to Sylvanas, after? Why, she banded together with the rest of the free Scourge and formed the Forsaken. But what was the ultimate goal of the Forsaken, what has been their ultimate goal since the very first days of their formation? Revenge. Revenge against the Lich King and against all the living -- against all those who looked upon her kind in fear and disgust. Think about that for a moment.
Mad schemes of revenge, a single-minded obsession with murder, and a zest to take over the world and scour all living creatures from it -- that sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? In fact, some of the thoughts and ideologies Sylvanas put forth seem almost paranoid, as if she thinks the world is out to get her. In fact, the majority of the Forsaken act this way -- as though they are half-mad. So here's a crazy what-if: What if the Forsaken are not and have never been under their own control? What if the Forsaken broke free of the Lich King's grasp, only to fall victim to something far more powerful than the Lich King?
What if the Forsaken as a whole are simply an extension of an Old God, locked deep beneath Tirisfal Glades?
Not consciously, mind you. Not to the point that they are aware and chuckling along with Deathwing's plans of global destruction. But enough that their obsession with eradicating the living seems logical, as far as they are concerned. After all, the world is out to get them. The world will never accept them as they are. Their families will betray them; their friends are no longer their friends.
Let's take another look at the whispers of Yogg-Saron.
"They are coming for you." "Tell yourself again that these are not truly your friends." "You are a pawn of forces unseen." "It WAS your fault." "There is no escape. Not in this life. Not in the next." "They have turned against you. Now... take your revenge." "Kill them all... Before they kill you." "Give in to your fear."
Doesn't that sound exactly like the sort of thing that goes through the mind of a Forsaken every single day? And wouldn't that make sense, in terms of the Val'kyr's sudden alliance with Sylvanas? It's not that Sylvanas and the Forsaken are particularly important. It's that Sylvanas and her people are being watched by something far more powerful -- something far better than anything the Banshee Queen or her people could offer.
The Val'kyr know it. They've seen it in Northrend -- before they were Val'kyr, when they were simply Vrykul living in Valkyrion, just a short distance away from Yogg-Saron's prison. If the Lich King is no longer near and Yogg-Saron has been taken care of, perhaps there are other beings of immense power that they can serve. Certainly not the Banshee Queen -- but perhaps someone, something, that the Banshee Queen doesn't even realize she's being influenced by.
The Forsaken may not just be a faction of free-willed undead. They may be the surprise army of the Old Gods, the army no one suspects ... an army that will make alliances with the other races of the world, even if it is for the sake of convenience ... an army that doesn't even know it is an army ... an army that is growing larger by the day, with every resurrection the Val'kyr so generously provide with no questions asked.
After all, Sylvanas wouldn't want her people to simply die out. She'd rather have them thrive, grow stronger, grow more powerful every day. Have them continue to work with the plague that could potentially eradicate the living and erase them from existence.
How convenient then, that this falls right in line with what the Old Gods would like, too.
Though we don't know the reasons for that mysterious circle in Tirisfal Glades, whether it's something important or just a little flavor added to make things interesting, the appearance of the faerie dragons and their attempts to continually complete their strange little ritual do raise questions. Whether or not we'll see those questions answered in Cataclysm remains to be seen.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
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.