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.
Our arrival on Pandaria is the first time we've encountered a race like the mogu. Not only have they displayed an alien and sinister form of magic that can warp flesh and impart life to inanimate objects (twisting and recombining souls in the process) but they've created at least two races to serve them. While we still don't know the origins of the pandaren (were they always there, were they created or twisted by the mogu, did their ancestors also stumble into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms) or how they ended up as slaves to the mogu, the grummle and saurok peoples and their origins are known to the Lorewalkers and can be found on shrines and in books throughout Pandaria.
What's fascinating to me is how the origins of these races demonstrate not only their own natures, but those of their creators. The mogu made the saurok as a caste of slave soldiers, yet failed to conceive of the notion that making a race of bellicose reptiles and arming them could possibly backfire on them. When the saurok eventually rebelled, the mogu were forced to destroy them by the scores, wiping out every saurok stationed in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, but in the end the saurok survived and their war against their creators weakened the mogu.
Even more interestingly, the mogu created the grummles as a wide ranging servitor race, demanding that they toil as conveyors of goods and serve as observant spies for their masters, yet never bothered to explain to the grummles exactly what spying entailed and who they should be watchful for, believing these things to be self evident. The creation of the grummles reveals that the mogu are incapable of understanding outlooks that are not their own, and automatically assume that their way of looking at the world is the only way of doing so.
The saurok began life as large reptiles that basked on the rocks in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. They did not stumble into the Vale's waters and become elevated by them, however. Rather, these great predatory beasts were selected by the mogu, who by this time were engaged in the process of building their vast empire. Rather than risk their own lives subjugating the hozen, jinyu and pandaren or fighting the endless mantid swarm as it sought to follow the kunchong ever deeper into their territory, the mogu decided a slave race constructed, created to do battle with their enemies would be ideal. So they traveled the length and breadth of the vale, choosing from the various reptiles of the place. The Vale's native crocolisk species seems a likely candidate for the ancestors of the saurok.
For a long while, the saurok served admirably, their fierce cunning making them adaptable shock troops for the empire. The mogu made the saurok bipedal, the better to wield weapons and use mogu tactics. They increased their servitors intelligence, the better to learn what their masters wanted from them. But what the mogu didn't anticipate is that the saurok would, in turn, develop a culture of cruelty, aggression and martial superiority. They saw themselves as superior to the races they fought and suppressed for the mogu. In time, imitating their creators, they came to see themselves as superior due to their strength as warriors. And eventually, they realized that it was the saurok, not the mogu, that were the ones keeping the empire intact. It was the saurok on the boundary of the wall, making war on the mantid. It was the saurok, not the mogu, keeping the jinyu, hozen and pandaren in their proper places. So why should the mogu rule, when it was the saurok doing the fighting? If might is the proof of superiority, it is the exercise of that might that defines it, and it was the saurok doing the exercising.
Saurok troops became surly and disobedient, demanding tribute from the slaves they oversaw and even eventually turning on their mogu commanders in the field if they didn't like their orders or didn't feel they were being compensated properly. The mogu had tolerated their servants cruelty when it poured down upon their slaves, but they did not accept it aimed at them - Emperor Dolan ordered the extermination of every single saurok in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, going so far as to tear their very souls from their bodies. Yet despite the mogu's best efforts, the saurok survived this initial purge and even fought back against their makers.
The mogu pursued the saurok into the Krasarang Wilds, but there they found themselves in a situation unfamiliar to them. They were fighting an enemy that had been educated in their tactics, on ground unfamiliar to them where they couldn't press their usual advantages of magical and technical prowess. The saurok would make guerrilla strikes upon mogu forces and then melt back into the swamps, making counterattack difficult. They would use their knowledge of the swamp, their superior numbers, and brutal savagery to destroy important mogu figures even at great cost to themselves. Emperor Dojan II, son of the emperor who had begun the saurok purge, was enraged at the saurok's obstinate refusal to die, and so he began a pogrom exceeding in brutality any before it. Not only did he erect a vast dungeon complex in the heart of Krasarang, he began methodically clear cutting the entire Krasarang area from atop the cliffs overlooking the saurok refuges. He would destroy the entire swamp to end the saurok.
Instead, the saurok ended him. In the dead of night, all that remained of the saurok legions, the fifth and seventh legion, climbed the cliffs and ambushed the emperor's forces. After a struggle, Dojan II was hurled from the cliff, his body lost forever to the Krasarang Wilds and the empire hurled into disarray for two years, time the saurok used to hide from the mogu's attention and survive the attempted purge.
This period of instability would in time lead to the end of the empire, as the pandaren slaves rose in methodical revolt against the mogu, having learned the lessons of the saurok purge. They did not allow the mogu to strike first, and in time, drove the mogu from power. In so doing, they absorbed the former mogu empire into the Empire of Pandaria, which in turn meant that no one was hunting the saurok any longer. Over the thousands of years, the reptilians have slowly rebuilt their numbers. Since they are as aggressive and violent towards one another as they are to everyone else, they haven't created any society larger than roving warbands as yet. Still, they are a growing threat, as they are willing and able to attack anyone and anything. With the mogu, mantid and sha all providing a distraction, it could well be the stealthy saurok who end up causing the most unaddressed havoc.
Next week, the grummles want to know what your luckydo is.
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.