For hunters in vanilla WoW, it was the pinnacle of weapons -- a bow with incredibly powerful stats. But Rhok'delar wasn't without its issues, mainly concerning the ability to change the bow into a staff but not being able to use both staff and bow at the same time. This was eventually changed so that hunters could have both Rhok'delar and its counterpart, Lok'delar, Stave of the Ancient Keepers, after completing the Rhok'delar quest chain. And if that weren't enough, hunters also could obtain the Ancient Sinew Wrapped Lamia, an at the time unheard of 24-slot bag perfect for carrying around all the ammo a hunter could ask for.
Though all three of these items were only of epic quality, like Benediction, Rhok'delar represented a legendary test of skills for the player who tried to obtain it. Although Benediction only had one event for priests to frantically heal through, Rhok'delar contained four of these trials, all of which had to be completed without even a pet to assist. It was a brutal test of shooting, traps and hunter cunning, but those who completed the chain were richly rewarded.
And it all began with one unassuming petrified leaf, found in the fiery depths of Molten Core.
If you're thinking that the name Rhok'delar bears an odd resemblance to another weapon of the time, Quel'Serrar, you'd be right. This is because both of these weapons' origins hail back from the days of the ancient kaldorei -- or in the case of Rhok'delar, the Ancients, giant, animate trees that the night elves viewed as powerful beings akin to gods in their own right. These ancient protectors of the forests have been constant companions for the kaldorei, watching over the night elves as diligently as the forests they are sworn to protect.
The story of Rhok'delar begins in a once a lush land of forests frequented by the night elves and protected by Cenarius, more than 10,000 years ago. When the War of the Ancients reared its head and the Burning Legion began to invade, this tranquil forest was soon overrun by fel-tainted energy and swarming with demons, satyr, and other unpleasantness. And this is how Felwood got its name. Though the night elves tried for thousands of years to cleanse the land, they had very little success.
As for the Ancients that roamed the tranquil woods, they too were changed by the horrific transformation of the land around them. The former protectors of Felwood were soon corrupted just as the land and locked into a petrified state, unable to continue their existence. But their spirits still lingered somewhere within the petrified trees, which is where the Ancient Petrified Leaf comes in. Hunters traveling through Molten Core that were lucky enough to beat Majordomo Executus had a chance of obtaining the leaf.
Accepting the leaf began a quest that was the first of many trials the hunter would face on their long journey. All that the quest text stated was that the hunter in question needed to find the owner of the leaf. That was all; no other hints were provided. Taking the leaf to the Irontree Woods resulted in the discovery of three Ancient spirits, Hastat, Stoma and Vartrus. The leaf, in fact, belonged to Vartrus, although how it got into Molten Core was never fully revealed.
But Vartrus was thankful for the visit and the return of his leaf, and he offered an exchange of services to the hunter that returned it. Despite the fact that the Ancients were no longer corporeal, they still wished to drive the taint of the Burning Legion from Azeroth for good. And scattered across Azeroth were four agents of the Burning Legion, corrupting all that they came in contact with. The agents had to be destroyed, but there was a caveat: A hunter had to engage these demons alone. Taking anyone along would guarantee the swift flight of the demon -- and this included a hunter's constant companion, his pet.
What followed was a stretch of four different trials, each requiring the use of specific hunter abilities to persevere and triumph over the demons. But that only completed one part of the bow. The lucky hunter who completed the trials still had one task left ahead of them: finding the perfect string. Stoma was happy enough to enchant a string for the bow, but he needed a Mature Black Dragon Sinew to do so. And that required killing black dragons -- specifically, either the black dragons of the Burning Steppes, or Onyxia, the Brood Mother.
Returning the heads of all four demonic agents and the black dragon sinew resulted in the creation of Rhok'delar, as thanks for the hunter's efforts. Though the Ancient Keepers themselves were petrified, the bow was a testament to the creatures they once had been so long ago, with green leaves and eternally blossoming flowers gracing the weapon's curves. For an added bonus, Hastat, the last Ancient spirit, was willing to create a quiver made from one of his own leaves. To bind the leaf into a proper quiver, Hastat required a Mature Blue Dragon Sinew. This item could be farmed from blue dragons in Winterspring or the blue dragon Azuregos in Azshara.
Although the Ancients of Felwood are no longer able to carry out their duties, the Rhok'delar chain was their attempt to fortify and reward worthy players so that they could continue where the Ancients could not. And though the quest chain has now been removed and quivers are a thing of the past, hunters that are lucky enough to be carrying Rhok'delar are carrying a piece of history that goes back much, much farther than the days of vanilla. A history of stalwart defenders that faced the demons of the Burning Legion and fell, defenders whose spirits linger on, forever steadfast and diligent.