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.
Patch 5.2 is almost here, bringing new stories and development to Mists of Pandaria. The story presentation in Mists so far has been a vast, vast improvement on the convoluted storylines in Cataclysm. While Cataclysm left many players wondering what, exactly, was going on, Mists has been by and large a seamless storytelling experience integrated into questing, raids, dungeons, scenarios and daily quests.
But not everyone participates in everything. Sometimes all you want to do is raid or PvP -- but you want to know the story, too. If you've been looking for details on lore you may have missed, lore that is important as we move to patch 5.2, we've got you covered. Don't worry, there are no patch 5.2 spoilers in here. But there are plenty for everything that's happened in 5.0 and 5.1, so reader beware.
Mists of Pandaria
Thousands of years ago, before the War of the Ancients and the Sundering, the last Emperor of Pandaria learned of the approaching War and continental shift.
Wanting to keep his empire free of all strife, he sought out a way to free Pandaria from the rest of the continent of Kalimdor. In doing so, he discovered the Sha -- terrible creatures that were brought forth by negative emotion and thought. Until Emperor Shaohao dealt with the Sha, he could do nothing for his people. And so, Shaohao fought the Sha one by one, imprisoning them upon their defeat. He established the Shado-pan, a group of Pandaria's strongest, to watch over the Sha and make sure they would never get out of control. He instructed his people to live each day to its fullest, and sleep each night with peaceful thoughts.
Instructions given, Emperor Shaohao then ascended the Terrace of Eternal Spring and became one with Pandaria, enshrouding it in dense mists away from sight and separating from the continent of Kalimdor. To this day, Pandaria has been shrouded in these same mists and tucked away from prying eyes, its residents content and above all else, living in balance with the world around them.
And then we showed up. The Alliance and Horde are steeped in negative emotions at this point in history. So what's the first thing the Horde and Alliance do, once they arrive on Pandaria's shores? They recruit the native races of the Jade Forest into a mighty army and pit the two races against each other in a climactic battle that clashes at the foot of the Jade Serpent statue. The sheer force of negative emotions was more than enough to release the Sha in full force, all over Pandaria.
Over in the Dread Wastes, the Sha of Fear permeated the home of the mantid, corrupting the Empress and driving her to cause the mantid to swarm. The mantid were on a clockwork cycle that the pandaren had long been able to predict -- this sudden swarm of the mantid caught them completely by surprise. And because of the early mantid activity, the yaungol of Townlong Steppes were forced to evacuate into Kun-Lai Summit, engaging in brutal battles with the pandaren who had been settled there for years.
It's an explosive chain reaction that is causing Pandaria to crumble. Questing through Pandaria will fill you in on the complete story, but the short of it is this -- we have messed up. Big time. It is up to us to clean up our mess, and that is what questing to level 90 is mostly spent doing -- helping the pandaren pick up the pieces after we've broken their fragile ecosystem beyond recognition.
But the mantid and yaungol are far from the only threat. A race of stone beings that enslaved the pandaren and ruled over them with an iron fist, the mogu, are suddenly in the process of uprising. The pandaren viewed this as highly unusual; while there have been occasional reports of mogu, it has never been this bad in the ten thousand years Pandaria has been hidden away. Further questing reveals that the mogu are working with the Zandalari, who we supposedly defeated back in Cataclysm. But what are the Zandalari after, and why are the mogu involved?
Dungeons and raids
How do the dungeons and raids fit into the story?
Temple of the Jade Serpent The Temple was overrun by the Sha of Doubt, directly due to our disastrous actions in the Jade Forest. Thus, it is our responsibility to help clean up that mess.
Stormstout Brewery While not directly related to the main story of Pandaria, we're helping Chen Stormstout clean up his family brewery. This is much more lighthearted mission than most.
Shado-pan Monastery The head of the Shado-pan has been possessed by the Sha of Hatred, and once again, it falls to use to clean up the mess we've caused.
Mogu'shan Palace The mogu are up to something, but we don't really know what that something is. However, three clans of mogu have converged at Mogu'shan Palace, and perhaps if we explore the palace, we can discover why the mogu are suddenly active again.
Gate of the Setting Sun The mantid are threatening to overwhelm the continent with their sudden, early swarm. The Serpent's Spine stands as the one thing keeping the mantid at bay, but it's about to be overrun.
Siege of Niuzao Temple Niuzao's temple is being threatened by mantid as well. As one of the mysterious August Celestials, Niuzao is a being of immense power -- and he must be protected at all costs. The mantid have to be stopped before they can encroach upon Niuzao's home and use whatever power it may contain to further their cause.
Mogu'shan Vaults The history of the mogu lies deep within Mogu'shan Vaults, and if we want to begin to understand who the mogu are and why they have come back, the vaults are a good place to start. But along the way, we discover something far more horrifying -- the mogu and the Zandalari are working together to unlock ancient magic, secrets that may have been hidden away by the Titans themselves.
Heart of Fear Enough is enough -- if we expect to stop the mantid menace, we must strike at the source. The Empress has been possessed, and the only option is to put an end to her life, the sooner the better. Upon defeating the Empress, we are treated to the appearance of the Sha of Fear, who flees for parts unknown.
Terrace of Endless Spring This is where the Sha of Fear has landed. The Terrace is the most sacred of places in Pandaria, holding the secrets of the mysterious waters that feed the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and in turn, the Valley of the Four Winds. If the Sha of Fear is successful in corrupting Pandaria's life-source, it would spell certain disaster for everyone on the continent.
While Mists of Pandaria began with the explosive conflict between Alliance and Horde, it quickly shifted its path to address Pandaria's residents, and what we did to them. Patch 5.0 was the patch of cleaning up and trying to atone for the chaos we unleashed upon the continent. Daily quests for the Klaxxi reveal the true nature of the Sha, while daily quests for the Shado-pan and Golden Lotus reveal what the mogu are ultimately up to ... resurrecting the last, most powerful Emperor of the mogu. Lei Shen, the Thunder King. And as our luck would have it, they are entirely successful in that mission.
Patch 5.1 and the Divine Bell
Patch 5.1 heralded the arrival of the Alliance and Horde fleets in full, along with their military leaders. For Alliance, this meant that King Varian Wrynn finally arrived to find his son and see just what the Horde were up to on this new continent. For the Horde, this meant that Garrosh Hellscream was finally able to set foot on this new land and see for himself how best to conquer it. Political tensions in the Horde have been very high up to this point, and although Vol'jin traveled to Pandaria with the intent of keeping Garrosh under close watch, the Warchief promptly sent him on a mission for the Horde.
It was a mission from which Garrosh ultimately hoped Vol'jin would never return. He set Vol'jin up, sending along members of the Kor'kron to quietly assassinate the troll chieftain. While Vol'jin was busy being murdered, Garrosh put the Echo Isles under martial law, effectively imprisoning any Darkspear remaining on the continent. And while all that was being taken care of, Garrosh decided to take his cue from the best conquerors Pandaria had to offer -- the mogu.
In order to accomplish this, he needed people that were intimately familiar with arcane and ancient magic. Luckily, Garrosh had the blood elves to dig up the secrets of the mogu. This exploration resulted in the discovery of an artifact so powerful that the Thunder King called it the "voice of the gods" -- the Divine Bell. Stories told of the Divine Bell's powers and its ability to fuel the hatred of the mogu, leading to extraordinary strength on the battlefield. This sounded excellent to Garrosh, and he set about finding the Bell to use it for bolstering the Horde's forces.
Meanwhile, Varian Wrynn arrived on Pandaria. Rather than engage in all-out war, Varian has instead chosen a wiser, more patient tactic -- observing the Horde, watching their every move, predicting their next, and beating them to the punch. This meant that while Garrosh was searching for the Divine Bell, the Alliance were fully aware of what was going on. And it also meant that when Garrosh finally located the Bell, the Alliance beat him to the punch and whisked it away to Darnassus.
But Garrosh had something on his side -- the Sunreavers of the Kirin Tor. He had the Sunreavers open a portal to Darnassus so that the Bell could be retrieved. Once it was back in his possession, Garrosh prepared to unleash its power. However, the Alliance were prepared for this possibility as well.
Prince Anduin Wrynn had been searching for a way to counter the Bell's power ever since he heard the Horde was looking for the artifact. After much searching, he managed to discover and put together the Harmonic Mallet, an artifact created by the pandaren specifically to counter the Bell. One he had the Mallet, he could then confront Garrosh before the Bell's terrible powers could be unleashed.
The final clash was explosive. Garrosh had the Divine Bell, and as he rang it, it became apparent what kind of powers the mogu were using. The Divine Bell brought forth negative emotion, which in turn brought forth the Sha. Unable to withstand the Sha's powers, Garrosh's intended army succumbed and crumbled. Left with nothing, Garrosh was confronted by Prince Anduin, who promptly used the Harmonic Mallet to crack the Bell and render it useless. Enraged, Garrosh struck at Anduin but missed, instead shattering the Divine Bell and crushing Anduin Wrynn in the process.
As far as Garrosh was concerned, Prince Anduin Wrynn was dead. He'd struck a devastating blow to Alliance morale.
There is one more twist to this tale, and it plays heavily into patch 5.2. In order to harness the Bell's powers, Garrosh had to make use of the blood elves, a race who he had quite frankly ignored throughout Cataclysm. Over the process of finding the Bell and divining its secrets, it became incredibly apparent to Lor'themar Theron that Garrosh was hardly concerned about the blood elves as potential allies. They were simply tools to be used, and not worthy of any kind of respect. Because of this Lor'themar was tentatively considering leaving the Horde and renewing the sin'dorei's ties with the Alliance.
Sadly, it would never come to pass. When the Sunreavers used their magic to retrieve the Bell from Darnassus, they left behind just enough of a trail that Lady Jaina Proudmoore, leader of the Kirin Tor and former ruler of Theramore, was able to trace it. Considering Theramore had been blown to arcane dust the last time the Horde got their hands on a priceless artifact, Jaina was less than pleased that the Sunreavers, who were members of the supposedly neutral organization she led, had openly assisted the Horde in obtaining another dangerous artifact.
Jaina was beyond furious about this, tearing through Dalaran and imprisoning every Sunreaver she happened upon within the Violet Hold. Those that dared to fight back were executed on the spot. Vereesa Windrunner was furious as well, having lost her husband during Theramore's destruction, and she unleashed the Silver Covenant to dispatch with any Sunreavers that Jaina didn't find. When Varian Wrynn caught wind of the purge, he was livid. Jaina and the Silver Covenant had systematically ruined any chance Varian had of bringing the sin'dorei into the Alliance.
Although many were killed or taken prisoner, some Sunreavers managed to escape Dalaran and flee to Silvermoon City. Lor'themar, angered by Jaina's actions, ordered the Sunreavers to join Grand Magister Rommath's mage forces. Although the sin'dorei no longer wish to join the Alliance, they are just as unwilling to follow Garrosh's commands -- in fact, Lor'themar blames Garrosh just as much as he blames Jaina for what happened in Dalaran.
And somewhere in Pandaria, two very important figures are recovering from terrible injuries ... Prince Anduin Wrynn, and the Darkspear leader, Vol'jin. Both live, and both still have tales to be told. But until then, we're going to have to come to terms with a far greater threat. The Thunder King lives, and as long as he's alive, all of Pandaria -- and perhaps all of Azeroth -- is in danger.
What happens next? Patch 5.2 will tell the tale.
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.