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Know Your Lore: The mysteries of Draenor

Matthew Rossi

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.

It's funny how much we don't know about Draenor yet, considering we've not only had it as part of the setting since Warcraft II, but we've seen it in WCIII, the novel Rise of the Horde, and we even traveled to its shattered remnants for an entire expansion in Burning Crusade. Despite all that, the living world - the place that produced the orcish people, was home to a mighty ogre empire, gave birth to titanic beings like the gronn and sheltered the draenei for hundreds of years is still somewhat unknown to us.

We've seen bits and pieces of the unknown world drip out since Blizzcon, but it's all still so tantalizingly vague. Some of these lands are entirely new to us, as they were lost when Draenor became Outland, torn apart by Ner'zhul's use of the Legion's portal magics - lands like the Spires of Arak, home to the Arakkoa and the Frostfire Ridge, home to the Frostwolves and a land of glaciers and volcanoes - a land that typifies the nature of Draenor itself. The planet, or at least the one continent we have any details on, seems to be a land of violent extremes which breeds a harsh, survivalist mindset in its native children.

Make no mistake - the orcs are not the only race native to these harsh (some might even say savage) lands. The ogres sail north from another land to lay claim to Nagrand's coasts, make their presence and that of a tottering empire known even in the Frostfire Ridge, and behind them lurks the menace of the gronn. In the Spires of Arak, the proud Arakkoa burn those they capture alive in tribute to the sun. This is not a world where any live in peace - to live in harmony with nature on Draenor is to live a life of constant struggle, in a kill or be killed fight red in the shed blood of predator and prey.

We know there are more lands in Draenor than we have heard much about as yet. The land of Farhalon, for example, is at this time an isolated island to the north of the map, and we have little to no details about the land or its people. It was said to be lush, one of the most beautiful places on Draenor proper, but how the Draenei settled here and how their settlement shaped the land around it we don't know as yet.

To the south and west of Farahlon lies the badlands of Gorgrond, home of the gronn and now, the very heart of the Iron Horde's industrial empire. It is unknown how the Gronn, massive giants who haunted the region, have been tamed by the Iron Horde and used as war machines, but they have.

What is known about Gorgrond at this time is that it once features at least one, if not several, oases which now appear to have been converted over to use as gigantic steam belching factories and foundries dedicated entirely to the Iron Horde and its war machine. It's said that Gorgrond is now a place of steam and industry. That in and of itself is interesting, as it clashes with the mesas, dusty trails and rocky vistas we see in the brief reveal trailer - how do the Warsong outriders deal with this conversion of their home? We know that Blackhand and his Blackrock orcs are heavily involved in this switch to industrialization - are there conflicts between these orc clans?

West of Gorgrond rises the inhospitable Frostfire Ridge, home to orcs and ogres in conflict. These ogres, the Bladespire, live within the monolithic Bladespire Fortress, described as a massive rock redoubt dominating the region. Considering the contrast between the Ridge's volcanic activity and its glaciation, the Bladespire Fortress appears to be a tempting target for conquest by the Frostwolves, another clan of orcs whose commitment to a harsh survivalist lifestyle puts them in conflict with their ogre neighbors. It's unknown what connection the Bladespire have, if any, with either the gronn to the east or the ogres who have settled the coast of Nagrand. It appears that the Horde forces that make landfall on Draenor will have the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the Frostwolves by helping them conquer their ogre rivals and seizing Bladespire Fortress.

To Gorgrond's east the Tanaan Jungle dominates a peninsula of its own jutting out into the ocean. This verdant tropical forest is known for its natural dangers - so fearsome that at times it is said that 'even the plants have teeth'. Those that settle in Tanaan's depths must be ready to fight for their lives. The region is seamed with valleys hidden beneath dense canopies of trees and other vegetation, but even here, in this primordial forest the Iron Horde's presence is felt - the axes of the industrial juggernaut fell more timber every day as work continues on a colossal project to build an unknown weapon said to be able to 'rend the gates of space and time for conquest unending.' The Iron Horde will not be satisfied with conquering its fearsome natural world of Draenor when it knows other worlds lay fat and ripe for the picking, and Tanaan appears to be their planned base for the launching of this war of the worlds.

Bordered on the west by Nagrand and the Zangar Sea, to the north by Frostfire Ridge and Gorgrond and to the east by the Tanaan Jungle, Talador was until recently the heart of draenei civilization on Draenor. While Farahlon was perhaps draenei society at its most beautiful and Karabor one of its most important religious sites, it was in Talador that the magnificent Shattrath and the devotional Auchindoun together dominated the river valley, the center of the continent being one of lakes and rivers fed from the northern Zangar Sea. Before the rise of the Iron Horde, Talador lay fully in draenei hands - now its greatest city (described as a museum of original draenei culture) Shattrath lies in Iron Horde hands, and Auchindoun (the magnificent necropolis, a mausoleum city built around a mysterious purpose) is threatened. With the Iron Horde not interested in trading with their neighbors, the draenei are on the defensive here.

As for Nagrand itself, things are hardly peaceful in this place, despite it being the neutral meeting ground of orcish society long before the rise of the Iron Horde. As mentioned before, the rugged southern coastline of the region is now under ogre occupation, and these seagoing ogres intend to conquer the entirety of Nagrand if given the chance. Meanwhile, as the Throne of the Elements plays host to the raw elemental spirits that once dominated orcish shamanism, the ancient diamond mountain Oshu'gun, so central to orcish ancestor worship, is also a focus for the draenei and contains a secret about their arrival on draenor hundreds of years ago.

To the south of Talador, the Spires of Arak jut upwards, jagged and nearly impassible rock spikes between swampy forests, where the avian Arakkoa look down upon all that they consider theirs and all those they consider beneath them in more ways than simple altitude. Inhospitable to outsiders, the Arakkoa take great pleasure in immolating any that come into their clutches for the greater glory of the sun, which they either revere or simply propitiate through their pyrotic acts of blood sacrifice. Aside from these malevolent bird-people, not much is known of this region.

Finally, to the east of the Spires and south across the Shadowed Seas from the Tanaan Jungle sits the impressive Shadowmoon Valley, a land somehow fallen into perpetual night. Draenor's moon, the Blue Lady, is forever visible in the skies of the Shadowmoon Valley, and many of the native orc tribes study prophetic visions in its manifold circles of stone. Shadowmoon Valley is the home of Ner'zhul and his Shadowmoon Clan of seers. Also present in the valley is the magnificent Temple of Karabor, a draenei fortress-tomb rivaling Auchindoun or Shattrath for size, scope and importance to the draenei people. However, the temple is not safe - the Iron Horde forces besiege it with their massive siege gronn, and it is rumored that a sect of orcs who have fully embraced demonic magic plot from subterranean cave complexes to seize the temple and its rumored ancient secrets for their own.

These tantalizing bits and pieces of the total story are all we know so far of the Draenor we'll be visiting, the world that was. There are places beyond this - to the south, the ancient homeland of the ogres slumbers, undisturbed as yet by the Iron Horde and its growing war of conquest - and beyond that lies the total unknown.
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.

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