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.
When the draenei first came to Azeroth, they landed in spectacular fashion, tearing up an island off the coast of Kalimdor. New draenei players are taken on a journey through the wreckage and the mess, picking up the pieces and dealing with the unique effects the crash had on both flora and fauna. Several years later, and it seems the draenei are still doing clean-up work -- although that may be more due to Azuremyst being perpetually stuck in the past for mechanics purposes, rather than story content.
Why bring this up? Because it's not the first time the draenei have shattered a world. On Draenor, the new inhabitants of the planet landed in similar fashion, tearing up a great chunk of Draenor's landscape in Nagrand. Both times, the incidents were due to faulty ships -- and both times, the surrounding region was affected. But while Azeroth's torn landscape and blood-tinged skies were obvious demarcations of narrowly-avoided disaster, the landing of the Genedar was viewed as something different entirely to the natives of the world. To the orcs, it was unknown -- and then thought, perhaps, to be a gift from the ancestors.
They couldn't be further from the truth.
Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains several spoilers for Warlords of Draenor. If you are avoiding spoilers while you are leveling, come back when you've finished Nagrand.
The orcs of Draenor had a society that relied heavily on shaman -- mystics who could commune with the elements, the spirits, the ancestors. We don't know when the practice began, but we do know that it changed dramatically with the arrival of the Genedar. In our universe, the ship became a mountain, called Oshu'gun -- Mountain of Spirits -- by the orcs, and the reverent subject of many a spiritual journey. If a orc wished to commune with the spirits, a journey to Oshu'gun was almost a necessity.
In Warlords, the story is similar, but the threads have been woven slightly differently than our own familiar universe. Oshu'gun is still a revered site, still carries the name Mountain of Spirits. Within its halls still lies the dying naaru, K'ure. In addition to this, a darkness came upon the skies when Oshu'gun originally fell on the world -- an anomaly the orcs called the Dark Star. The Dark Star changed the shaman of the world -- where once they could speak the language of the elements, the world, the spirits, now they had something new to contend with -- the voice of darkness, of the shadow.
And within Oshu'gun's halls, the halls of the abandoned Genedar, lies proof of those who succumbed to the shadow's call. The Pale. These shriveled husks of orcs have forsaken their former lives, taking up residence underground and apparently losing any remnant of sanity they once possessed in the process. According to the most recent bestiary, the Pale were once shaman who, upon undergoing the rites of coming of age, succumbed to terrible visions and otherworldly whispers. Overcome by madness, they fled to the comfort of dark caverns and live on, whispering frantic warnings and cryptic messages in the dark.
The Shadowmoon had warnings about this -- etchings that told the tale of the Dark Star's fall, of how those that chose to speak with the newly discovered shadows were drawn to defiling the spirits of the ancestors. They forbade all use of the shadow, and let the Dark Star be what it was -- a forboding warning. Perhaps the Shadowmoon saw, in those early days, the signs of what would eventually become the Pale, and sought to avoid it. Perhaps they simply recognized evil for what it was.
And it's telling that in the bestiary, it's shaman who are coming of age that succumb to the shadow's call. Lacking the experience and wisdom of their more experienced counterparts, perhaps these young orcs simply weren't prepared to handle the evocative call of the shadow -- or perhaps they thought they would be more powerful than their elders, were they to master the shadow's call. Either way, the results were always the same -- a shriveled husk of an orc, hiding in dark caves and preying on whatever hapless victims happened to find their way into the darkness.
This is all, of course, because of the darkened state of the naaru K'ure, and the Dark Star -- another darkened naaru, far above the world. While little is known of the specifics of the naaru life cycle, it is known that when they enter a darkened state, they attract the spirits of the dead. On Draenor, it appears that perhaps they attract the souls of the living, too -- leaving them to wither away into gaunt, frightening mockeries of their former selves, forever hiding from the light.
The interesting part about the Pale is that while there is a strong collection of them found in Nagrand, the creatures can be found all over Draenor. And although they might be mad, they are powerful. In Frostfire Ridge, the Pale are found using dark magics to warp and control beasts beneath the earth -- and it catches the attention of Cho'gall. Not only does it catch his attention, but he says very specifically that the Pale are drawing on the powers of the naaru in Nagrand.
The upper reaches of Frostfire are a lengthy distance from Oshu'gun. Two continents and a sea lie between one point and the other, yet the Pale are still completely capable of using K'ure's powers -- suggesting the naaru's powers extend far, far beyond Nagrand's reach. Make no mistake, the naaru are powerful -- and in the waning period in which the naaru suffer through the void, they are just as powerful as they are in life.
They may look like the orcish version of the Wretched, blood elves that have succumbed to their magical addiction, but the Pale are a greater threat. For while the Wretched have been wholly consumed by their desire for magic, the motives of the Pale are still unclear. Whether they are working in conjunction with the darkened naaru in the name of some greater plan it has in mind, or working on their own, the Pale have demonstrated that there is a method to their madness, a riddle, a puzzle, a goal that only they, and the darkened naaru they dutifully follow, can begin to understand.
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.