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.
The history of Azeroth, as well as its origins, is often confusing and lacking in solid information. However, there are a few facts that are well known – once upon a time somewhere in the universe, there were great creatures known as the Titans. The Titans were an odd race of beings that were obsessed with creating order out of chaos. They traveled from world to world, setting things up so that life would progress in an orderly, structured fashion. Sort of like those people you can hire to organize your kitchens and closets.
Enter Azeroth. The Titans came to Azeroth and muddled with it, creating order out of the races that existed on it and tidying everything up, but there was a larger problem that took some intensive cleaning. Ancient creatures known as the Old Gods decided they'd really like to take over the nice chunk of rock -- and where the Titans were concerned with creating order and structure, the Old Gods wanted just the opposite. The Old Gods wanted chaos and destruction where the Titans wanted order and structure, and there was a great war between the two. In the end the Titans prevailed, but they discovered something that was more than a little disturbing – they couldn't simply kill the Old Gods. The Old Gods had integrated themselves too deeply into Azeroth, and destroying the Old Gods meant destroying Azeroth itself.
This presented a problem, but the Titans had a solution that they decided would work – they imprisoned the Old Gods deep beneath the earth, leaving them there to rot. After all of this, the Titans decided to put in some safeguards to make sure the planet would remain running smoothly, orderly, and without any grabby tentacled interference from below.
To that end, the Titans created five Aspects to watch over Azeroth, gigantic dragons imbued with the various powers necessary to monitor and keep tabs on the various parts of the planet. These Aspects were created by modifying the existing proto-drakes of the time; great primitive dragons that roamed the northern reaches of the world and were more than suitable for the Titan's intentions. The largest of these proto-drakes was Galakrond, and from Galakrond's offspring the five flights of dragons were created: red, blue, green, bronze, and black. For more information on the red dragonflight, check out this previous Know Your Lore. Today we'll be covering the most well known of the flights, Neltharion's brood, the black dragonflight.
While the Titans knew they needed creatures of the planet to watch over it, rather than just their own creations, the job itself was too big for just one being to keep an eye on. Each of the five Aspects were imbued with various powers and asked to watch over a specific aspect of the world of Azeroth: Neltharion the black dragon became Neltharion the Earth-Warder, and was empowered by the Titans with dominion over the earth and the deep places of Azeroth. The other Aspects had their own specialties, and each Aspect merrily went on their way to watch over the world, leaving the Titans free to wander off and find other planets to reorganize.
There was a problem with this plan, however. In creating Neltharion, the Titans ensured the earth and deep places of Azeroth would be watched over -- but they forgot that the Old Gods were quite powerful in their own right, and placing someone to watch over the earth would place them entirely too close to the Old Gods and their influence.
Neltharion and his flight watched over the earth, showing very little concern for the other races of Azeroth when it happened: the Old Gods, not content with simply being locked away, used their influence and presumably Neltharion's proximity to have a chat with the Aspect. And chat they did -- they spoke to the Aspect of power unimaginable, of the folly of the other dragon flights, of the possibility of betrayal from within. Neltharion slowly went insane, beginning to distrust not only the other flights, but his own.
Meanwhile, a bit of chaos had erupted elsewhere on the planet that wasn't at all related to the Old Gods or their servants. The Well of Eternity, a never-ending font of magical energy had attracted the attention of Sargeras, a former Titan who'd gone mad of his own accord and formed an army known as the Burning Legion. Sargeras wanted the Well and the powers it contained, and was slowly corrupting the kal'dorei from within to summon him to Azeroth and take over the world for his own.
The Old Gods saw this as a golden opportunity to spread a little chaos -- convincing Neltharion to create an artifact imbued with more power than any other, something that would allow him utter control over all of the dragon flights -- the Dragon Soul. Empowered by Neltharion's magic, the simple golden disc was made of Neltharion's blood and forged deep under the earth by Neltharion's goblin servants. The disc was magically shielded so that the other Aspects couldn't see within the disc or determine its ultimate purpose.
Once the disc was complete, it was time to be tested, and Neltharion caught one of the Burning Legion's demon army and used the Dragon Soul on it. The effects were immediate, the demon burning away to nothing; leaving only ash, and the demon's skull behind. Satisfied, Neltharion went to the other Dragon Aspects and told them he had an object of great power that could be used against the Burning Legion -- but it needed a little more kick to defeat the entire army. He convinced the Aspects to imbue the Dragon Soul with a portion of their power, and the power of all of the dragons in each of their flights, in order to defeat the Burning Legion once and for all.
This, of course, was a big fat lie. Once the dragons had gone along with his plan, the Dragon Soul was indeed much more powerful than before -- and capable of not only wiping out the Burning Legion, but controlling every dragon that had put a part of their essence into the thing. The flights sprung to attack, Neltharion at the lead. He channeled the Dragon Soul's power, destroying a large swath of demons with one swing of the golden disc -- and, to the Aspects' horror, a large swath of night elves and other allies fighting the demons as well.
And then Neltharion struck, revealing to the other Aspects at last the extent of his betrayal. The only dragon that had not given his powers to the Dragon Soul was Neltharion himself. With the artifact in hand, Neltharion was supreme. All races, all dragons would bow to his command. The other dragons tried to stop him to no avail – Malygos' Blue Dragonflight was nearly wiped out in the process.
Neltharion changed physically as a result of his madness and deception, his body cracking open, magma and fire flowing off of his chest, eyes burning with red fire. No longer Neltharion, he took the name Deathwing -- and the Dragon Soul bore a new name as well: the Demon Soul. In desperation, the Aspects and their flights shielded themselves and hid away as Neltharion flew back to his lair, literally falling apart. His goblin servants forged armor to hold the black dragon together and keep his body from breaking into pieces.
But the Demon Soul was not Neltharion's to keep -- it was stolen away by Malfurion Stormrage and used against the Burnning Legion as originally intended. After the Legion's defeat, the Dragon Aspects sealed the Demon Soul with their powers so that Neltharion could never use it again, and Malfurion hid the thing far, far away so that none would ever find it again. Famous last words.
Neltharion, no longer in possession of the artifact and unable to wield utter control over the other dragons, was incensed. He vowed to continue wreaking havoc on the lesser races -- i.e., anyone that didn't meet his approval. He vanished, unheard of for ten thousand years, and certainly working on something even more devastating than the Demon Soul in the meantime. The black dragonflight was without a leader per se -- but Deathwing's madness had taken its toll on the beleaguered flight. No longer earth warders, the flight fell into the same chaos as Deathwing's mind, trading their powers over earth and mountain for power over fire and magma.
Before Deathwing's disappearance, the black dragons had already started to emulate Deathwing's thoughts and actions, and after his disappearance, this trend continued. The black dragonflight is easily the most evil, sadistic and cruel of the five major flights, selfish and caring little for anything but their own gain. With Neltharion missing, the black flight soon fell into a civil war of sorts, with each dragon striking out against the other in an effort to display dominance and take over leadership of the black flight. In the meantime, black dragons also fought to eradicate the other flights of dragons as well -- but the other flights fought back. The life of a black dragon is to hunt, or be hunted -- either by one of the four other flights, or by other black dragons seeking dominance.