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.
In Azeroth's history, there's a distinct path that dragon evolution follows. First, there are the proto-drakes of Northrend. From these drakes came the other drakes of lower Azeroth, and the five flights that were developed to watch over the world; red, blue, green, bronze and black. The more the game is played out and the longer the story runs, the more we learn about the dragons -- why they're around, what their purpose is on Azeroth. Today, we're going to focus on one of the new flights of dragons, one that didn't see its creation on Azeroth, and instead finds its origins on the planet of Draenor: The Netherwing.
The genesis of the Netherwing is an odd story, some of which was explained in the article covering the Black Dragonflight last week. Deathwing the Destroyer, the by-now insane leader of the black flight had made a deal with Teron Gorefiend shortly after the orcs were defeated in the Second War. Gorefiend had been ordered by Ner'zhul to go to Azeroth and retrieve several artifacts of power that Ner'zhul needed to open dimensional gateways to other worlds. By doing this, Ner'zhul hoped to escape Draenor, and the influence of the Burning Legion, for good -- and take his people to another land in which they could begin to rebuild after the staggering losses from the wars, and the orcs corruption.
The gist of Deathwing's deal was this -- Deathwing and his black drakes would help Gorefiend find the artifacts he was looking for. In exchange, Deathwing wanted access to the Dark Portal so that he, some of his drakes, and some cargo he had could be transported to Draenor. They would continue assisting the orcs on the other side of the portal as long as the orcs left the drakes, and the cargo, alone. While Gorefiend wasn't sure he trusted Deathwing's motives entirely, the addition of drakes to their fighting forces would make things much, much easier -- and so he agreed.
The items that Deathwing wanted transported, of course, were dragon eggs -- eggs that Deathwing had gathered for the express purpose of breeding his own flight of dragons that would bow to none other but him. Why Draenor? Well, why settle for one world when you can have two of them? Deathwing wanted total domination over Azeroth, and domination over Draenor as well was just icing on the cake. And so Deathwing, his troops and his cargo traveled through the Dark Portal and into Draenor, where they met with Ner'zhul. Deathwing asked Ner'zhul for one more thing – the Skull of Gul'dan, a powerful magical artifact. While Ner'zhul didn't really want to part with it, he didn't exactly need it anymore, and so he handed it over. Deathwing left some of his troops behind with the orcs, and took the large chunk of his forces to Blade's Edge, along with the eggs.
Unfortunately, he wouldn't have it so easy. Alliance forces led by Turalyon had also crossed through the Dark Portal. They'd discovered Ner'zhul's plot to cross over to other worlds, and intended to stop it, as well as retrieving the artifacts Ner'zhul had stolen. The other thing the Alliance needed was the Skull of Gul'dan, in order to close the Dark Portal once and for all, and so Turalyon, the mage Khadgar, and the elven ranger Alleria Windrunner headed out to find the thing, soon coming across Blade's Edge and discovering the hiding place of the black flight, and the eggs.
Along with the eggs and the dragons was a new race of creatures called the Gronn. Led by Gruul, the gronn were annoyed (to say the very least) at the black dragon's intrusion. Together with the Alliance, they began to destroy the black dragon eggs that had been carefully stashed away -- and earned the ire of Deathwing in the process. Deathwing and Khadgar faced off, and Deathwing fled, dropping the Skull in the process.
Except that Turalyon and his army had destroyed most of the black dragon eggs, but not all of them. Some were left behind, scattered here and there -- certainly nowhere near enough for the great flight that Deathwing had envisioned, but still, plenty remained. The Alliance, despite their best efforts were not able to stop Ner'zhul from opening the portals, and he and what little forces he had fled through the nearest one. Deathwing too, fled through a portal back to Azeroth, not really wanting to stick around and see what happened next.
Draenor could not handle the stress of Ner'zhul's spellcasting. The portals he created literally ripped the world apart, the land itself stressed beyond all reckoning and began splitting into pieces. The black dragon eggs that were left behind were exposed to the energies of the Twisting Nether itself. Pure unbridled energy surged through the eggs, altering and changing the whelps contained within into new creatures, heretofore unseen anywhere -- nether dragons. All existing nether dragons were originally of Deathwing's brood, scattered to the Twisting Nether and left on their own.
The first appearance of the nether dragons was early, early on, way back in Warcraft III: TFT. In the Blood Elf campaign, players help Illidan on Draenor, closing the many portals that Ner'zhul had opened, as Magtheridon was summoning demons and other creatures through them to assist him in his takeover of Draenor -- now called Outland. While most of these portals summoned the standard felhounds and demon lords players are accustomed to seeing, there were also these odd little dragons called Nether Drakes that spewed forth from the portals to make a nuisance of themselves.
The nether dragons are unlike any other dragon out there -- partially corporeal and partially ethereal, their bodies are composed of energies from the Twisting Nether, glowing with an odd translucency. Allied with no one, they considered themselves a kind of orphan -- after all, their father had abandoned them as soon as the situation looked dire. It's been stated they live primarily in the Twisting Nether itself -- which would explain why they were coming through Magtheridon's portals... sort of. They aren't demonic in origin -- they were simply black dragons that had the unfortunate experience of being radiated with the energies of the Twisting Nether before they were even really born.
Regardless, it wouldn't be the last time players saw the nether dragons. In the Burning Crusade expansion, players were introduced to the Netherwing dragonflight, a group of nether dragons that made their home on the broken remains of Draenor. The Netherwing were scattered all over Outland, but primarily made their home in Shadowmoon Valley.