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.
While I had plenty of fun with Horde politics, I couldn't really cover the Horde side of the game without giving equal time to the Alliance half as well, so the next few weeks will be catching up on Alliance politics. Admittedly the Alliance hasn't had quite as tumultuous a time as the Horde, but there are still several factors coming into play that haven't previously been addressed. Varian Wrynn may make an ... exciting and explosive new leader, but the rest of the Alliance we see today is still fairly new as well. Today we'll be looking at the Alliance race with the largest impact on both the Alliance, and Azeroth both past and present day -- the night elves.
While the events of the War of the Ancients and the Sundering are well known, the events surrounding the night elves' allegiance to the Alliance are still a little cloudy. Was it simply gratitude to the Alliance for their help during the Third War and the events at Hyjal that caused them to join? If so, why did they turn away from the Horde, when they were present at Hyjal as well? For the night elves, the answer boils down to this: It's all about the trees.
The Horde picked up members left and right when the orcs moved from the Eastern Kingdoms to Durotar, and with a new settlement comes the need for two things: land, and something to build all the new buildings for new settlements with. The forests of Ashenvale proved an excellent source of lumber, but also proved to be a tremendously bad choice, as the night elves who watched over the land were extremely protective of those trees. With the death of Cenarius at the hands of Grom Hellscream and his forces, the forest itself lacked the guardian that had helped the night elves watch over it for centuries. This caused the night elves to look to the Alliance for help.
But it's not really that simple -- it's never simple when it comes to night elf history, not even when trying to trace their roots. While the night elves mean well, and have always meant well over the course of history, time and time again they cause events that shake the very foundations of Azeroth. It could be argued these events simply aren't their fault. It could be argued the elves were simply trying to do the best with what they had at the time. But the fact remains that it was their actions that caused the Sundering that split the world. Sure, it was one faction of night elves, the quel'dorei or "Highborne" -- but if the kaldorei of ages past hadn't settled by the Well of Eternity, if they hadn't tempted fate and began to experiment with the Well's energies, the Burning Legion's attentions likely never would have been drawn to Azeroth.
If the Burning Legion had never encroached upon Azeroth, there would have been no Sundering, no orcs, no Medivh, no Sargeras, no need for the Council of Tirisfal, no Arthas, no Lich King, no ... you get where I'm headed, right? The Highborne of kaldorei society made what was likely the largest mistake in the history of Azeroth, all because the Well and its powers were interesting. Yet the night elves were supposedly under the watchful eye of Elune (who, by the way, is not a naaru, guys -- as stated in the second paragraph of the article, that post was pure speculation). Elune did ... absolutely nothing about her errant followers. Thus the Well, the War of the Ancients, thus the Sundering and the need for the Alliance today.
Despite the actions of the Highborne, were it not for the War of the Ancients and Sundering of Azeroth, the Alliance as we know it today simply wouldn't exist. And despite the actions of the Highborne, there were a section of kaldorei that knew better and did their best to stop the Burning Legion from taking over Azeroth. These night elves were led by Tyrande Whisperwind and Malfurion Stormrage after the Sundering to Hyjal Summit, where they would eventually settle due to the events that occurred once they reached the peak.
The events involved Malfurion's brother, Illidan Stormrage. Illidan and Malfurion had both expressed a romantic interest in Tyrande, a long-time childhood friend who joined the priesthood and during the war was promoted to the position of High Priestess of Elune. Young at the time, Tyrande nonetheless took over the position of leadership with the help of Malfurion, who she'd fallen in love with. While Malfurion followed the druidic path taught to him by the demigod Cenarius, Illidan's talents led him to working with the Well's energies. When it was revealed that the Well had to be destroyed in order to save the world, Illidan filled seven vials with water from the Well of Eternity and kept them close. After the Sundering, he traveled to a small lake atop the highest peaks of Mount Hyjal and poured three of the vials into the lake, transforming it into a new Well of Eternity.
Given that the elves had just witnessed what the Well of Eternity could do to the planet, this did not go over well with Malfurion and Tyrande. Malfurion tried to explain to Illidan that it was the Well, and more specifically the chaotic energies and arcane powers in it that had gotten them all into trouble in the first place, but Illidan wouldn't listen -- he believed that the Well was needed should the Burning Legion ever return. The thought that it was the Well's existence that had caused the Legion to surface in the first place never occurred to him. Angered at his brother's sheer stupidity and lack of contrition for his actions, Malfurion ordered him imprisoned deep below Hyjal.
Malfurion was, in a word, stuck. He couldn't destroy the new Well -- doing so could possibly create another Sundering. So he sought the advice of the Aspects of the dragon flights that had helped the night elves during the War. The Aspects were understandably horrified about the new Well, but they agreed that destroying it wouldn't be a good idea, so they came up with a plan to monitor it and keep the mistakes that caused the Sundering from happening again.
Alexstrasza planted an acorn from the Mother Tree G'Hanir in the Well's waters, which swiftly grew into the World Tree Nordrassil. Ysera then linked Nordrassil to the Emerald Dream. Through the tree, she would rebuild the world -- but the Emerald Dream needed more than just herself to sustain it while she was working on this. Thus the druids of night elf society were bound to sleep for centuries at a time and roam the Emerald Dream, helping her keep it free from corruption. Nozdormu gave the night elves the greatest gift of all: As long as the World Tree stood, the night elves would remain immortal. This would hopefully keep even the most corrupt of night elves from ever trying to harm Nordrassil or the Well beneath it.
This is why Tyrande, Malfurion, Illidan and so many other elves that were present at the War of the Ancients 10,000 years ago are still alive and well today. With 10,000 years of life experience, the night elves knew a lot about the world around them and about the folly and inherently chaotic nature of the arcane. Malfurion, as the first druid Azeroth had ever seen, slept and dwelled within the Emerald Dream, and Tyrande was left to lead the kaldorei alone.
Years later, Tyrande awakened Malfurion due to the events surrounding Dath'remar and the Highborne survivors. Suffering from withdrawal, the Highborne rebelled and released a magic storm upon Ashenvale. For their actions, they were exiled. Malfurion returned once again to the Emerald Dream, despite Tyrande's protests -- he had to, as part of the oath the kaldorei had given Ysera. Tyrande was left alone to lead her people for thousands of years while Malfurion slept.
The loss of her beloved didn't keep her from being productive, however. While he was sleeping, she formed the Sentinels and led them along with her lieutenant, Shandris Feathermoon. The Sentinels were created as an elite fighting force of kaldorei women that patrolled the forests and protected them from encroachment. While Malfurion and his fellow sleeping druids roamed the Emerald Dream and protected nature from that vantage point, the Sentinels took a more direct approach to keeping watch.
Things were quiet for thousands of years until one day, Shandris and the Shadowleaf Sentinels discovered something unsettling. Green-skinned invaders had come to the forest's edge and were systematically cutting down all the trees. To make it worse, the unthinkable then happened -- Cenarius, the demigod of nature that had originally taught Malfurion the druidic arts, was killed by a group of these invaders. Shandris and her Sentinels hurried to find Tyrande and inform her of the invaders and Cenarius' demise -- and while the news upset Tyrande greatly, there was something darker on the horizon, something that she couldn't fathom.
This is where it gets interesting. The orcs who had killed Cenarius, led by Grom Hellscream, were all redeemed with the help of Thrall, Cairne Bloodhoof and Jaina Proudmoore, the human leader of Theramore. Thrall and Jaina had been brought together by a Prophet who informed the two that they needed to work together because the Burning Legion was preparing another major attack. Thrall and Grom confronted Mannoroth, the demonic pit lord responsible for the bloodlust that had driven the orcs to kill Cenarius, and Grom died but managed to slay Mannoroth in the process, freeing the orcs from the blood curse. After Thrall returned from Mannoroth's defeat, the humans and orcs grudgingly agreed to an alliance of sorts (not The Alliance; just allies, mind you) and set up a camp together at the edge of the forest.
It was there that Tyrande, Shandris and the Sentinels found them, cutting away at the forests for whatever reason. The human in charge of the settlement was Duke Lionheart, a paladin of the Silver Hand who didn't seem to mind allying with the orcs at all. Tyrande decided after watching the settlement that the paladin's very presence defiled the forest and killed him.