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.
WARNING: The following post contains spoilers for the novel Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak. Readers still in the middle of the novel may want to veer away from this post, as I'll be discussing events covered over the course of the book.
Now that we've established what happened to Tyrande and Malfurion (in the midst of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey ... stuff), we can begin to pick apart what happened in between the Sundering, the Third War, and present day. Tyrande Whisperwind is currently leading the night elves along with Archdruid Fandral Staghelm -- and Staghelm has a history that also stretches back thousands of years, one that's led him to his current less-than-friendly leadership.
Fandral Staghelm was born about 1,000 years after the Sundering and studied the druidic arts under Malfurion Stormrage, soon rising in ranks and becoming one of Malfurion's top lieutenants as well as training many of the new Druids of the Wild. Where Malfurion was even-tempered and kind, Fandral was hotheaded and aggressive, frequently clashing with Malfurion, and nowadays Tyrande over how night elf society should be run. He holds many strong beliefs that echo the beliefs of ancient night elves, including the belief that night elves are the supreme race on the planet, all other races are inferior, and night elves are the only "true" druids. Charming, isn't he?
These beliefs, coupled with the idea that the night elves should expand their military and their borders, make Fandral a ... fairly unpopular leader. Sometimes it seems the only thing that seems to drive Fandral is anger -- and that impression couldn't be more correct. Some time after the Sundering the children of C'thun, one of the Old Gods buried deep beneath the earth by the Titans, rose up and prepared an army to take over Kalimdor and with it, the world in the original War of the Shifting Sands. Fandral was sent with an army to fight against the Qiraji and was largely successful for the most part due to Fandral and his son, Valstann Staghelm. Valstann was Fandral's only son, and his mother died in childbirth, leaving Fandral to raise Valstann on his own. As a result, the two were inseparable -- while Valstann chose the path of the warrior rather than following in his father's druidic footsteps, he was still a great source of pride and joy to Fandral.
Unfortunately while it looked as though the tides were turning in the night elves' favor, the Qiraji, headed by General Rajaxx, were much more clever than previously thought. With the help of the Twin Emperors Vek'nilash and Vek'lor, they devised a plan, and ordered an attack on Southwind Village, where many of the troops were currently fighting. Valstann convinced Fandral to let him take a small group of warriors to defend Southwind Village, and Fandral agreed. After all, the war was nearly won, what could possibly happen? Plenty. Valstann was captured by the qiraji, and Southwind Village, destroyed. Rajaxx himself took Valstann to the front lines, held him high for all to see, and in front of Fandral and the entirety of the night elf forces, tore him in half.
Fandral ... broke. The sight of his son, his only, beloved son ripped apart shattered him, and the night elf army began to crumble as a result. It took the combined efforts of the night elves and the dragonflights, most notably the bronze, to defeat the Qiraji and seal them away behind a barrier that could only be opened by the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. Anachronos, the bronze dragon in charge (and also the heir of Nozdormu), presented the Scepter to Fandral, telling him that if ever needed the Scepter could be used to open the gates and access the city inside. Fandral responded by shattering the Scepter, declaring he wanted nothing more to do with Silithus, the Qiraji, and least of all, dragons. His last words as he left were, "I will have him back. Though it takes millennia, I will have my son back!"
The death of his son bent Fandral into a tortured, angry shell of a leader. Some time after the events of the Third War, Fandral, along with a group of like-minded night elves, suggested that the night elves create a new World Tree to replace Nordrassil, which was still healing from the massive amounts of damage taken from the detonation that killed Archimonde, in the hopes of regaining the immortality they'd lost. Malfurion argued against it because it was a selfish act and nature would never bless such a thing -- and because without the added blessing of Nozdormu, it would not return their immortality anyway. Then Malfurion returned to the Emerald Dream to recuperate from the Third War -- a Dream from which he never returned. Trapped within the Dream, Malfurion was apparently stuck in slumber, and the leadership of the druids then fell to Fandral.
Fandral's first action was to go against Malfurion's warnings and plant a new World Tree anyway over the objection of a number of other groups. Teldrassil was every bit as beautiful as Nordrassil had been, but unfortunately, the tree was never blessed by nature just as Malfurion had predicted. Darnassus, the capital city of the night elves, was established in Teldrassil's branches, and Fandral and Tyrande continue to lead today, though the two don't quite get along. Not only are Fandral and Tyrande on the outs, Fandral isn't exactly a favorite of the Cenarion Circle, an organization of the druids of Azeroth. When the Cenarion Circle decided to allow taurens into their order, Fandral objected -- because as stated before, he firmly believes night elves are the only "true" druids.
Though most know that Tyrande and Fandral don't exactly get along, only the Cenarion Circle and the Sisters of Elune know the extent of their disapproval of each other's actions -- an extent that has strongly affected the night elf government. However, with Malfurion's absence there is little to be done -- Fandral is a capable enough leader, and well trained to oversee the teaching of the young druids of Teldrassil. But with this capability comes an abrupt nature that causes most to be put off, if not outright angered by the Archdruid. This quiet animosity between Tyrande and Fandral is kept between the two of them, the Cenarion Circle, and the Sisters of Elune -- but other than the thinly-veiled contempt with which Fandral refers to Tyrande, all seems to be going well for the night elves.
Which of course means that all hell is bound to break loose at any given moment and there have been events going on behind the scenes. This is the way these things operate, and the night elves are no exception. For one, there's the issue of the strange situation involving Malfurion Stormrage, and the fact that he's trapped within in the Emerald Dream, apparently battling something called the Emerald Nightmare with the green dragon Aspect Ysera. This pocket of malevolent energy is slowly corrupting the Emerald Dream from within and trying to destroy it.
For another, there are the mysterious actions of Fandral Staghelm. Fandral's been quietly busy over the course of World of Warcraft's run collecting (or rather, having players collect) large quantities of soil from the Un'goro Crater to the south, as well as even larger quantities of an odd herb called morrowgrain. Even more odd is that he claims to be doing so on behalf of the Cenarion Circle, which is quickly disproved when players travel to Feathermoon Stronghold. There, Quintis Jonespyre not only lets players know that Fandral is obtaining these herbs and using the Circle's name and resources erroneously, but sends them to collect yet more morrowgrain so that he can research it and figure out exactly what Fandral is up to. Quintis mentions that morrowgrain, under the right conditions, exudes qualities like other herbs used in primitive curses.