Speaking of curses ... there's another person we ought to talk about. She isn't a leader; she isn't really anyone of particularly high rank. Her name is Velinde Starsong, and she was tasked with clearing Felwood of the demons that plagued it. Why is she notable? Well, after seemingly making amazing progress in Felwood and Ashenvale, Velinde simply vanished without a trace. Players are sent to investigate the disappearance, rummaging through Velinde's personal effects and returning with her journal. In this journal, it is discovered that Velinde prayed to Elune for help with her task. Elune supposedly granted her wish, sending her an ancient artifact, a twisted and gnarled branch of wood called the Scythe of Elune.
The Scythe of Elune was a powerful thing, and though Velinde believed it to be a gift from Elune, the validity of that assumption is often questioned. When Velinde held the Scythe in her hands she was granted a vision of chaos -- wolf-men called the worgen, creatures supposedly from another world that fought against enemies she called the "Lords of the Emerald Flame." It was then that Velinde realized the true power of the Scythe, and used it to call forth the worgen from where they fought, to Felwood. The Scythe also granted her the ability to understand and speak with them, and she quickly set the worgen to the task of cleaning up Felwood. Pack upon pack of worgen summoned and sent -- and one day, a pack didn't return. Worried, Velinde began to question the powers of the Scythe, which no longer apparently needed her concentration to summon the worgen, as scores more of the creatures were appearing with every passing day.
Velinde did some research but couldn't find anything about the mysterious worgen, though she did find some reports about a wizard of the Kirin Tor named Arugal, and the possibility that he summoned worgen as well. Convinced that the worgen were now more of a danger than help, she set out to find Arugal, booking a passage to Booty Bay. From there she traveled north with a caravan into Duskwood, and then disappeared from history. Further investigation reveals that she lost the Scythe somewhere in Duskwood, and it was unearthed in a mine by a miner named Jitters, who picked it up and triggered the summoning, causing a fleet of worgen to appear from nowhere and rip the miners in the mine apart. He managed to escape with the Scythe and fled to the Yorgen Farmstead, dropping the Scythe on the way.
He hid in the barn of the Yorgen family, observing Sven Yorgen, his wife, and their children as they went about their day, and witnessed what happened next; Sven left for work, and left his family alone. Suddenly, the Black Riders of Deadwind Pass appeared, and demanded to know what Sven's wife had done with the Scythe. All of these events are detailed in Jitter's journal, including what happened next:
"The Scythe?" she said in a calm voice. "Of course I do. Who here wouldn't?" She looked at the Riders with steady eyes, and I would have sworn she spoke the truth if I had not known better. There was no way she could know about the Scythe. Her gambit paid off. The same Rider who uttered the question before bent his head slightly toward her, and shrieked, "Where?"
"I'll take you. All of you," she said, and I could see a small hope flicker behind her eyes. "But the way is far, and my children would slow us. We must leave them."
Her trick was simple, but simple tricks have the best hope of success. If it worked, it would lead the Riders away from the farm. She would be lost, but her children would be safe. And it would work, if only the Riders believed her noble lies. Although I have never been a student of the Light, I prayed fiercely for Sven's wife as she stood against those terrible Riders. "Please," I prayed. "Let them believe."
They stood, frozen, and she met their gazes with calm. Then one rider looked up, as if hearing a distant call. He drew from his garb a small gem and peered into it. He then gestured with the bauble toward Sven's wife. A light crept from the Rider toward the woman, shaping itself into a grim, white hand. She stared into the light, unflinching, but I could see uncertainty behind her mask of confidence. When the hand reached her, it spread its fingers over her head.
And it squeezed.
Sven's wife stood rigid as a board, and her eyes grew wide. And although her lips pulled back to mouth a scream, no sound escaped. After a few moments of this torture the hand released her, dropping her to her knees. The Rider who held the bauble then sat erect in his saddle, and a loud voice erupted from it.
"This woman lies," it said in a voice that has scarred my dreams. "She has not seen the Scythe."
After this, the Rider's shoulders stooped slightly, as if a spirit within him had fled. And then in the old, shrieking voice it used earlier, these final words were uttered:
"The Lord has spoken. Kill them."
I cannot describe what happened next. It is clear in my mind, but even my wretched soul cannot put to paper the events of those next few, grisly minutes.
The Riders presumably disappeared after this, and whether or not they found the Scythe is unknown, along with the final fate of Velinde Starsong. Who were the Dark Riders? Who was the "Lord" they spoke of, and why did they seek the Scythe? None of these questions have been answered, but Velinde and the Scythe were directly responsible for much of the corruption that plagues Duskwood to this day. As for the whereabouts of the Scythe of Elune, they are unknown, although a quest in Grizzly Hills hints that the Scythe may once again have been found.
Corrupt Felwood, corrupt Teldrassil, corrupt Duskwood, corrupt Hyjal, now bordered by Darkwhisper Gorge which is not only overrun by demons, but affecting the waters of Winterspring to the point that hot springs are popping up out of nowhere. And worst of all -- corrupt Emerald Dream, slowly being overrun by the Emerald Nightmare and trapping Malfurion within it. The night elves certainly have a lot on their plate, and as such haven't offered much to the Alliance in return for their allegiance other than research, territory in Kalimdor, and strong soldiers for the battle to the north, in Northrend. And even in Northrend, corruption awaits in the form of yet another failed World Tree, Vordrassil. Indeed, it seems as though the night elves have far more on their hands than they can handle, and the Alliance was approached simply because they realized they could not handle it all.
And who really could blame Tyrande? Tyrande Whisperwind, promoted at a very young age to High Priestess of Elune and expected to lead her people while her beloved Malfurion slept the ages away in the Emerald Dream -- Tyrande didn't choose to become a leader, she was chosen by her predecessor on her deathbed. She tries incredibly hard to do the right thing, and tries to be self-sufficient and lead her people to be self-sufficient as well, but where the Burning Legion is concerned, it's no longer enough for just the night elves to fight them off. In the meantime, she's got Fandral to deal with -- Fandral Staghelm, the man who could do no wrong and assumes that every half-brained idea he's got is loads better than anything Tyrande could come up with. Sure, he's understandably upset with the loss of his son, but at the same time he seems almost unable to see the corruption inherent within Teldrassil.
Which is where we come to the novel Stormrage. If you're in the middle of this novel, this marks the point of no return where I start talking spoilers about the book, and you may be well advised to turn back here.
In Stormrage, Tyrande discovers the unthinkable, that the body of Malfurion Stormrage is dying in the Barrow Dens beneath Moonglade, despite the efforts of the Sisters of Elune to keep it alive while he lives on in the Emerald Dream. Meanwhile, Fandral has finally decided to address the corruption that rests within Teldrassil and calls for a convocation of the world's most powerful druids -- including, oddly enough, Hamuul Runetotem, the only tauren Archdruid in existence, to heal Teldrassil's ailing roots.
Along with Hammul is Broll Bearmantle, the druid who fought alongside Varian Wrynn's beefier half Lo'gosh when he was captured and used as a pit fighter by orcs. Broll had returned an item called the Idol of Remulos to Fandral during his adventures with Lo'gosh, and Fandral was using the admittedly dangerous artifact to help heal the tree, something that Broll viewed with no small amount of dismay. However, Broll and Tyrande set off to free Malfurion from the Emerald Dream, but there was much worse going on. All over Azeroth, people were falling asleep and not waking up. I won't really go into the book in too much detail suffice it to say that at the end, Malfurion was freed, the Emerald Dream was washed of most of its corruption save for a small corner, and Fandral ... well.
Malfurion managed to break free of the Emerald Dream due to Tyrande and Broll's efforts, confronted Staghelm and then did the only thing he could do to break the Nightmare's hold over Fandral -- he killed "Valstann", setting the shadow aflame before Fandral's horrified eyes. Fandral broke for a second time, and this time, he may never recover from it. The last we hear of Fandral Staghelm is his neverending, heartbroken cries over the second "death" of his beloved son.
At the end of the book, we are left with the wedding of Malfurion Stormrage and Tyrande Whisperwind, during which both Alextrasza and Ysera bless Teldrassil, purifying the tree from all corruption. Whether this will carry onward into Cataclysm is unknown, but there are several things that the night elves are looking towards in the upcoming expansion. While the night elves have largely kept themselves at a political distance from the other races of the Alliance, their actions have continued to affect the world in which the Alliance exists. Teldrassil may be cleansed, but Felwood still suffers from demonic influence. Nordrassil is still slowly healing, but whether or not it will ever return to its former glory is unknown.
As for Cataclysm itself ... Deathwing's creation, the Demon Soul that originally allowed Deathwing to manipulate the dragon flights of Azeroth, was stolen from him by Malfurion Stormrage and hidden away during the original War of the Ancients, over ten thousand years ago. The War of the Ancients was not the victory that Deathwing had hoped, and life since then has been an eternal struggle to return to the glory he felt as he held the Demon Soul in his claws and merrily wreaked havoc across Azeroth. Needless to say, Deathwing has little love for the night elves ... and even less for Malfurion Stormrage. It looks as though the night elves will need the help of the Alliance yet again, and offer their own in return, to try and heal the damage that Deathwing will do to Azeroth upon his emergence.
Luckily the Alliance has always been there for the night elves, for despite their actions, they always had the best of intentions in mind. Luckily, despite the night elves' tendency to accidentally corrupt the world around them, they are still working diligently at healing it, with slow success, but success nonetheless. And luckily there hasn't been any horrific, direct, lasting damage to their allies as a result of their mucking around with things they oughtn't be playing with.
With the introduction of the worgen as a playable race, the Alliance are suddenly going to be confronted with the residents of Gilneas and their fate at the hands of the worgen -- worgen that may or may not have had something to do with the night elves and the Scythe of Elune. Cursed to live as both man and wolf, the Gilneans, a notoriously ... crusty people are not likely to be terribly happy about this situation. Will the night elves be able to reconcile with the worgen, or will Varian, he of explosive outbursts, finally aim his anger away from the Horde and to the night elves instead? We'll have to wait till Cataclysm to find out.