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.
Last week we covered the gnomes, who much like the night elves have a history that spans centuries, but unlike the night elves, much of this history is unknown. Also unlike the night elves, the gnomes don't appear to have much going for them in the way of future conflicts. Today we're going to talk about the close friends of the gnomes -- the dwarves -- who are decidedly far more important than any have given them credit for to date.
To summarize their origins: Way back in Azeroth's history, the Titans created a race of guardians called "earthen" to help protect and watch over the planet. There were a few different "types" of earthen originally created. The first type was prone to a "matrix destabilization" when in high-stress situations, and a nasty thing called the Curse of Flesh. This destabilization in conjunction with the curse led to the creation of the troggs. Yes, the same troggs that are currently plaguing the gnomes and Gnomeregan. These first earthen were sealed away in vaults all over the world including locations such as Bael Modan. Apparently the Titans seem to have this thing for locking bad things under the earth. The second round of earthen creations were just fine, and left as they were.
Except that they weren't "just fine." These earthen were also susceptible to the Curse of Flesh, much like the gnomes were, and it worked on them oh-so-subtly. Over a gigantic chunk of time, they degraded into what we know today as the dwarves of the lower continents. As for Northrend, according to the Tribunal of the Ages, the Titans created the Forge of Wills to make yet another series of earthen, these designed to avoid the Curse of Flesh altogether. This is why you see earthen up in Northrend today.
The earthen were very, very attached to the earth, and as a result when the Sundering occurred, they could feel the pain of that earth being shattered. Because of this, they retreated to their places of origin -- Uldum, Uldaman, Ulduar -- and simply went into hibernation for almost eight thousand years. When they awoke, many of them in the southern part of the world discovered that their rocky skin had softened to smooth, and the powers over stone and earth they possessed had degraded to almost nothing. This transformation created several different kinds of dwarves including the Frostborn of the Storm Peaks, and the Ironforge dwarves of the Eastern Kingdoms -- it's the Ironforge dwarves we're going to focus on, and their particular path.
Modimus Anvilmar originally led the dwarves of Ironforge, and all dwarves were united under his rule from the city of Ironforge itself. Roughly 1,200 years before the events of the First War, the dwarves of Ironforge encountered the human race when the humans began exploring the mountains of Khaz Modan. Both races shared a love for smithing, and for storytelling, and as a result got along quite well. It's important to note that at this time, the dwarves didn't even have a written language -- everything was passed on by word of mouth, through stories. Remembering the past wasn't a necessity to a dwarf, mining and smithing took priority, and the past was simply that -- the past.
It was the humans that taught the dwarves how to read and write common -- the dwarven "language" was simply a spoken one, and written "dwarven" is a language primarily composed of runes. Along with writing, the humans introduced the dwarves to the idea of the Holy Light, teaching them how to become both priests and paladins and use the Light in much the same way as humans do. The other race the dwarves encountered through the humans was the high elves of the north. The high elves and the dwarves held very little trust for each other and they were mainly in communication due to their common ally: the humans.
Some 200 years after encountering the human race, tales tell of a dwarven explorer who discovered an entire civilization of extraordinarily brilliant creatures that specialized in mechanical creations and gadgets. These creatures were the gnomes, and the dwarves were impressed with their flair for the creative technology they produced. The gnomes and dwarves swiftly grew to be fast friends and allies. But things were not as cut and dry as they appeared to be, and the dwarves were about to stumble over their first major hurdle as a nation and a political event that would shatter them for years to come.
Though High King Anvilmar ruled over all dwarves with justice and wisdom, the dwarves found themselves splitting into three major, powerful factions. The first of these was the Bronzebeard clan, led by Thane Madoran Bronzebeard. The Bronzebeards were close friends with High King Anvilmar and were the staunch defenders of the city of Ironforge. The second clan was the Wildhammer, led by Thane Khardros Wildhammer. The Wildhammer clan mainly inhabited the foothills, crags and peaks around the mountain, and sought to gain more control within the city proper -- and, oddly, to open up trade negotiations with the high elves, which was largely frowned upon by the rest of the dwarves. The third faction was the Dark Iron Clan, ruled by Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan. The Dark Irons lived in the deepest parts of the mountain and spent most of their time plotting against the Bronzebeard and the Wildhammer clans.
There was a tentative peace between the three clans until the day that High King Anvilmar passed away from old age, at which point, chaos erupted. All three clans went to war -- the cause? Control of Ironforge and the dwarven kingdom. The Dark Iron seized the moment they'd been waiting for and attacked both the Bronzebeard and the Wildhammer, who were just as busy fighting each other as they were fighting off the Dark Iron clan. This war raged for years, until the Bronzebeards finally managed to win -- Thane Bronzebeard took over ruling Ironforge, and banished both the Wildhammer and the Dark Iron from under the mountain for good.
Sort of. The Wildhammer clan traveled north and founded their kingdom within the distant peaks of Grim Batol, something that would prove to be an amazingly bad idea in years to come. The Dark Iron traveled to the far south, founding a city named after their leader in the Redridge Mountains. From there, Thaurissan and his wife, a sorceress named Modgud, plotted their revenge on both the Bronzebeard and the Wildhammer clans. Years later, they struck -- Thaurissan went with an army to assault Ironforge, and Modgud went to Grim Batol, in an attempt to claim all of Khaz Modan in the name of the Dark Iron.
While the Dark Iron's sorcerous armies were particularly vicious, they could not hold out against Bronzebeard's forces, and Thaurissan was forced to pull back and return to the Redridge Mountains. Meanwhile, Modgud was busy with the Wildhammer, and used all of her sorcery to strike fear into their hearts. It is said that the shadows moved at her command, that dark things crawled up from the depths of the earth to stalk the Wildhammer, leading to the assumption that Modgud was either a shadow priest, or perhaps a warlock, both of which have been seen with the Dark Iron dwarves. Eventually Modgud broke through the gates of Grim Batol and laid siege to the fortress itself, which turned out to be a really, really bad idea. Thane Wildhammer fought through the Dark Iron forces to slay Modgud with his own hands, and with their leader lost, the Dark Iron forces crumbled and fled south.
South was the wrong direction to go, as they were abruptly met by the armies of Ironforge. Caught between the two armies, the remaining Dark Iron forces were completely destroyed, and the victorious Wildhammer and Ironforge forces turned south, intent on eradicating both Thaurissan and any remaining Dark Irons he happened to have with him. This turned out to be a terrible idea.
Thaurissan, enraged at the loss of his wife and sensing his own imminent defeat, realized that his armies would be incapable of defeating the combined forces of the Wildhammer and Bronzebeard clans and turned to other, darker, higher powers to aid him. With the help of a group of Dark Iron dwarves of great knowledge and power known as the Seven, Thaurissan delved into forbidden lore and summoned the great Firelord, Ragnaros. This also turned out to be a terrible idea. Ragnaros burst forth into Azeroth in an explosion that decimated Thaurissan's city and the surrounding mountains, creating the volcanic peak of Blackrock Spire, the surrounding areas of Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes and killing Thaurissan and the Seven instantly.
Horrified at the sheer destruction, the Wildhammer and Bronzebeard forces immediately turned and retreated, ending the War of the Three Hammers and leaving the Dark Iron clan to their fate -- slaves of Ragnaros. The city of Thaurissan lay in ruins, the remaining Dark Iron were left to serve the Elemental Lord.
The Bronzebeard of Ironforge returned to their city and prospered. Together, the Bronzebeard and the Wildhammer built a bridge between their kingdoms -- naming it the Thandol Span -- in an effort to remain linked with each other, the animosity from the War of the Three Hammers all but evaporated. When Thane Bronzebeard and Thane Wildhammer died, their sons build statues to honor the two of them in the Valley of Kings in southern Loch Modan. These statues watch over the volcanic lands to the south as a warning to all who would attack the dwarven kingdoms.
Thane Bronzebeard had three sons; Magni, Muradin, and Brann. After the Thane's death, Magni took the throne, as he was the eldest of the three. Years later, when the Second War began, the orcish forces conquered Khaz Modan and sought to lay siege to Ironforge itself, but were unable to penetrate its defenses. The dwarves of Ironforge joined forces with the Alliance of Lordaeron as a result, and sought to fight back the orcs and reclaim their land. King Magni was not alone in this -- the Wildhammer dwarves, now led by Chief Thane Kurdran Wildhammer, also joined the Alliance forces after an orcish assault upon Aerie Peak. During and after the Second War, the Wildhammer and Bronzebeard clans mostly went their separate ways, though they still keep in contact with each other.