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.
Yes, it was an in-joke. Nevertheless, it can be fairly said that Thunderaan, prince of the air, is more than a bag of hot air and Mike Tyson quotes, and that the air elementals serving under Al'Akir the Windlord are more than just masters of wind and gale. Thunderaan himself was so powerful that it took Ragnaros and his two lieutenants Geddon and Garr to subdue and nearly destroy him, and even then the elemental lord of fire could not wholly consume the windseeker. And while each of the other elemental lords counts Al'Akir as the weakest among them, the lord of the air can counter by pointing out that they rarely if ever can lay an aggressive hand to him secure in his fortress of the Skywall.
But it's not just elemental lords and princes that boast affiliation with the element of air. Any warrior who leveled in classic WoW can probably regale you with tales of the Cyclonian, and air elementals can be found on the rampage in Silithus, as well as bound into service in Northrend by the servants of the very titans themselves (although it's an open question as to who Ionar truly serves, Loken or Yogg-Saron himself). Air elementals tend to disdain rather than directly antagonize their fellows, trusting to their higher mobility to immunize themselves from reprisal.
Al'Akir is at once the least respected and least hated by each of his fellow elemental lords. Ragnaros and Neptulon seem to spend most of their time plotting against each other and fighting on or over Therazane's element, melting it into lava or eroding it into silt. While Al'Akir also erodes earth into dust from time to time, he and his servitors seem fairly disinterested in the whole conflict between elemental types, preferring to evade the entire issue in Skywall. As befits so elusive an elemental lord, Al'Akir might well be the one we know the least about. What little we know about him mostly comes from what we know about his son.
Still, as we covered under the fire elemental entry, it's been impossible for the elementals of air to completely evade the others. Thunderaan learned the hard way that the other elementals couldn't be trusted following the titan's victory over all four of the lords. Banished to the elemental plane, each crafted a stronghold from his or her primary element, but conflict was inevitable, as each element invariably seeks to dominate, destroy or incorporate the power of the others. As an example, elementals like Garr and the Lava Surgers are composed of both earth and fire. While they serve Ragnaros, they were born out of the firelord's attempt to incorporate Therazane's element into himself. Similarly, while Thunderaan was a victim of this tendency, the air elementals are no better, as they've created elementals by mixing themselves with subdued dust as well as freezing water to create ice elementals. (It seems that the loyalty of such elementals depends on either who makes the best offer or is responsible for their creation -- all lava elementals thus encountered seem loyal to Ragnaros, for instance, while Ahune is loyal to Neptulon.) As a result of Ragnaros' near consumption of Thunderaan, the firelord's power grew, but we've not seen any fire/air elementals as a result of it.
Interestingly enough, the rivalry of the elemental lords of Azeroth may be magnified by their previous service to the Old Gods. Even Al'Akir and his air elementals may be affected, although seemingly less so; the elemental spirits of Outland seem far less contentious. Kalandrios, the fury of air, stands side by side with other elementals of opposing types without seeming to need to engage in this constant process of attack and absorption, although it's clear from the Unbroken story that the elementals of Outland are just as differing in outlook as are Azerothian ones. It seems that this is in part due to the nature of the worlds they inhabit, as not only do the elementals shape and provide the underpinnings and materials of the world but they are in turn affected by the nature and condition of the very worlds they make up.
The elementals of Azeroth have not undergone so terrible a cataclysm since the days of the Sundering, and even then they were already locked away by the titans in the elemental plane, while those of Draenor endured the destruction of their very world within the past two decades. In effect, not only do the elementals of Azeroth have the influence of the Old Gods to deal with, those of Outland do not have the luxury of the same terrible battles to try and dominate and absorb one another. They must work together if their world is to survive at all.
It's possible, therefore, that if there were to be a new threat to the elemental status quo (not that we can foresee any such destructive event), it might be to the benefit of the elementals of air, isolated as they are behind the Skywall. If fire, water and earth were thrown into confusion and turmoil by a cataclysm of some kind, might not Al'Akir and his host finally have the luxury of striking fully at enemies who were not only unable to strike back, but who were busy reeling from renewed devastation? If it were so, then clearly they wouldn't have to worry about a group of pesky mortals getting in the way of their plans for revenge. After all, who could possibly breach the Skywall? No one, that's who. It doesn't even bear thinking about.
Next week, revenants and other hard-to-classify elementals, and a general roundup of what we know and don't know.