Fairly soon, World of Warcraft players will get the chance to raid the Firelands (and in case it needs to be said, clicking that link to patch 4.2 information will take you to spoilers). When that happens, the long, strange, painful trip of Fandral Staghelm will finally come to an end -- at least, presumably. He's been a fixture of the game for years, and his history with the kaldorei goes back generations. He learned druidic magic from Malfurion himself and rose through the ranks of the Cenarion Circle, eventually even replacing Shan'do Stormrage as Archdruid. His rise took thousands of years; his fall, a mere six.
When discussing Fandral, we're discussing a complex night elf. He led the defense of Kalimdor against the Silithid and the Qiraji servants of the Old God C'thun before the dragons deigned to take a hand, and it cost him dearly. It's time for a new look at Fandral and all he's done, for good and for ill.
Despite his relative youth compared to other night elves such as Shandris Feathermoon, Maiev and Jarod Shadowsong or Tyrande and Malfurion (or Illidan, for that matter), Fandral rose to prominence in the Cenarion Circle. His enormous physical stature (Fandral is much taller than most of his people, standing well over 8 feet tall) and quick temper marked him as a physically dangerous, powerful druid, and while he often clashed with his mentor, he was considered one of Malfurion's most gifted students and top lieutenants.
All druids must sleep in the Emerald Dream from time to time, including Fandral. However, Fandral still managed to sire a son, Valstann. Fandral, though often abrasive and hot-tempered, truly loved his son and took a paternal interest in him even as he reached adulthood and married. Valstann's wife was a night elf named Leyara.
The War of the Shifting Sands
Fandral's mate died giving birth to Valstann, meaning that the young man and his wife were effectively the only family Fandral had. A thousand or so years before the First War, Fandral would come to know personal loss on a scale most of his people had not experienced since the Sundering.
It began in Silithus, the furthest southern extent of the night elves' territory at that time. For thousands of years, the Qiraji had smarted from their defeat by the Troll Empires, rebuilding their forces in the name of their dread god C'thun. The jailors of the Old Gods, the Titans, had long since departed Azeroth, and the trolls were in no condition to defend against the Qiraji invasion. It fell to the night elves to give battle, and it fell to Fandral to lead the kaldorei against the Qiraji.
Amazingly, he did so very well. With Valstann at his side, Fandral proved an able and creative general. He was in fact so talented that the Qiraji even gave him a name. They called him Kar'sis, or Hand of Earth in their native language. This makes Fandral only the second being to be named by the Qiraji, the first being C'thun itself.
The Hand of Earth stymied the Qiraji and broke their advance. Try as they might, they could not beat him and the night elves under his command. With his son Valstann, Staghelm seemed nigh unbeatable, and although the Qiraji General Rajaxx believed that the night elf defense was untenable and that they would eventually fall, his twin emperors Vek'nilash and Vek'lor were not willing to wait for a victory of attrition. They ordered Rajaxx to find a way around the Hand of Earth.
And after a time, Rajaxx did. He perceived that Fandral only allowed himself one weakness, one deviation from his otherwise iron control of himself. Fandral's son was his one weak point.
A diversionary attack on Southwind Village lured the eager Valstann into a defense that proved to be a cunning trap. Valstann's forces were slain and the younder Staghelm brought to the front lines by Rajaxx. The General of the Qiraji proceeded to brutally murder Valstann in front of his father. Stunned, Fandral lost the will to fight, and soon, the night elves were forced to retreat through Un'Goro and into Tanaris, where the arrogant Qiraji forces staged an attack on the Caverns of Time just as the Bronze Dragonflight was in fact refusing to aid the night elves. This one attack would bring the remaining dragonflights together for the first time since Deathwing's betrayal, ultimately ending in the sealing of Ahn'Qiraj by the Scepter of the Shifting Sands.
Victory could not console Fandral, of course. Nothing could. The loss of Valstann was a blow he was wholly unprepared for, one he could not absorb. He smashed the Scepter against the walls of the Qiraji city and stormed away, disgusted with the entire world.