When blood-crazed, willing slaves to demons who had sold their race and their world for power assaulted Azeroth, it was the humans who fought them. It was humans who lost ground, family, mothers and fathers and homes to stem the tide of orcish bloodlust and save Azeroth from their evil. There is no question of this. If the humans had lost the Second War, Azeroth would have been destroyed just as Draenor was, sucked dry of life. It was also a human's arrogant decision that she knew best that led the lord of the Burning Legion himself to invade her body, possess her unborn son, and twist his gifts and powers to evil, to contact Gul'dan and lead to the First and Second Wars. If not for humans, the orcs would have died on their dried-out, fel-poisoned planet, and no one would have ever heard of them again.
Humanity could be said to be the best and the worst of Azeroth. Short-lived, humans possess as much or more talent for every field of endeavor as any race on the face of the world. They equal or surpass orcs and trolls for savagery in combat. They match or overmatch high and blood elves for sorcery. Their priests command the Holy Light, as do their paladins. Humans have been spies, diplomats, scholars, warlords and simple men and women of the soil. In part one, we talked about the rise of the Seven Nations of humanity following the troll wars.
Now, we look to their destruction.
The Seven predominate
Over a thousand years passed from the fall of Arathor and the rise of the Seven to what we would consider the modern day. In that time, humanity developed a boisterous culture with regional variations that often squabbled among one another. (Dalaran grew obsessed with the magical arts, taught first to humanity by the high elves of Quel'thalas. Gilneas grew insular and self-reliant. Kul Tiras became a maritime power and strong trade nation.) Wars of any significance were few.
At the same time that the War of the Shifting Sands raged across southern Kalimdor, humanity had conquered the majority of the Eastern Kingdoms. All of the northern subcontinent from Tirisfal west was theirs, with the exception of their neighbors in Quel'thalas and the few troll outposts in the deep forests. Aerie Peak remained in dwarf hands, as did Khaz Modan, but humanity surrounded the dwarf kingdoms to north and south and traded with them as briskly as they did with their cousins in the Seven.
Much of this expansion was aided by human lifetimes being shorter than those of other races. Humans were not inclined to sit and watch a problem develop or a situation unfold for years or decades, as were the high elves and even the dwarves to some degree. Human expansionism was aided by the sense in human hearts that the future had to be accomplished while it could still be seen.
The hubris of Men
This tendency ultimately went from a sense of drive and accomplishment to a sense of complacency, however, and it can be seen throughout the Eastern Kingdoms. Dalaran grew smug; Stromgarde became arrogant and backward; Alterac developed a culture of cutthroat self-aggrandizement. Each of the Seven had its wonders and its accomplishments, from mighty Stormwind to the sweeping Gilneas City, yet each ultimately viewed the world from its own limited perspective. Much like the dwarves who had divided themselves between Bronzebeard, Dark Iron and Wildhammer, humanity had lapsed back into the tribalism that Thoradin and the Arathor had raised them from.
During this time, the Council of Tirisfal (a union of human and high elf wizards seeking to guard Azeroth from outside threats like demons) selected the human Scavell, and he served for centuries as the Guardian, protecting the world from demons and the Burning Legion. Upon retiring from the position of Guardian of Tirisfal, Scavell presented one of his five apprentices to the Council, and in turn, she was chosen as Guardian.
Aegwynn surpassed her former mentor, who had himself served for centuries as Guardian. In her time, Aegwynn even confronted a manifestation crafted especially by Sargeras himself and defeated it -- exactly as Sargeras had intended her to do. Bolstered by this victory and her own sense of mission, as well as a growing contempt for the meddlers on the Council, Aegwynn decided to ensure that her successor would be worthy by gestating it herself, never realizing that Sargeras would use this opportunity to possess her infant son.
The birth of Medivh is one of the pivotal points in the history of Azeroth. Without Medivh, there would have been no First or Second Wars, no one to train Khadgar, no one to assassinate the majority of the Council of Tirisfal, no childhood friend of Anduin Lothar and Llane Wrynn to betray them, and no one to ultimately bring together the various forces of the Horde and Alliance to defeat the Burning Legion on the slopes of Mount Hyjal. We've covered his influence and the course on which he set history. As important as Aegwynn and Medivh were, however, for most humans there's simply one figure who can be pointed to as the salvation of their entire people. Not a king, but greater than any king.
The war no man could have won
When the First War began, most of humanity knew nothing about it. It was the furthest south of humanity's nations, the kingdom of Stormwind, that had to fight the endless waves of orcs pouring desperately out of the Dark Portal. Having effectively murdered their own world and goaded on by Gul'dan, himself obsessed with the power promised to him by Medivh, they washed out of the Black Morass. In a wave of blood, they destroyed farmers, settlements, and all else that fell before them. Yet humanity soon proved a tougher nut to crack, and the same martial spirit that had pushed trolls to the fringes of the continent soon blunted Blackhand the Destroyer's march. These were human warriors like the Brotherhood of the Horse, led by Anduin Lothar.
It is Lothar who is the central figure in the tale of humanity's epic struggle against alien invaders. Anduin Lothar was the last direct descendent of the Arathor kings, heir to the throne of a united humanity. He grew up alongside Medivh and Llane Wrynn in the city his people had founded to the south. As young men, the three seemed practically inseperable, going on adventures in the untamed lands to the south of the kingdom. Not being a king himself nor a wizard, Lothar chose to join the army of his homeland and rose through its ranks. In time, Anduin Lothar found himself Armsman of the Brotherhood of the Horse and as such, ultimate commander of all of Stormwind's armies.
It was Lothar who stopped the orcish advance, and it was Lothar who eventually struck down his childhood friend Medivh when the truth of his involvement with the orcs came to light. (Therefore, it was Lothar who nearly killed Gul'dan as well, as the orc attempted to ransack Medivh's dying mind for the location of the Tomb of Sargeras.) When King Llane was ultimately betrayed by Garona, it was Lothar who led the people of Stormwind to safety on the waves before the Horde could kill them all, which they surely would have done.
The fall of Stormwind was not the end of humanity, of course. The First War ended with an orcish victory, but the Second War, entirely due to Lothar's actions, ended in a resounding victory for humanity. It also ended in Lothar's death, fighting on the slopes of Blackrock Mountain. His lieutenant Turalyon and his own broken sword served to avenge him and defeat the orcs. In time, Turalyon and the other heroes of the Alliance would mount an expedition to Draenor, but the Alliance of the Seven Nations and the high elves and dwarves brought about by Lothar's actions in life did not long endure his death.
The nations of humanity once again split apart into tribalism, with nations like Gilneas, Kul Tiras and Stromgarde looking to their own affairs and angry with one another over the ultimate fate of Alterac. That nation, having made offers to the Horde in exchange for its own survival, had in fact been effectively destroyed and its ruling family disinherited. As the Perenolde clan changed from rulers to bandits, the lord of the Black Dragonflight, Deathwing, moved to manipulate the rulers of mankind and have himself appointed king. His failure and defeat at Grim Batol only served to divide humanity further, as did the ultimate fate of the orcs.
With one of mankind's nations destroyed utterly and another rebuilding slowly, they were not prepared for what was to come. Next week, from the beginning of the Third War to the modern day, humans face total destruction.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.