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Know Your Lore: Queen Azshara, Light of Lights

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.

In all of Kaldorei history, stretching back to days unknown, no monarch has ever been as beloved as Queen Azshara. Though she spends her time these days idling deep under the ocean, in patch 4.3 we finally see through the window of the Caverns of Time the leader that was once the crowning glory of Kaldorei civilization. She was born with golden eyes, a rarity at the time and so uncommon among the Kaldorei that they were heralded as a sign of future greatness.

But the greatness for which Azshara was destined would have caused her followers a moment of pause had they realized it had nothing to do with them at all. After all, when one is born into a world that demands greatness, one has to walk the fine line between greatness and humility. Though Azshara excelled at many, many things, humility was nowhere to be found on that list. Proud, arrogant, and incredibly powerful, Azshara let the devotion of her people go to her head and nearly brought Kaldorei civilization as we know it to an end because of it.


The child of golden eyes

From the moment she was born, Azshara was marked as someone intended for greatness. The golden eyes were an omen to the Kaldorei, and as the child grew into a woman, she only grew more beautiful, lovelier than any woman before. Men wanted her, women wanted to be her, and the nobles of the Kaldorei threw themselves at her in desperation, craving her love and approval.

Sole heir to the throne, Azshara wasn't just a pretty face to be admired, however. She was also one of the most powerful mages the Kaldorei had ever seen. And that seemed to take a back seat to her beauty, oddly enough. Many worshipped her, but few really understood the depths of her power. As she grew, she developed an odd fascination with the Well of Eternity, a mystical font of power that swirled endlessly, an endless source of magic. As a mage, Azshara was naturally drawn to it -- and after her coronation, there was none to stop her from pursuing that interest.

Azshara ordered the construction of a new palace placed directly on the shore of the Well. The nobles who adored her so eagerly complied and banded together to formally rename the capital city in her honor. Azshara of course accepted, and though there was some debate, the name was changed to Zin-Azshari, "Glory of Azshara." Though some may have initially protested the name change, all celebrated when it finally came to pass, much to Queen Azshara's satisfaction.

Politics and rank

But the Kaldorei weren't one unified civilization, even then. The Kaldorei were divided into those nobles of higher rank, the Highborne, and the rest of the Kaldorei, who were not so blessed. Though Azshara herself was a Highborne, the Kaldorei didn't really consider her one -- she was their beloved Queen, no more, no less, a symbol of perfection, the Light of Lights, Daughter of the Moon, the Cherished Heart of the People, whether they be Highborne or otherwise.

Yet despite the devotion of all, Queen Azshara saved her love for her Highborne, the noble elite. Within the Highborne were some of the most powerful spellcasters of the Kaldorei. Given her curiosity with the Well of Eternity and her strength of magical prowess, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. Once the palace was complete, Queen Azshara moved in, along with the rest of her court -- Highborne, all of them.

These Highborne immediately began studying the Well and its powers, drawing magic from it in an endless cavalcade of spells, channeling the energies and observing the results. Dark storms broke out over the surface of the water, the water itself darkening into utter blackness. Yet the Highborne continued their practice, Queen Azshara lovingly overseeing it all.

Glory to the Queen

It was this obsession with the Well, the harnessing of energy, the endless torrent of spells that drew the attention of one of the Highborne. Councilor Xavius was a powerful mage in his own right, a master at political manipulation, but he was far more known for the obsidian crystals that glittered in place of his eyes. These magic crystals were something that Xavius had done to himself, presumably to further his own power. Unsettling to most, they didn't trouble Azshara in the slightest. Xavius was Queen Azshara's most trusted advisor.

Xavius came to the Queen with a unique and wonderful plan for the Well and for the Kaldorei. He wanted to use the power of the Well of Eternity to cleanse the world, ridding it of all imperfections and creating a vast paradise suitable for Azshara's reign. This sat well with Queen Azshara, and Xavius and the Highborne began the task at once. The waters of the Well continued to churn, the magic twisting ever further into darkness.

Though Queen Azshara was beloved by all, her thirst for glory led her directly down the path with the worst possible outcome. For it was this quest for a perfect world that snared the attention of the worst possible creature to attract -- Sargeras, the Dark Titan. The endless magical manipulations attracted the attention of the leader of the Burning Legion, and he wanted the Well's energies for himself.

A worthy consort

As the Highborne continued to play with the magics of the Well, Sargeras moved into action. First contacting Xavius, the Dark Titan manipulated the councilor, twisted the Kaldorei's mind into believing that Sargeras was a god. Xavius was overwhelmed and quickly brought the Queen to the Well to show her the glory of the Dark Titan. And Queen Azshara looked upon Sargeras and saw at last one with power that equaled her own.

Though Xavius would have Azshara for himself, as far as the Queen was concerned, Sargeras was the only creature worthy of her. Azshara was convinced that she was perfection, that all should worship her like a goddess -- and only a god was capable of even coming close to her glory. Her vision of a perfect world wasn't one in which the Kaldorei reigned supreme; it was one in which she reigned supreme, and those who were deemed worthy were allowed the distinct honor of worshipping her.

And as the Burning Legion tore its way from her palace and began the merciless slaughter of her devoted subjects, Azshara remained in her chambers, listening to music and quietly making herself as appealing as possible for the arrival of her husband-to-be. As the city, as the Glory of Azshara tumbled to ruin, the Queen decided the next, perfect iteration of her home on the perfect world that her perfect mate would deliver to her should not be named Zin-Azshari -- instead, Azshara. Simply Azshara. Much more appropriate a title for the home of the Queen of the world.

The Queen's fall

Obviously, Azshara met her end during the War of the Ancients, to a degree -- Malfurion and Illidan Stormrage made certain of that. The Well was destroyed when Malfurion used the Demon Soul to cast a spell so powerful that it pulled Sargeras, Mannoroth and the others back through the portal Azshara's Highborne had so carefully created. It collapsed, causing a backlash so great that the world literally tore itself asunder, splitting into the continents we know today. But Queen Azshara, still dutifully awaiting the arrival of Sargeras, never faltered.

In the crumbling palace, she called her handmaidens, her guards, and her most devoted Highborne to her side, and sat carefully on her throne, goblet of wine in one perfect hand. And as the waters of the world poured into her home, a voice -- not Sargeras, something different -- whispered to her in the encroaching darkness. It offered her power, the ability to become even more than she already was. Without hesitation, Azshara took the offer and found her body twisting, changing.

The Well of Eternity filled her lungs, but Queen Azshara did not drown -- for she was now a Naga, the first of Azeroth's history. Her devoted servants quickly followed suit. It was not the end for Azshara but a beginning -- perhaps the beginning of the greatness she had been promised since birth.

You will be more than you have ever been ... promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you ... you will serve us well ...

Azshara's grasp

Queen Azshara was far more than just a pretty face. The Kaldorei were devoted to her, even those who fought against the Burning Legion thinking for most of the War of the Ancients that the Queen herself was being held captive. It was impossible to fathom that the Queen herself was responsible for the brutal massacre of the Kaldorei; it was beyond possibility that the Light of Lights would turn against her people so.

The devotion of the Kaldorei wasn't simply love for their Queen -- it was something that Azshara had carefully set into place. She wasn't just a pretty face; she was easily the most powerful mage the world had ever seen.

Azshara said nothing, merely gazing imperiously at the demon. With a hiss, Mannoroth reached one meaty hand toward her. His intention was clear; he had no further use for the night elf's existence. But though he came close, Mannoroth faltered at the end.

It was not because of any sudden notion that Sargeras might still desire the silver-haired creature to live. Rather, Mannoroth discovered that here was a force against which only his lord and Archimonde would prove superior. Try as he might, the demon would have found it easier to throttle himself than the queen.

The Kaldorei weren't just blindly devoted to their Queen -- they were under the thrall of her power. It's uncertain at what point Azshara came fully into her power, but throughout the War of the Ancients trilogy, it is made blatantly clear in every scene that Azshara deliberately manipulated her people. Beauty cannot enthrall to the point of throwing away all sense of self-preservation ... but beauty combined with magic certainly can.

Imagine the amount of power it would take to enthrall the entirety of the Kaldorei population. Azshara was powerful, almost impossibly so. And Azshara was not acting out of the interests of her people, even for her beloved Highborne. The Queen simply wanted the world for her own and took every precaution to make certain it came to pass.

But even after Azshara's disappearance into the depths of Azeroth's oceans, her reach extended, her vengeance quietly enacted over the thousands of years following the Sundering (though it's unknown if this was a purposeful vengeance or not). Dath'Remar, first Highborne to turn from Azshara and the Kaldorei responsible for Tyrande Whisperwind's escape from the palace, was on Azshara's list. So was Illidan Stormrage, the brother who came to her promising to serve and turned on her at the last moment. And so too, was Malfurion Stormrage, the druid responsible for the Sundering and for halting the arrival of her husband to be.

Thousands of years later, on the eve of a new assault by the Burning Legion, Illidan Stormrage would find himself once more called to the Legion's service. In response to a request for allies, Lady Vashj and a host of Naga appeared and agreed to help Illidan escape Kalimdor, taking him to the Broken Isles and the Tomb of Sargeras so that he could retrieve an artifact. This task was given to him by the Burning Legion, the first step to destroying the Frozen Throne.

Dath'Remar's fate had him split from the Kaldorei along with the rest of the Highborne, their thirst for magic denied by Malfurion until they lashed out and were banished across the sea. Thousands of years later, Dath'Remar's descendant, Kael'thas Sunstrider, would find himself approached by Lady Vashj, who spoke to him of their common heritage and eventually convinced him to join Illidan's cause. This quiet corruption eventually led to Kael'thas' allying with the Burning Legion and using the remains of the Sunwell to try and summon Kil'jaeden into Azeroth.

It is not entirely impossible to think (though it's never been directly stated) that given the amount of devotion Vashj displayed throughout the War of the Ancients trilogy, this was a task given to Vashj by Azshara herself. After all, Illidan and Dath'Remar were two of those responsible for the failure of Azshara's plan. Nobody knows what exactly the former Queen has been up to in all the time between her transformation and the second coming of the Burning Legion.

Cataclysm and beyond

Yet that second coming failed, once again due to the interference of Malfurion Stormrage. And in Cataclysm, it's clear where Azshara's frustrations lie -- the horrors that struck Darkshore were a direct result of both Deathwing's emergence and Azshara's fury, the cyclone that threatened to rip the land apart a ploy to pull Malfurion's attentions from Hyjal and allow Ragnaros to enter unimpeded.

Her minions played another major role in enacting Azshara's plan. The assault upon Neptulon in Vashj'ir was a direct result of Azshara's wishes. Eliminate the Tidehunter, and there would be none left to rule the oceans but Azshara herself. From there, she could continue to rule the world. Yet there is still one matter left unaddressed:

You will be more than you have ever been ... promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you ... you will serve us well ...

The Old Gods were responsible for Azshara's transformation, and it is presumed that she serves them much in the same way as Deathwing, Ragnaros, and countless others. Yet stripped of her Kaldorei beauty, all Azshara has left is cunning and a keen desire to see the perfect world she glimpsed in the days before the Sundering come to pass. It is uncertain whether Azshara is blindly following the Old Gods' wishes or instead using them as cleverly as she used her own people, until the day arrives when she can take her rightful place as Sargeras' consort at last.

We have yet to see Azshara in any major role in Cataclysm, but we can rest assured that we haven't seen the last of the most beloved monarch in Kaldorei history. It's not a matter of if ... it's a matter of when.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
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.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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