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.
"I failed long ago to turn my brothers from their course. And creation has paid the price."
How must it feel to be ageless? To watch as millennia tick by, each century the span of a breath and gone in an instant? To the draenei, the lives of humans must seem incredibly short-lived. To the Prophet Velen, who is at least 25,000 years old, we must seem like motes of dust, winking in and out of existence so quickly that we can scarcely be recognized as entities before we cease to exist. Velen has led the draenei through terror and triumph, from world to world, always gently spreading the benevolent message of the Light to any who wish to hear.
Yet for a being of such grace, purity and peace, Velen is also a creature of unfathomable sorrow. For Velen has been granted the gift of Sight, and with the gift he can see the infinite paths of futures that may not be, of worlds born and fallen in the blink of an eye. And despite that gift, Velen cannot prevent what is yet to pass. He cannot prevent that which has gone before, and will come again. And he could not prevent the path his friends chose, nor could he persuade them their new ally was in fact a monster so horrific that his hellish grasp would wreak havoc on immeasurable worlds.
For one that treasures life in the way only the Light can teach, it is a heavy burden to bear.
No one really knows exactly how old Prophet Velen really is. What we do know is that 25,000 years ago, the eredar homeworld of Argus was a paradise of exquisite beauty, shaped by the skills of eredar spellcasters that had mastered their craft. The eredar were led by three leaders who were noted for their wisdom, Velen, Archimonde, and Kil'jaeden. Though the three weren't related by blood, they were still incredibly close -- in fact, Kil'jaeden and Velen were so close that they spoke of each other as brothers.
The accomplishments of the eredar did not go unnoticed, however. Sargeras, the fallen Titan, had taken an interest in the eredar. Their mastery of spellcraft was something that would be incredibly useful for the dark army he sought to build. And so Sargeras came to the eredar, speaking honeyed words of a vast utopia, one which the eredar could help him build, if they chose to join his cause. In return, he would transform them into even more powerful beings than they already were. The eredar and Sargeras would work together to spread his message across the many worlds of the Great Dark Beyond, creating a universal utopia of harmony.
This offer appealed greatly to both Archimonde and Kil'jaeden, but Velen sensed something was off about Sargeras. Velen had been granted the gift of Sight, and it was with that gift that he was granted a vision. At first, he saw what Sargeras had promised -- and then the vision melted away into Sargeras' real plan: a vast army under Sargeras' command, bringing death and devastation to the universe, razing entire planets in Sargeras' name. Horrified, Velen called to Archimonde and Kil'jaden to tell them of his vision.
But Archimonde and Kil'jaeden didn't believe what he had seen. They could not put their faith behind what may have been just a fever dream. They were far too tempted with the offer Sargeras had made. And as Velen despaired, Archimonde and Kil'jaeden left to make the arrangements with Sargeras. The Prophet knew he wouldn't be alone in his suspicions, but he also knew with dread certainty that if he continued to doubt, if he refused Sargeras' offer, the others would turn on him and any who would ally with his cause. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. And in his desperation, Velen heard another voice.
"You are not alone, Velen of the eredar," it said. With those words, K'ure the naaru made itself known.
The naaru bade Velen to go seek those of his kind that also wished to flee and meet on the highest mountain of Argus. Once Velen and his followers arrived, they were whisked away, barely escaping the might of the newly formed Burning Legion.
The perfect world of Argus was lost, its inhabitants now man'ari, defiled, twisted, unnatural. Those that he called brothers and sisters were now wholly intent on carrying out the wishes of their dark master. Velen and those that chose to follow him had escaped ... but the rest of the world, their former perfectly sculpted and crafted utopia, was nothing more than a fading memory.
Velen and his people took a new name: draenei. In their language, this meant "exiled ones" -- and it was an apt description. The naaru continued to teach Velen and the others of the mysteries of the Light along the way.
But the worries of the draenei did not end with their flight from Argus. Kil'jaeden was furious at the presumed betrayal of his former brother in all but blood and relentlessly chased the draenei across the universe for thousands of years. Each time, the draenei fled, and each time, they tried even harder to find a successful place to hide. Eventually, they found a world where the Burning Legion didn't follow, and they named it Draenor.
Of course, Draenor had its own inhabitants, most notably the orcish race. Velen met with two of them -- a young Durotan and an equally young Orgrim -- and drank in what they had to say, answering any questions they had to the best of his ability. But there was something sorrowful lurking about Velen, Durotan noticed, and he couldn't figure out what or why it was. Perhaps in truth, it was that Prophet Velen saw the fractured bits of the future and could not help but see that one day, the orcs would turn on his people. One day, the draenei would have to flee again.
One day, his brother in all but blood would arrive, and that day would signal the beginning of a slaughter that the draenei simply could not avoid.
Again, Durotan knelt before the draenei. "They call you Prophet -- do you know the future then? If so, then tell me what you and I can do to avert what I fear will unfold."
The strange blue eyes held an unspeakable empathy. Velen extended a pale hand and placed it on Durotan's shoulder.
"The future is not like a book one can read," he said quietly. "It is ever changing, like the rush of water, or the swirl of sand. I am granted certain insights, but nothing more. The river's course can be changed. But you are the ones who must change it. That is all I know, and I pray it is enough to save my people."
The look on his ancient, oddly cracked face and the tone of his voice told Durotan what his words did not: that Velen did not, indeed, think it would be enough to save his people. -- Rise of the Horde, Christie Golden
Kil'jaeden's fury could not be swayed. Once he discovered the location of the draenei, he hatched a plan and tricked the native orcs, deceiving them into thinking the draenei were planning to conquer their world. Though Durotan did not wish to believe the tales, there was little he could do when the rest of the orcish race was so adamantly listening to the stranger that promised them power unending. After being ordered to meet with Velen by Ner'zhul, Durotan let the Prophet go, unwilling to take the being that had treated him with such courtesy and respect in his youth to his demise.
But the orcish attacks continued unabated and ended in the relentless slaughter of countless draenei. Old, young, men, women, children -- none were spared. It was all the draenei could do to get away. There was no place to flee to, no salvation this time. K'ure lay dying in Oshu'gun, unable to summon enough strength to whisk them all away as it had so many times before. And so Velen and those that survived went into hiding, though some were affected by the strange red mist that surged throughout Shattrath City during the last orcish attack. It warped their appearance and cut them off from the Light, and these draenei, these broken, were banished before their unfortunate disease could spread to others.
Two decades later, after the world had torn itself asunder and Illidan, Vash'j and Kael'thas had made their presence known on the shattered world of Outland, the hidden draenei still tried to recover. Farseer Nobundo, a broken draenei, had returned to his former people with Velen's encouragement and begun to teach them the ways of the shaman. And it was with Nobundo at his side that Prophet Velen led a raid on the forumer naaru fortress of Tempest Keep, his people fighting their way onto the Exodar wing and taking flight, leaving Outland far behind ... or so they thought. Their opponents, the blood elves who served Kael'thas Sunstrider, also found their way onto the ship -- and though the draenei beat them back, the blood elves were able to sabotage the ship's engines, sending it careening out of control until it reached the closest habitable planet.
On Azeroth, Velen quietly went about rebuilding his people and repairing the planet on which they'd abruptly crashed. He formed an alliance with the natives of the planet, though the natives were wary of the draenei and their strange appearance. He bade his people to help the natives of this world, for their purpose was almost the same as his -- to go back through the Dark Portal and put an end to the Burning Crusade. Velen allied with the Alliance because he saw in them an affinity for the Light, the same Light that his people had been following with devotion ever since the first flight from Argus, so many thousands of years ago.
And that's really the crux of Velen's crusade. He is endlessly devoted to the naaru and what they represent. The visions have shown Velen a future in which a vast army of the Light would put an end to the Burning Legion, and it's what Velen craves more than anything -- a halt to the darkness of Sargeras' reign. He helped the sin'dorei reignite the Sunwell, using the heart of a fallen naaru, and now the Sunwell burns brighter than before, both with the arcane energy of the past and the Light of M'uru's heart as well. He wanted the sin'dorei to experience the Light properly. He wanted them to view it as a blessing, not something to be siphoned out of a dying naaru's shell.
It may seem strange to Velen that Azeroth's people knew about the Light long before his arrival, but he never lets it show. And when Velen encountered Prince Anduin during an Alliance summit, he saw an aptitude for the Light in the boy, such a tremendous aptitude and thirst for yearning that he invited Anduin to come stay for a time and study under the Prophet's tutelage. Anduin was honored by the offer, but his father was unwilling to let him go -- and so after a heated altercation between the two, Prince Anduin picked up his things and went, whether his father wanted him to or not.
And Anduin thrived -- but even as he thrived, the world suffered. The Shattering splintered the world and sent those affected to the Exodar, seeking refuge. Human refugees, those who had been cast out or otherwise unwilling to trust their human king. In the midst of it all, Velen continued to see vision after vision, but the Light wasn't showing him the way anymore. It took Anduin's words to shake the Prophet back to the proper path before it was too late, and Velen was grateful for it.
We must ask ourselves again how must it feel to be ageless, to see centuries as mere blinks of an eye? And how does one reconcile their age and their mission with those that cannot understand the magnitude of what the Prophet sees? Velen is nigh-immortal and, in a way, unfathomable for almost everyone on Azeroth. His visions are the stuff of hushed whispers. His very being looked at as something that is legendary, awe-inspiring. And that is one of many burders the Prophet bears. When those you seek to inspire look to you as less of a man and more of a thing, how do you show them the way? When your followers place more importance on your visions than they do of you as an individual, who do you turn to when you need words of comfort, of reassurance?
Velen has the Light to guide him, but that does not mean he is an infallible being; he has doubt, he has despair, and he has sorrow in spades. For though he can see the infinite paths of futures yet to be, he must also wrestle with the knowledge that there is no way to prevent those futures from occuring. He has seen countless worlds snuffed to dust by the Burning Legion's blaze, yet there was nothing he could do to prevent those worlds from expiring. The Prophet Velen exists almost outside of time itself, and the visions he is granted tell a story that spans aeons when one day, hopefully, the Legion will fall.
And that is perhaps the greatest burden that Velen carries. For it was Velen's brothers who dismissed his warnings. He was unable to stop them from allying with Sargeras and unable to convince him that his vision was the vision of truth. And because of that, thousands of worlds continue to fall every second of every day, disappearing into darkness in the blink of an eye. He has been blessed with visions of a perfect future but cursed to view the destruction of countless worlds, countless lives reduced to nothing. And he must live with the knowledge that if his words had been listened to, if that initial vision had been believed, none of this would have come to pass.
Yet despite the sorrow, despite the burden he bears, the Prophet soldiers on. He realizes there is a far greater destiny, and to one of his immesurable years, that destiny may seem closer than to the short-lived. Velen plays a long game, but to him, it may not seem long at all. The Prophet may struggle with his visions, and he may struggle with finding a place for his people, but he is willing to work through the suffering. He is willing to go to the depths of hell and back again in order to put the universe to right.
To the Prophet Velen, we must seem like motes of dust, winking in and out of existence so quickly that we can scarcely be recognized as entities before we cease to exist -- but we burn all the brighter for it. And for that, the Prophet treasures us all, far more than we can comprehend. He is grateful and willing to teach us anything we wish to know, in the brief moments before we sputter out. Our dedication is his saving grace, our resolve is his triumph. And though his present may be tinged with sorrow, his future promises to make it all worthwhile.
For more information on the people, places and history mentioned here, check out other Know Your Lore columns such as:
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.