Don't panic, I promise we'll get back to the naaru fairly soon. But this week, with patch 5.0.4 a mere week away and the Mists of Pandaria a month after that, I wanted to cover two figures who rose to prominence in Cataclysm and who you'll be seeing more of soon. There will be few spoilers for the upcoming expansion -- just a discussion of Captain Taylor and Legionnaire Nazgrim, who in many ways exemplified their respective factions in the expansive questing of Vashj'ir.
I don't want to give too many spoilers for Mists of Pandaria in this post, but some are unavoidable. Be warned now that the video linked in this article and some of the discussion at the end will touch upon Taylor and Nazgrim's roles in the Jade Forest and beyond.
Common and uncommon valor
Nazgrim actually made his first appearance as a Sergeant in the Grizzly Hills, serving under Conqueror Krenna. As a result, Nazgrim witnessed the woman's death in the pit in a fight with her own sister, aided by a member of the Horde who Nazgrim would later come to know as a friend. Having witnessed the way the Horde resolves chain of command issues, Nazgrim sought to exemplify a loyal officer to new Warchief Garrosh Hellscream and found himself leading a force of loyal Horde across the sea to new lands that had surfaced off the coast of Stormwind. What both the Horde and Alliance had thought would be a new battleground turned into a near disaster as the naga unleashed the enslaved kraken monstrosity Ozumat upon their vessels, and their forces stranded in an underwater world they barely understood.
Both Nazgrim and Taylor would fight on for their respective peoples against the naga threat. But they never forgot their original mission. The war delayed by Azshara's people wouldn't stay delayed forever.
The experiences of Taylor and Nazgrim in Vashj'ir mirrored one another, as each fought to reunite the scattered forces under his command and make a viable resistance to the naga. Both were captured defending their men and taken to Nespirah, where they were forced to toil as slaves for the naga's pearl collection. Luckily for both, independent forces allied to the Earthen Ring as well as to the Alliance and the Horde would work to free each, arriving at Nespirah after making their way out of the Kelp'thar Forest.
Beneath the waves a war
Taylor worked alongside Admiral Dvorek to free his men, helped by an Alliance citizen who'd joined the original mission to the risen islands at the King's request. Together they worked alongside the Earthen Ring to oppose the naga and free Nespirah from their control, just as Nazgrim and his Horde did. The Earthen Ring managed to keep the peace between these factions, working alongside both of them. But it was clear that while both the Horde and the Alliance were willing to work with the Earthen Ring, neither was willing to work with the other, and both opposed the naga individually.
Both attempted offensives against the naga at the sunken city of ruined Vashj'ir, but the Shimmering Expanse proved disastrous for them both. Admiral Dvorek, Taylor's superior, died in the attacks, and both the Horde and Alliance were forced to retreat. Both Nazgrim and Taylor were left as the defactor commanders of their respective people. Even then, they didn't come to any sort of common ground, each allowing the Earthen Ring to take the lead in the battle against the naga, both sides suspicious and wary of the other.
Operations against the naga and their allies, the faceless ones, continued. Although both factions abandoned their headquarters in the Shimmering Expanse, they did so only after having managed to secure aid from the surface, and each made their way to the Abyssal Depths with new technological vessels and a fresh contingent of troops to help make the final push against the naga.
Both the Horde and Alliance, under their respective commanders, pushed forward throughout the Abyssal Depths. The surfacers freed and gave a merciful death to L'ghorek, a gigantic entity similar to Nespirah who was infested by Twilight's Hammer cultists attempting dark rituals to connect him to a presence deep below the ocean's floor. With the Twilights given a setback, they could turn their focus to the naga and the faceless ones.
The Throne of the Tides
Using intelligence gained from a naga artifact, the Earthen Ring now knew how the naga and faceless ones were working together to bring a massive force to bear against Neptulon and invade the plane of water. Nazgrim and Taylor each led their respective underwater craft into the final battle, only to be shot down by the naga sea witch Lady Naz'jar and her numerous naga troops. In the end, Erunak Stonespeaker was dragged into the depths of the Abyssal Maw, Ozumat assaulted Neptulon, and the naga seemingly overran the very Throne of the Tides itself.
Neither Taylor nor Nazgrim would accept this, however. Alongside bands of loyal Horde or Alliance forces, they stormed the Throne and balked the naga in their moment of triumph, killing Lady Naz'jar and driving Ozumat away. While they failed to prevent Neptulon's capture by the tentacled horror, they did deny the naga control of the Throne.
Of course, who you saw doing what depended on which faction you were playing, but based on new evidence we see in Mists of Pandaria, it's safe to say that both were considered heroes as they returned from the depths. What is clear is that in many ways, the future of Horde/Alliance conflict is rooted in what these two characters represent. When sitting on the dock, waiting for their ship to come, both make impassioned speeches about what the war is about. In those speeches, we can see the disconnect between what the Horde believes and what the Alliance believes, a disconnect that makes peace almost completely impossible.
Taylor and Nazgrim are, ultimately, the boots on the ground doing the work while their leaders make demands from distant Stormwind and Orgrimmar. Nazgrim and Taylor are the ones making do with what forces they can scrounge up, trying to carry out impossible demands, just like they did in Vashj'ir. In the end, the underwater kingdom was far more important to the future of the war than anyone realized.
A man and an orc, locked in combat on an alien shore. And we're their means, their desperation made manifest, the swords and axes of their far-flung conflict.
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.