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.
There will be spoilers for patch 5.4 in this post
Part one covered the Horde, and part two covered the humans, dwarves, night elves and worgen of the Alliance. But what about the gnomes, draenei, and neutral factions? What about the pandaren, so new to both Horde and Alliance? How could these figures react to the new status quo (whatever it will be) and will they be a force to stabilize relations between the Alliance and the Horde, or will they make the situation more volatile?
Both the draenei and the gnomes have an outsider's perspective in their own way - the gnomes missed the entirety of the Third War due to problems at home (problems they are still attempting to fix) and while the draenei have experienced much suffering at the hands of the orcish Horde they are dedicated to the Prophet Velen's vision of the mortal races coming together to oppose the Burning Legion. Although both races sent observers to Pandaria during Varian Wrynn's Operation: Shieldwall, their leadership has not been very involved in this latest struggle with the other faction. Individual members of these races have, but not the groups as a whole.
So what, then, is their perspective after the siege of Orgrimmar?
Draenei are remarkably forgiving as a people, despite their occasional brutally pragmatic side (seen when Velen orders the extermination of those Burning Legion agents who followed them to Bloodmyst Isle) and we've already witnessed that charity and forgiveness when Velen and the naaru Mu'ru reignited the Sunwell and ended the crippling withdrawl that was slowly killing the blood elf people. This despite the blood elves willing enslavement and torture of Mu'ru in order to wield his stolen essence - despite the role of Kael'thas Sunstrider in the capture of Tempest Keep and planned return of Kil'jaeden.
Amazingly, an even more dramatic sign of this aspect of the draenei people (again, thanks to the Prophet Velen and his long association with the naaru) is their willingness to forgive the orcs. Despite the orcish genocide against the draenei, murdering their people throughout Outland, the draenei hold no specific animus against the orcs today. As a result, as long as Velen is the guiding force that directs his people and leads them, his directive to prepare all the people of Azeroth to face the Legion drives the draenei in their relations with all. As members of the Alliance, the physically imposing draenei will use their prodigious gifts to defend their new allies - they've learned the hard lesson of Draenor, and won't allow themselves to be slaughtered while trying to prevent conflict - but they do not favor a world continually at war and won't agitate for conflict for conflict's sake.
As such, the draenei simply are not and cannot be seen as a threat to Alliance/Horde relations on their own. While it is possible that their presence might fuel some orc racism (the orcs have never expressed any regret for their actions against the draenei, after all - a few members of the orcish people like Varok Saurfang have, but not the orcs as a whole) this seems remote, as the orcs generally seem to regard the draenei with mild distaste as best, as if it's rude of them to refuse to stay dead. As long as Velen leads, his people live in service to his vision of a unified Azeroth standing against the Legion.
That being said, if a different leader somehow came to power, the draenei have plenty of grudges they could start nursing.
In a way, it may be for the best that the gnomes are preoccupied with the situation at Gnomeregan and can't turn their pure focus on the events of the Horde/Alliance conflict. Even more so than the goblins, the gnomes are the most relentlessly innovative people on Azeroth - they surpass the goblins because they don't turn any of that intellect towards ways to profit from innovation. A goblin who invents a new explosive immediately tries to make money with it. A gnome who does the same immediately sets out to improve it. And once he or she has done that, well, explosives are for exploding things, so its time to find something to blow up. When all you have is a relentlessly creative mind, every problem starts to look like a challenge.
With the presumed death of Sicco Thermaplugg, Gnomeregan may soon fall fully into the hands of the gnomes and their High Tinker Mekkatorque. If that happens, the gnomes would be even more solidly at the sides of their allies in the Alliance, but aside from a dislike of the goblin way of doing things, gnomes don't really have any racial enmity with the Horde to speak of. If they Horde stayed in their own lands, the gnomes wouldn't really care all that much about them. Still, seeing a Horde going through the terrible process of rebuilding after Hellscream might inspire the perfectionists among the gnomish people. Can one make a better Horde?
The gnomes will most likely not be much of a threat to stability in the future. If they chose to be, well, then the world of Azeroth would be in trouble.
The pandaren of the Wandering Isle (the ones we, as players, are playing) who chose to leave the great turtle Shen-zin Su's back to join the Horde and Alliance are in an unusual position. There are too few of them in either faction to make much of any impact on the Horde/Alliance landscape, and it is unlikely they will really be consulted very much in the affairs of these inter-national leagues. They proved invaluable in understanding the new land the Horde and Alliance just fought over - even though they were not of Pandaria, they were pandaren and could to some degree explain each culture to the other. They were essentially living bridges between two worlds that have been separate for 10,000 years.
Following the end of Hellscream, there will be much damage to repair - his actions in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms have left the land scarred and killed many of its great protectors. With the Sha quiescent for a time and both the Mantid Empress and the Klaxxi who served as guardians of mantid culture dead, the mantid should recede for a time, leaving the yaungol with their old haunts in the Townlong Steppes to reclaim. The people of Pandaria itself will be occupied rebuilding their ancient homeland, while those who joined the two factions will likely choose instead to keep exploring and adventuring. Either way, the affairs of Alliance and Horde relations will probably be out of their hands.
There are groups that could intercede in the Horde/Alliance conflict, if only out of a fear of being caught in its path. At present, both the Argent Crusade and Knights of the Ebon Blade have reasons to be looking askance at the Horde for Sylvanas' expansion into the Plaguelands and her abduction of Koltira Deathweaver. The Cenarion Circle will most likely preserve its neutrality due to the policies of Malfuron Stormrage and Hamuul Runetotem, while the Earthen Ring is nominally likely to follow Thrall's lead (but can't be happy with Garrosh's Dark Shaman). Other groups are too disparate, too involved in their own affairs, or too weak to have much impact.
The Kirin Tor, on the other hand, are definitely going to play a huge part in the Siege of Orgrimmar. Jaina is decisively involved in the siege itself, and her actions since the bombing of Theramore (along with those of her current right hand, Vereesa Windrunner of the Silver Covenant High Elves) have been motivated by a desire to prevent the fate of Theramore being repeated as well as gaining some level of revenge for it. Jaina attempted to keep playing the diplomatic figure, but the actions of Hellscream broke even that veneer of the old peacemaker - is his downfall going to be enough to satisfy Lady Proudmoore? It seems very likely it won't satisfy Vereesa. Will these two accept a peace that results in a new Warchief or will they seek to strangle the weakened Horde before it has a chance to rebuild its shattered internal loyalty?
Jaina Proudmoore is absolutely the wild card in all this. As ruler of Dalaran she's on par with the heads of the other Alliance kingdoms - although she has in the past called Varian 'my king' she is not subordinate to him directly, and can (and has) ignored his wishes when it suited her. And even more interestingly, she's in possession of a city that can move, placing itself anywhere she wants it to be. It's ponderous and takes a great deal of effort to do it, but just imagine the strategic advantage of parking your magical city directly over an enemy and then unleashing countless mages' raw magical power from above their heads, well out of range of any counterattack. She wouldn't even need to use magic - just drop a few thousand pounds of rocks on your enemies. With Dalaran and an army of the best trained magicians in the world at her disposal, a cadre of Vereesa's fanatically loyal Silver Covenant (remember, they were willing to attack the blood elves of the Sunreavers, who less than ten years ago were their own people) and her own impressive magical power (plus whatever artifacts might be left in Dalaran's vaults) Jaina could be a potent force against any possible peace between Alliance and Horde.
Next week, we'll look more at Jaina, and her potential future.
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.