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.
Standing in Outland as a sanctuary capital shared by both Alliance and Horde, Shattrath City isn't exactly much to look at. The city is divided into several different sections, housing a variety of occupants from draenei to arakkoa to everything in between -- refugees, for the most part. In Warlords of Draenor, we'll finally see Shattrath as it was in its glory days. A coastal city, a museum metropolis, described as an architectural marvel. Unfortunately, the city will also be occupied by the Iron Horde.
The events that turned Shattrath from shining capital of the draenei to the ruins we're familiar with today are steeped in tragedy that still affects the draenei race to this day. Certainly there was sorrow to be found in the fall of the city -- but its fall, and the fall of the other draenei cities scattered around Draenor, were also directly responsible for the evolution of the draenei race as we know it.
Over two hundred years before the events of the First War, the draenei landed on a world they eventually named Draenor, "Exiles' Refuge." They weren't alone on Draenor -- it was populated by several different intelligent species, yet the draenei kept themselves fairly hidden away. They traded with the native orcs, fought off the native ogres where necessary, but otherwise kept themselves out of any kind of influential contact with the other races. Yet they still managed to build massive cities for themselves, temples and centers of trade alike. None of these was quite as grand as Shattrath. Nestled on the coast of the Zangar Sea, Shattrath City was the draenei capital -- and the draenei by and large lived in peace.
That peace wasn't going to last. Kil'jaeden discovered the whereabouts of the draenei while looking for a new race that could work as an army for the Burning Legion. The orcs were suitable enough for the task, but the fact that they shared a world with the draenei was a bonus, as far as Kil'jaeden was concerned. On Draenor, Kil'jaeden could finally enact his revenge on Velen, all the while fulfilling the duties he'd been charged with as well.
It started slowly, at first. Kil'jaeden had to quietly earn the trust of the orcish race, something easily accomplished by appearing as the spirit of Ner'zhul's dead mate. But the plan went off without a hitch -- Ner'zhul believed Kil'jaeden's claims, never once suspecting that the words spoken by his mate were in fact coming from a demonic entity that cared little for the fate of his people beyond their effectiveness as tools of war and destruction. Although the draenei had done very little to or with the orcs beyond the occasional trading, Ner'zhul accepted that the blue-skinned strangers were, in fact, preparing to wipe the orcish race from the face of the planet.
But Ner'zhul wasn't targeted for his gullibility, he was a target because he was the spiritual leader of the orcish race. He was the closest thing the orcs had to a Warchief, before the title existed. Every clan listened to Ner'zhul, every clan respected Ner'zhul's words. And so the lies continued to be spread -- Ner'zhul told the orcs what his deceased mate had told him, and the scattered clans believed it, even though evidence pointed otherwise. Certainly of all things, the spirits themselves wouldn't lie.
It began with small attacks on draenei hunting parties. Confused at first, the draenei fought back to little avail. And as time passed, the attacks began to escalate even further. Soon, entire cities began to crumble under the assault of the united clans. Velen made an effort to try and meet with the orcs, narrowly escaping with his life due to being intercepted by Durotan. Had it been any but the Frostwolf Chieftain, the Prophet surely would have lost his life. But Durotan let him go. It was Durotan's words that finally clued Ner'zhul in to the fact that something might be wrong, but by then it was far too late to do anything -- Ner'zhul's apprentice, Gul'dan, made certain of that, betraying his master and informing Kil'jaeden of Ner'zhul's wavering allegiance.
And once Kil'jaeden had removed Ner'zhul from the picture, the fate of the orcish race was sealed. Attacks on cities began, and one by one they fell -- and Velen finally realized the true scope of what was going on. The orcs were not fighting alone, they had the man'ari on their side. Finally, the great temple of Karabor fell to the onslaught, and Velen and the others were forced to take refuge in the only city left -- Shattrath. Kil'jaeden was pleased, and readied his puppets for their final assault, sealing their allegiance to the Legion by giving them the blood of Mannoroth to drink.
The result was a complete bloodbath. Raised to new heights of violence and bloodlust with the demon's blood coursing through their veins, bolstered by new magics given to them by Kil'jaeden, the orcs rushed the capital city in a frenzy, dismantling the walls and tearing the draenei apart. They flooded the lower city with a thick red mist that choked the Vindicators and citizens who had stayed behind. Yet although they searched for Velen, he was nowhere to be found in the capital city. He had already left, along with others, seeking refuge in the marshes along the Zangar Sea, where they hoped they wouldn't be found.
Although Shattrath may have seemed fully populated, it was not. Those that chose to stay behind and defend may have known, in the moment they decided to stay, that they were likely signing their death warrant. But the draenei could not afford to leave the city empty. If they had, the orcs would have simply continued scouring Draenor until the refugees were found and destroyed. One of these draenei who stayed behind was Nobundo -- and against all odds, he managed to survive, witnessing with horror the slaughter that rained from above, somewhere in the depths of the Lower City. He heard the screams of his people, the dull thud of bodies being tossed from the heights of the former capital. And he quickly discovered that somehow, something had cut him off from the Light. He could no longer wield its powers.
The red mist the orcs had under their control was the culprit. Fel magic, it severed the draenei's innate connection to the Light, almost guaranteeing a Horde victory before the onslaught had even begun. That night, Shattrath City fell into ruin -- and Gul'dan discovered that Kil'jaeden had abandoned the orcish race, content to see his works fulfilled. Later, Gul'dan would be contacted by Medivh, the Dark Portal opened, the cycle begun anew on Azeroth ... but for the draenei left behind on Draenor, their suffering had only begun.
Nobundo was not the only survivor to escape from Shattrath City. Others were pulled from the wreckage as well -- and none of the Vindicators in those ranks could use the Light anymore. Healers tried to reassure Nobundo and the others that the Light would come back to them in time, but as time passed, it was clear that this was not the case -- and that whatever had happened in Shattrath, it was far more severe than any draenei could have imagined. Slowly, Nobundo and the other survivors began to change, their bodies twisting and warping with the effects of whatever magic the orcs had used.
They became krokul -- Broken. And their affliction did not escape the notice of their draenei brethren. Frightened by the physical and mental changes their former allies suffered, the draenei soon came together and turned the krokul away, afraid that whatever malady that plagued the krokul would pass to others. Cast out by their own, the krokul gathered together in their own tribes -- the tribes we see on Outland today.
Yet the degeneration would continue as Draenor was ripped apart. Some krokul fared worse for the shattering of the world, their minds retreating even further into a place of forgetful madness. Some of these draenei managed to find their way through the Dark Portal into Azeroth, where they are now known simply as Lost Ones, broken draenei who have largely forgotten everything they once were, and now shamble about the Swamp of Sorrows with little purpose other than survival.
As for the broken left behind on Draenor, they continued to live on in the wilds of Outland. One faction of krokul was led by Akama, former guardian and priest of Karabor. After Karabor's destruction, Akama fled to Shattrath, and was subsequently hit the hardest by the orc's fel magics. After falling into a coma, he awoke to find himself broken and cast out with the others. But his hatred for the Legion continued. He and his followers fought tooth and nail with the Legion that had arrived to settle on the broken remnants of Draenor, now called Outland.
It was in one such battle with the pit lord Magtheridon that Akama first encountered strangers from another world. He and his people were aided by Kael'thas Sunstrider and Lady Vashj, who had fled to Outland for their own reasons. They spoke of their master, Illidan Stormrage, and his desire to scour the world of the Legion, including the Black Temple. Hoping to see Karabor restored to its former glory, Akama pledged himself and his kin to Illidan's service. Yet once Illidan had retaken Karabor, it became clear to Akama that Karabor had simply traded one dark master for another.
Nobundo, on the other hand, suffered a better fate. After being cast out by his own people, he discovered the elements that had abandoned the orcish race, becoming a shaman. His works did not escape notice, and Velen soon brought him to the scattered draenei encampments to spread the word of what he had discovered, and fostered an entirely new sect of draenei shamanism that is still being practiced today. Although it was clear that exposure to the krokul would not, in fact, taint or change the draenei race, most still remained wary, leery of the strange appearance of the broken, and their lack of connection to the Light.
As for Shattrath City, it didn't remain deserted. A group of draenei priests returned to Shattrath, conducting their rites in a ruined temple. These priests were known as the Aldor. In later years, the Aldor were visited by the Sha'tar, a group of naaru that arrived in Tempest Keep with the intent of purging the Legion from Outland. With the return of the naaru, Shattrath City was quietly rebuilt, and the place became an infirmary and sanctuary for injured refugees.
Yet the renewed purpose of Shattrath City didn't escape the notice of Kael'thas Sunstrider, Illidan's ally. He sent an army of blood elves to attack the city and take it out. But upon arrival at the city, the blood elves, led by Voren'thal, laid down their weapons, their leader asking to speak to the naaru A'dal. After explaining that he'd seen A'dal in a vision, Voren'thal asked that A'dal allow himself and his followers to serve the naaru, and A'dal agreed. This led to the formation of the Scryers that currently occupy the city alongside the Aldor.
And that's where Shattrath City stands today -- a refuge, a home to the injured, a sanctuary, a fortress for A'dal and the Sha'tar. No longer a draenei capital, no longer a coastal city, it is a welcome home to any who have lost their way in Outland, and are willing to lay aside any tendencies for aggression towards others. Those caught fighting in Shattrath are quickly banished outside the city limits, although they may return if they cease any fighting.
As for the Lost Ones, they still roam the outskirts of Outland, dotting the landscape with crude camps and attacking any who dare to encroach. Few dare mention or even remember that these primitive, warped creatures were once draenei who stood tall and proud, defending to their last the shining glory of Shattrath's walls. Few express anything but revulsion for these former noble warriors of the draenei people. They are lost -- lost in their own minds, and lost in the minds of those who simply gave up on them, turning them away in their most dire hour of need.
Yet the krokul fared a slightly better fate. Akama and his people had their revenge on Illidan, the broken quietly planning the self-proclaimed Lord of Outland's downfall and orchestrating his demise. Nobundo still teaches the draenei the ways of the shaman, from his home in the Exodar. And although the Lost Ones may be beyond hope, it appears as though Velen's compassion has allowed at least a few broken to reclaim their place at the side of the draenei -- even though many draenei are still wary of those cut off so abruptly from the Light.
In Warlords of Draenor, we'll see Shattrath City again. This time, the city is occupied by the Iron Horde -- a Horde that never drank the blood of Mannoroth, a Horde that supposedly hasn't embraced Kil'jaeden's unique "gifts." In this alternate version of Draenor, the krokul, the Lost Ones have not come to pass. The draenei still stand tall and proud, fighting tooth and nail against a Horde that may be united, but doesn't have the Legion at its back to bolster its strength. While we have yet to discover what Shattrath City originally held, we can certainly hope that with the united strength of the draenei, it will not remain in Horde hands for long.
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.