The easiest assumed ‘Bad Guys’ of the World of Warcraft are the Horde. Led by a race known as Orcs, they are often categorized as bloodthirsty savages intent on the destruction of the human race. But where did the Orcs come from? And why on earth would they up and decide to annihilate an entire race of beings? To answer this, we have to go way back, deep into Warcraft history and take a look at the origin of the Orcs. More specifically, where they came from: Draenor.
Once upon a time, there was a world called Azeroth, and a world called Draenor. For now, we’re going to focus on Draenor. Don’t worry, Azeroth will be covered eventually!
Draenor was a planet co-habitated by two races, the orcs, and the draenei. While the draenei are often portrayed and spoken of by many as the ‘good guys’ of Draenor, the truth is, they weren’t the original habitants of the planet. The original race were the orcs – born and raised, and the only reason Draenor is called Draenor is because the draenei decided to call it that upon landing on the planet. The orcs themselves were generally quiet, shamanistic, and not really prone to violent outbursts, and easily manipulated. Unfortunately, the orcs were placed squarely in the middle of a game impossible to win.
The draenei that settled on Draenor weren’t really ‘draenei’ at all – it was simply a name they adopted, that meant ‘exiled ones’ in their native tongue. These ‘draenei’ were actually part of the eredar race, who originated on a world called Argus. The Eredar were led by three leaders – Archimonde, Kil’jaeden, and Velen. Twenty-five thousand years ago, the three leaders were approached by Sargeras, who offered to transform the entirety of the eredar into a much more powerful race, in order to unify all the races of the universe. The new improved eredar would act as Sargeras’s spellcasters, spreading this universal love all through the universe and uniting everyone into one big happy singsong land of candy, flowers, fluffy bunnies, and basic campfires.
This was, of course, a flat-out lie. Sargeras wanted nothing more than to destroy the universe and undo all the work that the Titans had done in creating it. Unfortunately, Archimonde and Kil’jaeden bought it. Fortunately, Velen didn’t.
Velen was a prophet with the gift of Sight, and was granted a vision by one of the naaru that showed him exactly what Sargeras was up to. There were no bunnies, there were no flowers, there were no basic campfires – all there was was death, destruction, and other unpleasantness that didn’t agree with Velen at all. And the naaru told him it would be all right – but he needed to gather his followers and escape, before it was too late to do so. And so Velen and his followers fled, renaming themselves ‘draenei’ – ‘exiled ones’ in their language. Each time they seemed close to being captured, the naaru would help them flee, and they journeyed from world to world in this manner, until at last they settled upon Draenor. Kil’jaeden and Archimonde remained, and together formed the start of what is now known as the Burning Legion – an army of powerful beings intent on the destruction of worlds, all at the behest of Sargeras.
But what of the orcs, the original denizens of the planet? The orcs were a simple people – far more simple than the eredar had ever been. Not only simple, but easily manipulated. The orcs were led by a shaman named Ner’zhul, a tremendously popular orc that was admired and respected for his deep connection with the spirits, and of all the orcs and various clans, he was the one that led them all. While Ner’zhul was a decent sort, he was like all beings, not without his weaknesses – and Ner’zhul’s weakness was power. The sort of power that he could never dream of having. And so it remained nothing more than a dream…until the now-named draenei showed up.
The orcs and draenei lived in harmony for quite some time. The Prophet Velen met several of them, including the leader of the Frostwolf clan, an orc by the name of Durotan. Durotan and a young orc named Orgrim of the Blackrock clan had formed a friendship when they were young. One day while racing through Terrokar forest they were threatened by an angry ogre, and rescued by a brigade of draenei. These draenei brought the two to Velen, who spoke with them of prophecies, visions, and the heritage and history of the orcish race. The two were released unharmed and headed home – Ogrim in particular enlightened by a prophecy involving his father’s weapon, the Doomhammer. Velen told him that some day, one of non-Blackrock lineage would wield the weapon, and lead the orcs to true salvation.
As for Ner’zhul, he had a wife who died, but that didn’t stop him from contacting her. As a shaman, his deep connection with the spirits allowed him communication with those long dead. And one day, a vision of his wife appeared to warn him of the draenei. The vision told him that the draenei were plotting to destroy the orcs, wipe them from the face of the planet so that they could take the world for their own – and this didn’t sit right with Ner’zhul. Unsure of what to do, he continued speaking to the vision, who told him there was a way for him to defend the attacks and keep his people safe – a ‘great one’ that she had found, somewhere in the afterlife. She could introduce him to this ‘great one’, she told him, and the ‘great one’ would help to keep the world she’d grown up and died on safe and sound – and Ner’zhul agreed.
And so the Great One appeared – and it turned out this Great One was none other than Kil’jaeden, who had pursued the draenei relentlessly, angered at Velen for his refusal of Sargeras’s offer. Kil’jaeden spoke with Ner’zhul and offered him the one thing he craved most. Power. It was then that Ner’zhul began to practice the ways of the warlock – shadow magic that his people had never before seen, and he began to order his people to attack the draenei, convinced that they were plotting to wipe his people from their rightful place in the world and telling his people that the ancestors wished it so.
Velen, confused, sent a courier to ask Ner’zhul what was going on and requesting a meeting at the draenei’s first point of landing in Draenor – the crystal-ship that the orcs called ‘Oshu’gun’, or translated, ‘Mountain of Spirits’. The courier was killed before he could return – and Ner’zhul, not wishing to place himself in harm’s way, sent Durotan in his place, along with Durotan’s chief shaman, Drek’thar. Velen attempted to explain to both orcs where the draenei had come from, and what Oshu’gun really was – but Durotan and Drek’thar grew angered by this. The things this ‘prophet’ spoke of were nothing short of blasphemy – yet Velen had treated him kindly at one point, and so Durotan let him go despite orders from Ner’zhul to kill the prophet on the spot.
Ner’zhul grew angry at this – but something in him was bothered. The spirits, once so free to speak with him, were growing more and more silent and withdrawn. The ancestors that he’d claimed had ordered his people to attack the draenei were curiously silent. And the Great One that taught him so many new ways to manipulate and use the shadow magics he didn’t even know he craved, bore a striking resemblance to the draenei – indeed, the Great One seemed to harbor an unrelenting hatred for Velen and his people, a hatred that seemed out of place in a being that was supposedly divine and benevolent. Ner’zhul traveled to the Mountain of Spirits, seeking answers to the quiet stirrings and questions in his mind.
The real spirit of his wife Rulkan was there waiting for him. She told him that he’d been deceived – that Kil’jaeden wasn’t concerned with the orcs at all, and was merely using them as instruments in his own plans to get rid of Velen and the exiled ones. Horrified, Ner’zhul decided to defy Kil’jaeden and make amends with the spirits for the actions that had earned their silence – but things are never that easy.
For in the shadows, Gul’dan watched.
To be continued…