Welcome back to Night Elf History! This is where the history of the night elves gets a little muddled. See, there’s several different versions of the timeline surrounding the Well of Eternity – one in the game manual for Warcraft III, the one on the official site of the game as part of the History of Warcraft section, and then a couple more from the War of the Ancients Trilogy by Richard A. Knaak. In the War of the Ancients Trilogy, there were two distinct timelines – one version that happened before history was altered, and one that was created by three characters from present day that traveled back in time to witness the whole shebang, and invariably change parts of it for good.
While I prefer the unaltered version, Blizzard considers the War of the Ancients Trilogy as the official source of ‘true’ history, and so there will be brief (very brief) mentions of the characters that traveled back in time. Confusing enough yet? Just keep in mind that humans and orcs didn’t really exist yet, and that dragons largely kept to themselves. Moving on!
The Druidic Kaldorei and Elune
While the quel’dorei were making Zin-Azshari their home, the kaldorei were making a home of their own – Suramar. Suramar was considered the religious capital of elven society, built along the outskirts of Zin-Azshari and home to the temples and the academies. Essentially, if one was training in the arts of magic, be it druidic or arcane, one trained out in Suramar. If one grew badass enough to be considered a Highborne, one moved further INTO the city, closer to the well. Suramar had several sections within it. Foremost was a great garden in the middle that was home to the Boughs of Azshara, two twin trees that were sacred to all kaldorei and quel’dorei. It also contained the temple district, which bordered the edges of the Well of Eternity and contained the Eternal Palace that Queen Azshara called home.
There were several notable residents of Suramar, but there are three that stand out from the rest – Tyrande Whisperwind, and the brothers Stormrage.
Malfurion Stormrage was a kaldorei, not a quel’dorei, and showed an aptitude for druidism that was so strong that the demigod Cenarius chose to take him under his wing for training in the druidic arts. Malfurion took to the training with ease, becoming the first night elf to travel into the Emerald Dream. His first journey into the realm was marred however by the sense that something was terribly wrong – and that something involved the Well of Eternity, and the palace that Azshara called home. Exploring further, Malfurion’s dream self was horrified to discover the goings-on with the Well of Eternity, and even more horrified to realize that this was not only unspoken tampering that was meddling with the very fabric of their world, but it was more than likely sanctioned by Azshara herself.
Tyrande Whisperwind was the childhood friend of the Stormrage twins, and as she grew to adulthood, she found her calling with the Sisters of Elune, an order of priestesses dedicated to the worship of Elune. Tyrande, a novice priestess, showed tremendous potential, able to heal any wound she put her hands to. Tyrande was the object of both Malfurion and his brother Illidan’s affections and was torn between the two – but Malfurion’s gentleness and kind nature led her to eventually choose him.
Oh Illidan. So much to write about you, but I will keep this brief, for now. Illidan Stormrage was the twin of Malfurion – and where Malfurion was even-tempered and patient, Illidan was just the opposite. Born with the golden eyes that signified a child of great destiny, he tried his hand at the druidic arts, but soon grew frustrated with his lack of mastery over them, largely due to his lack of patience or control. What called to him, far stronger than the call of druidism, was the call of the Well and the arcane magic contained within. Illidan displayed as much of a talent for arcane magic as Malfurion did for the druidic arts, passing even the best of the quel’dorei sorcerers with ease. Obsessed with Tyrande, he was continually seeking ways to improve his power in an effort to impress her and win her heart at last.
Also passing through were three time travelers – Broxigar, an orc and brother to Varok Saurfang, Rhonin, a human mage, and Krasus, a high elf mage who wasn’t really a mage at all – he was the red dragon Korialstraz in mortal guise. The three were abruptly transported to the past and did their best to keep themselves from meddling with the timeline going on while trying to find their way home.
Lord Xavius and Hakkar worked feverishly at making the portal strong enough to withstand the might of Sargeras passing between worlds, but were unable to give the Well enough power. Queen Azshara, seeing their failure, suggested they cut the Well off from all other interference, dedicating it solely to the task at hand and making the Well’s energies only accessible by the Highborne working in the Palace. Xavius agreed, and he and Hakkar worked to set up a shield spell, but their knowledge wasn’t enough to complete even this, and so Xavius called upon Sargeras again, asking him for his assistance and explaining what needed to be done. Sargeras, furious at the failures of the Highborne, sent aid in the form of one of his most trusted commanders – Mannoroth the Destructor. Mannoroth succeeded where the others had failed, and the shield was placed over the Well.
The effect was immediate – all kaldorei and quel’dorei with any magical affinity at all suddenly felt weakened, drained. They gathered around the palace, seeking words of comfort and wisdom from their beloved Queen and waiting for word on what had happened, and what they must do. What happened next was anything but comforting.
The gates of the Eternal Palace opened, and from them poured forth the gathered army of the Burning Legion, slaughtering all in their path.
Azshara’s cleansing had begun.
The War of the Ancients and the Sundering
Malfurion Stormrage, sensing a powerful spell blocking the Well’s energies, went willingly into the Emerald Dream in order to destroy the spell and restore the energies back to his people. Tyrande went with him, both to watch over him and because she’d realized of the two brothers, her heart truly belonged with Malfurion. Illidan meanwhile had quickly moved up the ranks in the kaldorei militia, commanding a force of sorcerers in the fight against the Burning Legion. Malfurion was successful in disrupting the spell and killed Lord Xavius in the process, returning to Tyrande’s arms – and Illidan discovered that despite all his best efforts to impress Tyrande, she had chosen his brother over him.
Brooding and consumed with self-pity, thoughts began to enter his mind. What if, the thoughts suggested, something terrible happened to Malfurion? What if he were to fall in battle, would Tyrande not turn to him for solace, comfort and love? Disgusted, he turned these thoughts away – but they haunted the back of his mind. The thoughts were not in fact his own, but planted there by Lord Xavius, who hoped to cause enough conflict between the two brothers to disrupt the attacks on the palace and the interference with his efforts. Illidan continued fighting, having nothing else to fight for but his people, but the frustration and anger towards his brother and Tyrande soon led him to reckless displays of magic that not only wiped out the demons they were fighting, but some of the night elf forces as well. He was replaced with the human mage Rhonin, who was considerably cooler-minded. Thinking he’d been replaced for good, and disgraced, Illidan disappeared.
Meanwhile, more chaos had broken loose – the dragonflights of Azeroth were dealing with problems of their own. Neltharion the Earth-Warder, leader of the black dragonflight, had been driven nearly insane by the voices of the Old Gods and used an object known as the Dragon Soul, or Demon Soul, to not only kill large portions of the Burning Legion, but the night elf armies that fought against them. The Demon Soul was an artifact formed at the will of the Old Gods of Azeroth, and their whisperings to the leader of the black dragonflight were what drew him to insanity.
An artifact of that kind of power however would be useful to the night elf forces, and so once more Malfurion stepped into the Emerald Dream – this time, to steal the Demon Soul from Neltharion in order to use it against the Burning Legion.
Meanwhile, Sargeras continued to push armies through the portal. Mannoroth was defeated and summarily replaced with one of his most trusted Eredar – Lieutenant Archimonde. Remember Orc History Part 1, and the three leaders of the Eredar? Yeah, THAT Archimonde. He proceeded to lead all further assaults against the night elves, pushing them as far back as Mount Hyjal as the night elves and the dragon flights fought valiantly against them.
But what of Illidan? Illidan reappeared after a time, not at the temple district, but at the gates of the Eternal Palace itself, to pledge his loyalty to the Burning Legion. It seems the thoughts that plagued his mind had won out at last. Illidan stood before the portal, and his destiny was to be changed forever – or perhaps the destiny of the golden-eyed child was merely beginning. He spoke to Sargeras, telling him of the Demon Soul, of the powers contained therein and how they could be used to finish the task Sargeras had set – to bring the Great One into Azeroth for once and for all. Pleased, Sargeras granted Illidan a gift. Freezing him in place, the Great One burned Illidan’s eyes from his sockets, leaving nothing left but charred skin and bone and granting him new vision in the process. Illidan was given a blindfold to wear and cover the grotesque, empty sockets. Sargeras told Illidan to go get the Demon Soul for him, and Illidan readily agreed.
Illidan Stormrage was smarter than that. He’d already planned to betray the demons, and only pretended to ally himself with them to learn of their magic, and to obtain the Demon Soul. Once the artifact was his, he would use it to close the portal, destroy all remaining demons on Azeroth, and become the greatest hero of all…neatly winning the heart of a starry-eyed priestess in the process.
So Illidan left to hunt for the Demon Soul and found it in the possession of none other than his brother Malfurion. Ambushing the druid, he took the artifact and returned to Zin-Azshari, his great plan already set in motion – but it was not to be. Illidan had planned to convince Sargeras to let him use the Demon Soul to open the portal – but Sargeras, wary of the elf, decided he would wield the Demon Soul himself from the other side of the portal. Without access to the Demon Soul, Illidan thought quickly – if he waited until Sargeras opened the portal, and then cast a spell to reverse the portal’s effects, it would create a maelstrom that would suck the demons back from where they had come. Convinced of this plan’s worth, he took some of the water from the Well of Eternity, intending to use it to help with the spell.
He was interrupted by another – a particular starry-eyed priestess he’d had his eyes on. Tyrande had been captured by the Burning Legion and was making her escape when she happened upon the twin. Tyrande was horrified. Not only by Illidan’s new eyes, but at the brutality and recklessness he displayed. Boasting, he told her of his plans to cast the spell, using the Well’s water – and she cautioned him against it, as using the Well’s water directly was a highly dangerous action. Illidan, angry at the priestess, forced her to stay quiet while he cast the spell to save the world.
And nothing happened.
Tyrande and Illidan were found by demons shortly after, and fought their way out of the palace, joined by Malfurion. Sargeras grew ever closer – halfway through the portal, he would soon wreak havoc over all Azeroth. And so Stormrage did the only thing he could think of, the one thing that would stop the Burning Legion, once and for all.
He closed the portal.
Using the power of the Demon Soul, Malfurion caused the portal to weaken, to close in on itself. It was enough. The Well of Eternity strained beyond all imagining by the entrance of a god, snapped. The explosion rocked the world, sending vast amounts of land hurtling across Azeroth’s oceans, and the Well itself sank into the middle of the ocean, forming what is now known as the Maelstrom. The creatures of Azeroth ran, panicked, for higher ground – the peaks of Mount Hyjal. Many perished, but many others reached the mountain safely. Azeroth was safe – but at what cost? The face of the world was changed, forever.
As for Azshara, beloved Queen of the night elves…she waited patiently in her palace for Sargeras to make his debut, convinced the god would take her as his consort. Realizing this was not meant to be, she gathered her handmaidens and the remaining, ever faithful Highborne to her. As the black waters of the Well of Eternity rushed into the palace, she cast a magic shield around them all to keep from drowning. And as the Eternal Palace sank into the depths of the ocean, a voice whispered in her head of an escape: “There is a way…there is a way…you will become more than you ever were…more than you ever were…we can help…we can help…You will be more than you have ever been…and when the time comes, for what we grant you…you will serve us well…“
Far greater than any mortal on the planet, possibly greater than the Aspects of the Dragonflights, and living far, far beneath the earth lurked the Old Gods. They had taken note of the portal and the activities surrounding it, and took Azshara and her followers for their own, deep under the ocean. They would not drown. Instead, they would become the naga, transformed into a shape that better reflected their cruel inherent nature. And Queen Azshara reigned supreme over them all.
Meanwhile, above land, a challenge of a different nature arose. Illidan and Malfurion returned, Malfurion being hailed as a hero – and Illidan being looked upon with distrust, his eyes unnerving. Illidan grew even more jealous of his brother than before – here Illidan had sacrificed himself to help his people, and yet Malfurion was the one reaping in the praise. But Illidan had a plan to restore the Well. Certain that the Burning Legion would return someday, he believed the night elves would be lost forever if they didn’t have the magic of the Well to aid them.
Seven vials of water he had procured from the Well of Eternity, and he poured them into a lake, one, two, three – until a party of night elves, led by a commander named Jarod Shadowsong, caught him. Assuming the worst, Shadowsong tried to take him into custody, telling Illidan that if it were not for his brother, he’d most likely kill him on the spot. That was it. Illidan snapped, convinced the night elves had turned on him, ungrateful for what he was doing and wanting to keep him from the magic that made him powerful. Illidan flew into a rage, killing many of the captors before he was subdued by Malfurion.
At his trial, Illidan insisted that the Legion would return, and that he had the best interests of the Kaldorei race at heart. The night elves wished to see Illidan put to death for his treachery, but before they could hand down the sentence, Malfurion arrived to speak on Illidans’s defense. He told them Illidan might be right, and that the Legion might one day return, and asked that Illidan be imprisoned, not executed. The night elves agreed, and the Stormrage twin of the golden eyes was locked away.
As for the Well…Alexstraza the Life-Bringer, leader of the red dragonflights came to the night elves and brought with her an acorn from G’Hanir, the Mother Tree. Placing the acorn into the new Well, a tree formed, far larger, far greater than any had ever seen. This was to be the night elves new home, from which they would watch over the world – Nordrassil, “crown of the heavens”. Ysera the Dreamer, leader of the green dragonflight, also blessed the tree, allowing druids entry into the Emerald Dream to help her in protecting nature itself. And surprisingly, Nozdormu, leader of the bronze dragonflight also appeared to bless the tree, granting the night elves immortality for as long as the tree existed.
And so the night elves settled in Nordrassil.
But what of the Quel’dorei?
The kaldorei took the events of the Sundering and the Well of Eternity as a sign – using the arcane magics of the Well was a careless, reckless way of life. Adopting druidism as the one true path of magic enlightenment, the night elves barred the study of arcane magic, its use punishable by death. There were, however, many quel’dorei survivors who had survived the Sundering and grew restless. Thousands of years later, they spoke out against Malfurion Stormrage and the druids, declaring the druids cowards for refusing to wield the magic of the arcane and unleashing magic storms upon parts of the now much-smaller Kalimdor. The druids could not bring themselves to put so many of their own people to death, and instead decided to exile the reckless former Highborne from their lands. Glad to be rid of their tree-hugging cousins, the Highborne set out across the sea, never to be heard from again.
Well, until the rise of the Quel’dorei in the Eastern Kingdoms and the development of the Sin’dorei. But that’s a history lesson for another time!
As for the time travelers? Well, I’d hate to spoil the ending of the books, so I’d suggest you go read them yourselves.
MY FINGERS HURT. NIGHT ELVES ARE COMPLICATED. Summary to come soon!