Draenei History: Space Goats, Windchimes and Demonic Corruption

Some view the introduction of the draenei as the biggest mistake that Blizzard could have made from a lore standpoint. Sci-fi? In our Warcraft? Spaceships and technology? Well…yes, actually. The thing that most people seem to forget when playing a game like this is that it’s an ongoing story. If WoW’s story remained the same, static and unchanging, it would hardly be the sort of game that captured the attention of so many people for so long. From a pure story standpoint, WoW is ongoing, and changing – and it’s up to the storywriters to decide in what way that story will evolve. While some view the science fiction elements of Burning Crusade as far-fetched, I don’t think it’s that major of a stepping-stone – we’ve already had some elements introduced, portals and dual worlds, Titans and engineering – science very much has a place in the WoW universe. What the storywriters have done is create a natural blend of science fiction and magic that for some reason works.

The mysterious race known as the draenei have been referenced in Warcraft lore prior to Burning Crusade, however the draenei we were presented with were very different from the playable race. Little guys that look largely like potato sacks with legs, it was difficult for players to imagine how anyone could ever want to play them as a character in game. But the draenei’s origins are a startling departure from the magic-wielding elves, the savage orcs, and the other playable races available. The draenei were covered briefly in Orc History – you can go back and read parts One and Two here, or simply read ahead, as I’ll be recapping the events presented in the orc history segment.

The Eredar, the Naaru, and the Birth of the Burning Legion

The draenei originated as a race known as the Eredar – a group of supremely talented magic users who originated on the planet Argus, millions of years prior to Azeroth’s creation. These creatures were led by three of the strongest magic users – Archimonde, Kil’jaeden, and Velen. Sargeras, the dark titan intent on destroying worlds and devouring magic, was in the middle of building a vast army to carry out his dark purposes – and the inherent power of the Eredar quickly drew his attention. He approached the three leaders, offering them both vast powers and immortality in exchange for their allegiance.

While Archimonde and Kil’jaeden were quick to agree to join the Burning Legion, becoming the first sentient race to pledge their allegiance, Velen had many misgivings about accepting Sargeras’s offer. Velen, unbeknown to the other two leaders, had experienced a vision – a dark foretelling of the Burning Legion’s creation and the aftermath that followed. But the other leaders remained firm in their stance, and knowing that other races would inevitably join the Legion’s ranks, the eredar declared that their language, Eredun, would be the Legion’s common language. The Legion soon grew in power – but one remained who was largely unhappy about this arrangement.

Velen watched his fellow eredar quickly fall to the machinations of Sargeras, twisting into a warped reflection of their demonic corruption. These Eredar were now the man’ari – a word with no real translation, but one that implies that there is something horrifically wrong in the Eredar language. And once again Velen was approached by a vision – but this was no vision. A naaru appeared, offering to take Velen and any other like-minded Eredar to safety.

The naaru are a dimension traveling race of beings that are intent on purifying worlds and imbuing them with the harmony of peace and understanding. They saw what had happened to Sargeras, and knew what the ultimate consequences of the Burning Legion would be – something that they had shared with Velen before, in the hopes that the vision would convince the Eredar to turn Sargeras down. When Velen was the only one to abstain, the naaru decided to save the few Eredar that they could.

And so Velen and his followers left Argus, whisked away via one of the dimensional ships that belonged to the naaru. For thousands of years they traveled, exploring dozens of worlds and adapting a new name – ‘draenei’, or ‘exiled ones’. Unfortunately the draenei were not left to their own devices – the man’ari left behind viewed Velen’s departure as an act of ultimate betrayal, and pursued the draenei wherever they went. While Archimonde was angry, it was Kil’jaeden who was furious – Velen had not only been a leader with him, but he had been one of Kil’jaeden’s best friends, someone he had loved like a brother. While Kil’jaeden’s wrath was relentless, Velen, the draenei, and the naaru were far too cunning, and soon vanished.

The Light And How To Swing It

It was during this journey across dimensional space that the naaru spoke to the draenei of the Light – the concept of practicing virtue wherever one fled. The Light teaches that there is a connection between the self, and the universe – that senses and emotions, love and peace all connect one closer to the universe from which one was created. When a person is moved, that emotion connects them to the universe, reminding them that they exist. Because they exist, the universe must exist as well, to create and instill that feeling or emotion inside. From this circle, one can create more changes to create more feelings – in essence, spreading peace and ‘light’ among others simply by existing and creating those emotions that trigger those feelings. The Light, or the Holy Light, is in essence the glory of the universe, reflected upon the soul and mirrored back onto itself, and others. The draenei embraced this knowledge, and the naaru reassured them that one day, other forces would join them in the stand against the Burning Legion, and the naaru would forge them into a single, unstoppable army of the Light.

But where had the draenei and their naaru teachers vanished to? Well, the naaru had found a little planet out in the middle of nowhere that seemed a perfect fit for the fleeing draenei – a world inhabited by a few sentient races, the most powerful being the orcs. The naaru landed safely on this little world in the dimensional ship known as Oshu’gun, and the draenei spread out upon it, calling the planet Draenor, or ‘Exile’s Refuge’. The orcs, a primitive sort, were a largely shamanistic society, and the draenei lived peacefully beside them, sometimes indulging in some limited trade, but mostly keeping to themselves out of respect for the orcs.

The Return of Kil’jaeden

This idyllic peace unfortunately was not meant to last.  Kil’jaeden, under orders from Sargeras to find a mortal army that could be used to invade worlds, had sent servants out to find suitable mortals for his master’s wishes. These servants returned with news that delighted Kil’jaeden – they had stumbled across a world that showed signs of the draenei’s magic, and this time, it wasn’t just a world they’d landed on and fled – the draenei had actually settled there. Not only this, but the little world contained a mortal race known as ‘orcs’ – creatures that showed shamanistic potential, and exactly what Kil’jaeden had been looking for.

Kil’jaeden had his potential army – and he also had his potential revenge, if he played his cards right. Speaking to the elder shaman Ner’zhul and taking on the guise of his late wife, Kil’jaeden tricked the orc into thinking that the draenei were plotting against his people. Once that foothold had been established, he subtly introduced warlock magic to the clans, and encouraged them to strike back against their draenei ‘enemies’. The orcs, believing they were working under their ancestor’s orders, complied – and soon the draenei found themselves under attack by the one-peaceful cohabitants of their new home.

The conflict lasted nearly eight years, during which over eighty percent of the draenei race was mercilessly slaughtered. The draenei fell in droves, and those that were left were changed, mutated by the fel energies wielded by orcish warlocks into shadows of their former selves. These draenei were called the ‘Broken’ – devolved versions of the draenei. The most notable of these was Akama – once a guardian of the Temple of Karabor, he was responsible for evacuating as many of the draenei civilians as possible, and one of the most exposed to the fel energies that caused the draenei to mutate. Akama went into hiding in Zangarmarsh with the survivors.

A few draenei survived unchanged – Velen and a scant handful of his followers also fled to Zangarmarsh, where they managed to successfully hide from the orcish assault. But Velen could see that this world the draenei had settled on was no longer safe for his people to remain on. This is where the path of the Broken and the path of the Draenei split – for Velen gathered his followers to him and prepared them to once more take flight – this time not on the broken ship of Oshu’gun, deep in the orc territory, but to the north – Tempest Keep, a naaru fortress stationed in Netherstorm.

The Draenei of Azeroth

But Velen and his followers had another small problem – Tempest Keep had been overrun by blood elves led by Kael’thas Sunstrider, and the naaru guardian Mu’ru had been taken prisoner by the strange little pointy-eared magic-obsessed elves. Velen knew that the Keep – or rather, one portion of it, the wing known as the Exodar, was his people’s only chance to escape the dying planet and find a new hope for survival. And so he led his people in an assault on Tempest Keep itself. The draenei somehow managed to fight their way into the Exodar and take off, but they were not alone – some of the blood elves had managed to follow them into the Exodar, and as the ship flew through the skies, the blood elves worked quickly to sabotage the dimensional engines. Once activated, the engines went haywire, sending the Exodar hurtling out of control through the Twisted Nether until it reached the closest habitable planet – Azeroth.

Screaming through the skies of northern Kalimdor, the crippled ship ripped through a small island chain off the coast of Darkshore, coming to a crashing, abrupt halt. The draenei had survived, again.

Sort of. While the ship landed, it didn’t land safely, and still more of the draenei were killed in the crash. The few survivors awoke, taking the islands as a new homeland, embarrassed at the sheer amount of destruction the crash had caused. Surviving too were some of the blood elf attackers, who gathered and made their own base on the islands to the north to recover and come up with a way to wrest the Exodar from the draenei’s hands and return it to Tempest Keep. This is the official origin of the draenei on Azeroth.

The Draenei of Outland

Meanwhile on Draenor, while Velen and his followers hid in Zangarmarsh, Akama and his Broken followers had less success. While at first the draenei were sympathetic to their condition, as the fel corruption worsened and the physical changes grew more dramatic, the draenei grew wary, afraid. It was unknown if the affliction that corrupted the Broken was contagious, and the draenei didn’t wish to risk suffering the same fate as the Broken had. And so the Broken were…asked, politely, to take their leave. This understandably upset the Broken – they were draenei, simply hurt – and yet instead of receiving help from their people, they were being tossed aside.

Akama was the worst affected by the fel corruption, a shadow of his former draenei self. He and his Broken followers formed a tribe called the Ashtongue. They hid well, but were soon forced out of hiding – the pit lord Magtheridon and his army of demons and fel orcs had taken over the Temple that Akama had once called home, tainting it with his demonic presence. Akama and the Broken fought relentlessly, wishing nothing more than the pit lord’s extinction, but as the battle raged it became clear that he and his people were vastly outnumbered. It was at this point that two unlikely allies – Lady Vashj, leader of the naga, and Kael’thas Sunstrider, leader of the blood elves, joined the fight. Both races had come from another world called Azeroth, to escape the clutches of human captors. Akama, grateful for their assistance, agreed to pledge his loyalty to their master, Illidan Stormrage.

Fighting alongside the naga, the blood elves, and Illidan, Akama finally saw what he’d been waiting for – Magtheridon fell, and the Temple was taken over once more. But rather than give the Temple back to Akama and his people, Illidan took it for himself, a throne from which he would rule all of Outland. Akama craved vengeance on the orcs and demons that had corrupted, warped and slaughtered his race. But he knew in his heart that Illidan was not the savior that his followers had described. Illidan served Kil’jaeden, ultimately – and while it is unknown if Akama was among those that originally lived on Argus, it can be assumed that he knew who Kil’jaeden was.

It was Kil’jaeden who appeared before Illidan, ordering him back to Azeroth, to destroy the Frozen Throne – and it was Akama who stayed behind to guard Illidan’s holdings, while Vashj and Kael’thas went with their master. While it’s never directly mentioned, it can be assumed that this may have been a logical point at which Akama started speaking to Maiev Shadowsong, Illidan’s warden on Azeroth. The night elf, presumed dead by her people, had been captured while trying to bring Illidan back to Azeroth for punishment for his crimes, and imprisoned underground near the Black Temple. Maiev lived for nothing more than vengeance upon Illidan Stormrage, and would stop at nothing to see him dead. Akama, for his part, wanted the Black Temple restored, and wanted his people’s reputation restored alongside it.

Twisted, battered, and assumed to be the ultimate betrayer of the draenei people, Akama quietly planned his own revenge…and Illidan’s downfall. Akama and the Broken that knew of Akama’s true intentions surrounding the temple took up a name for their faction – the Ashtongue Deathsworn – sworn to kill Illidan and regain their home, through any means necessary.

The Lost Ones

A third group of draenei exist as well, on Azeroth of all places – the Lost Ones. These draenei have devolved even further than the broken, bearing little resemblance to their eredar origins. When the Dark Portal was reopened into Azeroth, a small tribe of Broken calling themselves the ‘Broken Exiles’ traveled through it, scarred by the violent events of their world’s destruction. They settled in the Swamp of Sorrows, but soon found themselves devolving even further from their Broken state – perhaps because of the separation from their home world, but even more likely due to the fel corruption combined with the energies of the Dark Portal they had passed through. These former draenei split even further – one group losing all that remained of their sanity and taking up residence at Harborage in the Swamp of Sorrows. The others took the name Lost Ones, in mourning for their lost world, and established a colony called the Fallow Sanctuary in the Swamp of Sorrows.

A few other Broken Exiles took up residence near the remains of the Dark Portal in the Blasted Lands, ever hoping that the way would open so they could once more find their way home.

That’s it for the Draenei, at least until I go over the events and lore of The Burning Crusade. Their history may seem short because it is short – while from a timeline standpoint the draenei have been around far longer than anything save the Titans and the Naaru, they were pretty much an unknown until they were announced as the new Alliance race. While some people hate them and think they’ve got no business in Warcraft Lore, I think that Blizzard managed to fit them in neatly enough – with one or two gigantic gaping holes in lore than can be easily explained. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the Draenei however, and I’ll be going over those tomorrow. Be sure to check back for the summary!

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