Meanwhile, in the war-torn lands of the south, the scattered remnants of the Horde fought for their very survival. Though Grom Hellscream and his Warsong clan managed to evade capture, Deadeye and his Bleeding Hollow clan were rounded up and placed in the internment camps in Lordaeron. Notwithstanding these costly uprisings, the camps’ wardens soon re-established control over their brutish charges.
However, unknown to the Alliance, a large force of orcs still roamed free in the northern wastes of Khaz Modan. The Dragonmaw clan, led by the infamous warlock Nekros, was using an ancient artifact known as the Demon Soul to control the Dragonqueen, Alexstrasza, and her dragonflight. With the Dragonqueen as his hostage, Nekros built up a secret army within the abandoned – some say cursed – Wildhammer stronghold of Grim Batol.
Planning to unleash his forces and the mighty red dragons on the Alliance, Nekros hoped to reunite the Horde and continue its conquest of Azeroth. His vision did not come to pass: a small group of resistance fighters, led by the human mage Rhonin managed to destroy the Demon Soul and free the Dragonqueen from Nekros’ command.
In their fury, Alexstrasza’s dragons tore Grim Batol apart and incinerated the greater bulk of the Dragonmaw clan. Nekros’ grand schemes of reunification came crashing down as the Alliance troops rounded up the remaining orc survivors and threw them into the waiting internment camps. The Dragonmaw clan’s defeat signaled the end of the Horde, and the end of the orcs’ furious bloodlust.
Ner’zhul and his followers entered the Twisting Nether, the ethereal plane that connects all of the worlds scattered throughout the Great Dark Beyond. Unfortunately Kil’jaeden and his demonic minions were waiting for them. Kil’jaeden, who had sworn to take vengeance on Ner’zhul for his prideful defiance, slowly tore the old shaman’s body apart, piece by piece.
Kil’jaeden kept the shaman’s spirit alive and intact, thus leaving Ner’zhul painfully aware of his body’s gross dismemberment. Though Ner’zhul pleaded with the demon to release his spirit and grant him death, the demon grimly replied that the Blood Pact they had made long ago was still binding, and that Ner’zhul still had a purpose to serve.
The orcs’ failure to conquer the world for the Burning Legion forced Kil’jaeden to create a new army to sew chaos throughout the kingdoms of the Azeroth. This new army could not be allowed to fall prey to the same petty rivalries and infighting that had plagued the Horde. It would have to be merciless and single-minded in its mission. This time, Kil’jaeden could not afford to fail.
Holding Ner’zhul’s spirit helpless in stasis, Kil’jaeden gave him one last chance to serve the Legion or suffer eternal torment. Once again, Ner’zhul recklessly agreed to the demon’s pact. Ner’zhul’s spirit was placed within a specially crafted block of diamond-hard ice gathered from the far reaches of the Twisting Nether.
Encased within the frozen cask, Ner’zhul felt his consciousness expand ten thousand-fold. Warped by the demon’s chaotic powers, Ner’zhul became a spectral being of unfathomable power. At that moment, the orc known as Ner’zhul was shattered forever, and the Lich King was born.
Ner’zhul’s loyal death knights and Shadowmoon followers were also transformed by the demon’s chaotic energies. The wicked spellcasters were ripped apart and remade as skeletal liches. The demons had ensured that even in death, Ner’zhul’s followers would serve him unquestioningly.
When the time was right, Kil’jaeden explained the mission for which he had created the Lich King. Ner’zhul was to spread a plague of death and terror across Azeroth that would snuff out human civilization forever. All those who died from the dreaded plague would arise as the undead, and their spirits would be bound to Ner’zhul’s iron will forever.
Kil’jaeden promised that if Ner’zhul accomplished his dark mission of scouring humanity from the world, he would be freed from his curse and granted a new, healthy body to inhabit.
Though Ner’zhul was agreeable and seemingly anxious to play his part, Kil’jaeden remained skeptical of his pawn’s loyalties. Keeping the Lich King bodiless and trapped within the crystal cask assured his good conduct for the short term, but the demon knew that he would need to keep a watchful eye on him. To this end, Kil’jaeden called upon his elite demon guard, the vampiric dreadlords, to police Ner’zhul and ensure that he accomplished his dread task.
Tichondrius, the most powerful and cunning of the dreadlords, warmed to the challenge; he was fascinated by the plague’s severity and the Lich King’s unbridled potential for genocide.
The high elves, led by Dath’Remar, left Kalimdor behind them and challenged the storms of the Maelstrom. Their fleets wandered the wreckage of the world for many long years, and they discovered mysteries and lost kingdoms along their sojourn. Dath’Remar, who had taken the name Sunstrider (or “he who walks the day”), sought out places of considerable ley power upon which to build a new homeland for his people.
His fleet finally landed on the beaches of the kingdom men would later call Lordaeron. Forging inland, the high elves founded a settlement within the tranquil Tirisfal Glades. After a few years, many of them began to go mad. It was theorized that something evil slept beneath that particular part of the world, but the rumors were never proven to be true. The high elves packed up their encampment and moved northward towards another land rich with ley energies.
As the high elves crossed the rugged, mountainous lands of Lordaeron, their journey became more perilous. Since they were effectively cut off from the life-giving energies of the Well of Eternity, many of them fell ill from the frigid climate or died from starvation. The most disconcerting change, however, was the fact that they were no longer immortal or immune to the elements.
They also shrank somewhat in height, and their skin lost its characteristic violet hue. Despite their hardships, they encountered many wondrous creatures that had never been seen in Kalimdor. They also found tribes of primitive humans who hunted throughout the ancient forestlands. However, the direst threat they encountered were the voracious and cunning forest trolls of Zul’Aman.
These moss-skinned trolls could regenerate lost limbs and heal grievous physical injuries, but they proved to be a barbaric, evil race. The Amani empire stretched across most of northern Lordaeron, and the trolls fought hard to keep unwanted strangers from their borders. The elves developed a deep loathing for the vicious trolls and killed them on sight whenever they were encountered.
After many long years, the high elves finally found a land which was reminiscent of Kalimdor. Deep within the northern forests of the continent, they founded the kingdom of Quel’Thalas and vowed to create a mighty empire which would dwarf that of their Kaldorei cousins. Unfortunately they soon learned that Quel’Thalas was founded upon an ancient troll city that the trolls still held to be sacred. Almost immediately, the trolls began to attack the elven settlements en masse.
The stubborn elves, unwilling to give up their new land, utilized the magics which they had gleaned from the Well of Eternity and kept the savage trolls at bay. Under Dath’Remar’s leadership, they were able to defeat the Amani warbands that outnumbered them ten to one. Some elves, wary of the Kaldorei’s ancient warnings, felt that their use of magic might possibly draw the attention of the banished Burning Legion.
Therefore, they decided to mask their lands within a protective barrier which would still allow them to work their enchantments. They constructed a series of monolithic Runestones at various points around Quel’Thalas which marked the boundaries of the magic barrier. The Runestones not only masked the elves’ magic from extra-dimensional threats, but helped to frighten away the superstitious troll warbands as well.
As time wore on, Quel’Thalas became a shining monument to the high elves’ efforts and magical prowess. Its beauteous palaces were crafted in the same architectural style as the ancient halls of Kalimdor, yet they were interwoven with the natural topography of the land. Quel’Thalas had become the shining jewel that the elves had longed to create.
The Convocation of Silvermoon was founded as the ruling power over Quel’Thalas, though the Sunstrider Dynasty maintained a modicum of political power. Comprised of seven of the greatest high elf lords, the Convocation worked to secure the safety of the elven lands and people. Surrounded by their protective barrier, the high elves remained unmoved by the old warnings of the Kaldorei and continued to use magic flagrantly in almost all aspects of their lives.
For nearly four thousand years the high elves lived peacefully within the secluded safety of their kingdom. Nevertheless, the vindictive trolls were not so easily defeated. They plotted and schemed in the depths of the forests and waited for the numbers of their warbands to grow. Finally, a mighty troll army charged out from the shadowy forests and once again laid siege to the shining spires of Quel’Thalas.
Unaware of Sargeras’ mission to undo their countless works, the Titans continued to move from world to world, shaping and ordering each planet as they saw fit. Along their journey they happened upon a small world that its inhabitants would later name Azeroth.
As the Titans made their way across the primordial landscape, they encountered a number of hostile elemental beings. These elementals, who worshipped a race of unfathomably evil beings known only as the Old Gods, vowed to drive the Titans back and keep their world inviolate from the invaders’ metallic touch.
The Pantheon, disturbed by the Old Gods’ penchant for evil, waged war upon the elementals and their dark masters. The Old Gods’ armies were led by the most powerful elemental lieutenants: Ragnaros the Firelord, Therazane the Stonemother, Al’Akir the Windlord, and Neptulon the Tidehunter.
Their chaotic forces raged across the face of the world and clashed with the colossal Titans. Though the elementals were powerful beyond mortal comprehension, their combined forces could not stop the mighty Titans. One by one, the elemental lords fell, and their forces dispersed.
The Pantheon shattered the Old Gods’ citadels and chained the five evil gods far beneath the surface of the world. Without the Old Gods’ power to keep their raging spirits bound to the physical world, the elementals were banished to an abyssal plane, where they would contend with one another for all eternity. With the elementals’ departure, nature calmed, and the world settled into a peaceful harmony. The Titans saw that the threat was contained and set to work.
The Titans empowered a number of races to help them fashion the world. To help them carve out the fathomless caverns beneath the earth, the Titans created the dwarf-like earthen from magical, living stone. To help them dredge out the seas and lift the land from the sea floor, the Titans created the immense but gentle sea giants. For many ages the Titans moved and shaped the earth, until at last there remained one perfect continent.
At the continent’s center, the Titans crafted a lake of scintillating energies. The lake, which they named the Well of Eternity, was to be the fount of life for the world. Its potent energies would nurture the bones of the world and empower life to take root in the land’s rich soil. Over time, plants, trees, monsters, and creatures of every kind began to thrive on the primordial continent.
As twilight fell on the final day of their labors, the Titans named the continent Kalimdor: “land of eternal starlight.
After preparing for many long months, Kel’Thuzad and his Cult of the Damned finally struck the first blow by releasing the plague of undeath upon Lordaeron. Uther and his fellow paladins investigated the infected regions in the hope of finding a way to stop the plague. Despite their efforts, the plague continued to spread and threatened to tear the Alliance apart.
As the ranks of the undead swept across Lordaeron, Terenas’ only son, Prince Arthas, took up the fight against the Scourge. Arthas succeeded in killing Kel’Thuzad, but even so, the undead ranks swelled with every soldier that fell defending the land. Frustrated and stymied by the seemingly unstoppable enemy, Arthas took increasingly extreme steps to conquer them. Finally Arthas’ comrades warned him that he was losing his hold on his humanity.
Arthas’ fear and resolve proved to be his ultimate undoing. He tracked the plague’s source to Northrend, intending to end its threat forever. Instead, Prince Arthas eventually fell prey to the Lich King’s tremendous power. Believing that it would save his people, Arthas took up the cursed runeblade, Frostmourne.
Though the sword did grant him unfathomable power, it also stole his soul and transformed him into the greatest of the Lich King’s death knights. With his soul cast aside and his sanity shattered, Arthas led the Scourge against his own kingdom. Ultimately, Arthas murdered his own father, King Terenas, and crushed Lordaeron under the Lich King’s iron heel.
About 16,000 years ago (long before the Night Elves foolishly called down the wrath of the Burning Legion), Trolls lorded over much of Kalimdor (then a single continent). There were twin Troll Empires—the Gurubashi Empire of the Southeastern jungles—and the Amani Empire of the Middle Forestlands.
There were smaller tribes that lived far to the north (in the region now known as Northrend). These tribes founded a small nation known as Gundrak, but never achieved the size or prosperity of the Southern empires.
The Gurubashi and Amani Empires had little love for one another, but rarely warred against each other. At the time, their greatest common enemy was a third empire—the civilization of Azi’Aqir. The Aqir were intelligent insectoids who ruled the lands of the far west. These clever insectoids were greatly expansionistic and icredibly evil. The Aqir were obsessed with eradicating all non-insect life from the fields of Kalimdor.
The trolls fought them for many thousands of years, but never succeeded in winning a true victory over the Aqir. Eventually, due to the troll’s persistence, the Aqiri Kingdom split in half as its citizens fled to separate colonies in the far northern and southern regions of the continent.
Two Aqiri city-states emerged—Azjol-Nerub in the northern wastes, and Ahn’Qiraj in the southern desert. Though the trolls suspected that there were other Aqiri colonies beneath Kalimdor, their existence was never verified.
With the insectoids driven into exile, the twin troll empires returned to business as usual. Despire their great victory, neither civilization expanded much farther than their original boundaries. However, ancient texts speak of a small faction of trolls that broke off from the Amani Empire and founded their own colony in the heart of the dark continent.
There, these brave pioneers discovered the cosmic Well of Eternity which transformed them into beings of immense power. Some legends suggest that these adventurous trolls were the first Night Elves, though this theory has never been proven.
Aside from their shadowy origins, it is clear that the Night Elves came to power soon after their discovery of the Well of Eternity. Despite the trolls’ attempts to keep them from expanding their territories, the Night Elves built up a mighty empire that expanded rapidly across primordial Kalimdor. Wielding fierce magics never before imagined by the superstitious trolls, the night elves had little trouble doing what the evil Aqir could never do: topple the two greatest empires in the world.
The night elves systematically dismantled the troll’s defenses and supply chains. The trolls, unable to counter the elves’ destructive magics, buckled under the onslaught. The night elves proved to every bit as cunning and bloodthirsty as the savage trolls—incurring the latter race’s eternal hatred and disdain. The Gurubashi and Amani Empires fragmented within only a few short years.
Eventually, the night elves were burned by the arcane fires they had sought to control. Their reckless use of magic had lured the demonic Burning Legion to the world. The demons crushed much of the night elves’ civilization. Though there are no records to indicate that the Legion attacked either troll civilization, it is likely that battles took place across the breadth of the continent.
At the end of this terrible conflict – known as the War of the Ancients—the Well of Eternity imploded. The resulting shockwave shattered the greater landmass of Kalimdor. The center of the continent was blasted beneath the sea, leaving only a small group of broken, single continents.
Thus, great chunks of both the Amani and Gurubashi Empires still exist in the present day lands of Quel’Thalas and Stranglethorn (respectively). The Azj’Aqir kingdoms of Azjol-Nerub and Ahn’Qiraj have also survived in present day Northrend and Tanaris (respectively).
Both troll civilizations recoiled from the vast destruction of the primordial world they had known. The dauntless trolls rebuilt their ravaged cities and set about to reclaim some of their former power.
Wrath of the Soulflayer
The long centuries following the Great Sundering of the world were difficult ones for the troll race. Famine and terror were commonplace within the broken kingdoms. The Gurubashi trolls, driven to deperate ends, sought aid from ancient, mystical forces. Though both of the troll kingdoms shared a central belief in a great pantheon of primitive gods, the Gurubashi fell under the sway of the darkest one.
Hakkar the Soulflayer, a vile, bloodthirsty spirit, heard the trolls’ call and decided to aid them. Hakkar gave his secrets of blood to the Gurubashi and helped them extend their civilization across most of Stranglethron Vale and certain islands of the South Seas. Though he brought them great power, Hakkar wanted more and more for his efforts.
The bloodthirsty god demanded souls be sacrificed to him daily. He dreamed of gaining access to the physical world so he could devour the blood of all mortal creatures. In time the Gurubashi realized what kind of creature they had courted with—and turned against him. The strongest tribes rose up against Hakkar and his loyal priests—the Atal’ai.
The terrible war that ensued between Hakkar’s followers and the rest of the Gurubashi tribes is spoken of only in whispers. The budding empire was shattered by the magic unleashed between the angry god and his rebel children. Just as the battle seemed most hopeless, the trolls succeeded in destroying Hakkar’s avatar and banishing him from the world.
Even his Atal’ai priests were eventually driven from the capital of Zul’Gurub and forced to survive in the uncharted swamplands of the north. Within those shadowy fens they built a great temple to their fallen god—Atal’Hakkar—where they could continue to do their master’s work…
The rest of the Gurubashi tribes went their separate ways after the great civil war had left their lands in ruins. The Skullsplitter, Bloodscalp and Darkspear tribes set off to claim their own lands within the vast jungles of Stranglethorn. Though a fragile peace had settled over the broken empire, some spoke of a prophecy that Hakkar would one day be reborn into the world—and on that day—he would comsume it whole.
For many years, the night elves worked tirelessly to rebuild what they could of their ancient homeland. Leaving their broken temples and roads to be overgrown, they constructed their new homes amidst the verdant trees and shadowed hills at Hyjal’s base. In time, the dragons that had survived the great Sundering came forth from their secret abodes.
Alexstrasza the red, Ysera the green, and Nozdormu the bronze descended upon the druids’ tranquil glades and surveyed the fruits of the night elves’ labors. Malfurion, who had become an arch-druid of immense power, greeted the mighty dragons and told them about the creation of the new Well of Eternity.
The great dragons were alarmed to hear the dark news and speculated that as long as the Well remained, the Legion might one day return and assault the world once again. Malfurion and the three dragons made a pact to keep the Well safe and ensure that the agents of the Burning Legion would never find their way back into the world.
Alexstrasza, the Lifebinder, placed a single, enchanted acorn within the heart of the Well of Eternity. The acorn, activated by the potent, magical waters, sprung to life as a colossal tree. The mighty tree’s roots grew from the Well’s waters, and its verdant canopy seemed to scrape the roof of the sky.
The immense tree would be an everlasting symbol of the night elves’ bond with nature, and its life-giving energies would extend out to heal the rest of the world over time. The night elves’ gave their World Tree the new name Nordrassil, which meant “crown of the heavens” in their native tongue.
Nozdormu, the Timeless, placed an enchantment upon the World Tree to ensure that as long as the colossal tree stood, the night elves would never age or fall prey to sickness or disease.
Ysera, the Dreamer, also placed an enchantment upon the World Tree by linking it to her own realm, the ethereal dimension known as the Emerald Dream. The Emerald Dream, a vast, ever-changing spirit world, existed outside the boundaries of the physical world. From the Dream, Ysera regulated the ebb and flow of nature and the evolutionary path of the world itself.
The night elf druids, including Malfurion himself, were bound to the Dream through the World Tree. As part of the mystical pact, the druids agreed to sleep for centuries at a time so that their spirits could roam the infinite paths of Ysera’s Dreamways. Though the druids were grieved at the prospect of losing so many years of their lives to hibernation, they selflessly agreed to uphold their bargain with Ysera.
The Highborne’s reckless use of magic sent ripples of energy spiraling out from the Well of Eternity and into the Great Dark Beyond. The streaming ripples of energy were felt by terrible alien minds. Sargeras – the Great Enemy of all life, the Destroyer of Worlds – felt the potent ripples and was drawn to their distant point of origin.
Spying the primordial world of Azeroth and sensing the limitless energies of the Well of Eternity, Sargeras was consumed by an insatiable hunger. The great dark god of the Nameless Void resolved to destroy the fledgling world and claim its energies as his own.
Sargeras gathered his vast Burning Legion and made his way towards the unsuspecting world of Azeroth. The Legion was comprised of a million screaming demons, all ripped from the far corners of the universe, and the demons hungered for conquest. Sargeras’ lieutenants, Archimonde the Defiler and Mannoroth the Destructor, prepared their infernal minions to strike.
Queen Azshara, overwhelmed by the terrible ecstasy of her magic, fell victim to Sargeras’ undeniable power and agreed to grant him entrance to her world. Even her Highborne servitors gave themselves over to magic’s inevitable corruption and began to worship Sargeras as their god. To show their allegiance to the Legion, the Highborne aided their queen in opening a vast, swirling portal within the depths of the Well of Eternity.
Once all his preparations had been made, Sargeras began his catastrophic invasion of Azeroth. The warrior-demons of the Burning Legion stormed into the world through the Well of Eternity and laid siege to the night elves’ sleeping cities. Led by Archimonde and Mannoroth, the Legion swarmed over the lands of Kalimdor, leaving only ash and sorrow in its wake.
The demon warlocks called down searing infernals that crashed like hellish meteors into the graceful spires of Kalimdor’s temples. A band of burning, bloodletting killers known as the Doomguard marched across Kalimdor’s fields, slaughtering everyone in their path. Packs of wild, demonic felhounds ravaged the countryside unopposed. Though the brave Kaldorei warriors rushed to defend their ancient homeland, they were forced to give ground, inch by inch, before the fury of the Legion’s onslaught.
It fell to Malfurion Stormrage to find help for his beleaguered people. Stormrage, whose own brother, Illidan, practiced the Highborne’s magics, was incensed by the growing corruption amongst the upper class. Convincing Illidan to forsake his dangerous obsession, Malfurion set out to find Cenarius and muster a resistance force.
The beautiful young priestess, Tyrande, agreed to accompany the brothers in the name of Elune. Though Malfurion and Illidan shared a love for the idealistic priestess, Tyrande’s heart belonged to Malfurion alone. Illidan resented his brother’s budding romance with Tyrande, but knew that his heartache was nothing compared to the pain of his magical addiction.
Illidan, who had grown dependent on magic’s empowering energies, struggled to keep control of his nearly overwhelming hunger to tap the Well’s energies once again. However, with Tyrande’s patient support, he was able to restrain himself and help his brother find the reclusive demigod, Cenarius.
Cenarius, who dwelt within the sacred Moonglades of the distant Mount Hyjal, agreed to help the night elves by finding the ancient dragons and enlisting their aid. The dragons, led by the great red leviathan, Alexstrasza, agreed to send their mighty flights to engage the demons and their infernal masters.
Cenarius, calling on the spirits of the enchanted forests, rallied an army of ancient tree-men and led them against the Legion in a daring ground assault. As the night elves’ allies converged upon Azshara’s temple and the Well of Eternity, all-out warfare erupted. Despite the strength of their newfound allies, Malfurion and his colleagues realized that the Legion could not be defeated by martial strength alone.
As the titanic battle raged around Azshara’s capital city, the delusional queen waited in anticipation for Sargeras’ arrival. The lord of the Legion was preparing to pass through the Well of Eternity and enter the ravaged world. As his impossibly huge shadow drew ever closer to the Well’s surface, Azshara gathered the most powerful of her Highborne followers. Only by linking their magics together in one focused spell would they be able to create a gateway large enough for Sargeras to enter.
As the battle raged across the burning fields of Kalimdor, a terrible turn of events unfolded. The details of the event have been lost to time, but it is known that Neltharion, the Dragon Aspect of the Earth, went mad during a critical engagement against the Burning Legion. He began to split apart as flame and rage erupted from his dark hide. Renaming himself Deathwing, the burning dragon turned on his brethren and drove the five dragonflights from the field of battle.
Deathwing’s sudden betrayal was so destructive that the five dragonflights never truly recovered. Wounded and shocked, Alexstrasza and the other noble dragons were forced to abandon their mortal allies. Malfurion and his companions, now hopelessly outnumbered, barely survived the ensuing onslaught.
Malfurion, convinced that the Well of Eternity was the demons’ umbilical link to the physical world, insisted that it should be destroyed. His companions, knowing that the Well was the source of their immortality and powers, were horrified by the rash notion. Yet Tyrande saw the wisdom of Malfurion’s theory, so she convinced Cenarius and their comrades to storm Azshara’s temple and find a way to shut the Well down for good.
While Thrall was liberating his brethren in Lordaeron, Ner’zhul continued to build up his power base in Northrend. A great citadel was erected above the Icecrown Glacier and manned by the growing legions of the dead. Yet as the Lich King extended his influence over the land, one shadowy empire stood against his power.
The ancient subterranean kingdom of Azjol-Nerub, which had been founded by a race of sinister humanoid spiders, sent their elite warrior-guard to attack Icecrown and end the Lich King’s mad bid for dominance. Much to his frustration, Ner’zhul found that the evil nerubians were immune not only to the plague, but to his telepathic domination as well.
The nerubian spider-lords commanded vast forces and had an underground network that stretched nearly half the breadth of Northrend. Their hit-and-run tactics on the Lich King’s strongholds stymied his efforts to root them out time after time. Ultimately Ner’zhul’s war against the nerubians was won by attrition. With the aid of the sinister dreadlords and innumerable undead warriors, the Lich King invaded Azjol-Nerub and brought its subterranean temples crashing down upon the spider lords’ heads.
Though the nerubians were immune to his plague, Ner’zhul’s growing necromantic powers allowed him to raise the spider-warriors’ corpses and bend them to his will. As a testament to their tenacity and fearlessness, Ner’zhul adopted the nerubians’ distinctive architectural style for his own fortresses and structures.
Left to rule his kingdom unopposed, the Lich King began preparing for his true mission in the world. Reaching out into the human lands with his vast consciousness, the Lich King called out to any dark soul that would listen.
The dwarves of Ironforge Mountain lived in peace for many long centuries. However, their society grew too large within the confines of their mountain cities. Though the mighty High King, Modimus Anvilmar, ruled over all dwarves with justice and wisdom, three powerful factions had arisen amongst the dwarven society.
The Bronzebeard clan, ruled by Thane Madoran Bronzebeard, held close ties to the High King and stood as the traditional defenders of Ironforge Mountain. The Wildhammer clan, ruled by Thane Khardros Wildhammer, inhabited the foothills and crags around the base of the mountain and sought to gain more control within the city.
The third faction, the Dark Iron clan, was ruled by the sorcerer-thane Thaurissan. The Dark Irons hid within the deepest shadows under the mountain and plotted against both their Bronzebeard and the Wildhammer cousins.
For a time the three factions kept a tenuous peace, but tensions erupted when High King Anvilmar passed away from old age. The three ruling clans went to war for control of Ironforge itself. The dwarf civil war raged under the earth for many years. Eventually the Bronzebeards, who had the largest standing army, banished the Dark Irons and Wildhammers from under the mountain.
Khardros and his Wildhammer warriors traveled north through the barrier gates of Dun Algaz, and they founded their own kingdom within the distant peak of Grim Batol. There, the Wildhammers thrived and rebuilt their stores of treasure. Thaurissan and his Dark Irons did not fare as well. Humiliated and enraged by their defeat, they vowed revenge against Ironforge. Leading his people far to the south, Thaurissan founded a city (which he named after himself) within the beautiful Redridge Mountains.
Prosperity and the passing of years did little to ease the Dark Iron’s rancor toward their cousins. Thaurissan and his sorceress wife, Modgud, launched a two-pronged assault against both Ironforge and Grim Batol. The Dark Irons were intent on claiming all of Khaz Modan for their own.
The Dark Iron armies smashed against their cousins’ strongholds and very nearly took both kingdoms. However, Madoran Bronzebeard ultimately led his clan to a decisive victory over Thaurissan’s sorcerous army. Thaurissan and his servants fled back to the safety of their city, unaware of the events transpiring at Grim Batol, where Modgud’s army would fare no better against Khardros and his Wildhammer warriors.
As she confronted the enemy warriors, Modgud used her powers to strike fear into their hearts. Shadows moved at her command, and dark things crawled up from the depths of the earth to stalk the Wildhammers in their own halls. Eventually Modgud broke through the gates and laid siege to the fortress itself. The Wildhammers fought desperately, Khardros himself wading through the roiling masses to slay the sorceress queen.
With their queen lost, the Dark Irons fled before the fury of the Wildhammers. They raced south toward their king’s stronghold, only to meet the armies of Ironforge, which had come to aid Grim Batol. Crushed between two armies, the remaining Dark Iron forces were utterly destroyed.
The combined armies of Ironforge and Grim Batol then turned south, intent on destroying Thaurissan and his Dark Irons once and for all. They had not gone far when Thaurissan’s fury resulted in a spell of cataclysmic proportions. Seeking to summon a supernatural minion that would ensure his victory, Thaurissan called upon the ancient powers sleeping beneath the world. To his shock, and ultimately his doom, the creature that emerged was more terrible than any nightmare he could have imagined.
Ragnaros the Firelord, immortal lord of all fire elementals, had been banished by the Titans when the world was young. Now, freed by Thaurissan’s call, Ragnaros erupted into being once again. Ragnaros’ apocalyptic rebirth into Azeroth shattered the Redridge Mountains and created a raging volcano at the center of the devastation.
The volcano, known as Blackrock Mountain, was bordered by the Searing Gorge to the north and the Burning Steppes to the south. Though Thaurissan was killed by the forces he had unleashed, his surviving brethren were ultimately enslaved by Ragnaros and his elementals. They remain within the depths of Blackrock to this day.
Witnessing the horrific devastation and the fires spreading across the southern mountains, King Madoran and King Khardros halted their armies and hastily turned back towards their kingdoms, unwilling to face the awesome wrath of Ragnaros.
The Bronzebeards returned to Ironforge and rebuilt their glorious city. The Wildhammers also returned home to Grim Batol. However, the death of the Modgud had left an evil stain on the mountain fortress, and the Wildhammers found it uninhabitable.
They were bitter in their hearts over the loss of their beloved home. King Bronzebeard offered the Wildhammers a place to live within the borders of Ironforge, but the Wildhammers steadfastly refused. Khardros took his people north towards the lands of Lordaeron. Settling within the lush forests of the Hinterlands, the Wildhammers crafted the city of Aerie Peak, where the Wildhammers grew closer to nature and even bonded with the mighty gryphons of the area.
Seeking to retain relations and trade with their cousins, the dwarves of Ironforge constructed two massive arches, the Thandol Span, to bridge the gap between Khaz Modan and Lordaeron. Bolstered by mutual trade, the two kingdoms prospered. After the deaths of Madoran and Khardros, their sons jointly commissioned two great statues in honor of their fathers.
The two statues would stand guard over the pass into the southlands, which had become volcanic in the wake of Ragnaros’ scorching presence. They served as both a warning to all who would attack the dwarven kingdoms, and as a reminder of what price the Dark Irons paid for their crimes.
The two kingdoms retained close ties for some years, but the Wildhammers were much changed by the horrors they witnessed at Grim Batol. They took to living above ground on the slopes of Aerie Peak, instead of carving a vast kingdom within the mountain. The ideological differences between the two remaining dwarven clans eventually led to their parting of ways.