The Elemental Lords were the most trusted and powerful lieutenants in the elemental armies of the Old Gods. Their purpose was to keep the world of Azeroth in a perpetual state of chaos. When the titans defeated the Old Gods, the Elemental Lords, and all elementals with them, were banished to a planar prison of their own, now known as the Elemental Plane. The names of the four are:
- Al'Akir the Windlord (air elemental)
- Neptulon the Tidehunter (water elemental)
- Ragnaros the Firelord (fire elemental)
- Therazane the Stonemother (earth elemental)
The four lieutenants, seemingly no longer under the Old Gods' control, are finding new ways to wage war against each other, and it's possible that one or more of their factions are working for the good of Azeroth. Though they fight each other, they still maintain an Abyssal High Council.
Note: Not all "lords" found among elementals are Elemental Lords (capital). For example, there are many firelords, but only one fire Elemental Lord, Ragnaros.
Elemental Lords have the power to take control over specific elementals of their own type, but only when those elementals are within the area of its divine presence. This ability does not work on primal or elder elementals. All smaller elementals will obey their Lord unquestioningly. Larger ones usually do also, but should they wish to resist the Lieutenant's commands, they may attempt to do so, but it is unlikely for that to happen. The Elemental Lord can also break another being's control of a summoned or enchanted elemental; those who have control over the elemental will have a difficult time maintaining control. Should the controller maintain command of the elemental, the Elemental Lord may not make another attempt to control or command that elemental for one full day.
Whenever a spell is cast of the same magic type within the area of the Lord's presence, it becomes instantly aware, and can take control of the magic as he wishes. The spell can be countered, transferred to another target or area, or reflected back at the caster. This ability also functions against elemental spell-like abilities employed by other creatures, elementals or otherwise, with the sole exception of those used by creatures more powerful than the Elemental Lord. In much the same vein, the Elemental Lords can exert their control over magical items which employ spell or spell-like abilities, with the sole exception of those imbued within major artifacts.
Ragnaros the Firelord currently inhabits Azeroth. He was summoned to the Redridge Mountains by the worshipful Dark Iron dwarves. It was their purpose to use him for domination of the other dwarf clans. Ironically however, he enslaved their society for his own purposes. In Blackrock Mountain, Ragnaros and his fire elemental armies are locked in a war with Nefarian for control. While Ragnaros seeks to make his return to the Elemental Plane, he will destroy Azeroth if he wins at Blackrock.
Neptulon, the most powerful and evil of the Elemental Lords, is at war with Ragnaros. It is not surprising that many of Neptulon's servants are in Azeroth, working against the other three Lords. Neptulon seems to be utilizing the mortal races to weaken the forces of the other three Elemental Lords without risking his own. His agent, Duke Hydraxis, leader of the Hydraxian Waterlords, seeks to bring others to his side. He will at some point send those into the Molten Core to fight against the Firelords. Another agent, Tsunaman at Sun Rock Retreat, also seeks to destroy Ragnaros's elementals in the Charred Vale.
The other two Lords have not attempted to exert their influence on Azeroth to such an extent. Al'Akir holds domain over the air elementals, while Therazane has control over the earth elementals. It is possible that Therazane is the Earthmother that the tauren worship. While it is likely that the Earthmother is a goddess similar to Elune that arose after the Titans shaped Azeroth, Therazane is well known as the most benevolent of the Elemental Lords (all things being relative of course), unlike the chaotic Ragnaros and Al'Akir, or the evil Neptulon.
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
The Elemental Lords will make an appearance in the third expansion. Deathwing will try to enlist the aid of the former Old Gods' lieutenants. Al'Akir and Ragnaros will join him, while Neptulon and Therazane will be against him. Neptulon the Tidehunter will be attacked by the Naga and the Faceless ones that seem to work with Twilight's Hammer clan, which is known to serve Deathwing and the Old Gods. Therazane will also be at odds with the Twilight's Hammer that intruded in Deepholm. As hinted by Earthmender Norsala, elementals, when killed on their home plane are dying permanently, it is yet to be seen if the Elemental Lords meet the same fate as their minions and what changes may such death bring to the world. Currently, both Al'Akir and Ragnaros have been permanently slain as their deaths occurred in their respective planes.
Nature of the elements and the perception of evil
The elemental lords being inherently evil is a fairly common misconception that many hold. Elemental lords naturally progress towards disorder, following the real life laws of spontaneity that say nothing, be it energy matter or otherwise, moves towards what humans (or in Warcraft's case, any sentient being) would call "ordered" naturally. Elementals, being the most basic form of matter (elements, as defined in ancient Greece, combinations of storm, earth, fire, and the like) move very readily toward this state of chaos if left on their own. This quick descent into the warlike factions that make up the elemental planes, and the alignment with the old gods are two major causes for the elemental powers to be viewed as "evil".
The evil of the elementals however is far from absolute. In fact, it would seem that if cultured right, the elementals give great power and healing to those devoted and disciplined enough. In the story "Unbroken", the elements that contacted Nobundo state that the elements naturally war with each other, and that an arbiter, or second party is needed to bring harmony to the elements. They respond very readily to Nobundo's influence upon his arrival at the elemental plateaus (and vice a versa.) It stands to reason that if order can be brought so readily, then chaos is an even quicker path. The elements and their interactions with the Old Gods can be very easily explained by a rapid response to any outsider willing to deal with the problems between the elements.
The fact that the elements are not inherently evil is important. It is what allows for Shaman to commune with the elements and manage to retain a pure identity, it is what makes Therazane a very real possibility for the "Earth Mother", and it is what explains all of the apparent bipolarism of the various elemental lords.
It should be noted that most information seems to suggest that the elemental spirits that bestow powers to the shaman are separate entities from the elemental lords. The spirits have never taken names, simply being referred to as the spirit of their respected elements. More over, the spirit of earth has been described as having male characteristics, where as Therazane is seemingly female(though being elementals, they likely lack true gender). This is also backed up by the fact that shaman have retained the ability to use fire spells when Ragnaros has aligned himself against all life, and that the spirit of wind still heeds their call even after the death of Al'Akir.
The spirits are described as "cosmic partners", stretching the universe and existing on all worlds where nature still exists. The elemental lords, however, are bound to definite, physical forms. While the spirits have their own personas, they are far more abstract than the elemental lords are. While a connection between the spirits and the lords surely exists, exactly what that connection is has yet to be established.
Other possible Lords
Other elemental lords may exist that were not the lieutenants of the Old Gods. These include:
- Aetherion, an elemental lord of air.
- Ahune the Frost Lord, an elemental lord under Neptulon's command.
- Avalanchion <Elemental Lord>, leader of Therazane's forces
- Cyrukh the Firelord, decribed as an elemental lord (lower case).
- Murmur, the essence of sound
Amphitheater of Anguish
- Az'Barin, Prince of the Gust
- Duke Singen <The New Hotness>
- Erathius, King of Dirt
- Gargoral the Water Lord