The aqir (pronounced "UH-keer") were an ancient sentient insectoid race who dwelled in ancient Kalimdor. Much like the n'raqi, the aqir arose from the organic matter seeping from the Old Gods' massive bulks during the primordial era of Azeroth. When the Old Gods' Black Empire was defeated by the titan-forged, the aqir were driven underground, where they remained until they were reawakened by millennia later. Obsessed with eradicating all non-insectoid life on Kalimdor, they waged war against the trolls, but were eventually defeated and split into three distinct colonies: the nerubians of Azjol-Nerub, the qiraji of Ahn'Qiraj and the mantid of Manti'vess.
The Black Empire
After the Old Gods embedded themselves in the surface of primordial Azeroth, they soon began spreading corruption around them, blighting and withering the land. The organic matter that seeped from their massive bodies gave rise to two distinct races: the aqir and the n'raqi (or "faceless ones"). The incredibly strong and resilient aqir were employed as laborers by the cunning and intelligent n'raqi, and were forced to build temple cities and towering citadels around their masters' massive bulks. The greatest of these holdings was built around the most powerful of the Old Gods, , and this civilization soon spread across Azeroth, forming the Black Empire.
However, one day the titan-forged, servants of the titan Pantheon, arrived on Azeroth to combat the Black Empire. The titan-forged were successful in imprisoning the enslaved Elemental Lords and thereafter turned their attention to the aqir, many of which dwelled in enormous catacombs below the surface of the empire. The titan-forged used his earth magic to collapse the burrows, forcing the insectoids to escape above ground, where they found themselves surrounded by the titan-forged. Most of the aqir were destroyed by the titan-forged, though several small pockets survived by tunneling deep underground, too weakened to launch a counterattack.
Thousands of years later, long after the Black Empire's fall, a race known as the trolls rose to prominence in Kalimdor and established great civilizations that covered most of the continent. One day, roughly 16,000 years before the First War, a rebellious group of trolls accidentally awakened , an ancient servant of the Old God who had survived an encounter with the titan-forged centuries earlier. Kith'ix, knowing that destroying the trolls would please its Old God masters, reached out with its mind and discovered the aqir, rallying them into building the subterranean empire of Azj'Aqir. When the time was right, Kith'ix led the aqir to the surface, launching a terrible war against the trolls.
The aqiri threat was unlike anything the trolls had ever faced before. When the insectoids had almost reached the sacred Zandalar Mountains, the Zandalar tribe united the trolls into the Empire of Zul to fight back against the legions of Azj'Aqir. Ambush tactics and the aid of the Wild Gods helped the trolls in pushing back the insectoids and even wounding Kith'ix, who retreated with a group of its closest followers to the northeastern corner of the continent. Knowing that the aqir would soon move to attack outlying troll territories and would simply burrow underground and establish new colonies if allowed to live, the Zandalari sent the powerful Amani, Gurubashi and Drakkari tribes to track down and eliminate the insectoids, as well as establish new strongholds to guard the distant corners of the troll empire. The Drakkari overthrew the northern aqir, who had enslaved a group of titan-forged tol'vir known as obsidian destroyers, while the Gurubashi succeeded in containing a group of aqir in the titan-forged prison complex of Ahn'Qiraj through a war of attrition. In the northeast, the Amani succeeded in tracking down and killing Kith'ix before establishing the city of Zul'Aman over its corpse.
The three empires
With Kith'ix dead, the trolls eventually managed to shatter Azj'Aqir. Having successfully eradicated all aqiri presence from central Kalimdor and contained the insectoids in the far northern and southern reaches of the continent, the trolls proclaimed themselves victorious.
Three distinct groups of aqir managed to survive the destruction of their empire. The ones in the north congregated around the underground prison of the Old God , evolving into the nerubian race and establishing the kingdom of Azjol-Nerub. The ones in the southwest remained inside Ahn'Qiraj, where the energies of the Old God warped them into a race known as the qiraji. During the later stages of the war, one group had also fled to the southeast. Drawn towards the lingering energies of the dead Old God , these aqir took up the name mantid and founded the colony of Manti'vess.
- An was dropped by Zul'jin in Zul'Aman.
- The is a rare tol'vir archaeology artifact. Though it shares the name with the ancient aqiri empire, it is actually named for a tol'vir sorcerer of the same name. Given that the item also uses "Qiraj" as a demonym instead of "Qiraji," and the other item descriptions have nothing to do with the tol'vir, this may be an error.
- Nerubians reminded  and  of tales of the thought-vanished aqir, giving some hint as to what they were like.
- According to a journal entry by , titan records suggest that the Old Gods created the aqir out of something that was not the silithid or generic insects (as those are descended from the aqir). This "something" was later stated to be some kind of species of various "proto-insectoid humanoids" that were part of the "Black Empire." This theory was later proven wrong, as the Old Gods actually gave rise to the aqir directly alongside the n'raqi.
- The adjectival demonym of "aqir" is "aqiri".
- ^ BlizzCon 2017, World of Warcraft | What's New
- ^ a b c d Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 29-32
- ^ a b c d World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1, pg. 72-74
- ^ Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, page 218
- ^ Blood of the Highborne
- ^ World of Warcraft: The Magazine Volume II Issue I, lineage chart
- ^ World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Launch Live Stream (2:19:00)
- ^ The Twin Empires