Magical addiction

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Magical addiction is an affliction suffered by the Highborne, and to a greater extent by their descendants. Banished from Kalimdor for their refusal to give up arcane magic, the Highborne founded their own kingdom, within which they unleashed their magical wonders. After 7,000 years of being suffused by the power of the Sunwell, their people — known as the high elves, then as the blood elves — developed an innate, seemingly incurable addiction to its arcane energies. When the Sunwell was destroyed, their source of arcane power was torn away, and the elves were left with a weakening, sometimes fatal, hunger for magic in its place.[1]

Various methods have been used to counter and sate addiction to magic, but no true cure has ever been found.

Background

Thousands of years ago, the Highborne of old, led by Queen Azshara, lived in opulence and used their great magic with whim and caprice. Many were fascinated and obsessed with the original Well of Eternity, and were greatly tempted by the second. Their reckless use of the arcane eventually attracted the Burning Legion, and following the War of the Ancients, the kaldorei outlawed magic on pain of death. The Highborne, unwilling to give up their arcane practices, were banished. The Highborne were the first to experience an addiction to the arcane.

Dath'Remar Sunstrider with his stolen vial from the Well of Eternity.

When the exiled Highborne founded the Kingdom of Quel'Thalas, their first king, Dath'Remar Sunstrider, created the Sunwell using a stolen vial of the Well of Eternity. It was his belief that the Sunwell would surpass the old well; its powers not only began suffusing and strengthening the Highborne, but altered their appearance, giving birth to the high elves. Empowered by the Sunwell, the elves thrived for millennia, creating one of the strongest empires on the Eastern Kingdoms. The Sunwell's energies were essential to the elves' way of life, and the very existence of Quel'Thalas; it was the heart of their society. It had empowered the magi who had built their kingdom, and enabled some of the elves' day-to-day spellcasting. Magic had become as much a way of life for the high elves as eating or breathing. The Sunwell's energy pervaded the high elves every moment of every day, washing over them with its power, feeding them unceasingly.[2]

Yet, the high elves' blessings were not without cost. Not apparent to the elves was the effect the Sunwell would have on them: forever linked to the Sunwell, living in the warmth of its glow, and constantly fed its magical energies, the high elves became intrinsically dependent upon it.

Loss of the Sunwell

Protected by the Sunwell, Quel'Thalas stood strong for over 7,000 years. This changed during the Third War, when Quel'Thalas was invaded, and nearly obliterated, by the undead Scourge. The Sunwell was tainted and defiled by necromancy, and the surviving elves destroyed it to avert a further catastrophe. The war's end was brutal: ninety percent of the high elves had been slaughtered, their kingdom was left in ruins, and their source of power was gone. The survivors, rallied by their prince, began calling themselves the blood elves in honor of their perished kin.

It was now that the elves became aware of their addiction to magic. While the tainted Sunwell's destruction had saved them from death, it left them weakened and despondent without its arcane energies for nourishment. Only now did they realize how dependent they'd become on the Sunwell, how much they needed to feed on the arcane.[3]

Finding a cure

Kael'thas Sunstrider, last of the Sunstrider dynasty and now the sole ruler of Quel'Thalas, asserted that finding a cure to this crippling addiction was of paramount importance. He believed that only a new source of power would save his people, and instructed his regent, Lor'themar Theron, to govern the elven kingdom while the prince and his army left to battle in Lordaeron. Lor'themar and Halduron Brightwing safeguarded the land, battling the lingering Scourge remnants with their Farstriders, while seeking a cure for their people's seemingly insatiable hunger.[1] Notably, the rangers were affected by the withdrawal less so than their brethren. The cause of this was unknown.[2]

Blood elves used mana crystals to stave off withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal from magic was an issue the blood elves struggled with daily; reclaiming their kingdom was a daunting task, beset on all sides by enemies but lacking in allies, even without their weakening addiction to magic to consider. The withdrawal proved fatal to the very young, the very old, and the sick,[1] and had grown steadily, worsening with time.[2]

An answer to this predicament came from an unlikely source. While in Lordaeron, Kael'thas met Lady Vashj and her serpentine naga. Vashj claimed that the naga, too, were addicted to magic, and that her master Illidan Stormrage could help the blood elves in their struggle with magical addiction. Kael, who had been sentenced to death along with his entire army by an intolerant human commander, accepted her aid, rescued his people, and fled to Outland. There, he met Illidan, and pledged his allegiance to the half-demon in return for a cure for magical addiction. Illidan had something else in mind, however. He informed the prince that there was no cure, but that the addiction could be sated. He shared with Kael'thas the ability to drain mana from various arcane-bearing sources, even demons. It was an offer Kael'thas felt he had to accept. He was certain his people would die without either a cure or a new source of magic. Kael'thas swore his loyalty to Illidan, who taught several blood elves the techniques he had offered. These teachings spread to the other blood elves in Outland, who were then able to stave off their painful hunger for arcane magic.

However, Illidan had in his possession another fount of arcane power called the Shrine of Lost Souls, comparable to the Well of Eternity, which he used to break his demonic servants free of their addiction to the Legion's magic. Years later, it was speculated that this was what he intended to give the blood elves to free them from their addiction to the Sunwell, but for some reason he did not let them near it.[4]

Still, Kael'thas and his followers took well to mana draining. He sent one of his most loyal advisors, Rommath, to spread these teachings - albeit with certain details left out - back home to Quel'Thalas, to reinvigorate their people.

Mana draining

A blood elf preparing to [Mana Tap].

Rommath returned to Quel'Thalas and spread Illidan's teachings. He took care to limit what the general population knew, hiding Kael's contact with Illidan; it is likely the involvement of demons would have horrified most blood elves.[1] Rather, Rommath encouraged his people to sate their cravings with good judgement, and to strive to maintain the healthy balance between deficiency and overindulgence.[2]

Most blood elves embraced these teachings, using them to drain arcane power from compact mana crystals (which became a popular product)[2] and innocuous mana-bearing vermin.[1] Mana draining could be used on anything containing arcane power, including crystals, artifacts, creatures, and even mortals possessing such power.[2] In World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, this was illustrated by the blood elf racial ability, [Mana Tap], which drained a small amount of mana from any target possessing some.

Heartened by their swift recovery, the blood elves succeeded in retaking and rebuilding much of Quel'Thalas. The Scourge was expelled from Silvermoon City, which was rebuilt almost overnight. Invigorated, the blood elves were able to retake sections of Eversong Woods, and others looked to the Ghostlands. The elves reconstructed their Arcane Sanctums, using them to gather arcane energy from key ley lines throughout the land.

It is important to note that although fel magic was used in Quel'Thalas, it was not for the purpose of sustenance. Demonic power was enslaved in crystals,[5] which the Magisters used to empower the kingdom's structures; many buildings had fallen apart without the Sunwell's power to hold them together. The crystals, which had apparently always been present in some form, can be found strewn around Quel'Thalas. Simply living around this fel magic is how most of the blood elves developed their fel-green eyes.[6]

Although mana draining was an efficient way for an elf to retain their strength, it was only a temporary respite from magical addiction. Within hours of consuming a mana crystal, the gnawing hunger for arcane magic would return.[2] Furthermore, some desperate blood elves took the process too far, overusing the technique. This gave birth to the Wretched, a group of dishevelled, violent addicts willing to do anything for another arcane meal. All blood elves were taught and encouraged to control their addiction to magic; it is a thirst unending.[7]

Kael'thas eventually turned from arcane magic to fel in efforts to acquire greater power. This was a change that would have damning consequences, as the prince lost faith in Illidan and aligned himself with the Burning Legion, whose master had promised his people salvation. Kael became twisted due to his reliance on fel energy,[8] and his actions began causing friction and defections from within his own ranks. Some of the prince's magisters refined their mana crystals, which allowed them to rapidly drain huge amounts of energy at the cost of augmenting their innate addiction to magic. It is presumed they were too drunk on this magic to question their leader's increasingly dark path.[9]

The Sunwell restored

Kael'thas' ambitions were not to be realized, and the twisted prince and his Legion allies were fought and defeated by an army of blood elf and draenei soldiers named the Shattered Sun Offensive. After the battle, the Sunwell, exhausted from Kael'thas' ill-fated attempt to summon forth Kil'jaeden from its mystical depths, was restored by Prophet Velen, using the heart of the fallen naaru M'uru. Its energies sanctified, the Sunwell was reborn as a fount of both arcane and holy power. Its significant source of Light is what blood elf paladins, known as Blood Knights, now turn to in order to invoke their powers.

The restored Sunwell.

This was a great gift to the blood elves, most of whom have resolved to embrace it as they fight to overcome their addiction to magic. Although some elves remain hesitant to abandon their dependence on arcane magic, others have embraced change for the betterment of Quel'Thalas.[8]

Future

With the Sunwell restored, blood elves no longer make use of mana draining, and in World of Warcraft the Mana Tap racial was removed. However, while the Sunwell once more sustains them, their core addiction to magic is not yet cured. Prominent figures among the blood elves have referenced this.

Lor'themar Theron, regent lord of Quel'Thalas, has encouraged his people to turn to the Sunwell. He specified that as its energies are now different, it may take time for some to adjust.[10]

Lady Liadrin, leader of the Blood Knights, believes that the Sunwell will give the blood elves the strength they need to conquer their addiction completely. It will be a difficult battle, but with the Sunwell, she states they will be able to restore their people to greatness and break free from the addiction ravaging their people.

Tae'thelan Bloodwatcher, leader of the Reliquary, seeks to find artifacts of power capable of freeing his race from their addiction to magic.

The updated introduction to playable blood elves in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm outright says that, over time, the new Sunwell may cure the blood elves of their cursed state.[11]

Abstinence

Uncontrolled, reckless exposure to arcane magic will make an elf one of the Wretched.

One answer to magical addiction was to abstain from magic entirely. This was employed by some of the remaining high elves who did not become blood elves. Some dealt with their addiction in a similar manner to the blood elves, using stolen artifacts and mana-bearing crystals to sate their hunger. The high elves of Quel'Danil swore off magic completely,[12] while the high elves of Quel'Lithien opposed mana draining on moral grounds.[10]

Abstinence was not for everyone. While rangers could get by with minimal assistance, more magic-inclined elves who ceased their intake of magic became gravely ill.[2]

Addiction to fel

It is known that many demons of the Burning Legion are addicted to the magic of their dark masters. Illidan Stormrage found (or created) a way to cure them of it using the Shrine of Lost Souls, which washed away their fel taint and freed them from the Legion's yoke. It was suggested by Kanrethad Ebonlocke, who was present during the Black Temple's fall, that Illidan had originally intended to use this to free the blood elves of their addiction to the Sunwell, but for one reason or another did not let them near it.[13] Observer demons joined the Legion to begin with in order to seek out and taste new forms of magic.[14]

Blood elves are addicted to arcane magic, not fel, but it is possible for a blood or high elf to succumb to fel magic's lure; Kael'thas Sunstrider and some of his more zealous followers did so while on Outland. Dissatisfied with the limits of arcane magic, Kael'thas began consuming fel energy to acquire even greater power.[15] A blood elf who consumes enough fel magic will be warped into a demonic hybrid, known as a felblood elf, essentially their race's equivalent of a fel orc.

Naga

The naga too are addicted to magic.[16] As former Highborne, the naga's past abuse of the Well has not been without additional consequences. The Highborne were obsessed with the Well, and the naga have been exposed to the Well's residual magics for millennia. Consequently modern naga are addicted to magic.[17]

Nightborne

The residents of Suramar who began living under a mystical barrier during the War of the Ancients utilized one of the Pillars of Creation, the Eye of Aman'Thul, to create their own font of arcane power: the Nightwell. Cut off from the rest of the world, these elves began to feed on the Nightwell itself, consuming arcane magic in the form of arcwine. While it sustained them, it also mutated them over time into a race known as the shal'dorei, or nightborne. It also cursed them with a far more debilitating addiction to arcane magic, as the addiction became combined with hunger. Failing to sate this addiction led to a nightborne quickly becoming emaciated, a state known as 'nightfallen', with their hunger becoming stronger and stronger, and having clear effects on their behavior such as paranoia and delirium.

If the addiction remained unsated, a nightborne would eventually be transformed into a feral, enraged creature known as a withered. Tormented by crazed and confused memories, no longer possessing higher brain functions, and driven purely by hunger, becoming a withered was considered a fate worse than death, and was irreversible.

During the campaign against the Burning Legion on the Broken Isles, however, Dalaran intercepted a distress call by First Arcanist Thalyssra, an exiled noble of Suramar, and with the help of an adventurer, she united exiles and rebels under the Nightfallen banner and, more importantly, discovered a cure to the nightborne's condition: the fruit of the Arcan'dor, a creation of nature and arcane magic that restored balance to the nightborne and allowed them to once again gain sustenance from ordinary food.

Non-elf races

Curiously, non-elf races seem immune to magical addiction. The high elves were notably surprised to discover humans had this resistance, and it appears gnomes, dwarves, goblins, and the races alien to Azeroth also possess it. Even the elves' own progenitors, the trolls, seem to possess this resistance to magical addiction.

In the RPG

The RPG Icon 16x36.png This section contains information from the Warcraft RPG which is considered non-canon.

Illidan Stormrage wanted to create another Well of Eternity on Outland to fuel his blood elves' magical addiction.[18]

References