The Story So Far (Cataclysm)
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The Lich King's reign of terror was over. As if to affirm that a bright future would soon dawn on Azeroth, other joyful events occurred across the world. Archdruid Malfurion Stormrage was at last freed from his imprisonment by the shadowy Emerald Nightmare through the efforts of his love, High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, and her allies. Elsewhere, after years in exile, the highly intelligent gnomes and the fearless Darkspear trolls made gains toward reclaiming their respective homes in Gnomeregan and on the Echo Isles.
Yet just as hope was beginning to surge among Azeroth's races, tragedy struck. The world's elemental spirits grew increasingly erratic, setting off a series of deadly natural disasters. Agents of the nefarious Twilight's Hammer cult surfaced throughout Horde and Alliance cities, spreading word of the impending apocalypse. The world's leaders scrambled to find a solution to Azeroth's growing instability.
In the dwarven bastion of Ironforge, King Magni Bronzebeard undertook a mystic ritual to commune with the earth. The ceremony, however, had an unexpected effect: Magni was transformed into diamond and became fused to the depths of the mountain city itself. In the wake of his petrification, the Bronzebeard, Wildhammer, and Dark Iron clans agreed to rule over Ironforge via the Council of Three Hammers, but the city's future remained uncertain.
Meanwhile, Thrall journeyed to his ancestors' lands in Nagrand, hoping to glean insight from Outland's elemental spirits as well as other respected shaman. In his absence, Thrall appointed Garrosh Hellscream, son of the legendary orc Grom, as acting Horde warchief. Garrosh's brash demeanor inflamed relations between the Horde and the Alliance. A gruesome slaughter of druids in Ashenvale, which the Twilight's Hammer had perpetrated to look like an act of the Horde, escalated tensions further and sowed mistrust among Garrosh's own comrades.
In particular, Garrosh infuriated Cairne Bloodhoof, the wise tauren high chieftain. Believing that the new warchief would lead the Horde to ruin, Cairne challenged Garrosh to a duel of honor. Although the mighty tauren fought valiantly, no amount of strength could have led him to victory. The matriarch of the Grimtotem tauren tribe, Magatha, had poisoned Garrosh's blade, unbeknownst to either of the duel's combatants. Cairne became immobilized after he received a flesh wound during the battle, allowing the new warchief to land a killing blow.
Following the duel, Magatha's agents seized the tauren capital of Thunder Bluff for the Grimtotem. The usurpers also intended to murder Cairne's son, Baine, but the young tauren eluded his assassins and staged a counterattack. Ultimately, Baine and his forces reclaimed Thunder Bluff, expelling Magatha and her traitorous followers from tauren lands forever.
Unaware of these critical events, Thrall received an ominous warning in Nagrand from the Fury of Earth: the fear and turmoil of Azeroth's elementals echoed the condition of Outland just before that world—then known as Draenor—had been ripped apart. Yet Thrall had little time to act on this unsettling revelation....
In a sudden upheaval eclipsing the world's recent elemental unrest, Azeroth shattered. Violent quakes tore through the earth. Mountains of fire and magma burst from the ground. Colossal tidal waves obliterated coastlines and caused widespread flooding. The Cataclysm had begun.
Heralds of Twilight
As the world's races struggled for survival in the wake of the Cataclysm, details came to light concerning what—or who—had caused the disaster. Prior to the upheaval, the Fury of Earth had cryptically told Thrall that Azeroth's instability had been caused by something good that had turned unnatural. Something that wished to inflict pain and suffering on the entire world.
The warning was in reference to an ancient being once known as Neltharion the Earth-Warder. Long ago, this Aspect of the black dragonflight had been granted dominion over Azeroth's earthly expanses by the benevolent titans. Yet the incessant whisperings of the Old Gods had gradually driven Neltharion insane and caused him to abandon his sacred charge. He had later revealed his treachery during the War of the Ancients by turning an immensely powerful artifact — the Dragon Soul — against his allies, annihilating nearly all of the blue dragonflight. Forever after, Neltharion would answer to a new name: Deathwing.
Deathwing's murderous aim had become the subjugation of the other dragonflights, a goal left unfulfilled decades ago when he was chased into hiding by the Dragon Aspects Alexstrasza, Ysera, Nozdormu, and Malygos. In Deathwing's absence, agents of the black dragonflight continued one of his darkest schemes: creating a more powerful breed of dragon. The most promising of these vile experiments resulted in twilight dragons, malefic creatures that first appeared in the cursed and abandoned dwarven city of Grim Batol, and later within the hallowed Chamber of the Aspects.
During many of these developments, Deathwing remained hidden. Rumors regarding his death circulated, leading to the assumption that his malevolent influence on Azeroth was at an end. Such was not the case. In Deepholm, the domain of earth within the Elemental Plane, Deathwing nourished his hatred of Azeroth's inhabitants, awaiting his moment to burst forth from his lair and reforge the world in flame. That fateful day—the Cataclysm—arrived shortly after Thrall's return from Outland.
Deathwing's violent return did much more than sunder the lands of Azeroth; it also ruptured the boundaries of the Elemental Plane. In the aftermath, chaotic elementals emerged into the world from within the Abyssal Maw, Deepholm, the Firelands, and the Skywall. Working with Deathwing, the Twilight's Hammer cult and its twisted leader, Cho'gall, established footholds across the world with the aid of twilight dragons and enslaved elementals.
Thus far, many of Azeroth's defenders have devoted themselves to combating the cult and allaying the elemental forces threatening to tear the world apart. Chief among these champions are the shaman of the Earthen Ring, including Thrall, Nobundo, and Muln Earthfury. Other Horde and Alliance heroes have also risen to the challenge, but their focus has been split due to skirmishes between the two factions.
Amid the turmoil, two other beleaguered groups are striving to overcome their own hurdles. The human kingdom of Gilneas, walled off from the rest of the world for years, has come under assault by Queen Sylvanas's Forsaken. Aside from the undead, the kingdom is assailed by a debilitating curse that transforms its victims into feral wolf-beasts known as worgen. Meanwhile, a volcanic eruption on the tropical Isle of Kezan has ousted the Bilgewater Cartel and other goblins from their homes. Trade Prince Gallywix has capitalized on this moment of panic and swindled his fellow goblins out of their life savings—and their freedom—in exchange for transport off of Kezan.
Much like Gilneas and the Bilgewater Cartel, other kingdoms and factions the world over face their own trials, from internal political strife to the reappearance of ancient foes. Yet there is one inescapable truth that they all share: if Deathwing and his nihilistic servants are left unopposed, the Cataclysm will pale in comparison to the chaos that lies ahead for Azeroth.