War of the Ancients

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For specific accounts of the war, see War of the Ancients (disambiguation).
War of the Ancients
War of the Ancients
Part of: The Burning Crusade
Location: Old Kalimdor; primarily on the Kaldorei Empire's territories
Provocation: The warrior-demons of the Burning Legion stormed into the world and laid siege to the night elves' cities.
Begin: Queen Azshara and the Highborne begin to summon Sargeras and the Burning Legion to Azeroth.
End: Great Sundering
Outcome: Decisive victory for the Kaldorei Resistance
Belligerents
Commanders and leaders
Strength
Casualties and losses
  • Very heavy
    • Many Wild Gods killed
    • Blue dragonflight practically wiped out
    • Innumerable mortals slain
  • Very heavy
  • Virtually none
Previous: War between the Kaldorei and the Twin Empires, Elemental Sundering
Next: War of the Satyr

The War of the Ancients was a major conflict which constituted the first coming of the demonic Burning Legion to Azeroth some 10,000 years prior to the events of the First War. One of the largest and most costly wars in Azeroth's history, the War of the Ancients decided the fate of all life on the planet for millennia to come. The conflict ultimately led to the Great Sundering, a cataclysmic event which tore the planet's landmass apart, thus altering its history permanently.

As part of its relentless crusade to extinguish all life in the universe, as well as the demon lord Sargeras' desire to access the planet's world soul, the Burning Legion set its sights on distant Azeroth. Seducing the highest caste of the Kaldorei Empire (which dominated the planet) with promises of paradise and power, the Legion gradually, but successfully, began to enter planet through a trans-dimensional portal. With the aid of Queen Azshara and her Highborne, the demons launched a campaign to wipe out the major group resisting the Legion's coming - the Kaldorei Resistance.

Composed of such powerful characters as Malfurion Stormrage, Tyrande Whisperwind, Illidan Stormrage, Jarod Shadowsong, and others, the resistance fought many vicious battles—often with mixed results—with Sargeras' forces, with the ultimate goal of preventing the demon lord from entering their world and repelling the Legion's invasion. After much sacrifice and dedication, an alliance of the mortal races and others succeeded in definitively defeating the Burning Legion's invasion, though it came at the terrible cost of the Well of Eternity which, being used as a massive portal by the demons, violently exploded shortly after.[2]

History

Many thousands of years ago Sargeras, the greatest champion of his people resolved to destroy all life in the universe to prevent the sinister rulers of the Void from being able to spread their destructive influence to them. Above all else, he sought to destroy the world-souls, as they were what the Void lords desired most of all. To this end, Sargeras rallied the millions of demons of the Twisting Nether to form the Burning Legion. When his brethren tried to stop him, he executed them all, but not before he learned from them of what was perhaps the most powerful world-soul in the universe; a planet called Azeroth.

Millennia after that event (10,000 years BDP), the upper classes of the night elves of the Kaldorei Empire, a magocratic nation built around the magical lake called the Well of Eternity, sought to further increase their magical powers. This motion was instigated by their selfish monarch, Queen Azshara and her closest advisor, Xavius. Their reckless experiments with the powerful font sent ripples through the Great Dark Beyond and into the Twisting Nether itself. There, they caught the attention of Sargeras, who knew that he'd found his greatest target. Rallying his vast Burning Legion he made his way towards the unsuspecting world of Azeroth, but to claim it, he and his armies would have to emerge from the nether, and to do this, they would need help from the other side.

Xavius was the first of the Highborne to hear Sargeras' whispers. His dark might so impressed the night elf that Xavius was convinced he'd been contacted by a god. He soon alerted his queen to his discovery, and soon Azshara and almost all of the Highborne had turned to the worship of the Dark Titan, believing him to be a great being who would remake their world into a paradise for them, alone. Azshara, in particular, considered a being of Sargeras' power to be the only one worthy to be her mate and king, ruling the new world, her new world together. With these thoughts, Azshara had Xavius draw on the Well's power to construct within its depths an immense portal that would allow the Burning Legion entrance into Azeroth.

The Well of Eternity transformed into a portal for the Burning Legion.

With these preparations made, Sargeras began to slowly send his agents through the budding portal. First came packs of vampiric felhounds and their retainer Hakkar, the Houndmaster. These demonic canines stealthily spread across the world's single continent, Kalimdor, and attacked any mages who were not of the Highborne. With their tentacles they'd drain every drop of mana from these wielders of the arcane, then devour whatever flesh was left. Their work impressed Xavius and Azshara, reaffirming their loyalty to the Legion's incredible power.

Soon the Legion's main troops emerged; the staunch felguard who formed the primary infantry of the Legion, the wrathguard who struck skillfully with magic and blade, and the menacing terrorguard and doomguard who oversaw the efforts of the soldiers and summoned terrifying infernals like meteors from the sky. Slowly but surely the demonic armies marched out from the night elf capital, Zin-Azshari, killing and destroying everything in heir path. However it wasn't long before they were met with resistance.

The night elf people, aware of the attacks from these strange creatures, were rallied by a noble who had not joined with Azshara, due to not being a Highborne, a brave and skillful general and politician named Lord Kur'talos Ravencrest. Lord Ravencrest, believing that the Queen had been taken captive by Xavius, led his people into a powerful resistance. Among this resistance were three particularly skilled young night elves; Tyrande Whisperwind, a priestess of Elune who wielded the holy powers of the goddess with skill surpassing her age; Illidan Stormrage, a young, though reckless, mage who wielded the arcane as well as any Highborne; and finally Illidan's brother Malfurion, an eccentric young night elf who'd forsaken the opulence and arcane abilities of his people in favor of 'druidism', the power of the forests. 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. The trio all proved to be vital members of the resistance, with Illidan being placed in charge of the Moon Guard, a peacekeeping order of mages under the empire.

Together this resistance fought against the Burning Legion, and though they were successful at slowing the demon army's advance, they were unable to overcome them completely and, slowly but surely, found themselves being pushed back. The younger elves, including Malfurion and a young soldier named Jarod Shadowsong, implored Kur'talos to seek the aid of the other races of Azeroth. The elder night elf, however, was victim to old prejudices of his people and would hear none of it. Nonetheless it soon became clear that the night elves needed aid, or they would fail.

By this time the Legion's greater members and commanders had arrived on Azeroth; the brutal and savage pit lords, led by their cruel king Mannoroth; and the eredar, wielders of incredible demonic magic led by the analytical and tactical genius Archimonde. Under the guidance of the latter, the Legion's portal grew stronger than ever. Furthermore, Azshara had Xavius weave a spell that would block all but the demons and Highborne from drawing power from the Well of Eternity. As the Well was the source of all arcane magic on Azeroth, it fell to Malfurion to find help for his beleaguered people.

The young druid resolved to use the Emerald Dream, an ethereal realm formed from the dreams of Azeroth itself, to infiltrate the palace and find a way to stop the Highborne. While he was unable to completely stop the Highborne's plans, he was able to interfere with them by destroying the spell matrix sustaining both the block on the Well of Eternity, and the Highborne's portal. During this mission he fought Xavius, whose enchanted false eyes could see even those in the Dream, and their battle resulted in a great explosion that destroyed the tower where the matrix was held, and killed Xavius.

Around the same time, Azshara had instructed her personal bodyguard, Captain Varo'then, to eliminate Lord Ravencrest, with the hopes of quelling the rebellion that slowed the arrival of her god. Varo'then sent an assassin, Kelorn Nightblade, to do the deed, and Ravencrest was successfully killed in the middle of the battlefield. Kelorn was himself killed shortly afterwards.

Possibly around this time, the Highborne of Suramar who had watched as their city was used by the cunning nathrezim as an experiment in the creation of an undead army, responded to an attempt by the Legion to create a second portal in the depths of the Temple of Elune. Using the Pillars of Creation, the court of the Grand Magistrix Elisande sealed the tomb, and proceeded to create a massive barrier surrounding the still intact sections of the city, sealing themselves off from the conflict.

Without Ravencrest, command of the resistance army fell to Desdel Stareye, Ravencrest's second-in-command. Though arrogant and incompetent, Stareye agreed to allow Jarod Shadowsong's alliance with the other races of Azeroth; primarily the earthen and the mountain tauren. However Stareye was completely useless tactically and in combat and it wasn't long before the Legion made short-work of him, leaving Jarod to assume command of the resistance.

Meanwhile 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. Malfurion, who'd recovered from his battle with Xavius with the aid of Cenarius, sought the aid of the dragonflights in fighting the Legion. While on this adventure he encountered and defeated Hakkar, banishing the demon back to the Nether. His mission was a success, with the aid of the red dragon Korialstrasz.

While Jarod led the resistance with great skill, including the use of the tauren and the earthen, he was shocked when the Wild Gods themselves, including Cenarius, emerged from the forests and attacked the Legion. He was further surprised when they submitted to his leadership, and he used them to their utmost efficiency. However even they suffered great casualties at the hands of the demons. The bear gods Ursoc and Ursol, the Mistress of birds Aviana, and several others were killed by the demons. Cenarius, enraged at their loss, attacked the Legion recklessly, only to be nearly brought down himself. He was saved by the intervention of his father, Malorne the White Stag. The great demigod defended his son while the night elves got him to safety, and Malorne nearly turned the tide of battle... until Archimonde appeared. The great demon lord used magic to grow in size, and brought the full force of his fel might against the great stag. Their battle drew on, but ultimately Archimonde was the victor, breaking Malorne's neck and casting him aside. Malfurion, who returned by now, retaliated with a great mass of vines that drove Archimonde to retreat.

Roughly during this stage of the conflict, the tauren leader Huln Highmountain, rescued Cenarius' favoured stag Eche'ro and the four united tauren tribes were granted the Horns of Eche'ro as a reward. Shortly afterwards Huln attacked and banished Tichondrius, the nathrezim commander in the area.

Meanwhile at Zin-Azshari, some of the Highborne were approached in the night by a demon shaped like a goat-man who was none other than Xavius, now reborn as the first satyr. He offered select Highborne the gift of becoming satyrs themselves, and many agreed.

But another terrible event soon occurred. The dragonflights arrived, led by Alexstrasza, the red dragon Aspect, and Neltharion, the black dragon Aspect. Though their arrival initially proved a monumental aid, things turned dark when Neltharion unleashed his secret weapon: the Dragon Soul. This small golden disk, infused with the powers of the Dragon Aspects, was capable of channeling great amounts of power. And Neltharion wielded this power, in the form of golden beams of energy, against the Legion... and the defenders of Kalimdor. When the other dragons confronted him over his apparent recklessness, he revealed to them that he'd fallen victim to dark voices from within the very earth he protected. These voices had driven him to madness, convincing him that the other dragons were plotting against him, and fueling a growing resentment of the titans for placing the weight of the earth on him. He planned to create a world ruled by the black dragonflight, believing ultimate power would relieve him of his burden.

When Malygos, the Aspect of the blue dragons, and his flight attempted to stop his crazed brother, Neltharion made an example of him by using the Dragon Soul to destroy the majority of Malygos' flight, and hurling the survivors to the far corners of the world. He was about to turn the Soul on the other flights, but the use of its immense energies began to affect his body, causing great cracks and wounds to tear open on his body, forcing him to retreat.

Though all sides were shaken, the war would soon resume, though many dragons retreated out of shock and sorrow. 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.

Knowing that the Well's destruction would prevent him from ever wielding magic again, Illidan seemingly betrayed the resistance and joined the Highborne to warn them of Malfurion's plan. There, at Azshara's palace, he had his eyes pierced out by Sargeras, and was granted both enhanced mystical eyesight, and a vision of the true might of the Legion; the army was millions upon millions strong, and those that had already been killed, had merely been banished back to the Nether where they would be reborn. Shaken by this vision, but undeterred, Illidan continued his own plans, for despite his magical addiction what he really wanted was to sabotage the Highborne from within.

Meanwhile, Tyrande found herself taken captive by Xavius. When Malfurion discovered the satyr he, with the aid of the young archer Shandris Feathermoon, fought and killed him once again, transforming a wooden arrow into a tree that devoured the demon as it grew. However this did not prevent Tyrande's capture by the satyrs.

Shortly after, Malfurion was charged with stealing the Dragon Soul from Neltharion, with the goal of keeping it away from both the black dragon and the Legion. While Malfurion was successful, Captain Varo'then and Illidan accosted him as he returned to the resistance army and stole the relic. The Highborne and Azshara had learned of it, and decided it was just what was needed to strengthen the portal for Sargeras.

With Tyrande and the Dragon Soul in her grasp, and Sargeras' titanic shadow looming ever closer, it became more important than ever to reach the palace. With the aid of Agamaggan, Malfurion and a group of allies infiltrated Zin-Azshari and met with Illidan. Malfurion, though angry at his brother's betrayal, soon learned the truth of his intentions. Illidan had concocted a plan to expel the Legion from Azeroth by using the Dragon Soul to reverse the portal, dragging all who'd come through back into the Nether. Malfurion agreed to aid him with this plan and, with the rescued Tyrande, followed Mannoroth to the shores of the Well, where the Dragon Soul had been taken to prepare the final portal.

Illidan snuck into the palace to shut down the minor portals the Legion was using to mobilize, and assassinate the remaining Highborne linking their magics together in one focused spell to ceate a gateway large enough for Sargeras to enter. Once inside he met with a group of five mysterious night elves, in fact adventurers from the far future. With their aid he shut down the minor portals and fought Peroth'arn, the satyr overseeing them. The time travelers then split off from Illidan and proceeded to eliminate Azshara's Keepers of Eternity, but were unable to even scratch the Queen herself who was taken to safety by Varo'then.

The dragons returned to the fray at this time, hoping to retrieve the Dragon Soul as they'd learned that the malevolent Old Gods sought to turn the massive portal's energies towards their prisons, shattering them and allowing their black armies to claim Azeroth for themselves. Neltharion re-appeared at this time as well, now bearing adamantine plates bolted into his skin to hold him together. Now calling himself Deathwing, the black dragon obsessively tried to reclaim the Dragon Soul, but was cast aside by the Old Gods.

On the shores of the Well, the time travelers and Illidan rejoined with Malfurion who needed them to distract Mannoroth long enough for him to complete the reversal of the portal. Illidan, Tyrande, and the time travelers agreed and fought through the Legion's minions and killed Varo'then, before attacking Mannoroth. Though the pit lord attempted to stop them with all his might, Illidan briefly used fel magic to enhance himself and the time travelers enough to hold out for a few more crucial seconds. The group's efforts succeeded and the portal within the Well of Eternity reversed, pulling demons from all corners of Kalimdor back through it, even mighty Mannoroth. The Dragon Soul fell from the spell matrix, but was stopped from being lost by the surprise appearance of the one dragon Aspect who'd been absent until now; Nozdormu, the bronze dragon. He quickly vanished with the artifact as the portal began to destabilize. Unwilling to accept his first ever defeat, Sargeras angrily tried to force himself through the collapsing portal, but was unable to do so and forcibly ejected back into the Nether.

This was not the end of things, however. Fearing for the Well, Illidan slipped away to the very edge and filled five small vials with its water. His fear soon proved to be well-founded, as the stresses placed on the Well of Eternity had reached a breaking point with the collapsing portal. As a result the earth quaked, and the entire Well began collapsing into the portal as well. As the races of Azeroth sought shelter with the aid of the dragons, the very land itself collapsed and broke, being dragged into the angry torrent the collapsing Well had become. The sky darkened around the Well's remains as massive amounts of the landmass were ripped apart and swallowed by its implosion.

As the portal finally closed completely, and the implosion ended, the seas came rushing in to fill the massive wound in the earth. When at last this great event, the Sundering, came to an end, nearly eighty percent of Kalimdor's landmass had been blasted apart. All that was left was a handful of separate continents surrounding a vast new ocean. At the center of the new sea, where the Well of Eternity once stood, was a tumultuous storm of tidal fury and chaotic energies. This terrible scar, known as the Maelstrom, would never cease its furious spinning. It would remain a constant reminder of the terrible catastrophe... and the Utopian era that had been lost forever.

As for Queen Azshara and her Highborne, the entire city of Zin-Azshari was protected from the Sundering by the Queen's magic and remained as one single landmass as the ocean rushed in around her. Even she could not hold out this long, and her spell began to fail as she began to tire. But it was not the end for them. The Old Gods spoke to them, their dark whispers filling the minds of Azshara and her servitors. They promised survival in exchange for loyalty, and Azshara, devastated by her previous god's failure, agreed. When her spell failed and water flowed into the palace, it filled the lungs of the Queen and her Highborne, but they did not drown. Instead, the Highborne twisted and changed, transforming into the serpentine naga. Azshara's form changed too, twisting and growing into a great monstrosity that reflected the wickedness she'd always held in her heart.

There, at the bottom of the Maelstrom, the naga built for themselves a new city, Nazjatar, from which they would rebuild their power. It would take over ten thousand years before the naga would reveal their existence to the surface world.

War altered

Time travelers were not originally present in the War of the Ancients, but due to two different incidents, they became involved. The first group of time travelers were a human mage named Rhonin, his friend and teacher Krasus, and an orc warrior named Broxigar. Nozdormu sent them back in time shortly after the Third War when he sensed the Old Gods attempting to tamper with the timeways. Their presence caused minor alterations.

The second incident was several years later when Deathwing returned to Azeroth and caused the Shattering. As the resulting conflict against him and his masters drew on, Nozdormu deduced that the only way of stopping him was the Dragon Soul. A group of adventurers were tasked with going back to the War of the Ancients' final moments to recover the disk. In the end, as mentioned above, Nozdormu himself intervened and saved the Dragon Soul from falling into the collapsing Well. A short time later, after the Aspects used all their power to utterly annihilate Deathwing with the Dragon Soul, the relic returned to its proper place in time. Once again, the alterations were fairly minor.

In World of Warcraft

Main article: Well of Eternity (instance)
Deathwing revealed.

In an interview on June 8th, 2010, Tom Chilton revealed that the War of the Ancients would be a Caverns of Time raid instance released some time in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm patch cycle.[3] It was later revealed to be a 5-man heroic dungeon instead of a raid, the raid being the Dragon Soul.[4]

Trivia

References