War of the Shifting Sands
- For the in-game book, see . For the short story, see The War of the Shifting Sands (short story). For the world event, see Gates of Ahn'Qiraj.
|War of the Shifting Sands|
|Location: Silithus, Tanaris, Un'Goro Crater|
|End: Seal of the Scarab Wall|
|Outcome: Decisive kaldorei victory
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Previous: Gurubashi Civil War|
|Next: War of the Three Hammers|
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The War of the Shifting Sands (also called the Qiraji War) was a major conflict which took place in southern Kalimdor between an allied campaign of night elves and dragons and the immense armies of the qiraji and lesser silithid, around 975 years before the First War. Having lain dormant in the ancient titanic fortress of Ahn'Qiraj for centuries, the insectoid qiraji, urged on by the Old God C'Thun, began pouring out of Ahn'Qiraj in vast numbers, and spreading across the surrounding desert of Silithus. In response, a large night elf force led by Archdruid Fandral Staghelm attacked the qiraji and attempted to push them back to Ahn'Qiraj. The conflict went back-and-forth numerous times, often with the night elves pushing the qiraji back to the walls of the fortress only for a counter-attack to push them back in turn.
After vicious fighting, the night elves began gaining the upper hand and eventually the qiraji had been pushed back deep into Silithus. Then, during a battle near the fortress, Fandral Staghelm's son, Valstann, was surrounded and cut to pieces right before his father's eyes. This shattered the archdruid's will and drastically reduced morale among the night elves. Seizing on the lull in the fighting, the qiraji attacked with renewed ferocity. The qiraji once more spread out trough the desert and the neighbouring regions, even reaching and assaulting the Caverns of Time, home of the Bronze Dragonflight, who joined the battle and enlisted the aid of the Red, Green, and Blue flights as well.
Now, the combined forces of dragons and night elves successfully pushed the qiraji back to and inside Ahn'Qiraj. Seeking to end the war once and for all, Fandral and his allies used their powers to create a massive and impenetrable wall around the fortress, the Scarab Wall. The only way to open this wall would be through the use of the Scarab Gong, and Scepter of the Shifting Sands which, in a rage, Fandral shattered, scattering the pieces.
The awakening of Ahn'Qiraj
Since the events of their last war with the Troll Empire, the qiraji and their descendants had remained hidden and secluded in their underground lairs. The dangerous potential of these insectoid races had long since vanished from the memories of the majority of Azeroth's races. Only the mantid on the hidden continent of Pandaria remained active above ground. The qiraji themselves had taken over the ancient titanic fortress of Ahn'Qiraj, the vast prison complex of the Old God C'Thun. Here, within the Ahn'Qiraj's lifeless sandstone corridors, the qiraji had lain dormant for centuries. Although Queen Azshara and her Kaldorei Empire had once been aware of the fortress' existence, its location had long been lost to time, largely due to the fact that no living thing dwelt near it, owing in turn to the vast and inhospitable surrounding desert of Silithus.
Around 975 years before the First War, Archdruid Fandral Staghelm, a leader of the Kaldorei people and specifically its druids, initiated an ambitious quest to regrow the desolate land of Silithus. To this end, he sent his warrior son, Valstann, along with a group of druids, to begin this project. As they trekked across the scalding dunes in search of fresh water reservoirs that they would use to transform the region into a lush forest, they came across a mysterious and ancient fortress deep in the desert's interior. Although some of the druids, sensing the darkness, advised against entering the dark halls, Valstann forged onward. His presence in the cold, shadowy halls of Ahn'Qiraj inadvertently roused the dormant qiraji back to life. From his prison beneath the fortress, the Old God became aware of the awakened qiraji.
As in times past, C'Thun urged the insectoids into a murderous frenzy. Those in the higher castes of qiraji society began organising their minions, the most numerous of which were known as the silithid. Coming in many different forms and species, the silithid were nonetheless totally loyal to the qiraji above them. The ranks of the qiraji also included numerous stone constructs, including the tenacious Anubisath. Horrified by their discovery, Valstann and his druids fled Ahn'Qiraj and established a small outpost in the desert to monitor the insectoids. Before their eyes, the fortress began to swell with greater and greater numbers of qiraji. Having sent for reinforcements, Valstann and his companions could do little else but watch the buildup within the complex.
The Qiraji swarm
Without warning, an army of innumerable proportions burst forth from the the fortress itself, as well as the tunnels beneath Ahn'Qiraj. The qiraji overlords directed their silithid minions to engulf the desert and then spread to all its neighbouring regions as well. They began to sweep across Silithus, swarming over ever dune and canyon. By this time, however, Fandral Staghelm had successfully rallied a sizeable force of kaldorei, consisting of druids, Sentinels, priestesses of Elune, and keepers of the grove. He made haste to the south of the continent, where the night elf host clashed with their vicious foes.
Having now broken out of Silithus, the qiraji represented a major threat in the eyes of the night elves, who fought desperately to keep them contained within the south of the continent. While they had powerful forces at their disposal, the they nonetheless found the sheer numbers of the qiraji host to be insurmountable.
Thus, a back-and-forth action ensued between the two forces. Occasionally, the kaldorei would gain the upper hand and manage to force the silithid qiraji back towards the dunes of Silithus, only for the insectoids to mount counterattacks with renewed strength and numbers and regain the initiative. The ebb and flow continued for months and many hundreds fell on both sides, the land littered with dead night elves and insectoids alike. The War of the Shifting Sands had begun.
The War of the Shifting Sands
In a determined effort to defeat the qiraji, Fandral and the night elves established a number of outposts and bases across the south of Kalimdor, from which they could more effectively prosecute the war. These bases proved invaluable in allowing the kaldorei to gradually, but markedly push back the qiraji and gain the upper hand. Eventually, the night elves advanced into Silithus and drove the qiraji back into the very heart of the desert itself. Yet, just as final victory for the night elves seemed within reach, the war took a drastic and dire turn. Valstann had been ordered to hold and secure one of the night elves' outposts near the front, Southwind Village, which was important to their continued advance against the silithid. During a feint orchestrated by the qiraji, however, the village and those inside were surrounded. Valstann himself was captured and ripped apart before Fandral's eyes.
Valstann's death shattered the will and confidence of the archdruid and sowed uncertainty and apprehension among the night elves' ranks. The qiraji seized on this opportunity and lull in the fighting and swept once more through Silithus. The weary and confused kaldorei forces subsequently fell back before this new onslaught. Having believed that they were on the verge of victory, this new turn of events severely dented the night elves' confidence and morale. Desperate after the war's recent events, Fandral contacted the reclusive Bronze Dragonflight who resided in the region. He begged them to aid the now-failing war effort against the qiraji, but the bronze dragons ultimately refused, declining to involve their flight in what they considered to be the affairs of the lesser creatures.
As the silithid once more spread out from Silithus, however, they began to push into the deserts of eastern Tanaris. In their frenzy, they even assaulted the Caverns of Time, the sanctum of the Bronze dragonflight. The qiraji's reckless attack prompted the bronze dragons to finally join the war against them, allying with the kaldorei and enlisting the aid of the Red, Green, and Blue dragonflights as well. Led by Anachronos, the bronze dragons, as well as those from the other flights, joined the fray and began to turn the tide against the qiraji once more. The nigh elves, heartened by this new, if unexpected, reinforcement, also began to increase their efforts to drive the qiraji swarm back permanently.
The sealing of Ahn'Qiraj
Unable to stand up to this new force, the qiraji were continually forced back. The dragons proved particularly effective against the qiraji, many of whom were unable to strike back at the dragons as they flew through the skies and decimated the qiraji ranks. One instance were this proved untrue, however, was during one of the many ensuing battles in Silithus.
During this conflict, a particularly cunning Anubisath named Ossirian hurled his obsidian sword through the air to strike the bronze dragon Grakkarond as he flew, catching him in the wing. Wounded, the wyrm fell, crushing many qiraji as he did so. On the ground, the Grakkarond nearly mauled Ossirian to death, but the remaining qiraji now had a target on the ground to focus on, and they quickly converged upon and overwhelmed the dragon. The site of his death subsequently came to be considered sacred by the Anubisath.
Despite this instance, the qiraji ordinarily proved badly equipped to deal with this new onslaught and they eventually retreated to the very walls of Ahn'Qiraj. Soon, they were forced back inside its walls, where they lurked in its dark halls and their underground tunnels. Yet, even with the aid of the dragons, the qiraji could not be vanquished entirely; they were simply too numerous. Fandral feared that the war would never end, and could not stand the thought that so many had given their lives, only for more to have to do so again and again in the future. Ultimately, he and the dragons devised a way to end the war immediately and decisively. They would lock the insectoid horde away inside Ahn'Qiraj itself.
Both the night elves and dragons gathered before Ahn'Qiraj to complete this momentous task. Fandral called to his druids to focus their powers as one and, alongside Anachronos, they summoned a great barricade to close off Ahn'Qiraj. Outside the cursed city, the dry earth split wide, and a magical barrier of stone and colossal roots emerged. The impenetrable Scarab Wall towered high over the barren landscape, effectively sealing the qiraji within their city forever. The qiraji, now locked in their dark city, began to grow in numbers over the coming millennia, poised to one day make a second attempt to swarm the continent should the opportunity present itself.
As a final act, Anachronos created two mystical artefacts: the Scarab Gong and the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. The dragon entrusted the scepter to Fandral; should the need ever arise again, he could use it to open the Scarab Wall, along with the gong. Fandral, however, received no closure in finally ending the qiraji threat, as Valstann's death still weighed heavily on him. In his rage, he shattered the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. The pieces of the scepter would become lost for the next thousand years.
While any immediate effects of the War of the Shifting Sands are unknown, it would have significant long-term effects on Azeroth as a whole. Thousands of years later, the qiraji, having recouped after their defeat and once more stirred into action by C'Thun, would eventually find ways past the barrier that imprisoned them. To combat this resurgent threat, the Might of Kalimdor was created, a temporary alliance of many of Kalimdor's races and some from beyond.
With this new conflict beginning, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands was reforged and used to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj once more. Having done this, heroes of the Alliance and Horde entered the ancient city and, after a legendary battle, finally defeated the qiraji and put an end to C'Thun himself. This conflict came to be known as the Ahn'Qiraj War.
Fandral Staghelm's grief over the loss of his son would continue to haunt him and would eventually become an obsession to somehow have his son returned to him. This would, in turn, lead him down a dark path where he would ultimately enter the service of the Nightmare Lord and the Old Gods.
- With regard to the qiraji's numbers, Anachronos himself is said to have stated that 'for every fifty of the insects that were annihilated by his breath, one hundred would be waiting to take their place'.