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- “Zin-Azshari. Once the glorious epitome of the night elf civilization. A sprawling city at the edge of the basis of the night elves' power, the Well. The home of the revered Queen, Azshara, for whom her adoring subjects had renamed the capital.
Zin-Azshari... a ruined graveyard, the launching point of the Burning Legion.”
Zin-Azshari ("The Glory of Azshara" in Darnassian) was the lavish capital city of the ancient Kaldorei Empire over 10,000 years ago, built on the banks of the Well of Eternity. Originally named Elun'dris for the moon goddess Elune, it was renamed to honor the elves' beloved Queen Azshara after her ascension to the throne. The city is also known simply as Azshara.
For millennia, Zin-Azshari served as the center of a rapidly-expanding night elf nation that quickly came to dominate most of Ancient Kalimdor. The legendary Queen Azshara ruled from the royal palace, while atop the city's highest spires, the Highborne set themselves to plumbing the mysteries of the Well. The Kaldorei Empire would eventually attract malicious attention from the cosmos in the form of the Burning Legion. When the Highborne elves of Zin-Azshari and their queen ultimately made contact with the the demons' lord Sargeras, the capital city became the beachhead for an invasion. Virtually all non-Highborne inhabitants of the city were soon slain, the first casualties of the War of the Ancients, while Zin-Azshari itself was sacked.
What remained of the city following the Legion's conquest was eventually torn apart by the Great Sundering that ended the War of the Ancients. Along with much of the former empire, Zin-Azshari was blasted under the newly-formed Great Sea, with its ruins today present near the region of Azshara on Kalimdor.
War of the Ancients
For thousands of years, Zin-Azshari acted as the largest city of the largest empire in Azeroth's history. Founded as Elun'dris, meaning "the eye of Elune", the city sat on the shores of the night elves' most important resource: the Well of Eternity. With the rise of Queen Azshara, the city was renamed and the Kaldorei Empire entered a new golden age of prosperity. As her nation's borders expanded in all directions, Azshara herself eventually turned inward. Along with her Highborne courtiers, she began to further investigate the Well itself, with the aim of unlocking even more power.
Overseen by Azshara's High Councillor Xavius from within the royal palace, the efforts to discover the secrets of the Well would bring the elves in direct contact with Sargeras himself. Xavius, Azshra, and the other Highborne would become enthralled by Sargeras's power and promises. They began to work to usher forth the Burning Legion into Azeroth, and construction of a large gateway began within the palace of Zin-Azshari. Storms raged around the Well of Eternity, though the rest of the city's populace unaware what was causing these events. After several failed attempts, the Highborne were successful, and a portal for the demons was opened at the heart of the night elven empire.
Demonic forces poured from the palace, immediately slaughtering the gathered kaldorei citizens outside the walls. Caught entirely unawares, Zin-Azshari's population was cut down en masse as the Legion systematically turned the city into a ruin. The destruction of the capital signaled the beginning of the War of the Ancients, throughout which Zin-Azshari remained the focal point of the demon invasion. Queen Azshara and the Highborne would continue to work within the palace, seeking to enlarge the portal to bring Sargeras himself to the world.
The scorched ruins of the city were constantly prowled by demonic forces. Later in the conflict, Dath'Remar Sunstrider and a group of Highborne seeking to defect from Queen Azshara, as well as the captured priestess Tyrande Whisperwind, made their escape through the city. Many of them were subsequently picked off by the demons, though Dath'Remar and a small number made it through to the Kaldorei Resistance.
While the Kaldorei Resistance armies constantly pushed toward Zin-Azshari as their ultimate goal, they were never able to reach the city through the Legion's vast forces. Near the end of the war, a force consisting of the red, green, and bronze dragonflights, as well as numerous important mortal heroes such as Malfurion Stormrage, assaulted Zin-Azshari and the Well of Eternity by air. This group met fierce resistance from demons, shadowbats, and Sargeras himself, who was close to being able to physically enter the world. The black dragon aspect Deathwing even appeared during the battle above Zin-Azshari in a maddened attempt to recover the Demon Soul which was being used to power Sargeras's portal.
The battle would finally end with the dragon and mortal succeeding in destabilizing the demon portal. Though this decisively ended the invasion, it also pushed the Well of Eternity itself past breaking point. Now destabilized itself, the Well began to collapse. The resulting explosion, which became known as the Great Sundering, ripped the continent of Kalimdor apart, though most of those present during the battle were able to flee. Zin-Azshari, caught in the center of the blast, was instantly sunk beneath the waves of the newly-formed Great Sea.
With the War of the Ancients over, nothing now remained of the once-magnificent capital except for underwater ruins. The remnants of the city were likely to have been scattered by the blast, with some reaching as far as the continent of new Kalimdor far to the west. Despite the apocalyptic events which destroyed Zin-Azshari, Queen Azshara herself survived. Through a pact with the Old God N'Zoth, she and other members of the Highborne were granted salvation by being transformed into the naga. They would build a new capital city known as Nazjatar beneath the waves, located near to the Maelstrom, where the Well once stood.
Caverns of Time
This section concerns content exclusive to Cataclysm.
Glimpses of Zin-Azshari could be seen in the background of the Well of Eternity instance, which takes place mostly in Azshara's Palace during the final battle for the city. Heroes relived the final hours of the city as they pushed through the area surrounding the Well, confronting Queen Azshara herself and many of allies.
Both (burning) modern night elf architecture, mostly to the north, and intact versions of the stone buildings seen in night elven ruins, mostly to the south, are present.
In the RPG
The Ruins of Zin-Azshari were initially portrayed as a subzone of Azshara. It was said "The sundering caused most of the ancient city to sink to the oceans below. However, a cluster of ruins still clings to the eastern cliffs of Azshara, long shunned by night elves." However, no such area appeared in-game. The Ruins of Eldarath, the Temple of Zin-Malor, and what was the Bay of Storms were thought to possibly have been part of Zin-Azshari, or perhaps the city was not represented in the in-game zone. Zin-Azshari was also known in some sources as "Azshara". These points were later somewhat clarified by Malynea Skyreaver.
Ruins of Zin-Azshari in Azshara
In World of Warcraft: Legion, a scenario map centered around the Ruins of Eldarath is used as a stand-in for events (as told by Ebyssian and Leafbeard the Storied) that took place near Zin-Azshari during the War of the Ancients. It uses the map of the original Azshara zone, but the geography is the post-Cataclysm version with the goblin structures and ocean removed.
It is strange that ruins of Zin-Azshari would appear on the mainland of Kalimdor, since the city was on the shore of the Well of Eternity, hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away from the modern coast. However, there are hints the city may have been incredibly large, stretching hundreds (if not thousands) of miles across the continent.
Mount Hyjal was also described as being a significant distance away from Zin-Azshari, with the Kaldorei Resistance never having been pushed back as far as it during the war. Despite this, the zone of Azshara is located relatively close to Mount Hyjal. One theory which may explain these inconsistencies would be that ruined parts of Zin-Azshari were physically displaced long distances by the force of the Great Sundering.
In the TCG.
Azshara's Palace within Zin-Aszhari.
As seen in The Burdens of Shaohao.
Azshara's Palace overlooking the Well of Eternity.
Notes & trivia
- World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1 describes Zin-Azshari surrounding the entire Well of Eternity. The War of the Ancients Trilogy put a smaller scope of Zin'Azshari and the city Galhara on the opposite side of the Well.
- Though some modern sources refer to the city as simply "Azshara", it has also been said that Queen Azshara herself wished to rename Zin-Azshari as Azshara after Sargeras remade Azeroth.
- The is a relic used by Azshara and her Highborne before the War of the Ancients to magnify their power. It is said the Heart was key in their dominance of the Well of Eternity.
- Given that the Black Empire was built around Y'Shaarj, and the Well of Eternity was formed on the spot that Aman'Thul plucked him from, then the city of Zin-Azshari was built on the ground where the Black Empire once stood.
- Zin-Azshari is quite likely the largest city Azeroth has ever seen (excluding the temple cities of the Black Empire).
- Many parallels can be drawn between Zin-Azshari and the other kaldorei city of Suramar. Both, for example, are located around and highly dependent upon a font of magical power, the Well of Eternity and the Nightwell.
- ^ War of the Ancients: The Sundering, pg. 28
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 1
- ^ The Well of Eternity, pg. 56
- ^ a b Malynea Skyreaver's dialogue
- ^ a b War of the Ancients Trilogy
- ^ Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game, pg. 188
- ^ Alliance & Horde Compendium, pg. 19, 72 - 73
- ^ Compendium of Fallen Heroes, under Obrahiim, the Traveler
- ^ Stormrage, pg. 344
- ^ Stormrage, pg. 382
- ^ The Well of Eternity, pg. 292