Silvermoon City (Formerly)
The High Elves, or Quel'dorei ("children of noble birth" in Darnassian and Thalassian), are a race descended from the Highborne Night Elves who left Kalimdor and settled in the Eastern Kingdoms, founding Quel'Thalas.
The high elves were once a significant force on the continent, but in recent times their numbers have been dramatically reduced: approximately 90% of their population was slaughtered during the Third War. Following this, 90% of the surviving high elves changed their name to "Blood Elves" or Sin'dorei (children of the blood in Thalassian) in remembrance of their fallen brethren, and no longer consider themselves high elven.
The high elves as a whole were relatively secluded from the younger races for several millennia, though both the Troll Wars and the Second War saw relations established with them: with King Thoradin of the Kingdom of Arathor, and the Alliance of Lordaeron respectively. The high elves' reluctant allegiance to the latter proved short-lived, as the high elven King Anasterian Sunstrider quickly grew apathetic to the plight of his allies, and officially seceded his nation. Subsequently, the high elven kingdom was brought to the brink of annihilation when Prince Arthas Menethil invaded the country, and slew almost 90% of the high elves. Rallied by Lor'themar Theron, second-in-command of the fallen Sylvanas Windrunner, the high elves rejoined with Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider and were proclaimed the blood elves, in honor of their perished brethren. The blood elves seek to unite and restore their people to the glory they enjoyed at the height of high elf civilization, and have retaken much of their land from the Scourge.
However, a few high elves did not become blood elves. When Quel'Thalas left the Alliance, some high elves chose to remain with their allies over their kingdom, and to this day still, support the Alliance. Some high elves were exiled from Quel'Thalas after the Third War. Other high elf remnants have chosen to rejoin the Alliance in recent years, arriving at a cold reception. Modern high elves are a rare sight and are commonly mistaken for blood elves. In consequence, there are so few high elves left on Azeroth today that they cannot be considered a race in anything other than the biological sense. High elves did not gather in any significant numbers, nor did they act as a coordinated whole. They are a very small group of individuals scattered all over the world. As such, they do not have common opinions or goals. Indeed, modern high elves cannot even truly be said to have a culture—only a past filled with glory and regret.
As a people, the high elves are all but extinct: the remnants of the remnants of a fallen race. Though without any official leader, Vereesa Windrunner (the younger sister of both Sylvanas and Alleria) leads one of the few organized high elf collaborations, the Silver Covenant, as its self-styled Ranger-General. Auric Sunchaser, a captain of the remnants of Alleria's ranger cadre found in Terokkar Forest, serves as the high elven representative at the restored Sunwell in modern Quel'Thalas.
Exile of the Highborne
When the night elves adopted druidism, they outlawed the practice of arcane magic. The use of its dangerous powers was punishable by death. However, many Highborne loyalists of Queen Azshara survived the Sundering and grew restless. They suffered from magical withdrawal, and 7,300 years before the invasion of the Horde through the Dark Portal, they spoke against Malfurion Stormrage and the Druids.
Dath'Remar Sunstrider, the leader of this movement, declared the druids cowards for refusing to wield the arcane. Malfurion and the druids warned the Highborne that any use of magic would be punishable by death. Yet, in an attempt to protest the druid's law, Dath'Remar, and his followers unleashed a terrible magical storm upon Ashenvale.
The druids could not bring themselves to put so many of their kin to death, so they decided to exile the reckless Highborne from their lands. Sunstrider and his followers boarded a number of specially crafted ships and set sail upon the seas. By now the Highborne were glad to be rid of their conservative cousins and free to practice the arcane with impunity.
None knew what lay beyond the Maelstrom, but they eventually found the Eastern Kingdoms and formed their own magical realm. They abandoned the concepts of Elune and nocturnal activity, embracing the sun instead. They would soon become known as the high elves.
Rise of Quel'Thalas
Sunstrider led the high elven fleets across the world for many long years. Their goal was to find places of considerable ley power for them to build their new homeland. After landing on the Lordaeron continent, they moved inland and formed a settlement in the Tirisfal Glades. After a few years, however, many were driven insane. The belief at the time was that something evil slept beneath the Glades, so the high elves abandoned the region and moved northwards. They wandered the land for years.
Around this time, they had become completely severed from the life-giving energy of the Well of Eternity. This meant that they were vulnerable to the elements and had not received immortality from Nozdormu and the World Tree. They had shrunk in height and their skin had become a peach hue similar to most dwarves and humans. The high elves soon discovered primitive humans but associated little with them. The forest trolls of Zul'Aman, under the Amani Empire, posed the greater threat to their society. The elves soon grew to hate the forest trolls and they fought each other whenever they met. When the high elves went to war with the Amani trolls, the elves could not understand how the trolls' weapon enchantments were more powerful than their own. The elves then stole ancient knowledge from troll spellcasters, including the famous Zanza, and used stolen idols to craft their own versions of the troll enchantments.
After many more years, the high elves discovered a land in the northern forests which suited them and founded the Kingdom of Quel'Thalas. Unfortunately, they would learn that Quel'Thalas was founded on a sacred and ancient troll city. The trolls began to attack the elven settlements en masse in retaliation. Although the Amani outnumbered them ten to one, the elves utilized magic to its fullest effect and defeated the trolls.
Some elves, wary of the Kaldorei's warnings, created a protective barrier around Quel'Thalas which allowed them to continue their magic without attracting the Burning Legion's attention. To do this, they employed a series of monolithic Runestones.
Soon, Quel'Thalas became a shining monument to high elven prowess. It was crafted in the same style as the halls of Kalimdor, with the addition of integrated magic and a brighter color scheme. Although they did not worship it, a great respect was maintained for nature. The high elves were careful to interweave their cities and architecture with their natural surroundings, creating a truly beautiful and tranquil land.
To sate their hunger for great magical power, the high elves created the Sunwell. It became the source of their power as the Well of Eternity had been in Kalimdor, although the Sunwell was much weaker, and the elves were forewarned of the dangers. As the high elves became more powerful, they cast an enchantment on the forests that bathed Quel'Thalas in eternal springtime, in defiance of the kingdom's location on the extreme north of the continent. From that point on, all high elves had access to the Sunwell's powers from anywhere on Azeroth. Over time, the high elves came to regard the Sunwell's waters as holy. Magic became part of their genes centuries before, but the Sunwell's unique energies became part of them acutely.
New world diplomacy
For nearly four thousand years, the high elves remained relatively at peace. But while the elves established their nation, the Amani plotted their next assault. 2,800 years before the First War, they unleashed it upon the high elves. The Troll Wars ignited. Suffering loss after loss, the high elves turned to the humans of Arathor for support. The two formed a military alliance in exchange for the instruction of 100 humans in arcane magic. Together, they crushed the Amani; an empire that had endured for more than twenty thousand years. Humans and high elves have cultivated this alliance ever since.
The high elves also established relations with the Ironforge Dwarves to the far south, when the human nations of Gilneas and Alterac encountered them more than a thousand years later. The two races had no special bond and tended to distrust one another. When allied, it was through their common ties to the humans.
Yet 230 years before the First War, the dwarven race split into three factions. The Wildhammers desired to open up trade with the high elves, considered taboo at the time and would serve as one of the catalysts for their war. When it ended, the clan became close allies to the high elves. The two races were united through a mutual appreciation for nature and other cultural similarities. They would soon become each other's closest friends within the Alliance
However, the same friendship mentioned in the RPG book is not mentioned in the Tides of Darkness novel, therefore this close relationship should be taken as non-canon. However, the Warcraft II Manual directly states that the high elves are formal allies with the Wildhammer dwarves, and in Blood of the Highborne the high elves made an (unsuccessful) attempt to evacuate many of their children to the safety of Wildhammer territory.
One hundred years before the events of World of Warcraft, a group of high elves left Quel'Thalas and traveled to Winterspring in order to obtain the Crystal of Zin-Malor.
Fall of Quel'Thalas
Peace in Quel'Thalas continued for almost three thousand years until the Second War. The Orcish Horde came through a portal from the world of Draenor at the advent of the First War and defeated the Kingdom of Stormwind. They then brought ogres into Azeroth, and allied with the goblins and forest trolls, turning their sights on the north. The high elves only helped out on a small level in the First War. After the humans were defeated and fled north through Khaz Modan, the dwarves sent emissaries to meet with the high elves and humans to discuss the threat of the Horde.
When the humans proposed an Alliance of their seven nations, the Wildhammer and Ironforge dwarves, the gnomes, and the high elves, the elves were honor-bound to join it due to their ancestral connection with the Arathi, of whom Anduin Lothar was the last pure-blooded scion. Under Anasterian Sunstrider, they were the least enthusiastic of the alliance and put forth only a token army.
However, the orcs' northern campaign, in which the trolls were meant to take back their ancestral homes from the high elves, managed to burn down the borderlands of Quel'Thalas, slaughtering many high elves in the process, and corrupting the Runestone at Caer Darrow. This enraged Silvermoon, which promptly pledged its full support to the war. The elves provided many archers, rangers, and destroyers to the conflict and even craftsmen for the lumber mills of the Alliance. The Horde eventually splintered under internal political pressure, and the Alliance charged southwards to crush it. The Second War was won. In its aftermath, relations between the humans and the elves began to sour. The elves, who had been reluctant members of the Alliance in the first place, retained little interest or investment in its affairs, such as upkeeping the internment camps and defending Nethergarde. Despite this, Alleria Windrunner and her rangers accompanied the Alliance Expedition through the Dark Portal, to avenge Quel'Thalas and keep it safe from future attacks.
Following the war, some high elves blamed the humans' poor leadership for the burning of their forests. King Terenas of Lordaeron reminded them that nothing of Quel'Thalas would have remained if not for the hundreds of humans that gave their lives to defend it, but nevertheless, the high elves largely abandoned the Alliance and retreated to their kingdom. Vereesa Windrunner advocated continued support to the Alliance after the Grim Batol incident, but Anasterian was not swayed.
It should be noted that although the high elves retreated from the Alliance, a number of them remained in Dalaran and were loyal to the Alliance through the Kirin Tor. Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider was among them. Furthermore, despite the high elves' official departure from the Alliance of Lordaeron, some elves still remain true to their former human and dwarven allies. The altruistic priests of Quel'Thalas refused to abandon their roles as healers and agreed to remain in Lordaeron despite the edicts from their reclusive masters in Silvermoon City. The high elven priests use their Light-given powers to heal the wounded and bolster the spirits of Lordaeron's fighting elite. These high elven priests joined with Prince Arthas in investigating the plague with the goal of healing the land of its strange curse.
Years later, the Scourge came forth. Its commander, Arthas Menethil, obliterated the leading nation of Lordaeron and then turned their sights on Quel'Thalas. Their goal was to revive a human man named Kel'Thuzad, who could summon the demon-lord Archimonde into Azeroth. To do this, they required a source of considerable ley magic and chose the Sunwell.
The high elves had remained at peace since the Second War, with even their ever-present Amani enemies having grown less bold. Yet while the elves were safe within their enchanted kingdom from the woes befalling Lordaeron, they were also secluded and left unprepared for what was to come. Rumors of Arthas's patricide were beginning to spread, but the elves did not connect this to the plagued grain epidemic, and only shortly after did the undead Scourge arrive at Quel'Thalas. The high elves faced the Scourge in battle regardless. This time, there would be no human army to rescue them. The high elven army, lead by the Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, made counter attacks every time the scourge advanced. Despite their tactics and magic, the elves were pushed back from the outer, to inner elf gates. Finally, Arthas and his army, as well as new banshees, including Sylvanas, advanced on Silvermoon and crushed the defenders. Anasterian himself was killed by the Scourge, along with his ruling council and Grand Magister Belo'vir.
The Sunwell was used to resurrect Kel'Thuzad and fouled with evil in the process. The Scourge then set about to commit genocide on a massive scale. Only about ten percent of the entire race survived. Some of them were lucky enough to be away from Quel'Thalas at the time (housed in Dalaran or had traveled to Kalimdor with Jaina), but the majority of those who survived only did so by defending themselves or hiding.
Soon, Dalaran, with the second greatest concentration of high elves, was destroyed as well. Dalaran's defeat was swift and complete, and most of the high elves there died under Archimonde's attacks. Other elves died afterward from bandits that came to sift through the wreckage.
Splintering of the elves
Main article: Blood Elf
The surviving elves were somewhat scattered until Kael'thas Sunstrider, son of the deceased Anasterian, began to organize them by reclaiming every elf he could find and joining with Lor'themar Theron, who had done the same in Quel'Thalas. Under Kael's leadership, they took the name blood elves, to remember the death of their king and brethren. About 90% of all surviving high elves became blood elves.
The blood elves fought to reclaim a small portion of Silvermoon, but most of the city and their land, in general, was haunted and overrun by the lingering undead, while their buildings remained in ruins and vengeful Amani trolls began striking out again. Around 15% of the newly-named Sin'dorei, led by Kael'thas himself, started traveling throughout the land in order to find more surviving elves and to find a source of magic to replace the Sunwell. The elves were suffering from great withdrawals after being cut off the Sunwell because of its destruction. Due to the unreasonable orders of the Alliance leader Garithos, Kael's people were forced to ally themselves with the Naga and fled to Outland. They soon joined Illidan there, and he, in turn, taught them how to sate their hunger for magic by feeding on alternative sources (having himself suffered the same withdrawal for thousands of years). Kael's blood elves began to hunt and use demons in order to steal their powers, although Kael's alliance with Illidan (and worse, his new reliance on fel magic) was kept a secret from most of his brethren back home.
Most of the remaining "high" elves had chosen to remain with the Alliance following the Second War and did not return to their kingdom following the Third. When Grand Magister Rommath returned to Quel'Thalas to teach them Kael's magic siphoning ways, some elves were disgusted by the practice — likening it to vampiric behavior — and opposed its use. Unable to lead a divided nation, Regent Lord Lor'themar exiled the dissenters from the kingdom, the exiles finding residence in Quel'Lithien.
The blood elves who did not travel with Kael'thas to Outland remained behind in Quel'Thalas and reclaimed much of their land from the Scourge. They eventually allied themselves with the Horde through their connections to the Banshee Queen Sylvanas Windrunner, now leader of the Forsaken. Although the blood elves harbor very little trust for the Horde, no one else was willing to fight for Quel'Thalas at all. Their relationship with their ancestor race the night elves is not flourishing, but they are not dire enemies either, as the distance between their locations has meant less contact between each other and fewer situations to arise that would cause fighting.
A few high elves have chosen to join the Alliance in recent years, but the Alliance as a whole remains somewhat suspicious of high elves to this day. The high elves' secession from the Alliance during the Second War left bitter memories. Furthermore, the night elves, who became part of the Alliance during the Third War, saw it as their duty to warn their new allies against the high elves. The Highborne's part in bringing about the War of the Ancients figured heavily in the night elves' retelling of high elf history.
A small unit of high elven rangers under the command of Ranger Captain Fellari Swiftarrow fought together with the zealous Scarlet Crusade against the undead for a while, though they were lost in battle. A large statue in honor of the capable elven leader was erected in the Scarlet Monastery.
Deep within the Hinterlands, the high elves of the Quel'Danil Lodge have their sights set on forming diplomatic alliances with other members of the Alliance.
Several high elves have also integrated into Theramore under the leadership of Lady Jaina Proudmoore.
Several high elves joined the Scholomance, the school of necromancy.
World of Warcraft
The high elves are in a state of diaspora. Most reside in human cities like Stormwind, Theramore, or Dalaran. Others live in seclusion in the wild forests, often in hunting lodges such as Farstrider Lodge.
Nathanos Blightcaller sent Horde adventurers to ransack the Quel'Lithien Lodge in order to recover the Quel'Thalas Registry, which contained his true identity before he became undead.
High Priestess Aurora Skycaller, originally found in Northpass Tower helped the Alliance adventurers to recreate the Crystal of Zin-Malor. Later she moved to below Quel'Lithien Lodge as the tower became a battlefield.
Several high elves became assassins of the Cult of the Dark Strand.
With the reopening of the dark portal, the remnants of the Alliance Expedition's high elven ranger cadre were reconnected with Azeroth. After learning of the Scourge Invasion of Quel'Thalas and their brethren's allegiance to Kael'thas Sunstrider, many of the survivors chose to remain in Outland. High elves are currently stationed at Allerian Stronghold and they have also taken up refuge in Shattrath City.
Some time before the War against the Lich King, Ranger Lord Renthar Hawkspear, leader of the Quel'Lithien Lodge high elves, and High Priestess Aurora Skycaller were approached by the Regent Lord of Quel'Thalas, Lor'themar Theron. Though initially under the impression that Lor'themar had come to apologize on behalf of Prince Kael'thas, Hawkspear is taken aback to learn of the Prince's demise. He asks who will now take the crown, and Lor'themar replies that none remain with a right to it.
Lor'themar references the slightly better state of the Ghostlands and offers the Quel'dorei aid and supplies. Renthar, however, angrily declines his assistance -- and reveals that Lor'themar had banished the Quel'dorei of the lodge from Quel'Thalas, as he could not afford to lead a people divided. In addition, Hawkspear speaks of Horde agents who ransacked the lodge and killed several rangers, in the name of the Banshee Queen's champion, Nathanos Blightcaller. He states that by rights he should send Lor'themar's head to Sylvanas, though orders him to leave instead.
Wrath of the Lich King
After the defeat of Kil'jaeden, the blood elves took the Sunwell back with the help of the Shattered Sun Offensive, and the high elves were allowed to share the Sunwell. Captain Auric Sunchaser from the Alliance Expedition rangers represents the high elves at the well itself. A number of high elves have been permitted to make pilgrimages to the restored fount of power.
Once Kael'thas Sunstrider was defeated, the blood elves began seeking representation in Dalaran. This led Vereesa Windrunner to form the Silver Covenant, a militant faction of the Kirin Tor, comprised of high elves who opposed the blood elves' entry into Dalaran. The Silver Covenant were also members of the Alliance Vanguard during the Alliance's war against the Scourge. Another high elf, Vas the Unstable, was a member of the renowned 7th Legion, based at Wintergarde Keep.
While some high elf communities, like the one at Quel'Danil Lodge, have managed to maintain their stocks of dragonhawks, their exile from Silvermoon has made these animals much harder to come by. Fortunately, the elves of the Silver Covenant seem to have won the trust of the companions of their ancient ancestors: the hippogryphs. The intelligent creatures have apparently decided that the high elves are worthy of a partnership, serving as mounts and flight path conveyance from Silver Covenant outposts.
Vereesa and her husband Rhonin were later present at the wedding of Malfurion Stormrage and Tyrande Whisperwind, along with their half-elf sons.
Since the fall of the Lich King, the Wintergrasp Battlemasters no longer have a presence in the Alliance cities, having likely returned to Dalaran. With the removal of the portals in the Silver Enclave, class trainers, mostly high elven, have taken their place.
The elves at Quel'Lithien Lodge have taken a turn for the worse after Ranger Lord Hawkspear discovered a source of seductive energy that mysteriously turned the elves at the lodge into Wretched. However, the Quel'Danil Lodge elves have fared considerably better, having solidified relations with the Draenei and the Wildhammer Dwarves.
At some point, a group of young Draenei moved into the Hinterlands under the leadership of Ambassador Rualeth. While some of them are seen in the Aerie Peak, others moved to Quel'Danil Lodge.
As part of the Forsaken offensive throughout the continent, Quel'Danil Lodge came under attack. With the help of adventurers, the Highvale high elves and the Draenei settlers were able to repel the invaders. The Highvale documents were also retrieved from the chaos by Alliance adventurers and safely delivered to Anchorite Traska.
Word of a new threat from Zul'Aman has prompted Halduron Brightwing, Vereesa Windrunner and Vol'jin to co-operate, against the wishes of Silvermoon's Regent-Lord. Vereesa brought with her an entourage of Silver Covenant rangers. While this event may have showcased the cooperation between high and blood elves, their future reunification appears to remain elusive.
A number of high elves were among the casualties in the attack on Theramore Isle. Despite the involvement of Vol'jin, the Darkspear tribe, and the blood elves in the attack, it is unknown how this affected their relationship with these races.
Mists of Pandaria
After Jaina Proudmoore discovered that Sunreavers helped Garrosh Hellscream steal the [Divine Bell] by using Dalaran portals to infiltrate Darnassus, Jaina mobilized the Kirin Tor, Alliance forces, and the Silver Covenant to purge the Horde from Dalaran, tightening the bonds between the High Elves and Kirin Tor. After Aethas Sunreaver refused to order his people to leave peacefully, Jaina chose to incarcerate him and the other blood elves. Various high-ranking high elves were slain by Horde agents who sought to free the imprisoned Sunreavers and their leader, including Sorin Magehand, Arcanist Rathaella, and Mage-Commander Zuros. During the chaos, Grand Magister Rommath noted that "It unsettles me to have to fight directly with the high elves of the Silver Covenant...but I never tire of slaying Alliance." The Sunreavers that surrendered were imprisoned in the Violet Hold, while those who resisted were put to the sword, thereby leaving the high elves the sole elven population living freely in the city.
Shortly afterward, the Kirin Tor Offensive, comprising of Silver Covenant high elves and Kirin Tor war mages, was formed by Jaina Proudmoore, intending to seize Thunder Isle and prevent the Sunreaver Onslaught from claiming powerful artifacts from Emperor Lei Shen.
Adapted from WoWPedia