|The Night Elves|
Crest of the Kaldorei
The Night Elves, or Kaldorei in Darnassian; translated to Children of the Stars, are a race of humanoids whose origins extend as far back as the Age of a Hundred Kings. They are believed to have been descended from an ancient race of trolls, and due to their proximity to the Well of Eternity mutated to form the basis of all elven races on Azeroth. The kaldorei are a strong people who maintained a policy of total isolation for almost ten thousand years, and to this day, remain decidedly concerned with their own racial issues over the needs and troubles of other peoples.
In the modern day, the kaldorei are a member race of the Alliance, and steadfastly support the destruction of all demonic influence in Kalimdor and abroad. Recent times have pitted them against the mighty armies of the Horde, and the kaldorei have defended the entirety of Kalimdor from the orcs without direct support from the Alliance at-large. With formidable armies and sacred traditions, the night elves embody the bounty of nature and the ferocity of a resilient people.
Emergence of the Kaldorei
- See main article: Highborne Empire
In the world's beginning, the God-like titans created the Well of Eternity, the source of all magic on the planet. In time, a tribe of Dark Trolls came to settle near this magical well. These feral, nomadic creatures built crude homes on the shore of the Well, and named themselves kaldorei, or "Children of the Stars" in their tongue. These primordial beings believed that a Moon Goddess, Elune, slept within the Well’s shimmering depths during the daylight hours. These Trolls began to develop distinctive features due to prolonged exposure to the Well of Eternity, and gradually lost their tusks and traded in monstrous, barbaric features for angular and smooth faces.
As the territory had remained under the control of the tremendous Zandalari Empire, the night elves were seen as outsiders and mutants, and were subsequently enslaved for various purposes. The night elven people toiled away under the regime of the Zandalari, which comprised the combined might of all of the Troll nations of Kalimdor. The night elves had secretly mastered the Arcane, but their people as a whole were far too fearful to rise up against their oppressors.
Centuries later, the Mogu Empire, a close ally of the Zandalari, called for the aid of the Trolls in a war against the Pandaren people. The Zandalari Empire funneled their most powerful forces to Southern Kalimdor, where they assisted the Mogu in their battle to suppress their Pandaren slaves. In this time, the Zandalari had only left their essential assets behind, including a small contingent of slavers to manage the night Elves, as well as various other races that they had used for labor. This provided a narrow window of opportunity for the night elves to rise up against the Zandalari.
With the message of revolution spreading quickly among kaldorei slaves, a series of violent skirmishes took place between the Zandalari overseers and their servants. Many of the Zandalari were brutally bludgeoned with rocks or killed violently with their own weapons. The designated leaders of the kaldorei, who were powerful seers that wielded the raw magical energy of the Well of Eternity, created a massive Arcane storm that destroyed thousands of Zandalari structures, including the Zandalari Empire's most prized citadels.
In the southern reaches of the continent, the Mogu and Zandalari were losing the war against the Pandaren, who deployed unarmed fighting tactics combined with powers granted by the worship of native demigods to overthrow their rulers. The Zandalari forces would not return in time to stop their capital city from being utterly destroyed by the liberated kaldorei.
From the ashes of the Zandalari nation rose a new kingdom, which reigned for nearly three thousand years. The Highborne Empire was established with a new dream for an elven state. The Empire's namesake was the Highborne caste, which was made up of the seers and sorcerers who had led the kaldorei people to victory against their slavers. For a time, the Empire prospered, and there was true equality between the kaldorei and Highborne castes of society; unfortunately, this peace did not last for more than a blink of an eye.
Just like the Zandalari before them, the Highborne rulers of the Empire grew increasingly cruel, subjugating the kaldorei and reducing most of them to the life of indentured servants. The House of Azshra, which had ruled the Empire since its inception, produced an especially sadistic Queen, known only as Queen Azshara to her people. According to firsthand historical accounts, Azshara was among the most beautiful of her people, and she garnered the respect and loyalty of the Highborne caste, who protected her regime with the utmost ferocity. Opinions of Azshara varied from the kaldorei class of night elves. Some kaldorei believed Azshara to be a flawless beauty and just ruler, while others had seen her cruel nature and resented her reign.
With the majority of Kalimdor under the control of the Empire, each region held distinctive cultures with varying philisophies and levels of freedom. Some Highborne provinces allowed kaldorei to live in peace and relative equality with the Highborne, while others worked tirelessly to oppress the underclass. The magical city of Zin-Azshari served as the seat of the House of Azshara, and it was from there that the Empire was ruled.
A sentiment of rebellion brewed in the Empire in the latter years of its rule, and the kaldorei formed an organized resistance movement to oppose the Queen Azshara and her agenda. Several noble lines joined the fight against the Queen, most namely, the House of Ravencrest of Black Rook Hold, which originally served as the head of the offensive.
War of the Ancients
- See main article: War of the Ancients
Azshara's pursuit of perfection and obsession with vanity had spiraled out of control, leading to the formation of an organized Kaldorei Resistance. The Queen was in complete denial of the state of her Empire, and only allowed her royal guard, a select few noblemen, and her most loyal handmaidens to visit her in her chambers. Rumors circulated that Azshara had turned her heart towards dark magic. Small battles eruped in the various corners of Kalimdor, but the war had not yet reached the capital city of Zin-Azshari.
The Pandaren had wished to speak with Azshara, who they saw as a close ally in their past war against the Mogu Empire and Zandalari Empire. Word had reached Pandaria of the Highborne caste's cruelty and obsession with magic, and so they thought themselves to intervene. The Pandaren thought they had a solution with a gift they sought to provide the elven race with. It was a chest of pandaren design, said to contain the purest form of Arcane energy, which would feed the Highborne enough magic that they would never hunger again for more. The gift was accepted and taken down into a royal vault in the Temple of Zin-Malor in Eldarath; however, the chest was opened by the Highborne royal guard, and was found to contain nothing by empty air. The Pandaren's philosophical gift was a word of advice to the Higborne people: they did not need dangerous Arcane magic to prosper and be happy. The chest remained, untouched in the great vaults of Zin-Malor for ten thousand years. Unfortunately, the Pandaren's efforts were for naught, as the message fell upon deaf ears.
Posing as a powerful god, Sargeras, Lord of the Burning Legion, reached out to Queen Azshara. Sargeras convinced Azshara and her most loyal assistant, the Lord-Counselor Xavius, to open a gateway to Azeroth that this almighty god might come forth and bless their whole race. In their insolence, those born to nobility, the Highborne, sought to use and control this source of unimaginable power and unspeakable evil, and for their pride, they were consumed by the magic they so eagerly wished to wield.
As the portal into the mortal world grew larger, Sargeras sent ever more numerous emissaries to aid with the portal and bring the word of their god from the beyond. These demons were members of Sargeras's immortal army: a force from the Great Dark Beyond known as the Burning Legion. Thje Legion had put to the flame countless worlds throughout the void. As the portal grew close to its completion to allow the Dark Titan entry to Azeroth, a small band of kaldorei led by Malfurion Stormrage, the first Druid, Tyrande Whisperwind, the High Priestess of Elune, and Jarod Shadowsong realized the threat posed to their entire world by this nameless evil. Realizing his seemingly imminent victory could be threatened by these few elves, Sargeras commanded that his Legion make war upon Azeroth and destroy the unworthy, which included the entirety of the kaldorei race, as well as the Highborne houses that had dedicated their men to the cause of the Resistance.
As war between the demonic forces of the Burning Legion and the Kaldorei Resistance raged across Azeroth, many protectors of the world emerged to aid the young Malfurion in closing this portal to the Twisting Nether and the malevolence which now stood poised to destroy the entire planet. The demi-god Cenarius and his fellow Ancient Guardians, the Dragon Aspects, the Earthen, the Ancients, the Tauren and the Furbolg clashed head on with the advancing legion. Having learned much about the power and beauty of nature from his Shan'do, Cenarius, Malfurion was able to disrupt the nearly completed portal spell and close his world off from the invincible Sargeras.
With so much power in flux, the Well of Eternity eventually imploded in a magical cataclysm known as the Sundering, sending untold numbers to their doom. The Highborne who had remained loyal to Azshara, staffing her palace and the various defensive structures of the Temple Region of the Highborne Empire, were sucked into the swirling Maelstrom and twisted into the vile Naga. The catastrophe tore the continent apart, its remains now seperated by a massive ocean, and left a permanent storm known as the Maelstrom where the Well of Eternity once stood. With vast losses on both sides of the war, the surving Kaldorei and Highborne reached an uneasy truce.
Illidan Stormrage, seeking to maintain Arcane magic in the world even after the destruction of the well of eternity had also traveled to Hyjal. Here, he poured three vials filled with water from the original well of eternity into a lake, imbuing it with great power and turning it into a new well. When Illidan refused to give up his magical powers, he was captured by his brother, Malfurion Stormrage, and imprisoned within the Barrow Deeps under the watchful eye of Warden Maiev Shadowsong, first of the Watchers.
The night elves worked tirelessly for many years to rebuild their ancient homeland. Leaving their broken temples and roads to be overgrown, they constructed new homes within the verdant trees and shadowed hills at Hyjal’s base. In time, the Dragons that had survived the great Sundering came forth from their secret abodes. Alexstrasza the Red, Ysera the Green, and Nozdormu the Bronze descended upon the Druids' tranquil glades and surveyed the fruits of their labors. Malfurion, who had become an Archdruid of immense power, greeted the mighty Dragons and told them about the creation of the new Well of Eternity. The great Dragons were alarmed to hear the news and speculated that as long as the Well remained, the Legion might use it to find Azeroth once more.
Malfurion and the three Dragons made a pact that the night elves would serve as guardians of Azeroth and of the natural world. Alexstrasza brought an enchanted acorn, a remnant of G'hanir, and placed it in the well, where it grew into Nordrassil, the first World Tree. This tree would forever serve as a symbol of the connection between the kaldorei and nature, and would use the energies from the Well to heal the world after the devestation of the Sundering. Nozdormu then blessed Nordrassil, so that, as long as the tree stood, the night elves would not fall prey to disease or the decay of time. Ysera also placed an enchantment upon the World Tree by linking it to her own realm, the ethereal dimension known as the Emerald Dream. The night elf Druids, including Malfurion himself, were bound to the Emerald Dream through the World Tree. As part of the mystical pact, the Druids agreed to sleep for centuries at a time so that their spirits could roam the infinite paths of Ysera’s Dreamways. Though the Druids were wary of losing so many years of their lives to hibernation, they agreed to uphold their bargain for the sake of their people and the world at large.
The Long Vigil
As Azeroth recovered from the trauma of a world-shattering war, Tyrande Whisperwind established a regime to rule the kaldorei under a Naturalistic philosophy, working in coordination with Malfurion Stormrage, who guarded the realm of the Emerald Dream from corruption with his loyal followers in the Cenarion Circle. Unfortunately, this era would not be a long age of peace as once thought, for many enemies still lurked within the shadows of Kalimdor's groves.
Sorcery was outlawed in the new kaldorei nation outright. Many Highborne who survived chose to integrate with the kaldorei, while others held steadfast to their traditions and way of life.
The Highborne who had assisted the Kaldorei Resistance were asked to cast off their noble titles and give up the lands they had acquired through hereditary inheritance. Many cooperated with this edict, and many more adopted Druidic surnames. Some Highborne houses chose to keep their original family names, but pledged loyalty to the kaldorei cause. Because Highborne was more of a political identity than a racial one, the Highborne who had given up their accolades and priveleges blended in seamlessly with kaldorei society at-large. Many, however, suffered with the withdrawal of Arcane magic. The only Highborne noble house that kept its original lands was the House of Fallowmere, which was granted the Stonetalon Mountains and the charge of protecting the region from invasion by the Trolls and Qiraji Empire. The Fallowmere family were known to be skilled mountaineers, and possessed a massive force which was trained to use the mountains to their advantage. Because the kaldorei mostly dwell in forested areas, mountains do not have a central place in their war strategy, which necessitated the continued involvement of Fallowmere's men in the continental defense.
Many Highborne, however, refused to give up the Arcane, their honorific titles, and magical abilities. These Highborne, led by Dath'Remar, thought the Druids cowardly for refusing to wield the Arcane. Malfurion and the Druids warned these 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 night elves could not bring themselves to put so many of their kin to death, so they decided to exile the reckless Highborne from their lands. These exiled Highborne fled to the east, searching for a new land where they might establish their kingdom. Now calling themselves High Elves, they founded the nation of Quel'Thalas in the far northern regions of the Eastern Kingdoms.
Centuries later, the War of the Satyr saw a bloody conflict erupt between the kaldorei and cursed Satyr. During this war, the night elves fought against the unified Satyr forces of Kalimdor. In desperation, some of the night elf druids even started using the Pack Form, a dangerous druidic transformation that had been forbidden by Malfurion Stormrage. These druids would form the Druids of the Pack, who tried to use the mystical Scythe of Elune to gain control over their forms. However, this failed, and they became the first Worgen, before being sealed away in a pocket of the Emerald Dream. Though losses amongst the night elves were great, the Satyr eventually lost the war, and were driven to the darkest corners of Kalimdor where they lived in isolated demonic sects.
War of the Shifting Sands
- See main article: War of the Shifting Sands
In ancient times, the Zandalari Empire defeated the Aqir, a race of intelligent insects. A contingent of the Aqir were driven into Ahn'Qiraj, at the time, an ancient Titan facility. Over the centuries, these branch of the Aqir became the Qiraji, who served the Old God C'thun. The Silithid, a non-sepiant race of insects descended from the Aqir, would serve as the bulk of the Qiraji Empire's forces. The Cenarion Army, led by Fandral Staghelm and Shiromar, fought the legions of C'thun, but retreated after the death of Valstann Staghelm, son of Fandral, and the loss of Southwind Village.
It wasn't until the Night Elves called for the aid of the Dragonflights that the Qiraji were driven back into their kingdom of Ahn'Qiraj. Anachronos, Merithra, Caelestrasz and Arygos, children of the Dragon Aspects, led armies of Dragons against the forces of C'thun. Merithra, Caelestrasz and Arygos flew into the city to create the Scarab Wall, though they were captured as a result of their valiant efforts. The Scarab Wall was capable of containing the insectoid armies, trapping them in the city. In order to one day open the Scarab Wall and defeat the Qiraji, Fandral Staghelm was given a scepter. However, distraught by the death of his son, Fandral shattered the scepter, forever damaging the bond between the night elves and the Dragonflights.
For millennia, the night elves have been bound to the wilds, shaping their culture with a careful regard for the natural world. Modern night elven society was founded on the principles of Druidism, and strengthened by a magical bond to Nordrassil, a World Tree. As a long-lived people, the kaldorei loathe to accept change. Slow to anger and even slower to forgive, night elves feel emotions deeply; arguably more deeply than the young races of the planet. While they rarely show their true emotions to outsiders, they have a well-honed sense of humor and sharp wit.
Depending on the individual night elf, a kaldorei may primarily worship Elune, their ancestors, the various demigods of their tremendous pantheon, or even the dragons. The night elves are an incredibly diverse race with varying religions and traditions based on their regional interpretations. Despite this, virtually all night elves hold Elune in complete reverence, who is seen as the mother of their people. Malorne, while considered a demigod, is considered especially important to the history of the kaldorei. Folklore holds Malorne as Elune's mate, and believes him to be the father of the Night Elves, as well as a symbol of vitality and male sexual potency.
Druids share a close relationship with the Ancients, who are a race of immortal beings of multifarious variety. Cenarius is considered to be the founder of Druidism. Aviana is the patron of the Druids of the Talon, while Ursoc and Ursol are the patrons of the Druids of the Claw. Aessina and Tortolla are also allies, having assisted the Guardians of Hyjal in the protection of the World Tree. Omen, while still corrupted, lies at the heart of the Moonglade.
Before the Third War, kaldorei society was sharply divided by gender, with the vast majority of men being druids and most women serving as warriors, priestesses, or a combination thereof. These gender roles more or less defined the culture of the kaldorei for ten thousand years. Many years ago, the two genders were even forbidden to take the opposite role. When this was finally lifted, it was a tremendous and tumultuous societal change, with a pair of statues created to commemorate the first male priest and the first female druid. Even so, the gender divisions remain strong, and only at the end of the third war were female druids welcomed into the Cenarion Circle.
In the years since the Third War, this overall gender division has eased considerably in favor of more practical concerns, and many factions have set aside the historical strictures on membership. More women have taken up the mantle of the druids, just as men have begun to choose either the path of priesthood or more widely the path of war and have affiliated with the Sentinels.
Most night elves are, by the standards of other races, ancient. Because of their previous immortality, some night elves are more than ten thousand years old, which is older than the entirety of human and dwarven civilization put together. Though the immortality of the night elves has ended, much of its cultural impact remains, and many search for a way to regain it. After the Cataclysm both Malfurion and Jarod Shadowsong, alive during the War of the Ancients and more than a thousand years age difference between them, have been feeling minor, but increasingly consistent aches and pains due to aging. Jarod's wife, also from the same era, passed away due to illness tied to aging.
For thousands of years, arcane magic has been outlawed amongst the night elves, with its use punishable by death. Even when the night elves joined the alliance, they still avoided arcane magic. However, just before the cataclysm, this changed. Archmage Mordent Evershade of the Shen'dralar traveled to Darnassus, seeking an audience with Tyrande Whisperwind. Sensing a coming change (likely the cataclysm), the archmage offered his wisdom and knowledge to the high priestess. Tyrande Whisperwind, no longer as settled in the ancient ways as she had once been, accepted, allowing several of the highborne to return to night elf society, even allowing them to train night elves as mages. However, the reunification has not been easy. Many night elves are still angry at the highborne for the part they took in the War of the Ancients, and have been hostile, or even violent, towards the returned highborne. Former Warden, Maiev Shadowsong is known to have personally killed or orchestrated the murder of several such highborne. In addition, the new night elf mages are still very inexperienced, making rookie mistakes that can and have been exploited by enemies of the night elves.
For millennia, the Sisters of Elune held by far the most power. High priestess Tyrande Whisperwind eventually reorganized the order to direct the Sentinels. She later became the sole ruler of the kaldorei. The Cenarion Circle takes no active part in governmental affairs, as their numbers included druids from several other races. Though Archdruid Stormrage did take part in the government on occasion, the druids typically remained aloof.
Night elf males are very tall, range between 6'6" and 7'6", with broad shoulders and a lithely muscular torso whereas females are shorter--typically between 6'2" and 7'2" tall. They are often described as beautiful--lithe and curvaceous, while retaining a great deal of muscle tone. The men are typically of a slim-waisted yet firm, muscular build including long, muscular arms and large hands. Unlike most other elves, night elf men often have thick beards and bushy eyebrows.
The symmetrical markings worn by many night elf females do have some meaning. The tattooing marks a rite of passage. It is yet not clear what the rite of passage consists of, or whether the act of tattooing itself is the rite of passage. It is quite rare for an adult female not to have facial markings. It is likely that the markings symbolize an animal totem (most commonly the Antler (Stag, as of Malorne), Crow/Owl (as of the Talon), Bear/cat (as of the Claw), and others indicative perhaps of the Wild, of the Grove, or of the Fang.
The Sentinel Army, now led by General Shandris Feathermoon serves as the primary military force of the kaldorei. Its most notable branch, the Shadowleaves, was founded by Shandris herself. The Sentinels were established shortly after the War of the Ancients, and until recently all of its soldiers were women. However, the Third War resulted in so many casualties that the traditional gender roles of night elf society have been set aside in favor of more practical concerns. As a result, although the Sentinels are still primarily women, there are now also men among their ranks. The Sentinels are courageous and selfless soldiers whose only goal for the last ten millennia has been to defend the night elf people. New recruits undergo extensive training, and as time permits, the more experienced warriors undergo frequent combat drills. The Third War resulted in many losses for the Sentinels, but the army still boasts a number of battle-hardened veterans.
The night elf sentinels are considered great warriors, fighting with savagery and skill that amazes even the greatest of warriors. The sentinels care little for melee combat, instead relying on their trusted bows and throwable three-tipped glaives. Swords, scimitars, daggers and the the two-tipped glaives more commonly associated with Demon Hunters are seen only in isolated cases.
Supporting the sentinels in battle are the druids, the Sisters of Elune and the Watchers, all of whom bring powerful magic to aid in battle. Night elf technology is rather limited however, and the only commonly employed technological war equipment seems to be the Glaive Thrower.
Rather than rely on technology in battle, the night elves instead bring their natural allies. Amongst these many, many allies are owls, sabers, hippogryphs, dryads, keepers of the grove, nymphs, treants, chimaeras, faerie dragons and ancients.