Elisande, the former rule of Suramar
The Nightborne (also spelled the Nightborne) or Shal'dorei in the native tongue are a powerful and mystical race of elves who live in Suramar. Since the city was first separated from the rest of the world over 10,000 years ago, they are no longer true night elves and have evolved by the Nightwell into a unique elven species. For the majority of their secluded existence, virtually the entire group resided in the ancient city of Suramar, and were led solely until recent times by Grand Magistrix Elisande. The Mightborne race owes much of its unique physical characteristics to its long dependence on the Nightwell, an ancient source of power crafted by Suramar's Highborne residents during the War of the Ancients. Over their lengthy isolation, the exposure of the Nightborne to the Nightwell's energies gradually transformed them from their original Kaldorei appearance to their present darker, more night-based form.
At the climax of the War of the Ancients, as the Kaldorei Empire began to crumble, the night elves of Suramar City, led by the Highborne Elisande, erected an immensely powerful shield that protected and isolated the city from the remainder of the Legion that overran Azeroth and the erupting sundering. There they would remain in self-imposed isolation for millennia. For the long period of time following the war's conclusion, the Nightborne (as they evolved to become) continued excelling and progressing in the arcane arts and culture of the Kaldorei empire, existing in a bubble that preserved the ancient culture of the Kaldorei Empire pristinely over so many long millennia.
Night Elves of Suramar
This period of content isolation, which saw the Shal'dorei flourish, would eventually come to an abrupt end with the onset of the Burning Legion's third invasion of Azeroth. Presented with a terrible ultimatum, a majority of the Nightborne leaders, following the Grand Magistrix Elisande's lead, ultimately chose to ally with the demons in order to preserve their civilization. Despite this, the ensuing Legion invasion saw the Nightfallen rebellion, composed of Nightborne dissidents opposed to the Legion, rise into open insurgency against Suramar's ruling powers, who were still led by Grand Magistrix Elisande.
With the aid of various forces from outside the Broken Isles, the Nightfallen were successful in not only liberating Suramar City from the Burning Legion's control, but also in freeing the Nightborne people from their addiction to the Nightwell. Through consuming the fruit of the powerful Arcan'dor tree, the Shal'dorei thus finally succeeded in escaping their dependence on the power source that had at once both preserved and enslaved them.
At its height, the Nightborne civilization is thought to have reached the pinnacle of elven magical prowess and sophistication, continuing the only unbroken line of magical progression of the mighty Kaldorei Empire it alone of all the existing Elven groups, successfully continued in.
The Nightborne are the night elves of Suramar who fought the Legion in the great War of the Ancients to defend their home and close a second demonic portal using the Eye of Aman'thul that would have overtaken and outflanked the resistance forces led by Kur'talos Ravencrest and Malfurion Stormrage to stop Queen Azshara.
The Great Sundering blasted some of Suramar to the bottom of the Great Sea, although a good portion of it remained above shore in the Broken Isles due to the efforts of the resident Highborne, who crafted a magical shield that kept the center of their city together. This shield would stay up for 10,000 years, as the Highborne led group believed the world outside of Suramar had been destroyed. While the city was shielded, it was "probably next to impossible for normal Nightborne to leave." Under their shield in a perpetual shroud of night, they would evolve into an even deeper night-based state over millennia through the energies of their arcane font, the Nightwell, the great source of power they would come to totally rely on for survival within the impenetrable shield. These night elves would come to call themselves the Shal'dorei or Nightborne. When the city ran out of food the Nightborne started utilizing the substance of their Nightwell as nourishment and thus were spared death. However, this soon caused them to become unable to survive without drawing magic from the Nightwell. Crime in the Nightborne society was punished by exile. Cut off from their Nightwell, the exiled would first diminish into the starved Nightfallen state. Continuing without nourishment in this state causes further degradation into mindless creatures called Withered. Unlike Nightfallen, the state of Withered is irreversible and death follows not long after.
10,000 years later, the Nightborne would lower their shield and surrender to the Burning Legion under the orders of their leader. Gul'dan worked alongside this leader, Grand Magistrix Elisande, at the Nighthold. Not many Nightborne agree with Elisande's decision, though they keep their disagreement a secret. With loyalists and demons marching together in the streets of Suramar, fear, and distrust grips other elves' hearts and family turns against the family. Arcwine is the method by which the Nightborne imbibe the Nightwell's energies and the palace rations it to control the populace.
A resistance group of Nightborne and Nightfallen led by First Arcanist Thalyssra formed in the hidden hallways of the ruins of Shal'aran and is now backed up by Ly'leth Lunastre. Together they seek to overthrow Grand Magistrix Elisande and inspire the Nightborne populace to remember they were once brave and noble thus overcoming their fear of exile in order to rise up against the current Legion occupation and bring to justice those who betrayed their people by allying with them.
The culture of the Shal'dorei is the culture of the Suramar region of the Kaldorei Empire preserved pristinely in seclusion for over 10,000 years. Isolated in their city refuge under the impenetrable shield, the night elven empire arcane culture of Suramar continued uninterrupted in relative safety and serenity, while their counterparts who survived the aftermath of the Great Sundering on Mount Hyjal, laid aside the arcane culture for a nature-based one under their self-imposed ban on the use of the Arcane for spells. Similar to the night elven Highborne group of House Shen'dralar in Eldre'Thalas, the night elves of Suramar continued on in the traditions and customs of that era, but unlike the Shen'dralar of Eldre'Thalas that eventually fell to ruin towards the end of its 10 000 year isolation, their refuge endured under diligent and faithful stewardship. The great terror of the Legion invasion would fade and life as they always knew it would resume in the timeless bubble. With the Nightwell ingeniously employed to solve even shortages of food and armor, the night elves would advance their knowledge and hone their craft in the arcane arts to new heights over the millennia as they transitioned into Nightborne.
The night elves ruled the world 10,000 years ago, and no one came close when they built elegant cities and sculpted graceful forests, nor was any race a match for their mastery of magic, knowledge, and wisdom. In time they would grow haughty and regard other races with contempt, and one of the reasons Malfurion Stormrage who saw value in other races often found himself a social pariah in his home city of Suramar.
The Nightborne of Suramar has an air of superiority that often comes across, especially amongst loyalists and the elite (with exceptions) as pompous. They revel in their unparalleled magical civilization but having no exposure to the current races of Azeroth till the rebellion led an invading force to free Suramar, many still regard outside races and the world as it was back then, full of the unworthy, the uncultured, and low born far beneath the standards and levels of the Nightborne civilization. These were the less admirable qualities of Kaldorei civilization back then, and the Shal'dorei continue in them as if nothing has changed and as if they still remain the center of the world.
An ancient Kaldorei tradition Tal'ashar is an honor duel to death still used by the Nightborne, though on very rare occasions. It can be used to settle disputes and prove oneself worthy over an adversary, usually when key positions or appointments are made that the challenger isn't satisfied with. The challenger or defender may appoint a champion to fight on their behalf.
The Nightborne present, at first hand, the Highborne society of pre-Sundering Azeroth. Reminiscent of medieval feudal societies of Britain, France, and northern Europe, status and nobility mattered enormously. Whilst the Kaldorei group of Northern Kalimdor that recently joined the Alliance moved on from such occupancy with status and a city-centric civilization after the Sundering and the high elves broke away to create a new type of society, the Nightborne have continued on this pre-Sundering Highborne path to the present.
To the Nightborne, reputation and status are of the utmost concern, and morality and principles of right and wrong are viewed too often in that light. At their core, however, the Nightborne, like their night elven kin, do not find themselves short of noble souls stepping up to take a stand against the crashing tide of darkness that threatens to sweep their beloved city and the rest of the world in fel fire.
Like all night elven culture, beauty and perfection are often the end goal, but their vanity has set them apart from their druidic kin. But beneath the pomp and airy rhetoric of the loyalists, the real plight of the city under the Legion's occupation is witnessed by visiting heroes ushered in under disguise by the Nightfallen resistance and guided by the Lady Lunastre and her friend Vanthir. They expose the true suffering of the Nightborne and the noble character of these ancient night elven folk. They diligently and tenaciously encourage the heart of their people in the face of oppression and callous indifference of a not insubstantial number of the nobility often too willing to turn a blind eye. Nightborne society is full of Artisans, Vintners, highly skilled Craftsmen, the military Duskwatch guard, and the elites of society, magic is woven into every aspect and discipline. As it was in the days of the Kaldorei Empire, spell casting is taught from a very early age amongst Nightborne children.
These dote on Elisande and — often too zealously — carry out her every whim. They are given an abundance of arcwine and are the ones in charge of rationing the supplies to the main populace to keep them compliant. Elisande claimed to the populace that there is a shortage of arcwine and thus the reason for rationing, however, this is a lie. The entire 'shortage' is a ruse in order to, once again, keep them in line. The military and its Duskwatch form the bulk of the most loyal and fanatical supporters of Elisande. It is the Loyalist-dominated military that invades Moon Guard Stronghold and is the military muscle of Elisande. Yet even within the Duskwatch sympathizers and undercover rebels can be found such as Silgryn and Vanthir, Arluin, Cyrille, Lorin and Sylessa who carry on the fight to save Suramar with a tenacity that outstrips their over-zealous colleagues.
These are the vast majority, nobles, and non-alike who do not want the Legion around but are too afraid to speak out against them openly after Thalyssra's failed coup. While the nobles continue to vie for position and standing, too many for comfort turn a blind eye to the suffering of their kin, so as not to be found out of favor with the Grand Magistrix. This is the motivator that keeps them all but a few nobles in line. The non-elites, in contrast, are overworked, threatened with imprisonment or exile, or worse kidnapped to feed the terrible soul engines of the Burning Legion. They are given rations of the vital arcwine, the nourishment their bodies cannot do without to keep them obedient and in line to meet the burdensome whims and quotas of the Legion. Where once there was plenty for all, hunger now gnaws and bites at the people, continuing this strategy to force their compliance through fear of not having arcwine, thus beginning their dependence into the Withered State. These are the hearts Ly'leth Lunastre and the resistance seek to stir into open opposition against the legion by reminding them of their noble night elven heritage.
The group that opposes Grand Magistrix Elisande's decision to align the Nightborne with the Legion; they fight to put an end to the new allegiance before it becomes irreversible and seals the Nightborne and Suramar to an irreversible and irredeemable fate. Through stealth and subterfuge at first, they fight in the hope of building enough support and strength to fully assault the Palace and drive out the evil before it takes root. Their main headquarters is outside in the hidden sanctum and refuge for outcasts, Shal'aran, an abandoned cave in the ruins of Melidor. Here they are utilizing all the resources of the zone in partnership with the other Nightfallen of the land to liberate the city. The resistance seeks to bring Elisande to justice and eradicate the Legion, thus saving both Suramar and Azeroth and returning the Nightwell's use for good, not evil.
Fel infusion has become all the rage among those eager to please the Legion; Lady Ly'leth declares that there is no redeeming these traitors, as she directs the rebellion to hunt them down in the city. The Nightborne that have pledged undying loyalty to the Grand Magistrix are now indirectly in the service of the Legion and have to do anything in their power to ensure the Legion's goals are accomplished. They flaunt their newly gained powers lording it over their peers in a bid for more power but find themselves unwelcome and with few friends even amongst the noble elite. They are however feared by all which some find desirable thus given a wide berth by elite and non-elite alike.
There is also an exiled faction under Prince Ael'Yith at the Ley-Ruins of Zarkhenar.
Life with the Legion
The full horror of the Legion occupation is unfolded as you progress, despite allying with these people, the legion use them to fuel their soul engines and devices, some have rightly risen in outrage, but too many are cowed for fear of losing access to their food source and exiled to become withered. Seeing what needs to be done, the resistance aims to help and stir the people up against their occupiers, Thalyssra "I would rather die than be a puppet for the legion."
Yet despite Grand Magistrix Elisande's decision to accept the Legion's ultimatum, and some of the cruelty exhibited by the loyalists, some measure of justice is meted out. A nightborne noble is thrown out for punishing her servants too much. Iadreth is not happy about it. These night elves have become vain and haughty once more, but there is also no small measure of genuine nobility, valor, good sense, and righteousness amongst them; in other words, there is hope for them still, though it varies per group and per person. Not quite the idyllic lawful good that is easily obvious among the Kaldorei night elves, but enough to make the Shal'dorei night elves quite far from a lost cause.
The Night Elves of Suramar don't treat magic callously or lightly, though they used it extensively for everything to the point of being further changed to Nightborne. It wasn't the wanton and often gluttonous or abusive use that characterized Azshara's era. Despite the elven love for magic, they did require its use for their survival and thus magic is seen to be employed for everything but also evident is the abundant respect for the source they entirely rely on for life.
When they are not all evil and reckless or self-destructive elves do show an incredible capacity to honor their sources of life, wonder and magical power they rely on and use.
Oculeth's statement: "Respect magic, or it will break you."
Besides arcwine, the Nightborne also favored mana gems as magical "snacks".
Nightborne and the Kaldorei
The Nightborne are a group of Kaldorei Highborne transformed into a new race by the power of the Nightwell. They represent the ancient night elf culture from when they were the rulers of the world before they abandoned arcane for druidism. Though they use the night elven names, themes, and cats of the original ancient night elven culture along with its traditions, the Nightborne speak an offshoot of the ancient elvish language.
Night elves are working alongside the Nightborne aiding the Nightborne resistance led by First Arcanist Thalyssra. All is not lost with the Nightfallen state, as already the night elves are at work with the rebellion in trying to help them, at the forefront of the various efforts is Valewalker Farodin standing alongside the First Arcanist herself. Stating "In the changing of seasons, the truth will be revealed" and further encourages:
|“||"Magic has long been a vice of the elves. It shaped us, and lifted us out of the darkness - but without balance, it also threatens to unmake us. The Shal'dorei are too proud to admit it, but they are the product of indulgence. They live without harmony. But I sense potential among the Nightfallen. Losing everything has humbled them. It has made them stronger. Stay the course hero. Help the Nightfallen rise up."||”|
Nightborne and the Moon Guard night elves. The destructive effect of Grand Magistrix Elisande's allegiance with Legion continues in the attack on Moon Guard Stronghold as the interaction between the city group and their surrounding country counterparts continues with the arcane Moon Guard group. Here the night elven elite mages experience contrasting experiences with the Nightborne loyalists and the Nightfallen Resistance. Quest Zealot's Dues surmises the Loyalists corruption and had this to say "Commander Domitille represents the very essence of the Nightborne's corruption. Abhorrent of power, not their own, enamored with their Grand Magistrix to the point of zealotry, and focused utterly on the destruction of the Moon Guard.. Take her helm to Lothrius Mooncaller as proof of her demise." This is not a reference to physical or magical but to the moral corruption of loyalists who are overzealous in carrying out Elisande's orders. One other guard remarks.
The night elves involved range from the Moon Guard survivors who were ambushed by the Loyalist Nightborne on a mission on behalf of their legion masters. Thalrenus Rivertree, a night elf of the Guard had this to say (Quest) Fate of the Guard. The Nightborne came to our gates hours after the shield over Suramar fell. We thought them, friends, despite our long separation. We were wrong. They poured into our stronghold and began the slaughter. We were unprepared. Though we fought, we were beaten. The keep is lost. Our leaders have perished and their corpses lay in the streets. Find them, give them their final rites. " - later Thalrenus is taken in by the Nightborne rebellion with the surviving Moon Guard remnant, where he no doubts discovers the truth behind the attack, the legion, and joins the rebellion in driving them from Suramar, freeing the Nightborne his ancient kin and avenging the loss of his brothers.
The Nightborne forces can be seen arrogantly yelling: "Wipe this place of their inferior magics. The Moon Guard is finished." Despite the loud boast, the Moon Guard remnant seems to be much more effective against the Nightborne loyalist invaders than they against them, but superior numbers win the day. The Moon Guard survivors find welcome, sanctuary under the wings of the Nightborne rebellion where they assist in the efforts to end the madness.
Nightborne and Nighteyes. Nighteyes is a druid that is shocked at what the Nightborne loyalists have started doing, using magical devices to trap animals and take them back to the Zoo, whiles this is not the same outrage as D.E.H.T.A has against Nesingwary, these are elves, and night elves at that, the standard is higher. Nighteyes remarks "... have they fallen so far whiles they were under the shield all this time..." he would soon realize thankfully not all Nightborne are like that, but it is clear not all Nightborne have the high standards the night elves hold themselves to nature. Nighteyes finds himself.
Night elven druidic refugees from Val'sharah join their Nightborne refugee counterparts who have fled Suramar City, finding the haven in Shal'aran and assisting in the efforts against the Legion in Suramar. Whiles the Resistance welcomes the night elves with open arms, the view is not shared by Elisande and those loyal to her. When the Kaldorei armies amass in support of the rebellion, Elisande remarks "Kaldorei? You disgrace a glorious past, hiding in trees and cloaking yourselves in false piety. You have grown as savage as the trolls that skulk about your forests.", and of the Highborne "Quel'dorei? You are peasants playing at nobility, all too willing to mingle with lesser races that dilute your bloodline. You are unworthy of the name high elves."
Like the Highborne of House Shen'dralar introduced in Cataclysm, there is very little interaction between the Sin'dorei and the new night elven group the Nightborne until the final assault against the Nighthold is about to begin. The blood elves would find some familiarity in the Highborne-based culture of the pre-Sundering night elves on display in the Nightborne of Suramar as theirs, though different, was built off that. The blood elves joined the allied force of the Alliance and Horde under the direction of the Resistance in the final assault on the Nighthold.
Some blood elves have great sympathy for the Nightborne and understand their situation with a genuine desire to help. Grand Magister Rommath said that the battle for the liberation of Suramar is of enormous importance to the elf-kind future.
A few Nightborne respect the Sin'dorei, as Victoire and Silgryn made these comments about the blood elves:
Silgryn: "These blood elves are battle-hardened and disciplined. Their strength will be most useful."
Victoire: "These blood elves have some formidable magic. Let us hope it is enough to counter the might of the Nightwell."
How,ever this doesn't seem to be the case for the nobility as Elisande showed:
Elisande: "Sin'dorei? Of all the elves, I thought you might understand the choice I made to save my people. Instead, you ally with misfits and monsters. [...] Each of you has debased your proud lineage. Each of you has forgotten the ancient power that is our birthright."
Adapted from Wowpedia