The War of the Ancients
Sargeras knew about Azeroth because he had heard about it from the titans, but he didn’t know where it was. He feared it and hated it in equal measure because it represented the very impetus for his Burning Crusade. A massively powerful world-soul, a sleeping titan, under siege by the Old Gods, the emissaries of the Void Lords. If corrupted into a void-titan, it would destroy all life in the universe and convert it to void.
So he really, really wanted to find it and destroy it. And he almost got the chance.
This story starts with the elves, the ones that used to be dark trolls until they made a home around the Well of Eternity and evolved into a race that called themselves the kaldorei. They worshipped the goddess Elune who they believed was bound to the Well of Eternity and slept in the lake during the day. Their culture was very influenced by the titan artifacts that lay around the well and then influenced by Cenarius when he took them under his wing.
“Cenarius adored the night elves and believed they had the potential to become great caretakers of nature. He befriended the fledgling race and taught them about the natural world. It was Cenarius’ hope that the night elves would strive to live in harmony with the wilds.”
This caused the evolution of the two kinds of elves, those who took Cenarius’ teachings to heart and lived in harmony with nature, and those who became obsessed with the Well and its power, becoming great sorcerers as the arcane energies became an inseparable part of their lives.
When the night elves’ civilization was at its peak, Queen Azshara was in power. Azshara was always recounted in history books as being incredibly lovely, beloved by all who beheld her and extremely gifted. She used her magic to make herself even more beautiful and charming, manipulating her people through love rather than fear. Despite how she was seen by her subjects her true personality was pretty much evil. Vain and completely self centred she only valued those who either made her look better, catered to her vanity or were useful. She and the highborne, or the nobles, saw themselves as better than all the other elves and she fostered a xenophobic culture. During her reign the night elf empire expanded to be the largest since the Black Empire of the Old Gods. The beauty of the buildings and temples would never be surpassed. She did not go near Mount Hyjal though, the site of the Wild God’s power, and she did not like the Demigod Cenarius. The feeling was mutual.
The only conflict existed between the trolls, and they were no match against the elves’ arcane power. Azshara was not interested in conquest though, she saw the trolls as little more than beasts and not worthy of fighting, so she made a treaty with their leadership, allowing them their sacred Mountain Zandalar. Thus began the troll’s deep hatred of the elves.
The only thing that really interested Azshara was the Well. She believed they had barely scratched the surface of what it was capable of teaching them, and she encouraged her highborne to experiment recklessly.
The echoes of the arcane magic were heard throughout the Twisting Nether, drawing the attention of its demonic inhabitants, and eventually, Sargeras himself.
Finally he had found Azeroth.
But he still didn’t know where it was, or how to get there, he needed Azshara to open a portal for him, and his armies. So he started to plan.
At this same time Malfurion was training under Cenarius and had become the first mortal druid on Azeroth.
Cenarius was worried about the effect Azshara was having on the culture of the night elves and he hoped that Malfurion would teach other elves to be druids and draw them back to their earthy roots.
Before that happened Sargeras reached out to Azshara the same way he did the Eredar, with promises of untold power, they only had to let him through. He appeared to Xavius, Azshara’s trusted advisor and right hand, and he was so full of magic and power that Xavius thought he was a god. He rushed to tell his Queen who was only too eager to meet Sargeras who would help her create a perfect new world of her design.
The demonic hordes left only the Highborne untouched as they poured through the portal and started destroying everything in their path.
The main leaders of the Legion, Hakkar the Houndmaster, Mannoroth and Archimonde the Defiler.
Standing against them, Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest, Malfurion, Illidan and Tyrande.
Malfurion struck a decisive blow, using the power of the Emerald Dream and destroying Azshara’s most powerful sorcerer and right hand, Xavius. This also proved to his allies the power of the Druid.
Illidan fought bravely and saved Kur’talos life, earning him a leadership role in the war as well, and Tyrande proved her powerful bond with the Goddess Elune by saving countless lives in the battles, earning her the position of High Priestess of Elune.
Sargeras gave Xavius the “gift” of a satyr body and raised him back up to go out and corrupt other night elves and the demons just kept pouring through the portal. Though the night elves fought bravely it was not enough.
Malfurion turned to Cenarius and asked him for aide, and to ask the other Wild Gods to help as well. Cenarius agreed but the Wild Gods were unpredictable and convincing them would take time, so they looked about them for more allies.
They turned to the Dragon Aspects who gathered at Wyrmrest temple in order to discuss how best to deal with the threat of the Legion. This is when Neltharion suggested creating the Dragon Soul, a powerful artifact that they would each imbue with a bit of their essence and use to wipe the Legion from the face of the earth. At least that was the theory. Unfortunately Neltharion had been corrupted by the Old Gods. As the Warden of Earth he was uniquely susceptible to their influence as they tainted the very earth surrounding their prisons.
So they went to the battle that was raging between the night elves and the armies of the legion and Neltharion turned the full power of the Dragon soul on the demons, decimating them, but then, as hope swelled in the hearts of the defenders, he turned and attacked the night elves as well, and then the other dragons.
His sudden betrayal took them completely by surprise and he murdered almost all of the blue dragonflight. Everyone, dragon and elf alike, were forced to flee.
The Power of the Dragon Soul, or Demon Soul as it would come to be called, almost tore Neltharion apart, tearing great wounds in his hide where magma poured out. Neltharion became Deathwing and the dragonflights would never be the same.
This event was the catalyst for Malygos’ eventual spiral into madness as well. Seeing his flight almost extinguished by one of their own was a shock he would never recover from.
And Deathwing’s own flight, the black dragons, would also pay for his deeds. They were ever after cursed to an existence of fear and seclusion, being hunted on sight in retaliation for their leader’s actions.
This all wasn’t good for the night elves’ morale. And then they lost Illidan. In an effort to gain untold power and become stronger than his brother, who he had always lived in the shadow of and even lost Tyrande to, Illidan sought an audience with Sargeras and told him of his plan to steal the Dragon Soul. Sargeras looked into his mind and liked the ambition that he saw there. He scored Illidan’s body with fel tattoos and took his eyes, granting him the power to see magic in exchange. And off Illidan went, on a quest to find the Dragon Soul. He did manage to obtain it and delivered it to the Highborne. They wanted it for its power to help them open a portal in the Well to bring Sargeras through.
The leader of the Kaldorei resistance, Kur’talos, is assassinated and this puts Jarod Shadowsong in charge, which turns out to be a good thing because he isn’t held back by the xenophobic ideas of the old highborne. He recruits any and all who will come to their aid, including the earthen, the tauren, and the furbolgs. Even some highborne started to doubt that Queen Azshara had their best interests in mind, or that she was completely sane...and many joined the resistance, including Dath’Remar Sunstrider. And finally the Wild Gods showed up bringing with them dryads, chimeras and the great treants.
These forces clashed with the main legion army in the capital of Zin Azshari, named for the Queen, and losses were great on both sides, many of the Wild Gods falling to the demons poisoned fel blades. Aviana, the Bear Gods Ursoc and Ursol, Malorne even Cenarius was almost killed.
Meanwhile Malfurion, Illidan and Tyrande traveled to the Well of Eternity with a small band of fighters to disrupt the portal spell. Illidan had approached his brother to confess everything he had done was to gain the demons trust in order to work against them from the inside. While Malfurion didn’t exactly trust Illidan he had more pressing problems. Sargeras was on the verge of getting through, and if he managed it...all this would be for nothing. No power on Azeroth could stand against him. He saw only one solution. The Well must be destroyed. He knew that this would change the night elves lives forever, he didn’t know that it would also change the face of Azeroth forever too.
The small band managed to infiltrate the palace and came upon the sorcerers strengthening the portal. Malfurion called upon a mighty thunderstorm to throw their spells out of alignment and the destabilizing portal exploded, throwing Sargeras back into the nether, and destroying the Well of Eternity.
The night elves fled, the ground beginning to crumble under their very feet. Huge earthquakes shook the continent and arcane energies lashed the skies. The explosion of the Well took 80 percent of the main landmass with it and in its place, the ocean poured in and the ever swirling Maelstrom.
Azshara and her highborne were crushed under the waves, the demons either destroyed or pulled back through the portal to the twisting Nether. Later it would be discovered that an old god, probably N’Zoth, transformed Azshara and her handmaidens into naga, to save them for its own nefarious purposes, but they would not resurface for a very long time.
The once mighty kingdom of the Night Elves was utterly destroyed, most of the beautiful buildings and temples fallen to the bottom of the sea. And the Well, the source of all their power and immortality, was gone.
The remnants of the elves took refuge on Mt. Hyjal, the sanctuary of the Wild Gods and one of the only places untouched by the Sundering. On the way they decided that magic was not safe and must be prohibited from then on. Imagine their fear and rage when they arrived on that holy place to find Illidan already there, standing over a new Well. For Illidan had saved some water from the WoE in small vials and had poured some of these arcane waters into a pool on the mountain, creating a new Well.
Some wanted to kill him on the spot. He tried to reason with them, the Burning Legion would return. Not if, when, and they must be prepared. Some of the former highborne agreed, but most of the night elves were furious, arguing that the energies of the Well were what had drawn Sargeras to Azeroth to begin with. Only the words of Malfurion kept his brother alive. He instead used the help of Cenarius to craft a great underground barrow prison for Illidan and set Maiev Shadowsong as his jailer.
Upon learning of this second Well the Dragon Aspects converged on it. They knew as long as it existed, its energies would call out to the twisting nether, and Sargeras would have a way to enter. Alexstrasza used an enchanted seed from the Emerald Dream to grow a World Tree over the Well, guarding its energies from detection by the demons and ensuring its power would not be misused again. The Night elves called it Nordrassil, Crown of the Heavens, and vowed to protect it at any cost. To honor their vow the three dragons blessed the tree with their particular gifts, Alexstrasza infused the tree with life energy which also spread through the roots to the world, healing the land around it, and spread to the elves as well. Ysera tied the tree to the Emerald Dream so that the elven Druids could more easily walk the realm and Nozdormu wove his magic into it so that as long as the tree stood, the night elves would be immortal.
The tree was now a symbol of the night elves’ connection to the natural world, a sacred monument that empowered their race with an immunity to sickness, disease and aging.
Tyrande stepped into the power void left by the Highborne and their Queen with the priestesses of Elune and their military branch, the Sentinels. Malfurion continued to foster a culture of druidism, giving new purpose to those sorcerers that had abandoned magic. They walked the pathways of the Emerald Dream, healing Azeroth and protecting it, and experimented with shapeshifting, taking the forms of bears, nightsabers and many other animals.
The Highborne that refused to leave the practice of magic behind were banished, and it had to be said they weren’t unhappy to go. They built a fleet of ships and set sail across the sea led by Dath’Remar Sunstrider to what would eventually be known as The Eastern Kingdoms. And they would make a life there in their capital city of Silvermoon, in the land they called Quel'Thalas. With a new fount of magic they called the Sunwell, made with another one of Illidan's vials from the WoE.
And Illidan was imprisoned. For 10,000 years.