Orc History

(From the WoW: RPG - Horde Player's Guide)

Will Brann Ever Finish His Book?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Right now, in fact: I've been around and I've seen a lot. I've traveled all the lands in Azeroth and have written about them. I've rubbed shoulders with kings and queens and giant bugs. Yet I don't know if I'll ever see anything as fascinating to me as mortal societies. The history and cultures of the Horde's races are particularly interest - they span worlds and have undergone vast changes in their mentalities over the generations. What this means for their societies is fascinating. I've made no secret of the fact that I think the hostilities between the Alliance and the Horde are foolishness; we need to work together against the real bad guys. Perhaps, if our peoples can learn to understand each other, such a day might come to pass. Thus, to facilitate such understanding, I have compiled my notes and thoughts in the following sections. Enjoy.
- Brann Bronzebeard

Orc History
Creatures who embody absolute, irredeemable evil do exist. However, regardless of what is said in some quarters, the name of that creature is not "orc." They do not hate life, nor do they exalt in cruelty and deceit like the commanders of the Burning Legion. Yes, they can be vicious brutes, and you don't want to get on their bad sides unless you've got a good swordarm, and perhaps an army at your call (and a mage or two). Yes, when they slay your family and raze your homestead to the ground, I can understand when you want to turn their names into cusswords. However, let's face facts: orcs do not spend their every waking moment practicing new ways to torture people, nor do they spend time thinking about new ways to torment you. If they did, they'd probably be less deadly.Okay, I know that no one's going to listen to me. But that's never stopped me before, so let's talk about orcs.

Where do we begin? I suppose it all began in a swamp on a world far away. A sunlit marsh on a lost world, where the first orcs crawled around the murks of Draenor and built crude shelters and raised pillars to honor the spirits. In the summerlands of Draenor, where steam rose from fissures amid wild vegetation, flowers and ferns, orcs broiled and baked themselves in pursuit of the spirits, contemplating the universe in sweat lodges and going on vision quests. (I'm taking some creative liberties with rumors here.)

We have no idea about the early days of orc history. On Draenor, the early orcs learned primitive arts: building, farming and mining. They developed the twin traditions of shamanism, to answer the great mysteries of the world, and clans, to govern their lives. Their faith also included a respect and reverence for their ancestors.

My knowledge of this time is sketchy, but I've put together some myths and some stories orcs have told me over the years.

Eventually, not too many decades ago, the orc shaman Ner'zhul allowed the demon Kil'jaeden to use him to spread bloodlust and savagery throughout the orc clans. (Of course, it was Kil'jaeden's idea in the first place to use the orcs against Azeroth, to soften up Azeroth's defenses before the Burning Legion's second invasion.) Kil'jaeden also manipulated Ner'zhul into leading the orc race in attacking the draenei. The two races clashed numerous times, but neither gained the advantage.

Ner'zhul refused to take the final step. He resisted Kil'jaeden's command to make the orc race drink demon blood (thus endowing the orcs with demonic powers) and devote itself entirely to the pursuit of death and war. (Ner'zhul would pay for that resistance later.) Ner'zhul sensed that obeying Kil'jaeden in these things would cause his people to be enslaved to hatred forever.

Frustrated and infuriated by Ner'zhul's resistance, Kil'jaeden turned to the old shaman's ambitious apprentice, Gul'dan. In return for Gul'dan's obedience, Kil'jaeden promised Gul'dan untold power. Gul'dan agreed and, steeped in demonic magic, became the most powerful mortal warlock in history. He spread his arcane teachings among the clans and strove to eradicate the orcs' shamanistic traditions.

Kil'jaeden helped Gul'dan found the Shadow Council, a secretive sect that manipulated the clans and spread the use of warlock magics throughout Draenor. Under Blackhand and Gul'dan and the Shadow Council, the orcs renewed their attack on the draenei. The orcs' attacks were devastating, especially after Gul'dan and the other warlocks began summoning demons to fight the draenei. It was also around this time that the orcs appointed Blackhand as the Horde's first warchief.

Before the last big battle between the orcs and the draenei, all the orcs (except Durotan and the Frostwolf clan) drank the blood of the mighty pit lord Mannoroth the Destructor. Hate the bloodlust - and great power - overwhelmed the orcs. Their demon-fueled rage sealed the fate of the struggling draenei. As the war wound down, Kil'jaeden, pleased with the results of his machinations, broke off further contact with the Horde.

With the draenei defeated, the orcs had no further significant enemies to fight. They eventually turned on one another. Bereft of anything big enough to challenge the Horde and lost without further demonic guidance, Gul'dan soon realized that the Horde was going to devour itself.

Fortunately for the orcs, another outside force contacted Gul'dan. This being was the Guardian Medivh, though at this point possessed by the spirit of Sargeras. Medivh showed Gul'dan the way to Azeroth. Gul'dan saw a way to sate his people's bloodlust, at least temporarily, and to conquer and enslave another world. Medivh/Sargeras created the first Dark Portal; and the orcs, again united with a common cause, poured through.

And so the First War began. Blackhand amassed his army near Stormwind. The human defenders were unprepared. A group of human heroes slowed the invasion by slaying Medivh, but the First War ended with the orcs ascendant, the kingdom of Stormwind firmly in the Horde's grasp, King Lane dead, and the humans fleeing north across the sea.

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between the First and Second War. Except for a two-year respite between the conquest of Stormwind and the invasion of Lordaeron, there certainly wasn't much peace, nor any hope of peace. Those who went as embassies to sue for peace with Gul'dan returned to their peoples as undead mockeries. Arrogant brute. Even with the death of his ally Medivh, the warlock believed that no force on Azeroth could stop him. And so the Horde built ships and followed the humans north, begetting the Second War.

I don't know what goes through the minds of creatures like Gul'dan. If he wasn't so selfish, I don't think any force could have stopped the conquest of Lordaeron, for all the Alliance's elven puissance and human valor (and dwarven ingenuity). But Gul'dan just didn't care about the Horde; he cared far more about gaining power for himself.

Gul'dan and several loyal orc clans deserted the Horde. The warlock raised a chain of islands and invated the tomb of the demon Sargeras in an attempt to ascent to godhood. Orgrim Doomhammer could not abide this.

Seeking to punish the wayward orcs for their costly betrayal, Doomhammer sent his forces to kill Gul'dan and bring the renegades back into the fold. For his recklessness, Gul'dan was torn apart by the maddened demons he had set loose. With their leader dead, the renegade clans quickly fell before Doomhammer's enraged legions. Though the rebellion had been quelled, the Horde was unable to recoup the terrible losses it had suffered. Gul'dan's betrayal had afforded the Alliance not only hope, but also time to regroup and retaliate.

Lord Lothar, seeing that the Horde was fracturing from within, gathered the last of his forces and pushed Doomhammer south, back into the shattered heartland of Stormwind. There, the Alliance forces trapped the retreating Horde within the volcanic fortress of Blackrock Spire. Lothar and Doomhammer met each other on the battlefield, and Doomhammer slew the human lord. However, his death incited a righteous anger in the Alliance forces; they defeated Doomhammer's army and pushed the Horde back to the Swamp of Sorrows, where the Dark Portal rested. The orcs hoped to meet with reinforcements from Draenor. The reinforcements never came.

The Alliance was not kind toward the Horde survivors. They shackled them until they ran out of chains in which to fetter them, and forced them to march to internment camps. The war ended in disaster for the Horde, but the worst was yet to come.

Back in Draenor, Ner'zhul chafed at his bargain with Kil'jaeden and sought a way to power that circumvented the Burning Legion. Seeing Gul'dan's "success" with the Dark Portal, the shaman figured he could open new portals and lead his people to a place where the Burning Legion wouldn't trouble him. This was not a bad idea, but Ner'zhul had neither Gul'dan's knowledge nor his skill. More than one portal on Draenor caused a magical instability that rocked the world to its core. Volcanoes rose out of the burning plains and unleashed fumes and tumults in every region on the world. Seas rose in wild storms that shattered coastlines.

Realizing that their world was doomed, two of Ner'zhul's best generals, Grom Hellscream and Kilrogg Deadeye abandoned their lord and rallied as many orcs as they could find, driving them through the Dark Portal to the questionable safety of Azeroth, just before Draenor was destroyed in a mighty explosion that shook the Twisting Nether itself.

Unfortunately, Ner'zhul and the warlocks of his Shadowmoon clan also survived the cataclysm. They traveled through a portal and fell into the unforgiving claws of Kil'jaeden, who was furious at the shaman for defying him years ago on Draenor. Ner'zhul and his followers were tortured, broken and transformed into the Lich King of Northrend and his followers. Eventually, they would create the Scourge.

If there is any darkness in my soul, it's in what I'd do to Kil'jaeden if I ever had the power to pass judgment on him for birthing that atrocity.

Despite the arcane energy that ravaged the world, Draenor wasn't completely destroyed. Some pieces of Draenor, now called Outland, survived the cataclysm. Rumors say it is nightmarish, fit only as a base for the Burning Legion. (Call me crazy, but I hope to see it someday.)

In the meantime, the vast majority of the Horde on Azeroth was imprisoned in internment camps. The Alliance survivors were not in a kindly mood; most felt that orcs were nothing but animals; some even urged mass exterminations. The defeated orcs were remarkably dull and docile, rousing themselves only to whine unanswered prayers to demon gods to saved them. The warlocks of the Horde, acolytes of the demon-religion of Ner'zhul, were almost entirely slain. With the effects of the blood of Mannoroth fading from their veins, the orcs felt weak and uncertain. I should note that a few orc clans, including Grom Hellscream and his Warsongs, eluded capture.

At this point a new champion arose, the greatest leader in the orcs' thousands of years of history. His name was Thrall, son of the orc chief Durotan, supposedly the sole orc chieftain who had refused to partake of demon blood. Tales say assassins of the Blackrock clan murdered Durotan, and the infant Thrall was left to die. A scheming human named Blackmoore rescued him, however. Blackmoore felt an orc of such noble lineage could be trained to be a puppet who would keep the defeated orcs in line. He gave him the name "Thrall" and raised him as a gladiator to fight and kill other orcs for human amusement.

Thrall did not live up to his name. Blackmoore wanted Thrall to be knowledgeable of military tactics and history so that he would be a good fighter and a good leader in combat, and the human commanded tutoring for Thrall. However, Thrall received far more education than Blackmoore intended. This was thanks to a human friend of Thrall's: Taretha Foxton, whose mother (Clannia Foxton) had nursed Thrall when he was a baby. Taretha secretly smuggled books to Thrall: books about all sorts of non-military topics.

Finally, after enduring years of punishment and cruelty, Thrall escaped from human control before he could be broken. After months of wandering, Thrall tracked down Grom Hellscream and his band of Warsong orcs. After passing a series of tests, Grom told Thrall about a group of orcs who took refuge in the far north who still honored the old orc ways, the Frostwolf clan. Taking his leave of the grim chieftain, Thrall ventured into the north; after more months of searching he finally encountered the Frostwolves, who identified Thrall as Durotan's son and the rightful clan heir.

Thrall stayed with the clan and learned shamanism from Drek'Thar, an old shaman. In doing so, Thrall realized how far his people had fallen. They needed to be liberated in body and spirit, from the captivity of man and the poison of demons.

Eventually Thrall encountered the old orc chief Orgrim Doomhammer, who had been living a hermetic existence since the end of the Second War. He sensed a power and purity of spirit in Thrall that he had not felt in decades. He taught Thrall cunning tactics to quickly attack an enemy and retreat before there could be reprisal. Later, when Doomhammer fell in battle, he appointed Thrall as the Horde's new warchief. Taking up Doomhammer's weapon, Thrall vowed to free every orc in Azeroth from the internment camps, and set about doing just that.

Thrall's name began to be heard on every lip in Azeroth, and Alliance commanders were left to wonder just what they were doing wrong in allowing some upstart warchief assemble a new Horde. Unfortunately, before the Alliance could organize its magi, diviners and paladins in a concerted effort to destroy this new Horde, another threat emerged: the Scourge. Most of us know what happened then.

As the opening movements of the Third War played, Thrall, after assembling his Horde (and engaging in a little revenge against Blackmoore), received a call from a mysterious prophet to take his Horde across the sea to the shores of Kalimdor, sparing them from the ravages of the Scourge. He did so, and on the way he met and befriended the jungle trolls. Upon arriving in Kalimdor, Thrall arrived in the Barrens, where he made the acquaintance of Cairne Bloodhoof, chieftain of the Bloodhoof tauren. It was here orcs and tauren sealed their alliance, and the tauren joined the Horde.

Despite Thrall's alliances, the work of the orcs was being undone by one of their own. Grom Hellscream had been ordered to avoid conflict in Kalimdor, but was drawn into battle against humans, and then angered the local night elves by ravaging their forests. Surrounded by enemies, Grom found a spring that had been tainted with the blood of Mannoroth. Grom and his warriors drank of the spring and became powerful enough to defeat the elves - and to slay the demigod Cenarius. Immersed in demonic bloodlust, Grom and his fel orcs no longer wished to follow Thrall. Filling his ranks with demons, Grom established a base at the edge of the Barrens. Thrall was determined to save his old friend from damnation. Thrall fought his way to Grom and smacked him back to his senses. Grom was repentant, and both burned to defeat the creature that had manipulated and murdered their people for centuries. They encountered Mannoroth in a mountain pass, and Grom sacrificed himself to kill the demon. Despite his earlier transgressions, the Horde now sees Grom Hellscream as one of its foremost heroes.

Thrall had little time to mourn. Soon, from across the sea, came the demon Archimonde and the Scourge, striking for the World Tree and the Well of Eternity it protected. Once again warned by the mysterious prophet (who turned out to be Medivh reborn), Thrall united with Jaina Proudmoore and opposted Archimonde. Together, they destroyed Archimonde and scattered the Burning Legion's forces.

Triumphant, Thrall set about building a new nation for his people - Durotar, named after his father. However, his people's bloody past would come back to haunt them. Jaina's father, Grand Admiral Daelin Proudmoore, a hero of the Second War, was determined to wipe out the Horde once and for all before they could get a foothold in Kalimdor. Given the orcs' brutal history, I can understand Proudemoore's initial anger, but he didn't change his mind even in the face of evidence. So, sadly, I have to slap him with the "big fat jerk" brand.

Jaina tried to reason with her father, but Admiral Proudmoore called her naive, and said she'd been deceived. Realizing that her father wouldn't budge in his hate, Jaina Proudmoore was forced into making a choice that only a lord of the Burning Legion could enjoy: She could either dishonor her alliance with Thrall, or help slay her father.

Poor girl. First she falls in love with someone who destroys Lordaeron, and then she allies with her father's archenemy. Rumors say she and the blood elf leader Kael'thas once had a thing, too. She's certainly not the luckiest woman in history.

Thrall promised to spare as many humans as possible in the invasion of Theramore, the new Alliance capital off the coast of Kalimdor. In the end, Jaina sided with the Horde. Thrall's champion, the half-ogre Rexxar, slew Daelin Proudmoore, and Jaina assumed leadership of the Alliance in Theramore and pledged herself to the truce with the Horde. However, the truce barely holds in Kalimdor, let alone in the rest of Azeroth.

Recently, Thrall dissolved the traditional orc clans, so that no further arbitrary decisions could separate one orc from another. Thus, most orc clans no longer exist. Beyond Durotar, however, remnants of the old clans survive, particularly among the Blackrock and Dragonmaw clans, who have no part in the current Horde. These clans accept warlocks into their ranks, so they haven't abandoned their demonic heritage. Another lurking poison that waits to seep into the wound is the Shadow Council: Gul'dan's old band of ghouls (figuratively speaking) were never completely destroyed. Rumors place them in Felwood. When they decide to leave their bolthole, we might be in trouble. We saw what Kel'Thuzad could accomplish on his own - the Council is an entire league of arch-warlocks, and Theramore and Durotar's defenses against magic are not as great as I would wish.

And that is why both the Horde and Alliance are in such a bloody mess today, and why it's not likely to get any better any time soon.

World of Warcraft: Horde Player's Guide Copyright 2006, Blizzard Entertainment]

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