Know Your Lore: Queen Azshara
You might be wondering why, for my inaugural Know Your Lore column here at Blizzard Watch, I’m covering Queen Azshara, of all things. Or you might have a very good idea why I’m doing so. Either way, it’ll be made perfectly clear by the end of the article — and there may be some spoilers for future content in here, so consider yourselves warned if you’d like to keep reading. Regardless of her serious lack of involvement in anything Warcraft-related since her one minor, lonely appearance in Cataclysm, Queen Azshara is one of the most fascinating characters in Warcraft‘s stable of villains — and it’s honestly a surprise that we haven’t seen her yet.
Because Queen Azshara is quite possibly the most powerful beings on Azeroth. Hands down — and that includes the Elemental Lords, Dragon Aspects, would-be Guardians of Tirisfal, world shaman, and maybe even the Old Gods. In fact, although Azshara was most definitely a night elf, she’s always seemed to have more in common with the Old Gods than her own people. Perhaps it may even be why her unusual fate after the War of the Ancients occurred the way it did.
Queen Azshara likely wasn’t the only ruler the night elves had back in the days of old, but she was the one most remembered and revered. She was born with golden eyes, a sign that she was intended for greatness — and she grew up to become the most beloved ruler of her time. They even re-named the capital city in her honor: Zin-Azshari, “Glory of Azshara.” But Azshara was far more than just a beloved queen. She was also one of the most powerful mages kaldorei society had ever seen, and was incredibly fascinated with the Well of Eternity. Azshara ordered a new palace built on the shores of the Well, and her subjects happily complied, hoping to gain her favor.
Azshara’s favor was won only by the noble elite, the Highborne — coincidentally also some of the most powerful spellcasters among the kaldorei. Those who were not so blessed as to live in the splendor of Queen Azshara resided in the outlying areas of the capital, including the followers of Elune. Queen Azshara, in the meantime, set her spellcasters to work with the Well, and the dizzying array of magic caught the attention of Councilor Xavius, who decided the best use for the Well was to use its power to cleanse the world, rebuilding a perfect paradise suitable for someone of Queen Azshara’s status and glory. She agreed, and the plans were set into motion … yet they caught the attention of one other, as well.
Sargeras, leader of the Burning Legion. Sargeras held no love or fascination with Azshara — he wanted the Well of Eternity. But a ruse had to be constructed to allow the Dark Titan to cross from the Twisting Nether into Azeroth, and so Sargeras contacted Xavius, made the councilor believe he was a god. Xavius brought Queen Azshara to the Well, and for the first time in her life, Azshara laid eyes on a creature who she deemed worthy of her favor. Intent on bringing Sargeras to the world, Azshara had Xavius get to work with the task of opening a portal with the Well’s power, and bringing her husband-to-be to her — for there was none more worthy of her than a god.
War of the Ancients
Thus began the War of the Ancients — a war between Azshara and her Highborne, and those deemed lesser. Azshara barely took part in the war at all, choosing instead to seal herself away in her palace, oblivious to the screams of her people as they were systematically slaughtered by the Burning Legion. As far as she was concerned, they were unworthy of following her to this grand new age of perfection. Besides, she had to ready herself for Sargeras’s arrival. It wouldn’t do to appear anything less than perfect in the eyes of her intended. While she interacted with the demons of the Burning Legion, she viewed them almost as lesser beings — pets and minions of the god she would call husband. And while the Legion was free to run rampant through the rest of Zin-Azshari, the palace itself was clearly under her control.
Yet through the efforts of those she deemed unworthy of Highborne status, primarily Illidan and Malfurion Stormrage, as well as Tyrande Whisperwind, Queen Azshara met her end … in a way. As Sargeras fought to break through the portal, Malfurion used the Demon Soul, an artifact so powerful that the resultant spell pulled Sargeras and the rest of the Burning Legion that had been unleashed upon the world right back through the portal and into the Twisting Nether. The portal then collapsed, taking the Well right along with it and creating a backlash that severed the continent of Kalimdor into the many continents we have on the map today. Yet through it all, Azshara patiently waited.
She gathered the remaining Highborne and her handmaidens to her side, settled proudly on her throne, even as her palace crumbled around her and the waters poured in. Calm, cool, and collected, the mighty queen awaited the arrival of Sargeras, and instead found something very different — a voice reached out to her, and it spoke.
You will be more than you have ever been … promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you … you will serve us well …
It offered her power, and without hesitation, she took it, her body twisting and changing, as well as the bodies of her servants. Together, they became the first of the naga, and though water filled the halls of the palace, though it sank beneath the sea, not a one of them drowned. Instead, they thrived, and the naga pose a threat to Azeroth’s deep oceans and coasts still today. As for Queen Azshara, she was not seen again until Cataclysm, during a small quest chain on an island off the coast of Darkshore. She appeared very briefly to taunt Malfurion Stormrage and mock his efforts, delighting in the fact that she and her minions had managed to turn his attention from Hyjal long enough for Ragnaros and his servants to encroach upon the peak … and then she disappeared.
It’s very odd that she disappeared, given everything we know of her, and it’s very odd that she hasn’t made a major move in the thousands upon thousands of years that have passed since Zin-Azshari’s fall.
A creature of untold power
Why so odd? Because Queen Azshara was, at the height of that particular period in kaldorei history, the most powerful creature on the planet. Even as the kaldorei fought against the Burning Legion, many did so because they thought that Azshara was being held captive — they couldn’t even fathom that the beloved Light of Lights, the ruler whose love they so desperately craved could possibly turn and try to kill them all. They couldn’t wrap their brains around the concept that their beloved Queen might just possibly betray them. There was simply no way she would do so, she was too gracious, too kind, too lovely, too pure to do such a thing.
And the novel trilogy, War of the Ancients, suggests that this was not in fact because of any grand deeds on Azshara’s part. In fact, Mannoroth himself tried to confront her once she had outlived her apparent usefulness, and found himself similarly stymied.
Azshara said nothing, merely gazing imperiously at the demon. With a hiss, Mannoroth reached one meaty hand toward her. His intention was clear; he had no further use for the night elf’s existence. But though he came close, Mannoroth faltered at the end.
It was not because of any sudden notion that Sargeras might still desire the silver-haired creature to live. Rather, Mannoroth discovered that here was a force against which only his lord and Archimonde would prove superior. Try as he might, the demon would have found it easier to throttle himself than the queen.
He couldn’t kill Azshara, couldn’t bring himself to do it because in the end she was far too powerful for even the pit lord to reckon with. In that passage, we see confirmation of what was hinted throughout the course of the series — Queen Azshara was a powerful mage, yes, but her powers were so great that she had almost the entirety of kaldorei civilization bowing down and worshiping her simply because she wished it. She had nearly the entire race carefully held in her thrall, and she wasn’t about to let them go. This was not a small scattered portion of night elves, either — it was nearly everyone. Take the entirety of the night elf population as it stands today, plus the entirety of the blood elves prior to the Third War, because those guys were the Highborne, and you have yourself a pretty substantial number of people. And she dazzled them all, kept them all bowing neatly at her feet with a pair of glimmering golden eyes. Great destiny, indeed.
But Azshara isn’t just a night elf anymore. She had, during the War of the Ancients, enough power on her own to catch Mannoroth off guard. By Mannoroth’s observations, the only creatures he knew of with more power were Archimonde and Sargeras. And after the War was over, the Old Gods spoke to her from somewhere in the depths of Azeroth and gave her even more power. In Cataclysm, she sent the naga to attack the Throne of the Tides, and they successfully captured Neptulon the Tidehunter, one of the Elemental Lords. He hasn’t been heard from since, but the distinct possibility exists that she has an Elemental Lord under her thumb and possibly devoted to her just as faithfully as any of the Highborne were.
But — and this is a pretty big point to make here — although Queen Azshara caught the attention of the Old Gods, although she seemed to be allied with them and doing their bidding in Cataclysm, that’s no real guarantee that she’s actually working for them at all. Cataclysm in the end was a net loss for the Old Gods. They were defeated, the Hour of Twilight brought to a halt and Deathwing destroyed. Since then, we haven’t heard a peep from Azshara at all … which is pretty suspicious in and of itself. And there are plenty of questions surrounding the illustrious lost queen of the kaldorei. Why did the Old Gods choose to save her? Did they witness the ease at which she manipulated the kaldorei race, and assume their interests aligned with hers? Because they most definitely do not.
Azshara is out for one thing, and one alone — herself. Her glory, her reign, her power, and, if she has her way, her world. She never wanted Azeroth destroyed. She wanted it remade in her glorious image, free of any who would dare speak against her. She most certainly didn’t want chaos and the end of all things, she wanted order according to her whims and wishes. And she wanted Sargeras. She wanted to be his consort, she wanted to rule at his side — not just Azeroth, but the possibility of the very universe stretched before her. So why would she agree to what the Old Gods had to offer? Because it was the right offer at the right time. Obviously she didn’t have enough power to do what she wished, and the dark whispers promised her more. The Old Gods failed, perhaps they outlived their usefulness to the queen. Perhaps she’s moved on to bigger, better things — we really don’t know.
Here’s what we do know, and this is a doozy — Queen Azshara was added to a recent build of the PTR. Her location is unknown. This could simply be a revamp of an existing model … or it could be a signal that things are about to get very, very real. The question we have to ask ourselves is what do Draenor and Queen Azshara have in common? There’s only one thing, really: the Burning Legion. It exists on Draenor, and events on the world haven’t played out exactly the same as they did in our history. We know that Archimonde is alive in this alternate universe, despite the fact that we most definitely killed him on Azeroth during the Third War. And although we destroyed the Dark Portal and are currently working on dealing with the Iron Horde, the Burning Legion is presenting an ever-looming threat, even without the cooperation of the orcs. The addition to the PTR may be just a fluke, for all we know, but it’s still interesting — and horrifying — to imagine what could potentially be.
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