Know Your Lore: The Highborne of Eldre’Thalas
Last week we left off our look at the origins of the High Elves with a discussion of their Highborne forebears and the exile from Kalimdor following the Sundering.
At the end of the War of the Ancients there were several groups of Highborne left scattered throughout the remains of the Kaldorei Empire. One group would become the High Elves. Led by Dath’Remar Sunstrider, these Elves would be exiled from the main body of Night Elves who’d survived the Sundering and would make their way to the Eastern Kingdoms, eventually settling in what was to become Quel’Thalas. But these weren’t the only Highborne who survived the War.
Another group, led by Elisande, created a magical barrier around the city of Suramar and, in that barrier, survived the destruction of the Well of Eternity. Trapped for ten thousand years, these survivors became the Nightborne. We’ll speak more of them another time, because yet another group survived far to the south: the reclusive Shen’dralar.
The Lost Quel’dorei
The Shen’dralar were typical for Highborne. Magic was their vocation and the Well of Eternity was their obsession. Yet they didn’t make their home in the city of Zin-Azshari or even in grand Suramar. While Suramar was the home of Elisande and her relic hunters, collecting magical artifacts for the Queen, the Shen’dralar under Prince Tortheldrin were Azshara’s researchers and did their work in secret. It was the Shen’dralar who would pore over ancient tomes to translate inscriptions for the Queen and her greatest servants (such as Xavius), and in order to preserve their secrecy they did this far from Azshara’s grand capital city. In the south of Kalimdor, they built Eldre’Thalas and stocked it with every bit of lore they could find, whether it was from old Troll villages (the secrets of the Gurubashi and Amani that had fallen before the Kaldorei), the strange insect creatures living to the south, or lost scraps of Titan lore (it was from just such Titan remainders that the Kaldorei had taken their name and the name of the continent they lived on, Kalimdor — land of eternal starlight) and even their own ancient arcanists, for by the time of Azshara the Kaldorei Empire was many thousands of years old.
It was in Eldre’Thalas that the Shen’dralar toiled for the queen. The name means “Those Who Remain Hidden” and the Shen’dralar did exactly this, staying out of Highborne political games and seeking not power for its own sake, but illumination for the sake of the Queen they were loyal to. As such, they were entirely out of the loop when Xavius made contact with the Burning Legion and introduced Azshara to the coming of Sargeras. So unaware were they of these events, so focused on their ancient lore, that when the Legion began invading Kalimdor in force they were caught utterly unawares.
The Demons and the Sundering
The Shen’dralar had no idea what was happening, but found themselves beset by demons, unable to contact the Queen or her closest Highborne servants. Pressed on all sides, they defended Eldre’Thalas to the best of their ability. Aided by their ancient research and the might of the Wolf Ancient Goldrinn, they eventually managed to come up with a defense that served them against the Legion… and the eventual Sundering itself. While much of Kalimdor was destroyed, dragged under the waves, the Shen’dralar weathered the Sundering more or less intact, if severed from the Well of Eternity and utterly unaware of the creation of a new one atop Mount Hyjal. Indeed, they were essentially cut off from all of their people — unaware of the fate of others, their only thoughts were towards their own survival. As Tyrande and Malfurion led the survivors of the common caste Kaldorei into a new society without Arcane magic, and Dath’Remar led his surviving Highborne east to their new start, the Shen’dralar endured in Eldre’Thalas.
But not without a price. They magics they’d used to defend their city had been costly, and cut off from the Well by the destruction of it, they were rapidly waning. The Well had provided power for their sorcery and helped preserve their lives, and without it they were subject to the same pangs as the Quel’dorei who’d left to settle Quel’Thalas and the ones under the dome in Suramar. Elisande had access to the artifacts she’d collected for Azshara such as the Eye of Aman’Thul, but Prince Tortheldrin had the ancient texts collected by the Shen’dralar over the years. His solution to the problem was different from either Dath’Remar or Elisande’s.
Over time, as his people waned, Tortheldrin hit upon an audacious plan.
In the center of Eldre’Thalas Tortheldrin used the knowledge he’d gleaned from ancient studies of Titan magics to create pillars that focused a powerful force field. Inside this field, Tortheldrin summoned a demon, Immol’thar. A massive Void Terror, the beast was fiendish power incarnate, and Tortheldrin presented it to the other Shen’dralar as the means to replace the magic of the Well. They were shocked and reluctant, but without the Well they were also a waning people, dying slowly as their dependence on the Well of Eternity wracked their bodies and minds. And for a while, despite the loathing they felt at the idea of descending to feeding off of a demon’s power, Tortheldrin’s gambit paid off. The magical power used to trap the demon was great but the power that could be siphoned from the demon was wild, chaotic, volatile and unbeknownst to the Shen’dralar utterly addictive.
The demon remained in its prison for thousands of years. But over that time, the balance between the amount of power needed to keep Immol’thar imprisoned and the amount he supplied changed. For millennia it took less power to hold the demon than the Shen’dralar got from siphoning his chaotic magics. So they didn’t notice as they all became utterly addicted to Immol’thar, far more so than they ever were to the Well. But one day, the amount of power it took to hold Immol’thar grew to be greater than that which could be siphoned from the demon. Instead of a cure to their waning magics, Immol’thar was now a drain on them, and Prince Tortheldrin could only see one solution to this.
He began to murder his followers.
The Lost Quel’dorei Return
By the time a band of adventurers made their way into Dire Maul, slew Immol’thar, and struck down Tortheldrin, the mad Prince had killed many of his followers. Their ghosts haunted the Athaneum of Eldre’Thalas, the last part of the ancient city still held by the Shen’dralar, and only a fraction of them survived Tortheldrin’s brutal purge. Following his death, one of the survivors, Mordent Evenshade, led many of the others into an alliance with and a return to Night Elven culture after their thousands of years of isolation. Today, the Highborne again walk among the Kaldorei, no longer a caste of self proclaimed nobles. Modern Highborne in Darnassus are more akin to Mages found in other races like the Kirin Tor, an organization seeking to teach magic to any Night Elves willing to learn.
This has been noted by others. The Blood Elves in particular are livid that their own ancestors were exiled for seeking to practice Arcane magic, but the Shen’dralar have been welcomed into the same Night Elf society that exiled them. However, the Blood Elves have been practicing magic for thousands of years, while most new Night Elves trained by the Shen’dralar have not, giving the Blood Elves an advantage over most of them. But as Kariel Winthalus learned, a Blood Elf Mage had best beware when going head to head with an actual Shen’dralar — this branch of the Quel’dorei were the Lorekeepers of Azshara, and they’ve forgotten very little in the intervening years.
Next week, we talk about the fall of Quel’Thalas.
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