Know Your Lore: What future for the Kaldorei?
The Kaldorei, or Children of the Stars in their native language, are the Night Elves. Ancient Kalimdor — the land of eternal starlight, possibly named by the Titan-Forged who shaped it — was their birthplace and the cradle of their ancient civilization. Even after the Sundering and the destruction of the Kalimdor that was, the remnant of their surviving civilization endured for another ten thousand years.
This is worth remembering for a variety of reasons. Darnassus and Teldrassil are both important to Night Elves, but they are born from relatively recent events. Before the Third War, Night Elves had neither city nor tree. They lived throughout northern Kalimdor — in smaller enclaves from Hyjal to what is now Felwood, from Astranaar to Azshara to Stonetalon, from Feralas to Darkshore. They were reclusive, keeping to themselves and not interfering with the events of the outer world, or even the affairs of those they shared the continent with. A race of immortals bound to Mount Hyjal and the World Tree Nordrassil, they lived simple lives.
Please note: Today’s Know Your Lore contains spoilers for story content in the pre-patch and after Battle for Azeroth. If you’re avoiding spoilers, come back after you’ve played through 8.0’s story content.
The Invasion that never ended
The past dozen years have brought astonishing change to the Night Elves. They lost their immortality, found Kalimdor invaded by demons who transformed Felwood into a horror, and then endured the Horde’s attack on their forests. They lost territory in Azshara, Astranaar, Stonetalon, and Feralas, endured the Cataclysm and saw much of Hyjal burned. In such a tumultuous time, it isn’t surprising that they came to cling to the stability that Teldrassil and Darnassus promised.
Now that stability has been proved a lie. The Alliance and Horde contend across northern Kalimdor, and Teldrassil has burned. The Horde has far from brought Kalimdor under their control — from what we can tell the Alliance still holds quite a bit of ground, likely due to Kaldorei guerillas who know the territory as only those who’ve lived in it for thousands of years can. However, the fact remains that the Night Elves have been dealt a staggering blow.
But is it a mortal one?
The Tree, the war and the Druid
It needs to be repeated — Teldrassil was the result of a specific confluence of events. Fandral Staghelm was the driving force behind it. It was intended to restore Night Elf immortality, but the Aspects chose not to impart their blessings to the new tree as they had Nordrassil. Perhaps this was because Nordrassil wasn’t dead.
At any rate, the fact remains that Staghelm’s tree wasn’t blessed, and it didn’t return Night Elven immortality. Yet it was a vast colossal World Tree that provided a stable cradle for the Night Elves to come to terms with who they were now. That as a mortal race, they would need to fight and contend with the others of Azeroth. No longer could they withdraw from the world and let it spin on without them.
In a way, that twelve year rebirth of the Kaldorei as a people has been brutally hard, with two invasions of the Burning Legion as bookends. Future writers may not see them as two separate invasions at all. There’s a case to be made that the Third War didn’t end. Or at least that it didn’t end with the destruction of Nordrassil, that the defeat of the Legion atop Hyjal was merely a setback. It is clear that the forces of Azeroth had been smug, that they took for a victory what was merely breathing room and squandered the opportunity to unite and work to prepare.
The cradle burns
If we view the past dozen or so years as a period of adjustment, it’s possible that as painful a loss as Teldrassil is, we can see it as the end of a chapter. The Night Elves endured for thousands of years before Teldrassil and Darnassus. While the Quel’dorei wallowed in their Sunwell and the Shal’dorei hid inside a bubble, the Kaldorei had no cities. They lived as part of the land. As they fight their way across Kalimdor now, it’s clear that their second adolescence is over.
But what this means for their future is, at best, unclear. With Teldrassil and Darnassus gone, and much of Kalimdor in Horde hands, will they simply cede the continent and head east? It’s hard to imagine that state of affairs becoming permanent. There are clearly Night Elven ruins in the Eastern Kingdoms, Seradane in the Hinterlands and Twilight Grove in Darkshire. But I don’t feel like those two places would serve as suitable home bases for the Kaldorei as a people. Especially since the Cenarion Circle has in recent years moved further and further away from being a Kaldorei organization, allowing several Horde races to join and proclaiming neutrality. Both Seradane and Twilight Grove are part of a portal network used by Druids to travel across Azeroth.
If the Kaldorei do not reclaim total control over their ancestral lands, it’s hard to know what they will do. It’s feasible that the Alliance and Horde could simply trade destroyed capitals. The Forsaken could take up residence in the burned out husk of the World Tree, and the Kaldorei could reclaim Lordaeron as a bastion. The Gilneans appear to have reclaimed much of their former territory. Perhaps now the Night Elves will reside in the forests of Gilneas alongside their Worgen allies. Or they could even spread across all of the former kingdoms of Lordaeron, Alterac and Stromgarde once held by the Horde.
Someone else’s home
There are several problems with this scenario, of course. One is, as I mentioned earlier, that the Night Elves do not appear to be beaten in Kalimdor. The Horde haven’t made much headway in terms of actually holding territory. Destroying it, absolutely, but holding it, not so much. If anything, their status on the map appears (and I stress appears, because it’s still a month away) to be much the same as it was before they attacked Teldrassil. As long as the Alliance is putting up a fight, it’s unlikely the Kaldorei will countenance abandoning their ancestral homes.
Secondly, the Horde is similarly not gone from the Eastern Kingdoms. Lordaeron and the Plaguelands are where the Forsaken died, and also, where they lived. I can’t picture them saying “Oh well, I guess we traded the land we literally lost everything to hold on to for a burned out tree that meant nothing to us” and getting on with life in the seared ruins of Darnassus. It’s possible, I suppose, but I have a hard time imagining it. Furthermore, there are still the Sin’dorei to the north. We see on the Kalimdor map that the Draenei are still a huge stumbling block for Sylvanas’ forces, and I don’t see any way that Tyrande could simply claim all of the northlands and not come into conflict with Lor’themar Theron.
Also, the Nightborne have allied with the Horde. Thalyssra and Lor’themar seem to have created a fairly tight relationship in a very short order. Any attempt to deal with the Sin’dorei will likely have to take the Shal’dorei into account as well. It’s a lot of effort to claim a land that isn’t theirs and hasn’t been since the Sundering. It’s effort they might well prefer to use to reclaim Kalimdor.
One thing is clear — Teldrassil provided shelter for the Kaldorei when the world changed. Now the world has changed again, and there’s no more shelter to be had. The Kaldorei can’t sit on the sidelines as they did for ten thousand years. It’s time for them to fight.
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