Looking back at origins of Ahn’Qiraj, the Aqir, and the Titanforged with the launch of Ahn’Qiraj in WoW Classic
C’Thun is a tinkering Old God. What he likes to tinker with is biological matter — he likes to twist it, warp it, see what he can make from it. All Old Gods tend to create servitors from their mountainous bodies — the loathsome N’raqi and the swarming Aqir emerged in vast armies from the bodies of the Old Gods. But C’Thun was not satisfied with the Aqir. Perhaps he felt they’d been too quick to fail during the Black Empire’s fall, or perhaps it’s simply the way of C’Thun to mutate and evolve its followers.
C’Thun, Bringer of Mutation
But what we know is this — the Aqir who found C’Thun’s prison and infested it, conquering the Titanforged Anubisath who’d held it for millennia following the fall of the Black Empire, were forever changed by the power of the Old God even while it lay dormant. Indeed, the thousands of years that C’Thun slept in his prison, unaware of their presence above him, the force of the Old God’s raw malevolence reached out and changed those Aqir forever, birthing a new race of servitors. These were the Qiraji, the chosen brood of C’Thun, and they would boil out of their desert home to bring terror to Azeroth before they were stopped.
But not forever. No, for a thousand years after C’Thun began to stir, the Old God and his Qiraji were trapped inside Ahn’Qiraj by the combined efforts of the Bronze Dragonflight and the Kaldorei of Kalimdor. But that thousand years came to an end, and if not for the mortal races of Azeroth — those of the Alliance and the Horde, coming together under one commander — there would have been no survival as the Old God would have rampaged unchecked across Azeroth, his Qiraji army destroying all it could.
From the Black Empire to the Prison
To tell the story quickly means that by definition we’ll miss a lot — there’s a lot to cover so we have to try and get as much as we can.
Imagine Azeroth at the dawn of time, when the four Elemental Lords battled across the surface of Primordial Kalimdor for every last scrap of spirit energy that didn’t end up feeding the developing World Soul of Azeroth. Since they were at war with one another, they did not understand the threat until the Old Gods arrived, crashing down into Azeroth and immediately unleashing innumerable armies of Aqir and N’raqi from their own bodies to overwhelm the armies of the Elementals.
Perhaps if Ragnaros, Neptulon, Therazane and Al’Akir had joined forces sooner, they could have defeated the Old Gods. Perhaps. But they didn’t, and were themselves bound into service using the ancient and terrible magic of the Cipher of Damnation.
For innumerable years, the Old Gods ruled Azeroth. But then came the Titans, who were on a scale that dwarfed even the Old Gods. Being so colossal they were themselves planets, they felt that they couldn’t remove the Old God infestation without doing great harm to the World Soul, and so they chose to create armies from the very elements of the world itself to do battle for them. These proxies, creations of the Titans, were called Titanforged, and they were led by powerful servants called Titan Keepers and Watchers.
And together these Watchers and their Titanforged armies did the impossible. They beat the Old Gods. Despite their Elemental servant-slaves, despite their near limitless armies of blasphemous N’raqi and abhorrent Aqir, the Old Gods were defeated, Y’Shaarj was destroyed by the Titan Aman’Thul, and the others were imprisoned in Titan facilities. One such facility was in what is today Silithus, an enormous Titan structure that held the Old God C’Thun for thousands upon thousands of years. The Titanforged set out to shape Azeroth in such a way that the World Soul within the planet would be healed from the scars of the long Old God infestation and the injury done to it by Aman’Thul when he ripped Y’Shaarj out of the planet entire.
The return of the Aqir
The Old God Yogg Saron began to corrupt the Keeper Loken, who turned on his Titanforged brethren. Loken managed to imprison the Prime Designate Odyn in his Halls of Valor with the aid of Watcher Helya (who Odyn had made an undead being called a Val’kyr and bound into his service) and was holding the Discs of Norgannon. Keepers Tyr and Archaedas, along with Watcher Ironaya, stole the Discs and fled south, and Loken responded by sending two of Yogg Saron’s C’Thraxxi warbringers after the escaping Titanforged. To allow his fellows to escape and keep the Discs out of Loken’s grasp, Tyr stood and fought the two C’Thraxxi, killing Zakajz and severely wounding Kith’ix at the cost of his own life.
Kith’ix, however, would return when a Troll would find his resting place and use blood sacrifice to awaken him, and in so doing, the Aqir-Troll War began. Kith’ix sought to awaken its masters, the Old Gods. Finding many Aqir slumbering under the ground, it used its dark power to awaken them and assault the Trolls who had so foolishly returned it to life. This war raged until the ancient Empire of Zul — a coalition of Troll tribes that served the Zandalari Trolls — broke up as the Amani and Gurubashi Trolls sought both independence from their Zandalari rulers and empires of their own. However, this act of rebellion ended up working in the Trolls’ favor. Since the Amani and Gurubashi each focused their forces on a different region, they managed to drive the Aqir back and save Azeroth from a second coming of the Old Gods even though it ultimately cost them their dominant position in ancient Kalimdor. The coming of the Night Elves would push the Trolls to the fringes, with only small bastions left to them.
But one group of Aqir was not destroyed. Seeking a base of operations, they stumbled upon the Titan-built prison facility in the south and overran it — just as others of their kind did with the Titan base in the north that would become known as Azjol’Nerub. The southern Aqir destroyed or enslaved the Titanforged Anubisath and Tol’vir constructs, leading to the creation of the beings known as Obsidian Destroyers (just as the Nerubians would do in the north) and settled in, an infestation corrupting all of the Titan’s work. And below the sand, the Old God C’Thun slowly stirred in his prison, and his power seeped forth to change the Aqir who’d settled in.
For thousands of years this process continued, and the Aqir slowly changed, with new caste systems born out of the Old God’s fitful dreaming. The Qiraji were born, a new army for a new purpose. The Old God wanted its freedom. In turn, the Qiraji created the Silithid, mindless fodder for a new army. They wouldn’t repeat the mistake of the Aqir during the Aqir-Troll War — they wouldn’t go to war until they had the full power of an Old God at their backs.
This set the stage for the War of the Shifting Sands, the Bronze Dragonflight, a thousand years respite, and the resurgence of the Qiraji as C’Thun woke. This is where our characters joined the plot in WoW Classic with the army of Alliance and Horde that rose to stop the Old God, and dared to challenge him in his former prison turned capital city — but that’s a story for another time.
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