In the beginning, Azeroth belonged to the Trolls.
First the Zandalar, perhaps the most ancient highly intelligent race on Azeroth, then, as the Troll population grew and factions arose within it, the mighty Gurubashi and Amani empires. They spread across primordial Kalimdor, building stone cities wrought with marvelous carvings of their loa gods. Before the Gurubashi and Amani could spend too much effort on fighting each other over their philosophical differences, however, a threat to all Trolls arose: the Aqir, molded out of the silithid insects by the Old Gods. After a great war of untold length and brutality, the Aqir were beaten back on two fronts and effectively disappeared. The Trolls had won their survival and their superiority over Azeroth, but they had lost much, perhaps too much, of their best resources and people. In the quiet “well, what do we do now?” period after the end of the war which had dominated their civilization for so long, the Troll empires began to splinter and fall into decay. The Amani in the northeastern part of Kalimdor exiled some of their number even further northward, producing the satellite Drakkari nation. Other groups broke off and ventured into the far northwestern and southwestern reaches of the continent, perhaps to monitor the borders with the Aqir.
It is something of a mystery how, in all that great, continent-spanning war between the Trolls and the Aqir, the combatants neither discovered nor made use of the Well of Eternity. Nevertheless, it was not until after the retreat of the silithids that a tall, long-eared tribe of humanoids with cool-toned skins wandered into it and, fascinated, pitched their tents there to stay.
Empowered by the arcane energies of the Well and blessed by their new goddess, Elune — who, like the Well itself, seems to have had no involvement in the Troll/Aqir war — the Kaldorei were not long content merely to settle around the shores of the mystical lake. Soon they pushed outward, and the Trolls found, to their dismay, that the power of their loas was not enough to protect them. The Amani and the Gurubashi, formerly separated mostly by the transcontinental distance, were completely cut off from each other by the manifest destiny of the Kaldorei.
What, if anything, did the Troll empires of primordial Kalimdor know of the Tauren?
Nozdormu’s meddling with the War of the Ancients brought the Tauren into the final battle, so they must have been present before then. If the Trolls spanned the continent, surely the Tauren and the Trolls must have encountered each other, but Shu’halo history, such as it is, comments only upon neverending battles with the centaur. I wish that Anne Stickney had gotten around to editing Tauren territories into her speculative map of pre-Sundering Kalimdor; I would place them in the southwestern area of the map that isn’t currently colored anything other than the yellow base color and over the western light green area. It’s possible that the major Troll empires didn’t have much contact with the Tauren because they were localized to the eastern half of the continent, whereas the migratory Tauren was localized to the western half.
Off-topic of this post, but something I’ve been thinking about in relationship to these images and their origin in the Halls of Lightning — the Trolls were the first great power of Azeroth, the Night Elves were the second great power of Azeroth, and we can probably say that the Humans (see below) are currently the third great power of Azeroth… but when were/are/will be the Tauren a great power of Azeroth?
And then the world fell apart. Were the Troll empires also afflicted with waves of demonic invasion during the War of the Ancients? Would the Amani and the Gurubashi have known that the Kaldorei were directly responsible for the Sundering, and would they have thought to blame them?
In the wake of the Sundering, those Trolls that survived in western Kalimdor dwindled away, leaving at last the Shatterspear in the north and the Sandfury in the south. The Drakkari (and a portion of the Shu’Halo) now found themselves isolated on the new continent of Northrend. The eastern part of Kalimdor broke into two pieces, further dividing the Amani and the Gurubashi. Over the succeeding millennia, the northern and southern groups of Trolls developed distinctive body types.
The Amani held their empire together quite well, for it was not until some seven or eight thousand years later that they found themselves beset by a group of outcast elven arcanists now calling themselves the Queldorei, and yet they were still a cohesive force. Amani Trolls had not seen elves for a very long time, and the elves had not likely seen Trolls for a very long time, but the old stories and legends remained. It did not take long for the ancient rivalry to flare up.
In the meantime, unknown to the Trolls, something very strange had been happening to the metal and stone creations of the Titans. Dwarves and Gnomes awoke in the central mountains of the eastern continent, around the Titan complex of Uldaman. The iron Vrykul of Ulduar in Northrend turned first to flesh and then, after many centuries of assuming themselves the lords (at least of the surface) of that place, suffered an epidemic of small, weak births that so frightened them that they placed themselves into magical stasis. Some brave parents defied King Ymiron’s decree that all the weakling children should be killed and exiled them instead to whatever lay across the southern seas.
These tiny, feeble creatures did not alarm the Trolls at first, if they noticed them at all. The Trolls were much more concerned with their ancient enemy, the Queldorei. But the Humans were much more clever than the Trolls gave them credit for, and they hated the strong, powerful race that threatened them just by existing. At length, the Humans sought the aid of the elves, and the Amani empire splintered under their combined assault. Humans spread across the northern part of the eastern continent, which they named Lordaeron, and down into the southern part which, after encountering the Dwarves, they called by the Dwarven name of Khaz Modan.
Devastated by the catastrophe of the Sundering, the Gurubashi empire wobbled. A sect of priests attempted to bring new power to the Gurubashi by summoning Hakkar the Soulflayer, which led to a terrible civil war. Eventually the dragon Aspect Ysera thwarted the plans of the Hakkari and the Atal’ai, and the Gurubashi empire crumbled.
Where once the Trolls had dominated Azeroth, now they were fragmented tribes, fighting amongst each other so viciously that it could be said without exaggeration that a Troll’s worst enemy was generally another Troll. The smallest of the former Gurubashi tribes was the Darkspear. Without the numbers of some of the other tribes, the Darkspear were eventually forced to leave the mainland and take their chances on the southern seas. Fortunately, they soon found islands that were suitable for habitation. Unfortunately, these islands were also desired by murlocs and Naga, and the Darkspear still battled for their very survival. Eventually, the Humans of Kul Tiras discovered them, too. Were the Humans a strange and novel sight to the Darkspear? Did the Darkspear leave Stranglethorn before or after the Human (and Goblin) pirates came and established their strongholds around the cape? It is not known how long ago the Darkspear left mainland Stranglethorn for the isles of the south seas. It is known that, Sen’jin, the leader of the Darkspear at the time of the Human arrival, had developed a great desire to have his people live in peace with their neighbors, and that shortly thereafter, he had a vision of a stocky, green-skinned being who would bring his people to a better place.
Then Thrall came along and helped the Darkspear defeat the murlocs, the Naga, and the Humans. In accordance with Sen’jin’s wishes, the Darkspear followed Thrall the rest of the way across the sea to Kalimdor and became part of Thrall’s New Horde. This was not, alas, the end of the Darkspears’ trials. They had not been on the isles off the coast of Kalimdor for long when a faction within the tribe led by the witch doctor Zalazane rebelled against the changes to their culture necessitated by this new alliance with the Orcs. In the schism, those who wished to follow Vol’jin and remain with Thrall and the Horde were forced to relocate yet again to the mainland. It took several years before the remainder of the tribe was able to build up enough strength to overthrow the rebels and finally lay claim to the islands that Vol’jin intended to be their homeland forever after. Just when the Darkspear had finally managed to establish themselves on the Echo Isles, the world began to tremble. Thrall laid aside the mantle of Warchief to take up the more important role of Shaman… and Vol’jin is not at all happy with the warmongering attitude of his replacement, Garrosh Hellscream. Like his father, Vol’jin wants his people to have a time of peace.
In the past decade, the ancient core and last remaning strongholds of the Gurubashi and the Amani have been brought down. The Zandalari themselves appeared from their secret homeland to call the Horde and Alliance together to defeat the Gurubashi and the terrible being they had summoned.
Although Blizzard axed the old L60 20-man Zul’Gurub as part of the Shattering revamp of the world, I think that they have had an eventual return of Zul’Gurub planned since fairly early in the development of Cataclysm.
In the course of doing the very first quest you are given in Northern Stranglethorn — the only quest available when you first arrive at Grom’gol — you meet a precocious raptor hatchling.
I won’t spoil the rest of the questline for you, except to say that with this little raptor at your side, your adventures soon lead you right into the heart of Zul’Gurub… a Zul’Gurub that is not dead and quiet, like a defeated former raid should be.
Furthermore, the Zandalari seem to have realized that the Trolls, who once covered the face of Azeroth, are steadily disappearing. The fierceness with which they fight amongst themselves makes the Trolls the worst enemy of their own survival. The Zandalari have come forward yet again, urging the remaining Trolls to unite for the sake of defying extinction. But this is not all — the new prophet of the Zandalari also wants to bring back the ancient glory of the Trolls, rebuffing for once and for all the usurping Elves and Humans.
And Vol’jin, Vol’jin of the Darkspear, Vol’jin of the tribe that was cast out, has turned his back on the rest of the Trolls, saying, “the Horde are my people.” But wait… didn’t the same Vol’jin threaten the current Warchief of the Horde with death? What does Vol’jin stand to gain by going behind Garrosh Hellscream’s back to recruit heros of the Horde and also of the Alliance to disrupt the revival of the ancient Troll fortresses? Vol’jin says he is against the Trolls making war on the other peoples of Azeroth, so why then is he calling up upon the other peoples of Azeroth to make war on the Trolls?
/equip tinfoil hat
Sen’jin envisioned Thrall leading his tribe to a brighter, better future. Thrall brought the Darkspear away from Stranglethorn to a new place, but because of internal schisms, it took many years for the Darkspear to make good their claim on the land Thrall had found for them. Sen’jin wanted an era of peace for his people — a time in which they could prosper and recover their strength from the losses incurred by the continual tribal warfare in Stranglethorn. Vol’jin is not willing to commit his people to war against the allies who have helped them to achieve the freedom from oppression by other Trolls that they now enjoy. Vol’jin is also widely hailed as a very clever, cunning Troll. I’m sure he has watched with great interest the successes of the Horde and the Alliance against Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman in the past. And so, perhaps, he now turns to them to prevent the Gurubashi and Amani from recovering so that his own tribe, the Darkspear, can in time become the dominant Troll tribe of Azeroth.
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