An Essay on Peace with Dalaran

In light of the Purge of Dalaran, what should Quel’thalas’ course be in regards to relations with the Kirin Tor?

“Given the de-escalation in Alliance-Horde relations since Garrosh Hellscream’s defeat, I think it is a natural course of relations that Quel’thalas must similarly lessen its personal hostilities with the City-state of Dalaran.

While I recognise that deep personal embitterment has occurred due to the brutal removal of Horde members from Dalaran and the deaths and imprisonment of Sunreaver members, as well as the alleged involvement of Sunreaver members in the Divine Bell Incident, the state of burgeoning peace between Alliance and Horde under the efforts of Warchief Vol’jin will be put at risk if significant military action occurs between Dalaran and Silvermoon.

Given Silvermoon’s recent re-establishment and the persistence of internal issues such as the Wretched, the barren status of the Dead Scar and Ghostlands and the management of the Sunwell, there is no way to say definitively that Quel’thalas would be victorious in a full-scale battle with Dalaran, particularly given the city’s mobility and the possession of centuries’ worth of Blue Dragon artefacts that it may now possess given Archmage Proudmoore’s ties with the Blue Aspect Kalecgos.

While I agree that our people have been mistreated and humiliated on repeated occasions by the Magus-Senate, and in particular by specific members of the Council of Six, any further retaliation on behalf of the Blood Elves poses a significant risk to the future of our nation, as well as relations with the Alliance and Horde. Additionally, it would be likely to create a vicious cycle which would ultimately not rectify any of our grievances with Dalaran, as we cannot count on the Horde or Alliance to fight a proxy war on our behalf due to the intentions of Warchief Vol’jin and King Wrynn to restore a state of ceasefire. In fact, such destabilising efforts would likely lead to estrangement from the Horde, creating a worse internal situation due to a decline in trade.

Instead, I propose that long-term negotiations between the leadership of both nations must be key to restoring peace. While it is clear that Archmage Proudmoore is a far more reactionary leader than her predecessors Rhonin and Antonidas, her interests in peace were notable prior to the appointment of Garrosh Hellscream, including two Horde-Alliance peace summits which significantly reduced hostilities prior to the outbreak of the Northrend War. Given such efforts, I am hopeful that with external pressure from Alliance and Horde leadership, we can accomplish initial negotiations.

In terms of issues to be addressed, there must be compensation, both for the violation of Dalaranese neutrality by alleged Sunreaver agents – to do so, the agents responsible must be located and trialled – and the violation of the rights of Sunreaver and non-aligned blood elf citizens who suffered during their expulsion from Dalaran, as well as their immediate release provided they are guilty of no crimes. In addition, the Kirin Tor must recognise the innocence of the majority of Horde forces within Dalaran of the events concerning the destruction of Theramore and the Divine Bell incident.

While I realise that there are considerable feelings on both sides of this conflict, I am confident that both sides can eventually find common ground, given the knowledge that destruction has not brought resolution to our past ails and thus cannot be expected to solve our current ones. With luck, we may find peace within a few years, and if there is a longer-lasting peace, perhaps we can begin to heal older divisions between the mages of Dalaran and those of Quel’thalas.”

Alternate Universe Azeroth 2: Lor’themar

There’s public outrage after Theramore comes to light in Silvermoon. Because it will, of course. The sentries haven’t been updated since Kael’thas’ betrayal, so they’re not monitoring conversations on human kingdoms – there are no people to update them, which is another cause for anger. Hundreds of families haven’t seen their relatives in years because of wars the Sin’dorei shouldn’t be involved in. Almost all of the Ghostlands are relying on the Forsaken to keep the Scourge at bay even after the Lich King’s defeat, and the Horde is forcing the Sin’dorei to keep fighting.

There are protests beyond anything seen before, about the military, the Ghostlands, the lack of food, the lack of transparency, the fact that the palace was rebuilt but there are still refugees in Quel’danas and the ruined western quarter. Lor’themar is forced to hold emergency meetings with the military brass because of the risk of riots. Protests devolve angrily into pro- and anti-Horde camps, and the Sunreavers become public enemy number one for allowing the blood elves to be complicit in one of the worst war crimes in recent history. During all of this, Thalen Songweaver and Fanlyr Silverthorn… disappear.

Aethas is held accountable, of course, but even he has no idea where the pro-Garroshians have fled to. The Sunreavers are hastily disbanded and re-absorbed into the Magisters, and Lor’themar forced to allow a people’s assembly to be elected to negotiate with a power-sharing council to avoid such heinous misdemeanours being repeated again. Relations with the Horde tremble, even if briefly.

Eventually, to sate the public, Lor’themar begins negotiations with Vereesa to allow the Quel’dorei an embassy. Lady Liadrin is sent to aid Horde forces, with more golems than guards, because the guards need a face more than ever, and the golems weren’t helping the case. In public, the reason is to aid the war effort and the draenei whom the elves owe a debt to. In private, Lor’themar is desperate to recapture Songweaver and Silverthorn before their escape turns into another public scandal.

Theramore, Tides of War, and Missed Opportunities

(For those of you following me on twitter, this is going to sound a lot like a rant you may have heard.)

Warlords of Draenor is approaching. Slowly. Very slowly. Despite its lack of visible speed,t here is a notable release soon, and that’s the upcoming War Crimes novel, written by Christie Golden (responsible for Twilight of the Aspects, Arthas, Rise of the Horde, Tides of War, etcetera). This is a novel around Garrosh, though it purports to deal with a lot of the main faction leaders and the actions of the Horde in recent years.

This is an incredible opportunity to get a lot of story into the game before the expansion, and it mirrors an opportunity missed entirely two years ago when Mists of Pandaria was approaching. At that time, Tides of War was released, centring around Jaina Proudmoore in the build-up to an all-out war between the Horde and Alliance characterised by the brutal destruction of her home city, Theramore.

This missed opportunity played a massive role in the misrepresentation of Jaina in following patches and the misunderstanding of her by a lot of the player base as ‘evil’, ‘crazy’ and all those other tags which just get added onto characters in order to shove them onto the formerly-good-boss-character assembly line. It’s a worrying prospect that one of the most influential female characters in Warcraft and one of the characters with the most potential could accidentally be endbossed because of this.

Had the campaign leading up to and including the Battle for Theramore been properly included as a pre-launch quest chain, it would be much, much easier to understand Jaina’s sudden characterisation shift from an in-game perspective without having to rely on external lore.

There was so much missed out of Jaina’s in-game characterisation as a result of omitting the key aspects of this campaign. Horde players (unless they detour into the tower) do not see any of the relevant characters in the Battle for Theramore scenario, and it stands to reason that a large section of Horde-only players would not know who was there and who died at all. Similarly, Alliance players do not see any of the Horde leadership or minor characters involved in the campaign – in fact, neither faction sees more than Jaina, Kalec, Rhonin and Thalen Songweaver. You’d be surprised to learn that Garrosh was involved at all.

But an incredible amount of characterisation goes on during the battle. No players get to see the intrigue between Malkorok, Garrosh, Baine and Vol’jin. No one sees Jaina literally break down after the event (in fact, she’s fighting with steely determination in the scenario) because everyone in Theramore that she knew is dead.

Pained, her bodyguard, advisor, friend. Dead.
Tervosh, her right-hand Mage. Dead.
Kinndy, the apprentice that Jaina had had for a week. Dead.
And it goes on. Rhonin, dead, Marcus Johnathon, dead, warriors donated to Jaina by the Kirin Tor and Sha’tar, also dead.

Can you even imagine how devastating that would be to have one one person’s conscience? Jaina has to go for the rest of her life (and mages are longer-lived than most) knowing that everything she did for peace was in vain, that all of those lives were lost because she was the one person to think positively of the Horde. She had to tell Kinndy’s father that she had died under Jaina’s protection, she had to see Kinndy and Pained and Tervosh’s corpses shatter into dust because of the effects of the mana bomb.

All of her closest friends died and she didn’t get to say goodbye, she didn’t get a funeral, and quite likely she thought that it was all her fault for being too trusting. I defy anyone to think that, in that context, Jaina’s change of direction in Mists was a surprise.

And therein lies the problem. It’s not a surprise at all, but none of what I just said happened in game. A vast amount of the playerbase will know little to nothing about these events. And so, really, Jaina gets short shrift. She and Kalec are the only ones to survive that bombing, and the Alliance remains reluctant to stop the Horde being able to do it again. And it is not only understandable, but agreeable, that Jaina is so angry at the Horde and the Alliance.

There is, of course, an easy way to resolve this. All that needs to happen is a monologue, a speech, a couple of flashback quests where it is actually said what happened in full. This brings me onto War Crimes and its relevance in light of Warlords’ eventual launch.

Garrosh Hellscream is put on trial, a trial in which his and others’ past deeds are shown via the Bronze Dragonflight and the Timewalkers. This is a way to literally show any and every piece of relevant lore to the factional conflict in one place, and it oh so desperately needs to be used especially to show what happened at Theramore.

It wouldn’t be the launch that Theramore deserved to be a part of. There should have definitely been a 4.4 with players sent between the capital cities, seeing the molten giants crush the alliance keeps in the Barrens, seeing the intrigue, participating in the whole battle for Theramore, seeing every detail and all of the events that happened afterwards (there’s little reason that it couldn’t have incorporated several scenarios a la thunder isle) That would have been better, and it would have gone some way to silencing the ‘nothing but cute pandas’ naysayers with a dramatic bang to start off Mists.

Consider the opening cinematics of the Jade Forest that you see on either faction. They set the tone for the rest of the expansion, but with a successful pre-launch and a more detailed Battle for Theramore, they would have been appropriate, stoked the tension and integrated Pandaria into a theme which already was geared for factional conflict. In fact, I’d argue that the destruction of Theramore should have been a selling point of Mists at Blizzcon way more than it ended up being, as it would have tied the story in.

A missed opportunity, but as I will stress again, one that doesn’t need to be repeated with War Crimes and Warlords. There is still a a chance to use the Warlords pre-launch event to incorporate the important and wide-reaching plot of War Crimes in a way that the Theramore scenario and the Mists pre-launch failed entirely to, especially as Blizzard is more skilled now at integrating scenarios, questing and unique events into one experience.

We don’t yet know what happens in War Crimes. But Blizzard do, and they should definitely be using it in-game. They cannot create an engaging story if they keep the best story moments outside the game, and with Warlords taking longer than expected to hit beta, they need to be keeping players engaged by integrating the upcoming story into the game rather than waiting until Warlords hits and just having Anduin send us a letter saying ‘oops, Garrosh escaped when he was on trial, sorry you weren’t invited!’ Because, really, it would be a public trial.

This is Blizzard’s opportunity to stop wasting story by restricting it to novels and it is a method by which they can ease the criticism of Warlords so far – by showing that the story is worth it. And it’s going to be their only opportunity to do so. They can’t launch Warlords twice.

On Torture

The last war taught me a lot. Certainly more than I ever thought war would teach me. The importance of friends. Family. Unity among whole peoples is necessary if we are to ever develop. It’s what allowed the triumph over Garrosh and his forces.

But too many died, and unless we go forward as changed people, too many will keep dying. I have learned, at great cost, the importance of maintaining one’s calm and focus, and of the necessities of hope, humility, and mercy, even in the heat of the strongest battles.

Mercy and understanding. There have been those in the past that defied mercy, that took victory at all costs and revelled in death and pain. Some say that such people do not deserve mercy.

I disagree. Some have committed horrible crimes, and it is these crimes to which I turn next. But if we commit horrible acts on these criminals – what makes us different? How do we rise above them? How can we claim a moral high ground?

There is inspiration for these thoughts. Recently, as part of an operation wrapping up Garrosh’s crimes, the Convocation of Elrendar – the organisation to which I belong – began a search for the Arcweaver Genmal, who under Garrosh had led a project known as Grom’s Blood, which had created a brand of orcish supersoldier.

As resources had become scarce, these orcs had become increasingly volatile and unstable, with random powers and hugely shortened lifespans. A heightened agility and resistance to magic turned into vulnerability to fire, and hugely unpredictable forces.

The project had been closed after Garrosh’s defeat, but Genmal had fled before the assault on Orgrimmar had even begun, and taken refuge within a goblin corporation responsible for a slave-trade which supplied Genmal with orcish refugees in exchange for soldiers. Exposing this trade after a skirmish with Kor’kron loyalists took us from the Barrens to Booty Bay. Genmal’s creations littered Jaguero Isle and the Ruins of Zul’kunda. Hastily allying with defectors from the ethereal prince Lexxal (former supplier of the Crimson Hand) and a nationalist group of ex-Hellscream’s Reach soldiers, we uncovered Genmal’s hiding spot at the Crystalvein Mine.

While we cleared Zul’kunda of the remaining orcs and set about destroying Genmal’s work, the Reach instead set about the troublesome task of breaking into Genmal’s hiding place – an initiative that resulted in all their deaths.

Eventually, we captured Genmal. But the charges stacked high against him, easily as high as those of Sorlain.

Torture, given the immense physical pain his test subjects suffered – all unwilling after Garrosh’s power system collapsed. Murder, certainly, and coercion, and his support of Hellscream through his projects.

But what punishment do his crimes deserve? I am hesitant to call for death. To one who has done so much evil, death is a form of mercy, a form of vindication – the kind of people who commit these crimes do not care whether they live or die. Death will not make someone understand their trespass.

But we cannot just do to them as they do to us. I have learnt enough from Pandaria, from Garrosh, to know that such an option is never right. There needs to be a separation between judge and culprit, or the judge becomes just as guilty.

It’s disappointing to know that so few among my colleagues agree. That they would put Genmal through intense mental pain, intense physical pain and intense emotional pain all at once – and that they did so without hesitation in the heat of battle. In the aftermath, Genmal looks like any old orc war survivor – beaten, broken, aged.

But I have to live with the fact that, when faced with him, my colleagues crushed his creations – potentially redeemable orcs – to break his spirit. That they broke his legs with magma to stop him getting away. That they inflicted intense hallucinations of pain on him to drain him mentally.

It is unacceptable, and it is unforgivable that I did not stop them.

To move forward, we have to know that we are better than those we fight – and act like it. As horrifying as war is, I cannot excuse torture, even in the face of all the suffering Genmal inflicted on dozens of orcs who we were forced to kill out of mercy. Genmal does not understand his crimes. But making him understand through making him a victim of similar crimes? How can anyone condone that?

So I am resolved. I was resolved when I left Booty Bay to find Liferoot to make into a poultice for Genmal’s legs. I was resolved when I induced sleep to try and ease his pain. And I will be resolved in resisting every attempt to further harm him.

I will not be damned to repeat the crimes I fought so hard against, and I will not let my friends and colleagues damn themselves by partaking in these crimes – or by looking the other way. If we ever learn anything from war, it must be how to improve.

Otherwise, what did we fight for?

Uprising: Silence

So cold. I drifted in and out of consciousness as we trekked across the frozen wastes.

~~~

Hellscream has fallen. Why continue?

Starving, starving, starving. The scream of the dead echo within my own head. It is my soul that they want next.

Sithrial, dear one, am I dead yet? Can I not be with you?

Darkness and torment. Hammer clashes with Stars in the Dragonlands. I am not there. They cannot hear me screaming.

Why are you here, Sorlain? Why have you not given up? We forgive you. Just come back.

A hundred brothers and sisters fall in the night. And their blood becomes the earth. And the earth becomes angry at us. So angry. I can feel it beneath my feet, beneath the cold, cold snow. The earth is cold too. But its anger is warmth.

And death heaps upon death? Why? What is there to gain? We have already sacrificed the new world of peace thrice-over to feed our children. Still they starve, silent, in the streets, and the Magisters paint their windows and fill their rooms with concubines so that they may ignore it.

A thousand swords cut down ten-thousand lives, and the Jarathi take up knitting with the remains. For there are no cotton plants in Quel’thalas. And winter grows closer, as we cut our own race to pieces, now, to make blankets with which to rock ourselves to sleep.

I can see the light in your eyes, Khairan, and it goes out faster than Feytan’s. For he has only had a taste of what you have known all your life. Oblivion. And you can see it approaching, and you are scared. And only now do I hear you, as it calls to me.

False titles, false houses, false powers of a false age. The truth is coming. And no one is ready in Silvermoon.

More death, but I do not understand why. The war is over.

More death, but I do not understand why. Let us live. Let us go home.

More death. But now by my hand. And I do not understand how. Am I angry? Am I vengeful? Am I defending myself?

No. I have become a machine.

I must fight. I must fight the fighting. I must cease fighting.

So much death for so little reason and you have played me like a puppet, Talanore.

But I hear you. I can hear everything now. I can hear the earth. And the earth is tired. Tired of anger. It wishes to sleep.

And I wish to sleep. But I cannot. So I shall stop the fighting.

No more, Sorlain. No more. You will stand helpless as your soldiers desert and your palaces of blood collapse around you, and we shall stop listening to the world that you do not deserve to have at your whim as it dismantles itself. Long live Hellscream. In a cage as Vol’jin forces him to learn the true path of honour.

Long live Jarath. As he is forced to make right every crime against every innocent troll he made soldiers commit.

Long live Khairan, for he has realised his crime but he shall never stop punishing himself more than any torture, any execution, any cry of a dead mother can.

Long life to you, Sorlain, for I shall sit outside your cell every sunrise and every sunset, forcing you to watch a world that exists without you, until you understand what it means to be a part of it.

This, I vow. For all those that are dead, as only now do I understand their deaths.

Uprising: The Chase

The trail of the Crimson Hand stretched distantly across the savage wilds of western Pandaria, most of them having escaped via the Gate of the Setting Sun long prior to our skirmish with Lareen. It was several days before we were fit to travel, and none too soon. Everyone was feeling on-edge from the intense concentration of nearby Sha, yet it was all we could do to stop the slow boil of emotions. I was intensely angry at Taleberaite, who (it seemed) was nigh-constantly commenting on my apparent sluggishness during the battle. Tuning people out is not as easy as you could hope when the Sha are constantly whispering at you.

Who is he to question you? He was not there.

After a couple of last-minute preparations, our motley crew set off on our way to the Townlong Steppes, where we had been called to reinforce and retrieve a straggler’s group of Sunreavers who had been caught in the southern Steppes by a sudden surge in the activity of the previously-waning Mantid swarm.

The Steppes, though not altogether peaceful, were a quaint getaway. Despite this, it seemed to exist within a time bubble, and the Shado-pan we met (themselves rather drained both in terms of strength and numbers) seemed to act as though we were still members of the Horde. Which, given the Regent Lord’s activity on the Thunder Isle prior to the Rebellion, could be forgiven. A stray mantid attack gained us both passage and the knowledge that the mantid were under some kind of forced control similar to the Swarm. The Shado-pan, however, informed us that due to the pivotal role of the Empress (who was, by this point, totally dead) it could not be a Swarm – and that someone must be meddling.

It did not take us long to decipher that Sorlain had gotten very involved with the mantid, and several further attacks as well as the kidnap of the Sunreaver platoon by mantid confirmed this entirely. Despite our speed, we recovered only a handful of intact Sunreavers, most of whom were suffering from an all-too-familiar remnant of Amaran’s reign over the Convocation. Mind-wipes.

The Sunreavers we recovered had little to no memories of their families, their history, the history of Quel’thalas or indeed the colours of Silvermoon City. They rolled off impeccably the lists of spiels about fighting for honor, glory, the Horde, the Hand, but they could not quantify any of what they were proclaiming as easily as breathing. Thus began a long struggle among our number to attempt to reverse these wipes, which led to the conclusion that Sorlain’s methods had significantly developed in the time between the battle against the Eclipse and now. The Eclipse whose methods Sorlain seemed to have picked up rather well.

We’re doomed. How can we hope to survive? We’re unorganised, split down the middle and weaker than them.

We still have ourselves.

We pushed further in, liberating what we could from the Mantid camps, and after a rather worrying episode where I ended up pointing a fireball at him in my anger, Taleberaite took a leave of absence to go purchase a cloud serpent. After that, my own troubled emotions seemed to relent for a while.

~~~

Around a week passed between the Sunreaver capture and our arrival on the northern hem of the Dread Wastes, poised to head inwards and find Sorlain.

We were merely a few minutes in when a figure appeared from out of the sickly undergrowth. Soon enough, the rather familiar poise of the camouflaged master archer Thialen became apparent.

As it turned out, we were both on-course to try and confront/apprehend/kill Sorlain, so Thialen accompanied us as we travelled to the only Pandaren encampment in the northern Wastes, the Sunset Brewgarden. From there, things became a blur of experimental sonic technology, tracking the movements of the Hand, warding ourselves against the Sha and pinpointing the location of the mantid.

The Hand left before we could catch them, but at the very least, we managed to eliminate the sonic transmitter within Klaxxi’vess that the Hand had repurposed to draw the mantid to Garrosh’s cause.

~~~

Our escapades in Pandaria over for the foreseeable future, we gained passage back to Kalimdor from a servant of Edanna’s household named Banthomil and his crew. A brief and interesting stop on a mid-ocean island inhabited by remnants of the Darkspear tribe (whom we managed to convince to join Vol’jin’s cause) followed, and we eventually arrived back in Durotar.

Intelligence suggested that the Crimson Hand had set up its headquarters in northern Azshara, yet neither the Rebellion nor the Alliance currently had a foothold there due to Bilgewater’s support for the Horde and the focus of the Kaldorei on Ashenvale. Thus, to find Sorlain, we would have to enter Azshara ourselves.

I am not quite sure where our resultant plan to avoid the Kor’kron came from, but suffice it to say that it involved sailing up the Southfury River in some illusion-disguised canoes.

All things considered, it went remarkably well until the Kor’kron noticed us, caused our boats to capsize with gunfire, and made us lose some supplies and several troops.

I called upon my own stored mana, dispelling our illusion by pulling a rather large water elemental into being in order to save our journey. Unfortunately, we were then set upon by a group of Crimson Hand soldiers and a construct, all of whom quite literally teleported out of nowhere. As a bombardment began against the others, I quickly teleported to the eastern shore, scrabbling up into the abandoned base of Talrendis. Empty. Except for…

‘A bloodcrystal.’ The sound of arrowfire mirrored by own realisation and I ducked, rolling to my right and turning to see a single raven-haired elf, a slight sneer on her face. Others were undoubtedly in the shadows.

‘Surrender and I will give you a clean death.’ Obviously one of Sorlain’s commanders. I judged, quickly, and shot a bolt of arcane energy at the bloodcrystal fragment. It shattered into useless red shards, and Boughstrider loosed an arrow, piercing my arm before Edanna teleported me back.

We Need a Rest

It can’t just be me thinking that.

Wars are predisposed to end over time. Resources run low, places run down, people run out.

The Legion. The Scourge. The Hammer. The Horde.

Great threats that Azeroth has suffered through and defeated – but we are coming perilously close to running out. We may just be one war from it being us collapsing, rather than the enemy.

In the course of an expansion, there are always deaths. The occasional major character, several minor characters, a settlement or two – nothing severe. Nothing that can’t be recovered. The issue here is that those are on-screen deaths – and off-screen numbers are quite different.

There may be 5.4 spoilers ahead.

The easiest way for me to cover this is to go through it on a group-by-group basis. As the original set of protagonists, we’ll start with the Alliance, and that of course means we start with Stormwind.

Stormwind. Or, as it should really be called, New Stormwind. It’s a settlement that’s only twenty years old, though that is older than a lot of the others right now. I say New Stormwind because the original was of course totally destroyed by the orcs. Despite the large amount of refugees that fled to Lordaeron, the outlying kingdom was decimated by the Horde, and there must have been a large population hit.

Let’s move on to the Second and Third Wars, and extrapolate from Stormwind to all of humanity. All things considered, Stormwind had it easier than the rest of humanity. A majority of Lordaeron was killed during the Third War. The Alliance itself ransacked Alterac and turned it into a wasteland, its surviving inhabitants forced into banditry. And they’re dead now, too. Dalaran was destroyed by Archimonde himself, and also took a large population hit. No one has heard from Kul Tiras in decades, but it was also hit by the Scourge and the Shattering according to some sources. Stromgarde is abandoned and does not even have a transient population, never mind a permanent one. Gilneas had its northern lands cut off by Scourge, went through a famine, civil war, the Worgen curse and were attacked by the Forsaken. It’s a given that the population of Gilneas dropped also, especially considering its comparative backwardness to the rest of humanity.

So, even before the beginning of World of Warcraft, humanity has been massively reduced from seven city-states to two. Let’s cover more recent events. The surviving members of Lordaeron (the subcontinent) have all been absorbed as refugees into the rebuilt Stormwind and the new state of Theramore. There’s been a sufficient chance for some population growth in what has been five years of peace (aside from that orcish occupation of Theramore when Daelin tried to attack Orgrimmar).

Except the King of Stormwind goes missing for two to three years, setting in motion a chain of events that results in Stormwind losing direct control over all its provinces, a huge bandit organisation is waging guerilla warfare against the capital from Westfall (which they entirely control), Blackrock orcs and dragons are making incursions into Redridge, undead and worgen are rising in Duskwood, and a human colony in Stranglethorn completely goes insane.

So that puts paid to anything that was accomplished in the last five years. But there is some good news when Dalaran is re-established – and then it ends up in a war with the Blue Dragonflight, and is forced to accept Horde forces into the city so that it remains strong enough to win.

Oh, and then in the Shattering, we find out that over 50,000 Alliance service members die during the Northrend campaign. This is an almost exclusively human number, because the Alliance’s army in Northrend was almost exclusively human. So Stormwind has another population drop, which is mirrored when humans leave in droves to join the Twilight Hammer, and many more go to die in the war against the Horde. And then Theramore gets blown up, and humanity is back down to two city-states.

Humanity was, upon the eve of the First War, the most widespread and most populous race on the planet. More than the Pandaren, more than the Trolls, more than the Elves. But humans have been in freefall since.

This post is already far longer than I anticipated. Let’s move onto the dwarves.

Compared to the humans, the dwarves haven’t actually lost that many forces recently. Well – the Bronzebeard clan hasn’t. The Civil War, three centuries ago, would have killed a few, but easily recoverable – except for Grim Batol. And Thaurissan. Both cities were wrecked during the attack the Dark Irons made later. The Dark Irons would go on to lose even more forces to the fury of Ragnaros, and the split after the Shattering which saw only around half of the clan’s members return to Ironforge. There is a parallel here’s with the Wildhammers, as although Aerie Peak has been fairly stable, the clans within the Highlands were decimated.

It’s quite poignant that despite having three clans and some gnomes in a city that three hundred years ago was barely big enough for one, Ironforge shows no signs of overpopulation. In fact, it’s quite comfortable.

Next up are the gnomes. This is fairly simple, because it concerns one event: the Trogg Invasion of Gnomeregan, which resulted in numerous deaths, and countless more to the ensuing radiation (the manual states that around 80% of the race died). Despite their amazing technological contributions to the Alliance army, the gnomish race today is only a fraction of what it was before the Second War. I’d estimate that they all could live in New Tinkertown, never mind Gnomeregan, without problems.

Then there are the Night Elves. Though they no longer have the largest empire in the world, the population of this race was fairly consistent up until the Third War, when they did indeed experience some deaths due to owning the only place that the Burning Legion invaded. Felwood was corrupted, Nordrassil exhausted, Ashenvale was wrecked by Mannoroth and Cenarius was killed by Grom Hellscream. But the Night Elves, like the humans, got a chance to rebuild. And then the orcs started logging Ashenvale, setting in motion a decade-long conflict that is probably the biggest long-term factor in the occurrence of the war we see in Mists of Pandaria.

The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj reopened, and the Kaldorei contributed their forces. In the Northrend campaign, they also contributed, but the biggest effect on the Night Elves came with the Shattering. Darkshore was annihilated. Hyjal literally burned. Hellscream expanded into Ashenvale. And the Kaldorei began to take a more prominent role in Alliance politics (in that they actually started showing up to meetings). The existence of the Druids of the Flame as a backlash to the doormat policy of Tyrande and Malfurion shows just how much war impacted upon them. As a race that lost their immortality just ten years ago, the Night Elves have not yet adapted. For ten thousand years, they did not need to worry so much about the future or about whether they were having enough children. Now they do.

The Draenei are fairly self-explanatory. 95% of an already small race were wiped out by an act of demon-induced genocide. Now, their population is split across two planets. Of all the races on Azeroth, they are the most thinly-stretched.

And that roughly concludes the Alliance. I’d like to wrap them up with one point that I hope has more impact than the giant list of deaths.

Stormwind is the largest surviving city on Azeroth. It contains refugees from every nation in the Alliance and every defunct nation that was in the Alliance. It is the heart of the Alliance: economically, culturally and militarily. And yet it has not increased in size in thirty years. The Stormwind of today is the same size as the Stormwind of Adamant Wrynm III. To put that into perspective, four generations ago. Stormwind is on the brink of industrialisation, it is a magical hub, it is a naval superpower – but its population is no different. If anything, its population has fallen.

Onto the Horde, and first of all, the orcs.

Unlike just about every nation of the Alliance, the orcs have never actually mastered agriculture. Prior to the Wars, they were hunter-gatherers. They probably kept some livestock, but there was never any farming. There was hunting and shamanism. So from the start, there was never a high orcish population because they wouldn’t have had any food surpluses. Years of ‘take, take, take’ followed, and this trend continues right up until the present. The orcs still cannot farm. They cannot cultivate the land, grow crops, sustain their population without help or a rich land. This explains why the race was never unified.

I’m talking about this because there’s less coverage of just how many orcs have died during the course of Warcraft – though they have been defeated twice, neither time has there been a large act of vengeance or retribution. The orcs were imprisoned in the aftermath of the Second War, but after Garrosh’s fall they are left mainly intact.

However, the nature of the orcish race inherently caps their population at a certain level until they master their own agriculture. They cannot live off the hands of the Tauren forever, especially now that the blood debt is paid. As the backbone of the Horde’s military, the Orcs have suffered similarly to the human forces of the Alliance in the four most recent conflicts – but they possess no infrastructure for recovering their population like the humans can.

The Tauren, while now settled, spent most of their existence as separate tribes (to the point where they evolved into three different races). United only by a hatred of centaur, the Shu’halo of Kalimdor were (to quote Wowpedia) on the brink of extinction when Thrall offered them aid.

The brink of extinction. Which the Tauren have moved closer to since the end of the Third War.

The tribes of the Thousand Needles have been wiped out. Mulgore has been tainted, and probably now produces less supplies, limiting the population growth. The Grimtotem tribe has suffered heavy losses, and the Tauren made considerable losses in the Barrens. Furthermore, the sister races – the yaungol and taunka – both have minuscule populations in comparison. The yaungol are all but extinct after the events of Mists of Pandaria. The taunka lived in the coldest place in the world, where they had to enslave the elements just to survive.

The story of the trolls is another of extinction and terrible losses. The Darkspear probably sent as many sacrifices to Hakkar as all the other jungle tribes before they were exiled – being a small tribe anyway, the events of the Broken Isles and the Echo Isles have further weakened them. It’s amazing that they were able to create a rebellion at all.

In terms of the greater troll race, deaths abound. The Drakkari Empire collapsed. The Gurubashi had to be saved from Hakkar by the Zandalari. The Amani were humiliated by several defeats by Quel’thalas, despite the elves being in their weakest state in millennia. Zandalar itself sank beneath the ocean.

The Forsaken – it is hard to say, but it’s probably more sustainable than any other race. You don’t need to wait several months to raise a dead body. Forsaken expansion suggests that their population can handle it, but they might start running out of corpses soon. They’re a race that naturally tends towards extinction anyway, as they are unable to reproduce. Who can say what would happen if Sylvanas ran out of Val’kyr?

The blood elves have had some of the largest population losses. 90% of their race was killed by the Scourge and the ensuing withdrawal, and while the RPG states that 9% of the remnant became Sin’dorei with 1% staying Quel’dorei, in-game it looks like Blizzard is trying to portray them as evenly-matched. Both have lost forces in the Nexus War, in the retaking of the Sunwell, during the Dalaran Incident and the Offensive on the Thunder Isle. The entire race lives comfortably in a small part of the city with massive empty space.

The goblins, like everyone else, have suffered massive losses. Kezan was destroyed, and only one cartel is currently known to have escaped in time. Imagine how many goblins were left behind.

However, goblins breed like rabbits, and they can have incredibly dense populations. They may be able to bounce back easily if there are enough resources.

With the two primary factions covered, I feel it’s necessary to use some heavily biased examples before moving on.

The mantid race has a lower population than ever before. The Klaxxi have been obliterated, the Empress is dead, the swarm has collapsed and the heir is not old enough to take over.

The Nerubians were almost all exterminated by the Scourge during the War of the Spider.

The Pandaren have gone through an unprecedented period of turmoil, as have the jinyu and hozen, and all have lost parts of their population and larger parts of their lands.

The Tol’vir have gone from three tribes to one. There are so few surviving Orsisi and Neferset that they’re unlikely to recover soon, if at all.

There are more examples, but I feel I have made it quite clear. The last ten years, the last thirty years, the last century – they have held enormous numbers of deaths, on a scale and range not seen since the War of the Ancients. Towns, cities, kingdoms, empires destroyed.

We have had no chance to recover. Bear in mind that each expansion takes up an approximate year, lore-wise, and you see that the events of World of Warcraft do not stretch over ten years but five. It’s been just a decade since the end of the Third War.

My point – my long, ridiculous point – is that we need a rest. The defenders of Azeroth need a rest. The cities and factions and peoples of Azeroth need a rest. The druids and the shaman, the priests and the warriors, the dead and the living. If we do not have a rest soon, we will run out of people. Whole races will start collapsing and going extinct.

As much as Azeroth has gotten stronger, even though it has repulsed all the Lords of the Burning Legion, war cannot go on forever. There needs to be a proper period for rebuilding, for regrouping, regrowth and repair.

Obviously, that is not something that would make an enthralling expansion in a game like this. There needs to be a fight of some kind, a purpose that can be easily converted into raid boss form.

I’m not entirely sure how, but the best solution for this is a time skip. A year, five years, fifty – it doesn’t matter. But it’s not going to be long until the threats become insurmountable, until the losses become irrevocable, and the clash between game and lore becomes inexplicable.