Orillion Starsurge; Leader of the Awakened Mind
Zin'Alah Spire, Northrend
"Ten thousand years ago...the Highborne lived here in prosperity. We considered ourselves above the common ranks of the other night elves. With our every need met by magic and wealth, we led lives of indulgence and amusement. And greed..."
The Highborne (Quel'Dorei, meaning "children of noble birth" in Darnassian and "high elves" in Thalassian) were the upper classes of the kaldorei civilization and the favored servitors of Queen Azshara. The Highborne were largely responsible for the War of the Ancients, and most of those Highborne who had allied with the demons and survived the war were turned into satyrs or became the naga. Those that allied with the Kaldorei Resistance before the last battle of the war found themselves exiled from Kalimdor, and eventually became the high elves of the Eastern Kingdoms.
Although to this day there are surviving Highborne, they are not treated as nobility by modern night elf society, and in practical terms the caste ceased to exist over ten millennia ago. One notable exception are the Shen'dralar, a holdout group against the Burning Legion during the War of the Ancients. They were able to defend Eldre'Thalas (now known as Dire Maul) but in doing so became isolated from the rest of night elven society throughout the Long Vigil. However, after the Cataclysm, the Shen'dralar under leadership of archmage Mordent Evenshade negotiated successfully to rejoin their kaldorei brethren in Teldrassil.
Background and history Edit
The Highborne were the upper classes of the ancient kaldorei civilization, at first a nameless caste made up of night elves who had unusual intelligence, strength, skills, or wealth and thus found favor with the ruling monarch. Their vast arrogance and greed, garish and multicolored clothing, and decadent habits did not endear them to other night elves. In fact, these powerful families became convinced that they were superior to the rest of their race, and so they began to call themselves the Highborne. As a member of the same caste, the queen Azshara approved of the term and made it official. Plumbing the depths of the great Well of Eternity for knowledge they discovered primitive magic; and as time passed, they distanced themselves from the lower castes and began using their rank to selfishly guard their magical power, restricting access to the magical Well of Eternity to only themselves.
The access of arcane magic to the ruling caste began to split the kaldorei was hereditary; families that belonged to the highest caste frequently arranged marriages so as to maximize the magical ability of their offspring. This selective breeding, combined with frequent access to the Well of Eternity, resulted in night elves with progressively stronger magical abilities and greater understanding of how to use those skills.
A kaldorei without Highborne blood — such as Illidan Stormrage — could master arcane power if he so wished (and had access to it). In fact, the mastering of the arcane arts was common among the populace, resulting in organizations such as the Moon Guard, the official military sorcerers.
Twelve-thousand years ago, the ancient Highborne used the Pillars of Creation to seal a wound in the earth and built the Temple of Elune in Suramar over it
The War of the Ancients Edit
Over time, the ever-more reckless use of magic by the Highborne and their queen led to their slow corruption and addiction to the power it granted, and the ripples sent into the Twisting Nether attracted the dread forces of the Burning Legion to Azeroth. The unlimited magical power offered by the demon lords seduced the queen and many of her servitors, and they agreed to grant the Legion entrance to Azeroth. Finally, giving themselves over to magic’s inevitable corruption, the Highborne fell to darkness and began to worship the Dark Titan, Sargeras, as their god. Some, led by Xavius, gave themselves wholly over to the service of the Legion and were transformed by fel magic into the satyr.
To cement their dark pact, the ecstatic Highborne opened a great, swirling portal within the depths of the Well of Eternity which would allow the armies of the Legion access to the world, followed by Sargeras himself. In the cataclysmic war that followed millions died as the demons swarmed over the lands of Kalimdor and laid siege to the lesser night elves’ sleeping cities, leaving only ash and sorrow in their wake. Though the brave kaldorei warriors rallied from the heinous betrayal of their rulers and rushed to defend their ancient homeland, they were forced to give ground, inch by inch, before the fury of the Legion’s onslaught. The Legion was finally foiled by the efforts of the night elf Malfurion Stormrage, who in his battle with Queen Azshara collapsed the Well of Eternity, killing many Highborne and condemning those who survived to the sea floor where they were transformed into the serpentine naga by the mysterious Old Gods.
After the Storm Edit
Yet many Highborne did not meet their fate at the bottom of the sea. Some had betrayed their queen at the last minute, having realized the horrors she would unleash upon the world. These defectors had fled the capital city of Zin-Azshari, site of the Well, and were thereby spared when the Great Sundering tore Kalimdor apart. Others remained hidden away in far-flung strongholds such as Eldre'Thalas.
Those who had joined with the rest of their shattered peoples fled the rising waters of the Great Sea, eventually arriving at the base of Mount Hyjal, where they helped to rebuild the night elven civilization in the newly reshaped world. They were not entirely welcome: the night elves, now led by Malfurion, reviled Queen Azshara's former servants and were doubtful of their loyalty. Still, without the Well to supply their magic, the Highborne were considered little threat, and were permitted to rejoin night elven society.
However, many felt the pangs of their magical addiction and were tempted to use the power of a new Well of Eternity created by Illidan Stormrage, who from then on would be termed "the Betrayer" for his terrible crime. Though the use of arcane magic was forbidden on pain of death, the Highborne foolishly attempted to convince the kaldorei race of the power of magic by unleashing a magical storm uponAshenvale. Their desperate gambit failed, and the Highborne were exiled; the night elves mercifully refusing to execute any more of their brethren.
The high elves of Quel'Thalas Edit
These exiled Highborne, now known as the high elves, took their punishment in stride, and led by Dath'Remar Sunstrider ("He who walks the day") set sail across the ocean in hopes of finding a new land to call their own. After a long and perilous journey, the Highborne arrived in the land known today as Lordaeron, and there established their kingdom of Quel'Thalas ("high kingdom" or "high home") and crowned Dath'Remar their king. There, they slowly changed in form, diminishing in size and losing their original purple skin to a pinkish hue. They abandoned the worship of the moon, adopting instead the sun, and became the high elves. From a vial of water from the original Well, they created a new one, the Sunwell, to serve as their source of magic. They remembered the mistakes of the past and used Runestones to shield their use of the arcane from the Burning Legion, taking care to practice the magic granted to them by their Sunwell with more care than their ancestors. Nevertheless, after their homeland of Quel'Thalas — and the source of their power — was destroyed by the undead Scourge, a radical group of high elves embraced their Highborne ancestry and resumed for the third time their reckless use of magic. Kael'thas Sunstrider renamed these people "blood elves", and traveled to Outland with Illidan to find a way to fuel their magical addiction. Those who did not travel with him remained behind and began to rebuild their shattered capital city of Silvermoon.
The Maelstrom, a large and violent magical storm that rages over the ocean, formed above the ocean at this location. Azshara and many of her kaldorei followers sank to the seaﬂoor with their city. It was Azshara's quick thinking that saved them: she managed to make a pact with the Old Gods, swearing loyalty to them to survive. They were cursed and became the naga, serpentlike, water-breathing creatures. Their men and women diverged in appearance, physicality and mindset.
When the naga awakened, they set about building a new life for themselves on the ocean depths, and within the abyssal sea trench beneath the swirling waters of the Maelstrom they built their new city, Nazjatar. Azshara herself expanded with hate and rage, becoming a massive monstrosity, reflecting the wickedness and malice that had always hidden within her core. For 10,000 years, these elves of the abyss dwelt in a dark and powerful empire. Pagodas and balconies line the deep trenches, glimmering lights picking out the shapes of cities in the cold black. Sinuous figures drift and twist along the passageways, their elven origins difficult to discern. Over the time the naga tamed some native creatures (like snap dragons and dragon turtles to use in warfare, studied arcane magic and clashed with the sea giants and makrura, whose capital Mak'aru is in the same neighborhood. Transformed into the monstrous naga, the former night elves found they were able to survive the ocean's depths. Even so, the naga knew they had little chance of reclaiming the lands that the Highborne had once dominated. Bitterly resentful at their enforced banishment to the sea, they resolved to bide their time until they could retake their rightful place in the surface world. There in the depths of the ocean for ten thousand years te naga plotted their revenge against the night elves.
Not all the Highborne lived in Zin-Azshari, despite their obsession with the Well of Eternity. For a variety of political or personal reasons, certain members of the nobility opted to live outside the capital city. Moreover, not all night elves (or other races of Kalimdor) joined the main force of night elf defenders. Such holdouts were not necessarily resistant to the idea of joining their compatriots. Indeed, it seems likelier that these small pockets of resistance had heard nothing of the primary defending force and were unaware of the demonic invasion's massive scope. The Shen'dralar were one of these holdout groups.
The Shen'dralar were Queen Azshara's most revered arcanists, charged with the storage and safekeeping of her most precious tomes. Within the walls of Eldre'Thalas the Queen's most important demands were processed - often in secret. Led by Prince Tortheldrin, the Shen'dralar dutifully obeyed their queen. They journeyed into the misty heart of Kalimdor's southern jungles and established a grand city called Eldre'Thalas.
The Shen'dralar defended their city as best they could during the War of the Ancients. As legend has it, it is said that the Ancient Goldrinn came to their aid to help them defend their city against the Burning Legion.
When the Great Sundering later decimated the world, Eldre'Thalas narrowly escaped destruction. Only the efforts of Tortheldrin and his followers spared the city. Together, they wove a great spell to shield Eldre'Thalas from the destructive forces of the Sundering. Although they had saved their city, then Shen'dralar soon discovered that the Well of Eternity had been consumed in the Sundering. Without the fount of power to draw on, Tortheldrin and his followers saw their immortality greatly diminihed. The Shen'dralar soon fell into a deep lethargy and languished in their isolated sanctuary.
Tortheldrin eventually formulated a plan to revitalize the Shen'dralar. He forged pylons in the halls of the west wing of Eldre'Thalas, constructing a prison to house a new source of power behind a grand force field: a demon named Immol'thar. To the shock of the other Shen'dralar, Tortheldrin had covertly summoned and bound the terrifying creature to siphon the demon's power and give it to his followers. Any objections were quickly settled once the other Shen'dralar experienced the demon's energy for themselves. Though dark and volatile, Immol'thar's power was invigorating and addictive, more so than the Well of Eternity had been. The siphoned energies would sustain the Highborne's magic, allowing those within the walls of Eldre'Thalas to feed their endless and growing magical pangs. Had the demon broken free of its bonds, it would have destroyed what little was left of Eldre'Thalas
The Awakened Mind Edit
Recently, the thalassian regiment known as the Sunguard have engaged in small armed conflicts with highborne partisans led by the Moon Guard Orillion Starsurge. While one battle ended in blood, on their second encounter the Highborne wished to work with their Sin'dorei cousins. They are known to live within a physical manifestation of the ley-lines, but also within the haunted vales of Dor'Surma. Their population is largely unknown and very hidden.