Cruel and mystic eyes stare out from the surface of the bas-relief, made even more forbidding by the sanctum's darkness. Energy dances on razor-sharp fingers, the scowling face promising destruction. It is not the Gu'jomb that I had known, but memorials seldom concern themselves with accuracy. The late troll mage lives on in stone, symbolizing a new era.
"Old Gu'jomb would laugh at this," sighed Daj'yah. She and Uthel'nay were eager to show me the most recent temple complex standing at the edge of the Valley of Spirits. Dedicated to the Loa Bethekk, stone panthers pace and hunt along its walls and stairways. Arcanists of myth and history hold court on the sanctuary walls atop the ziggurat, looking down on a stone altar laden with candles and incense.
"He'd be honored," disagreed Uthel'nay.
"Since he tried so mighty hard to make himself the terror of Stranglethorn," she scoffed. "He looks like he is wanting to blast your head off in this picture."
"What is the matter with you, Daj'yah? With this everyone will remember him as mighty, makes him strong among the spirits."
"I remember him as a wise man, and I think that's how he'd fancy being remembered."
"I agree, actually," I interjected. "The artwork is exquisite, however," I added, as a concession to Uthel'nay. The alien majesty of traditional troll art has undergone a subtle change in the new temples at Orgrimmar, the artisans adding hints of motion to the figures. A new art is being born there, influenced by orc and human styles.
I did little for the first week of my return, content to enjoy the rough sounds of the city. Orgrimmar's sky, marred by smoke but free of demonic foulness, had never before looked so welcome. I soon resumed my duties at the Darkbriar Lodge, which had doubled in size during my absence. Though still distrusted among rural trolls, arcanists enjoy some respect in the Valley of the Spirits. Mages are less common in Kalimdor than they are in the Eastern Kingdoms, especially in the Horde, and the Darkspear Tribe is quite happy to capitalize on this situation.
Magic is not the only field in which the trolls enrich themselves. Stranglethorn Vale's newfound stability has opened up a veritable gold mine. The Zul'Gurub War destroyed the faith and culture of the Stranglethorn Tribes, and many are content to accept some degree of Darkspear leadership. The fact that the Zandalar backs the Darkspear Tribe's efforts is another important factor in this unexpected acquiescence. Rubber, banana, and coffee plantations now dot the jungles, usually run by the Bloodscalp and Skullsplitter Tribes, who receive most of the profits. The Darkspear benefit from distributing the products to markets throughout Azeroth and, now, even Outland. While the Darkspear does not get much money from any one plantation, the fact that they handle distribution for so many has made them quite wealthy.
As the trolls grow rich, the orcs wrestle with the cultural shock presented by their Outland kindred. Visiting Mag'har warriors now swagger down the boulevards, bristling with weapons and pride. They introduce a disruptive element, being quicker than most to defend their honor with violence. No one has yet died at the hands of the Mag'har, but some fear it is only a matter of time.
Some warriors hail the Mag'har as heroes, forming a veritable cult around the notables of their ranks. Others hold their Outland cousins in disgust. Peons most often find themselves the victims of Mag'har arrogance, made to grovel in the dust for imagined infractions. Controversy erupted when one peon, a miner named Olgor who'd returned from a year of service in Outland, refused to debase himself. Native warriors intervened in time to prevent bloodshed, but the news became the talk of Orgrimmar. To his everlasting credit, Olgor bravely stood by his position, backed by warriors from the relatively tolerant Bloodeye War-Pack. Their Ebonflint rivals sided with the Mag'har, as did many of the peons. Alarmists warned of riots, but nothing happened beyond a few isolated brawls.
The authorities settled the matter by sending the offended Mag'har to Northrend (where he had intended to eventually go), and giving Olgor a large farm on the frontier. Olgor was happy to accept, and the matter died down, the orcs seemingly reluctant to discuss it. Thrall did not say anything about the issue, a fact that many found strange. Northrend is foremost in the Warchief's mind, as Alliance and Horde forces prepare to establish footholds on the icy continent from which to strike at the heart of the Scourge.
The world beyond Orgrimmar has changed as much as the city.
Kael'thas' betrayal shook Quel'thalas to its core. Still, many positive developments now come from that troubled land. Redeemed by the Naaru, the Sin'dorei no longer commit the ultimate blasphemy of draining those celestial glories for power. A new Sunwell gives them the strength they need, treating though not curing their mana addiction. Zul'aman's resurgence was struck down as quickly as it arose, the ancient citadels looted and emptied by bandits. Only through the heroism of Horde operatives (mostly trolls) were the ancient libraries spared from the flame. Today, many of the priceless Amani codices rest safely in the Darkbriar library.
An uneasy peace now reigns in the continent of Lordaeron. For now, Forsaken and human alike are content to leave each other alone, though no one thinks this situation will last forever. The humans of Southshore will not soon forget the recent bloodshed in the Hillsbrad Foothills, and cannot rest easy as long as the Forsaken occupy Tarren Mill. I believe that the Horde is obliged to surrender Tarren Mill, but I do not think that the Forsaken authorities will ever agree to this.
Though far from cleansed, the Plaguelands are at least free from Scourge dominance. Combined forces of the Argent Dawn and Brotherhood of Light, alongside Horde and Alliance partisans, annihilated the Scourge fortresses and crippled the Scarlet Crusade. Much of the Dawn is leaving for Northrend, leaving the Eastern Plaguelands in the capable hands of the Brotherhood. Many in the Brotherhood are Dromascoi, the eastern tribesmen of old Lordaeron, and speak of reestablishing their ancient nation.
Long a staple of idle speculation, the status of Dalaran has progressed from rumor to fact. The Kirin Tor, in a feat of magic without equal in known history, rebuilt the core of the old city and transported it to a leyline nexus in Northrend. Even more surprising was the news of their secession from the Alliance. Dalaran still controls its old territory, though few people live there. Further south, a renewed Stromgarde works to rebuild itself. The Hinterlands are nearly unchanged from when I visited.
Moira Bronzebeard, the daughter of King Magni, was discovered to be the willing consort of Dark Iron emperor Dagrun Thaurissan. Dwarven adventurers killed the emperor (rumor has it they also abjured his fiery deity) and returned a pregnant Moira to Ironforge, throwing Khaz Modan into turmoil. Legal experts pore over ancient texts, trying to find a precedent for the unprecedented. No one yet knows if the child will be placed in succession. Considering that King Magni seems to delegate more power to the senate every week, it may not matter. Khaz Modan's satellite of Menethil Harbor, on the other hand, is finally enjoying a degree of stability and prosperity.
Free of mutants but not of poison, Gnomeregan is far from reclaimed. A few gnomes live on the upper levels, where they busy themselves with repairs and maintenance. Most of the race remains in Tinkertown and other places. While all gnomes once dreamed of returning to Gnomeregan, some are reluctant now that they have the opportunity, having already made lives for themselves in the world beyond.
Chaos rules in the volcanic lands of the Dark Iron Empire. Thorium Brotherhood rebels struck as soon as they heard of the hated emperor's death, killing loyalists and their families. Khaz Modan accepts the flood of Dark Iron refugees, (adding to the kingdom's troubles) but refuses to send troops. Complicating matters are the remnants of the Blackrock Clan, leaderless after a surprise Horde partisan attack on their stronghold. They either hire themselves out to the Thorium Brotherhood, or attack all sides indiscriminately.
Many credit Stormwind's revitalization to the return of King Varian Wrynn. Others argue that Stormwind's problems were solved by the initiative of individuals and private groups, doing what the government could not. Lakeshire's militia stood their ground against the Blackrock Clan, pacifying the region almost a full year before Varian's return.
Westfall and Duskwood also pose complex issues for the kingdom of Stormwind. Van Cleef's death only hastened the fall of the Defias, already in the throes of self-destruction. The People's Militia now controls Moonbrook, though Defias remnants still hold remote areas in the Dagger Hills and the Longshore. The extended civil war has hardened the people of Westfall, and they must also deal with the challenge of demobilized Defias marauders. Hundreds of Defias prisoners were slaughtered in the wave of vigilante killings that took place after the harrowing of the Deadmines. The majority still live, trying to find their place in a society that hates them, often with reason. Duskwood languishes in darkness, but is at least safer. Worgen and the undead are limited to the deepest areas of the forest. Deadwind Pass is silent, still haunted even after Kirin Tor-employed operatives cleared out the cursed tower of Karazhan. Most Ralmanni now live in Darkshire, bolstering that town's fading populace.
King Varian Wrynn promises great things for the Alliance, though his words drip with hatred for the Horde. I regret to say that his hatred is not unfounded. Horde orcs used him as a slave and a gladiator, forcing him to participate in the shameful arena battles still beloved by many in Orgrimmar. Stormwind City and Elwynn now clamor for the blood of the Horde. The rest of the kingdom views Varian with decided ambivalence. Though Stormwind's troubles were not his fault, the government completely failed to protect the populace during his absence. Now the people of Westfall, Redridge, and Duskwood wonder why they should fight in Stormwind's name, when Stormwind would not fight for them.
Both Stonard and Nethergarde Keep benefitted from the Outland expedition. They now face the challenges and possibilities that come with occupying a borderland between worlds. With larger populations and better infrastructure, the future offers promise for these cities. I've already described the profitable situation in Stranglethorn, so I will only add that Booty Bay continues to soar in wealth and potential. I hope to visit that city again some day.
On the other side of the world, the Azuremyst Archipelago is under the benevolent and static rule of the draenei. Prophet Velen states that the draenei do not intend to return to Outland in large numbers, and will instead join the pageant of Azerothian history. Draenic Farseers now work to clean the contamination on Bloodmyst Isle under the guidance of Kaldorei druids and furbolg shamans.
Archdruid Staghelm and High Priestess Whisperwind still duel for control and influence in Kaldorei society. The events at Ahn'qiraj only served to deepen the rift between Darnassus and the Cenarion Circle, to the point that the latter has almost completely disavowed the former. The fighting in Warsong Gulch continues unabated, the Horde adopting increasingly aggressive tactics, allegedly a response to draenic activity in the northeast. Only the promise of a new war in Northrend has much hope of slowing the strife.
Felwood is still stuck in toxic corruption. Some hoped that the ethereals might be convinced to build Eco-Domes over portions of the forest, but this never worked out. I am not sure why. To the north and east, Moonglade and Winterspring remain quiet, while Azshara stays all but forgotten.
Orc settlers continue to expand across the Barrens, reshaping the rugged land with their iron wills. The tauren tribes view this expansion with quiet alarm, fearing the loss of their traditional lands. So far, these fears seem unfounded, yet Orgrimmar's increasingly aggressive behavior may strain its relationship with key allies. The burgeoning human nation of Theramore grows rich from trade with the goblin cities, and is slowly but surely spreading to the west. Always busy, the goblins themselves established the thriving trading post of Mudsprocket in central Dustwallow. Mudsprocket leans towards favoring Theramore, a fact that troubles the Horde.
Peace has returned to the Stonetalon Mountains with the expulsion of both the Venture Company and Grimtotem Tribe. The ash and cinders of the Charred Vale now incubate a new forest, the beginnings of which already color the slopes around that devastated place. Desolace is less peaceful, as roving bands of Magram and Gelkis centaurs fight their endless war. Both clans are exhausted, with only small fractions of their former numbers remaining. Horde and Alliance alike continue to test new magical weapons in the atrocious proxy war, and are looking to draw the Kolkar and Maraudine clans into the conflict.
In Feralas, the Kaldorei general Shandris Feathermoon took the daring move of arranging a localized treaty with the Horde outpost of Camp Mojache. Though they are far from friends, combat between the two factions is prohibited throughout the forest realm. While vociferously criticized in the homelands of the Alliance and Horde, Feralas is ultimately too unimportant for anyone outside of the region to care very much. The Thousand Needles is less stable, as more and more Grimtotems flock to the Darkcloud Pinnacle.
Steamwheedle's power in Tanaris continues to grow, and Gadgetzan may soon rival Booty Bay in prestige. Mercenary work has diminished, though not eliminated, the threats of Zul'farrak and Lost Rigger Cove. Un'goro Crater remains free and wild, though the growing power of the Steamwheedle Cartel may change that.
Silithus is still a hellhole. Forty-seven Alliance fighters broke through to the nightmare depths of Ahn'Qiraj, somehow managing to slay or contain C'thun. Twelve of them survived. Since then, five have died by their own hands, three are hopelessly insane, and two were murdered on the streets of Stormwind City. I do not know the location of the final two, and can only wish them the best of luck. The remnants of the sadistic Qiraji aristocracy now brood in the southernmost edges of their ancient kingdom. No one knows what they plan, though a tiny Cenarion garrison continues to watch for signs of ill-intent.
Illidan's death and the expulsion of the Burning Legion dramatically accelerated Outland's social recovery. This is not to say that Outland is peaceful; merely that it is somewhat less chaotic. The Shattrath Accords were signed almost immediately after the taking of the Black Temple, and I am happy to say that the Alliance and Horde agreed to let Outland choose its own fate. Shattrath City now acts as the center of a democratic interim government, building infrastructure and doing its best to settle conflicts. The Accords also dealt with the issue of contested territory in Outland. The Hellfire Fortifications passed to the Horde and the Twin Spire Ruins to the Alliance. On paper, both factions have rights to Halaa, though the almost total destruction of the city's research centers has rendered the site all but useless. Shattrath City controls the Spirit Towers of the Bone Waste.
Hellfire Peninsula is now largely empty. Minimal workforces stay in Honor Hold, Thrallmar, and around the Dark Portal to resupply caravans coming to and from Azeroth. Most left, including Danath Trollbane, who now leads Stromgarde's reclamation efforts. Fortunately, the near total absence of fel orcs and demons makes the journey through Hellfire Peninsula much safer.
The Shattrath Accords declared that Zangarmarsh is for the Broken, the Lost, and (even moreso than the others) the sporelings. Indeed, the sporeling race again has a future. They work closely with the Cenarion Expedition, showing surprising aptitude for druidism. It is not inconceivable that we will someday see a sporeling archdruid. Though some Lost also practice the art, they lack the discipline to become truly proficient at it. Telredor still stands, but Zabra'jin is no more. The Shattrath Accords disbanded it, much to the outrage of the Darkspear Tribe. Denjai fought the decision for as long as possible, only accepting it after the Alliance was persuaded to give up Sylvanaar in Blade's Edge. Denjai now lives in Sen'jin Village, sowing resentment towards other races and rising in political power.
Ogri'la is the de facto capital of the Blade's Edge Mountains, but in practice they can exercise little power beyond the city. Ogres continue to slaughter each other in the canyons. On a happier note, the Mok'nathal chose to accept the Horde's friendship. Netherstorm is no longer in danger of complete collapse, though the region is still incredibly perilous. Even so, daring mages and scientists flock to Area 52 and the Stormspire, seeking to learn more about this most extreme of environments.
Nagrand is officially pacified, though some say that sporadic violence still troubles in the countryside. No longer able to pursue honor by fighting the Broken, many Mag'har warriors marched to Azeroth, seeking battle in our world. The Kurenai proved better able to adapt, and now focus their efforts on rehabilitating the other Broken tribes.
A power struggle ensued in the Cabal after Sha'tari-aligned agents killed the senior leadership, with a moderate faction triumphing. The victors sued for peace, and the remnants of the Cabal army now march alongside their former opponents. North of the Bone Waste, the forest is still largely untamed, though Allerian Stronghold looks forward to a bright future.
The ancient arakkoa of Skettis made a bid for power shortly after my departure from Outland, threatening to summon their dark god into the physical world. The resulting campaign proved the efficacy of the Sha'tari Skyguard. While some attempt was made for the Skettis refugees in Shattrath to take over their old home, this never came to fruition. Skettis continues its existence as a reclusive sovereignty, unable to defeat Shattrath, but unwilling to completely acquiesce.
Few are willing to live in Shadowmoon Valley. Wildhammer Stronghold is empty, its defenders quick to return to Allerian Stronghold. A few shamans still live in the nearly empty ruins of Shadowmoon Village, attempting to appease the spirits. Though Azerothian efforts returned Outland to a degree of spiritual balance, much work still needs to be done. No one knows what happened to Akama, though the Ashtongue seek a new destiny under the aegis of Shattrath City. While the Kurenai preach a return to draenic ideals, the Ashtongue argue for a new, uniquely Broken identity. The Ashtongue's ties with the old Illidari regime weakens their credibility, though notable figures from other tribes have joined the Ashtongue cause. The Netherwing mostly keep to themselves, uninterested in meeting the Dragonflights of Azeroth.
In Shattrath, the Shattered Sun Pact was signed soon after the Shattrath Accords, ending the official hostilities between the Aldor and Scryers. This came in response to Kael'thas' surprise invasion at the head of a demon army. Shattered Sun forces reached the occupied Isle of Quel'danas with astonishing rapidity, thanks to some of the greatest logistical maneuvering in history. I do not need to state how close Azeroth came to annihilation, as Kael'thas' fanatical retainers attempted to summon the Lord of the Burning Legion into this world. As dangerous as it was, the Shattered Sun took the island after a week of sustained battle, killing Kael'thas and stopping the ritual.
As I write this, the world looks to Northrend as the Scourge rouses itself for another assault. I find myself again growing restless, and I wonder what kinds of people dwell in the northern ice.