Kul Tiras and the Empire of Zandalar are Azeroth’s greatest naval forces known to the mortal races. The former carved out its legacy on a hostile land and rose to greatness, the latter built itself as the greatest empire that the world has ever known ruled by gods of both troll and men. This week in Battle for Azeroth these two mighty nations join both the Alliance and the Horde in gambits to not only secure their future, but the very future of Azeroth itself. As such we’ll be diving deep into the history of these island nations and where they stand now as they officially enter the greatest war for Azeroth’s survival.
Kul Tiras: A Nation of Sailors
The island nation of Kul Tiras is known by and large as the boldest nation of sailors. While they say every Gilnean is born with the scent of brine in their heart it is only Kul Tirans who are born with it in their very veins. The sea is to Tirisians as it is to the rest of Azeroth; it gives life to its people, protects them from the gravest threats, and becomes one with their very ships. The ocean has seeped into the very essence of the hardy peoples’ lifestyle, from their religion to their commerce, but this was not always the case.
Nearly three millennia prior to the building of the Dark Portal, the humans of the united kingdom of Arathor began expanding their vast empire in size and power unhindered by the blood-drenched Troll Wars. Those who settled in the Gilnean highlands constructed harbors to connect the rest of the world, but the boldest of their kin sailed even beyond that. Eventually they discovered a massive island laden with metal, wood, and plentiful natural resources. The first of these seafarers became what we know today as the Tidesages and guided the remainder of Arathor to the island. Some remained and formed the outpost known as Kul Tiras, which eventually developed into the kingdom of the same name.
Shortly after their arrival, the humans of Arathor began to encounter the native Drust people, barbaric natives that practiced old druidic customs akin to the Harvest Witches of Gilneas. While the mainlanders focused on the cycle of life, the Drust were more about the inverse cycle: Death. Initially meeting on friendly, if cautious terms, the Drust leader Gorak Tul called for an extermination of the humans leading to a generations long conflict. After many years of raiding upon human settlements and outpost, Colonel Arom of the noble House Waycrest decided that the time had come. The Order of Embers rose to counter these deadly attacks and Arom led his House to the city of Gol Osigr. Facing Gorak Tul in direct combat he slew the Drust King, and his armies and constructs fell to pieces.
For this Arom was promoted to Lord and became the head of House Waycrest, which occupied Drustvar until the current day. House Stormsong and their Tidesages would take the northernmost landmass, Stromsong Valley, for its bountiful fields and proximity to the open sea. House Proudmoore remained in Tirigarde Sound to command Kul Tiras’ vast forces, with House Ashvane arising many years later to command commerce. Only in recent history has House Proudmoore ruled Kul Tiras unopposed, with its Lord Admiral in true command of the island nation’s military forces. The island remained a center of commerce for nearly two millennia until the orcish invasions and the Second War.
Called on by Anduin Lothar and King Terenas Menethil to combat what was evolving into a global menace, Kul Tiras joined the Council of Seven Nations and formally joined the Alliance. Under the control of the new Grand Admiral, Lord Daelin Proudmoore, the Alliance Navy decimated the Horde’s ramshackle fleet before finding themselves beset by a greater foe. Aware of the Alliance’s naval superiority, Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer ordered the Dragonmaw clan to supply their enslaved Red Dragons as support. Three dragons decimated a sizable portion of the fleet and would continue to harry the naval forces throughout the wars. Among the heavy losses of the Kul Tiran armada was the Third Fleet, which took the Grand Admiral’s son, Derek Proudmoore, to the bottom of the seas.
Kul Tiras would then suffer its greatest blow by its own daughter shortly after the Third War. Ignorant of the tenuous peace Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall of the Frostwolf Clan had made in the founding of Durotar and Theramore, the Grand Admiral landed upon Kalimdor’s shores and made war against the fugitive orcs and Darkspear Trolls. Assisted by Jaina, Thrall’s Horde lay waste to the Tirisian forces, including Lord Admiral Daelin Proudmoore. Survivors of the bloody campaign would go on to create folk-tales of the horrific slaughter, including the now infamous shanty Daughter of the Sea, which described in detail the betrayal of Lady Proudmoore at Daelin’s final battle. While native Kul Tirans called for vengeance, the Alliance was unable to give it while still reeling from the plague of undeath and the slaughter of Lordaeron. The island nation rightfully turned their back on the Alliance, though a second wave of Tirisians returned to Kalimdor to keep an outpost in Durotar. The Cataclysm saw it ravaged and destroyed, while Horde forces in the area saw its survivors wiped out.
In more recent history Kul Tiras was sought by the Alliance to aid them in their total world war for Azerite. Shaken by the death of her husband and son, Lord Admiral Katherine Proudmoore denied both the Alliance and her daughter just in time for a coup by House Ashvane to come to a head. After the end of this sordid affair and the returning of peace to the land, Jaina Proudmoore was named Lord Admiral and Kul Tiras officially rejoined the Alliance to wage war on the open seas. While seeing a sizable loss at the Battle of Dazar’alor the Kul Tiran Fleet is still Azeroth’s greatest naval force, and may now single-handedly have dominion of the open ocean.
The Zandalari: An Empire of Kings and Queens
The Empire of Zandalar is one that is as old as recorded time. Trolls were the first race of a primordial Azeroth, and they are rightfully proud of that. While some of their siblings have evolved into what others would call more, ‘refined species,’ the Zandalari are still the greatest Empire that has ever existed and have stood the test of time as not only a naval superpower but a military force naught to be reckoned with.
The empire’s earliest origins started with a gathering of trolls about a mountain range in southern Kalimdor. It was here that many Wild Gods, or Loa, lived and blessed some of these trolls with their power. Naming the land Zandalar, these trolls began to build a life on its slopes in small villages and huts. Before the forming of a true nation, Shadow Hunters ruled over these tribes in a similar manner to present day Darkspears, though Dazar was the first king of his people. Leading them away from the swamps of Nazmir and the threat of G’huun, Dazar raised his tribe of Zandalar up and built with them a mighty city of gold. This temple-city of Loa and Trolls became known as Dazar’alor, and the land about it known as Zuldazar.
It was here that this society developed upon a caste system, which later evolved into their own peoples and tribes. In such a manner the Gurubashi and Amani first left the kingdom to seek conquests and lands of their own, which then came into fighting for their own lands and territories. Over time, as these empires lived in a tenuous harmony, the Zandalari came to be seen as custodians of their people and the head of their Loa-oriented religions.
There would come a time when this hunger for knowledge and power among the Loa eventually led to the discovering and unearthing of the ancient Aqir race, undisturbed since the ordering of Azeroth. Roused by curious trolls, a great C’Thraxxi known as Kith’ix rose to lead these armies to continue their conquest of Azeroth and rebirth the ancient Black Empire of the Old Gods. This ignited the conflict known as the Aqir Wars, where the Zandalari cemented themselves as rulers of all troll kind. Rallying the disparate tribes and nations the Zandalari commanded their united force which became known as the Empire of Zul. Housed in their sky-scraping temple-city, the Zandalari could see any weak-points and oncoming attacks. Convincing the other nations to quash the forces under heel, the Gurubashi and Amani pushed East, while the Drakkari pushed North. Driving the Aqir underground, they shattered the empire and nearly rode them to extinction.
Shortly after the war a High Priest of Zandalar reached out to the Mogu Empire in the south in an exchange of sorts. While the Mogu would surrender their knowledge of the Arcane, the Trolls would teach and show them the land beyond the vale. Creating a pact built on the safety of mutually assured destruction, both Empires rose to conquer the world together; Zandalar was content that the Mogu would neither have the strength to challenge them, nor would their king seek powers beyond the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. However, with Lei Shen’s disastrous move and a later war against the Pandaren the Empire suffered greatly due to a lack of leadership, its armies decimated by the Cloud Serpents nearly three centuries after. These were crippling blows that the Zandalari could not hope to recover from.
Despite these wars, the Empire of Zul yet found itself eclipsed by an unforeseen kingdom; the Night Elves. Evolved from a subterranean group of Trolls, these refined creatures wove magics unseen by the Troll kingdoms and brought to their doorstep the Burning Legion itself. Despite the threat of the demons the Zandalari opposed them to the bitter end, even up until the Sundering of Kalimdor. With hundreds of spell casters and priests of dozens of castes banding together the trolls shoved their kingdom away from a collapsing Kalimdor, shielding themselves from a disastrous fate. Finding their nation had suddenly became an island of its own, Zuldazar was content to remain just that even as the world around them collapsed. Building itself a great fleet, Zandalar maintained dominion of its seas, and allowed itself to be deployed anywhere across Azeroth should the need arise.
Over the following millennia Zuldazar would do everything in its power to try and assure a future for the troll race, often to poor and unforeseen results. From the breaking of the Amani Empire to the disastrous risings of Hakkar the Soulflayer, the Zandalar were rent asunder as much as their Gurubashi and Amani brethren. Even the Goblins eventually won over the trolls, subjugating an expedition to the holy island of Kezan. An attempt at summoning Atal’Hakkar to Zandalar unleashed a blood plague among their people, nearly eradicating the race. Taking a step back from their warlike ways the Trolls instead tried to turn to the world to support its waning powers. Recruiting adventurers of every walk they subjugated Hakkar twice as the dark Loa rent the Gurubashi Empire in twain. To preserve the Drakkari people priests and prophets of Zandalar attempted to stop them from murdering their own Loa in vain.
These defeats would soon inspire a complacency with the rise of Rastakhan, the latest God King of the Empire. Despite urgings from his most trusted prophet, Zul, Rastakhan did nothing when the Cataclysm came and sunk a portion of Zuldazar into the sea. Taking fate into his own hands despite his King’s wishes, Zul sought twice to empower the nation of Zandalar. Taken the bulk of the Golden Fleet, Zul attempted to unite the Amani and Gurubashi tribes, much to the chagrin of Vol’jin of the Darkspear. After their failure in both Zul’aman and Zul’gurub, Zul took the fleet to Pandaria to attempt and regain the Mogu’s alliance. With the fear of Zandalar sinking into the very sea itself, Zul sent his underling Khar’zul to see that Pandaria was made a Troll Nation by any means necessary. This attack was thwarted once more by heroes of the Horde and the Alliance, with the forces crushed during a siege on the Throne of Thunder. In a last ditch effort the Golden Fleet attempted to rally the Frostmane Tribe of Dun Morogh to war against the Ironforge Dwarves, but this insurrection was quickly stifled by Alliance forces.
Now in the heart of the Horde and Alliance’s war, Princess Talanji sought aid from the Horde against a shadowy war that was raging along the nation of Zandalar. Usurping King Rastakhan from the throne, the Prophet Zul and his dark benefactor attempted to raise G’huun, a manufactured Old God, to lead the Zandalari to an empire which could once more crush the lands of Azeroth and bring the world under their rule. With the aid of the Horde’s expeditionary forces, Talanji’s forces quashed both a rise of Blood Trolls and the Civil War, uniting Zandalar under her father’s banner. This strength would be tested by the Alliance’s siege upon Dazar’alor, which left God King Rastakhan slain and the Golden Fleet decimated. Now the head of her people, God Queen Talanji has decided to join forces with the Horde, pitting the mighty Empire of Zul and their incredible Loa directly against the bloodthirsty Alliance.