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The Waking World and the Well of Eternity is a section of the History of Warcraft, Chapter I.
Ten thousand years before the orcs and humans clashed in their First War, the world of Azeroth cradled only one massive continent, surrounded by the sea. That landmass, known as Kalimdor, was home to a number of disparate races and creatures, all vying for survival amongst the savage elements of the waking world. At the dark continent's center was a mysterious lake of incandescent energies. The lake, which would later be called the Well of Eternity, was the true heart of the world's magic and natural power. Drawing its energies from the infinite Great Dark beyond the world, the Well acted as a mystical fount, sending its potent energies out across the world to nourish life in all its wondrous forms.
In time, a primitive tribe of nocturnal humanoids cautiously made their way to the edges of the mesmerizing enchanted lake. The feral, nomadic humanoids, drawn by the Well's strange energies, built crude homes upon its tranquil shores. Over time, the Well's cosmic power affected the tribe, making them strong, wise, and virtually immortal. The tribe adopted the name Kaldorei, which meant "children of the stars" in their native tongue. To celebrate their budding society, they constructed great structures and temples around the lake's periphery.
The Kaldorei, or night elves as they would later be known, worshipped the moon goddess, Elune, and believed that she slept within the Well's shimmering depths during the daylight hours. The early night elf priests and seers studied the Well with an insatiable curiosity, driven to plumb its untold secrets and power. As their society grew, the night elves explored the breadth of Kalimdor and encountered its other denizens. The only creatures that gave them pause were the ancient and powerful dragons. The great serpentine beasts were often reclusive, but they did much to safeguard the known lands from potential threats. The night elves discovered that the dragons held themselves to be the protectors of the world - and agreed that they and their secrets were best left alone.
In time, the night elves' curiosity led them to meet and befriend a number of powerful entities, not the least of which was Cenarius, a mighty demigod of the primordial forestlands. The greathearted Cenarius grew fond of the inquisitive night elves and spent a great deal of time teaching them about the natural world. The tranquil Kaldorei developed a strong empathy for the living forests of Kalimdor and reveled in the harmonious balance of nature.
As the seemingly endless ages passed, the night elves' civilization expanded both territorially and culturally. Their temples, roads, and dwelling places stretched across the breadth of the dark continent. Azshara, the night elves' beautiful and gifted queen, built an immense, wondrous palace on the Well's shore that housed her favored servitors within its bejeweled halls. Her servitors, whom she called the Quel'dorei or "Highborne", doted on her every command and believed themselves to be greater than the rest of their brethren. Though Queen Azshara was loved equally by all of her people, the Highborne were secretly envied and disliked by the rest of the night elves.
Sharing the priests' curiosity towards the Well of Eternity, Azshara ordered the Highborne to plumb its secrets and reveal its true purpose in the world. The Highborne buried themselves in their work and studied the Well ceaselessly. In time they developed the ability to manipulate and control the Well's cosmic energies. As their experiments progressed, the Highborne found that they could use their newfound powers to either create or destroy at their leisure. The heedless Highborne had stumbled upon primitive magic and were now resolved to devote themselves to its mastery. Although they agreed that magic was inherently dangerous if handled irresponsibly, Azshara and her Highborne began to practice their spellcraft with reckless abandon. Cenarius and many wizened night elf scholars warned that only calamity would result from toying with the clearly volatile arts of magic. Even so, Azshara and her followers stubbornly continued to expand their burgeoning powers.
As their powers grew, a distinct change came over Azshara and the Highborne. The haughty, aloof upper class became increasingly callous and cruel towards their fellow night elves. A dark, brooding pall veiled Azshara's once-entrancing beauty. She began to withdraw from her loving subjects and refused to interact with any but her trusted Highborne priests.
A young scholar named Malfurion Stormrage, who had spent much of his time studying the primitive arts of druidism, began to suspect that a terrible power was corrupting the Highborne and his beloved queen. Though he could not conceive of the evil that was to come, he knew that the night elves' lives would soon be changed forever....