Fortified citadels lay in ruins. Ancient forests burn brightly in the light of the setting sun. And arid stretches of desert, once known to claim even the most hearty of travelers, now house fertile oases teeming with new species of flora.
The Shattering changed a great many things. While the landscapes of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor may have been the most visibly affected by Deathwing's return, many of Azeroth's heroes have also undergone drastic physical transformations of their own.
One of the most notable metamorphoses in Cataclysm is that of Thrall. He's worn many titles in his lifetime: slave, gladiator, shaman, chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, and, most recently, warchief of the Horde. Now, as the son of Durotan puts down the mantle of warchief and takes up the simple garb of a shaman once again, we take a look back at his journey and the events that shaped him into the orc he is today.
The orcish Horde was once a demonic weapon of indiscriminate slaughter -- a far departure from the orcs' proud and shamanic origins. Thrall's rise to become Horde warchief, however, changed everything. After escaping from his enslavement by the human Aedelas Blackmoore, Thrall helped rally the remnants of the Horde, revitalized the orcs' shamanic traditions, and established a refuge for his embattled race in the arid land of Durotar. In the years that followed, the image of Warchief Thrall bearing the legendary warhammer and battle-worn black armor of the late Orgrim Doomhammer was etched in the minds of friends and foes alike. All that the Horde had become -- its courage, its strength, and its honor -- Thrall embodied.
When Azeroth's elemental spirits grew increasingly erratic just prior to the Shattering, Thrall was torn between his worldly responsibilities as warchief and his spiritual duties as a shaman. Ultimately, he followed his instincts and entrusted control over the Horde -- and everything he had labored to build -- to Garrosh Hellscream. Thrall also shed the armor that had come to symbolize him as warchief and donned the simplistic robes and prayer beads of a shaman. While Garrosh has made questionable changes to the Horde in recent times, Thrall remains focused on allaying the forces that threaten to tear Azeroth itself apart. Some members of the Horde might want him as their warchief, but the world needs him as a shaman above all else.
We'll be examining other key characters' transformations -- including those of Garrosh, Anduin Wrynn, and Magni Bronzebeard -- in the months ahead, so come back soon.