The Truth About Tol Barad
I missed you guys yesterday, but my week got off to a busy start, and it only promises to get busier. But that’s no reason to forsake the zealous analysis of lore I promised you all. The last few weeks have been interesting. People are settling into their Cataclysm routines, and they’re starting to notice things that they didn’t pay attention to while leveling, grinding, and getting comfortable with their raids or whatever it is they log in to do every evening. Yes, Grim Batol is an ancient dwarven city, and Vashj’ir has always been exactly where it is now. I have no clue how the goblins terraformed Azshara so quickly, but they’re goblins, and goblins can do anything. Blackwing Descent was always in Blackrock Mountain, it just wasn’t called Blackwing Descent, that’s just what we call it now. It was a part of the same dwarven nation that lost its city in the mountain to the Blackrock clan and Nefarian afterward.
Maybe those are things that we can talk about later—but far and away, the questions I’ve been getting the most have been about Tol Barad. So we’re going to start with the most prominent one and work our way down. Tol Barad has always been off the coasts of Lordaeron and Gilneas, but it was originally a fortress island under the control of the nation of Stromgarde, all that remained of the first human Empire of Arathor.
Tol Barad’s original fortress design is evident in what is left of the island now. That is to say that the structures you see while doing your dailies or fighting for control of Baradin Hold are not new or even recent. Those buildings have been there for several decades at the very least, and they probably extend much further into history than that. There is a coastline garrison and keep as well as multiple functioning docks and barracks and a series of production facilities including a slagworks that is supplied by a nearby quarry. Its evolution into a prison, however, is relatively recent, and that it’s become a contested territory is a direct result of the Cataclysm and its proximity to Gilneas and the Alliance controlled Eastern Kingdoms.
During the First War, Doomhammer’s Horde conquered what was then known as the Kingdom of Azeroth, and it controlled Stormwind and most of the world between it and the Dark Portal, extending as far as Blackrock Mountain and north into the dwarven lands. Doomhammer’s initial probes at the northern kingdom of Lordaeron were being routed by human holdouts that were using Tol Barad as a staging area to gain access to Horde controlled land through unconventional methods such as the sea and the air.
Realizing what the continued human control of Tol Barad meant to his invasion and the inevitable Second War, Orgrim Doomhammer assaults Tol Barard, and it is said that only weeds and insects were spared the Horde’s bloody wrath. By the end of the First War, Doomhammer’s Horde had access to its own staging ground that allowed it to raid Lordaeron while the war machine was readied to the south.
It doesn’t seem like Doomhammer ever really took advantage of Tol Barad’s proximity to Lordaeron, focusing instead on sweeping north through the land and eventually sailing directly to Lordaeron itself at the start of the Second War. From there, Tol Barad was the site of a number of battles that went in both directions, but the war itself ended with the island fortress as nothing more than a strategic footnote.
Following the Second War the island nation of Kul Tiras (tentatively located exactly where Vashj’ir is now—it’ll probably be placed west of Tol Barad itself when it’s finally patched into the game), claimed Tol Barad as its own, and it established both a prison and a naval base upon the island. The prison was built to house renegade wizards, demons, and other such arcane endowed entities to whom regular prisons did not suffice and that perhaps Dalaran was incapable of housing as well, and the prison itself would be overseen by the nation of Dalaran. And in much the same way that Dalaran was shielded following the Third War, Tol Barad was shielded from view of the mainland by the mages that guarded it so that it would be undisturbed.
Now, Tol Barad is once again a potential staging area for Hellscream’s Horde and an asset that the Alliance cannot afford to yield, brought back into existence by the Cataclysm and noticed almost immediately by the Horde. The prison is nearly destroyed but still houses some of the most treacherous monsters and criminals in the Eastern Kingdoms, and the Baradin Wardens are charged with its protection while Hellscream’s Reach is charged with its assault.
It’s also interesting to note that Baradin Wardens wear the tabard of Kul Tiras—I guess that’s not so much interesting as it is right, but it implies that Blizzard hasn’t forgotten that there should be an island nation where Vashj’ir is now (which has happened a few times in the past), and it makes me excited for what they plan to do with it.
So there you have it, the truncated history of Tol Barad and why we fight for its control—realistically the Horde and Alliance couldn’t care less about what’s in the prison. It’s us that cares about that.