The Wailing Caverns is a large cave system located in the Northern Barrens south of the Crossroads. In World of Warcraft, it’s perhaps best known as one of the first multi-player dungeons for Horde players and features a total of nine bosses to fight, three of which were released as legendary Hearthstone cards in the Wailing Caverns mini-set. Let’s take a look at the story of these dangerous caverns and uncover the source of the horrors within.
The entrance to the natural cave system of the Wailing Caverns. The fact that it's shaped like a skull is completely coincidental...
The Wailing Caverns get their name from the wailing sound produced by natural steam fissures connected to the underground springs in the vast cavern network. The caves are also the natural habitat of creatures native to the Barrens such as raptors, crocolisks, wind serpents, and normal snakes.
A smattering of some of the varied life forms residing in the Wailing Caverns.
The land of the Barrens is not named ironically. It is, in fact, a very barren wasteland akin to a desert or savanna where little can grow. In the past, it was a lush forest, but natural disasters resulting from the War of the Ancients and the Sundering of the single continent of Kailmdor into many smaller landmasses turned it to a harsh sun-scorched plain. Desiring to change this, a group of night elf druids led by Archdruid Naralex discovered the caverns and decided to see if they could restore the land to support lush growth through the underground springs and the magic of the Emerald Dream. The Dream is a magical realm of nature tied to the world of Azeroth from which many druids draw their power and where the spirits of many nature deities and wild gods reside. However, the Dream also had a dark side called the Emerald Nightmare that was created by the old gods. It was this nightmare that would affect the druids and their leader.
To tap into the Emerald Dream, Naralex went into a deep sleep. However, he was soon overwhelmed by the Emerald Nightmare and became trapped, unable to escape it by waking up. Naralex wasn’t the only one affected, though, as his body and spirit now served as a bridge for the Nightmare to corrupt the caverns themselves. Wildlife became monstrous, the waters themselves were corrupted, and his devoted followers went mad and formed the Druids of the Fang. These newly-corrupted druids wished for nothing but the continued spread of the darkness and remake the land to match their twisted visions. Meanwhile Naralex himself drifted between madness and sanity in his trap.
Luckily for Naralex, not all of his disciples were corrupted. A tauren druid named Muyoh managed to evade the darkness and his former companions long enough to recruit help in the form of adventurers making their way across the Barrens (aka, player characters). He explained the situation to them and instructed them to kill the four leaders of the Druids of the Fang in order to allow him to perform an awakening ritual to pull Naralex from the dream and break the Nightmare’s connection.
Muyoh, Naralex's uncorrupted student who serves as a quest-giver for players in the dungeon.
These four leaders of the Druids of the Fang had all taken on new serpentine names to reflect their corrupted nature. Lady Anacondra was a young druid acolyte named Scarletleaf who had eagerly been the first to volunteer in her master’s plan to restore the Barrens. Lord Pythas had been a devoted warrior and friend of Naralex named Aryn who had served as his personal guard. Lord Cobrahn was a master of shapeshifting into animal forms named Jarlaxla, and their leader, Lord Serpentis, had been Naralex’s finest student—original name unknown—whose corruption had been accelerated by his desire to became a respected teacher, or shan’do, like his master.
The four leaders of the Druids of the Fang: From left, Lady Anacondra, Lord Pythas, Lord Cobrahn, and Lord Serpentis.
The corrupted druids weren’t the only deadly enemies in the caverns, however. Lord Pythas’s favorite pet, Skum, was a thunder lizard from the Barrens who had been empowered by the Nightmare’s corruption. The Nightmare also infected a massive bog beast named Verdan the Everliving who had previously been a natural guarding of the caverns, but was now allied with the Druids of the Fang. Even creatures who managed to avoid corruption, like the giant turtle Kresh, Lord of Turtling, proved to be dangerous due to being naturally territorial and used to adventurers trying to steal its giant shell.
Beasts and creatures of the Wailing Caverns. From left, Skum, Verdan the Everliving, and Kresh.
Eventually, after clearing the caverns of dangers, the adventurers returned to the druid Muyoh to assist him in the ritual to wake up Naralex. As the party worked to protect Muyoh from enemies during the ritual, they faced an abomination conjured by the Nightmare’s corruption and shaped by Naralex’s own twisted thoughts and fears. As it just so happened, the great druid’s greatest fear and enemy was murlocs, and thus the manifestation of his nightmares took the form of a giant murloc monstrosity named Mutanus the Devourer. After the creature was destroyed, Naralex was finally awakened and the source of the corruption in the caverns stopped.
Muyoh performs the ritual to awaken Naralex in this art from the old WoW trading card game.
Happy to be freed from the Nightmare, the druid thanked his rescuers and returned home to prepare for another attempt at restoring the Barrens another day. This would never come to pass, however, as Fandral Staghelm, acting leader of the druids at the time, believed even arid places had a role to play in the natural balance of Azeroth. After the Cataclysm reshaped the land, Naralex realized that he had, in fact, succeeded in infusing the underground waters with the magic of the Emerald Dream. Earthquakes caused by Deathwing had breached the underground water and allowed it to flow to the surface, causing freshwater springs which allowed life to flourish around them. However, the magic proved too powerful and the new vegetation quickly spread unchecked, posing a danger to all the natural wildlife. Realizing his mistake in trying to control the flow of nature himself, Naralex worked to stop the spread of the overgrowth. He would continue to serve the druids of the Cenarion Circle for many years to come.