Ahn'Qiraj is a massive city-prison where the inmates are running the asylum. Located in the desolate desert region of Silithus on the continent of Kalimdor, it was constructed by the titanforged during the Ordering of Azeroth after the fall of the Old Gods and their Black Empire. Because the Old Gods’ tendrils were so deeply intertwined in Azeroth, destroying them risked harming the planet’s world soul. Instead, the titanforged opted to create powerful prisons to contain the Old Gods’ dark magic, with Ahn’Qiraj being the prison constructed for C'Thun. Highkeeper Ra expanded and oversaw the city, creating tol’vir and anubisath sentinels to maintain the titan lore repositories and machinery.
When Ra learned that his creators, the titan pantheon, had fallen, he sunk into despair, abandoned his post in Ahn’Qiraj, and secluded himself in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms to the south. Without Ra to lead and unify them, the titanforged developed their own cultures. While the tol’vir would congregate in Uldum, the anubisaths continued their sacred charge of watching over C’Thun’s prison.
Thousands of years after Ra’s mysterious disappearance, the troll race rose to prominence, one of the first and most powerful races to naturally evolve from Azeroth’s primitive life forms. Disobeying the warnings of their loa, a group of rebellious young trolls accidentally awoke a powerful Old God's creation: Kith’ix, the C’Thraxxi general. Desiring to destroy the troll empire for its dark masters, Kith’ix summoned an army of aqir, insectoid minions of the Black Empire that had escaped extermination by living in warrens and tunnels beneath the ground. Spurred to war by the command of their general, the aqir constructed a great underground empire and waged war on the trolls in great swarms.
United by a common enemy, the trolls formed the Empire of Zul under the Zandalari and dispatched various tribes to fight the aqir across the world. The Gurubashi ventured to the southwest and discovered that the aqir had overrun Ahn’Qiraj and enslaved the anubisath guarding it. Unable to defeat the combined might of the aqir swarms and corrupted titan constructs, the Gurubashi resorted to a war of attrition, using smaller forces to harass and bleed the aqir armies dry over many years. While the Gurubashi were able to claim the surrounding land, they could not wipe out the aqir. After many centuries of war, the aqir empire was shattered and they showed no more interest in fighting, leaving the trolls in peace. Those aqir who still dwelt in Ahn’Qiraj were mutated by their proximity to C’Thun’s presence over time, molding them into a race known as the qiraji.
For centuries, the qiraji hibernated, dormant and forgotten by the outside world. No one ventured to the great prison-city due to the inhospitably of the surrounding desert of Silithus. However, around 975 years before the opening of the Dark Portal and formation of the Alliance and Horde, a night elf expedition of druids sought to transform the desert into a lush forest through the power of nature and their druidic arts. Led by Archdruid Fandral Staghelm, the expedition was searching for hidden water reservoirs they could use as a starting point in their growth. What they found instead was Ahn’Qiraj. The presence of warm life in the stone cold halls roused the qiraji out of their hibernation. Deep beneath in its prison, C’Thun also sensed the intruders and newly-awakened qiraji. Stirring them into a murderous frenzy. C’Thun commanded the higher-cast qiraji to organize their lesser minions, known as silithid, into vast armies that would engulf the surrounding deserts and expand to the regions beyond. Thus began The War of the Shifting Sands.
Calling in aid from the night elf forces, Fandral resisted the swarm and seemingly drove them back before suffering from a counterattack. For months, the two sides fought as the war ebbed and flowed, first favoring one side, then the other. At one point, Fandral’s son was killed right in front of him, shattering his resolve and sowing uncertainty throughout his ranks. Seizing the moment, the qiraji army pushed past the night elves and invaded the neighboring eastern desert of Tanaris, home of the bronze dragonflight and the Caverns of Time. Spurred by this invasion into their home, the dragons quickly united with the red, green, and blue dragonflights to reinforce the night elves. Still unable to beat back the sheer numbers of the qiraji swarm, Fandral and the dragons devised a plan to end the war by locking the qiraji inside their own city.
Working together, the druids and dragons raised a magical barrier of stone and giant roots called the Scarab Wall. Completely impenetrable, the wall would seal Ahn’Qiraj off from the world. The bronze dragon Anachronos forged two mystical artifacts to allow the barrier to be passed, should the unexpected need arise. These were known as the Scarab Gong and the Scepter of the Shifting Sands. While he entrusted these to Fandral, the archdruid found no comfort in the victory with his son dead. In his rage and grief, he broke the Scepter into pieces which would be lost for the next thousand years.
The rise of the Scarab Wall and the Scarab Gong
With the magic of the Scarab Wall preventing the qiraji and silithid from flying over or tunneling under the wall, they became dormant once again, C’Thun’s influence still limited by its bonds. Its presence could still be felt, however, and that presence attracted the ogre Cho'gall, leader of the Twilight's Hammer cult that had invaded Azeroth with the orcish Horde through the Dark Portal. The cult had revered the power of the void before, but had been awed by the power it felt from the Old Gods’ presence on Azeroth. They were determined to free their new dark masters from their prisons and bring about the end of all things, the Hour of Twilight. Guided by the whispers of the old gods, Cho’gall had led his followers to Ahn’Qiraj to free C’Thun, but was prevented from entering the city by The Scarab Wall. Undeterred by this fact, he and the cultists simply performed a great ritual outside of the wall, their magic bypassing the barrier and shattering C’Thun’s bonds. The energies unleashed destroyed most of the cultists, but C’Thun commanded Cho’gall to go free the other old gods and form a new Twilight's Hammer from all the races of Azeroth.
Now free of any restraints on its power, C’thun once again awakened the qiraji and silithid and readied them for war, freshly infused and driven by the unshackled power of the Old God. Several druid outposts in the area quickly fell, attracting the attention of Anachronos. The dragon sensed that C’Thun was free, but still recovering its full strength after such a long imprisonment. Determined to stop it before it could grow to its full unstoppable power, he reached out to the armies of the Alliance and Horde to invade Ahn’Qiraj. At this time, King Varian Wrynn of the Alliance was missing and presumed dead, so Lord Bolvar Fordragon ruled on behalf of the still-young prince, Anduin Wrynn. Together with the Horde warchief, Thrall, the two leaders came to an unprecedented agreement of cooperation to combine the might of their armies and strike back against the threat of C’Thun. They also chose the great orc warrior, Varok Saurfang, to lead the combined forces, as he was honorable and admired by both factions.
The Assault on Ahn'Qiraj by the united Azeroth army, known as the Might of Kalimdor
Despite standing against the swarms of qiraji and silithid, the armies knew that they would eventually be overrun and would have to strike at the heart of the enemy before that happened. First, the champions of Azeroth had to locate the scattered pieces of the broken Scepter of the Shifting Sands in order to ring the Scarab Gong and enter Ahn’Qiraj. Once the gate had opened, the full force of the insectoid enemies burst out like water from a broken dam. Saurfang quickly ordered a dual strike to destroy the enemies before they were overrun. A Horde strike team led the first attack on the ruins of the city itself, taking out the leadership and bulk of the qiraji forces while also keeping them occupied and distracted from the Alliance team’s mission.
While the Horde carried out its mission on the surface, the Alliance champions descended into the depths of the prison itself, known as the Maw of Madness. There, they faced C’Thun’s most powerful minions before facing C’Thun itself, whose whispers tried to turn them against each other. Resisting the whispers, the heroes prevailed and vanquished their dangerous foe.
These figures of royalty were among the strongest qiraji bosses that the adventures faced in the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj
Years after C’Thun’s defeat, Deathwing burst forth, heralding the Cataclysm, bringing with him great elemental unrest. This unrest culminated in elementals attacking several capital cities of the Alliance and Horde. During this event, it was revealed that some qiraji led by the air elemental, Prince Sarsarun, were still in Ahn'Qiraj, with some of them outright worshiping Cho'gall. Alliance adventurers, led by Varian Wrynn, and Horde champions, led by Cairne Bloodhoof, defeated these qiraji before they could invade Stormwind and Thunder Bluff.