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In the Warcraft universe, a fictional universe in which the Warcraft series of computer games is set, the High Elves, also known alternatively either as the Highborne or Quel'dorei, are one of the races that inhabit Azeroth. The Blood Elves, a militant faction of the High Elves, are now a playable Horde race with release of the expansion The Burning Crusade for World of Warcraft, and have a campaign in "The Frozen Throne" expansion of Warcraft III "Reign of Chaos".
After they were exiled from Kalimdor and settled across the sea in the land they called Quel'Thalas, the High Elves soon learned that their new capital had been founded on a site that the Forest Trolls found sacred, and the trolls immediately began assaulting the Elves. Using their hard-won magic, the Elves drove the Trolls back. Consequently, some Elves, wary of the return of the Burning Legion, erected Runestones around the borders of their new Kingdom.
These not only shielded the High Elves' use of magic from the agents of the Legion but also helped keep the superstitious trolls away. With their new realm secure, the High Elves crafted a wondrous kingdom with buildings constructed in the style of the ancient Kaldorei empire yet in harmony with the land. Within the shielded land, the Elves used magic in nearly every aspect of their lives.
However, after centuries of peace the Forest Trolls attacked again; the war raged for decades until the Elves began to be slowly beaten back. In desperation the High Elves sought out the newly formed Human Empire of Arathor and in exchange for the Humans' help, the Elves promised to teach the ways of Arcane magic to the Humans.
Elven sorcerers arrived and began teaching magic to one hundred humans (selected for their nobility and selflessness), and together the Human and Elven armies met the Troll force at the base of the Alterac mountains. For days the Trolls battered the Humans' lines, but the Arathorian army held up.
At the appointed time the Humans and Elven Mages unleashed a fury of magic onto the Trolls. The searing fire stopped the Trolls' wounds from regenerating and they were driven back, nothing more than a shadow of their former strength. The Humans and Elves parted ways, but not before the Elven King promised a life debt to the Arathorian King and his descendents.
The Convocation of Silvermoon, the ruling body of the Elves, later entered into a pact with the Human mages of the Kirin Tor after they witnessed Demonic incursions into Azeroth. Together they formed the Order of Tirisfal, a society dedicated to preventing the return of the Burning Legion by waging a secret war using a champion imbued with the formidable powers of the Order.
During the Reign of Chaos, Quel'Thalas was attacked by the Undead Scourge, led by the corrupt Prince Arthas, who needed the energies of the Elves' Sunwell to revive the slain Necromancer Kel'Thuzad. The Elves, led by the courageous ranger general Sylvanas Windrunner, fought long and hard against the Scourge at every step, but the Scourge were ultimately triumphant and brutally destroyed the Elves' nation, sacking Silvermoon and killing all within it. Soon after this, the city of Dalaran, which was home to the second-highest population of High Elves on Azeroth, was also destroyed.
The survivors of Quel'Thalas, led by Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, burned the forests of their kingdom to spite the Scourge. They rejoined the Alliance remnants in Dalaran and renamed themselves the Blood Elves dressing in blood red garments as a reminder of their fallen brethren. The Blood Elves were eventually shunned and left the Alliance to join with the Naga under Illidan Stormrage. In return for their loyalty, Illidan taught the Blood Elves how to master demonic Fel energy to sate their magical addiction and bind demons to their will.
In recent times, the Blood Elves have reclaimed the forests of Quel'thalas and have even sided with the Horde. However, a minority of High Elves, primarily those who fled to Kalimdor with Jaina Proudmoore or lived elsewhere before the fall of Quel'Thalas, refused to court demonic magics and remain loyal to the Alliance.
The high elves are taller and slimmer than humans. They have fair hair and skin, with brilliantly coloured eyes. They reach adulthood at 110 years, and are immortal in sense that they cannot die of old age (although this may have changed after the Sunwell was corrupted, just as the Night Elves are no longer immortal after the World Tree was damaged). High Elves have shorter ears and are a foot shorter than their Night Elf cousins.
Typical high elves have long blonde or white hair and blue eyes. They keep to themselves and enjoy wandering forests alone or in small groups. The majority of the High Elf military serve in Jaina Proudmoore's army on the island of Theramore but they also maintain the Quel’Danil lodge, an outpost in the Hinterlands on the Eastern continent which pursues their diplomatic interests; and Quel'Lithien in the Eastern Plaguelands near the gateway to ruined Quel'Thalas. High Elves in Stormwind copy the humans’ style of long-sleeved tunics, billowy trousers and leather boots; they no longer wear red to avoid associations with the Blood Elves. They have also set aside a day of mourning for High Elves to remember the destruction of Dalaran with their human friends. The majority of the few High Elves that remain in the human lands are mages continuing to train in the arcane arts.
High Elves were once strong worshipers of the Holy Light, but this has died down as many have rejected it in favour of arcane magic. Although most still follow The Light, they do so loosely and are much less devout than humanity. High Elven Priests and Paladins exist. The High Elves have made significant contributions to this evolving religion, which originated from human cults.
All High Elves, regardless of class, status, or upbringing, are addicted to magic, and even the untrained have some small proficiency in it. Unlike Blood Elves who succumb to it, High Elves actively fight their addiction and are required to meditate at least an hour every day to maintain personal control. The High Elves are not proud of this addiction and go to great lengths to keep it a secret. The High Elves of Theramore are perhaps the most isolated. Having left mostly before the destruction of Dalaran and Quel’Thalas, they have formed a significant community in the city. They spend a great deal of time hunting the few Undead forces in Kalimdor as well as taking revenge by mercilessly destroying any demons they can find. Their return to Kalimdor has caused them to develop a great interest in the Moon Wells, which they believe, and rightly so, could replace their lost Sunwell as a source of magical energy. Even the presence of a hidden Moon Well 50 feet away is enough to replenish their mystical energies and makes meditation unnecessary. Theramore High Elves have discussed privately the creation of their own realm on Kalimdor. The northern forests, full of Moon Wells and lush greenery are most attractive but are controlled by the Night Elves. High Elven expeditions, claiming to be tracking undead, often search for suitable sites.
High Elves are closest friends with the Wildhammer Dwarves. Second to them are the Humans, with whom they’ve enjoyed good relations for millennia. They have an awkward and distrustful relationship with the Ironforge Dwarves, but rely on each other regardless and have common ties to the Alliance. The Gnomes, though universally friendly to all, naturally distrust the High Elves as well (though the gnomes feel it is impolite to say this out loud.) The High Elves' relationship with Night Elves is slightly positive but there is still some distrust between the two. The Night Elves can feel the High Elves' magical addiction but at least nominally tolerate them out of gratitude for their aid during the Battle of Mount Hyjal. As a result, all High Elves were banned from even setting foot in Night Elf territory, this has now been resolved. The High Elves are also direct enemies to both the Horde and the Scourge. Historically speaking, they have always been in conflict with the Forest Trolls.
High Elves are proficient in archery, divine and arcane magic, and swordsmanship. Their armies take advantage of their natural strengths and typically serve supporting roles when working with other races. The High Elves have a special affinity with Dragonhawks, who often serve as flying mounts for them. They oppose and discriminate against those who practice demon magic directly. High Elven arcane magic focuses on frost and fire, and their arcane magic is absolutely key to their abilities.
The High Elves, the true Quel'Dorei, are now few. Their nation is lost to their treasonous brethren, their numbers thinned, and their future uncertain, the High Elves face perilous times following the Reign of Chaos. They likewise face suspicion from their erstwhile allies and, tormented by their addiction to magic, are ever tempted to ease their pain by joining the Blood Elves. In numbers, combining high elves and blood elves together (with blood elves in the majority over high elves), the two are greater in number than the number of surviving Gnomes, but less than Dwarves, Humans or Night Elves
- Upon the release of The Burning Crusade expansion, many high elf NPCs were given the new Blood Elf model. Their old models were altered versions of the Night Elf models.