Ten thousand years ago, during the reign of the night elf Queen Azshara, there was an elite magic-using sect known as the Highborne, who dabbled in magics that many other elves considered heretical by drawing upon the power of the Well of Eternity. During the War of the Ancients, most were fiercely loyal to Queen Azshara, but a small group of them realized the dangers of their association with the Burning Legion and defected to the Kaldorei Resistance. Some time after the Great Sundering, most of the surviving Highborne left Kalimdor and settled on the Eastern Continent, founding the kingdom of Quel'Thalas. They became known as the high elves. During this time, they created the Sunwell, and switched to a diurnal waking cycle, instead of the nocturnal cycle they had kept when they were night elves. Their purple skin eventually faded to a pale peach color, like that of the humans and dwarves.

For the history of the high elves in the years between their exile and the Third War, see High elf.

During the Third War, Prince Arthas led his army of the undead against them, ravaging Quel'Thalas and corrupting the Sunwell. Most of what was left of Quel'thalas was burned down by the high elves, in an effort to give the scourge a psychological victory and leaving the few high elves left who were making their last stand on Sunstrider Isle. Despite their efforts, almost 90% of the high elven population were eradicated during this conflict. In remembrance of their fallen brethren, most of them renamed themselves the blood elves, or sin'dorei, and swore to avenge their fallen race. Cut off from their source of power once again, the elves went into magic withdrawal. Desperate for aid following the Third War, the blood elves accepted help from the naga. This was seen as treachery by the Alliance and they were sentenced to death. Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider led his followers to freedom, to the extra dimensional wastes of Outland, the remnants of Draenor, to pledge allegiance to Illidan who promised to grant them a new source of magic by siphoning the chaotic energies of demons. Together with their allies the naga, Illidan led the blood elves to conquer Outland, gaining in the process the friendship of the nearly extinct draenei. The blood elves then followed Illidan to the Icecrown Glacier in an attempt to destroy the Lich King. However, their plans were foiled by Arthas, who wounded Illidan, thus forcing the allied blood elves and naga to retreat, which allowed Arthas to ascend the glacier and merge with the Lich King.

Unfortunately, the Kael'Thas' decisions to continually accept the aid of the naga and willingness to use fel magic has caused blood elves in general to be shunned by the Alliance. Thus, the remaining blood elves on Azeroth look desperately to the Horde to help them reach Outland. While their relations with the rest of the Horde are shaky at best, the tauren and especially the orcs feel at least a little sympathy for them. Addiction to fel magics and a desperate search for a cure is something the orcs are very familiar with, and many older orcs who've experienced similar addictions feel great kinship with the blood elves. The trolls who have been the ancient enemy of all quel'dorei since antiquity accept them warily. The Forsaken have been working closely with the blood elves to purge the greater Plaguelands of Scourge presence since their induction, but the blood elves still regard them with distrust. Lor'themar Theron was Sylvanas Windrunner's second in command during the Second Battle of Quel'Thalas, and many Forsaken were high elves culled from the same battle. By propagating this information and the Earthen Ring's view of the Forsaken's affliction, they have gained enough sympathy from the blood elves to gain entry into greater Quel'thalas and set up outposts. However, most see these obsequious proposals as smoke and mirrors hiding a fiendish plan. Aid from the Forsaken has included offers of reinforcements in and around the reclaimed blood elf territories, and a transportation device outside both the Undercity and Silvermoon so that travel between the two cities is quick, safe and easy. Other than construction of this device, Theron has viewed most of the offers shrewdly, and has declined on most.

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