In World of Warcraft, the First War was not the first conflict between the races of Azeroth but it was the one that set the tone for the premise of the whole franchise, much less the MMO that it spawned. The First War is where the animosity between the Humans and Orcs started. In many ways, the First War began when the Orcs came through the Dark Portal, and while there is an end to the war the conflict never really stopped.
The Dark Portal was opened by Gul’dan, an Orc who worked with the Burning Legion, and Medivh, who was the last in a long line of ancient protectors known as the Guardian of Tirisfal. With the Dark Portal open the Orcs took their first steps on Azerothian soil in the Black Morass. They quietly scouted out around the Dark Portal, killing anything in their way with their newly gained fel magic. As reports started filtering back to Stormwind of strange creatures lurking around the Black Morass, there were many rumors that spread amongst the citizens of the kingdom. Everything from vengeful spirits, to Trolls armed with some newly discovered power, and even a new strange race from across the Great Sea. As any good King would do, Llane Wrenn sent Sir Anduin Lothar, one of his most trusted knights, to investigate the reports. Lothar, along with a small force of knights, traveled to the Black Morass and quickly had their first encounter with the newly arrived Orcs. A series of bloody skirmishes between the knights and Orcs followed, and, while the Knights achieved a number of small victories, the Orcs seemed to be endless. The knights were forced to pull back, not having penetrated deep enough into the Black Morass to discover the Dark Portal, and without knowing where the Orcs came from. At this time, Lothar informed the King that this strange invasion force was bringing in reinforcements from somewhere, and the Kingdom of Stormwind began preparing for full-scale war. As the initial force of knights pulled back, the Orcs that clashed with them informed their leader, Warchief Blackhand, that the Humans were now aware of their presence. This was the true beginning of the First War.
The Orcs raided deep into Stormwind’s lands, causing panic amongst the Humans who lived there by destroying entire villages, such as Brightwood and Westfall, and killing or driving off all the humans who lived there. No matter how fast Stormwind patrols responded to these raids they weren’t fast enough to ever catch them in the act. Realizing that the Orcs were like no enemy they had fought before, craftier, more devious, more mobile than anything they had ever faced, the Humans needed to change tactics. Reacting to the attacks of the Orcs was not getting them anything except burnt towns, and a higher body count. Lothar was named the “King’s Champion”, the highest military rank in the kingdom. Basically, he was now the general of the armies of Stormwind. Lothar studied the Orc’s attack patterns and came up with a plan to wait in ambush along their paths of retreat. This new tactic paid off for the Humans. They could usually eliminate a full raiding party, taking little to no causalities of their own. During this time Stormwind had prided itself on standing alone, going so far as to develop an isolationist policy over a few decades. Because of this, many other nations saw them as arrogant and paid little attention to Stormwind’s warnings about this new enemy and sent no help to fortify the defenses against the Orcs.
Three long years followed where there was little change, except more burned homes and more livelihoods in ashes. This had a few devastating side effects. First, Stormwind’s economy was in ruins, and, even worse, food was becoming scarce. With this in mind, Warchief Blackhand marched the Horde north to take Lakeshire and the Redridge Mountains, hoping to further strain the Humans with their diminishing resources. Unknown to the Orcs, Lothar and his knights were waiting in ambush in the mountains of Redridge around Lakeshire. When Blackhand and his solders arrived, Lothar and his knights slaughtered most of the Orcs. Lothar almost killed Blackhand during the ambush, but a few Orc warlocks forced Lothar to withdraw before he could land the killing blow. Humiliated by his near defeat at Lothar’s hands, Blackhand blamed the warlocks for not knowing about the ambush and personally executed both of them. This was a short-lived victory for Stormwind. A larger force of Orcs marched on and conquered Lakeshire, and the surrounding areas, mere weeks later.
From there the Orcs marched on and laid siege to the capitol of the Kingdom, Stormwind City. The Horde forces cut off all routes to the city, except the port, building siege engines and bombarding the city walls throughout the night. When dawn came, forces that were being held in reserve charged the battlements of the city, led by Kilrogg Deadeye and Cho’gall. Between the siege engines, the reserve forces, and the warlocks releasing their devastating fel fire the city sustained staggering losses. When all seemed lost a new sound came onto the battlefield, the sound of fighting on the Horde’s flank. Lothar and the majority of Stormwind’s knights had moved around the Horde forces by sea and took them by the flank. Lothar’s forces cut through the back lines of the Orc’s, drawing their attention away from the city. As the attacking army turned to fight the knights the gates of the city opened and soldiers charged and attacked the Orcs. Pinned between the two attacking forces the Orcs suffered many casualties and were forced to retreat, pulling back to Redridge. An infuriated Blackhand nearly executed Kilrogg and Cho’gall, holding them responsible for the defeat. Fear of their clans revolting was the only thing that stayed his hand.
Stormwind decided that a change of tactics may be needed. For the first time, they decided that maybe a more diplomatic solution could be reached. Emissaries were sent to the Orcs with the hopes of starting negotiations, but if any of them returned they did so in pieces, and never alive. In the meantime, Stormwind caught wind of the Orc’s attempt to establish a large outpost to amass troops in a strategic location to attack the city. To prevent this, Stormwind sent out a force to rally the townspeople of Grand Hamlet, the target location for the Orc outpost, and to stop the Orcs from establishing said outpost. The Humans were successful, giving them time and room to ride on the outpost Kryoss where the force that attacked Grand Hamlet had come from and were once again victorious.
Many skirmishes took place over the next few weeks, where victories were traded back and forth while Blackhand and his Horde searched for a path to victory. The plan they came up with was to amass a massive attack force and prepare for an all-out assault. This immense army marched on Stormwind City again, destroying any outpost they came across on their way. Before they made their final march, they destroyed Goldshire and Moonbrook to sever any lifeline King Llane and the citizens of Stormwind City would have to help in the coming battle, or any safe havens in case they decided to flee the city. Finally reaching their final target, the massive Orc attack force surrounded Stormwind City again, moving their siege engines into place and sitting in anticipation for the coming battle. Before long the catapults fired on the city, the bulk of the army attacking the main gate with a smaller force attacking the eastern wall. Within moments, Stormwind keep was burning, and during the confusion of the attack the assassin Garona, by order of the Shadow Council, assassinated King Llane. The death of the King demoralized the remaining forces of Stormwind and the Keep fell.
The war had lasted years and drained the resources of the Humans. There was no doubt that the war was over and the Orcish Horde was victorious. Kingless and demoralized by the crushing defeat, the surviving Humans could only flee to the Kingdom of Lordaeron. There they regrouped, rebuilt, and began laying plans to take their home back. As bad as things were, the Humans had fought hard and held their own against a new and unknown enemy that was hell bent on domination. This was the beginning of a new age on Azeroth, one that would split the entirety of the planet into two factions, the Alliance and the Horde. In the future, the two sides would need to work together towards a common goal, but for the most part the conflict would continue as bloody and fierce as ever.