The Zandalari are the oldest of the troll races in World of Warcraft, hailing from the hidden island of Zandalar in the Great Sea. At one time they aided players against threats like Hakkar the Soulflayer and the Drakkari tribe, but as of the Cataclysm they have turned to nefarious purposes to reestablish the Troll Empires and secure the future of all trolls.
Trolls are one of the oldest races on Azeroth, predating even the night elves, and the oldest of the troll races were the Zandalari. Building a magnificent civilization in the nation of Zandalar, the trolls became renowned for their mysticism and knowledge, but some trolls desired conquest. Leaving Zandalar, these trolls would be responsible for building the two great troll empires, the Gurubashi and Amani. Over time, the inhabitants of these empires would adapt to their environments, splitting off two distinct subraces of troll: the jungle trolls (Gurubashi) and forest trolls (Amani). The empires maintained contact with the Zandalari, who were viewed as defenders of the trolls as a whole and the seat of all troll knowledge and history.
Around 12,000 years ago, the Zandalari came into contact with another mighty empire, that of the mogu in Pandaria. Despite the mogu view of themselves as above all other races, the trolls and mogu became strong allies. When the Mogu Empire's pandaren slaves rose up in revolt, the Zandalari lent assistance, but were defeated after a long and bloody war. The Zandalari left a lasting impression in pandaren lore, becoming known as bogeymen to frighten children in stories.
The Zandalari suffered another military defeat from the night elves, who were able to defeat the trolls with their power drawn from the Well of Eternity. Trolls were driven from elven lands, enabling them to build their own civilization to rival the Twin Empires. The elves' hubris caught up to them in the War of the Ancients, resulting in the Great Sundering that tore Azeroth apart. The Zandalari used their magic to shield Zandalar from the effects of the Sundering, but the birthplace of the troll nations became an island once the disaster ended.
Allies of Heroes
Reestablishing contact with the Gurubashi Empire, the Zandalari learned their fellow trolls had been making great conquests to add to their territories, success they atributed to their god Hakkar. Soon, however, the Zandalari grew unsettled by the increasing conquests and consulted their history for clues to Hakkar's identity. They discovered that Hakkar, who was also known as the Soulflayer, was an evil deity who gained power through bloodshed and intended to bring all of Azeroth under his rule. The Zandalari allied with Gurubashi rebels who had turned from the dark god's influence to battle Hakkar's loyalists, eventually defeating him and banishing his followers. Despite this victory, the Gurubashi Empire had been dealt a death blow.
After the Third War, when the peoples of Azeroth thwarted their world's invasion by the Burning Legion, Hakkar's followers found a way to revive their god and attempt to take back their empire. Learning of this, the Zandalari returned to Zul'Gurub and aided heroes of the Alliance and Horde in fighting Hakkar once again, slaying the evil god and driving his followers back into exile.
In the northern troll kingdom of Zul'Drak, the Drakkari tribe of ice trolls had long been harried by the Scourge under the command of the Lich King. In desperation, they began sacrificing their animal gods and taking their power for their own, believing this would turn the tide in their favor. Seeing th Drakkari as having gone too far, the Zandalari again allied themselves with the Alliance and Horde in battling the Drakkari and defending the remaining gods.
Turn to Darkness
When Deathwing returned to Azeroth and brought about another worldwide Cataclysm, Zandalar was devastated by the world's upheaval. With their civilization on the verge of collapse, the Zandalari began to rethink their philosiphies and the future of the troll race. A prophet known only as Zul began gaining influence with his beliefs that the trolls faced extinction unless they banded together and rebuild their empire, purging the other races if need be. Zul and his followers began reaching out to the other troll races, many of whom were inspired by Zul's words. However, the Darkspear tribe led by Vol'jin, allied with the Horde, believed Zul and his united troll empire would pose a danger to the other races of Azeroth, and decided to lead Alliance and Horde efforts against them in Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman. The Zandalari even went so far as to try to steal power from Hakkar, but were eventually defeated.
When Pandaria reappeared, the mists that concealed it from the rest of the world having collapsed in the Cataclysm, the Zandalari under Zul were intrigued. Believing Pandaria could be a new homeland for the trolls should Zandalar itself fall, the Zandalari led a force to take the continent, coming into conflict with the pandaren once again. Seeing the Mogu Empire had totally collapsed, the Zandalar began making efforts to rebuild it, knowing they would make powerful allies. The prophet Khar'zul secured a major victory for both the Zandalari and mogu when he claimed the body of the first and greatest emperor of the mogu, Lei Shen, and brought him back to life.
The Zandalari joined Lei Shen on the Isle of Thunder off the coast of Pandaria, eager for the Thunder King to rebuild his empire and assist them in reclaiming theirs. With their forces defeated in battle with the Alliance, Horde, and Shado-Pan, it remains to be seen if and how they will recover from losing one of their greatest allies.
Battle For Azeroth
With the latest expansion for World of Warcraft having been released, much has changed for the Zandalari. Most pressing of all is their sudden development into allies for the Horde, given the recent slur of events that have sent Azeroth into what may prove to be its final days.
The story of the Zandalari's welcome into the Horde begins shortly after the fall of Lordaeron to the Alliance (and its subsequent plague bombing). Sylvanas Windrunner, Warchief of the Horde, has the player character embark on a mission of the utmost importance with several champions of the Horde- a pair of Zandalari trolls was recently arrested and thrown into the Stockades situated in Stormwind City. This wouldn't be anything special if but for one reason- both were members of high society within Zandalar. The goal was clear- rescue both trolls and use them as a means of opening a diplomatic channel with the Zandalari, as their navy may prove to be the only thing that stops the Alliance from wiping the Horde out.
Under the cover of darkness, the strike force moves in. The player, working with First Arcanist Thalyssra (of the Nightborne Elves) and Rohkan (of the Darkspear Trolls) slips into the Stockades, eliminating 7th Legion guards- some of the Alliance's top soldiers -to reach their targets. On the way, they encounter High Overlord Varok Saurfang, who has no intention of returning to the Horde, but still offers advice to all present before directing them to their targets.
The player quickly reaches the two Zandalari- Zul the Prophet (an old foe) and newcomer Princess Talanji. While Rohkan expresses serious distrust with Zul, Thalyssra decides such issues must wait for another time. Just then, the 7th Legion sounds the alarm, blocking any spell usage from the player or their allies in the process. The group escapes, regardless, with Zul's visions dictating their escape plan. Unfortunately, their escape sets all of Stormwind into high alert, prompting responses from practically every soul in the city (and every faction of the Alliance).
Nevertheless, Zul's visions create a sizeable distraction- the burning of Stormwind -to keep most everyone off the Horde's backs. Onboard the ship, the group sails to Zandalar, despite orders to return to Durotar.
While sailing there, the ship comes under attack from no less than eight 7th Legion ships. Outnumbered, damaged and going nowhere fast, the group seems doomed... but Talanji calls for aid. Rezan, the loa of Kings and Queens, answers, providing safe passage home just as the entire Zandalari fleet destroys the pursuing vessels, save one (which limps back to Stormwind with few survivors).
Upon arrival to Zandalar, the Horde is met with immediate hostility from General Jakra'zet- sand troll, member of the Zanchuli Council (advisors to the royal throne) and veritable opposer of all Horde figures (given how much his people have suffered at both Horde and Alliance hands). Regardless, the player is taken to an audience with Talanji's father, King Rastakhan.
After some rough negotiations, the player is dubbed "Speaker of the Horde" and the Horde is allowed some staging in the Great Seal... despite reservations from the General. Once stationed within, the player is informed- by Princess Talanji -of three great issues that are plaguing the Zandalari empire, which are as follows:
1. The Zanchuli Council plots against the player, trying to turn Rastakhan away from helping the Horde. The player must win the hearts and minds of the local trolls, taking care not to tread on the toes of those troll factions they have wronged before.
2. The northern border of Zandalar is seeing relentless assaults from the Blood Trolls of Nazmir. The savages must be driven back if Zandalar is to survive.
3. General Jakra'zet has sent countless trolls into needless exile within the endless deserts of Vol'Dun. Princess Talanji suspects more than what is seen is happening, and intends to figure out what Jakra'zet is truly up to.
Knowing the player can't be everywhere at once, Talanji suggests taking the problems one at a time.
Negotiations with Zandalar
The first part of the Zandalar storyline (canonically) begins in Zuldazar- the port city that serves as the seat of power for the Zandalar empire. Many problems have arisen within the city, allowing the player to earn much faith with the locals.
First and foremost is a mess started by one of Zul's disciples- a troll witch doctor named Vol'jamba -has taken hold of the Gurubashi enclave and removed all Zandalari prescence from the area. The player is sent to deal with it, with Zul trying to make his student see sense. However, all throughout the quests, Vol'jamba claims that he has seen something very concerning. His vision speaks of "betrayal, the doom of an empire and a threat against the king" (as stated by Zul in paraphrase). In the end, Vol'jamba falls (with his former mentor having predicted every move in the battle before it even begins), and Zul is pleased, though he does take an urn full of souls (the last being his fallen disciple) with him to parts unknown.
Next is securing the port, as Talanji feels that Jakra'zet has failed in his duties; thus, the player serves as something of an outside perspective. Her concerns soon prove true- the merchants remain unguarded from local thugs, Zul has been sending messages to a few interesting people and the local leaders of each group refuse to stand down. Clearing out the trouble-starters does calm things, but it soon becomes apparent that a group of blood cultists have taken route in the city. The fact that the local council is ignoring this can't be a coincidence... something fishy is going on...
Afterwards, the next problem is the Zanchuli Council, the advisors to King Rastakhan. More trouble is appearing in the city, particularly within sacred ground- the Zanchul temple. Sure enough, blood magic is being practiced and the councillors sent to deal with it are at each others' throats. It soon becomes clear that the problem may actually be nested inside of Zanchul. Certainly, the local pterodaxes are going crazy, but things reach a head when the guardians go mad! The cause of all of this- a dire troll that somehow slipped through the defenses. Regardless, the player eventually chooses a patron loa, earning a bit of good luck, but a new problem springs up- Warport Rastari is under attack!
The attackers are Mogu (who the player inadvertently sent a message to in order to launch an attack), under the command of Warlord Kao. The player is sent to aid Rastakhan's blade and shield in repulsing the invaders, as these "pets of Zul" must be taught their place; however, as the Warlord's liuetenants are felled, both speak of something that lurks "beneath". Matters only grow worse when the Warlord reveals that, even in death, his people have won- the attack was a distraction to leave Rastakhan alone and open to an attack from Zul and his conspirators! The player returns with the king's blade and shield, but Habutu- the king's shield -perishes. In a final cruel act, Zul stabs Rastakhan in the back and announces his loyalty to G'Huun (as does Yazma, former spymaster for the king, and Vol'Kaal- a dire troll). Rastakhan is taken away, but Zul remains unconcerned... in time, he says, they will come to us.
Falling back to Zeb'ahari- a tiny fishing village -it becomes clear Rastakhan doesn't have much time left! Working with healers from both trolls and tortollans- turtle people blessed with long lives and great wisdom -the player discovers why Rastakhan is in such deep danger- the loa are arguing over his soul! Rezan, the loa of kings and queens, may have claim to Rastakhan by rite, but Bwonsamdi- the loa of death -has been waiting over two centuries for the king's soul and won't give him up easy! The presence of Zul's followers- brought by a village traitor -doesn't make matters any simpler. Still, after a few slain traitors and a few medical cures, the player eventually comes to save Rastakhan (after seeing Rastakhan fight for his chosen's soul and Bwonsamdi give a cryptic warning for the future).
With Rastakhan back on his feet (more or less), the task of dealing with Zul's dark work begins. During the hunt for traitors, the player comes across something concerning- Zul is moving on Rezan's temple; he intends to take the great loa over and steal his power! Rushing to his loa's defense, Rezan and the player both find treasonous Zandalari and Mogu forces assailing Rezan's temple! The battle that follows is ferocious and results in the death of Vilnak'dor, one of Zul's henchmen, but the result is pleasant- Rezan is freed and his vengeance (while bloody) is effective. Following the fight, Rezan confronts Rastakhan- the king admits he has grown soft, but he intends to see Zul's head roll!
The fighting only gets worse, as Zul's thugs and inner circle begin to tear Zandalar's people, gods and lands apart. Though many loa are spared a dark fate (Pa'ku, the wind loa, and Gonk, loa of the hunt), not all are so fortunate... Yazma consumes the power of Shadra, the loa of spiders, becoming a drider troll and leaving her would-be patron god a dead husk. Vol'kaal fares little better, but Yazma escapes to fight another day. The Horde and Rastakhan's loyalists unite their forces to hunt the heretics down and journey to Zul's private temple. While there, the player makes an alarming discovery- Zul intends to resurrect Dazar, first king of the Zandalari, and turn him into a puppet! To do this, he plans to invade Atal'Dazar, the burial crypts for all of Zandalar's rulers. While Rezan and Rastakhan both charge off to slay the heretics, the player sides with the other loyalists and mops up Zul's troops. They arrive just in time to see Rezan break Zul's barriers... but the end result is less than ideal. Zul has planned well, and Rezan is slain, with his spirit sent to parts unknown and his body rendered into an undead puppet on strings. Horrified and terribly weakened by his loa's death, Rastakhan and his troops retreat, to lick their wounds. Despite his failings, Rastakhan has one request- kill Yazma! In the meantime, he and his forces go hunting for Zul.
Facing the Blood Trolls
With the enemies on the Zanchuli Council either slain or driven off, Talanji mounts an expedition into Nazmir to deal with the blood troll threat. Many are wary of even going near, as those who enter the swamps never return! Regardless, Talanji's expedition makes camp in a set of ruins near the border between Nazmir's swamplands and Zuldazar, bolstering her forces with champions of the Horde.
Braving the Sands of Vol'Dun
With G'huun's vile work stopped (for a time), one problem still remains- the schemes of General Jakra'zet, a Sandfury troll with a severe dislike of the Horde. Talanji suspects that he is up to no good, but her chief lead- Warguard Rakera -has mysteriously disappeared. The player goes to ask questions on her whereabouts, but nobody is willing to give any answers... and the ambush from Sandfury assassins doesn't exactly help, either!
When they first appeared in World of Warcraft, the Zandalari appeared as typical trolls, only with a pinkish-white skin coloration. In Cataclysm, their model was updated to be the bulkier type used by the forest and ice trolls first introduced in Wrath of the Lich King, with a yellowish-tan color. Upon the release of the "Thunder King" patch of Mists of Pandaria, they were given their own unique model, with a grayish-white color, more upright posture, and glowing eyes.