Gather 'round lads and lasses. Pull up a chair near the fire, grab yourself a pint, and listen to the Tavern Tale of the epic struggle of good versus evil during the Year of the Dragon.
Rise of Shadows
It all began with a secret meeting of shadowy figures in a traveling caravan cart belonging to the mysterious troll fortune-teller Madame Lazul. Whispers and rumors circulate that she had connections with the ancient evil forces of the Old Gods, which perhaps were the source of her fortune-telling powers. She had been recruited by the ethereal Rafaam, the self-proclaimed 'supreme archeologist' and thief who had previously attempted to steal the powerful Staff of Origination from the Explorers' League.
Founding members of the League of E.V.I.L.
Using her cards, Lazul found and recruited other villains who had previously faced defeat at the hands of heroic adventurers. The first was King Togwaggle, the fallen kobold king who had been appointed by Rafaam to rule the kobold catacombs and hoard as much treasure as he could. In spite of all of the catacombs' traps, adventurers, explorers, and treasure-hunters managed to loot all the treasures, leaving Togwaggle's gold reserves empty. Desiring to refill his fortunes, Togwaggle answered the summons.
Rafaam crowning Togwaggle as a king of all kobolds
The next recruited was Hagatha the Witch. An orc with an unknown past and powerful magic, Hagatha had previously twisted the forest near the city of Gilneas into the terrifying Witchwood. Founding cults within the city, summoning monstrous creatures from nightmare into reality, and twisting every being and piece of land in the forest she could, Hagatha posed a great threat to the residents of Gilneas. Answering King Genn Greymane's call for help, a team of Tess Greymane, Darius Crowley, Houndmaster Shaw and Toki, Time-Tinker defeated Hagatha's minions and drove her out of Witchwood. She now desired both sanctuary from those hunting her, as well as vengeance.
Witchwood's monster hunters: Tess Greymane, Darius Crowley, Houndmaster Shaw and Toki, Time-Tinker
The last member to join was the infamous mad scientist Dr. Boom. Formerly the head of Boom Labs in the Netherstorm of Outland, Dr. Boom led a team of eight other evil super-geniuses as they developed methods of taking over the world and building dangerously powerful devices. Boom's master plan was ruined, however, when adventurers infiltrated his labs and bested all of his associates and doomsday devices while solving the labs' many puzzles. Eager for a chance to cause more mayhem with his inventions, Dr. Boom was excited to accept the invitation.
Dr. Boom as seen outside of his lab in Netherstorm
Once the villains were assembled, Rafaam proposed that they should unite into a single league in order to defeat the pesky heroes who had constantly bested each of them in the past. Promising that their dreams would come true as a part of his master plan, he formed the League of E.V.I.L., although he never explained the meaning of the acronym title to anyone. With these five villains serving as the leaders of the organization, they went about recruiting henchmen and lackeys through various methods, including job interviews.
Eventualy, the leaders of E.V.I.L. recruited nine top lieutenant henchmen and broke them into teams for the first part of Rafaam's master plan: stealing the entire floating city of Dalaran.
Dr. Boom's engine strapped to the floating city of Dalaran
Following an attack plan hastily improvised while skydiving down to the city, Togwaggle and his fire elemental Rakanishu raided the Dalaran Bank in search of riches. Hagatha took the sethrak shaman Vessina and the gnoll sniper Ol' Barkeye with her to release the monsters imprisoned in the Violet Hold in order to keep the city guards busy. Lazul worked to cause chaos in the merchant district along with the fallen arakkoa Kriziki—who previously worked with the criminal faction known as the Kabal in Gadgetzan and to whom Lazul promised the ability to fly—and the vulpera pirate Captain Eudora. After driving the citizens out, she worked to fill the city with merchants sympathetic to E.V.I.L.'s cause. Dr. Boom took the pandaran black-market bodyguard Mr. Chu and the kobold druid Squeamlish with him down into the Dalaran sewers to strap giant rockets to the city so E.V.I.L. could use it as a mobile base.
To finalize their conquest, Rafaam brought the fallen Neferset Tol'vir leader, Tekahn, and the paladin George the Fallen with him to drive away the city's defenders, the Kirin Tor. Of all E.V.I.L.'s henchmen, these two had perhaps the strongest personal investment. Tekahn had struck a deal with Rafaam that would see him as the ruler of all the Tol'vir and Uldum, while George joined in order to take revenge on the adventurers of the world whom he believed had killed his best friend Karl when they got lost in the Kobold Catacombs after escaping from Un'goro Crater.
Saviors of Uldum
After successfully taking over Dalaran and turning it into their mobile base of operations, the League of E.V.I.L. set course for the desert region of Uldum to carry out the next stage of Rafaam's plan. Unfortunately, they made some navigational errors and ended up crashing into Blackrock Mountain. In the chaotic battles against Ragnaros and his forces that resulted, the kobold henchman Tak Nozwhisker was left behind.
Does Dr. Boom even have a pilot licence?
Enacting his deal with Rafaam, Dark Pharaoh Tekahn helped the League of E.V.I.L. open the forbidden Tombs of Terror across Uldum in order to unleash great plague lords. Each leader of E.V.I.L. set about causing chaos in their own way. Hagatha used her corrupting swamp magic to foul the waters of Uldum's oasis and populate it with her minions. Lazul sought to empower herself by awakening dark power from an ancient obelisk. Dr. Boom utilized his technological gadgets to hack into the titan constructs of the tombs and gain control of their stone armies. Rafaam used his skills as the 'Supreme Archaeologist' to scour the desert sands for the powerful Tome of Origination. And Togwaggle? Well, he just wanted to loot shiny things from the local bazaars.
According to the agreement, Rafaam would obtain the power of the plague of undeath, while Tekahn would remain to rule over Uldum. However, none of them counted on the return of Rafaam's old foes, the League of Explorers.
At this point, the members of the League of Explorers were off on their own separate missions all across Azeroth. Elise Starseeker happened to be outside the gates of Uldum and ran into a Sethrak Member of the League of E.V.I.L. named Terraviss. After defeating him, she learned of the organization's existence, their theft of the city of Dalaran, and that they were heading to Uldum. Determined to reunite the Explorers, she rescued Sir Finley from being buried in sand dunes in Tanaris, tracked down and helped Brann with his new dinosaur-taming hobby in Un'goro, where he tamed the legendary King Krush, and found Reno practicing with his new gattling-wand that he looted in the Dalaran Crater. The reunited League returned to the gates of Uldum, attracting the attention of Dark Pharaoh Tekahn. Attacking them with his minions, Tekahn taunted the Explorers, telling them that E.V.I.L.'s plan had already been set in motion and couldn't be undone. After the Explorers successfully held him and his minions off, he invited them to face him in Uldum, if they dared.
The first plague lord the explorers faced was a plague of murlocs in the Lost City of the Tol'vir. Armed with The Gatling Wand and a new enthusiasm for magic and magical artifacts, Reno braved the dangers of the ruins and undid Vesh, Plague Lord of Murlocs. Along the way, he encountered Ol' Barkeye and defeated him, making Barkeye the first of E.V.I.L.'s henchmen to be lost to this story.
The second plague was one of madness and had taken hold in the vast desert of Uldum. Sir Finley set out to combat it, riding his scarab steed and wielding an artifact called the Scales of Justice that the Explores had recently uncovered from one of the tombs. In his travels across the sands, he stumbled across a lost paladin named Karl whom he joined forces with. After braving the great terrors and hallucinations of the desert, he fought and defeated K'zrath, Plague Lord of Madness. On his journey, he encountered Squeamlish near an oasis and soundly defeated her, removing her from the story as well.
The third plague lord haunted Khartut's Tomb and was a plague of death. Elise, armed with her knowledge, research, and druidic powers, delved into the tomb and confronted Xatma, Plague Lord of Death. On her journey, she also ran into Mister Chu guarding a storehouse of stolen goods and took him out.
Brann took on the fourth plague of wrath in the fabled Halls of Origination. Facing the titan constructs that guarded the halls, Brann faced down Icarax, Plague Lord of Wrath. Delving the halls, he encountered Vessina and defeated her.
Throughout their adventures delving in the tombs, the Explorers collected powerful treasures, honed their skills, gained allies, and trained junior members of the Explorers League, raising them to senior status.
They also engaged in separate quests of their own, with Brann working to unseal a titan vault to learn ancient tol'vir secrets, Elise realizing her untapped druidic potential, Reno raiding the Sky Temple of the air elementals in search of new magic scrolls to fuel his ever-growing magical interests/desire for loot, and Sir Finley uncovering the secrets of murloc mummies deep underground.
The fifth plague—the plague of fire—had been infused into Tekahn, making him the new Plague Lord of Flame. In spite of his new powers, the Explorers were able to defeat Tekahn with the aid of the powerful treasures and allies they collected along the way. During the fight, Tekahn unleashed the final plague of undeath, calling on Rafaam to aid him. Rafaam, however, having acquired what he came for, abandoned Tekahn to face the Explorers on his own, claiming that he had already held up his end of the deal. E.V.I.L. had helped infuse Tekahn with power and recognized him as the ruler of Uldum. If he couldn't keep it, that was his problem.
Descent of Dragons and Galakrond's Awakening
With all the pieces in place, the remaining members of the League of E.V.I.L. used Dalaran to fly to the Dragonblight region of Northrend in order to enact the final stage of Rafaam's master plan: the resurrection of the giant proto-dragon Galakrond. Along the way, the League of E.V.I.L. decorated Dalaran to celebrate their own version of the Azerothian holiday of Winter Veil. Reading her crystal ball and fortune cards, Lazul sensed two possible fates for the coming battle, but which would come to pass?
Even villains can appreciate holidays
Learning that they had to reach Northrend to stop the League of E.V.I.L., the League of Explorers depended on Reno to use his recently-acquired magic abilities to open a portal for them to travel quickly enough to make it in time. Still being inexperienced in the ways of the mage, Reno accidently teleported them into various conflicts in locations like Orgrimmar, Un’goro, and Blackrock Mountain—where they ended up having to fight off the enraged Tak Nozwhisker who was still there after being left behind in the summer. In spite of all the confusing encounters they had on the way, Reno got them to Northrend eventually.
The final battle of the Year of the Dragon began on the frozen coast of Dragonblight with Dr. Boom and Kriziki—now blessed with the ability to fly as she was promised— temporarily driving back Sir Finely, slowing the Explorer's progress. Meanwhile, Lazul worked to unearth ancient horrors from the ice to aid her in battle. The ice elemental Chenvaala resisted Lazul's control and attempted to prevent her from thawing a powerful frozen Gronn named Dragonslayer Skruk. Utilizing her dark mind-control powers, Lazul succeeded in freeing the creature as an ally against the dragonflights. Becoming separated from the rest of the Explorers, Reno ended up having to hold his own against Kriziki and Dr. Boom. Overwhelmed by Dr. Boom's mechanical army from Boom Labs, Reno ended up getting captured and flown by Kriziki as a prisoner to the Violet Hold in Dalaran. Brann, too late to save his friend, launched an assult on Dr. Boom and disabled his mech, taking the first ringleader of the League of E.V.I.L. out of commission.
Awaken from deep slumber, Dragonslayer Skruk is ready to hunt some dragons
The League of Explorers didn't come to the fight alone. They had made allies with the dragonflights—Galakrond's old enemies—and the former mages of Dalaran. One of these mages, Khadgar, was sent in to protect their forces from being buried by an elemental E.V.I.L. had bound to its cause—a living landside of snow named Avalanchan. Meanwhile, Elise pursued Kriziki, but was only able to catch up to her after Reno had already been imprisoned. Utilizing her brilliant intellect to formulate plans, she managed to bring Kriziki down from her aerial advantage and take her out.
At Wyrmrest Temple, Rafaam and his goons were working to learn the location of Galakrond's remains so they could resurrect him. Opposing them were the Dragonriders, mortal allies of the dragonflight who were allowed to ride them into battle. Togwaggle, doing battle with Dragoncaster Askaara, also sought to learn the secrets of dragon magic in order to infuse it into his wax magic and create a dragon of his own. Horrified at this prospect, Askaara sent word to rally the dragonflilght forces. Another member of the dragonriders, Dragonrider Talritha, did battle with a member of the Cult of Galakrond, High Cultist Dawnshatter, and her necromantic powers in the temple as the cult sought the great dragon's burial grounds. Upon learning the purpose of the cult's attack, Talritha rushed to alert Alexstrasza, the Dragonqueen.
Also among those defending Wyrmrest Temple were the United Sr. Explorers—the young apprentices the League had trained during their adventures in Uldum. To thwart their efforts, Rafaam sent the cultist leader and herald of Galakrond, Kronx Dragonhoof, to stop them. Wishing to bring doom to all of Azeroth, Kronx called upon the powers of Galakrond and bested the newly-seasoned team, though he also considered Rafaam a fool for thinking he could control Galakrond’s power.
Kronx Dragonhoof, the herald of Galakrond
At the foot of Wyrmrest, Lazul sensed the presence of two of her old god masters, Go'rath, and Shu'ma. When confronted by Sir Finley and his army of murlocs, she gladly sacrificed herself to summon them from below, leaving Finley and his forces with a much tougher fight on their hands. With Lazul gone, the second leader of E.V.I.L. had been eliminated.
High above, Hagatha used her swamp magic, the power of the Shudderwock, and a stolen titan weapon called The Fist of Ra-den to subdue and corrupt Nithogg the storm drake, much as she had corrupted beasts from the Witchwood prior to her first defeat. With E.V.I.L. now having their needed information regarding Galakrond's whereabouts, Hagatha turned to stand her ground against Alexstrasza, only to be defeated by the Dragonqueen's power and allies. With the swampqueen's demise, the third leader of E.V.I.L. had fallen.
After the battle, Alexstrasza revealed a secret to Elise: Reno Jackson was actually a juvenile blue dragon, a fact unknown even by him. However, there was little time to let the implications of this revelation settle in, as Rafaam launched a great fleet of airships to buy him time as he prepared the ritual to use the plague of undeath on Galakrond. Togwaggle, now in possession of the dragon magics he sought, had created the candle dragon Waxadred to guard Dalaran. As Waxadred terrorized the skies of the battle, he defeated several foes, including Dragonrider Talritha.
Explorers Brann, Finley and Elise preparing for the final air offensive
E.V.I.L.'s airship fleet was led by Captain Eudora aboard her ship, The Slipstream. After engaging the Explorer's ship, The Wanderer, in battle, Eudora was overwhelmed by the dragonflights who had eaten the rest of the E.V.I.L.'s air-fleet. Frustrated with Rafaam not providing any of her requested reinforcements, Eudora abandoned the battle and quit the League of E.V.I.L., sailing off to find a better villainous league to join.
Inspired by his recent successes in taming and riding dinosaurs, Brann Bronzebeard had taken to taming and riding dragons since arriving in Northrend. In the air battle, he duked it out with a corrupted plague dragon named Rotwing and managed to saddle and tame it.
Down on the ground, the Gronn Dragonslayer Skruk that Lazul had previously released from the ice was using his powerful bow to shoot dragons out of the sky. It took the time-twisting powers of the bronze dragon Chromie to take down this super-strong and seemingly-invincible behemoth.
With E.V.I.L.'s air support all but nonexistent, the Explorers took the opportunity to land in Dalaran and stop Rafaam's evil master plan at its source. Among the ground forces that landed in the city was the paladin Karl. In the midst of battle, Karl spotted his old friend George fighting for E.V.I.L. and reached out to him. Convinced that Karl was dead and that he was just seeing some sort of trick or illusion, George engaged his friend in battle. Although George was convinced that E.V.I.L. was just misunderstood like him—even believing that Rafaam had some good qualities—Karl managed to convince George that he hadn't died at the hands of adventurers, just gotten separated in the Catacombs. At last realizing how he had been tricked and used by Rafaam, George accepted Karl's forgiveness for all the crummy stuff he'd done with E.V.I.L. and rejoined him on the side of good as a paladin of the Light.
Out of spite, Rafaam sent Rakanishu to burn down the city, claiming that if he couldn't have Dalaran, then no one could. Standing together, George and Karl battled Rakanishu in the Dalaran marketplace. After burning down the market stalls, Rakanishu transformed into a larger, more powerful fire elemental form, Rakanishu, Rekindled. Alas for the newly-reunited friends, they were no match for this living inferno, making a heroic last stand as they fell side by side.
In the Violet Hold, Reno Jackson was still imprisoned. Determined to break him out, Elise ambushed Togwaggle—who was guarding the cell at the time—and freed Reno. With Togwaggle's defeat, the last of Rafaam's co-leaders were no longer a threat. Newly liberated and ready to fight, Reno and the rest of the Explorers surrounded Rafaam just as he was completing his ritual to summon Galakrond using the plague of undeath.
At this point, the stories conflict on what happened next. Some folk say that Rafaam bested Reno in this fight, succeeding in summoning Galakrond, infusing his dead bones with demonic fel magic and summoning imps in the process. In spite of Reno's sudden bursts of magical powers, and the great team of allies that came to his aid, he was no match for the monstrosity that arose from the completed ritual, a mass of bone and scale that glowed with an eerie green light. Delighting in his accomplishment, Rafaam mounted Galakrond as a steed and finished Reno off easily with the dragons unbridled power. With no one to stand in his way, Rafaam rode Galakrond on a destructive rampage across all of Azeroth, destroying the forces of the Alliance and Horde and laying waste to the cities of Stormwind and Orgrimmar.
Awakened Galakrond infused with fel magic
However, Galakrond's thirst for destruction began to extend further than Rafaam wanted. If Galakrond destroyed all of Azeroth, there would be no one left to fear him; that is what he wanted most, to be the most feared and powerful villain in all of Azeroth. With Galakrond's destructive power, it was almost too easy now, and Galakrond himself might prove too hard to control. To remedy this, and make sure there was still a world for him to rule, Rafaam used his powerful Gauntlet of Origination—possibly connected to the Staff of Origination— and many other powerful treasures he'd stolen throughout the year to put Galakrond back in the grave. With a sense of sorrow at having to undo such a perfect force of destruction, Rafaam destroyed the very beast he had worked so hard—and in such a needlessly complicated way —to raise. When the ashes settled, those that remained quaked in fear of the name Rafaam. And so, he disappeared into the shadows, the most feared villain of all time.
It's a bird ... it's a plane ... it's Rafaam! First of His Name (probably not), Totally Burnt (ehm, bandages?), Self Proclaimed Leader of the League of E.V.I.L. (seriously tho, what does it stand for?!), Supreme Gravedig...I mean Archaeologist, Breaker of Chains (of custody) and (adoptive) Father of ... Galakrond? Technically?
This version of the story's ending makes one wonder what could have happened if one of the other leaders of E.V.I.L. had been the one to raise Galakrond. Perhaps Hagatha would have infused him with the power of the Maelstrom instead of fel magic. Perhaps Lazul would have used the power of the old gods to raise him and spread madness to the world. Perhaps Dr. Boom would have turned him into the ultimate armored living mech, or Togwaggle use the darkness from the Catacombs on him. As with all our tavern tales, you're free to imagine what you wish.
There are more than just two possible fates, it seems. Who knows how the story will end the next time someone tells it?
There's a happier ending to this story, however. Those who tell this version of the story say that Reno and the Explorers won that fateful battle, thanks to an unexpected twist. Remember how the dragon queen told Elise that Reno was in fact a blue dragon? Well, there are those who say that at the same time that Rafaam resurrected Galakrond, the powerful saturation of magic in the air—possibly from a combination of Dalaran's magical nature and the magic of the resurrection ritual—caused Reno's true dragon form to emerge and his memories to start to return, although he still wasn't entirely sure what was going on. He'd always known there was something different about him ever since he remembered being dropped off at an orphanage in an egg. With his dragon from greatly enhancing his magical powers, and aided by his friends, Renogos—his proper dragon name—was able to defeat both Rafaam and Galakrond just in time, much to Rafaam's surprise and dismay. After the fight, Reno reverted back to his human form, not entirely remembering everything that happened, but happy and excited that they had won and completely defeated Rafaam's evil league and ruined his master plan.
Victorious Reno Jackson
Well, that's all the time we've got tonight everyone, that's the story of the Year of the Dragon. Don't forget to grab yourself a second helping of brew on your way out, and I hope you come back next time to hear the new tales that travelers are sure to bring us next year.