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Following the conclusion of the Second War, the surviving orcs were rounded up and imprisoned in internment camps, the majority of which were under the watch of Aedelas Blackmoore, headquartered at Durnholde Keep.
Surprisingly, the orcish prisoners seemed to lose their energy over time and acted more and more apathetic and resigned to their fates. Fights, whether between two prisoners or between prisoners and guards, decreased in frequency until they were virtually unheard of. The once fearsome race of warriors had become a pitiful people to whom even moving around didn't seem worth the effort, and many prisoners could be seen sitting in their own filth.
Some in the Alliance became worried that these were symptoms of some sort of disease, and that it might be contagious and contractible by other races. But Antonidas of the Kirin Tor developed a different theory as to the reason for this dramatic change in behavior, a theory which proved to be correct: the orcs had been under the influence of demonic and warlock magics for so long that they had become unable to function without them. The orcish prisoners were suffering withdrawal symptoms. Most of the people with whom he shared his theory saw no reason to do anything to cure the orcs of their condition, something which the compassionate Antonidas had unsuccessfully attempted to do on his own. After all, these were the same orcs who had conquered Azeroth and slaughtered countless humans, and now they had become as harmless as sheep. Few people considered that to be a bad thing.
Because the prisoners at the camps had gone so long without making trouble, security measures had become very lax. Since nobody ever tried to escape, fewer and fewer guards were assigned to each camp and the walls were easy to scale if one were so inclined — which one never was, until the capture of Thrall.
After having been raised as a slave by Blackmoore, Thrall finally escaped only to be captured again by a human patrol. But the soldiers did not recognize him as Blackmoore's slave and mistook him for just another orc left over from the war. They secured him in a net and dragged him to the camp (literally), where he was shocked to see the race of mighty warriors he had been told he belonged to in such a state. After speaking with some of the prisoners, learning about their condition and being told that Grom Hellscream was one of the few orcs who had managed to overcome the listlessness, eluding capture and continuing to harass the Alliance with his remaining soldiers, a prisoner approached Thrall and told him that Blackmoore had arrived at the camp to retrieve him. Realizing he had to leave, it was a simple matter for Thrall to climb the wall and run off when nobody was paying attention (after creating a distraction by having two orcs fight inside the camp (from Lord of the Clans)).
Some time later Thrall joined forces with Orgrim Doomhammer, Hellscream, and the Frostwolf Clan which he had discovered he belonged to. He infiltrated one of the camps by allowing himself to be captured once more. While there he spoke to the prisoners, convincing them that their freedom was worth fighting for and demonstrating his newfound shaman powers. He proved quite effective at inspiring them, since when Hellscream and Doomhammer finally raided the camp the prisoners overcame their lethargy and joined in the fight, overwhelming the guards and gaining their freedom. The process was repeated again and again and with each raid the orcish forces grew stronger, and the spirits of the orcs were buoyed more and more in spite of the lack of demonic energies upon which they had grown dependent.
(Sources: Lord of the Clans by Christie Golden and the section in the manual for Warcraft III chronicling the history of the orcs.)
Beginning of the Internment Camps
- As the fires of the Second War died down, the Alliance took aggressive steps to contain the orcish threat. A number of large internment camps, meant to house the captive orcs, were constructed in southern Lordaeron. Guarded by both the paladins and the veteran soldiers of the Alliance, the camps proved to be a great success. Though the captive orcs were tense and anxious to do battle once more, the various camp wardens, based at the old prison-fortress of Durnholde, kept the peace and maintained a strong semblance of order."
- Though Grom Hellscream and his Warsong clan managed to evade capture, Deadeye and his Bleeding Hollow clan were rounded up and placed in the internment camps in Lordaeron. Notwithstanding these costly uprisings, the camps' wardens soon re-established control over their brutish charges.
Lethargy of the Orcs
- Months passed, and more orc prisoners were rounded up and placed within the internment camps. As the camps began to overflow, the Alliance was forced to construct new camps in the plains south of the Alterac Mountains.
- Amidst the political turmoil, many of the camp wardens began to notice an unsettling change come over their orc captives. The orcs' efforts to escape from the camps or even fight amongst themselves had greatly decreased in frequency over time. The orcs were becoming increasingly aloof and lethargic. Though it was difficult to believe, the orcs - once held as the most aggressive race ever seen on Azeroth - had completely lost their will to fight. The strange lethargy confounded the Alliance leaders and continued to take its toll on the rapidly weakening orcs.
- Some speculated that some strange disease, contractible only by orcs, brought about the baffling lethargy. But Archmage Antonidas of Dalaran posed a different hypothesis. Researching what little he could find of orcish history, Antonidas learned that the orcs had been under the crippling influence of demonic power for generations. He speculated that the orcs had been corrupted by these powers even before their first invasion of Azeroth. Clearly, demons had spiked the orcs' blood, and in turn the brutes had been granted unnaturally heightened strength, endurance, and aggression.
- Antonidas theorized that the orcs' communal lethargy was not actually a disease, but a consequence of racial withdrawal from the volatile warlock magics that had made them fearsome, bloodlusted warriors. Though the symptoms were clear, Antonidas was unable to find a cure for the orcs' present condition. Then too, many of his fellow mages, as well as a few notable Alliance leaders, argued that finding a cure for the orcs would be an imprudent venture. Left to ponder the orcs' mysterious condition, Antonidas' conclusion was that the orcs' cure would have to be a spiritual one.
Fall of the Interment Camps
- The chief warden of the internment camps, Aedelas Blackmoore, watched over the captive orcs from his prison-stronghold, Durnholde. One orc in particular had always held his interest: the orphaned infant he had found nearly eighteen years before. Blackmoore had raised the young male as a favored slave and named him Thrall. Blackmoore taught the orc about tactics, philosophy, and combat. Thrall was even trained as a gladiator. All the while, the corrupt warden sought to mold the orc into a weapon.
- Despite his harsh upbringing, young Thrall grew into a strong, quick-witted orc, and he knew in his heart that a slave's life was not for him. As he grew to maturity, he learned about his people, the orcs, whom he had never met: after their defeat, most of them had been placed in internment camps. Rumor had it that Doomhammer, the orc leader, had escaped from Lordaeron and gone into hiding. Only one rogue clan still operated in secret, trying to evade the watchful eyes of the Alliance.
- The resourceful yet inexperienced Thrall decided to escape from Blackmoore's fortress and set off to find others of his kind. During his journeys Thrall visited the internment camps and found his once-mighty race to be strangely cowed and lethargic. Having not found the proud warriors he hoped to discover, Thrall set out to find the last undefeated orc chieftain, Grom Hellscream.
- Constantly hunted by the humans, Hellscream nevertheless held onto the Horde's unquenchable will to fight. Aided only by his own devoted Warsong clan, Hellscream continued to wage an underground war against the oppression of his beleaguered people. Unfortunately, Hellscream could never find a way to rouse the captured orcs from their stupor. The impressionable Thrall, inspired by Hellscream's idealism, developed a strong empathy for the Horde and its warrior traditions.
- Under the tutelage of the venerable shaman Drek'Thar, Thrall studied his people's ancient shamanistic culture, which had been forgotten under Gul'dan's evil rule. Over time, Thrall became a powerful shaman and took his rightful place as chieftain of the exiled Frostwolves. Empowered by the elements themselves and driven to find his destiny, Thrall set off to free the captive clans and heal his race of demonic corruption.
- During his travels, Thrall found the aged warchief, Orgrim Doomhammer, who had been living as a hermit for many years. Doomhammer, who had been a close friend of Thrall's father, decided to follow the young, visionary orc and help him free the captive clans. Supported by many of the veteran chieftains, Thrall ultimately succeeded in revitalizing the Horde and giving his people a new spiritual identity.
- To symbolize his people's rebirth, Thrall returned to Blackmoore's fortress of Durnholde and put a decisive end to his former master's plans by laying siege to the internment camps. This victory was not without its price: during the liberation of one camp, Doomhammer fell in battle.
- Thrall took up Doomhammer's legendary warhammer and donned his black plate-armor to become the new warchief of the Horde. During the following months, Thrall's small but volatile Horde laid waste to the internment camps and stymied the Alliance's best efforts to counter his clever strategies. Encouraged by his best friend and mentor, Grom Hellscream, Thrall worked to ensure that his people would never be slaves again.
Internment camps today
Today, most internment camps lie in ruins. They include:
- Durnholde Keep, Hillsbrad Foothills: the base of the internment system, formerly controlled by Lordaeron; now controlled by the Syndicate
- Hammerfall, Arathi Highlands: Site where Orgrim Doomhammer fell; formerly controlled by Stromgarde, now controlled by the Horde
- Lordamere Internment Camp, Alterac Mountains: Now used to hold Forsaken defectors; controlled by Dalaran
- The term the Second War is often used in two different ways. In some sources it refers to events of Tides of Darkness, in other sources it refers to the events of both Tides of Darkness and Beyond the Dark Portal. This leads to two issues, sometimes its implied that the internment camps were first built between Tides of Darkness and Beyond the Dark Portal. Other times it seems to imply that the internment camps were built after Beyond the Dark Portal.