The Arathi Highlands (pronounced Ah-RATH-ee and also known simply as Arathor) are located in southeastern Lordaeron, east of Hillsbrad Foothills and south of the Hinterlands.
It is a flat but craggy region that has traditionally been the home of the humans of Arathor, who gave the region its name. The main hubs of activity are now Refuge Pointe and Hammerfall, which houses bases for Alliance and Horde, respectively. The large city of Stromgarde lies in ruins to the southwest, and pockets of Syndicate resistance dot the land. The Boulderfist ogres also infest Arathor, and prove to be a constant threat to the Alliance, Horde, and Syndicate factions vying for supremacy.
The Syndicate, Boulderfist ogres and the beleaguered human defenders of Stromgarde battle for supremacy in this gray, dismal realm. Prince Galen Trollbane once led the human defenders, until he was slain by mercenaries seeking Trol'kalar, and his mighty city of Stromgarde is a ruined battleground where the three factions wage guerrilla war. The fallen prince himself was raised from the dead to aid the encroaching Forsaken, already controlling the majority of Lordaeron, and to regain Trol'kalar. The Trollbane family's holdings include several ancient human artifacts, and a group called the Caretakers protects and preserves the most important pieces. To the south is the Thandol Span, a massive dwarven construction that bridges the canal between Lordaeron and Khaz Modan.
The Arathi Highlands were once the cradle of human civilization, as it marks the place where the Empire of Arathor was founded and where the first real contact between elves and humans was made, during the Troll Wars. From the great city of Strom, the Human Empire controlled nearly all of the eastern lands. After the Empire's collapse, the city of Strom was largely abandoned save for a contingent of the Imperial Guard. These Guardsmen founded a new martial kingdom known as Stromgarde, establishing their capital in the old city of Strom. Over time, they also built a village (later known as Hammerfall) further to the east. During the Second War the forces of Stromgarde, now ruled by Thoras Trollbane, were an instrumental part of the Alliance's ground forces. Despite this, the Arathi Highlands and Stromgarde itself was overrun by the Horde.
After the Second War, Stromgarde was rebuilt, and the former village that was to become Hammerfall was converted into an internment camp to hold the hated orcs. At the beginning of the Third War, the orcs from the highlands led by Thrall, warned by a prophet, gathered and left Lordaeron for Kalimdor.
The nation managed to escape the Plague of Undeath but was soon afterwards overrun by the Syndicate and ogres. The remnant of the army was forced to flee the city and take refuge in a small canyon to the north, in what is now known as Refuge Pointe. Now, four years after the Third War, the area has become a battle zone between many different factions. The Alliance fights to aide the former nation of Stromgarde in recapturing its capital and reestablishing control over the region. The Horde, now in control of the internment camp that once held them prisoner (naming it Hammerfall in honor of the fallen warchief Orgrim Doomhammer), is attempting to establish a forward base to protect its new allies against Alliance attack. The Syndicate is also in the area, trying to claim yet another territory for its jealous nobles. Finally, the ogres and forest trolls in the region are trying to drive out all others and establish a permanent settlement for themselves.
Before the Cataclysm, the Forsaken Courier could be seen roaming from the Go'Shek Farm in the highlands to Tarren Mill in the Hillsbrad Foothills. She was usually escorted by four Forsaken Bodyguards. Lieutenant Valorcall and his Stromgarde cavalrymen also patrolled the region.
Unlike its neighboring regions of Hillsbrad Foothills and the Wetlands, the Highlands were spared during the Cataclysm. Very little has changed. The Horde, flush from victory within Hillsbrad, have pushed slightly into the Highlands and have established a camp near the border. On the Alliance side, the dwarves have burrowed a deep pass through the mountains north into the Hinterlands, and now a clear path runs from behind Stromgarde Keep to Faldir's Cove. The dark iron dwarves have abandoned their camp near Thandol Span, retreating within the structure, and now the camp is home to a friendly Dark Iron Entrepreneur. The vile Forsaken, fresh from their conquest of Hillsbrad, now seek to seize control of Arathi as well, aided by the fallen prince of Stromgarde, Galen himself.
During The Ruined Kingdom it is shown that Galen Trollbane and his undead forces has seceded from the Forsaken and taken control of Stromgarde from the Syndicate and the ogres except for areas occupied by Witherbark forest trolls. Both forces would eventually be decimated by the Knights of the Ebon Blade plunging the capital and the entire region into uncertainty.
The Arathi Highlands have a higher elevation than Khaz Modan's Wetlands, but otherwise the geography is similar. To the north is Thoradin's Wall, now collapsed and gaping wide. South is the Thandol Span, which bridges the gap between Lordaeron and Khaz Modan. Mountains to the east prevent easy access to the sea, and the Highlands' western coast is bleak, windswept and cold.
The Arathi Highlands are an area of grassy land in Southeastern Lordaeron. Notable features include the great circles of binding, which are protected by elementals and used to keep some unknown entity imprisoned. The region lies just north of the huge canyon running between the highlands and the Wetlands to the south, which can only be crossed by the Thandol Span. The area is home to the ruins of Stromgarde Keep, which has been overrun by ogres and the Syndicate. The wildlife of the highlands includes giant spiders, carrion birds, and raptors.
There is also a dwarven farm on the southeast coast of the zone, though the location is shown as The Forbidding Sea on the minimap while there. It can only be accessed either by flying mount or by swimming from the Hinterlands or the Wetlands. While there are two Alliance-tagged dwarven farmers and some various critters there--as well as two grain fields, dwarven stables, and a small hovel carved into the side of the mountain--the farm appears to serve no purpose other than as a geographical curiosity.
There are no instanced dungeons in the Arathi Highlands, though the ruins of Stromgarde Keep are one of the most well known micro dungeons in the game, and the The Tower of Arathor micro dungeon can also be found here. The entrance to the Arathi Basin battleground can also be found in this zone.
The Arathi Highlands are home to several characters of note. At Refuge Pointe, Skuerto seeks aid in the battle against the Boulderfist ogres. In Hammerfall, Tor'gan attempts to raise the spirits of those who still reel from the loss of Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer. And in Faldir's Cove, Captain Steelgut and his trusted crew seek an end to their prime threat - naga.
The woodlands of the Arathi Highlands were home to gnolls and ogres, and the rivers were inhabited by murlocs by the time of the Horde's exodus from Lordaeron. Golems lurked in the rocky hills.
Notes, tips, and additional info
Stromgarde was once described as being situated amongst the foothills of the Alterac Mountains.
It is possible to swim along the southeastern edge of the zone to get to the undefined brown area southeast on the zone map. This area is in fact an isolated plains containing a couple of crops, two male dwarven farmers, cats, rams, rats, and a wooden chair that you can sit in. The region has no name, and visiting it will not reveal it on the zone map.
The Arathi Highlands were one of the locations featured in South Park's "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode.
The eastern-most areas of the Hillsbrad Foothills (including Durnholde Keep and an Alliance naval base) may be considered part of the Arathi Highlands, as Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos indicates that Thrall's camp in a forested area west of Durnholde and east of a river (presumably the one east of Southshore in World of Warcraft) is within Arathi. The Highlands may, as a region, run up to this river, although due to Durnholde's inclusion Stromgarde's domain is likely still bounded by Thoradin's Wall.
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