I know it’s been a bit since Part 1 but stay with me on this journey.
More of this will be a bit more freeform rather than the earlier delineation I made between in-universe accounts and external analysis.
The Long Decline of the Gorian Empire
Let’s be honest, the Gorian patricians were spanked by the draenei. And between everything they spent trying to conquer the draenei, and the part where they lost their entire enslaved population of orcs as a result, it meant that the empire could no longer sustain itself. The empire fractured, everyone trying to use whatever resources they could to subjugate some other clan in order to claim resources and get their working class back. The War of the Exiles ends when the draenei withdraw and the orcs claim their freedom on the northern continent, but the fighting across the empire doesn’t stop for decades.
Highmaul’s existence in Nagrand stems from the collapse of the empire, in fact. It’s been centuries since the war, and some imperator gets it in his skull to restore the ancient metropolis of Highmaul, making it his seat of power, and striking up a trade with the remnants of the empire on the southern continent with goods crafted in the north. There’s also an underground slave trade, fed by ogre privateers who prey on orcish coastal villages. (This details also feeds into the orcs’ resentment of the draenei, since the draenei navy was supposed to be strong enough to combat the ogres’, and yet everyone suffers for it.) It’s nothing like the subjugation of an entire race, but the Highmaul elites are able to profit off selling orcs for drudge work, outcast arakkoa for craftsmanship, the occasional draenei as an exotic trophy piece, and all of the above including saberon for bloodsports. (Hence, this is where Kargath’s origin story as a gladiator comes into play in the MU canon.)
This is also where the Warsong campaigns against the ogres in Nagrand come from, and part of why the Warsong are among the fiercest warrior clans among the orcs: they had the greatest amount of combat against organized, military opposition (as opposed to the Thunderlords hunting the gronn, or the Bleeding Hollow battling outcast arakkoa and saberon in Tanaan). This is also the part where Grom Hellscream gets his initial glory from tearing an imperator’s throat out with his bare teeth. The Blackrock Clan’s battles against ogres in Gorgrond have similar echoes.
For their part, the draenei don’t turn a blind eye to this; part of the reason they were blind-sided by the orcish uprising is because they were preparing a military reprisal against Highmaul. More of the rangari were monitoring ogre shipping lanes and troop concentrations and simply didn’t see the Horde coming until it was too late.
The imperator (let’s just assume it’s Mar’gok), witnessing the Horde’s massacre of the draenei, decides that he’s interested in a piece of the action, or simply that he wants to claim the ancient magic of the draenei that his predecessors in the War of the Exiles failed to get. But this is where the true ferocity of the fel-powered Horde comes into play: the ogres don’t stand a chance. Highmaul is obliterated. Rogue bands of ogres (remember Turok from Warcraft: Orcs and Humans or the ogres who aided in the assault on Shattrath?) even end up being recruited into the Horde as shock troops to be used against imperial centuries and draenei holdouts, because ogres respect strength and the Empire simply no longer had it. Once the fragments of the empire on the southern continent heard about what happened, the ogres were galvanized and united against the Horde, for all the good it ended up doing them.
In turn, this helps to explain why those orcs with a strong history of battling ogres, like Grom and Kargath, aren’t involved in the First War. They’re busy protecting the Horde’s flanks from the reconstituted Gorian forces who are trying to sweep in and claim the Dark Portal for themselves. This is also why you end up seeing more ogres deployed in the Second War: the Gorians have been defeated so soundly that more ogres are joining the Horde in order to stay on the winning team.
Ultimately, the Gorian Empire dies with the rest of Draenor, and principally because they failed to react well to any of the paradigm shifts that were introduced into their domain: they couldn’t deal with the draenei without trying to subjugate them, and they couldn’t deal with the orcs once they’d been empowered by the Legion. And with no arsenal to call on against these forces and no one to broker a deal with a higher power of some kind (as we’ll see with Cho’gall), all that was left of them were the dregs that were either dominated by Gruul and his sons or discovered the Apexis monuments and founded Ogri’la.
Clearly, another one the blades of grass that differentiates the timeline of Warlords of Draenor from the MU is that Mar’gok doesn’t have any luck discovering Titan relics that he can use against the Horde’s fel magic. Because hot-diggity would some of that come in handy.
More to come.