Although the exact origins of the Aqir are still unknown, it is believed that the Aqir race (which later split into the Nerubians, Qiraj and Mantid) were an Old God creation, as they predated the arrival of the Titans. While they had an expansive civilization which stretched across the southeastern deserts of Kalimdor, there were constant battles between them and others who tried to occupy the territory – most notably the troll empires of the Gurubashi and Amani.
Around 16,000 years ago, the battles between the Aqir and the trolls came to a head, and their empire was broken into factions, each going in a different direction, causing them to evolve into different, distinct races that can still be found today in Azeroth.
To the north, the Aqir evolved into what are now the Nerubian, who overtook the Tol’vir and modified their empire into Azjol-Nerub. They thrived and dwelt there for thousands of years until the Lich King extended his influence over all of Northrend. They were able to stand against Ner’zhul, as they were immune to both the plague and mind control.
The Nerubian’s underground empire spanned nearly half of Northrend, which proved to be an advantage only for a short amount of time. During the time of the Scourge, they mainly used hit-and-run tactics, but the Scourge soon turned the underground terrain to their advantage, bringing the temples of the Nerubian empire down on the leaders’ heads. While he knew that the Nerubians were immune to the plague, Ner’zhul tapped into his growing necromantic powers which allowed him to raise the deceased Nerubians and bend them to his will.
When Arthas became the Lich King and dethroned Ner’zhul, it was discovered that those who survived the onslaught of the attack had dug deeper, touching upon a tendril of the will of the Old Gods, which had manifested itself in the form of the Faceless Ones. Although they attempted to fight battles on the two fronts, eventually it became too much for the Nerubians, and they were defeated.
There are still those few remaining who fight against the current Lich King in Northrend, who continue to survive and bide their time, waiting for the time they can regain control of their home. In preparation, a large stash of eggs has been hidden in a safe spot so that once the Scourge has been wiped out, they can repopulate.
This prominent group in the recent history of Azeroth fled to the south and overthrew – then enslaved – the Tol’vir there, who had been running the Titans’ research station and guarding the important secret hidden there. Once the Qiraj had taken over and converted the settlement into an extensive underground hive, they renamed their empire Ahn’Qiraj and uncovered what the Titans had set the Tol’vir to guard – the prison of the Old God, C’thun. Since the Aqir had originally worshiped the Old Gods, they willingly became servants to it, and changed the prison to a seat of power.
They then spent thousands of years building a power base from which they would extract revenge upon Kalimdor, with only the Kal’dorei who inhabited Silithus after the Sundering standing in their way. While the Qiraji had the upper hand, they had never been able to fully drive the Kal’dorei out of the area and the conflict eventually came to a head, which is now known as War of the Shifting Sands. The Night Elves called upon the bronze dragon flight for aid, and when their request was initially refused, the Qiraj turned their efforts towards the Caverns of Time, home of the bronze dragon flight. While the power of the dragons was immense, it was still no match for the sheer numbers that the Qiraj had at their disposal, and ultimately a final plan made in desperation – to merely contain the Qiraj in their city – was hatched, and a magical barrier was placed over the gates, preventing any of the Qiraji from escaping.
For thousands of years, the Qiraji were successfully contained in Ahn’Qiraj while they and C’thun gathered strength and numbers to prepare for revenge for their defeat. The magical barrier had begun to break down, and they were finding ways out of their walled city. The Scarab Wall was eventually opened, and the ancient gong to break the barrier was struck, unleashing the horrors from the War of the Shifting Sands that had been hidden for so many thousands of years.
While the Ahn’Qiraj war didn’t last as long as the War of the Shifting Sands, it brought together both the Horde and Alliance under the direction of High Orverlord Varok Saurfang, ultimately demolishing the Qiraji forces that attempted to overtake Kalimdor and driving them back into Ahn’Qiraj.
The third and most recently discovered of the Aqir are the Mantid (or Klaxxi), who settled further south than even the Qiraji, in what later broke off and became Pandaria. Like their Qiraji brethren, they worshiped an Old God – in this case the multi-headed god Y’Shaarj, whose heart corrupted Pandaria and whose heads eventually became the various Sha.
The Klaxxi swear allegiance to the dead god, and have stated if it ever comes back, they will fight for it against the other mortal races of Azeroth. During the thousands of years the Mantid and Pandaren warred in cyclic intervals while the island was lost in the mists. The Mantids would intentionally bodily hurl themselves against the Serpent’s Shrine wall encasing the Pandaren civilization, which was traumatizing not only for the defenders, but for the Mantid as well. For thousands of years, this back-and-forth occurred almost as a ritual. More recently, though, after the mists hiding Pandaria had cleared, the time for their assault came earlier than had been expected – by 10 years. Under the direction of the Empress Shek’zeer, the Mantid willingly handed themselves over to the Sha of Fear, believing it was the only way to save their civilization – when in reality, they were unwittingly destroying that civilization in the Sha’s attempt to take over and corrupt all of Pandaria. The High Council of Klaxxi (composed of their priests and historians) decided, together, that in order to preserve their culture, their empress had to be killed. In order to achieve this, they allied themselves with adventurers in order to awaken the paragons that would allow Shek’zeer to be put down.