Azal was a Forossian sage. These men were venerated in Forossa. They led warriors into battle and were called "Northwarders". To earn this title, the men had to complete a great journey of great hardship. After this they were considered oracles of the war gods (an example being Faraam, God of War). It seems these sages were a powerful influence on the population of Forossa, as they were believed to convey the will of a god of war. It then follows that they would likely direct as well as lead the warriors of Forossa into war. Whether or not the sages, or Northwarders, were united is impossible to say. It may be that competing Northwarders led warriors against each other in civil war.
Whatever the case, we know that Azal was one such sage or Northwarder. He was particularly proficient in the use of spells and that along with his renowned "prowess" may have therefore made him one of the more highly honored sages. His staff bestows upon the wielder greatly intensified spells, but drastically reduces how many can be cast before resting. This strategy seems to indicate that any battles that Azal led, were intended to be over with quickly, and the results to be devastating.
Theories go here.
Staff of Azal, sage of Forossa. Rather roughly crafted, but imbued with the magic of Azal. Greatly intensifies spells, but also drastically reduces spell usages. This staff, unfit for the inexperienced, is evidence of the sage Azal's prowess.
Robe of a Forossan Sage. Forossans venerated the god of war, and sages who led warriors into battle were called Northwarders. Northwarders earned their title only after completing a great journey of great hardship, after which they would be worshiped as oracles of the war gods.