Lich King

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For the Icecrown Citadel encounter, see Lich King (tactics). For other appearances, see Lich King (disambiguation).
NeutralThe Lich King
Image of The Lich King
Title

Dark Lord of the Dead, Lord of the Scourge, Jailer of the Damned; see more below

Gender

Male

Race

Demigod (Undead)

Character class
Affiliation
Former affiliation(s)
Occupation

Master of the Scourge, Lord of Northrend

Location

Icecrown Citadel and other points throughout Northrend (see "In World of Warcraft")

Status

Dormant (Lore)[1]
Defeatable (WotLK)

Relative(s)

Kil'jaeden (creator)
Bolvar Fordragon (current Lich King)
Ner'zhul, Arthas Menethil (former Lich Kings)

The Lich King is the master and lord of the Scourge, which he rules telepathically from the Frozen Throne atop the Icecrown Glacier.

Kil'jaeden the Deceiver created the Lich King from the spirit of the orcish shaman Ner'zhul to raise an undead army to conquer Azeroth for the Burning Legion. Initially trapped within the Frozen Throne with Frostmourne, the Lich King eventually betrayed Kil'jaeden and merged with the human Arthas Menethil. At the climax of the war for Northrend, the Lich King was defeated by Highlord Tirion Fordring and his champions of the Light. With the destruction of Frostmourne and the death of Arthas, Bolvar Fordragon took the powers of the Lich King within himself, imprisoning the master of the Scourge within the Frozen Throne once more.

The Lich King Arthas was the titular antagonist of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. He was voiced by Michael McConnohie.

Biography

Birth of the Lich King

The Lich King Ner'zhul.

When Ner'zhul attempted to escape Draenor, he was immediately apprehended by the demon lord Kil'jaeden. Kil'jaeden tore the old shaman's body apart, but kept his spirit intact and aware. Ner'zhul begged for death, but Kil'jaeden said he still had a purpose to serve. He offered Ner'zhul one last chance to serve the Burning Legion or face eternal torment. When the orc recklessly agreed, Kil'jaeden encased his spirit in a block of diamond-hard ice from the distant reaches of the Twisting Nether. Encased within the frozen cask and warped by the demon lord's chaotic powers, Ner'zhul felt his consciousness expand ten thousand-fold and he became a spectral being of unfathomable power: the Lich King.[2]

Formation of the Scourge

The Lich King was sent to Azeroth through the Great Dark Beyond, landing in Northrend where the ice that encased him formed into the shape of a throne. Here, he would begin the formation of the Undead Scourge and in the process weaken the world in preparation for the Burning Legion. This new army would not fall victim to the petty infighting that had caused the orcs to fail in conquering Azeroth earlier. Sent to watch over him were the dreadlords, led by Tichondrius himself. Within the Frozen Throne, the Lich King experimented with his psychic powers and enslaved the local indigenous life forms. The plague of undeath that came from the Frozen Throne transformed each of them into his undead servants. Thus, using his psychic and necromantic powers, he was able to conquer much of Northrend. As he devoured more and more souls, he only grew in power as the individual undead under his control gave him "much needed nourishment". Thus, his powers began growing at an exponential rate; a fact that the dreadlords were well aware of.[3]

The Lich King entered a war with the kingdom of Azjol-Nerub, whose ancient inhabitants were immune to his plague of undeath. The 10-year conflict known as the War of the Spider ultimately ended with the Lich King's first major triumph (while the Nerubians were immune to the plague, their corpses could still be reanimated). The Lich King was impressed by his enemy, however, and adopted Nerubian architecture for his own, as a testament to the spider lords' tenacity and age.[4]

Having by now established control over most of Northrend, the dreadlords urged Ner'zhul to proceed with the agreed-upon plan to prepare the world for the invasion of the Burning Legion.

The Lich King then used his telepathy to reach out into Azeroth and summon any dark soul that would hear his call. Kel'Thuzad, a mage and a prominent member of Dalaran's Kirin Tor, answered his call. Kel'Thuzad was soon ensnared by the Lich King, faithfully serving him as the first of a "Cult of the Damned"; a cult that would worship the Lich King as a god and be taught necromancy to better aid their undead armies. (For the full story, please see Road to Damnation).

Kel'Thuzad and the dreadlord Mal'Ganis were instructed to begin paving the way, but Ner'zhul, ever mindful of Kil'jaeden's schemes, secretly sought a way out of his prison...

Scourge of Lordaeron

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After preparing for many long months, Kel'Thuzad and his Cult of the Damned finally struck the first blow by releasing the plague upon Lordaeron. Prince Arthas Menethil and Lady Jaina Proudmoore along with captain Falric began Lordaeron's search for answers on the new threat. Lordaeron's northernmost settlements were consumed utterly.

As the ranks of the undead swept across Lordaeron, King Terenas' only son, Prince Arthas Menethil, took up the fight against the undead. As was the Lich King's intention all along, Arthas succeeded in killing Kel'Thuzad, but even so, the undead ranks swelled with every soldier that fell defending the land.[5] Frustrated and stymied by the seemingly unstoppable enemy, Arthas took increasingly extreme steps to drive them out. He eventually ordered the slaughter of everyone in Stratholme, to prevent Mal'Ganis from adding its citizens (most of which had contracted the plague) to his army of the dead. Arthas failed to trap Mal'Ganis, who escaped to Northrend.[6] Arthas's comrades warned him that he was losing his hold on his humanity.

Arthas' fear and resolve proved to be his ultimate undoing. He tracked the plague's source to Northrend, intending to end its threat forever by killing its supposed leader Mal'Ganis. He stumbled across his long-time friend, Muradin Bronzebeard, brother to the dwarven King Magni, and the dwarf led him to a legendary weapon they hoped would help them combat the Scourge. Instead, Prince Arthas himself fell prey to the Lich King's tremendous power. Believing that it would help him save his people, Arthas took up the cursed runeblade, Frostmourne. Though the sword did grant him great power, the cost was high: Muradin lay dead (or so Arthas believed), and Arthas began to lose his soul, transformed into the first and greatest of the Lich King's death knights. Arthas finally exacted revenge upon Mal'Ganis, removing one of the Lich King's more dangerous jailers and completing the unholy transformation.[7] With his soul cast aside and his sanity shattered, Arthas led the Scourge against his own kingdom — Lordaeron. Arthas started with the murder of his own father, King Terenas, and crushed Lordaeron with his newfound unholy strength.[8]

Path of the Damned

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With Arthas as his champion, Ner'zhul spread the plague throughout Lordaeron. What remained of the Order of the Silver Hand struck back, but even mighty Uther fell to the death knight's power.[9] On orders from Tichondrius, Arthas took the Scourge north, to the high elven kingdom of Quel'Thalas, to resurrect the Summoner of Archimonde — Kel'Thuzad. The high elves never stood a chance, and their capital, Silvermoon, was ravaged — their millennia-aged Sunwell was warped and used to resurrect Kel'Thuzad as a lich. Thus, both masters were appeased: the Lich King's most loyal worshiper was returned, and the Summoner was unleashed.[10]

Having progressed too far into the Legion's plan (and guarded too closely by Tichondrius) to back out now, Ner'zhul's minions laid siege to Dalaran, reclaiming a spellbook of Medivh, which contained the incantations needed for Kel'Thuzad to summon Archimonde.

Finally, Archimonde was summoned outside Dalaran, and he immediately gave control of the Scourge to Tichondrius and the Dreadlords. But the Lich King was not done yet. Archimonde may have removed Ner'zhul's control over the undead, but in his eagerness for vengeance against the night elves, he forgot to return the Frozen Throne to Kil'jaeden. Thus, the Lich King remained at large. In fact, it seems the Lich King had already anticipated the later defeat of both Archimonde and the Burning Legion on Azeroth - Kel'thuzad revealed to Arthas (who was rather baffled by how the Scourge's leadership changed so quickly) that the Lich King had foreseen the demotion and that Arthas could still have a part to play in his "grand design".[11]

During the Legion's invasion of Ashenvale, Illidan Stormrage was released from his barrow prison after ten thousand years of captivity. Realizing Illidan's addiction to magic, and having utilized the Skull of Gul'dan himself years earlier, the Lich King dispatched Arthas to Kalimdor. There, Arthas covertly told Illidan about the powers of the Skull of Gul'dan. Unable to resist such power, Illidan took up the skull and harnessed its vast energies. By doing so, Illidan developed demonic features and vastly magnified power. Illidan, exactly as the Lich King had planned, then proceeded to kill Tichondrius and liberate Felwood.[12]

Without Tichondrius's support team, Archimonde's overconfident ascent of Mount Hyjal led to the unexpected: his annihilation.[13]

Legacy of the Damned

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Bristling with power and free to roam the world once more, Illidan set out to find his own place in the great scheme of things. However, Kil'jaeden confronted Illidan and made him an offer he could not refuse. Kil'jaeden was angered by Archimonde's defeat at Mount Hyjal, but he had greater concerns than vengeance. Sensing that his creation, the Lich King, was out of his control, Kil'jaeden ordered Illidan to destroy Ner'zhul and put an end to the undead Scourge once and for all. In exchange, Illidan would receive untold power and a true place amongst the remaining lords of the Burning Legion.[14]

Illidan agreed and immediately set out to destroy the Frozen Throne, the icy crystal cask in which the Lich King's spirit resided. Illidan knew that he would need a mighty artifact to destroy the Frozen Throne. Using the knowledge he had gained from Gul'dan's memories, Illidan decided to seek out the Tomb of Sargeras and claim the Dark Titan's remains. Using his vast, demonic powers, he lured the serpentine naga from their dark undersea lairs. Led by the cunning witch Lady Vashj the naga helped Illidan reach the Broken Isles, where Sargeras' Tomb was rumored to be located.

With the powerful Eye of Sargeras in his possession, Illidan traveled to the former wizard-city of Dalaran. Strengthened by the city's ley energy lines, Illidan used the Eye to cast a destructive spell against the Lich King's citadel of Icecrown in distant Northrend. Illidan's attack shattered the Lich King's defenses and ruptured the very roof of the world. The Lich King had no defense against this spell, and he would have been forever vanquished that day. But at the final moment, Illidan's destructive spell was stopped when his brother Malfurion intervened, sensing that the spell was causing great damage to the world.[15]

Civil war in the Plaguelands

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The Lich King imprisoned within the Frozen Throne.

Now that Ner'zhul had openly defied the will of the Legion, he knew that the wrath of Kil'jaeden and his demonic lackeys would be fierce - and at the worst possible time, Ner'zhul was losing his magical power. When he had pushed Frostmourne from the throne, he had caused a crack within the icy cask. Illidan's spell had caused this crack to worsen and now the Lich King's powers were rapidly seeping out like blood from an open wound. Half-way across Azeroth, residing over the unholy remains of his father's kingdom, Arthas was losing power as well — his powers came directly from the Frozen Throne, through his blade Frostmourne, and his hold over the undead was also slipping.

Ner'zhul knew that his time was short. Imprisoned within the Frozen Throne, he suspected (correctly) that Kil'jaeden would send his agents to destroy him. Desperate to save himself, he called his greatest mortal servant to his side: the death knight King Arthas.

Though his powers were drained by the Lich King's weakness, Arthas had been involved in a civil war in Lordaeron. Half of the standing undead forces, led by the banshee Sylvanas Windrunner, had been freed by the Lich King's sudden loss of influence and resented what they had become. Also, another group of undead was still under the control of the Legion's remaining commanders: the three dreadlords Varimathras, Detheroc and Balnazzar.[16] Arthas, called by the Lich King, was forced to leave the Scourge in the hands of his lieutenant, Kel'Thuzad, as the war escalated throughout the Plaguelands.[17]

Ultimately, Sylvanas and her rebel undead (known as the Forsaken) claimed the ruined capital city of Lordaeron as their own. Consuming the old sewers beneath the wrecked Capital City, the Forsaken vowed to defeat the Scourge and drive Kel'Thuzad and his minions from the land. The Lich King was powerless to stop them.[18]

Weakened, but determined to save his master, Arthas reached Northrend only to find Illidan's naga and blood elves waiting for him.[19] He and his nerubian allies (in the form of crypt fiends led by the fallen spiderlord Anub'arak) raced against Illidan's forces to reach the Icecrown Glacier and defend the Frozen Throne.

The Lich King triumphant

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Arthas fighting Illidan at the Frozen Throne.

Arthas, with Anub'arak's help, battled his way through their forces until faced with Prince Kael'thas. Kael'thas used the fact that Jaina now hated Arthas to make him hesitate, and fought with his father's reforged runeblade, Felo'melorn. Flamestrike clashed against Frostmourne, but in the end Arthas forced Kael'thas to flee, leaving the path open. He then proceeded to magically activate the four Icecrown obelisks around the glacier, opening the doors to the Frozen Throne.[20]

However, Illidan was waiting for him. An intense battle commenced in which Illidan displayed his newfound demonic powers and nearly defeated Arthas. Until, coming in for the finishing blow, he inadvertently left himself open and Arthas quickly took advantage of it, slicing open the demon hunter's chest. Illidan collapsed, grievously wounded. Arthas then turned towards the open doors of Icecrown, leaving Illidan on the ground instead of finishing him. Rather, before he walked away, Arthas warned Illidan to leave Azeroth and never return.[21]

Arthas entered the hollow glacier and beheld a winding pinnacle chained to the ice. As he strode up the stairs towards his destiny, the voices of those he had forsaken flooded through his mind. First he heard again Uther warning him "If we allow our passions to turn to bloodlust, then we will become as vile as the orcs." Then he heard again more angry remarks from Uther and Muradin, as well as his own responses to them, yet he ignored them, continuing his ascent. Finally, he reached the pinnacle and before him he saw an icy cask, within which was a suit of armor, arranged as if seated on a massive throne. Now only two voices spoke to him: Medivh's previous warning to Jaina and the rasping whisper of Ner’zhul:

"Your young prince will find only death in the cold north."

"Return the blade... complete the circle... release me from this prison!"

With a great cry of strength, Arthas brought the might of Frostmourne to bear against the Lich King's icy prison and with a haunting scream, the Frozen Throne exploded, and shards of the crystal scattered on the ground. With Ner'zhul's thorny helm at his feet, Arthas leaned forward, picked it up and then placed the unimaginably powerful artifact on his head.

"Now," they spoke in unison, "we are one!"

In that moment, Ner'zhul and Arthas' spirits fused into a single mighty being, just as the Lich King had always planned. And thus one of the most powerful entities on Azeroth was born.[22]

Interlude

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After the merger, the Lich King sat dormant for several years while storms raged across Northrend and his minions constructed Icecrown Citadel around the Frozen Throne. While the Lich King dreamt, the various personas in his mind - the death knight Arthas Menethil, the orc shaman Ner'zhul, and Matthias Lehner, the personification of the remnants of Arthas' humanity - fought for influence and control over the entity.

Matthias tried to reason with Arthas, but Arthas silenced him by running him through with Frostmourne. Ner'zhul was delighted by this, declaring that he and Arthas were now free to merge into a single glorious being. Arthas rejected this offer, stating that once he had the power of the Lich King, no one would tell him what to do again. He impaled the stunned Ner'zhul with Frostmourne, becoming the dominant personality of the Lich King and ending the dream.[23]

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

WotLK This section concerns content exclusive to Wrath of the Lich King.

Awakening

When the Lich King awakened, he removed his own heart, believing that anything that made him at all mortal made him weak.[24]

Afterwards he journeyed to Sindragosa's Fall where he raised the ancient dragon Sindragosa, the first consort to Malygos, as a frost wyrm, then watched his massive undead army prepare for war.[25]

While he was sleeping, his Death Knights trained in Icecrown. After he awoke he and ordered the march on Light's Hope Chapel because of the thousand heroes of the Alliance buried there. He wanted to raise them and claim those lands for the Scourge.[26]

Attacking Horde and Alliance

The capitals of Azeroth began receiving mysterious packages with infected grain. As their citizens ate grain from the infected packages, they were turned into bloodthirsty ghouls if not treated by members of the Argent Dawn. With all the major capitals thrown into chaos, necropoleis appeared around the world, triggering a second Scourge war. Adventurers from both the Alliance and the Horde fought back the disease and the advancing Scourge armies. Outraged by this treachery, Warchief Thrall with his fellow Horde leaders, and King Varian Wrynn planned an invasion on Northrend to deal with the Lich King once and for all.

The final straw occurred when the Lich King directly attacked the capitals of the Horde and the Alliance. Orgrimmar and Stormwind were attacked by large Scourge armies consisting of frost wyrms and abominations. The Battles for Stormwind and Orgrimmar were won by the brave adventurers and their leaders once more, thus forming the Horde Expedition and the Alliance Vanguard.

These attacks were intended to lure powerful heroes to Northrend, where the Lich King sought to corrupt them and use them against their own people, in a reflection of Arthas' own journey.[27]

Fall of the Scarlet Enclave

Not content to just lure the Champions of Azeroth into his service, the Lich King decided to remove the anti-Scourge presence within the plaguelands. To this end he created a new order of death knights. This new order was led by Darion Mograine and successfully forced the Scarlet Crusade from Lordaeron, with the survivors becoming the Scarlet Onslaught and heading to Northrend.

During the battle the Lich King sensed an old enemy he long ago destroyed, but he was content to ignore it for the time being.[28]

Battle for Light's Hope Chapel

Main article: Battle for Light's Hope Chapel

Empowered by the destruction of the Scarlet Crusade, the Scourge prepared to attack Light's Hope Chapel and destroy the Argent Dawn. Despite the odds, the Argent Dawn won against the army of damned, largely thanks to the arrival of Tirion Fordring. The spirit of Alexandros Mograine, the original Ashbringer, appeared to speak with his defeated son Darion. The Lich King then took to the field himself, sealing away Alexandros' soul.

Realizing how he had been betrayed, Darion attacks the Lich King, only to be swatted aside. Fordring comes forward in preparation to battle the Lich King. The Lich King incapacitates him, stating that sacrificing a small army of death knights was a small price to pay to draw Tirion out of hiding. Lord Maxwell Tyrosus gives the order to attack, and while the remaining Defenders of the Light charge the Lich King, they are easily blasted away.

Having heard from the Lich King himself of why he would throw away Darion and the death knights under his command, Darion uses Arthas' focus on Tirion against him, and throws the  [Corrupted Ashbringer] to Fordring. The combination of Fordring's own faith and the holy ground of Light's Hope cleanses the Ashbringer, restoring the sword to its original glory. With this new power, Tirion escapes the Lich King's spell and strikes him with the holy sword.

Stunned by this turn of events, the Lich King retreats after promising that the next time he meets Fordring, it will not be on holy ground.

This battle led to the creation of two of the Lich King's greatest enemies: Tirion Fordring's Argent Crusade (a combination of the Argent Dawn and Silver Hand) and Darion Mograine's Knights of the Ebon Blade (an order of death knights who broke free from the Lich King's control).[29]

Legends: Fate

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The Lich King gained the control of the undead tauren Trag Highmountain and spoke to him, commanding him to kill tauren Sulamm and later Thrall, but Trag successfully refused.

Trag made his way into Icecrown Citadel and confronted the Lich King, but hesitated when he sensed that they shared some inner link. The Lich King explained that dark magic which reanimated Trag came from the Orb of Ner'zhul, and said, "part of what I am comes from what was the spirit of its creator". Trag cursed Ner'zhul's name, but the Lich King said, "Ner'zhul is no more. He is consumed. There is only Arthas now... Arthas, whom you shall serve for all eternity." When Trag resisted, Arthas used his magic to dominate him. Trag was equipped as a death knight and ordered to slay a group of taunka he had assisted earlier in his journey. With great difficulty, Trag managed to fight the Lich King's control. Turning on his new master, Trag struck Arthas's breastplate with his axe. Though the armor magically repaired itself, the Lich King was outraged by the tauren's audacity. He blasted Trag out of the citadel and sent him flying through the air. Though Trag's body was broken by the fall, the essence of the orb soon reconstructed him, and he no longer heard the Lich King's voice in his mind.

Angrathar the Wrathgate

Main article: Battle of Angrathar the Wrathgate

Members of the Horde and the Alliance fighting at the siege for Angrathar the Wrathgate formed a temporary alliance, focusing their attacks on the Scourge instead of each other. With the dragonflights providing aerial support, both factions made a daring attack on the gate, seizing control from the Scourge. There, Bolvar Fordragon and Saurfang the Younger taunted the Lich King to fight his own battles instead of sending his minions. The Lich King entered the battle and quickly slew Saurfang the Younger. Before Bolvar and the Lich King could trade blows, Grand Apothecary Putress, chief of the Forsaken's Royal Apothecary Society and the creator of the New Plague, betrayed the Horde and unleashed his plague on the combatants below. The plague killed most of the Alliance, Horde, and Scourge forces at the Wrath Gate indiscriminately, including Bolvar Fordragon. The Lich King was injured and forced to retreat. This betrayal and the Battle for the Undercity that followed ended upwards of seven years of cold war between the Horde and the Alliance.

Tirion's gambit

Tirion's gambit.

Tirion discovered that Arthas's frozen heart had been retrieved from the depths beneath Icecrown Citadel and taken to the Cathedral of Darkness. Suspecting the heart might contain some remnant of Arthas's humanity, Tirion disguised himself as a member of the Cult of the Damned and went to see it for himself. The Lich King arrived and saw through Tirion's disguise, but the paladin - having concluded that the heart contained only shadows of the past - destroyed the disembodied organ with the Ashbringer. The resultant explosion killed High Invoker Basaleph, knocked Tirion unconscious and injured the Lich King. Darion Mograine and the Knights of the Ebon Blade fought off the remaining cultists and took Tirion to safety before the Lich King recovered.[30]

Fall of the Lich King

Main article: Icecrown Citadel (instance)

After the Argent Tournament ended with the death of Anub'arak, the Argent Crusade, led by Highlord Tirion Fordring, struck an alliance with the Knights of the Ebon Blade, led by Highlord Darion Mograine. Thus the Ashen Verdict was born, a combination of opposing orders for a common purpose: the final assault against the Scourge in Icecrown Citadel and the eventual fall of the Lich King.

Icecrown Citadel: The Frozen Halls

Main article: Halls of Reflection
The Lich King fighting Sylvanas in the Halls of Reflection.

After intelligence spoke of an opening directly to the Lich King's private chambers, Jaina Proudmoore led adventurers from the Alliance while Sylvanas Windrunner led adventurers from the Horde into the Frozen Halls. While Jaina hoped to find a little trace of Arthas left in the Lich King, Sylvanas planned to simply sneak past all of the Lich King's defenses while he was preoccupied with the Ashen Verdict invasion and claim her revenge. Once inside they discovered that the Lich King had left the Frostmourne unattended within the Halls of Reflection. Both Jaina and Sylvanas attempted to speak with the spirits of the blade in an attempt to find the Lich King's weakness, and both were met by the spirit of Uther the Lightbringer. Uther warned that the Lich King could see what Frostmourne saw and was on his way. Uther finally told them that any trace of Arthas was simply a fading presence inside the Lich King's mind, and that to destroy him, he must be slain at the place where Arthas merged with Ner'zhul, at the top of the Frozen Throne. Finally, Uther revealed that after the Lich King is slain, someone must take his place - without a master to keep them in check, the vast armies of the Scourge would indiscriminately swarm across Azeroth.

When the Lich King arrived in the hall, he banished Uther's soul back into Frostmourne and called his loyal captains Falric and Marwyn to deal with the intruders. He returned to his private chambers, followed by Sylvanas and Jaina. Once the adventurers defeated the captains, their respective leaders, unable to do any meaningful harm to the Lich King, ordered them to flee. Seemingly trapped, they made a final stand before their respective gunships, The Skybreaker and Orgrim's Hammer, arrived to carry them to safety.

One king falls, another rises

Champions of the Argent Tournament, led by Tirion Fordring, stormed Icecrown Citadel and defeated the Lich King's mightiest servants. Atop the spire, the Lich King encased Tirion in a block of ice, forcing him to watch helplessly as his champions battled the Lich King and his minions.

Eventually, the Lich King effortlessly killed all the adventurers with a single devastating attack. The Lich King revealed that he had been waiting for Tirion's assault all along, knowing that he would bring with him Azeroth's greatest heroes, who could then be killed and resurrected as powerful masters of the Scourge. Every obstacle he had laid before them was merely part of his test. Now certain Tirion's champions were "the greatest fighting force this world has ever known", the Lich King began to raise the fallen heroes. Fordring, calling for a final blessing from the Light, managed to break free and shatter Frostmourne with his own sword, Ashbringer. The spirits who had been trapped within Frostmourne attacked their former jailer and suspended him in the air. The spirit of King Terenas Menethil II resurrected Fordring's champions, who were then able to finish off the immobilized Lich King.

Terenas' spirit held Arthas in his arms as he died, then informed Tirion that the Scourge must always have a master to control them before he vanished in the wind. Tirion picked up the Lich King's crown and prepared to take on the burden of becoming the new Lich King when he was stopped by the voice of Bolvar Fordragon. The undead paladin sat upon the Frozen Throne, having been horribly burned by dragonfire and tortured by Arthas. Bolvar said that he no longer had any place in the world of the living, while Tirion still had duties to perform. As his final act of service, Bolvar would take the powers of the Lich King within himself, imprisoning the master of the Scourge once more and keeping the undead legions in check. Tirion reluctantly placed the crown of the Lich King on Bolvar's head. As the ice of the Frozen Throne began to envelop him, Bolvar - now the new Lich King - told Tirion to tell the world that the Lich King was dead, and as Bolvar's voice gained the characteristic echo of the Lich King, he added that Bolvar Fordragon died with him.

Aftermath

The transition wasn't easy for Bolvar, and he doesn't have control over the Scourge and Cult of the Damned forces operating in the Plaguelands.[31]

Sylvanas's visit

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Sylvanas Windrunner eventually visited the Frozen Throne to confirm for herself that Arthas was dead. Upon discovering that Bolvar was now the new Lich King, she became enraged, as she feared this "puppet king" might one day use his new, inexhaustable power to twist the world to his own ends. She slammed her fist into the frozen casket around Bolvar, feeling this a defeat more than a victory. A crack began to form from her attack.[32]

A possible future

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Velen saw a vision of one possible future where a successive Lich King (which may or may not be Bolvar) rises from the Frozen Throne. This new Lich King is even more terrible than Arthas or Ner'zhul, and sweeps across the land with thousands of skeletal warriors in his wake. When the Legion returns, Azeroth is already dead and the demons laugh and play with the undead draenei.[33]

Lich Kings of the Scourge

History Third War Aftermath War against the Lich King Fall of the Lich King
Lich King Ner'zhul Ner'zhul
Arthas Menethil
Arthas Menethil Bolvar Fordragon

Locations

Notable appearances
Location Level Health
Plaguelands: The Scarlet Enclave  ?? 27,890,000
Howling Fjord  ?? 27,890,000
Borean Tundra 83 13,945
Zul'Drak  ?? 27,890,000
Icecrown  ?? 27,890,000
Ulduar  ?? 11,156,000
Trial of the Crusader  ?? 27,890,000
Dragonblight  ?? 27,890,000

Quests

Enemies

Kil'jaeden

When Ner'zhul attempted to escape Draenor, he was immediately apprehended by the demon lord Kil'jaeden, who enacted the blood pact that Ner'zhul had sworn many years earlier. Kil'jaeden ravaged and destroyed his body, but kept his spirit alive and encased it in a block of ice from the Twisting Nether. Ner'zhul was transformed into the Lich King. Though Ner'zhul and his undead Scourge were bound to the will of the Burning Legion, the Lich King constantly strove to free himself and gain vengeance upon the demons for dismembering his body and damning him so completely. Shortly before the Battle of Mount Hyjal, Ner'zhul engineered the downfall of the Legion by having his lieutenant, Arthas Menethil, alert the demon hunter Illidan Stormrage to the presence of the Legion in Felwood. Illidan's attack on the demons there brought about the death of Tichondrius and the destruction of the Skull of Gul'dan, which greatly weakened the Legion and made it possible for the Alliance, Horde, and night elf forces to stop Archimonde during the Battle of Mount Hyjal. Such a move inspired Kil'jaeden to incredible heights of anger, and it was the demon's turn to lust after vengeance. Now that Ner'zhul had openly defied the will of the Legion, he knew that the wrath of Kil'jaeden and his demonic lackeys would be fierce.

Sylvanas Windrunner

Arthas raises Sylvanas as a banshee.

Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee Queen of the Forsaken, was one of the Lich King’s most hated enemies. After defeating her as a mortal high elf and raising her into a mindless slave to his will, Sylvanas was able to break free from his dominion and subsequently founded the Forsaken. With the death of the Lich King on their main agenda, the Forsaken oversaw the production of a master plague capable of bringing the Scourge to its knees. Sylvanas herself was not present to see the vengeance of the Forsaken wrought by the plague, though the Lich King whispered Sylvanas’ name moments before the deployment. She would later infiltrate Icecrown Citadel with several of her dark rangers, and come face to face with the individual - and the blade - that took her life. After a titanic struggle followed by a narrow escape, Sylvanas was forced to face her inability to defeat Arthas, and contemplated whether even an army of her allies could either.

Kael'thas Sunstrider

Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, the scion of Quel'Thalas, felt the brunt of Arthas' fury both directly and indirectly. Kael'thas was on icy terms with Arthas Menethil even before his dark ascension; Kael'thas harboring resentment towards Arthas' relationship with the object of his affection, Jaina Proudmoore. After Arthas slaughtered his way through Quel'Thalas, murdered Kael's father and destroyed the high elven Sunwell, Kael'thas rushed to his homeland and dubbed the survivors "blood elves" - stronger for being broken and filled with purpose - that purpose being to see Arthas fall. Kael made numerous attempts to annihilate the Lich King's champion after joining forces with Illidan Stormrage, even reforging Felo'melorn to counter Frostmourne. However, he was unable to defeat his arch-nemesis, and fled to the shattered world of Outland. Kael'thas would ultimately not outlive his hated enemy, who at this point had merged with Ner'zhul on the Frozen Throne.

Tirion Fordring

Tirion Fordring was another of the Lich Kings most hated enemies. As the leader of the Argent Crusade, whose sole purpose is to fight the Scourge, Tirion defies everything that the Lich King stands for and thus the Lich King sees Tirion as his arch-nemesis. Tirion has disrupted many of the Lich King's plans and the two have confronted each other multiple times. Tirion views the Lich King as the most evil being Azeroth has had to face and vows to strike him down, while the Lich King intends to make Tirion, and those close to him, suffer more than anything and watch everything he cherishes fall.

Adventurers

The Lich King had a rather interesting relationship with the adventurers who fought in the Northrend war. Rather than see the adventurers as a complete nuisance, he realized that the adventurers had much potential and intended to draw out that potential. As such, he constantly threw many of his strongest minions against the adventurers, seeking to test their abilities and their resolve. During their betrayal of Drakuru, the Lich King was amused rather than angered by their defeat of his servant. Finally, during the raid on his fortress of Icecrown Citadel, the Lich King revealed his true intentions: to kill the adventurers and raise them as his undead minions, giving him the strongest fighting force in the world. This backfires on him, however, since it is the adventurers and Tirion Fordring who manage to defeat him in the end.

Speculation

Questionmark-medium.png
This article or section includes speculation, observations or opinions possibly supported by lore or by Blizzard officials. It should not be taken as representing official lore.

Identity crisis

There has been debate in some areas of the Warcraft community as to what exactly happened when Arthas and Ner'zhul merged.

When asked, "What's the truth about the new Lich King?", Chris Metzen replied: "Arthas and Ner'zhul have become a perfect fusion of one being - Arthas' personality and body with Ner'zhul's wisdom, experience, power and EVIL."

In a dream state where Arthas sees past, present, and future, presented by Ner'zhul, Arthas murders the child manifestation of his humanity (representing love, compassion, and so forth). Delighted at this decision, Ner'zhul states, "We are one, Arthas. Together we are the Lich King. No more Ner'zhul, no more Arthas -- only this one glorious being." With that Arthas murders Ner'zhul and tells him "No we. No one tells me what to do. I've got everything I need from you -- now the power is mine and mine alone. Now there is only I. I am the Lich King. And I am ready." Ner'zhul is stunned by the betrayal, then disappears. It was said that Ner'zhul would soon be "nothing at all".[23]

In the manga story Fate, the Lich King says, "Ner'zhul is no more. He is consumed. There is only Arthas now... Arthas, whom you shall serve for all eternity."[34]

After peering into the Lich King's heart, Tirion Fordring remarks that "there's nothing left to redeem" and "there is no Arthas Menethil anymore - there is only the Lich King."

On the official forums, CM Bornakk made the following statement in response to the question "Who is the Lich King?":

17. Re: Who is the Lich King? | 2007-11-27 23:41 by Bornakk:
Before Arthas donned the Lich King's armor, it was the spirit of the former Orc Shaman Ner'zhul whose soul was attached to the armor and then imprisoned (physically) inside the Frozen Throne. Now Arthas and Ner'zhul's spirit are one and together they are the Lich King.

A Twitter chat from early 2010 suggested Ner'zhul's story was not over:

Q. Will Ner'zhul appear at any point in 3.3 or the near future?
A. Well, he is a chunk of the Lich King now. But if you mean will he appear as an orc, we're not ready to tell his story just yet. We have a lot of stories left to tell, but his is a good one.[35]

On the official forums, CM Crygil made the following statement in response to a claim that Arthas "erased" Ner'zhul upon merging with him (at the end of The Frozen Throne):

He didn't actually erase the persona of Ner'zhul. In point of fact, these two beings merged to make up what was collectively known as "The Lich King".[36]

Subsequently, the following was stated by Chris Metzen at a BlizzCon 2010 lore panel:

Q. I have a question regarding the storyline of Ner'zhul: is he finished, or what's going on with that?
A. "Yes. Yeah, Ner'zhul is done. He served us well in that capacity, but really the Lich King idea... really has the ultimate expression, you know, as Arthas or whatever. Ner'zhul's done."[37]

The situation was clarified in Ask CDev #2, which confirmed that Ner'zhul and Arthas had separate reigns as the Lich King:

Q. The "There must always be a Lich King" mantra seemed awfully suspicious, coming from ghosts trapped in Frostmourne. Was there something else going on there?
A. To save people from generating elaborate conspiracy theories, we'll be serious for a moment and say, definitively, no. The ghosts of Uther and Terenas understood that the Scourge would run rampant without someone to keep them in check. Yes, that does also mean that Arthas and Ner'zhul were not unleashing the full force of the Scourge during their respective reigns: you are welcome to speculate on the reasons for that. [38]

In 2012, Chris Metzen tweeted that as far as he's concerned, Ner'zhul is completely gone gone.[39]

In 2014, Sean Copeland corroborated the novel's account of Arthas destroying Ner'zhul's spirit:

Q. Okay, my friend and I are at each other's throats over this. Is Ner'zhul's spirit destroyed canonically or not?
A. So it seems per the Arthas novel (p. 307). :)[40]

Godhood

A debate that has arisen among fans is whether the Lich King can be classified as a god. His origins lie with Kil'jaeden, but his power has continued to increase at an exponential rate beyond Kil'jaeden's intentions. Most of the other gods in the Warcraft universe have their origins with the Pantheon. However, most of them have contributed something to the world of Azeroth. Elune gave birth to the night elves (according to their own legends), while the Dragon Aspects guard specific elements of Azeroth depending on their origins in the dragonflights. The Lich King contributed the undead to this world; unlike the contributions of other gods this wasn't a positive change, but it might still elevate the Lich King to the title. Many Blizzard texts (such as the Warcraft III manual) refer to him as the "godlike Lich King".

The Warcraft Encyclopedia provided by Blizzard classifies a "god" in two ways:

1) Gods are immortal.

There are no hard and fast rules to define what it means to be a god in Warcraft, save that all gods are immortal.[41]

2) Gods are the object of worship.

The demigods of Azeroth wield great power and have occasionally played pivotal roles in the planet's history. Nevertheless, unlike gods, most demigods have never been the objects of worship.[42]

Although it is true that the Lich King does not age, it is arguable whether or not he is an object of worship. The members of the Cult of the Damned and the mortals who serve him as acolytes (in Reign of Chaos and The Frozen Throne), as well as the unknown number of intelligent undead he controls (in addition to the countless mindless ones) obviously worship him and provide a strong backing for this criterion. The vrykul revere him as a death god and it is speculated that the tuskarr have identified him with their death-god, Karkut. King Ymiron refers to offering player's hearts as gifts to the death god, as well.

World of Warcraft: The Magazine identified the Lich King as a demigod.[43]

Memorable quotes

Ner'zhul the Lich King.

Road to Damnation

  • "Let this be your first lesson. I have no love for you or your people. On the contrary, I intend to scour humanity from this planet, and make no mistake: I have the power to do it."

Warcraft III: Frozen Throne

  • "It is I, the Lich King. Danger draws near the Frozen Throne! You must return to Northrend immediately! Obey!"
  • "The runeblade, Frostmourne, was once locked inside the Throne as well. I thrust it from the ice so that it would find its way to you... and then lead you to me. And so it has. For now we face a grave danger. My creator, the demonlord Kil'jaeden, sent his agents here to destroy me. If they should reach the Frozen Throne before you, all will be lost. The Scourge will be undone. Now hurry! I will grant you all the power I can spare."
  • "Now... we are one!"

Wrath of the Lich King trailer

It's begun.

Young heroes... I was once like you. You have come to this place seeking to bring judgement upon the damned. You will venture deep into forgotten lands. You will see wonders beyond imagining. But be warned. The land itself will rise up against you. Long forgotten terrors will smother your courage. Sacrifice everything as the final darkness falls... in the end, all that awaits you is death. Only then will you understand - you've been following in my footsteps all along.

So come then, you heroes! Come in all your power and glory! For in the final hour, all must serve the one... true... king.

World of Warcraft

Arthas the Lich King.
Greeting
  • Speak.
  • Your will is not your own.
  • All life must end.
  • Bow to your master.
Irritated
  • Remember who owns your soul, Death Knight!
Farewell
  • Slay all who oppose us.
  • Go forth and defile these lands!
  • All must die.
  • Conquer in my name!
  • You know what to do.

Plaguelands: The Scarlet Enclave

All that I am: anger, cruelty, vengeance - I bestow upon you, my chosen knight. I have granted you immortality so that you may herald in a new, dark age for the Scourge.
Gaze now upon the lands below us. The Scarlet Crusade scurries to undo my work, while Light's Hope stands defiantly against us - a blemish upon these Plaguelands. They must all be shown the price of their defiance.
You will become my force of retribution. Where you tread, doom will follow. Go now and claim your destiny, death knight.
Main article: Quest:The Light of Dawn#Quest dialogue

Borean Tundra

Main article: Quest:Last Rites#Notes

Howling Fjord

Main article: Quest:The Echo of Ymiron#Notes
Main article: Quest:The Slumbering King#Notes

Zul'Drak

Main article: Quest:Betrayal#Notes

Dragonblight

Main article: Quest:The Power to Destroy#Notes

Icecrown

Main article: Quest:Banshee's Revenge#Notes

Yogg-Saron encounter

I will break you as I broke him!

Fall of the Lich King trailer

The spirit of King Terenas, Frostmourne and the Lich King.
Spirit of Terenas Menethil: Can you feel it, my son, closing in all around you? The Light's justice has been awakened. The sins of the past have finally caught up to you. You will be called to account for all the atrocities you've committed, the unspeakable horrors you've let loose upon this world, and the dark, ancient powers you've enslaved. Though my soul was one of the first to be devoured by your evil, there are thousands more bound within this blade, and they cry out for release. Look now to your defenses, my son, for the champions of justice gather at your gates!
The Lich King: Let them come. Frostmourne hungers.

In Icecrown Citadel

Arthas, waiting on the Frozen Throne.
Highlord Tirion Fordring yells: Our march upon Icecrown Citadel begins now!
The Lich King yells: You now stand upon the hallowed ground of the Scourge. The Light won't protect you here, paladin. Nothing will protect you...
Highlord Tirion Fordring yells: ARTHAS! I swore that I would see you dead and the Scourge dismantled! I'm going to finish what I started at Light's Hope.
The Lich King yells: You could've been my greatest champion, Fordring. A force of darkness that would wash over this world and deliver it into a new age of strife.
The Lich King yells: But that honor is no longer yours. Soon, I will have a new champion.
The Lich King yells: The breaking of this one has been taxing. The atrocities that I have committed upon his soul. He has resisted for so long, but he will bow down before his king soon.
Highlord Bolvar Fordragon yells: NEVER! I...I will never...serve...you.
The Lich King yells: In the end you will all serve me.
Your heart... its incessant drumming disgusts me. I will silence it, as I did my own.
Now I stand, the lion before the lambs... and they do not fear. They cannot fear. (Last words)

The new Lich King

Bolvar, prisoner of Arthas.
Tirion walks over to the Helm of Domination, bends down to pick it up and examines the face of it.
Tirion Fordring: The weight of such a burden...it must be mine, for there is no other to--
Bolvar Fordragon: Tirion...
The scorched caricature of Bolvar is revealed, sitting atop the Frozen Throne.
Bolvar Fordragon: You hold a grim destiny in your hands, brother...but it is not your own.
Tirion Fordring: Bolvar! By all that is holy...
Bolvar Fordragon: The dragons' flame...sealed my fate...The world of the living can no longer comfort me.
Tirion has ascended the stairs to the Throne and we see him taking the last two steps to stand before Bolvar.
Bolvar Fordragon: Place the crown upon my head, Tirion. Forevermore, I will be the jailor of the damned.
Tirion Fordring: No, old friend. I cannot...
Bolvar Fordragon: DO IT TIRION! You and these brave heroes have your own destinies to fulfill. This last act of service... is mine.
Tiron turns toward Bolvar with the Helm of Domination cradled in his hands before him.
Tirion Fordring: You will not be forgotten, brother.
Bolvar Fordragon: I MUST be forgotten, Tirion! If the world is to live free from the tyranny of fear - they must never know what was done here today.
Tirion nods and accedes to Bolvar's request, sliding the helm onto his head. The chamber begins to shake violently as Tirion looks around. There is a flash of light and Bolvar's eyes are glowing golden yellow through the eye slits of the helm.
Bolvar Fordragon: Tell them only that the Lich King is dead...
Bolvar's voice changes, acquiring the Lich King's characteristic echo.
Bolvar Fordragon/Lich King: ... and that Bolvar Fordragon died with him.
The Frozen Throne freezes over, encasing Bolvar in ice.
Bolvar Fordragon/Lich King: NOW GO. LEAVE THIS PLACE - AND NEVER RETURN.

Names and titles

The Lich King has had many titles over the years of his reign, including but not limited to:

  • The Lord of the Scourge[44]
  • The Dark Lord of the Dead[45]
  • The One True King[46]
  • The Dark One[47]
  • The Death God[48][49]
  • The Prince of Darkness[50][51]
  • The Jailer of the Damned[52]
  • The Lord of Icecrown[53]

Gallery

Videos

Patch changes

See also

References

  1. ^ Ultimate Visual Guide
  2. ^ The Birth of the Lich King
  3. ^ Icecrown and the Frozen Throne
  4. ^ War of the Spider
  5. ^ The Cult of the Damned
  6. ^ The Culling
  7. ^ Frostmourne
  8. ^ Arthas' Betrayal
  9. ^ Digging up the Dead
  10. ^ The Fall of Silvermoon
  11. ^ Under the Burning Sky
  12. ^ A Destiny of Flame and Sorrow
  13. ^ Twilight of the Gods
  14. ^ Illidan's Task
  15. ^ The Ruins of Dalaran
  16. ^ The Flight from Lordaeron
  17. ^ Sylvanas' Farewell
  18. ^ A New Power in Lordaeron
  19. ^ The Return to Northrend
  20. ^ A Symphony of Frost and Flame
  21. ^ A Long Time Coming
  22. ^ The Ascension
  23. ^ a b Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, Epilogue
  24. ^ N [80] The Hunter and the Prince
  25. ^ Wrath of the Lich King, Opening Cinematic
  26. ^ Death Knight
  27. ^ http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?pager.offset=0&cId=3163178
  28. ^ N Death Knight [55] Death Comes From On High
  29. ^ N Death Knight [55] The Light of Dawn
  30. ^ N [80] Tirion's Gambit
  31. ^ Chris Metzen on the BlizzCon 2011: Lore Q&A Liveblog
  32. ^ Edge of Night
  33. ^ Prophet's Lesson
  34. ^ Warcraft: Legends Volume 4, Fate (preview at WoW:IncGamers)
  35. ^ http://wow.incgamers.com/blog/comments/twitter-dev-chat-2-icecrown-citadel
  36. ^ http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=23140265258&pageNo=1&sid=1#10
  37. ^ BlizzCon 2010 Lore Q&A Panel
  38. ^ Ask CDev Round 2 Answers
  39. ^ Chris Metzen on Twitter (2012-11-18)
  40. ^ Sean Copeland on Twitter (2014-05-08)
  41. ^ http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/encyclopedia/417.xml
  42. ^ http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/encyclopedia/369.xml
  43. ^ World of Warcraft: The Magazine Issue 1, page 32. With an angry demigod chasing you from behind...
  44. ^ Heroes of the Storm Official Game Site
  45. ^ Frostmourne (Warcraft III) "You hear the voice of the Dark Lord. He whispers to you through the blade you wield. What does he say, young human? What does the Dark Lord of the Dead tell you now?"
  46. ^ Wrath of the Lich King, Reveal Trailer: "... for in the final hour, all must serve The One True King."
  47. ^ Elder Ko'nani: "The Dark One rides forth again with his San'layn..."
  48. ^ Vrykul motives and their whereabouts for the past several thousand years remains a mystery, though they have recently become allied with the Lich King, accepting him as their "Death God".
  49. ^ Ingvar the Plunderer yells: My life for the... Death God!
  50. ^ N [80R] Shadowmourne... Highlord Darion Mograine says: Go forth, and defeat the Prince of Darkness.
  51. ^ Ozzy Osbourne TV Commercial: "There can be only one Prince of Darkness!"
  52. ^ Fall of the Lich King, Ending Cinematic
  53. ^ WoW TCG Card from BlizzCon 2010