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Plague of Undeath

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The Plague of Undeath is a magical affliction first conjured by Ner'zhul, the Lich King (under the direction of the demon lord Kil'jaeden), from his icy prison within the Frozen Throne in Northrend in order to create the Scourge. The Scourge was intended to be a vanguard for the Burning Legion, Ner'zhul's captors, during their attack on Azeroth.

Contents

History

The creation of the Plague took place just before and during the Third War. Using his will alone, the Lich King spread the mystic disease to human settlements of Northrend killing them and causing them to rise again as undead under the influence of Ner'zhul.[1] After the wizard Kel'Thuzad answered Ner'zhul's psychic call, he was tasked with containing the Plague and transporting it across the sea to Lordaeron, where it was used to infect food supplies and distributed to the populace under the supervision of the dreadlord Mal'Ganis, an acting lieutenant of the Burning Legion. Kel'Thuzad first had to gather a cult of followers to aid him in the spreading of the Plague, and for this he established the Cult of the Damned.[2]

With the aid of his cultists, Kel'Thuzad and Mal'Ganis used the agricultural hub of Andorhal to ship Plague-infected grain to the surrounding towns within Lordaeron which included Brill and Stratholme. Those contracting the Plague typically die within three days, rising shortly thereafter as feral zombies easily controlled by the Lich King's immense psychic power. After successfully destroying the infected granaries, Prince Arthas, fresh on the heels of Mal'Ganis, came to Stratholme to find it already infected by the tainted grain. Knowing that the citizens would soon turn into the cursed undead, he proceeded to slaughter them all, against the council of Uther the Lightbringer (Arthas' paladin mentor), in order to prevent them from bolstering Mal'Ganis' ranks.[3]

Before becoming a death knight in the servitude of Ner'zhul, Arthas succeeded in destroying all of the sources of the Plague, leaving no way for them to further spread the disease. A few years later, after the Scourge had built a considerable presence in the Plaguelands, they set up a series of massive cauldrons with which they continue to spread the Plague directly into the air, corrupting the land itself as well as the local wildlife. The Argent Dawn, a regime dedicated to the eradication of the Scourge menace, have discovered ways of sabotaging these cauldrons and reversing their effects, thereby purifying the chemicals within and making them toxic to the undead.

Apothecaries of the Forsaken were working on producing their own New Plague, which would have a similar effect as the original Plague, but will kill undead creatures as well as living ones. This will allow the Forsaken to destroy all their immediate enemies, the Scourge, the Scarlet Crusade, Dalaran and the remnants of Lordaeron. Experiments on this New Plague have been conducted by Apothecaries in Brill, the Sepulcher, Tarren Mill, and Shattrath City.

The New Plague (also known as the Blight) was refined during the war in Northrend and used by a rebel faction of Forsaken (mostly made up of members of the Royal Apothecary Society and led by Grand Apothecary Putress) against the Horde, Alliance and Scourge forces during the events of the Angrathar the Wrathgate. In the aftermath of the rebellion the Horde has prohibited the usage of the full strength Blight.

Nature of the Plague

Through the course of his experimentation, Ner'zhul insured that the affliction would specifically target humans for "undeath". Though non-human races and creatures (and even the land itself) were susceptible to the Plague, it was humanity in particular that Ner'zhul meant to scour from the world. As a result, infected flora and fauna reacted differently—diseased and decaying, but not truly undead, and not under the thrall of the Lich King. Hence, while undead representatives certainly do exist among the ranks of the non-human races, these particular agents are examples of undead created through necromancy rather than the Plague.[4]

One of the few creatures that thrives in the Plaguelands is the carrion grub.[5] They can reach huge sizes and are immune to the Plague. A prime example of a carrion grub is Borelgore. The Plaguelands also have heavy populations of massive mushrooms which also seem to thrive in these conditions.

Speculation

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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.

Original version

The original version was likely not fungal in nature. The Plague was originally cast and controlled psychically by Ner'zhul. There are no large fungal growths around the Frozen Throne or the human settlements in Northrend hit by this version of the Plague.

Fel properties

The Plague of Undeath exhibits several characteristics of fel. While investigating its initial spread across Lordaeron, Jaina and Arthas noted that the land around the contaminated grain had had the life sapped out of it. Due to Draenor and the Blasted Lands suffering similar effects, they speculated that the Plague contained demonic energy.[6] Victims of the Plague became limned with a sickly, green glow[7] characteristic of fel energy.[8]

Fel may be a critical component of the Plague. The Lich King received his powers from the demon lord Kil'jaeden. Highly concentrated fel energy—in the form of felblood[9] or collected into a potion[10]—can bring things back from the dead.

Fungal

Significant evidence exists that the Plague of Undeath became fungal in nature. The best evidence for this is Plaguewood. This is corroborated by the clouds of what may be spore that emanate from the colossal mushrooms in the area whose growth may be linked to the Plague. Growths on infected plants and animals also would make this possible. Early infections were mostly due to ingested grain, but proximity does not appear to be infectious. Drinking from tainted water sources, such as the Thondroril River near Andorhal before the Cataclysm, can also cause infection.[11]

The Plague may have either evolved or changed over the years to influence the growth and size of lifeforms, such as the carrion worms and mushrooms, helping to spread the Plague.

Cure

The Plague, while established many times as a very powerful affliction, was proven to be curable at least once. During the end of the Zombie Infestation World Event, the Alliance and Horde managed to find cures to the Plague, even if the converted zombies themselves could not be saved.

The Plague can not be healed or weakened by individual means, with the exception of the Holy Light (regarding weakening the affliction).[12]

Nursery rhyme

Be wary, child, of Plaguelands plain...
Be mindful, child, of the infected grain...
For if throat is parched and of infected water sip...
Forever your soul will be in cursed Scourge grip.
So heed this warning, child, and if far from mother stray...
Let light from home's hearth guide you back your way.
Human nursery rhyme, already in use six years after the Third War[11]

References