WoW Lore: Story of the Lich King

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Whilst World of Warcraft is filled with Lore and stories about all of its characters and kingdoms, the story of the Lich King is by far one of the most saddened and destructive. Embedded within azeroth’s darkest hours the Lich King stood testament to time. Read with anticipation the emotional tribute to the Lich King, Arthas Menethil and Bolvar Fordragon.

Lich King Backstory – Spoiler Included

The Lich king was created by Kil’Jaden, for the purpose of raising an army of scourge to weaken Azeroth for the burning legion’s invasion. In order to create the Lich King, Kil’Jaden tore the soul from the body of Ner’zhul. Encasing him within a diamond hard ice shell.

Encased within the ice that was surprisingly shaped like a throne. The Demon Lord’s power was increased over one thousand times it was before. Becoming the lich king. Kil’jaden sent the lich king to Azeroth landing in Northrend. 

For Azeroth two of the most dangerous artefacts had just arrived and were close to mortal hands. Frostmourne the rune blade, with the power to rip the soul from the body upon death. And the Helm of Domination which has the power to control the army of the damned.

With no time to waste the newly formed Lich King started to turn anyone within its reach into the undead scourge. Raising an army of loyal obedient soldiers that had only one command. Obey the will of the Lich King.

The dreadlords including Tichondrius were sent to watch over the Lich King and keep him from becoming more powerful. Something they will underestimate in the future. A powerful plague swept across the land. Northrend was conquered in no time at all.

With each new soul the Lich King grew stronger. As the souls nourished him like a platter of fine cheese and wine. 

It wasn’t long before enemies began to rise up. The Nerubians from Azjol’Nerub soon found themselves at war with the Lich King’s army. Over the course of the ten years of fighting  during The War of the Spider, the Lich King found he couldn’t consume the immune Nerubians with the plague. but settling to take their dead and turn them against them.

With all of the power the Lich King started to try to summon more mortals to him. Hearing the call Kel’Thuzad a magus from Dalaran itself found himself drawn in. Answering the summon the Lich King enslaved him. 

Thus the Cult of the Damned was born. Worshipping the Lich King as their god, and assisting him with expanding the ever growing army.

Arthas’ Undoing

Expanding to new territories over the years the Scourge army was upon Lordaeron, a kingdom within the Eastern Kingdoms and proud member of the Alliance.

Unleashing the plague upon the cities within Prince Arthur and his love Lady Jaina Proudmore began to try to find the source of the disease. To no avail it wasn’t long before many settlements fell to the Lich King.

Arthas took the fight to the undead and the Cult of the Damned, killing Kel’Thuzad. Without realising Arthas’s soldiers as quickly as they died were becoming members of the Scourge.

Frustrated and with a lack of a plan, Arthas did the unthinkable. With Stratholme City infected with the plague, Arthas ordered the city to be culled. Killing every man, woman and child within. The demon Mal’Ganis was taking over the city. Arthas tried to stop him but he slipped through his grasp and rest retreated and fled to Northrend.

Tracking his nemesis, Arthas followed Mal’Ganis to northrend. Sealing his fate with his pride and fear getting the best of him. 

Along the journey, Arthas encountered an old friend. The dwarf Mauradin Bronzebeard. Mauradin ultimately led Arthas to a legendary weapon. Instead Arthas fell prey to the power of the Lich King. Thinking the cursed blade Frostmourne would save his people, Arthas took up the weapon. But as quickly as he did Mauradin lay dead. 

Arthas lost his sanity and judgement and his soul. With the trifecta against him he transformed into the first Death Knight. To complete the transition Arthas killed Mal’Ganis. He had achieved what he wanted most but it cost him everything he held dear to himself.

Heading to Lordaeron, Arthas ordered the attack on his own city and with a swift and final blow, Arthas murdered his father in a singe strike.

The Lich King Manipulates

Arthas, now a Death Knight, started his Death Knight career by destroying everything about his life before. Spreading the plague for his master, he attracted the attention of Uther and the order of the Silver Hand, but the paladin wasn’t enough to protect the land and Arthas took his life.

With all the death and destruction, Arthas shifted his focus on Silvermoon, and the kingdom of Quel’Thalas. Marching the Scourge through the forests north ravaging the capital. He warped and tainted Sunwell to resurrect Kel’Thuzad. But he did not come back the same, transformed as a Lich, Kel’Thuzad was no longer bound to the mortal plane.

The dreadlords, with all of their power, set focus on the Mages of Dalaran. Stealing their secrets and knowledge he learned how to summon Archimonde. The order was given and the fate was sealed, Archimonde was summoned outside Dalaran. Using Archimonde they started to take the powers from the Lich King, removing his control over the undead. But in the haste and eagerness to take they did not return control of the frozen throne. It began an age of betrayals and plotting.

The Burning Legion

Ten Thousand Years of captivity was ended for Illidan Stormrage. Arthas freed the Night Elf from his prison. But not out of kindness, for Arthas could use Illidan for his own gain. Tricking the power and magic addicted elf into finding the Skull of Gul’dan. With no resistance at all Illidan took the skull. Without a heartbeat Illidan developed the demonic wings and horns. Twisting his fate and killing Tichondrius as Arthas wanted.

The demon lords wanted Arthas’s help with the battle for Mount Hyjal. He refused the call to arms. Watching with glee as Tichondrius was no longer there to support Archimonde, the demon lord was defeated. 

Realising that the Burning Legion was struggling to keep the powers at bay, they recruited Illidan with an offer he couldn’t refuse. To become a Demon Lord in exchange for the muder of the Lich King. Setting off at once to locate the Eye of Sargeras, a deadly artefact from the old world.

Illidan on his travels came across Lady Vashj and her forces of Naga. Offering them a place at his side he recruited them to assist him. The Lich King sensed something was happening and sent his forces and Arthas to Dalaran in anticipation. It was too late, Illidan cast a powerful spell using the Eye of Sargeras to amplify the magic. The magic hit the Lich King’s citadel from across the continents.

Shattering the Lich King’s defences and almost opening the world to the Shadowlands. Illidan was stopped by his brother Malfurion, who had realised that the magic would destroy Azeroth.

The Lich King cracked the ice of the throne when he removed Frostmourne for Arthas. Illidan’s spell made the crack worse. This caused the combined power of the Lich King and Arthas falter. With no time to lose Arthas was once again summoned to Northrend.

Sylvanas Windrunner

With the loss of the power the Scourge began to stop being controlled by Arthas. He also lost his Banshee Sylvanas from his grasp. She hated Arthas for turning her into a banshee. Deciding to rise up she took the undead that were not under Arthas’s control and started a force of her own in the ruins of Lordaeron City.

Vowing to remove Kel’Thuzad and his minions from the land, Sylvanas’s army drove them from Tirisfal Glades back to the plaguelands.

Arthas Triumphant

Arthas arrived in Northrend but it was too late. The Naga lay in wait for him. Summoning the loyal Nerubian Scourge army to him he defeated them and raced to defend his master. Finding Kael’Thalas in the citadel, they fought. Arthas was too much for the High Elf, forcing him to flee.

Opening the path ahead Arthas was faced with Illidan. Another trap. But it didn’t take long for Arthas to wound him. Deciding he’s not worth his time, Arthas left him and climbed the hollow glacier.

The voices of the Runeblade echoed around him. Each step weighed heavily. Hearing uther warning him “If we allow our passions to turn to bloodlust, then we will become as vile as the orcs.” Finally, he reached the pinnacle and before him he saw the icy throne. He could only hear 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!”.

Arthas without any hesitation brought frostmourne down in a swift move into the Ice. Shattering the frozen throne. Combining himself with the soul of Ner’zhul. Arthas picked up the Helm of Domination and put it on himself.

And the union of the two, becoming a mobile Lich King would bring Azeroth to its Knees.

(This is all seen in cinematics from playing Warcraft III)

Beginning of Wrath of the Lich King

Arthas awoke several years later. With fears of mortality, he rips out his heart. The lich king is born.

He had raised the corpse of Sindragosa into an Undead Dragon. Preparing the Scourge for war. He had envisioned Azeroth bending to him. This was the power growing and consuming him 

All of the capitals of Azeroth began to receive infected packages. Turning the citizens into ghouls. The Argent Dawn had a cure but they were only a handful of agents in comparison.

Causing chaos and panic, necropoleis began appearing over Azeroth. Triggering the second war of the Scourge. Champions of the Horde and Alliance fought alike to repel the army and cure the disease. The leaders of both the Horde and Alliance had enough of the Lich King’s overreach. Began to plan the invasion on Northrend. Forming two groups the Horde Expedition and the Alliance Vanguard. 

Unknown to the Horde and Alliance this is what the Lich King had planned all along.

Battle for the Plaguelands (Formerly Lordaeron)

With his victory over the Alliance and the Horde. Arthas turned his head to the Plaguelands, formerly Lordaeron. Deciding to get rid of Sylvanas and her band of undead. He created his own Death Knights. Forcing the Scarlet Crusade from the land. They moved to Northrend under a new banner, The Scarlet Onslaught.

Empowered, the Scourge prepared to attack Light’s Hope Chapel and destroy the Argent Dawn. Surprisingly the Argent Dawn won against the army of damned, thanks to Tirion Fordring. 

Realizing he had been betrayed, Darion attacked the Lich King only to fail. The Lich King incapacitated Tirion, stating that sacrificing a small army of death knights was a small price to pay to draw Tirion out. Charging the Lich King in an effort to repel him they were all pushed aside.

With Arthas focused on Tirion, Darion tossed the Corrupted Ashbringer to the paladin. Tirions faith in the light managed to restore Ashbringer to its original glory. With this new power, Tirion escapes the Lich King’s spell and strikes him with the holy sword.

The Lich King withdraws, promising that the next time he meets Fordring, it will not be on holy ground. In eagerness and wanting to get ahead on the Lich King. The argent Dawn came together with the Silver Hand to become The Argent Crusade. 


The Wrathgate: First in-game cinematic in Warcraft History!

The horde and alliance fought at the siege for Angrathar the Wrathgate. Joining forces for a temporary alliance. Focusing their efforts on the Scourge instead of each other. With the four dragonflights providing aerial support, both factions made a daring attack on the gate, seizing control from the Scourge. 

Bolvar Fordragon and Saurfang the Younger taunted the Lich King to fight instead of sending his minions. As quickly as The Lich King entered the battle he slew Saurfang the Younger. Before Bolvar could start to fight, Grand Apothecary Putress, the chief of the Forsaken’s Royal Apothecary Society and the creator of the New Plague, betrayed the Horde. Unleashing his plague on the combatants below. 

The plague killed most of the Alliance, Horde, and Scourge forces indiscriminately, including Bolvar Fordragon. Injured, the lich king was retreats from the battle. The betrayal started a War between the Horde and Alliance once again.

Gambit of Tirion

Play along to the Icecrown Storyline in WoW

Discovering that Arthas’s Heart was intact. Tirion found that it is being moved to the Cathedral of Darkness. Disguising himself he investigated further into why it was here. Before he could act Arthas arrived and saw straight through the disguise. With moments to spare and concluding that the heart did not have any hope of saving Arthas. Tirion destroyed it with Ashbringer. 

The heart exploded killing many of the devout worshipers. KnockingTirion unconscious and injuring the Lich King.The Knights of the Ebon Blade fought the survivors to protect Tirion and get him to safety before the Lich King could recover.

The downfall of the Lich King

Experience the Dungeons: Halls of Reflection, Pit of Saron and The Forge of Souls

Jaina Proudmoore led a team from the Alliance while Sylvanas Windrunner led her forces from the Horde into the Frozen Halls. Jaina hopes that traces of Arthas are left in the Lich King whilst  Sylvanas plans to simply sneak past all of the Lich King’s defenses. 

To their surprise Frostmourne is undefended. Both Jaina and Sylvanas attempted to speak with the spirits within the blade. Uther appeared out of the blade, warning them that the Lich King could see through Frostmourne and was on his way.

Uther penultimately told them that any trace of Arthas was simply a fading presence inside the Lich King’s mind. If they were to destroy him, he would have to be slain at the place where Arthas and Ner’zhul became one. This was at the top of the Frozen Throne. 

He explained that after the Lich King is no more, someone must take his place. The scourge has to have a master to control them or they would indiscriminately swarm across Azeroth.

The Lich King arrived and immediately banished Uther’s soul back into Frostmourne and retreated again. Following the Lich King but unable to sustain any damage to him they attempted to flee his trap. Making a final stand before The Skybreaker and Orgrim’s Hammer arrived to carry them to safety.

There must Always be a Lich King

Experience the battle through the raid: Icecrown Citadel

Fall of the Lich King Cinematic, found after defeating Arthas in ICC

The Champions, led by Tirion Fordring, stormed Icecrown Citadel and defeated the Lich King’s mightiest servants. On top of 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.

Effortlessly, the Lich King  killed all the champions with a single devastating blow. Laughing at Tirion, because he had fallen into another of his traps. Bringing Azeroth’s champions to his doorstep. Everything before them had been a test of their strength. 

Killing each and every one with a single blow. The Lich King began to raise his newest army. Crying out for a final blessing, Tirion managed to break free from his icy prison and shattered Frostmourne.

The spirits from within Frostmourne attacked and held the Lich King. The spirit of King Terenas, resurrected the champions, who defeated Arthas as Lich King once and for all.

As Arthas lay dying, Terenas comforted him. He spoke to Tirion about Uthers warning, reminding him that the Scourge needs a master to control them.

Tirion was prepared to don the mantle of Lich King, but was stopped by Bolvar. He had survived the Wrathgate but not the torture of the Lich King. Burned and scathed by dragonfire. Saying he can no longer serve the rest of the world, he would take the role and keep the Scourge at bay. 

Hesitating but realizing the choice had already been made, Tirion places the helm on Bolvar and the ice begins to swallow him into the Frozen Throne. Warning Tirion in the Voice of the Lich King, to tell everyone he died. Before finally shouting “NOW GO, LEAVE THIS PLACE AND NEVER RETURN”.

Bolvar’s Transition

Bolvar was struggling with the new position as Leader of the Damned. The transition wasn’t easy to take. To top it off he has no control over the scourge across the Plaguelands. 

The End of the Lich King

Shadowlands Intro Cinematic

Many years later, Sylvanas after causing a rift within the Horde and forcing the Alliance’s hand into war. Found herself preparing to take down Bolvar. She approached him upon his throne, killing the Scourge that surrounded him. 

The battle began but it wasnt long before she showed her hand and used powerful dark magic to restrain Bolvar. Breaking free he once again attempted to defeat her. Sylvanas was too cunning, she broke off a piece of the mountain top and launched it at Bolvar knocking him to the ground.

Sylvanas casted Chains of Domination upon bolvar restraining him to the floor as she tore the Helm from his head. She declared “You are unfit to wear this crown”. Pausing to stare at the crown bolvar warns that its power is a prison. Countering, she quickly snaps that “This world is a Prison” before lifting the Helm of Domination up to her face and ripping it into pieces. Breaking the Veil between the worlds and starting the era of The Shadowlands.

The reign of the Lich King ended, leaving Bolvar with a fraction of the powers he once wielded as well as the Scourge going rampant and invading Azeroth.

Bolvar was rescued by the Knights of the Ebon Blade and was taken to safety. He gave his knowledge to the Horde Chieftain and Alliance King.

Bolvar reveals along the storyline within the shadowlands we learn that the Lich King was meant to prepare for the Jailers coming, but with each Lich King they defied and consumed by their own power, became tyrants upon themselves.

WoW Lich King Lore – Final Thoughts

Whilst the reign of the Lich King came to an abrupt end. The story is filled with sadness and destruction. From the Burning Legion’s influence to destroy life on Azeroth, to manipulating Arthas into becoming the Lich King and ultimately his demise. 

We read and (witness in-game) the history of Azeroth. Within this tragic story, we see a desperate Prince lay siege to his own kingdom to fight the Scourge only to join the forces he once detested. 

With the Lich King’s destruction at the hands of Sylvanas it becomes unknown what has happened in Northrend and the Plaguelands since we have departed for the Shadowlands. Hopefully we will find out more along this story in World of Warcraft: Dragonflight.

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