In many ways Wrath of the Lich King can be considered the logical conclusion of one of WarCraft's major story lines. Arthas, the evil sovereign of the scourge, will meet his doom in Icecrown Citadel. Each Wrath patch up until now has lead to this defining moment -- the face off between Arthas and the players representing the next generation of heroes of Azeroth. Who will win? What happens after Arthas is defeated? Is Arthas defeated?
These questions lend themselves to a spectacular conclusion to a great tale. In The Lore of Patch 3.3, Michael Sacco, Alex Ziebart, and I will take a look at all the various plots, characters, and environments that lead up to this grand confrontation with the Lich King.
You'll want to know this story. You'll want to know this lore.
For when you finally face off against the wielder of the Frostmourne, you'll know why you're going toe-to-toe against him, and why your fate can make or break the very face of Azeroth.
This article, while containing essential lore, also contains heavy spoilers. Do not proceed if that bothers you.
In this article we'll look at the following subjects:
- The story of Wrath of the Lich King
- Events & Things
The story of Wrath of the Lich KingIn Warcraft III we saw the descent of Arthas into madness, becoming the new Lich King. His partnering with the legions of doom brought a blight upon the lands of Azeroth, affecting all of its people. World of Warcraft picked up this story and continued its tale, with one of the ultimate showdowns in the entire Warcraft story happening in Wrath of the Lich King.
Unlike the story of Classic WoW and the Burning Crusade, the story of Wrath of the Lich King is rather cut and dry. It culminates with the players, representing the new heroes of Azeroth, defeating the Lich King in a battle royale.
In this confrontation with Arthas, the forces of Azeroth have come together unlike any other time. At the Wrathgate former enemies assembled their forces and called out Arthas and his Scourge, ready to finally end his reign of terror. It was only through the treacherous actions of Varimathras and Putress that this battle never was able to properly begin.
But that did not stop the mighty armies of the Alliance and Horde. They joined forces and built the Argent Tournament grounds to hone their skills. They proved themselves in the Coliseum, defeating every obstacle the Argent Crusade threw at them.
Now, in patch 3.3, the heroes proceed to the southern end of Icecrown, taking their spears and plunging them right into the heart of Arthas' fortress, Icecrown Citadel. While the final battle with Arthas has not taken place yet, friend and foe alike are ready to face and defeat this evil.
Son of King Terenas Menethil II and Crown Prince of Lordaeron, Arthas Menethil led a privileged life safe in the confines of his castle after the Second War. Trained in combat by Muradin Bronzebeard and taught the ways of the paladin by Uther the Lightbringer, Arthas grew into a fine warrior by the young age of 19, inducted into the Order of the Silver Hand as an official paladin -- the youngest yet.
Emotionally, though, Arthas was not as stable as his comrades. He maintained an on-again, off-again romantic relationship with the sorceress Jaina Proudmoore, but inevitably broke it off multiple times before recommitting just before the plague hit Lordaeron. And although his martial prowess was great, his brash, stubborn, and headstrong behavior would eventually lead to both his downfall and the downfall of his entire kingdom, at which point he ceased to be Arthas Menthil and became Arthas the Lich King.
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The Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade hold a tenuous relationship with each other throughout Azeroth. And while they do not exactly see eye to eye on all things, both groups recognize the threat that is posed by Arthas and his Scourge within the walls of Icecrown Citadel.
These two forces sent their most talented warriors and craftsmen to form the Ashen Verdict. Their goal is to forge a weapon that can stand against Arthas and his Frostmourne: The Shadowmourne.
In patch 3.3 players will gain reputation with the Ashen Verdict through running the Icecrown Citadel raid instance.
Jaina Proudmoore, daughter of the late Grand Admiral Daelen Proudmoore, has a history with the Lich King that goes deeper than most. Former friend and lover to Prince Arthas Menethil, they were at one time projected to be married. That is, until the Prince's own self doubts caused him to put a sudden end to their romance.
A powerful and brilliant mage in her own right, she joined forces with Prince Arthas once again at the onset of the Third War to find the source of the undead plague. At the Prince's side, she witnessed firsthand much of Arthas's downward spiral until she could bear it no longer. When Jaina was informed of his plan to cull the city of Stratholme, she left him at the city gates to go it alone.
Jaina did not bow out of the Third War, however. At the behest of Medivh, the artist formerly known as The Last Guardian, Jaina rallied her people and traveled west, away from the blight-riddled lands and to Kalimdor, where she would found Theramore and help bring about an end to the war at Mount Hyjal.
Currently, Jaina Proudmoore serves as an unofficial liason between the Alliance and the Horde, attempting to forge peace despite the world's current events. In Patch 3.3, she steps up to the front line of the war against the Scourge in hopes of finding a glimmer of the man she loved within the Lich King.
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Sylvanas is the former Ranger-General of Silvermoon. Murdered by Prince Arthas during his siege on Quel'Thelas, she was raised in undeath soon after to serve the Scourge as a banshee minion.
During a moment of weakness, the Lich King's control over the undead Scourge waned, and Sylvanas was able to regain her free will. She assumed command of the undead that found themselves similarly awakened, and lead them against the Scourge under the banner of the Forsaken. After pushing back the Scourge and driving out the Burning Legion's dreadlords (but not before bending one to her will), Sylvanas claimed sovereignty over Lordaeron and declared herself Queen of the Forsaken.
She has spent years plotting vengeance, including founding the Royal Apothecary Society to engineer her own plague, intended for use against all things living and dead. Unfortunately (for her), an untimely betrayal by her demonic lieutenant Varimathras has set her back on that front.
The Icecrown Citadel is the heart of the Scourge war machine, rising high above the frozen glacier of Icecrown. It houses the Scourge's most powerful servants, as well as the Lich King himself. The Citadel is a recent construction, forged of pure saronite. It's been built over the twisting spire that once housed Ner'zhul's prison. You Warcraft III players out there would recognize this spire as Arthas's ascent to the frozen throne.
The Citadel has, until now, remained shut and sealed without exception (despite a few attempts to find openings). In patch 3.3, Tirion Fordring will follow through on his promise to tear down the walls of Icecrown, and the gathered forces of the Horde and Alliance will have fun storming the castle.
One of the original Seven Great Kingdoms, Lordaeron was one of the largest and most powerful human kingdoms in all of Azeroth. Before its fall to Arthas and the Scourge, the kingdom was ruled with wisdom and grace by King Terenas Menethil, father to Prince Arthas.
When the kingdom fell victim to plagued grain shipments engineered by the necromancer Kel'thuzad and the Scourge, Arthas pursued all leads to attempt to save his kingdom, including culling the unplagued citizens of Stratholme in an attempt at quarantine and taking his doomed voyage to Northrend, where he would become what he sought to destroy.
Though the Scourge's conquest of Lordaeron was a huge victory, Arthas' exertion of power in Northrend made his control on the raised undead citizens of the kingdom falter. Those few undead of Lordaeron with free will are known as the Forsaken and led by former Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, now the vengeful undead known as the Banshee Queen. The ruins that were once known as the city of Lordaeron were converted into what we now know as the The Undercity.
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Designed to be the Lich King's mobile troop deployment platform, the dread necropolis known as Naxxramas was filled with some of Arthas' most powerful and foul soldiers. The necropolis was split into four quarters -- Arachnid, Military, Plague, and Construct, as well as an upper level. The frostwyrm Sapphiron and the lich Kel'Thuzad ruled the upper level.
The undead spider queen Maexxna, who spawned the undead spider army that attacked Azjol-Nerub, controlled the Arachnid Quarter. Loatheb, a fungal giant capable of producing the plague of undeath without reagents, controlled the Plague Quarter. Thaddius, an enormous abomination sewn together of the corpses of women and children, stood dormant in the Construct Quarter.
The fourth and final quarter, the Military Quarter, was headed by Arthas' Four Horsemen, powerful death knights who worked as a perfect team. Highlord Alexandros Mograine, the group's de facto leader, was the former paladin known as the Ashbringer, who wielded the undead-slaying greatsword of the same name.
Through the efforts of Mograine's son, Darion, the denizens of the dread citadel were destroyed, and the necropolis put out of commission ... until Arthas was able to give rise to them again in Northrend.
The necropolis Malykriss was intended to be Naxxramas' replacement before it, too, was destroyed by adventurers.
Originally the northern part of Kalimdor, the Great Sundering broke off a piece of the continent that would later become Northrend, the frozen roof of the world. With few exceptions, Northrend is a cold and bitter environment.
Even with the poor living conditions of many of its regions, Northrend is home to several indigenous and transplanted species. For example, the Nerubians, descendants of the ancient insect race of Aqir, have made their home in the underground kingdom of Azjol-Nerub, now under the control of their traitor king Anub'arak and the Scourge. The dragonflights have chosen the barren region of Dragonblight as their ancestral burial grounds. The slumbering race of giants known as the vrykul, unseen in Northrend for thousands of years, have recently awoken in service to the Lich King.
Northrend is also home to several Titan workshops, as well as the prison of the Old God Yogg-Saron -- the mammoth fortress known as Ulduar.
The Lich King himself makes his home on Icecrown Glacier, his sprawling Icecrown Citadel built around the site of the Lich King's arrival on Azeroth -- the Frozen Throne.
Every soldier cut down by the Scourge rises as one of them. Attempting to throw an overwhelming force at the Lich King will ultimately result in it being turned back against you. Because of this, the Argent Crusade has called together the Argent Tournament to separate the best from the rest.
The tournament, ran by the men and women of the Argent Crusade, pits Azeroth's new heroes against some of the most awe inspiring monsters possible. They fight tooth and nail to prove their mettle, in hopes that they will be selected to march southward against Icecrown Citadel.
The tournament grounds began construction in patch 3.1, with players helping build it from the ground up by running dailies to get brick and lumber. In patch 3.2 the majority of the tournament was complete, and players had finally built an arena where they could face the Crusade's many challenges. The leadership of the Alliance and Horde watched on, eager to see their peoples succeed.
In patch 3.3 the Argent Tournament grounds become fortified with new towers and defenses. The Argent Crusade stands ready to defend themselves if Arthas and his Scourge decide to attack.
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Corruption of Arthas
Christie Golden's Novel reveals that Arthas was always a somewhat impulsive boy, and had a thirst for power and recognition that, while not overt, did lead to flashes of darkness from time to time. However, it was not until the Culling of Stratholme that he truly started to fall. Whether you agree or disagree with his actions there, it was there that Mal'ganis began to plant the seeds of his downfall, taunting him into pursuing him to Northrend, playing on his pride and his need to prove himself.
It was in Northrend that he began to become truly obsessed. When he was called back to Lordaeron by his father at Uther's behest, he enlisted mercenaries to burn his own fleet, then shunted all the blame on them when his armies arrived at the docks ready and eager to return home.
Shortly thereafter, Arthas began his search for Frostmourne, the blade that would save his people. As we are all now terribly aware, Frostmourne would do no such thing. As Arthas took up the blade, he fell under the compulsions of the Lich King Ner'zhul, and served him as the first death knight. Prince Arthas returned to Lordaeron, murdered his father, and brought general ruin to his former kingdom.
Arthas would later return to Northrend and ascend the spire of Icecrown to not only free Ner'zhul from his prison, but merge with him and become the Lich King himself.
More information: See Arthas Menethil above.
Creation of the Lich King
The Lich King was originally created from the spirit of the orc shaman Ner'zhul, who had reneged on the bargain he and several other shamans had made with the Burning Legion to become warlocks. Kil'Jaeden the Deceiver, lieutenant of Sargeras and commander of the Burning Legion, took his revenge on Ner'zhul after the orc fled Draenor, torturing him by keeping spirit alive but tearing his body apart piece by piece. In his agony, Ner'zhul swore fealty to the Legion once more.
Kil'Jaeden encased Nerzhul's spirit in a mystically-powered chunk of ice known as the Frozen Throne, and through the Throne's dark power, Ner'zhul was transformed completely into the being now known as the Lich King.
Then came Arthas and his corruption, where he eventually becomes the Lich King.
Crafted by the dreadlords under the command of Kil'jaeden, Frostmourne is the weapon of the Lich King. It serves not only to give him ultimate power and collect the souls of those he faces, but also to keep the Lich King in thrall to Kil'jaeden and the rest of the Burning Legion.
At the behest of Ner'zhul, Arthas sought out the runeblade and took it up as his own. Arthas found the sword in a hidden cave deep in the heart of Northrend. He was accompanied on this search by Muradin Bronzebeard. If you haven't played Warcraft III, players can watch this scene play out in an Alliance questline in the Dragonblight.
When it isn't being carried into battle, Frostmourne rests within the Halls of Reflection.
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Quel'delar was a sword imbued with the prismatic power of all of the Dragonflights, sister blade to Quel'Serrar, and gift from the dragonflights to the high elves. Held as a cherished and powerful heirloom for millenia, its last known official owner was Thalorien Dawnseeker. When Arthas and the Scourge marched on Quel'thalas, Thalorien stood and defended the city of Silvermoon, but was overrun and the sword was thought lost forever.
During the reconstruction of Silvermoon, a blood elf warrior named Lana'thel rediscovered Quel'delar and wielded it in service to Kael'thas on his march to Northrend with Illidan and Lady Vashj to avenge Silvermoon. Unfortunately, she met the same fate as Thalorien -- only she wasn't granted the mercy of death by Arthas. He raised her as the first of his vampiric San'layn.
Lana'thel continued to wield Quel'delar, but eventually could no longer bear the sight of it and the memories of her old life, so she shattered the blade and scattered the pieces across the continent, discarding the hilt in the wastes of Icecrown.
Ulduar & Yogg-Saron
Ulduar, the Titan fortress, was built to contain the Old God Yogg-Saron. Despite his imprisonment, Yogg-Saron was able to influence many individuals and events over thousands of years, including Garona's assassination of King Llane, Deathwing's descent into madness at the forging of the Dragon Soul, and ... Arthas' downfall.