- For the Icecrown Citadel encounter, see Lich King (tactics). For other appearances, see Lich King (disambiguation).
|Title||Jailer of the Damned,
Lord of the Scourge,
Dark Lord of the Dead, see more below
|Former affiliation(s)||Burning Legion|
|Occupation||Master of the Scourge, ally of the Ebon Blade|
Bolvar Fordragon (current Lich King)
Ner'zhul, Arthas Menethil (former Lich Kings)
- “You speak of justice? Of cowardice? I will show you the justice of the grave and the true meaning of fear.”
- — The Lich King during the Battle of Angrathar.
Kil'jaeden the Deceiver created the Lich King from the spirit of the orc shaman Ner'zhul to raise an undead army to weaken Azeroth in preparation for the Burning Legion's invasion. 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. With the destruction of Frostmourne and the death of Arthas, Bolvar Fordragon took up the mantle of the Lich King in order to keep the undead Scourge in check.
The Lich King Arthas was the titular antagonist of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.
Birth of the Lich King
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.
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.
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.
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, focusing on masters of the arcane. 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
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's 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. 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. Arthas's comrades warned him that he was losing his hold on his humanity.
Arthas's 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. 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.
Path of the Damned
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. 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.
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".
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.
The Lich King watched the events of Hyjal and when Kil'jaeden reached out to him to continue the war, he refused the demon lord.
Legacy of the Damned
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.
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's tomb was rumored to be located. There he found the Eye of Sargeras.
Through the undead, the Lich King then noticed the naga and Lady Vashj in the ruins of Dalaran. At first he did not understand their presence there, but as Illidan later appeared in the city, he understood that Kil'jaeden must have recruited Illidan to destroy him. He was reminded of his own weakness, so he sent his Scourge to Dalaran as well. 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.
Civil war in the Plaguelands
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. 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.
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.
Weakened, but determined to save his master, Arthas reached Northrend only to find Illidan's naga and blood elves waiting for him. 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
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, . 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.
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.
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:
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's 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.
The Helm of Domination, released from the shattered throne.
Arthas, seen immediately after donning the helm and merging with Ner'zhul.
After the merger, he was still telepathically in contact with his minions. One year later, Arthas was contacted by Dar'Khan and told about the remaining powers of the Sunwell somewhere in Lordaeron. He responded that dragons would be drawn to the energy. He also ordered the lich Amnennar the Coldbringer to remain on Kalimdor and expand the Scourge's influence. In Year 25, he gave commands to Kel'Thuzad and also he developed a fascination with the notion of Light-wielding warriors who invoked their powers without the need for a moral code, and instructed his pawn Dar'Khan Drathir to entrap Blood Knights and raise them as undead.
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's 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.
Wrath of the Lich King
This section concerns content exclusive to Wrath of the Lich King.
When the Lich King awakened, he removed his own heart, believing that anything that made him at all mortal made him weak.
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.
The Lich King in the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic.
The Lich King with Sindragosa emerging from the ice behind him.
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's own journey.
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 led by Darion Mograine. Accompanied by two Val'kyr Battle-maidens when atop Acherus, and by Prince Keleseth and Prince Valanar later, he commanded his forces and successfully forced the Scarlet Crusade from Lordaeron, with the survivors becoming the Scarlet Onslaught and heading to Northrend.
The Lich King on top of Acherus.
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's 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's focus on Tirion against him, and throws the 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).
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 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.
The Lich King after his frozen heart has been destroyed.
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
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's 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.
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.
A possible future
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.
Warlords of Draenor
This section concerns content exclusive to Warlords of Draenor.
Darion Mograine traveled to alternate Draenor where he directs commanders to gather knowledge from within Shadowmoon Burial Grounds about the shadowy magic Ner'zhul used to raise undead before becoming the Lich King. He states that the Frozen Throne and its powers are still a mystery to the Knights of the Ebon Blade and that he ultimately hopes to find a way to free Bolvar Fordragon from his fate as the Lich King.
This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.
Several years before the third invasion of the Burning Legion, Lyandra Sunstrider traveled to Icecrown to locate and was killed by the remaining Scourge within the citadel. When a mage adventurer arrives on request of Aethas Sunreaver to locate Lyandra and Felo'melorn, Bolvar states that the mage can try to take the sword, but if they fail they too will join the Scourge.
The Lich King and the Knights of the Ebon Blade come to an agreement: the death knights will serve as the arm for his vengeance against the Legion, and in return, he will keep the Scourge contained in Northrend and help the death knights locate powerful weapons to combat the demonic invasion. Bolvar directs death knights to and the , but is heavily involved in the Blades of the Fallen Prince. Calling a champion of the death knights to Icecrown, he has the champion gather the shards of Frostmourne, defeat tortured souls that remained within the shards, and reforge them into two new blades. As one final test, the champion must enter the blades and quell the darkness inside. Within the shards of Frostmourne, echoes of Ner'zhul and Arthas can be found with Ner'zhul tempting Arthas to take up Frostmourne.
Once the three artifacts are obtained, Bolvar brings the death knights to the Frozen Throne and bestows his blessing upon them. Under Bolvar's orders, the Ebon Blade are to follow the artifact wielders' orders as if they were his own.
The Lich King exclaims that the greatest heroes of Azeroth have gathered to face the Burning Legion. Of course heroes that stand alone against this threat will not save Azeroth for salvation will come at a price that the living could not pay. He thought of planning to recreate the Four Horsemen for their own to stand against the Legion. The first among them is Nazgrim, the fallen general of the Horde. Followed by Thoras Trollbane upon the cliffs of Arathor in the fallen kingdom of Stromgarde, for his prowess strength in battle was without rival and shall be even more powerful in undeath. Then High Inquisitor Whitemane to his knowledge was a priest whose personal tragedy forged an intense connection with the Light and her zealous power of will is necessary to strengthen the bond of the Four. Yet, there was one who needed to be appointed for the crucial role: someone to lead. Without a leader, there will be no unity among the Four. The Deathlord, Darion, and the three horsemen travel to Light's Hope Chapel to recover the body of Tirion Fordring who had recently fell in action and brought to the tomb underneath the chapel. In the end they failed and with Darion's sacrifice he opened a back to Acherus. The Lich King has decided that fate of the deeds of his father come to fruition for he has sacrificed more for the Ebon Blade than any other. The Four Horsemen were assembled with Darion leading them.
The Deathlord returned to Icecrown to claim , but the Lich King explained that invading vrykul were trying to use it to bind frost wyrms to their will. He ordered the Deathlord to slay them in his name.
Atop of Acherus, he tells the Deathlord that the Helm of Domination showed him many things that he could not comprehend. In a vision he saw thousands of undead marching to the far reaches of Northrend in search of a great power. Every time he reached out through the cold tendrils of endless ice, he sensed nothing. He then tells the Deathlord to go to the end reaches of Icecrown to be shown of what he saw. Once there, he described it as the undead swarming across an icy shelf, seeking a prize coveted by Arthas: the bones of a dragon most ancient, and powerful beyond reckoning. Yet all that remains here is the sea, and he doesn't sense any trace of undead in the area. Curious, he told the Deathlord to go seek out the dragons that reside at Wyrmrest Temple; the bronze dragon Trizormu. After strangulating the dragon, Tariolstrasz of the red dragonflight hurls the Deathlord out of Wyrmrest. The Lich King then says that dragonflight knows something, for they kept secrets within the Ruby Sanctum. He proclaimed to the Deathlord either spare the dragons, or slay them. If you do kill them all, he mentions to you that you are empty inside just like him.
The red dragon named Kyranastrasz fell doing battle with "a great corruption" on an iceberg to the north. The Lich King tells the Deathlord to find it and consume this life essence, blight it, and raise it into undeath. He comments when the Deathlord arrives at the Lost Glacier that their supplies have likely frozen. Interestingly enough, he senses feral undead buried in the ice and declares it is time to test the Deathlord's will. He warns that that should the Deathlord fail to survive, that he shall claim Acherus for while Arthas may have sought revenge on the citadel, Bolvar has other plans. Upon arriving at Kyranastrasz' Rest, the Deathlord approached the corpse of the ancient dragon on the hilltop and feel as though it reminds them of something that's happened in the past. They then raised it and claimed it as their own.
Lich Kings of the Scourge
|History||Third War||Aftermath||War against the Lich King||Fall of the Lich King||Third Invasion of the Burning Legion|
|Arthas Menethil||Bolvar Fordragon|
Timeline not to scale.
|Location||Level range||Health range|
|The Mind's Eye||??||5,676,800|
|Escape from Arthas||??||14,192,000|
|Lich King (tactics)||??||
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, 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's 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.
Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider, the scion of Quel'Thalas, felt the brunt of Arthas's 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's 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 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 that point had merged with Ner'zhul on the Frozen Throne.
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.
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.
Names and titles
The Lich King has had many titles over the years of his reign, including but not limited to:
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
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
Wrath of the Lich King
This section concerns content exclusive to Wrath of the Lich King.
- Main article: Quest:In Service Of The Lich King (No text but audio plays)
- Main article: Quest:The Light of Dawn#Quest dialogue
- Your will is not your own.
- All life must end.
- Bow to your master.
- Remember who owns your soul, Death Knight!
- Slay all who oppose us.
- Go forth and defile these lands!
- All must die.
- Conquer in my name!
- You know what to do.
- Main article: Quest:Last Rites#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Cleansing Drak'Tharon#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Betrayal#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Power to Destroy#Notes
- Main article: Battle of Angrathar the Wrathgate#Transcript
- Main article: Quest:Banshee's Revenge#Notes
- Main article: Yogg-Saron (tactics)#Quotes
- Main article: Anub'arak (Trial of the Crusader tactics)#Quotes
Fall of the Lich King trailer
- 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.
Fall of the Lich King
- Main article: Quest:Frostmourne#Notes
- Main article: Escape from Arthas#Quotes
- Main article: Light's Hammer#Quotes
- Main article: Quest:The Sacred and the Corrupt#Notes
- Main article: Quest:A Feast of Souls#Notes
- Main article: Valithria Dreamwalker#Quotes
- Main article: Lich King (tactics)#Quotes
This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.
- Main article: Quest:The Call to War#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Dead and the Damned#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Call of Icecrown#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Apocalypse#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Call of Vengeance#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Our Next Move#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Salanar the Horseman#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Darkheart Thicket: The Nightmare Lash#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Fourth Horseman#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Making Preparations#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Frozen Memories#Notes
- Main article: Quest:Draconic Secrets#Notes
- Main article: Quest:The Lost Glacier#Notes
Notes & trivia
- Arthas fully awoke after five years of being dormant (year 22 to year 27). Bolvar did not fully awake after five years (year 27 to year 32), but was still telepathically active (like Arthas was while he was dormant).
- The Lich King created the Devourer of Souls.
- The lich Kirkessen the Zealous was in contact with the Lich King.
- The Lich King may have sent several agents to the Broken Isles.
- Benjamin Gibb, Leonid Barthalomew, Lord Thorval, Magistrate Barthilas, and Ras Frostwhisper were among the Lich King's victims.
- In a one-on-one fight with Lei Shen, the Lich King would lose. However, if the Scourge battled Lei Shen's army, the Scourge would win.
- The Lich King is voiced by Michael McConnohie.
- The Halls of Reflection were his private chambers and the only place where Arthas let his guard down.
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."
On the official forums, CM Bornakk made the following statement in response to the question "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.
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".
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.
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".
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."
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. 
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). :)
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.
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.
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.
The Lich King on the cover of Arthas: Rise of the Lich King.
The Lich King on top of Naxxanar.
The Lich King in the Howling Fjord.
The Arthas toy from BlizzCon 2013.
The Luchador Lich King from BlizzCon 2013.
The Lich King on the cover of the unreleased Lich King comic.
The Lich King as he appears in Manual of Monsters.
Heroes of the Storm
The Lich King in the Heroes of the Storm cinematic.
The Lich King Arthas in Heroes of the Storm.
Artwork of Arthas from Heroes of the Storm.
- Patch 3.0.3 (2008-11-04): Added.
- ^ The Characters of Warcraft/The Lich King
- ^ Fear
- ^ Wowhead
- ^ The Birth of the Lich King
- ^ Icecrown and the Frozen Throne
- ^ War of the Spider
- ^ 2017-09-05, KEL’THUZAD ENTERS THE NEXUS!. Blizzard Entertainment, retrieved on 2017-09-12
- ^ The Cult of the Damned
- ^ The Culling (WC3 Human)
- ^ Frostmourne
- ^ Arthas' Betrayal
- ^ Digging up the Dead
- ^ The Fall of Silvermoon
- ^ Under the Burning Sky
- ^ A Destiny of Flame and Sorrow
- ^ Twilight of the Gods
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 84
- ^ Illidan's Task
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 91
- ^ The Ruins of Dalaran
- ^ The Flight from Lordaeron
- ^ Sylvanas' Farewell
- ^ A New Power in Lordaeron
- ^ The Return to Northrend
- ^ A Symphony of Frost and Flame
- ^ A Long Time Coming
- ^ The Ascension
- ^ Dragon Hunt
- ^ Naxxramas (original)
- ^ Blood of the Highborne
- ^ a b Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, Epilogue
- ^ Wrath of the Lich King, Opening Cinematic
- ^ Death Knight
- ^ http://www.1up.com/do/previewPage?pager.offset=0&cId=3163178
- ^ Chris Metzen on the BlizzCon 2011: Lore Q&A Liveblog
- ^ Edge of Night
- ^ Prophet's Lesson
- ^ Heroes of the Storm Official Game Site
- ^ 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?"
- ^ Wrath of the Lich King, Reveal Trailer: "... for in the final hour, all must serve The One True King."
- ^ Elder Ko'nani: "The Dark One rides forth again with his San'layn..."
- ^ 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".
- ^ Ingvar the Plunderer yells: My life for the... Death God!
- ^ Highlord Darion Mograine says: Go forth, and defeat the Prince of Darkness.
- ^ Ozzy Osbourne TV Commercial: "There can be only one Prince of Darkness!"
- ^ Fall of the Lich King, Ending Cinematic
- ^ WoW TCG Card from BlizzCon 2010
- ^ Manual of Monsters, pg. 184
- ^ Dave Kosak on Twitter
- ^ Warcraft: Legends Volume 4, Fate (preview at WoW:IncGamers)
- ^ #BlizzChat Developer Chat on Twitter (2010-01-10). Archived from the original on 2010-01-19.
- ^ Re: Why was Arthas evil? (2010-02-12). Archived from the original on 2010-02-17.
- ^ BlizzCon 2010 Lore Q&A Panel
- ^ Ask CDev Round 2 Answers
- ^ Chris Metzen on Twitter (2012-11-18)
- ^ Sean Copeland on Twitter (2014-05-08)
- ^ http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/encyclopedia/417.xml
- ^ http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/info/encyclopedia/369.xml
- ^ World of Warcraft: The Magazine Issue 1, page 32. With an angry demigod chasing you from behind...