Know Your Lore: Arthas, the Lich King’s chosen
Last week, we talked about Arthas’ fall from grace. How step by step he moved from a Paladin who served his people to an obsessed, vengeful and ruthless man who would do anything to destroy Mal’Ganis… even imperil his own soul. How his inability to accept defeat and loss broke him. This week, we talk about what happened after he broke.
Arthas was lost for months following the destruction of Mal’Ganis. When he arrived in Lordaeron, along with many of his troops such as Thassarian, Falric and Marwyn at his side, the city celebrated his return with the ringing of the city’s bells in his honor. Rose petals rained from the parapets upon the Crown Prince’s path. He was led into his father Terenas’ presence and knelt at the feet of the throne. As if seeking pardon for his long absence and his flouting of his father’s will.
But that was the furthest thing from what Arthas had planned. Even as Terenas started speaking, Arthas’ thoughts were of a far darker cast.
The end of Lordaeron
After the death of Mal’Ganis, Arthas wandered broken throughout Lordaeron as the Lich King’s voice filled his mind. Converted to the service of the entity that had once been Ner’zhul, Arthas slaughtered and then raised many of his own men and led them back to Lordaeron. There, he slew his father and released the Scourge to make an end of the greatest kingdom of Humanity on Azeroth. He then presided over Lordaeron’s destruction on the behalf of his dark master.
Once, Arthas Menethil had been willing to do anything to save his people. Now, he was willing to do anything to destroy them. He still indulged in bizarre moments of sentimentality. He traveled to the Balnir Farmstead he’d frequented as a child to raise his long-deceased steed Invincible, to serve as his mount in death as it could not in life. But even while he engaged in this the Scourge rampaged across Lordaeron, killing and cursing everyone it touched. Those that died at the hands of Arthas’ undead army soon rose, likewise utterly devoid of mercy or even thought, to likewise slay their own loved ones and friends as had been done to them.
Arthas met with the Dreadlord Tichondrius, who was remarkably relaxed about Arthas’ having killed Mal’Ganis. Most likely, this was because demons just go to the Nether when killed. Tichondrius soon gave Arthas his new purpose. Traveling to Andorhal, Arthas reclaimed the ruined body of Kel’Thuzad, the necromancer he himself had killed. In so doing, the spirit of the necromancer appeared to him and told him not to trust the Dreadlords. Arthas took this advice to heart, but there was no time to act on it. In order to reclaim Kel’Thuzad’s body he had been forced to kill Gavinrad the Dire, one of the first Paladins on Azeroth. The Paladin one who’d given him Light’s Vengeance, the warhammer he’d used as a Paladin himself.
Gavinrad was just the first of many Knights of the Silver Hand to die. Arthas made his way across Lordaeron to claim a mystical urn that that the Paladins held, to preserve Kel’Thuzad’s remains. After killing senior Paladins he found the urn, and its guardian, Uther.
The death of the First
Uther told Arthas the urn he sought contained his father’s ashes. But Arthas was not deterred, and the former master and student engaged in a battle to the death. At first, Uther’s superior experience and mastery of the Light seemed to be winning the day. He even managed to knock Frostmourne from Arthas’ hand in the battle. But the runeblade seemed to have a will of its own, and settled back into the grip of its chosen to flood him with new power. A gift from the Lich King to his most potent servant.
With this power, Arthas turned the tables on Uther. The first Knight of the Silver Hand looked upon his chosen student and declared that there was a special place in Hell for him. But Arthas replied that he never intended to die and struck Uther down. He then dumped his father’s ashes out of the urn and replaced them with Kel’Thuzad’s remains, preserving them for the long trip north.
Because Kel’Thuzad’s return from death would require a font of enormous power. Arthas had slain him months prior. To get that power, the Scourge marched on the gates of Quel’Thalas, seeking the potent Sunwell itself.
Quel’Thalas, Dalaran and the living end
Arthas and his Scourge forces marched through Quel’Thalas. Thanks to a traitor in the Elves midst named Dar’Khan Drathir Arthas managed — with extreme difficulty — to outmaneuver Sylvanas Windrunner and reach the Sunwell. For her resistance, Arthas personally killed and made Sylvanas a Banshee, binding her to his service. He then cast Kel’Thuzad’s remains into the magical font, befouling it even as the power therein helped convert the deceased necromancer into a powerful Lich.
This act of aggression and slaughter left the High Elves of Quel’Thalas broken. But it was nothing compared to Arthas’ next action. After a brief diversion in Alterac where Kel’Thuzad used a demon gate previously held by Blackrock Orcs to speak to Archimonde, the Scourge marched on its next target — Dalaran, the city of magi. The same city where Arthas had escorted Jaina, years earlier, and spoken with Antonidas.
Now they had no words for one another. Kel’Thuzad required the spellbook of Medivh in order to summon Archimonde bodily into Azeroth. Arthas and the Scourge besieged the city, battled their way through its impressive defenses and finally slew Antonidas in the process of claiming it. As Kel’Thuzad used the spellbook to channel a rite, Arthas defended him from the all-out counterattack by the Kirin Tor. A counterattack that failed spectacularly when Archimonde the Defiler stepped through and destroyed all of Dalaran in one moment.
The Legion walks on Azeroth
Archimonde declared that the Legion no longer required the Lich King, and placed Tichondrius in charge of the Scourge. In doing so, he effectively put Arthas out of a job. But Kel’Thuzad told Arthas that the Lich King had forseen this. The two departed the Eastern Kingdoms and headed for Kalimdor. There, Arthas was indirectly behind the death of Tichondrius. He revealed the means by which the Darkener was corrupting the Felwood — the Skull of Gul’Dan — to Illidan Stormrage. Illidan used the Skull to become demonic himself before striking Tichondrius down. Meanwhile, Arthas took his leave of Kalimdor and left the Legion to wage war on the mortal races of Azeroth.
It failed, exactly as his master had desired. The Lich King owed no loyalty to the Legion. When next we saw Arthas, he was riding into Lordaeron to tell the three Dreadlords who were ruling the city that he was taking control of his ‘kingdom’. Soon, he drove them from the city and began crushing any remaining survivors of the Scourge and the Plague. He went so far as to hunt down and slaughter a group of Paladins and their charges attempting to escape Lordaeron. The kingdom was his, and all the lives in it were destined for death.
But the Lich King risked much by breaching the Frozen Throne to corrupt Arthas. Now, that casement was beginning to unravel, and with it his undead power. Next time, we see how Arthas went from servant to King of the Dead.
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