Know Your Lore: Tirion Fordring and the fall of the Lich King
Tirion Fordring had risen from a mere hermit living in the outskirts of the Plaguelands to the leader of the assault against the Lich King. It wasn’t out of any quest for eternal glory or wish to be a man of legend. He was simply carrying out the vow he made to his son: that he would be a force for good in the world and see it rid of the evil souls like Isillien, who killed Taelen before they had a chance to reunite.
And in that, it seemed, the Light supported him. Neither a hermit nor a mere Paladin of the Silver Hand, Tirion Fordring carried the Ashbringer, cleansed of corruption. It was a blade designed and crafted specifically to cut down the undead…and now Tirion intended to aim it at the Scourge’s dark heart.
The Argent Crusade in Northrend
The Argent Crusade headed to Northrend as Fordring had promised, where it worked tirelessly, launching another assault against Naxxramas. He threw himself into this new cause with all the fervor he could muster, perhaps thinking that this was the good he was destined to carry out. Obviously, the Lich King had seen something exceptional in him — and in that moment during the Battle for Light’s Hope, Tirion saw what that thing was.
The Light. Not once in his life had Tirion Fordring ever turned away from it. And in turn, the Light never abandoned him. Even when his powers were supposedly stripped from him, the Light still answered his call. The Ashbringer absolutely bristled with it, a beacon of faith that was possibly the only thing on Azeroth to strike fear in what remained of the Lich King’s heart.
But Tirion didn’t strike blindly. In Icecrown, he discovered that Arthas’ frozen heart was still intact, moved from Icecrown Citadel to the Cathedral of Darkness. Tirion thought perhaps the heart might have some remnant of Arthas’ lost humanity — he wanted to restore it, if possible. Maybe he thought he could redeem the Lich King as Darion had been redeemed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible. There was nothing left in the heart but shadows of the past so Tirion destroyed it, with the realization that there was really only one move left to be made.
Arthas — the Lich King — had to die.
The hunt for Azeroth’s greatest heroes
That wasn’t the only thing Tirion realized. He’d fought the Lich King, one on one. He even managed to wound Arthas, but that was only because he had the Ashbringer and the souls of a thousand vengeful knights on his side. Wounding was one thing, killing was another…and for every soul that fell to the Scourge, their strength only grew. Trying to assault Icecrown Citadel with sheer numbers wouldn’t work.
He needed the best soldiers he could find. To that end, he formed the Argent Tournament in a forlorn corner of Icecrown, to test the mettle of soldiers and determine who was the strongest among them. It might have seemed like a cheery diversion, but the reality was grim and cold: Tirion Fordring was trying to decide who among the heroes of Azeroth would throw themselves at Icecrown Citadel and the Lich King himself.
There was no guarantee of success. There was only faith and hope, two things Tirion Fordring carried in abundance. And with that faith, he chose his army. With that faith, he teamed the Argent Crusade with the Knights of the Ebon Blade, forming the Ashen Verdict. And with that faith, he marched upon Icecrown Citadel to bring the Lich King’s reign of terror to an end.
The Lich King’s gambit
Atop the highest spire of Icecrown Citadel, Fordring and his chosen few faced off against the Lich King. But although Fordring may have wounded the Lich King once, he wasn’t allowed to strike a second time, encased in a block of solid ice the moment he tried to strike. Helpless, Tirion could only watch as his best and brightest tried to bring the Lich King down…and failed.
For Tirion’s plan to weed out the best for his army had only given the Lich King exactly what he wanted. The greatest heroes of Azeroth, all in one place and ripe for the picking, including Tirion himself. With a single blow, the Lich King struck them down, and prepared to raise them anew. And as Tirion watched, he did the only thing he could do — he prayed.
The Light had never abandoned Fordring. And it answered his call, shattering the block of ice and allowing Tirion one last strike. The Ashbringer clashed with Frostmourne and won, shattering the blade to pieces and unleashing an endless torrent of captured souls that turned on the Lich King and froze him in place…save one. The spirit of Terenas Menethil, Arthas’ father, raised the fallen heroes and allowed them to carry out their grim task.
The Lich King had fallen, at last.
There must always be a Lich King
Tirion Fordring and his army had done the impossible. But Menethil’s spirit spoke to Tirion, and gave him the chilling truth — without a leader, the Scourge would run rampant. Someone had to take up the helm. Someone had to become the Lich King and keep the Scourge in check, or the world would soon be devoured by the undead.
And Tirion picked up that crown. It wasn’t out of a wish to be seen as a savior. It was because in that moment, Tirion looked at his army — an army of Azeroth’s strongest, bristling with hope and the rush of victory — and there was no way he would allow any of them to carry that kind of burden. He’d already asked so much, and they’d given all they could. The least he could do was give back.
After all, he was an old man. He had no family to return to. He had no wife, no son, no great cause to fight for. He had his faith in the Light, and he had faith that it would be enough to save him. Tirion made a vow on the dying light of his son that he would be a force for good in the world — surely, there was no greater cause than this.
Tirion returns to Hearthglen
Before he could place the helm on his head, Bolvar Fordragon, long thought dead after the events at the Wrathgate, stepped in. Garishly preserved in a state between life and death, Bolvar had been captured and tortured — but despite the Lich King’s best efforts, he couldn’t be corrupted. Insisting that Tirion still had a destiny to fulfill, Bolvar demanded he hand over the helm and the title of Lich King. And so Tirion returned to Dalaran with tales of the Lich King’s defeat.
And from Dalaran, Tirion returned home to Hearthglen. What remained of the Scarlet Crusade was in tatters, so it was easy enough to reclaim his former town. Where once was a simple village, now rose a bastion of the Argent Crusade. Destiny suggested that at least for now there was time to rest. So Fordring trained new recruits, battled what remained of the Scourge, and waited for destiny to call him to action once more.
For when the world is at its darkest, Tirion Fordring will surely rise to confront it. With his unshakable faith in the Light, he’ll stand to defend it as a champion of all that is good and as an example for all the heroes that have yet to take a stand. For the Light, for Taelan, and for the shining heart of Azeroth itself.
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