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WoWApr 16, 2021 5:00 pm CT

Who are the Dreadlords? How did these cunning demons shape Azeroth’s past — and what can we expect from them in the future?

Sometimes an expansion will have open plot threads that lead into another expansion, sometimes there are story points that lead into a later part of the same expansion, and sometimes there are fun clues that never amount to anything — yet. When a lost journal showed up with the quest Enemy Infiltration – Preface talking about Dreadlord operatives in Shadowlands, that had the community abuzz with speculation wondering what this could be.

Back in beta and early in Shadowlands, everyone was guessing at the possible lore, and right now it’s still a bit of a guessing game. But it looks like in patch 9.1, there will be answers! In an interview with The Starting Zone, Senior Game Designer for World of Warcraft Jeremy Feasel, said, “our old friends the Dreadlords return and we’re going to be going into their story and what are they doing here and who are they working for, and that’ll unlock their own series of content as well.”

So who are the Dreadlords? And what are they doing in the Shadowlands?

The Dreadlords before Shadowlands

The Dreadlords are also known as the Nathrezim, which is the translation for “dreadlord” in Common. They are cunning, strategic demons, used by many masters, chiefly for behind-the-scenes manipulation, but also as powerful commanders and mages.

Little is known of their origin, other than they were the original demons from the Twisting Nether. They served the Old Gods, masters of their shadowy powers, and were locked away by Sargeras. Later, after the creation of the Burning Legion, they were freed from their prison by Kil’jaeden. He employed the service of the Nathrezim, and they proved to be able to wield fel magic just as easily as they could shadow. They were powerful soldiers in the Burning Legion and helped to destroy planets throughout the universe.

A group of Dreadlords under the command of Kil’jaeden tortured the orc shaman named Ner’zhul, then bound him to the runeblade Frostmourne, creating the first Lich King. They would continue to work alongside him, spreading the Plague of Undeath, and showed prowess with necromancy. Dreadlords had a hand in a lot of other events in Azeroth, proving to be a major threat throughout the years. Varimathras was at Sylvanas’ side as an advisor until he was unmasked as a traitor in the quest that followed the Wrathgate. Dreadlords are so skilled at manipulation we’ve seen them masquerade as other races for years, as in the case with Balnazzar leading the Scarlet Crusade in the guise of Grand Crusader Dathrohan.

There was even one Dreadlord who appears to be on the side of good. Lothraxion is part of the Army of Light, able to wield the Light himself. Last we saw him he was a Champion in the Paladin Class Hall in Legion.

While they are demons, the Dreadlords are not limited to the fel, as demons are often thought to be. They can wield shadow, undeath — and even light. There may not be a limit to what they can learn.

Dreadlords in Revendreth

The most direct mention of Dreadlords in Shadowlands is the Enemy Infiltration book mentioned above. It begins with, “to our most wondrous and resplendent Master,” implying that the Dreadlord Master is in Revendreth, though clearly unknown to us. It goes on talking about targets, and says, “…the solemn duty for which you sired us.” This was already looking like it was meant for Sire Denathrius.

This missive lists the targets as the Titans, Void Lords, the Naaru, Life, and Burning Legion. It makes certain references to points like order and disorder, light and shadow, aiming to take out the circles on the cosmology chart. It should also be noted that this book is found in Spire of the Unseen Guests in Revendreth. The Nathrezim call themselves in their language, “Thal’kituun,” which means, “Unseen Guest.”

There are further links between the Nathrezim and Sire Denathrius. First, there are names — Denathrius, Castle Nathria, Nathrezim. The same root is there in each of the words. Next, there are looks. Denathrius has gray skin, hooves, and horns, just like the Dreadlords — the other Venthyr don’t have horns and hooves. And then there is a line from the Accuser to Sire Denathrius, “You were once the lord of dread.” Especially given her role in Revendreth, could her phrasing be deliberate? And even if Denathrius himself is a red herring, there’s still something fishy in Revendreth.

What will come from the Dreadlords in patch 9.1?

Before the PTR, we knew that we would see the Dreadlords in Korthia. Blizzard had confirmed that they would show up in patch 9.1, and they would be working for someone. But Sire Denathrius was defeated. With him out of play, who could that be?

And then the PTR hit. We received new models for Dreadlords, including, for the first time, female Dreadlords. There was an update for Mal’ganis and we learned he’s involved in the extended Covenant campaign: Chapter 5 – Denathrius Escapes. Mal’Ganis causes a distraction so the other Nathrezim can steal Remornia, the sword that Denathrius’ essence is trapped in, presumably freeing their master. It’s still unclear if this story will continue throughout Shadowlands, or whether it’s setup for future expansions.

As for hints of what was to come from the previous expansion, there are two that relate to them taking down the six forces in the cosmos. From Il’gynoth, Corruption Reborn, “The cunning ones kneel before six masters, but serve only one.” In the Uu’nat encounter in Crucible of Storms, N’zoth says, “Six seats at the high table. Six mouths that hunger. One will consume all others.” This wicked group is in the minds of the story writers, if nothing else. They have been dropping clues, and we’re eager to see where this story goes next — even if it may spring on us from the shadows.

Originally published 2/23/2021, updated 4/16/2021

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