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This article is about Ner'zhul's life as an orc. See Lich King for his existence after being transformed.
Were you looking for Ner'zhul in the alternate timeline on Draenor or Boss Ner'zhul, the last boss in Shadowmoon Burial Grounds?

Ner'zhul (the Lich King)

The Elder Shaman Ner'zhul was the Warchief of Draenor of the clans that remained uncaptured after the Dark Portal was destroyed in Azeroth. He was deceived into making a Blood Pact with Kil'jaeden the Deceiver, the one that bound the orcs into the service of the Burning Legion. Following the Second War, he opened several portals on Draenor in an attempt to seek out new lands to escape to and conquer, but was immediately captured by Kil'jaeden. His mortal form was destroyed and his spirit was transformed into the helm of domination, known as the Lich King, which was then encased in the mystical ice of the Frozen Throne atop the Icecrown glacier in distant Northrend.


Chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan

Ner'zhul was the chieftain and elder shaman of the Shadowmoon clan and one of the most popular figures in orcish society. He was admired, respected and venerated by all for his deep connection to the spirits, and was the closest thing the orcish race had to a single leader prior to the foundation of the Horde. However, deep within, Ner'zhul craved a power he did not have.

Rise of the Horde

Ner'zhul, Warcraft II cinematic

See also: Rise of the Horde

Ner'zhul was contacted by the spirit of his deceased mate, Rulkan (with whom he had a regular correspondence), who warned him about the menace of the draenei, who were plotting to destroy the orcs. After several moons, she introduced him to Kil'jaeden, the "Great One", who began to instruct him in the treachery of the draenei. Though Ner'zhul was elated that he was saving his people (and finally getting the power and respect he secretly desired), he was puzzled why the ancestors would no longer speak to him, and why the spirits grew more distant.

Ner'zhul managed to get the rest of the clans to begin attacks on draenei settlements, supposedly by order of the ancestors, but, as he saw more and more of the draenei, he gradually became puzzled; apart from his horns, clothes, and skin tone, Kil'jaeden bore an uncanny resemblance to the draenei and possessed a hatred of Velen unbecoming of a divine being. Seeking answers, he attempted to commune with the ancestors in Oshu'gun, the "Mountain of the Spirits." He was horrified when the ancestors greeted him as a monster and when the real Rulkan revealed that Kil'jaeden had been manipulating him all along.

Ner'zhul resolved to defy his demon master but Gul'dan, his apprentice, had followed him and eavesdropped on Ner'Zhul's conversation with the ancestors.  Greedy for his own power, Gul'dan informed Kil'jaeden of the betrayal of the shaman. Kil'jaeden, ever one to reward good service, elevated Gul'dan to Ner'zhul's position. Ner'zhul was relegated to a ceremonial position, his powers stripped from him. Kil'jaeden forced Ner'zhul to watch helplessly as the orcs slid into bloodlust and warlock magic. He was powerless to stop the rise of the Shadow Council, privy to all their secrets but able to reveal none.

But Gul'dan grew careless. Thinking Ner'zhul completely powerless, he allowed his former teacher access to all of the Shadow Council's documents, and it was thus that Ner'zhul discovered that Kil'jaeden was planning to feed the Blood of Mannoroth to the orcs. Ner'zhul's diminished position and Gul'dan's baleful influence meant that none of the chieftains would listen to his warnings, with the exception of one.

As a result of Ner'zhul's anonymous advice, Durotan of the Frostwolf Clan refused to allow his clan to drink the blood of Mannoroth, and saved them from the worst of the corruption. Alas, Durotan and his mate Draka were the only people aware of Ner'zhul's actions- a secret that died with them years later. Today, no one has any idea that one of Azeroth's greatest enemies saved the orcs from complete and utter annihilation.

Beyond the Dark Portal

See also: Beyond the Dark Portal

Ner'zhul, Black Temple trailer

Following the Horde's defeat in the Second War the Alliance pressed the Horde back to the Blasted Lands, ultimately destroying the portal. On the Draenor side Ner'zhul was caught in the blast and gravely wounded. For two years while he recovered the clans of Draenor fought amongst themselves until Teron Gorefiend devised a plan of opening new portals and finding fresh worlds for the Horde to conquer. Teron went to Ner'zhul and asked the old shaman to lead the Horde once again. Ner'zhul having since recovered, had isolated his clan in Shadowmoon Valley, where he began seeing visions of death (potentially a foreshadowing of his future fate). He painted his face with a white skull. When Gorefiend, a being of undeath, came to him, Ner'zhul was not surprised, and after some persuasion, agreed to Gorefiend's plan to open more portals. In order to fullfill the plan he sought out several artifacts from Azeroth: the Skull of Gul'dan, the Book of Medivh, the Jeweled Scepter of Sargeras, and the Eye of Dalaran.

The first item he acquired, the Skull of Gul'dan, soon began to influence the old shaman. His wayward apprentice was speaking to Ner'zhul through his last remains. Ner'zhul became more and more concerned with his own power and well being rather than that of the Horde.

Upon retrieving all of these artifacts save the Skull, he attempted to open portals throughout Draenor. Feeling the surge of power that came with having control of Draenor's magic, Ner'zhul stopped caring about the welfare of the Horde, and thought only of harnessing his new powers. In his hubris, he ordered his followers through the portals, leaving behind the Horde. Obris, one of his servitors, protested at Ner'zhul's choice to abandon the rest of the Horde. In response, Ner'zhul blasted him aside; he no longer cared. Inundated with power he could only have dreamed of, Ner'zhul's greed overcame him. Whatever vestiges of honor and altruism still remained in him vanished as he and his followers went through the first portal, abandoning the rest of the Orcish Horde to its fate. The vast energies that the spell created then tore the planet apart once Ner'zhul had fled, and the shattered realm of Outland was created.

Birth of the Lich King

Main article: Lich King

Nerzhul Lich King.jpg

Upon entering one of the portals, Ner'zhul and his followers were immediately captured by Kil'jaeden. The Elder Shaman was torn apart, though his spirit was kept alive. Agreeing to enter into the service of the demon once more, Ner'zhul was bound to the Frozen Throne. His perception, mental powers, and magical abilities expanded tremendously. Thus the Lich King was born. As the Lich King, Ner'zhul would rule the Scourge alone until merging with Arthas Menethil.


Novels This section concerns content exclusive to the Warcraft novels or short stories.

After the merger, 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 Arthas' humanity - fought for influence and control over the entity. It is notable that if arranged accordingly, Matthias Lehner is an anagram of Arthas Menethil.

Matthias tried to reason with Arthas, but Arthas killed 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.[5]

In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King

World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King This section concerns content exclusive to Wrath of the Lich King.


The Lich King dormant after the merger.

When the Lich King awakened, he silenced his own heart, believing that anything that made him at all mortal made him weak.

Afterwards he journeyed to Sindragosa's Fall where he raised the ancient dragon Sindragosa, the first consort to Malygos, as a frost wyrm, then watched his massive undead army prepare for war.

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, necropolei 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' own journey.[6]

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. This new order was led by Highlord Darion Mograine and successfully forced the Scarlet Crusade from Lordaeron, with the survivors becoming the Scarlet Onslaught and heading to Northrend. During the battle, he sensed an old enemy that he long ago destroyed, but was content to ignore it for the time being.

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' soul.

Realizing how he had been betrayed, Darion attacked the Lich King, only to be swatted aside. Fordring then came forward in preparation to battle the Lich King. The Lich King incapacitated 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 gave the order to attack, and while the remaining Defenders of the Light charged the Lich King, they were 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 used Arthas' focus on Tirion against him, and threw the Corrupted Ashbringer to Fordring. The combination of Fordring's own faith and the holy ground of Light's Hope cleansed the Ashbringer, restoring the sword to its original glory. With this new power, Tirion escaped the Lich King's spell and struck him with the holy sword.

Stunned by this turn of events, the Lich King retreated after promising that the next time he met 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).

The Lich King, as seen in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King.

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.

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

The Lich King on the Top of Icecrown Citadel.

The new Lich King

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, including King Terenas Menethil II, attacked their former jailer by suspending him in the air while simultaneously resurrecting Fordring's champions, who were then able to defeat the Lich King.

In Legion

World of Warcraft: Legion This section concerns content exclusive to Legion.

When one of the Knights of the Ebon Blade enters the Blades of the Fallen Prince, reformed from Frostmourne's shards, Ner'zhul can be found tempting Arthas to take up Frostmourne. Arthas is defeated and once more states that he sees only darkness, while Ner'zhul exclaims that his plans have been ruined. It is unclear if these are their actual spirits or merely echoes reliving their pasts.[4]


Ner'zhul had the gift of true visioning and all he had seen would indeed come to pass.[7] He had seen many events that take place in World of Warcraft, including:


  • In a letter to Durotan: You will be asked to drink. Refuse. It is the blood of twisted souls, and it will twist yours and those of all who imbibe. It will enslave you forever. By the love of all we once held dear, refuse.
  • I...have dreamed of you. I have had visions of death, and now you are here.[8]
  • Gul'dan and his twisted schemes — they reach out and destroy lives even from beyond the grave! You and your plans! And how much power would you gain from success? Power is all you Shadow Council bastards care about![8]
  • The other orcs are lost. They have served their purpose. From this point on, all that we gain will be ours alone. I am the Horde, and I will survive. Choose me, or choose death![8]
  • There is so much more. So much more, but only if you continue to walk this path fully.[9]
  • Yes! I knew you would make this choice. For so long you have wrestled with the last dregs of goodness, of humanity in you, but no longer. The boy held you back, and now you are free. We are one, Arthas. Together, we are the Lich King. No more Ner'zhul, no more Arthas—only this one glorious being. With my knowledge, we can—[10]



Fan art


Need to add to wiki Videos
  • Ner'zhul - Warcraft Characters [Lore] - Whole Story


  • This piece of art "may" have inspired Ner'zhul's story.[11]
  • Ner'zhul is one of the few mortal characters from Draenor, along with his disciple/apprentice Gul'dan, to have played a major role in influencing the events that occurred in the Warcraft universe.
  • Ner'zhul is sort of the central and ture main antagonist of the 3d expansion in world of warcraft since he was the one who caused Athas to go mad and took over his body when they merged, the Wrath Gate, Ebon Blade deception and luring our Tirion, it was all Ner'zhul.  You can kinda tell since its his voice and not Arthas's voice. Still he died with Arthas for good and there was still a lot of power left within the Crown helmet


External links

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Official lore

Preceded by:
Chieftain of the Shadowmoon Clan
Succeeded by:
Unknown, eventually Teron Gorefiend
Preceded by:
Ruler of Draenor
Succeeded by:
Magtheridon (as Lord of Outland)
Preceded by:
Head/Creator of the Horde in its infancy
Succeeded by:
Gul'dan and Blackhand
Preceded by:
Gul'dan (as Master of the Black Temple)
Lord of Shadowmoon Fortress
Succeeded by:
Magtheridon (as Master of the Black Temple)
Preceded by:
Orgrim Doomhammer
Warchief of the Horde
Succeeded by:
Orgrim Doomhammer and Thrall (New Horde)
Preceded by:
Lich King of the Scourge (alone)
Succeeded by:
Arthas Menethil and Ner'zhul (conjoined spirits)
Preceded by:
Ner'zhul (alone)
Lich King of the Scourge (conjoined spirits with Arthas)
Succeeded by:
Arthas Menethil (dominant)
Preceded by:
Hurkan Skullsplinter
Wielder of The Skull of Gul'dan
Succeeded by: