- This article is about Ner'zhul's life as an orc. For his existence after being transformed, see Lich King. For the character from an alternate universe, see Ner'zhul (alternate universe). For the Sanctum of Domination encounter, see Remnant of Ner'zhul.
Greatly Deceived One,
Warchief of Draenor,
He Who Would Be King
|Class||Shaman, Necromancer (as the Lich King), Warlock|
|Former affiliation(s)||Burning Legion, Horde of Draenor, Old Horde|
|Occupation||The Lich King|
|Former occupation(s)||Warchief of Draenor, Dark warlord of the Horde of Draenor, Elder shaman and chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan|
|Location||Echo in the Blades of the Fallen Prince, Icecrown Citadel|
|Relative(s)||Rulkan (mate), Neema (mother-in-law)|
|Companion(s)||Skychaser (wolf mount)|
“I opened... many doors. All led... to agony.”
- — The Remnant of Ner'zhul
Ner'zhul was the chieftain and elder shaman of the Shadowmoon clan as well as the Warchief of the Horde of Draenor, the clans of Draenor that remained uncaptured after the Dark Portal was destroyed in Azeroth. He was tricked into making a Blood Pact with Kil'jaeden the Deceiver, 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 spectral Lich King, which was then encased in the mystical ice of the Frozen Throne atop the Icecrown glacier in distant Northrend.
Ner'zhul grew up to become the chieftain and elder shaman of the Shadowmoon clan and one of the most popular figures in orcish society. He was respected by all the clans and an advisor to all shaman regardless of their affiliation, appearing at the Kosh'harg celebration in Nagrand. Eventually, Kil'jaeden instructed his agent, Gul'dan, to find a suitable leader for the Horde that would be, and Gul'dan decided on Ner'zhul due to the respect and admiration he demanded from all the orcs, seeing him to be the perfect person for such a role. Gul'dan arrived at Shadowmoon Valley, telling a false tale of how his village was destroyed by ogres (it was, in fact, Gul'dan himself who did that) to gain the sympathy and pity of the Shadowmoon clan. He succeeded, and Ner'zhul took him under his wing as his apprentice.
At this point in time, Gul'dan had used his fel powers to challenge the elemental spirits at the Throne of the Elements, and he succeeded in throwing the elements in turmoil and their contact with the orc shaman was severed as a result. Ner'zhul was deeply troubled by the natural upheavals that plagued Draenor and the red pox outbreak that struck them, and furthermore, he had sought the comfort of the spirits when he grieved over his deceased wife, Rulkan. Since the spirits would no longer commune with him, he had begun to venture deeper into his grief, both his sources of comfort having disappeared. Kil'jaeden preyed on this vulnerability and began visiting Ner'zhul in his dreams under the guise of his spouse. Under this guise, Kil'jaeden told Ner'zhul that the draenei were the reason the elements were in disarray, as well as the cause of the red pox epidemic and how they planned on destroying the entire orcish race, and that the only way to stop them would be to unite the orcs and kill the draenei. At first, Ner'zhul was skeptical, but the destruction of the Bladewind clan by the draenei put an end to his doubts. He informed the clan leaders at the next Kosh'harg festival of what he had learned from Rulkan, and the orcs, revering ancestral spirits as they did, did not question that at all and obliged, forming the Orcish Horde.
Ner'zhul watched as the Horde increased its aggression against the draenei, but he did not see any benefit come from it, instead, he saw the Horde devolving into savagery and bloodthirst. Kil'jaeden, sensing Ner'zhul's skepticism took a different approach to contacting him. He began appearing as a radiant elemental entity, advising Ner'zhul that destroying the draenei was the only way to please the elements. Ner'zhul was initially in awe of this being, but he was still overcome with doubt, this entity's obsession with brutalizing the draenei deeply upset him. In addition, Rulkan no longer appeared to him, and he needed her guidance in such a crucial time for him and the Horde. He secretly traveled to Oshu'gun to commune with the spirits and was horrified to learn from the real spirit of Rulkan that he was being deceived. Being shunned by the ancestors and learning of the deception he fell for devastated Ner'zhul. Full of shame, he left Oshu'gun to return to Shadowmoon Valley, unsure of what he would do when he arrived there. Kil'jaeden knew of Ner'zhul's trip, and informed Gul'dan, instructing him to subdue Ner'zhul and take over the Shadowmoon clan leadership without killing him, as Ner'zhul was no longer reliable to lead the Horde. Gul'dan instructed a few Shadowmoon shaman on the secrets of the fel, and they formed the Shadow Council. The Shadow Council intercepted Ner'zhul on his return from Oshu'gun and kidnapped him. Though many of them wanted him dead, Gul'dan knew that that was not Kil'jaeden's will, and instead relished in abusing and mistreating Ner'zhul along with the other members. Authority of the Shadowmoon Clan was transferred to the Shadow Council, and Ner'zhul was left as a decorative figurehead with no actual power. His public appearances began to dwindle and lessen, as did his power and authority over the Horde.
Ner'zhul, being as powerless as he was, posed no threat to the Shadow Council. They made him privy to many of their meetings and he knew a great deal of information about them as a result. After the Temple of Karabor was captured by the Horde, the Shadow Council used it as their headquarters, and Kil'jaeden informed Gul'dan of the next step in transforming the Horde into the Legion's vanguard: they had to drink the blood of a demon to bind their will to their new masters. To that end, Gul'dan and the Council summoned the demon Mannoroth and kept his existence in the Black Temple a secret until the time to feed his blood to the Horde was right. Ner'zhul learned of the summoning and, with this knowledge, wrote an anonymous missive to Chieftain Durotan of the Frostwolves informing him of Gul'dan's intention of giving the Horde demon blood and snuck it into the Shadow Council's outgoing correspondence. The missive safely reached Durotan, and as a result of Ner'zhul's intervention, the Frostwolf clan would evade demonic servitude. Durotan's refusal to drink demon blood infuriated Gul'dan, but he knew that the Frostwolves were powerless to completely oppose the Horde, and did not mind it much.
Beyond the Dark Portal
Throughout the First and Second Wars, Ner'zhul was left on Draenor by Gul'dan as he had no purpose in bringing him to Azeroth. During that time, Ner'zhul was plagued with thoughts of death and felt personally responsible for the scourging of Draenor and for dooming the orcs to demonic servitude, infighting, and possibly extinction. His chance for redemption came in the form of his former disciple Teron'gor, or as he was known by then, Teron Gorefiend.
Following the Old 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 fulfill 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. Except for the Skull of Gul'dan, these artifacts corresponded to three constellations on Draenor, and using them in conjunction with a celestial event involving those constellations gave Ner'zhul the power to open the portals. Ner'zhul, Gorefiend, and several death knights combined their powers and used the Skull of Gul'dan to reopen the Dark Portal to begin Gorefiend's mission of acquiring the artifacts. The clans that had remained on Draenor formed a vanguard that would distract the Alliance armies with war to give Gorefiend time to complete his mission.
Upon receiving the Skull of Gul'dan, it began to influence Ner'zhul. 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. The ogre mage Dentarg became his enforcer, putting back in line through fear and brute force the clans of Draenor when they opposed Ner'zhul's absolute rule. As part of a pact between Gorefiend and Deathwing, the fallen aspect would lead Gorefiend to the locations of the artifacts, and Gorefiend would take several of Deathwing's "precious cargo" to Draenor. The cargo were batches of unhatched black dragon eggs, and Deathwing had intended to repopulate his flight on Draenor away from the other dragon aspects. Upon meeting Deathwing, Ner'zhul was intimidated and terrified of the power the dragon held. He surrendered the Skull of Gul'dan to Deathwing per the dragon's request, and Deathwing rewarded him with the use of several black dragons.
Gorefiend was successfully able to deliver all the artifacts, and after Ner'zhul gave Deathwing the Skull of Gul'dan, he began searching for a location to open his portals. There were two known ley line nexuses on Draenor: the first was the location of the Dark Portal, and the second was the location of the Black Temple. Ner'zhul decided the Black Temple would be the best location to perform the ritual and began his journey there. The Sons of Lothar were quickly able to get on his track and follow him through Hellfire Peninsula and Terokkar Forest. Realizing he would not be able to outmaneuver Kurdran Wildhammer's gryphon riders, Ner'zhul elected to traverse the underground labyrinth of Auchindoun to reach the Black Temple. It was a success, and he arrived at the Black Temple with enough time to set up a defense and begin the ritual.
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 previously could only have dreamed of, Ner'zhul's greed overcame him, and 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 of Conjuration created then tore the planet apart once Ner'zhul had fled, and the shattered realm of Outland was created.
Ner'zhul casting the Spell of Conjuration.
Ner'zhul using the Jeweled Scepter of Sargeras to open countless portals.
Ner'zhul with the Skull of Gul'dan.
Ner'zhul in the Black Temple trailer.
Ner'zhul (barely visible) with the dimensional gateway he entered at the end of Beyond the Dark Portal.
Birth of the Lich King
- Main article: Lich King
Upon entering one of the portals, Ner'zhul and his followers were immediately captured by Kil'jaeden. At the demon lord's command, a group of dreadlords consisting of Tichondrius, Mal'Ganis, Balnazzar, Detheroc, and Varimathras tortured the orc shaman Ner'zhul after he had escaped from Draenor to the Twisting Nether. Eventually, Ner'zhul, his sanity cracking, would agree to serve Kil'jaeden, who passed the orc's spirit through death and revived as a spectral entity. The dreadlords bound his disembodied spirit to a specifically crafted set of armor and a mighty runeblade called Frostmourne. These items were locked in a diamond-hard block of ice to imprison Ner'zhul. The Lich King and the dreadlords who had tortured him were then sent to Azeroth in order to weaken any resistance that the Burning Legion would face during the Third War. While the Lich King gathered his strength, Tichondrius and his fellow dreadlords would serve as jailors and executors meant to hasten the Lich King's task by any means necessary. To this end, they would construct the Icecrown Citadel within Northrend. Though seemingly broken by the dreadlords, Ner'zhul sought vengeance and was able to play on the dreadlord's fears of Kil'jaeden in order trick them into allowing him to hurl Frostmourne out of the Frozen Throne. In time, Ner'zhul would guide Arthas Menethil to Frostmourne in order to make the young paladin his champion.
After the Burning Legion's defeat at the Battle of Mount Hyjal, Ner'zhul and the Scourge broke away from the Burning Legion, which caused an outraged Kil'jaeden to order Ner'zhul's death. The war between the Illidari led by Illidan Stormrage and the Scourge ultimately ended in the Scourge's victory. In the direct aftermath of the conflict, Ner'zhul merged with Arthas, who largely consumed his spirit to rule as the Lich King alone. However, the consumption was not complete. Ner'zhul was buried and struggled to wake up to regain control. Arthas drew on the orc's guilt over his role in the downfall of his race to trap him into a downward spiral of despair until nothing remained but a wail of sorrow. Vestiges or at least memories of Ner'zhul remained in the new Lich King, who once referred to himself as a former shaman. This Lich King would be killed by adventurers some time later, ultimately ending the fallen shaman's legacy.
- Main article: Echo of Ner'zhul
When one of the Knights of the Ebon Blade enters the Blades of the Fallen Prince, reformed from Frostmourne's shards, echoes of Ner'zhul and Arthas can be found with Ner'zhul 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.
The Jailer revealed that the Lich King was meant to herald his coming and thus considered Ner'zhul, and his successors, a failure due to his defiance of him. It was further revealed that Ner'zhul's soul came to reside within the Maw, and that the last remnants of the fallen orc's twisted soul were encased in spiked shadowsteel, condemned to everlasting torment, and was ultimately confronted within the Sanctum of Domination. As the battle raged, the Helm of Suffering, Malicious Gauntlets, and Rattlecage of Agony that the Remnant of Ner'zhul wore were shattered revealing the being beneath and as the remnant is killed it announces "Ahhh... Rulkan... I come... home...".
Visions of Ner'zhul
- Humans of Stormwind and orcs of the Horde fighting side by side against the Scourge.
- Undead with minds that were clearly their own.
- Quel'Thalas being rebuilt.
- Skeletal dragons assaulting Stormwind and a hot, dry place crowded with orcs.
- A race of desert nerubians serving mammoth creatures with the heads of dogs, golems made of obsidian.
- The L of Lordaeron depicted in red and becoming a red flame on a white background.
- The surface of the ocean churning with a horrible sound of laughter assaulting his ears, along with the screams of a world wrenched from its proper place.
- Green, shadowy and nightmarish images dancing, a deer or a man, mountains coming to life and crushing everything.
- Frostmourne clashing with a long and powerful blade named Ashbringer.
Beyond the Dark Portal
- I... have dreamed of you. I have had visions of death, and now you are here.
- 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!
- We did much harm, you and I. Deathbringers, doom callers, both of us. But now we can try to save them. And your skull, my old apprentice…your skull will be part of that. Dead you are better use to the orcs than you were alive. Back you have come, to your old master. Maybe together we can give them a new chance.
- 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!
Warcraft III: Frozen Throne
- 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.
Arthas: Rise of the Lich King
- There is so much more. So much more, but only if you continue to walk this path fully.
- 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—
World of Warcraft
- Main article: The Call of Icecrown#Notes
In the RPG
The Horde’s history begins in hellfire. Over 130 years ago, the shaman Ner’zhul was contacted by an extraplanar being called Kil’jaeden. It is unknown if Ner’zhul was tricked (much like the night elves had been) into thinking that Kil’jaeden was a god or spirit of some kind, or if the powerful shaman knew at the time of their meeting what he was dealing with — a demonic lord of the Burning Legion. Though he had dedicated much of his life to balance and nature, Ner’zhul was lulled by the archdemon’s offers of power and was convinced to abandon his teachings in favor of a new path: that of the warlock. It's not known if he believed he could use this power to help his people, or if his reasons were entirely selfish. The consequences, however, were dire, regardless of Ner’zhul’s intent. Once he had learned the basics of manipulating this new, infernal magic, his fame grew, and others abandoned the old ways to follow his new, quicker path to the manipulation of the natural world.
It took nearly 50 years before Ner’zhul realized his error. By this time, he had convinced many to follow his dark path, and the orcs waged war against the draenei. Ner’zhul helped in the first efforts to unify the Horde into a cohesive unit; but when he saw what had become of his race — and what it was still becoming — he denied Kil’jaeden. He refused to compel the orcs to drink demon blood.
It was far too late. Kil’jaeden, furious, found a new pawn in the form of Gul’dan, one of Ner’zhul’s strongest apprentices, who shared none of his master’s honor or compassion. Where Ner’zhul had been held back by a lingering feeling of guilt and regret, Gul’dan’s greed and ambition allowed him to grow even more powerful and cruel than his former master, and he did not have Ner’zhul’s compunctions, and convinced the orcs to drink the blood of the demonic pit lord Mannoroth.
After the defeat of the Horde on Azeroth, Kilrogg Deadeye led his people to another portal to Draenor and found the orcs of Draenor under the control of Ner’zhul, the ancient shaman who had once refused Kil’jaeden. The Shadow Moon Clan led by the ancient shaman Ner’zhul was the dominant clan on Draenor. Many ancient clans were still strong in Draenor, and the humans found themselves outnumbered; Ner’zhul was quick to put Kilrogg’s experience to good use, and they coordinated to devise the best possible tactics to defeat the humans. The fighting on Draenor had not raged for long before Ner’zhul made an unusual decision that would change the course of history. The shaman no longer found Azeroth or Draenor suitable for his people; and so, he used his immense power to open another portal — and another, and another, each to a different world, potentially ripe for conquest. The world began to tear itself apart. Kil’jaeden plucked Ner’zhul and his followers from Draenor after they entered one of their portals and stuffed him into Northrend, where he became the Lich King.
Notes and trivia
- It was originally said that Ner'zhul once had his soul bound to Gul'dan, the elder shaman wanting to keep watch over his disciple.
- It was stated that Amnennar the Coldbringer had a direct telepathic link to Ner'zhul (when he and Arthas were the Lich King).
- Ner'zhul was described to have brown eye color.
- This piece of art "may" have inspired Ner'zhul's story.
- When asked about Ner'zhul at BlizzCon 2010, Chris Metzen said, "Yes. Yeah, Ner'zhul is done. He served us well in that capacity, but really the Lich King idea... really is the ultimate expression, you know, as Arthas or whatever. Ner'zhul's done."
- There are several differences between Ner'zhul's story as told in Rise of the Horde, and the version that was canonized in the Chronicles series:
- Overall, Ner'zhul is portrayed as less ambitious and power-hungry than Rise of the Horde saw him to be.
- His contact with Rulkan is slightly different. Rise of the Horde has Rulkan introduce Ner'zhul to Kil'jaeden in his proper demonic form. While Kil'jaeden advocated the destruction of the draenei, his resemblance to the draenei confused Ner'zhul and his trip to Oshu'gun was to seek answers to that question. Chronicle implies that Kil'jaeden never revealed his true form to Ner'zhul, as his trip to Oshu'gun was for different reasons.
- In Rise of the Horde it is Gul'dan who betrays Ner'zhul and alerts Kil'jaeden of the shaman's intention after his visit to Oshu'gun, while Chronicle reveals that Kil'jaeden and Gul'dan were aware and working together all along.
- Gul'dan did not replace Ner'zhul as the leader of the Shadowmoon clan, as Rise of the Horde states. Ner'zhul retains the title but any power behind it was delegated to Gul'dan and the Shadow Council.
- In Legion Ner'zhul is voiced by Vic Mignogna, who also voiced his alternate counterpart in Warlords of Draenor.
- The servers Ner'zhul US and Ner'zhul Europe are named after him.
- Given Mother Om'ra is a spirit of a chieftain before Ner'zhul from the alternate universe, she may have been Ner'zhul's ancestor, in the main universe as well as the alternate one.
- He may have been considered a dark shaman when he started to force the elements to his will after the destruction of the Dark Portal.
- It is currently unknown how the Jailer came into possession of Ner'zhul's soul, but it is possible that Ner'zhul's spirit being bound to the Helm of Domination had in essence bound Ner'zhul's spirit to the Maw. Alternatively, the Arbiter could have sent Ner'zhul into the Maw for his misdeeds or one of the Jailer's allies could have helped arrange for Ner'zhul's spirit to be sent to him.
Ner'zhul in Book of Heroes in Hearthstone, modified TCG art.
- ^ a b Slayer of the Shadowmoon (WC2 Orc)
- ^ Rise of the Horde, chapter 17
- ^ a b c Ultimate Visual Guide, pg. 42
- ^ The Warcraft Encyclopedia/Alleria Windrunner: However, the orc Ner'zhul and other Horde spellcasters used magical artifacts on the Draenor end of the Dark Portal, which was still intact. In this manner the powerful warlocks reestablished the pathway between Draenor and Azeroth.
- ^ Tome of Blighted Implements Other than the Dark Titan, the Scepter of Sargeras has had few wielders. One of them was the orc warlock Ner'zhul.
- ^ The Burning Crusade Townhall/Outland
- ^ Beyond the Dark Portal, chapter 19
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 66
- ^ Legends: A Warrior Made--Part 2
- ^ a b World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 70
- ^ a b World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 69
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 73
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 75
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 76 - 77
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 88 - 89
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 182
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 2, pg. 187
- ^ Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal manual, Clans of Draenor, Shadow Moon Clan
- ^ Warcraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal manual, Legends of the Land, Dentarg
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 17
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 39
- ^ Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, epilogue. "Arthas, the Lich King, alone in his glory and power, slowly opened his eyes."
- ^ Warcraft: Legends Volume 4 Fate. "Ner'zhul is no more. He is consumed. There is only Arthas now... Arthas, whom you shall serve for all eternity."
- ^ BlizzCon 2010 Lore Q&A Panel. "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."
- ^ Chris Metzen on Twitter (2012-11-18)
- ^ World of Warcraft: Chronicle Volume 3, pg. 171
- ^ : The Lich King says: Shamanism has brought you here... Its scent permeates the air. *The Lich King laughs* I was once a shaman.
- ^ Remnant of Ner'zhul#Adventure Journal
- ^ a b Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, pg. 303 - 305
- ^ a b c d Beyond the Dark Portal
- ^ "Legacy of the Damned: Boiling Point", Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment.
- ^ Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, pg. 306 - 307
- ^ Manual of Monsters, pg. 174, 175
- ^ Magic & Mayhem, pg. 15
- ^ Horde Player's Guide, pg. 166
- ^ Horde Player's Guide, pg. 172 - 173
- ^ The Tomb of Sargeras (WC2x Orc)
- ^ Rise of the Horde, chapter 9
- ^ Warcraft: Orcs & Humans art - The Dead
- ^ BlizzCon 2010 Lore Q&A Panel
Chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan
Warchief of the Horde
(as Master of the Black Temple)
Lord of Shadowmoon Fortress
(as Master of the Black Temple)
Ruler of Draenor
Lich King of the Scourge (alone)
Arthas Menethil and Ner'zhul
Lich King of the Scourge
(conjoined spirits with Arthas)
Arthas Menethil (alone)