Ner'zhul, the Elder Shaman.
Elder Shaman (Formerly)
Eternally soulbound to the Helm of Dominion
The Elder Shaman Ner'zhul was the Warchief of Draenor, 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; 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 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
One day, 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 the real Rulkan revealed the truth: 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, greedy for his own power, 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, and Ner'zhul was relegated to a decorative 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 wasted 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
Following the Orcish 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 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 dream of previously, 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 created then tore the planet apart once Ner'zhul had fled, and the shattered realm of Outland was created.
Birth of the Lich King
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. Ner'zhul's fate, with the death of Arthas and Bolvar Fordragon's rise as the Lich King, is currently unknown.
Ner'zhul had the gift of true visioning and all he had seen would indeed come to pass. He had seen many events that taken place, including:
- 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 [Scourge Invasions|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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
- 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—