Prince Arthas Menethil
The year 2010 marks a watershed moment in gaming for fans of the Blizzard’s long-running Warcraft series of games.
Prince Arthas Menethil has met his end at the hands of skilled adventurers assembling from around the globe in a final showdown in the World of Warcraft MMO game.
The Awesomesauce Times pays tribute to this wickedly awesomesauce villain with a tribute post of sorts, recounting the trials and tribulations that ultimately led this warrior-prince to his downfall and reshaped the history of an entire world.
I: ROYAL BEGINNINGS
On the world of Azeroth, the human kingdom of Lordaeron was blessed with a prince. Son of King Terenas Menethil II, the newborn was given the name of Arthas Menethil.
Under the tutelage of Muradin Bronzebeard, a respected Dwarven warrior, and Uther the Lightbringer, leader of the paladin order of the Knights of the Silver Hand, Arthas grew into a strong fighter.
Determined and loyal, the headstrong prince proved himself valiantly as not only a champion fighter, but also a prince who cared for his subjects.
Little did Arthas know that the worst was yet to come, and it would push him beyond the breaking point.
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II: THE PLAGUE OF UNDEATH
Rumors had surfaced of a strange plague that had gripped the country. Arthas met up with Jaina Proudmoore, a powerful archmage whom had once been his one-time love, to investigate the plague further.
It was in the town of Brill that Arthas and Jaina encountered the undead minions of the necromancer Kel’thuzad. This dark wizard claimed responsibility for spreading the plague in Lordaeron, and foretold the coming of the Undead Scourge that would scour the world of all life.
Arthas and Jaina eventually confronted and killed Kel’thuzad. The danger of the necromancer’s work troubled Arthas deeply, and pushed him to continue onwards, ever more determined to eradicate the undead in Lordaeron.
Coming to rest in the town of Hearthglen, he discovered too late that the garrison there had already consumed grain tainted with Kel’thuzad’s plague. As the soldiers became undead one by one, Arthas was stricken with the horrible purpose of the plague: to turn his people into warriors for the Scourge.
As he battled against the massive undead army laying siege to the town, he sent Jaina to fetch more reinforcements. Uther arrived in the nick of time to save Arthas and his forces, but the prince was far from grateful.
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III: TURNING POINT
Following the trail of grain to the city of Stratholme, Arthas discovered that it had already been distributed among the populace. Devoid of any compassion, he ordered his men to purge the entire city – down to every last man, woman and child.
Uther balked at this proposition and tried to talk some sense into the prince, but to no avail. In fury Arthas banished Uther and his men for refusing to do what he believed was necessary. In disbelief of what Arthas had ordered them to do, Jaina left soon after.
Arthas: Damn it Uther! As your future king, I order you to purge this city.
Uther: You are not my king yet, boy. Nor would I obey that command even if you were!
Arthas: Then I must consider this an act of treason.
Uther: Treason!? Have you lost your mind, Arthas?
Arthas: Have I? Lord Uther, by my right of succession and the sovereignty of my crown, I hereby relieve you from your command and suspend your paladins from service.
Left without any recourse, Arthas led his troops into the city, slaughtering innocent citizens as they ran to him for protection from the undead. It was then that the dreadlord Mal’Ganis appeared, goading the prince to pursue him to the frozen continent of Northrend.
Blinded by rage and hatred, Arthas swore revenge and, seizing control of Lordaeron’s fleet, went after the dreadlord, leaving Stratholme behind in a cradle of blood and fire that burns till this day.
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IV: ARRIVAL AT NORTHREND
Arthas arrived at Northrend only to meet his former teacher, Muradin. Muradin had brought a small contingent of dwarves to hunt for an enchanted sword known only as Frostmourne, said to bestow infinite power upon whosoever wielded it.
Lured by the promise of a more powerful weapon with which he could defeat Mal’Ganis, Arthas managed to gain the assistance of the dwarves in assaulting Mal’Ganis’ fortress of Draktharon Keep.
Unfortunately, the arrival of King Terenas’ emissary threatened to undo the entire mission. The emissary ordered the fleet to return to Lordaeron immediately. However, Arthas secretly hired a band of indigenous mercenaries to sink the fleet before his men could do so.
When the men arrived only to gaze upon sunken ships, Arthas blamed the mercenaries as the culprits. Bitter and devastated, his troops fell upon the mercenaries and killed them in fury as Muradin silently contemplated the change in his former student.
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V: THE PRICE OF VENGEANCE
It was with great difficulty that the two of them found Frostmourne, hovering eerily over a pedestal of ornate stone and encased in ice. Muradin warned that the inscription upon the pedestal marked the sword as cursed. Arthas only remarked that he would gladly pay any price to wield Frostmourne’s might.
Inscription on Frostmourne’s dais:
Whomsoever takes up this blade shall wield power eternal.
Just as the blade rends flesh, so must power scar the spirit.
At his urging, Frostmourne erupted from the ice in which it had been encased. A single shard hit Muradin, killing him instantly. Arthas cast his paladin’s hammer aside in favor of the cold steel of Frostmourne.
What Arthas didn’t know was that Frostmourne actually belonged to the Lich King, a powerful psychic being that controlled the Undead Scourge. Even as he cleaved his way closer to Mal’Ganis, the Lich King called to him from within the blade, seeding dark thoughts in the idealistic young prince’s mind.
As the malevolent whispers ingrained themselves into his fragile state of mind, Arthas fell Mal’Ganis in a single blow. His vengeance complete, Arthas strode off into a blizzard, driven by the call of his new master; the first of the Lich King’s death knights.
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VI: THE PRODIGAL SON RETURNS
Arthas returned to Lordaeron many months later, amid the jubilant celebrations of his people. In the throne room, King Terenas welcomed his long-lost son with kind words and open arms. Arthas returned the greeting by cutting his father down where he stood.
Urged on by the maddening voice of the Lich King, the fallen prince went on a murderous rampage through Lordaeron to reclaim the remains of the necromancer, Kel’thuzad.
Eventually he came face-to-face with Uther, his former mentor, and many of the paladins who once called him brother. Infused with the unholy might of Frostmourne, Arthas killed them easily and retrieved Kel’thuzad’s remains.
Uther (dying): I dearly hope that there’s a special place in hell waiting for you, Arthas.
Arthas: We may never know, Uther. I intend to live forever.
With the massacre of the holy paladins, the once-mighty kingdom of Lordaeron now lay in smoldering ruins, its glory undone by the very person who had sought to defend it.
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VII: THE HIGH ELVES OF QUEL’THALAS
Now that he possessed the remains of Kel’thuzad, Arthas turned his attentions elsewhere. The dreadlord Tichondrius had informed him that Kel’thuzad could only be brought back to life using the powerful arcane energies of the Sunwell, a mystical fount belonging to the High Elves of Quel’thalas.
Thus, Arthas led the Scourge to the elven capital of Silvermoon, ravaging everything in his path to the Sunwell. Despite a spirited defence by the Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, Arthas slew her and forcibly brought her back to life as an undead banshee bound to his will.
As more elves fell only to bolster the ranks of the undead, Arthas rode triumphantly into the elven capital and dipped the necromancer’s remains into the Sunwell.
The Sunwell was corrupted instantly as a horrific skeletal form emerged from its once-blessed waters. Kel’thuzad was now reborn as an undead lich possessing untold power, ready to execute the will of the Scourge.
With the siege of Silvermoon and the befouling of the Sunwell’s sacred waters, Arthas had sealed the doom of the high elven race.
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VIII: THE APOCALYPSE COMETH
The Undead Scourge carried onward to the mage city-state of Dalaran. Acting upon instructions by the demon lord Archimonde, Kel’thuzad was responsible for opening a portal for the hellish Burning Legion to begin invading this world.
Arthas and his mighty host smashed the city’s magical defenses as Kel’thuzad summoned the unholy demon into existence. Within moments of appearing, Archimonde handed command of the Scourge over to Tichondrius.
Archimonde: From this seal shall arise the doom of men, who, in their arrogance, sought to wield our fire as their own. Blindly they build their kingdoms upon stolen knowledge and conceit. Now they shall be consumed by the very flame they sought to control.
Let the echoes of doom resound across this wretched world, that all who live may hear them and despair!
As Archimonde flattened Dalaran in a single powerful ritual, Arthas and Kel’thuzad disappeared at the behest of their true master: the Lich King.
Some time later, Arthas appeared on the westernmost continent of Kalimdor. There, he guided the night elf demon hunter Illidan Stormrage to kill the dreadlord Tichondrius and claim a powerful artifact, thereby corrupting Illidan and turning him into a demon himself.
In so doing, Arthas had greatly weakened the advance of the Burning Legion, thus leading to Archimonde’s eventual demise.
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IX: RETURN OF THE KING
Arthas returned triumphantly to Lordaeron to find it ruled in his stead by the dreadlords of the Burning Legion. Asserting his domination over the ruined kingdom, he chased off the dreadlords and sought out the last remnants of the paladins of the Silver Hand.
Midway through, Arthas was overcome by the voice of the Lich King. His master warned him that his control over the Scourge was waning, and in that time a dire threat had been arrayed against the both of them.
Following this, Arthas barely survived a coup attempt by the dreadlords, working in league with the newly-released Sylvanas Windrunner. Only Kel’thuzad’s timely intervention saved the death knight from meeting his end. Arthas left the retaking of his kingdom to the lich and set off for Northrend.
X: THE FROZEN THRONE
Upon arriving once more in the desolate wasteland, Arthas was attacked and cornered by blood elves led by Prince Kael’thas Sunstrider.
Formerly known as high elves, these embittered warriors had committed themselves to hunting Arthas to seek revenge for the devastation he wrought at Quel’thalas.
Again, Arthas was saved from certain death by the arrival of the Nerubian Crypt Lord Anub’arak. Introducing himself as a servant of the Lich King, Anub’arak led Arthas through the underground tunnels of Azjol-Nerub to reach Icecrown Glacier, where the Frozen Throne of the Lich King resided.
The death knight arrived to find a powerful challenger barring his path: Illidan Stormrage. Since their last meeting, Illidan was now working under orders of the Burning Legion commander Kil’jaeden to destroy the Lich King.
The Lich King empowered Arthas with what little strength he had remaining for this final battle. After a tense showdown, the death knight successfully defeated Illidan in singular combat at the base of Icecrown Glacier.
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As the fallen prince ascended the stairs to the Frozen Throne, the voices of Uther, Muradin, Jaina and countless others echoed in his mind, urging him to stop before it was too late.
Dragging Frostmourne behind him, Arthas brushed these voices aside. As he reached the pinnacle of the great spire of Icecrown, he gazed upon the enchanted armor of the Lich King as his voice called out to his champion once more:
Return the blade.. Complete the circle.. Release me from this prison!
With a mighty roar, Arthas stepped forward and shattered the Lich King’s crystal prison with a single blow. The glacier crumbled to pieces around him as the Helm of Domination fell at his feet.
Without a word, Arthas lifted it off the ground and placed it upon his head. The voice of the Lich King echoed within his mind, stronger now and more powerful:
Now, we are one!
Arthas had now become the new Lich King, the Dark Lord of the Undead Scourge.
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XII: WAR AGAINST THE LICH KING
The Lich King: It’s begun.
Young heroes.. I was once like you. You have come to this place seeking to bring judgement upon the damned. You will venture deep into forgotten lands. You will see wonders beyond imagining. But be warned. The land itself will rise up against you. Long forgotten terrors will smother your courage. Sacrifice everything as the final darkness falls.. in the end, all that awaits you is death. Only then will you understand – you’ve been following in my footsteps all along.
So come then, you heroes! Come in all your power and glory! For in the final hour, all must serve the one.. true.. king.
As the world struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of the Burning Legion’s invasion, Arthas bided his time and made preparations. An imposing citadel was built around Icecrown Glacier as agents of the Scourge made their move across the globe.
Many brave and noble warriors who had made their stand against Arthas and his Scourge were forcibly resurrected in undeath to serve as his death knights. These champions of darkness echoed the journey their master had taken long ago on the path to damnation, and they served his will without question.
Arthas then orchestrated a devastating series of attacks on major cities all over the world. Spurred by this provocation, the Alliance and the Horde deployed their forces to Northrend to do battle with Arthas’ undead host.
A long and brutal war followed suit across all of Northrend. The call to arms lured many brave adventurers to the icy landscape of Northrend, all of whom sought to do battle with the Lich King and end his reign of terror once and for all.
As the war effort of the combined Alliance and Horde forces gathered strength, the new leader of the paladin order, Highlord Tirion Fordring led a force of the most stalwart adventurers into Icecrown Citadel.
Deep within Arthas’ inner sanctum, the adventurers fought and defeated his honor guard one by one. Each battle exacted a heavy price on the adventurers as many heroes and comrades fell to the overwhelming numbers of the Undead Scourge.
Despite each setback, Highlord Tirion’s unwavering courage and devotion gave heart to the adventurers. Only after overcoming Arthas’ most powerful, nightmarish creations did the group finally break through to the Frozen Throne – the very place where Arthas had fused with the psychic essence of the Lich King.
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XIII: NO KING RULES FOREVER
Spirit of Terenas Menethil II: Can you feel it, my son, closing in all around you? The Light’s justice has been awakened. The sins of the past have finally caught up to you. You will be called to account for all the atrocities you’ve committed, the unspeakable horrors you’ve let loose upon this world, and the dark, ancient powers you’ve enslaved.
Though my soul was one of the first to be devoured by your evil, there are thousands more bound within this blade, and they cry out for release. Look now to your defenses, my son, for the champions of justice gather at your gates!
The Lich King: Let them come. Frostmourne hungers.
Arthas was far from surprised to see the adventurers on his very doorstep. Encasing Highlord Tirion in a magical block of ice, the paladin could only watch helplessly as the Lich King ruthlessly dispatched every last one of the adventurers that had been sent to kill him.
Arthas thanked Highlord Tirion for bringing him the best warriors the world had to offer. In a reflection of his own fall from grace, he explained, he would raise each warrior into undeath; thereby consigning the world to complete and utter destruction at the hands of their supposed saviors.
With all his remaining strength, Highlord Tirion called upon the Light to help him break free. Miraculously, the block of ice shattered. As Arthas fumbled to mount a defense, Tirion raised his own holy sword, the Ashbringer, and smashed Frostmourne to pieces in a single strike.
The many tormented souls trapped within Frostmourne’s cursed steel, Arthas’ own included, were finally freed. Thousands of spirits surrounded the Lich King, lifting him into the air. The soul of King Terenas materialized and brought the dead adventurers back to life once more.
With his sword destroyed, Arthas was severely weakened and drained of his powers. Taking up their fallen weapons, the adventurers struck the killing blow upon the bowed and broken Lich King.
As Arthas lay dying upon the cold obsidian floor, the spirit of his father knelt by his side and cradled his son in his arms.
Arthas Menethil: Father! Is it… over?
King Terenas: At long last. No king rules forever, my son.
Arthas Menethil: I see… only darkness… before… me…
The spirit of King Terenas warned that unless a new Lich King was found, the Scourge would run rampant through the world and eradicate all life. Ultimately, it was the Alliance hero Bolvar Fordragon who volunteered himself to keep the Scourge in check by imprisoning the Lich King within himself, literally becoming the Jailer of the Damned.
As he sat upon the Frozen Throne, the Helm covering his face, his voice was heard to assume the hard, chilling tone of the Lich King before his body was completely encased in ice.
Arthas’ spirit ebbed away, and the prince finally passed from this world, marking the end of an era of untold strife and suffering.
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Arthas Menethil deserves to be described as one of the most compelling video game villains ever created. His rise to greatness and subsequent descent into depravity showcases him as something more than another a two-dimensional villain.
As a huge Warcraft fan, I have followed him since his first appearance in the game Warcraft 3. For almost as long as he has existed, the shadow of Arthas has hung ominously over the World of Warcraft. Not a single individual or race can claim to have not been affected by his actions in one way or another.
His tale of the fallen hero is one that is told and retold in many forms, be it through games or movies or books. It is a captivating story that invites us to ask ourselves: how much does it take to push a person to the breaking point that he/she becomes evil? Perhaps more importantly: why does he/she become evil?
Arthas started off with the well-being of his people in mind. As he fought harder and harder to stem the tide of undead the Scourge visited upon Lordaeron, he began to become obsessed with one question; what would happen if he failed?
Arthas was a stubborn young man who let his pride get in the way of honor and duty toward his fellow men. All he desired, to quote Sir Winston Churchill, was “victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
In the end, for the sake of triumphing over enemies such as Kel’thuzad and Mal’Ganis, Arthas allowed himself to be corrupted by the Lich King through Frostmourne. He murdered countless innocents and ended up being no better than any of them.
That is why the Lich King chose Arthas to be his champion – the first of the death knights. It is the most ignominious title one could bestow upon the man who was supposed to have been the protector of humanity.
Arthas’ death in the Wrath of the Lich King expansion finally brings his long and dark journey to a close. It has been a thrilling ride accompanying him on his exploits all these years, and Blizzard has undoubtedly given him a fine send-off fitting for the most cunning, powerful and deadly enemy in the World of Warcraft.
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