Now that I have ended the story of the first Gul’dan, I think it’s a good idea to take a detour and continue the story of Ner'zhul. Remember Ner’zhul? He was the shaman that was deceived by Gul’dan and Kil'jaeden into starting the war against the draenei. He also tried to warn the Frostwolves not to drink the demon’s blood and is pretty much the reason Thrall never got the blood curse.
When the orcs went through the Dark Portal he was left behind, Gul’dan saw no reason to bring him along, and so he stayed on Draenor. With the orcs’ defeat in the Second War, many of them fled to the Dark Portal in order to escape capture and imprisonment in the internment camps. Teron Gorefiend and his Death knights managed to make it through with the news that the orcs had lost.
Teron Gorefiend, or Teron’gor as he was formerly called, was a member of Gul’dan’s Shadow council and the first to be raised up as a Death Knight. He sought out Ner'zhul and encouraged him to gather together the clans of orcs that had either escaped Azeroth through the Dark portal or had been left on Draenor and not participated in the war at all.
The Dark Portal had been destroyed. Khadgar and his fellow mages had unraveled it from the Azeroth side. There was no escape from their dying world.
The orcs were facing extinction. The bloodlust still ran hot in their veins and with no one to fight it was only a matter of time until they would be at each other's throats.
Ner'zhul was the closest thing they had to a leader, but he had no desire to lead. He had taken refuge in his clans’ original territory, the Shadowmoon valley, and given in to despair. Every night he dreamed of death, and saw visions of himself with a white skull tattooed on his face, the symbol given to a failed apprentice that marked him as dead to his people.
Teron Gorefiend was not ready to give up, he had been privy to all of Gul’dan’s plans and the knowledge he had gleaned from Medivh’s mind, and he knew of several powerful artifacts that could change their future. Give the orcs hope. Of course Teron cared nothing for the orcs. He was a death knight and he simply wanted to find new worlds to conquer. But he knew he would need the orcs.
His plan was to gather these relics, The Book of Medivh, The Eye of Dalaran, and The Sceptre of Sargeras, and then use their power to open new portals. Not to Azeroth but to other worlds.
The catch was that all these artifacts were on Azeroth, and although Gul’dan had told them of the power of the relics he had not told them their exact location. They would need the orcs help to rebuild the portal, to capture the relics…….and the orcs, including Ner'zhul, did not trust the Death Knights, minions of Gul’dan, who had betrayed them.
Teron needed Ner’zhul to convince the orcs, but first he needed to convince Ner’zhul.
It took some doing but really, what other choice did the orcs have? They had to find a new world to live on. The only hope they had of opening the Dark Portal lay in the fact that there was still a link between the two worlds. The task of opening other portals to other worlds would be much more difficult and require much more power.
Ner’zhul was weighed down by guilt at what the Horde had become and at what part he had played in their destruction. This was a chance for a fresh start. A fresh new world. Redemption.
He gathered the leaders of the remaining clans. Grommash Hellscream of the Warsong, Kargath Bladefist of the Shattered Hand, and Fenris of the Thunderlords.
They readily agreed to what he offered. They had been forced to sit out the first and second wars and they thirsted for battle. Any battle. And the chance to escape Draenor.
Ner'zhul knew opening the Dark Portal again would require power, not as much as the first time, but still a great deal. Thankfully a relic came to his hands that had been passed from refugee to refugee through the Dark Portal before it had closed.
The Skull of Gul'dan. It would be enough.
“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.”
On the Alliance side, Khadgar had convinced the united kingdoms to fund the building of a watchtower that would stand guard over the place where the Dark Portal had been, and he himself would stay there to monitor the fel energy which he could still feel binding the two worlds together. He detected the surge of fel energy and called on the kingdoms for help.
Orcs caught on the Azeroth side when the Portal had been destroyed, had been carefully watching ever since, just in case it ever opened again. As soon as the orcs started passing through they sent their leaders to meet with Grommash and were welcomed into Draenor to rest.
The humans were amassing an army, slowly, to fight the orcs from Nethergarde Keep, but the orcs had no intention of fighting. They made a big show of readying their armies while the Death Knights crept off to search for the relics.
This job would have been very difficult if not for the intervention of a surprising ally. Deathwing. He wanted to use Draenor as his base, not caring about its destroyed state, to regrow his Black dragonflight without interference, so he offered to help the orcs with their plans in exchange for their help. He even knew the location of the relics they sought and could quickly fly them around on the backs of his black dragons.
Gorefiend split his raiders into three parties and they went off after the three relics.
Death Knights and Dragons. Those guarding the relics wouldn't stand a chance.
Back at Nethergarde Keep the humans and the orcs were at a stalemate, the orcs merely fighting to hold the line and not committing themselves to an all out attack. Khadgar and the leader of the human forces, Turalyon were beginning to get suspicious. Was this all a distraction? Why were the orcs just waiting? Finally they managed to capture an orc and Turalyon interrogated him with his powers of Holy Light. They discovered that the orcs were spread out over Azeroth searching for powerful relics. But they could be anywhere, searching for anything.
The relics captured, the death knights returned to the portal and with them Deathwing sent several, large enchanted crates, ensorceled so that mortal eyes could not see inside. They were full of Black Dragon eggs.
The Alliance finally managed to capture a bigger prize, one of the Shadow Council’s Death Knights. After interrogating him they knew everything. The orcs’ plans to gather all the relics, and their intent to invade new worlds.
Turalyon felt strongly that the Alliance must stop this from happening. No other world should suffer as they had suffered. But he knew that the soldiers of Azeroth were weary of war. It had taken a great toll on the human nations and they might not want to cross through the dark portal and invade an unknown land to protect unknown worlds.
Turalyon raised his banner and called to any who would chose to join him. He would lead an army, the “Sons of Lothar” to stop the orcs. Not all the Alliance soldiers answered his call but many did including the great heroes of the Second War Alleria Windrunner, Danath Trollbane and Kurdran Wildhammer.
The orcs did not expect to be followed through the portal and were taken by surprise, they raced to tell Ner'zhul of this new development.
Ner'zhul was stunned to see the relics they brought. He had not even imagined the power that they contained, especially the Sceptre of Sargeras, but along with them they also brought…..Deathwing. He had taken the form of an orc in order that he would not be recognized but power just emanated from him overwhelming Ner'zhul's senses. He was terrified of the Dragon and when Deathwing demanded the skull of Gul’dan as payment, Ner'zhul readily agreed. He had used it to open the Dark Portal, he didn’t need it anymore.
Deathwing left with his eggs and the skull to Gorgrond, leaving some black dragons behind to help the orcs protect Hellfire Citadel, against the advancing Alliance army.
Ner'zhul had the artifacts, now he needed a nexus of power, a gathering of ley lines. The Portal had been built on a place of power but it was in Alliance hands, the next closest possible site was the Black Temple. He left the Shattered Hand to hold off the Alliance and set out for Karabor.
Khadgar and The Sons of Lothar lay siege to hellfire Citadel. The battle was bloody but brief, even with the help of Deathwing's Black Dragons, the orcs could not withstand the assault of gryphon riders, mages and the determined might of Alliance soldiers.
Khadgar and Turalyon agreed that Ner’zhul was their target. Without him the orcs would have no way to use the relics they had acquired and leave Draenor. The problem was, Khadgar could sense the skull of Gul’dan moving in a different direction than the path he knew Ner’zhul had taken. He needed the skull to close the dark portal so he split his forces in two.
Khadgar, Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner followed the trail of the Skull of Gul’dan, Danath Trollbane and Kurdran Wildhammer pursued Ner'zhul.
(don’t worry if you don’t recognize the names, I’ll cover them in a later lore episode, they are mostly for the WoW players that know who they are)
Ner'zhul and the orcs had a head start on the Alliance but the Alliance had Gryphon riders. Much to the orcs’ surprise they were caught out in the open and forced to take cover as the dwarven air force relentlessly bombed them. Their only hope to reach the Black temple alive was to detour through the narrow passageways of the Draenei tomb city, Auchindoun. The ruins were haunted and twisted but Gorefiend knew it well and the Alliance would be slowed if they dared follow.
Kilrogg Deadeye offered to stay behind with his clan, the Bleeding Hollow, and cover their retreat. He had given his eye once, to know the time of his own death, and he recognized Auchindoun as the place in his vision. He waited for the Alliance to come. It was Danath Trollbane who engaged Kilrogg in mortal combat and eventually drove his blade into the orc’s throat, but Kilrogg had done what he set out to do. Ner'zhul had escaped and he would safely reach the Black Temple.
With the forces of the Alliance closing in all around him, (Khadgar had recovered the skull of Gul’dan and the two forces had joined up again) Ner'zhul was getting desperate. He became reckless in his hurry. Atop the Black Temple’s highest tower he began channeling a powerful spell meant to open portals to new worlds. Using the Eye of Dalaran, the Book of Medivh and the Sceptre of Sargeras he drew on the magical ley lines deep below the temple, but he was not skilled enough to control what happened next. Portals began opening as planned but there were too many of them. Way too many. Draenor began tear apart at the seams. Great rifts were opening all over the planet as Draenor's magical ley lines destabilized.
Khadgar made it to the top of the tower in time to see this and managed to grab the Eye of Dalaran and the Book of Medivh. Ner'zhul grabbed the Sceptre of Sargeras and stepped through the nearest portal with his closest followers. He had saved himself, but Draenor was doomed.
Khadgar believed that Draenor would soon explode and the energies caused by its destruction would also spread through the portal to Azeroth to disastrous effect. They had to seal the portal and they had to do it from this side. It was a suicide mission but the Sons of Lothar never hesitated.
Alliance forces stationed near the Dark Portal had fled through it as soon as the earth had started to shake and the remaining orc forces were rushing towards the portal as well when Khadgar and Turalyon arrived. Khadgar used the Skull of Gul’dan to bring down the Dark Portal and cut off their retreat. In the last second, as earthquakes shook the mountains and continents ripped apart, Turalyon and his forces stepped into a nearby rift, not knowing where it led or if they would survive.
And then, Draenor exploded.
The orcs who had escaped through the portal spread the word. Their home was gone. Ner'zhul had sacrificed everyone to save himself. No one could have survived.
The Alliance members who made it through the portal told of Turalyon and his people stepping into the rift, and so for many years there was hope that they could return. As the decades passed, the hope began to fade. Statues were built of the fallen heroes, at the gates of Stormwind and they began to pass into legend.
And what happened to Ner’zhul and his followers? When they stepped through the portal they entered the Twisting Nether. The realm of demons. And Kil'jaeden was waiting.
What happened next….was unpleasant. You know what, I’m not even gonna go into it. Suffice it to say Ner'zhul was tortured until his sanity hung by a thread. He begged Kil'jaeden for death. The Eredar agreed, but only if Ner’zhul promised to serve the Legion forever. Death, would only be the beginning.
In the end, Ner'zhul's will cracked and he agreed. His spirit passed through death and his mind expanded a thousandfold, giving him incredible psychic abilities. Kil'jaeden tied his spirit to a special suit of armor, and a magical blade called Frostmourne. He then froze the armor and sword in a huge block of ice. Ner'zhul was trapped.
His loyal followers were transformed into Liches that would serve him without question. Ner'zhul's former life was gone forever. He was trapped in eternal servitude but also immensely powerful. From that moment on he would be known as The Lich King.