Welcome back to Know Your Lore, WoW.com's column about the story behind the game we all play.
We talked last week about Quel'Delar, a sword of emerging lore, and the week before that we covered Darion Mograine, a pivotal figure to Death Knights and part of the reason we're fighting in Northrend. This week, however, we're kicking our look at the lore of Wrath of the Lich King in the caboose with a look at possibly the most reviled orc to ever live. Sure, he probably wasn't the most evil orc ever (Gul'dan wins that one in a walk, boy howdy) but for sheer staying power and for having a role in the genocide of the orcs against the draenei, the sundering of Draenor into Outland, and for being the first Lich King, you really have to hand it to Ner'zhul. Here's an orc who manages to pop up a lot in the lore.
If you did the Howling Fjord quests for the Alliance and made the mistake of walking too close to a certain King of the Liches (and other undead things) he delivers a line of dialog that perfectly explains why we're talking about Ner'zhul today. Before Arthas, there was Ner'zhul. Like Arthas, Ner'zhul wanted to save his people, to be a hero, to be respected and powerful. Like Arthas, Ner'zhul lost sight of the truth as he sought to achieve his goals. Unlike Arthas, however, Ner'zhul turned his face away from ultimate evil once he recognized it for what it was... but too late, far too late, and found himself damned for his hubris, forced to watch his apprentice do every evil thing he himself had refused to do.
It was the first prison for Ner'zhul, but it would not be the last.