I will be discussing the overall arch of Wrath herein, including the end video of the Lich King encounter. If you have not seen it and do not wish to be spoiled, well, I’m not really going to be saying anything that would spoil it really. More than likely anything I mention you would have already guessed by now anyway.
Leaving some blank space so you don’t actually have to read anything if you don’t want to.
That should be enough space.
So Arthas is dead, the Lich King is dead, the head of the beast that we call the Scourge lopped off where he dies a quiet, ignominious death on the floor.
These are the facts we know, from earlier quests in the game and the novel about Arthas:
- The Lich King is simply that. There is no Ner’Zhul, strictly speaking there isn’t even supposed to be a true Arthas anymore. He threw away his humanity, what’s left is just the Lich King.
- The Lich King has been taunting and mocking us all the way through this entire expansion. He shows up, says “Oh %t, you so crazy”, disappears, and even when we break into his home he still pulls the old “haha how amusing” type lines.
- Both Uther and Terenas (Arthas’ dad) have told us there must always be a Lich King, or the scourge would run rampant and kill everything.
How, Chastity has the rather intriguing idea that all this was simply Arthas pulling an hero by forcing the world to come and kill him. It’s kind of a scary though, but I’ll get to that in a moment with my own theory.
This whole “there must always be a lich king” thing gets thrown around a lot, often derided whenever it’s brought up. But I wonder… why, exactly, do we believe it?
No seriously. We have it on the word of Uther and Terenas only that there must always be a Lich King. More accurately, we have it on the word of Arthas’ Father’s soul and a piece of Uther’s soul, both of which have been trapped within Frostmourne enslaved by the Lich King for years.
That is what we are trusting. This isn’t something Tirion Fording told us, it isn’t something that was decreed by Medivh, this isn’t something Alextrasza told us.
This is something a soul that looks like Uther, a soul that looks like Terenas told us.
First, how do we know their will is their own? The Lich King has been pretty damn good about utterly quashing the free will of others, he even has factories, actual factories, to do that. Entire assembly lines dedicated to subjugating the wills of other beings.
And so we’re somehow trusting souls that are trapped within the very heart of the power?
Second, how do we even know it was really Uther in the Halls of Reflection? A wispy spirit shows up that happens to look like Uther appears. We’re all “Holy crap, Uther, is that you?!” and the soul says “yeah, it’sa me, Uthero!” and we just flat out believe him?
Which brings me to my theory, which is two fold.
The first fold is simple. The Scourge itself is not a collection of small entities, but rather is one huge collective conscience. The stereotypical hive mind, if you will.
The second fold is a little more complicated.
There is a military strategy that, for lack of a better term, I will call “the long game”. The point of such a strategy looks beyond anything short term, and plans solely for the end game, whatever the end game might be. It plans for ultimate victory, and as long as that is accomplished, any short term losses are acceptable.
I’ll try and illustrate what I mean here.
What is the Scourge? A huge, continuously refreshing army of undead bent on destroying all life.
Can the Scourge be “killed”? Yes, it is entirely possible to completely wipe them out. Extremely difficult to eliminate completely, but we Azerothians have been doing a damn fine job of defeating them near everywhere we go.
Now, imagine if you were the Scourge. Not an individual scourge, but the hive mind consciousness. Your goal is to destroy all life on Azeroth, yes? So how do you go about doing that when even the mighty Burning Legion has failed multiple times?
Now picture the current situation in game. We have Bolvar on the throne, a full Lich King, in command of the severely weakened Scourge.
We have the victorious armies of the horde and alliance, nearly at each other’s throats with relations worse than they have ever been.
And perhaps most importantly, we have Tirion Fording, nearly the only man on the entire planet that both the horde and the alliance trust explicitly, telling everyone to rest easy because the Scourge has been defeated.
I cannot even begin to imagine a more ideal situation for the Scourge to be in.
In the events of Warcraft III, the Scourge was still ostensibly under Burning Legion control. The Scourge was forced to make it’s presence known and felt to the world at large, sacking human and elven kingdoms alike. Of course the Scourge knew that there inevitably would be backlash against itself. It was given no choice by the Burning Legion, it had to start making plans for it’s own survival.
It brought a champion north, one Arthas Menethil, someone who could personify the Scourge, giving it’s enemies in Azeroth a face to hate, something they could delude themselves into believing they could defeat.
The entire world considered the Scourge a threat, no matter how low it laid (and it did lay extremely low during TBC, if you’ll remember) eventually Azeroth would sort out that whole Old God and Burning Legion business and come bearing down on Northrend with huge armies.
Instead, the Scourge hits first. Victory at this point is not the intent, rather, defeat is. The plan is to hit both sides hard, but haphazardly, forcing them to put the Scourge as the top priority enemy to defeat whilst still leaving them intact enough to actually fight and win a major war.
The Scourge launched simultaneous attacks all over Azeroth. Massive invasions of both Orgrimmar and Stormwind, and piles and piles of forces hitting Mulgore, Tanaris, Azshara, etc, all at once in a huge, disorganized, and intentionally ineffective offensive.
The Scourge even went to great length to “lose” a bunch of powerful Death Knights back to their original factions. This does two things: first, it gives the impression that the Scourge is fallible. Second, it provides both factions with a great number of extremely skilled soldiers that hate Arthas and will stop at nothing to kill him.
Not the Scourge itself, just Arthas. Death Knights hold no ill will towards the Scourge, just Arthas. You think that was all an accident?
Finally, by attacking Light’s Hope, the Scourge forces Tirion Fordring himself to become involved.
The end result of this is a massive offensive on the part of the horde and alliance, resulting in numerous defeats of the Scourge all across Northrend. Kel’Thuzad dies, perhaps permanently this time, and one by one all the strongest and most powerful leaders of the Scourge are eliminated.
But this entire offensive was never intended to defeat the Scourge, all the way through it is intended to defeat Arthas. Indirectly this is supposed to be the end of the Scourge
Finally, once the horde and alliance reach the very heart of scourge power, it flat out lies to Tirion/Jaina/Sylvanus et al through the guise of Uther (you honestly think Arthas killing Uther and claiming his soul to have been out of sheer vengeance?) that there must always be a Lich King.
None of them question Uther, of course. The holiest of holies, his word as infallible as his weapon in combat, why on earth would anyone question what he says?
Let’s just ignore facts like Mu’ru, a being constructed of holy energy, was corruptible.
The Scourge needs a Lich King. Without one, it would slowly wither and “die”. There is absolutely no reason for its enemies to know that, however.
In the end, the Scourge gets a new Lich King, one everyone thinks is dead, the hated enemy of everyone is dead, the scourge is considered defeated, and Tirion Fordring, another of those holiest of holies paladins everyone trusts, tells us exactly that based on the advice of the new Lich King.
We’ve been outplayed. The Scourge had already won before Stratholme even fell, and none of us know it.