The story of the Lich King is one of the best known stories within the lore of Warcraft. The young prince and his progression across his story is an epic to die for. So where did the notorious Lich King begin his journey? First, we have to differentiate between Arthas and the Lich King. The breakdown of this story will be in three parts: 1- Arthas as a person, 2- The history and fundamentals of the Lich King, 3- Arthas as he becomes the Lich King.
Before going any further, it seems necessary to note again that these lore articles contain information pulled directly from cross referencing books, articles, games, and other notable ‘canon’ sources. However, given the nature of the universe, there are many changes and discrepancies that Blizzard has not yet touched on. The purpose of these articles is to give a baseline to different concepts within World of Warcraft. If there are glaring problems, I ask that you come to me on any media platform that is linked on my profile, and let me know. I’m not here to spread misinformation.
Crown Prince Arthas Menethil was born to King Terenas Menethil II and Lianne Menethil in the prosperous land of Lordaeron a mere 4 years before the First War. Much to his father’s outward displeasure (but secret pride), Arthas had a distinct connection with the common folk throughout the country.
Where we pick up the story is inside the stable of the Balnir family where, nine year old Arthas, is visiting with his friend Jarim. The Balnir mare, Brightmane, was giving birth to a magnificent, white coated colt. The Balnir family made their living off of breeding horses for the royal family and ended up giving Arthas the young horse. After deliberating over a name for such a strong steed, Arthas decided on the name Invincible.
Arthas was so connected to Invincible and spent every day with the horse as they grew up together. After the Fall of Stormwind, Lordaeron took upon themselves the refugees of the fallen capitol. Part of those that came from Stormwind to Lordaeron was Prince Varian Wrynn. While the adults created the Alliance of Lordaeron, Arthas and Varian became close friends. One problem that Arthas ran into while bonding with Varian was the fact that Varian was already a skilled swordsman. Arthas was coming of age to be trained in sword combat, but every able bodied swordsman was called by the Alliance of Lordaeron to fight back against the orcs (more information to be found on the Alliance, here).
At the age of 11 Arthas had grown to be a strong young man, but still inexperienced in swordplay. In an effort to teach himself, and in absence of a proper teacher, he sparred with a suit of armor in the armory. In his attack on the suit, he lost his grip on his sword and it spun out of his hand and clattered to the floor…right at the feet of the dwarven ambassador, Muradin Bronzebeard.
Muradin Bronzebeard on the field of battle.
Both Arthas and Muradin were incredibly embarrassed at the sight of the future King of Lordaeron so utterly useless at combat. Muradin took pity on the prince and spoke with Arthas’ father King Terenas, offering to train the young prince. Terenas agreed, knowing it was finally time to let his young son grow into something more than a sheltered child.
Before the training began, Arthas was smitten by a young visitor, Jaina Proudmoore, on her way to Dalaran to become a student of magic. He knew there was a connection between them, but before he would be able to explore it, he’d have to start his training. There was little time to explore the relationship between he and Jaina, because of the rigorous schedule of his training. In an effort to make one attempt before it fleeted, he asked his father to allow him to be the escort for Jaina on her way to Dalaran.
Depiction of Jaina Proudmoore after her studies at Dalaran
Pleased with his son’s ambition to step into such an important role, Terenas agreed. The young nobles stopped by an orc internment camp and Arthas mused about how terrible the creatures were, while Jaina defended them and wondered if they truly deserved to live in such conditions. They completed their journey to Dalaran without incident and parted ways, Arthas telling Jaina what a pleasure it was to have her company and how he longed to see her again soon.
When Arthas returned, his training resumed with Muradin as well as with Uther the Lightbringer. Uther was teaching him the ways of paladins and how to become a Knight of the Silver Hand. Day in and day out, Arthas would continually be praying and sparring with his respective teachers, returning to the palace exhausted every day. He refused to have his bruises and cuts healed by any method other than natural processes, insisting that it would make him better for it. He was right, and his dedication earned him the respect of his teachers.
Arthas often enjoyed bonding with Invincible on lighthearted rides through the forests. While his father was away with Uther on an a diplomatic mission, Arthas decided to take one of these rides with Invincible in late autumn. It had been a while since he had visited the Balnir family and he was due for a visit.
Arthas and Invincible left the palace on the familiar path to the Balnir farm, a light snow accompanying them. As they rode, the snow turned from soft flakes to harsh crystals, pelting the duo on their ride. Arthas pulled his hood over his head and Invincible stuck his neck out further, determined and enjoying the exertion. They knew the path by heart, and as the weather picked up, Arthas pushed Invincible to speed up as well. Just around the corner was a jump and after that, the Balnir farm.
Beginnings of the snow storm Arthas found himself in.
As Invincible and Arthas approached the jump, Invincible planted his hooves and took flight. Nothing else existed, save for serenity in the moment as Arthas was alone
with his horse. The serenity was broken as he realized that Invincible’s rear legs had slipped on ice. Arthas had been thrown from the saddle and the ground quickly approached and knocked the prince unconscious. He awoke to the sound of a beast in agony, screaming. So loud and piercing came that horrid noise as he opened his eyes.
He sat up, letting out a shriek to accompany the noises of Invincible. I had broken at least a rib and couldn’t hardly move. His vision faded again, but he didn’t lose consciousness this time, through sheer will alone. He looked around as the storm dumped snow heavier even than before. He could hardly see in front of himself. Following the screams of Invincible, he let out a whimper as he found his steed.
Invincible lay there in a pool of steaming blood with two shattered forelegs. Arthas could hardly see between the snow and the stream of tears coming from his eyes. He scrambled to his noble horse and tried to do…anything. This wasn’t something that a horse could come back from. If he had been further along in his paladin training, he could have healed the beast, but without the knowledge or ability, there was only one solution.
Arthas pulled out his sword and rested it on the ground. He knew what he had to do. Invincible screamed and looked at him, seemingly begging him to go through with his decision. The decision that he made by making Invincible take that jump in those conditions. The very same decision that he’d remember for the rest of his life. He sat there, beside his agonized horse for countless minutes. As Invincible’s movement slowed and eventually stopped, Arthas knew it was the end. Invincible’s eyes were filled with silent pain as Arthas lifted the sword and drove it deep into the strong heart of his beloved steed.
He vowed that day, as Invincible lay motionless in the snow, that if anyone ever needed protection he’d be the one to sacrifice. He’d put himself on the line for the welfare of those around him, no matter what. For Invincible.