Before beginning his reign as the Lich King, Prince Arthas Menethil was first a servant, ruled by a sword he believed was the key to saving his people - the runeblade Frostmourne. Finding and claiming the blade among the frozen wastes of Northrend was an odyssey unto itself, and the search cost the prince his mentor, his relationship with his subjects, and his humanity. It cost the living of Azeroth far more.
With a tight grip on the blade that he traded his life for, Arthas ravaged the kingdom of Lordaeron and broke free from the control of the Burning Legion. By the time the former prince ascended as the leader of the Scourge, Frostmourne was already glutted with the souls of the numberless dead who dared to oppose him.
Now, Arthas has become so inseparable from his weapon that the sword's likeness has even found its way into the architecture of his fortress, Icecrown Citadel. Its hilt is never far from his hands; its ghostly whispers constantly ring in his ears. Frostmourne, as much as the Lich King, is the ruler of Northrend.
To challenge that rule, mighty heroes will need to follow more closely in Arthas's path than ever before. In a relentless quest to arm the forces of the living against the Scourge, Darion Mograine has formed the Ashen Verdict, a union between the most skilled craftsmen of the Argent Crusade and the Ebon Blade. Though the peerless paladins of the Crusade wield the power of the Light, and their leader clutches Ashbringer, a few of Mograine's dark warriors have begun to question their hopes for victory.
These death knights insist that the Ashbringer and the skills of the Argent Crusaders, though potent, aren't enough to best Frostmourne alone. They swear that Darion Mograine has long been quietly aware of another legendary blade - one that could be the key to defeating the Lich King and cleansing Northrend... But it doesn't exist yet.
For the moment, the weapon is a formless idea, with no more killing power than an angry thought. When it is spoken of, it is spoken of quietly, and the Highlord has a habit of silencing those who discuss it in public.
But the hope of an artifact to rival Frostmourne is strong within the minds of the Ebon Blade. Just its name inspires the furnaces to burn late into the night, the bellows to pump air, and the darker half of the Verdict's smiths to swing their hammers until their fingers fail. While other crafting experts lean over whetstones and gather pitted blades by the hundreds, these few dream of a single weapon to end the war for Northrend.
Shadowmourne... A great two-handed axe fit for a giant, born of sacred and corrupt powers, host of a thousand dead souls and able to be wielded only by the most stalwart armsmasters of Azeroth. Its creation seems nearly impossible; and yet, the rumors do not cease. Some smiths claim that Shadowmourne must be nothing more than an ordinary axe, honed to unparalleled perfection, while others would shape it from a weapon of immense import in the world. Mograine, when he can be convinced to speak of it at all, is said to believe that only the hammer of Arthas himself will provide a worthy model - but such absurd ambition is just the beginning of Shadowmourne's creation.
- To contain the energies that dance across its cold edges, Shadowmourne must be hewn from piles of impure Saronite: the hardened blood of the Old God, Yogg-Saron, treated only by master metal-shapers.
- To fuel its power to kill, it is vital that Shadowmourne be drenched in the souls of the most potent servants of the Scourge as they are slain, one by one, with the unfinished blade.
- To help break through the Lich King's armor, Shadowmourne is to be adorned with fragments of the Frozen Throne, originally crafted by Kil'Jaeden out of ice from the Twisting Nether.
Only with these mighty components, it's said, can Shadowmourne be finished. And, yet, even if the axe could be completed, questions and fears remain. Is forging the souls of the deceased into a weapon treated with blood and the essence of the Twisting Nether truly any different from the crafting of the Scourge's runeblades?
Who is to say that the Lich King wouldn't simply annihilate - or control - the maker for their impudence in mimicking his most treasured possession? If Arthas, one of the most dedicated knights of his age, lost his humanity to the whispers of Frostmourne, might Shadowmourne bring the same doom and misery to the living as its sister blade? Without knowing the answers to these questions, who would be bold enough to try and wield it?