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The Cult of the Damned is an organization of the living beings who serve the Lich King. Members are mostly Human, but including all races. The Cult was formed during the opening days of the Third War, when the Scourge was loyal to the Burning Legion, and establishing its foothold on Lordaeron. The Lich King Ner'zul, trapped in his prison-throne, reached out telepathically to men, orcs, and elves who lusted for power - most notably the then-Archmage Kel'Thuzad who would become an Archlich and the leader of the Cult of the Damned.
While Cultists aspire to become Undead, they remain alive because 1. Undeath is considered an honor one must earn, and 2. living beings are useful to the Lich King for their ability to spy in living Horde or Alliance settlements, and recruit powerful individuals from among the living, either into the Cult or the Scourge.
The History of the Cult
After the Lich King gained control of Northrend and defeated the empire of Azjol-Nerub during the War of the Spider, he began to set his eyes south, toward the target given to him by Kil'jaeden, lieutenant of the Burning Legion, and the Lich King's overlord and creator. Reaching out with his vast telepathic capabilities, the Lich King contacted many individuals in throughout the world who would make suitable minions to begin the spread of the Scourge southward.
Chief among the men and women who heard the Lich King's call was Kel'Thuzad, archmagus of Dalaran. Forsaking his position as senior member of the Kirin Tor, the ruling council of the magocratic nation, Kel'Thuzad made the long journey northward, toward the icy land of Northrend, traveling alone the entire way. Upon arriving at Northrend, the old archmagus gazed in awe upon the vast ruins left following the War of the Spider, and realized that siding with the Lich King would be a more intelligent decision than he had at first thought.
Soon after, Kel'Thuzad arrived at the Frozen Throne, his path unbarred by the undead guardians of the Scourge, and there he offered his soul to Ner'zhul. In exchange for loyalty and obedience, the Lich King promised the Archmagus immortality and great power. To aid his new servant in his appointed task of setting the stage for the Scourge's coming to Lordaeron, the Lich King left Kel'Thuzad's humanity intact. Although old, the Archmagus was still very charismatic, and such a trait would prove useful in assembling more and more of Lordaeron's easily-swayed citizens toward the shadow of the Lich King.
For three years Kel'Thuzad worked, preaching his new religion to the masses, promising them immortality and an ideal society free of all the burdens the existing one forced upon its citizenry. Many of Lordaeron's overworked laborers and disenfranchised masses were taken in by this charismatic individual, and willingly sold themselves into service to the Lich King. Kel'Thuzad also used his fortunes and those of his fellow Cult members to taint and corrupt men in positions of power, bringing them into the Cult through favors and gifts. Eventually, many of Lordaeron's northern towns were completely under the control of the Cult of the Damned and so, it became time for the Lich King to act.
Imbuing a number of cauldron-like artifacts with the energies of the Blight Plague, the Lich King constructed a number of these Plague cauldrons which would spread the Plague over wide areas. Securing these magical devices safely within many of the Cult's towns to the north, the Blight Plague quickly spread, wiping out their parent towns and turning the citizens into undead creatures in service to the Lich King. Though, for the cultists, joining the ranks of the undead was a welcome reward.
As the Plague spread further and the forces of the Scourge battered the people of Lordaeron relentlessly, the once-great nation inevitably began to fall to the Scourge. The vast weight of undead created by the Blight Plague, supported by the invasion of the Burning Legion, was a substantial force to combat. Augmented by the death of Lordaeron's King Terenas at the hands of his own son, Arthas, the newly anointed Death Knight, the siege proved too much for Lordaeron's remaining defenders to hold off. However, the success of the Scourge, now under the command of the Burning Legion, was soon halted upon the slopes of Mount Hyjal, as the races of the world united against the undead horde. It was at Hyjal that Archimonde, one of the Legion's Lieutenants and leader upon Azeroth, was slain. The Legion fell into disarray. Unguided by a central leader, its forces scattered.
Following the defeat of the Legion, the Scourge once again fell into the Lich King's control. Although many of the Scourge were lost during the battle of Hyjal, and more during the Frozen Throne affair ( when the )Forsaken broke away from the Scourge, the forces of the Lich King remained strong, its efforts still aided by the loyal Cult of the Damned. Although their motives are unclear, under the shadowy ministration of the Lich King, the Cult of the Damned continues its work, which it seems, is never finished.
The base of operations of the Cult of the Damned is Strathholme, and its leader is Kel'Thuzad. Kel'Thuzad takes orders from the Lich King himself, and orchestrates the spread of the Scourge. His two closest living lieutenants are referred to as simply "Next In Line", and are raised as shades and replaced periodically. These leaders serve the Lich King without question, seeing undeath as the ultimate reward. Under the Next In Line, the Cult of the Damned appears to run with little rhyme or reason, but the (apparent) chaos serves the group’s purpose - individual leaders cannot be picked out and targeted. Underneath the chaos is a tightly run operation with mortals dedicated to the study of dark magic, the conscription of new mortal members and undercover scouting for the Scourge’s forces.
The Cult is situated mostly in the Plaguelands and, to a lesser extent, in the rest of Lordaeron, always extending the Scourge’s sphere of control. The Cult will often be found wherever the Scourge is.  ( )
The Cult of the Damned is not a military organization. It is an arm of the Scourge, and the Scourge has other methods of waging war. However, the cult contributes a pair of special weapons: necromancers and blightweavers. Their dark rites support the cult, bringing curses on their enemies and raising new legions of undead.
On the battlefield, they are scavengers, using spells to bring their dead enemies under their control before the carrion birds can get to them, gathering large undead forces and directing them at key targets chosen by their Scourge commanders.
Death comes in many forms — and it’s the job of the blightweaver to make sure that death comes in as terrible a form as possible. These tinkers of the vile concoct new poisons and breed new diseases, hoping to discover new plagues that will extend the Scourge’s terror to every corner of Azeroth.
On the battlefield, the Scourge occasionally employs blightweavers as sappers of life; instead of sending teams of goblins to destroy a wall with a burst of explosives, they send these vile priests out to destroy a populace with an explosion of disease and poison. They sneak into a town while the battle rages elsewhere, plant plague animals in stables, and poison wells. ( )
While the current members of the Cult of the Damned are zealous individuals wholly dedicated to their cause, most new recruits are shy and weak-willed people unsure of themselves. Unpopular, abused people, often considered failures in their careers or their lives in general, are ripe for the manipulation of the Scourge as they don’t have much to hold onto in the first place. With the promise of wealth, power, knowledge — whatever will motivate them — the Cult draws them in. When the mortals commit to the Cult, they are forced to drink a concoction that steals their will and enslaves them forever to the Lich King, to help them with the final act of submission. Afterwords, they are given an Orb of Illusion, used to disguise a cult member, allowing them to gain safe passage, infiltrate, or simply blend in with an enemy, and are confident and in the full sway of the Lich King’s powers, ready to work tirelessly to spread the will of the Scourge. Members view the Scourge with envious fascination, and many felt this way before any dark influences helped convert them. The undead seemingly defy the natural order of things and show limitless potential, for if one can beat death, one can do anything. To be undead is the greatest goal one can have in life. It is considered a reward for a life well lived (according to the Scourge, of course) to be given undeath. There is sometimes a murmur of dissent in the ranks when some feel that their fallen enemies are gifted with undeath undeservedly while cultists must work to receive that divine payment. Such grumblings are often put down quickly, usually with the threat of death with no final reward. The officers in the Cult explain that their enemies die and become allies because their numbers are much greater than the Cult of the Damned. If the Scourge only raised deserving mortals, it would not be the great force it is today. The Scourge needs the Cult because they need mortals to serve them.
Kel’Thuzad personally appoints officials and leaders for the Cult, looking for people both talented in espionage and in pursuing the dark art of necromancy. Good leadership abilities, a talent for recruitment and the ability to blend in with normal mortals are also valued skills. It is impossible to reach any officer ranks without magic, however. There are no ranking members of the Cult who do not know at least a handful of dark spells. ( )
In World of WarcraftThis section concerns content exclusive to World of Warcraft.
The current activities of the Cult of the Damned are unknown. While the cult is certainly still active, spreading its influence among both the Horde and Alliance, its true objective is hidden, the Lich King's next move has yet to be revealed. What we do know is that the Cult will never tire in its mission to undermine the defenses of the living races through subterfuge and sabotage. So long as the Lich King remains, the hidden hand of the Cult will be an ever-present threat to both the Horde and the Alliance. As the only living humanoid boss in Naxxramas, Grand Widow Faerlina is likely a high-ranked member of the cult. Other members include Maleki the Pallid, leader of the mortal Thuzadin in Stratholme.
The Cult of the Damned makes a strong comeback in Wrath of the Lich King, and have managed to infect many villages with the Undead Plague, including the Magmothran magnataur in Borean Tundra, the Alliance town of Farshire, the horde farms north of Warsong Hold, and have inflitrated both Faction's main towns within Borean Tundra.
The Cult of the Damned trains, practices, and kills within Icecrown, mostly upon the gigantic series of gates the Lich King built for fortification.
Future of the Cult