In the wake of Illidan's failed attempt to melt the icy continent of Northrend, the powerful energies possessed by the Lich King inside his Frozen Throne slowly began to decay. Inexorably this resulted in a partial loss of control of the more distant Scourge forces. The result was that many undead under the Lich King's mental domination had their conscious will restored. Their spirits and memories were somehow returned to their undead bodies. Even the Lich King’s champion, Arthas, began to weaken as the Lich King's power waned. Arthas the Death Knight and his lieutenant, Kel'Thuzad the Lich were suddenly thrust into an undead civil war. Still fanatically loyal to the Lich King, Arthas heeded the call of his master and returned to Northrend as Illidan launched his second attempt to destroy the Lich King directly. Arthas left Kel'thuzad in command of his forces when he departed.

A Forsaken ApothecaryWith Arthas's departure from Lordaeron, the three Dreadlords Balnazzar, Varimathras and Detheroc attempted to regain control over the undead forces in Lordaeron using their formidable mental powers. The former High Elf Sylvanas Windrunner rallied many of the newly freed undead to counter the Dreadlords' efforts. Sylvanas was amazingly successful and not only crushed the Dreadlords' forces, but also utterly destroyed the last major contingent of human forces in Lordaeron. She forced Varimathras into her service in exchange for sparing his life and took control of the ruined capital of Lordaeron as her own. Within the sewer system of the ruined city Arthas had constructed his throne room; but with Arthas now gone, Sylvanas claimed this Undercity as her capital and set out to expand her ranks by freeing even more undead.

Dubbing her band of free-willed undead the Forsaken, Sylvanas worked to ensure that the damned such as herself would have a home free from threats by the living. To ensure their survival, the Forsaken have forged an alliance of convenience with the Horde, which has some sympathy for the Forsaken's condition. The orcs, having been enthralled to demon masters for a generation, felt an obligation to help similarly liberated people. Among the Tauren the Forsaken found a champion in Magatha Grimtotem, who argued in favor of the alliance between the two peoples and who continues to work closely with them. Magatha claims she merely wants to aid the Forsaken in their quest to redeem themselves, although there are many who believe her true motives to be something very different and much less innocent. While the Horde does not fully trust the Forsaken and vice versa, it is a start.

All members of the Forsaken race are either humans or of elven descent (high elves and half-elves). Though they also control a few abominations as well. The Royal Apothecary Society has independently accepted in a few undead dwarves, leper gnomes, even some orcs, and trolls have joined the society, as apothecaries, but those are not true Forsaken.LoC 164,165

Culture Before the time of the Scourge, many of those that would become Forsaken were devout priests of the Light. It would seem, however, that the Light has turned it's back on the Forsaken, and they are unable to channel it. In this, the truth of their name becomes apparent.

This article or section contains information taken from Warcraft novels or short stories which may not be found in other sources of lore. The figure wore the robes of a priest of the Holy Light - not uncommon among the Forsaken, who mocked the order by wearing their garments and allowing the sacred robes to be soiled and tainted by their bloody work. Somehow, Andarin sensed, this figure was different; the robes seemed to be in almost tolerable condition, even if the body wearing them was not.HPG 170"You wear the robes of a priest, Trevor. Why do you not channel the Light in battle, if you seek redemption?" The priest seemed to wince at that. "While I refuse to wield the shadow, the Light has refused me, or so it seems. And so, I am truly a broken man; I learned to wield spears of Light like Uther's knights did in the Second. Without the Light, I am unarmed and unarmored -- but not entirely helpless, as you see." Andarin couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the fallen priest, if his story was true. Perhaps a man, no matter how virtuous, could not channel holy power while in such a form."HPG 173

Although many consider them evil, the Forsaken cannot be thought of in purely dualistic terms entirely. Although undead, the Forsaken are still inherently human, the majority of whom were victims of the plague spread by Kel'Thuzad. Thus some of the Forsaken are still good beings, if no longer living. As the above suggests, some individuals among them are capable of a tragic form of nobility, in that they do not allow their inability to obtain redemption to prevent them from trying. Those that do usually leave the Forsaken, seeing its flaws, to join other causes. Leonid Barthalomew the Revered of the Argent Dawn is probably the greatest example of this (Trevor in fact aspires to leave and join Leonid). It is arguable that such nobility is the only truly genuine form that exists, in that it comes not from duty, religion, or custom, but from a decision born purely of free will.

It should be noted, however, that the official Forsaken religion is Forgotten Shadow largely based out of the church in Deathknell and warrior quarter in Undercity. It a religion that worships and uses the Shadow, and not the Holy Light. The members of the cult are evil and/or chaotic, and are taught to eradicate anything having to do with the Holy Light, and life in general. It is also a religion of divine humanism. In an early form of the religion, a forsaken priest in Deathknell points out that the light and the shadow have both rejected the Forsaken and power must be earned by themselves according a quest in WoW[citation needed] (however, they have since learned how to tap into the shadow).

While they can no longer use the Holy Light (and can infact be damaged by it in their undead stateWoWRPG #?), and have since learned how to use the Shadow; The priests teach that there must be a balance between Light and Shadow, and members must learn the Light as well, but never forget they were born from the Shadow. However, it seems that they learn about the Light in order to better combat members who practice it, and defend against its undead damaging power.HPG 160

Languages Forsaken learn the languages of their enemies and their allies (who may become their enemies).WoWRPG 53

Excerpt from World of Warcraft manual "Bound to the iron will of the tyrant Lich King, the vast undead armies of the Scourge seek to eradicate all life on Azeroth. Led by the banshee, Sylvanas Windrunner, a group of renegades broke away from the Scourge and freed themselves from the Lich King's domination. Known by some as the Forsaken, this group fights a constant battle not only to retain its freedom from the Scourge, but also to slaughter those who would hunt them as monsters. With Sylvanas as their banshee queen, the Forsaken have built a dark stronghold beneath the ruins of Lordaeron's capital city. This hidden Undercity forms a sprawling labyrinth that stretches beneath the haunted woods of the Tirisfal Glades. Though the very land is cursed, the zealous humans of the Scarlet Crusade still cling to their scattered holdings, obsessed with the eradication of the undead and retaking their homeland. Convinced that the primitive races of the Horde can help them achieve victory over their enemies, the Forsaken have entered an alliance of convenience. Harboring no true loyalty for their new allies, they go to any lengths to ensure their dark plans come to fruition. The members of the Forsaken have a simple task - to massacre any who pose a threat to the new order, human, undead or otherwise."

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