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- Be wary, child, of Plaguelands plain...
- Be mindful, child, of the infected grain...
- For if throat is parched and of infected water sip...
- Forever your soul will be in cursed Scourge grip.
- So heed this warning, child, and if far from mother stray...
- Let light from home's hearth guide you back your way.
The Plague of Undeath is a magical affliction first conjured by Ner'zhul, the Lich King (under the direction of the demon lord Kil'jaeden), from his icy prison within the Frozen Throne in Northrend in order to create the Scourge (which was intended to be a vanguard for the Burning Legion during the attack on Azeroth). This took place just before and during the Third War. Using his will alone, he spread the mystic disease to the nearby denizens in the local regions, including ice trolls, humans, and other creatures, killing them and causing them to rise again as undead under the influence of Ner'zhul. After the wizard Kel'Thuzad answered Ner'zhul's psychic call, he was tasked with containing the Plague and transporting it across the sea to Lordaeron, where it was used to infect food supplies and distributed to the populace under the supervision of the dreadlord Mal'Ganis, an acting lieutenant of the Burning Legion, Ner'zhul's captors. Kel'Thuzad first had to gather a cult of followers to aid him in the spreading of the plague, and he established the Cult of the Damned.
With the aid of his cultists, Kel'Thuzad and Mal'Ganis used the agricultural hub of Andorhal to ship plague-infected grain to the surrounding towns within Lordaeron which included Brill and Stratholme. Those contracting the Plague typically die within three days, rising shortly thereafter as feral zombies easily controlled by the Lich King's immense psychic power. After successfully destroying the infected granaries, Prince Arthas, fresh on the heels of Mal'Ganis, came to Stratholme to find it already infected by the tainted grain. Knowing that the citizens would soon turn into the cursed undead, he proceeded to slaughter them all, against the council of Uther the Lightbringer (Arthas' paladin mentor), in order to prevent them from bolstering Mal'Ganis' ranks.
Before becoming a death knight in the servitude of Ner'zhul, Arthas succeeded in destroying all of the sources of the Plague, leaving no way for them to further spread the disease. A few years later, after the Scourge had built a considerable presence in the Plaguelands, they set up a series of massive cauldrons with which they continue to spread the Plague directly into the air, corrupting the land itself as well as the local wildlife.
One of the few creatures that thrives in the Plaguelands is the carrion grub. They can reach huge sizes and are immune to the Plague. A prime example of a carrion grub is Borelgore. The Plaguelands also have heavy populations of massive mushrooms which also seem to thrive in these conditions.
The Argent Dawn, a regime dedicated to the eradication of the Scourge menace, have discovered ways of sabotaging these cauldrons and reversing their effects, thereby purifying the chemicals within and making them toxic to the undead.
Currently, Apothecaries of the Forsaken are working on producing their own New Plague, which would have a similar effect as the original Plague, but will kill undead creatures as well as living ones. This will allow the Forsaken to destroy all their immediate enemies, the Scourge, the Scarlet Crusade, Dalaran and the remnants of Lordaeron. Experiments on this New Plague have been conducted by Apothecaries in Brill, the Sepulcher, Tarren Mill, and Shattrath City.
Nature of the Plague
Significant evidence exists that the Plague is fungal in nature. The best evidence for this is Plaguewood. This is corroborated by the clouds of what may be spore that emanate from the colossal mushrooms in the area whose growth may be linked to the plague. Growths on infected plants and animals also would make this possible. Early infections were mostly due to ingested grain, but proximity does not appear to be infectious.
The plague may also have either evolved or changed over the years to influence the growth and size of lifeforms which would help spread the Plague, such as the carrion worms and mushrooms which are found to survive well in the Plaguelands.
The Plague, while established many times as a very powerful affliction, was proven to be curable at least once. During the end of the Zombie Infestation World Event, the Alliance and Horde managed to find cures to the Plague, even if the converted zombies themselves could not be saved. The Plague cannot be healed or weakened by individual means (with exception of the Holy Light regarding weakening the affliction).
In World of Warcraft
The Plague of Undeath makes its appearance several times throughout World of Warcraft.