He and the wraiths began the ascent. His heart pounded with excitement and dread. When he realized that his steps were slowing, he sped up again. His resolution didn't last long, however. It felt as if a weight was pulling at him. Evidently the long journey across Northrend had tired him more than he'd thought.
Far above him, at the top of the spire, he could barely make out a large chunk of crystal. Untouched by snow, it had a faint bluish gleam. There was no sign of the necromancer.
One of the wraiths used a frigid gust of wind to give him a push. His pace had been lagging again. Irritably he tugged his cloak closer and forced himself to keep climbing, though he was breathing hard.
Time passed, and a blast of sleet brought him back to full awareness. He had stopped in the middle of the stairs to lean on his staff. The air was foul and suffocating; he was panting by now. "Give me a moment," he managed.
A wraith behind him said, "We cannot rest. Why should you "
Grimly Kel'Thuzad resumed the climb and hunched his shoulders against the growing exhaustion. He raised his head with an effort and saw that the glimmering crystal was drawing close. At this distance, it looked like a jagged throne with hazy dark shapes inside it. There was a palpable aura of menace about the thing.
The wraiths brushed against him and startled him into crying out. Echoes of the sound reverberated throughout the cavern. He clutched at his fur cloak with clammy, trembling hands. His breath rattled in the back of his throat, and he had the sudden terrible urge to turn around and start running. "Where is the master " he asked, and his voice was high and quavering.
No answer, just a storm of hail that lashed at him cruelly. He stumbled and recovered his footing. With each step, the throne looming above him felt more oppressive, pushing his head down, bending his spine. He could barely walk upright. Before long, he fell to his hands and knees.
The necromancer spoke directly to Kel'Thuzad then in a voice that was no longer even remotely kind. Let this be your first lesson. I have no love for you or your people. On the contrary, I intend to scour humanity from this planet, and make no mistake: I have the power to do it.
Relentless, the wraiths did not permit him to stop. Beyond humiliation, he abandoned his staff and began to crawl. The necromancer's malevolence beat down upon him and pressed him deeper into the snow. Kel'Thuzad was shaking and whimpering, and o gods, he'd been wrong--stupidly, colossally wrong. This wasn't fatigue. It was stark terror.
You will never catch me unaware, for I do not sleep, and as you should have already guessed, I can read your thoughts as easily as you might read a book. Nor can you hope to defeat me. Your puny mind is incapable of handling the energies I manipulate on a whim.
Kel'Thuzad had long since torn his robes, and his leggings were useless against the icy rock of the rough-hewn stairs. His hands and knees left bloody tracks behind him as he struggled up the last spiral. The throne radiated bone-chilling cold, and mist surrounded it. A throne not of crystal, but of ice.
Immortality can be a great boon. It can also be agony the likes of which you have not yet begun to fathom. Defy me, and I will teach you what I have learned of pain. You will beg for death.
He came within a few feet of the throne and could go no farther, pinned helplessly beneath the thing's overwhelming aura of inhuman might and hatred. An unseen force bore down on him and ground the side of his face into the unyielding stone. "Please," he found himself sobbing. "Please!" Further words escaped him.
Finally the pressure eased. The wraiths flitted away, but he knew better than to rise. Doubted, in any case, that he could. His eyes, however, unwillingly sought out his tormentor.
A set of plate armor was seated within the throne, rather than upon it. Kel'Thuzad might have thought the armor merely black, but, blinking hard, he saw that no light at all was reflected from its surface. In fact, the longer he looked, the more it seemed to devour all light, hope, and sanity.
The ornate spiked helm obviously doubled as a crown. It was set with a single blue gem and, like the rest of the armor, appeared empty. In one gauntlet, the figure clasped a massive sword whose blade had been etched with runes. Here was power. Here was despair.
As my lieutenant, you will gain knowledge and magic to surpass your most ambitious dreams. But in return, living or dead, you will serve me for the rest of your days. If you betray me, I shall make you into one of my mindless ones, and you will serve me still.
Serving this spectral being--this Lich King, as Kel'Thuzad was beginning to think of him--would assuredly bring Kel'Thuzad great power... and damn him for all eternity. But that knowledge came far too late. Besides, damnation had little meaning without the prospect of true death.
"I am yours. I swear it," he said hoarsely.
In response, the Lich King sent him a vision of Naxxramas. Small black-robed figures stood in a broad circle outside on the glacier. Their arms, visibly wreathed in dark magic, rose and fell in time with a droning chant that eluded Kel'Thuzad's understanding. Tremors shook the earth beneath their feet, but they kept casting.
You will go forth and bear witness to my power. You will be my ambassador to the living, and assemble a group of like-minded people to further my plans. Through illusion, persuasion, sickness, and force of arms, you will establish my hold upon Azeroth.
To Kel'Thuzad's astonishment, the ice shifted and cracked, and the top of a ziggurat pierced the frozen ground. A building was being pulled up out of the soil. While the robed figures redoubled their efforts, the vast pyramid continued its impossible emergence. Chunks of dirt and ice flew outward with explosive force. Soon the entire structure had broken free of the earth's embrace. Slowly but surely, Naxxramas rose into the air.
And this will be your vessel.