Illidan Stormrage, otherwise known as the Betrayer, is one of the most famous and feared members of the Warcraft universe. Born a night elf with the potential for great druidic and arcane strength, Illidan's pursuit of power had lead him to commit atrocities on an enormous scale. He currently resides in the Black Temple.
Illidan is the fraternal twin of Malfurion Stormrage and, like his brother, grew up as the friend of Tyrande Whisperwind millennia before the Great Sundering. Unlike Malfurion, Illidan had no patience for the subtleties of druidism and proved to be a poor student despite their teacher, the demigod Cenarius.
Yet Illidan was talented at sorcery, which at the time was a staple of night elf society. His magical abilities were cold comfort, though, for he had been born with golden eyes, which were quite rare in night elves before the Sundering. Golden eyes were commonly regarded as a sign of future greatness, but Illidan showed no signs of achieving anything out of the ordinary. Little did Illidan know that his eyes actually indicated strong druidic potential.
Fascinated with arcane magic he learned increasingly difficult spells, but to his discouragement the Moon Guard did not offer him membership in light of his advanced sorcery. Nevertheless, Illidan remained determined to become the hero his people expected him to be.
Soon he found another compelling reason to achieve greatness. One day during a festival, he caught sight of Tyrande dancing in the crowd and realized that he loved her. At some point over the years, he had fallen in love with her kindness, her laughter, her beauty, and her faith.
His joy was dimmed only by the fact that Malfurion, too, had feelings for Tyrande, although Malfurion was slower than Illidan to recognize them. Illidan could see that Tyrande would inevitably choose either Malfurion or Illidan as her mate. It was simply a matter of which twin would prove worthy in her eyes.
Illidan redoubled his efforts at mastering arcane sorcery and was elated when chance and quick thinking gave him the opportunity to save the life of Lord Kur'talos Ravencrest. The grateful noble made Illidan his personal sorcerer and placed great faith in his young protégé's courage and magic.
Unfortunately the demon that had nearly killed Ravencrest was only the first of many to appear all over ancient Kalimdor. The first invasion of the Burning Legion had begun.
Ravencrest organized the night elves into an army to fight the invading demons. When the highest-ranking member of the Moon Guard, Latosius, was slain in combat, Illidan jumped at the opportunity. He took charge of the surviving sorcerers and directed their combined power to noticeable effect, killing many of the Legion's minions. Even so, the war looked increasingly hopeless as further reinforcements arrived from the Twisting Nether.
At a critical point in the war, Malfurion disobeyed Ravencrest's orders and left the night elf army. He had embarked upon a perilous journey: he planned to seek out the dragonflights and appeal to them for help. Impulsively Illidan confronted Tyrande and told her he could no longer remain silent. He confessed his love for her and said that Malfurion had clearly gone mad in his pursuit of druidism.
Worrying about Malfurion, Tyrande rebuked Illidan, who saw that he had spoken too late. She had already chosen her intended, and it was not Illidan. Once again Malfurion had effortlessly achieved a goal that Illidan could not. This time Malfurion's victory was particularly bitter, for Malfurion had yet to recognize his own love for Tyrande.
The pain of Illidan's unrequited feelings haunted him, and he found himself dwelling on dark thoughts. He had no way of knowing that he was being influenced by Lord Xavius, a satyr with the power to spread corruption. At last Illidan, too, left the night elf army, but he embarked on quite a different mission. He sought out Sargeras, creator of the Burning Legion.
Illidan swore allegiance to the dark titan, who granted Illidan great power in return. Sargeras burned Illidan's eyes to ash and endowed the scorched eye sockets with magically enhanced sight. As further reward, Sargeras marked much of Illidan's body with an intricate pattern of tattoos that filled the night elf with powerful arcane energy.
For this apparent shift of loyalties, Illidan would later come to be called the Betrayer. Yet although he did aid the Burning Legion to some extent, he ultimately sided with Malfurion and the other night elves. He and Malfurion closed the portal that the Highborne living in the royal palace had opened in the Well of Eternity, thus preventing Sargeras himself from entering Azeroth, an outcome that would have spelled doom for the world. Not long before the portal was closed, a group of Highborne rebelled against the Legion and, led by Dath'Remar Sunstrider, rejoined the main night elf army.
The planet of Azeroth was saved, but the Well's magics had been too badly abused, and so the Well imploded, shattering ancient Kalimdor into several landmasses. A new ocean was born, and the night elf defenders fled before its rushing waves. Reaching Mount Hyjal, the night elves were finally able to rest: the ocean waters had reached their limit.
Just before the Well imploded, Illidan had filled several vials of its powerful waters. He was certain that despite the night elves' victory, the Legion would one day return. Despite the grueling war that had just ended, he believed that arcane magic alone could save the night elves from a second invasion. Thus, he sought out a secluded lake atop Mount Hyjal and poured three of the vials into its waters, irreversibly changing the lake into a second Well of Eternity.
He thought his people would hail him as a hero. He was wrong.
A small group of night elves, including a few of the repentant Highborne, discovered what Illidan had done, and most reacted in horror. Illidan suspected the Highborne would try to usurp the Well's powers, as they had done with the first Well, and so he attacked the group. Malfurion arrived a few moments later and helped capture his twin.
As Illidan's brother and a respected hero of the recent war, Malfurion was permitted to determine his brother's fate. Taken aback by Illidan's power, Malfurion decided that Illidan was too dangerous to be left free. Even so, Malfurion could not condemn his brother to death. Instead, he sentenced Illidan to a fate arguably far worse: Illidan was to be imprisoned for the rest of his immortal life. As a consequence of Malfurion's so-called mercy, Illidan spent the next ten thousand years in isolation, trapped in a prison far beneath the earth and guarded by the Watchers.
Proving Illidan's fears correct, the Burning Legion invaded Azeroth again during the Third War. Tyrande, the head of the night elf government, awoke Malfurion from hibernation, and together they ventured underground to awaken the rest of the druids. In the process, Tyrande happened upon the entrance to Illidan's prison, and she decided that he would make a strong ally. Although Malfurion tried to stop her, she led her Sentinels into the prison.
The Watchers would not surrender their prisoner without a fight, and so Tyrande and her soldiers slew the guards who barred the way to Illidan's cell. She told Illidan that his people needed him to help fight the Burning Legion again.
Illidan consented to join the fight against the Legion. However, his long and unjustified imprisonment had left him bitter. He told Tyrande that he agreed not out of any lingering loyalty toward their people, but for her sake alone.
Free at last, he followed Tyrande upward into the corrupted forests of Felwood. Tyrande and her soldiers departed in search of Malfurion, who was awakening the last sleeping druids. She felt sure that once confronted with the reality of Illidan's freedom, she could convince her mate to give his twin another chance.
Once she had left Illidan alone, he was confronted by the death knight Arthas Menethil, who told him that the demons who had corrupted Felwood were using a magical artifact to do so: the Skull of Gul'dan. Arthas explained that the Lich King would be grateful if Illidan would steal the artifact from the demons. In fact, Arthas invited Illidan to claim the artifact's powers as his own.
Illidan remained hungry for magic, and he was certain that with the skull's power, he would be able to overcome the Legion forces in Felwood. Despite his suspicions about Arthas' motives, Illidan therefore stole the artifact and consumed it, taking its powers for himself. Already marked by Sargeras back in the War of the Ancients, Illidan was instantly transformed into a demon when he consumed the skull's fel energies.
Using his newfound strength, Illidan defeated Tichondrius, leader of the demons who were corrupting Felwood. Not long after Illidan's victory, Malfurion and Tyrande returned to the forest and confronted Illidan. At first neither night elf recognized the powerful demon as Illidan. When they learned what had happened, Malfurion grew furious, dismissed what Illidan had accomplished, and condemned him. Still the arbiter of Illidan's fate, Malfurion exiled him from night elf lands.
The new punishment hardly surprised Illidan. Malfurion had always been uncomfortable with any power but his own and Tyrande's. Let Illidan's self-righteous twin limit himself to those so-called "safer" magics. Let him walk his precious Emerald Dream while life on Azeroth passed him by. Illidan would never have been content with such a living death.
If Illidan was to be forbidden from having anything else, he would have power.
After the Legion's defeat at the Battle of Mount Hyjal, the demon lord Kil'jaeden contacted Illidan. He asked Illidan to destroy the Lich King, who had betrayed the Burning Legion by making Arthas his personal champion and the head of the Scourge. In return for the Lich King's destruction, Kil'jaeden promised to reward Illidan with anything Illidan might want.
In the face of Kil'jaeden's overwhelming might, Illidan had little choice but to agree. He therefore summoned a large group of naga from the depths of the ocean, including Lady Vashj. The naga, who had once been Highborne, recognized Illidan and respected his magical talent, which was even greater than they had recalled. They agreed to become his allies.
In the meantime, Warden Maiev Shadowsong discovered that Illidan had escaped, and so she vowed to recapture him. She and her Watchers pursued him through Ashenvale Forest and followed him over the sea to the Broken Isles, where Illidan and his naga allies entered the Tomb of Sargeras.
Maiev tracked down Illidan just as he acquired the Eye of Sargeras. Confronted by his former captors, Illidan used the powerful demonic artifact against them. He escaped, but the Watchers were left trapped in one section of the tomb, a section that was quickly filling with seawater. The Watchers had done their best to bury Illidan alive; he was merely returning the favor.
Out of all the Watchers in the tomb, only Maiev managed to avoid a watery death. Illidan's naga allies sent repeated attacks against Maiev's greatly depleted forces, but Maiev dispatched a runner who reached Malfurion and asked for help. He and Tyrande arrived in time to rescue the warden, but Illidan eluded capture.
The three night elves followed Illidan to Lordaeron, where Illidan and several naga spellcasters began channeling a powerful spell through the Eye of Sargeras. Malfurion and Maiev arrived in time to stop the spell before it could be completed. Furious and exasperated, Illidan explained that he had been trying to destroy the Frozen Throne and its occupant, the Lich King. Naturally Illidan made no mention of his pact with Kil'jaeden, for Malfurion would not have understood. In any case, due to Malfurion's interference, Illidan had failed, and so the pact was now void.
Soon Malfurion and Illidan learned that Tyrande and a small group of her Sentinels had been swept down the River Arevass and were under attack by the Scourge. Illidan still loved Tyrande, and so he was quick to offer his assistance. For Tyrande's sake, Malfurion hesitantly agreed to work with Illidan. Malfurion established and defended a night elf base while Illidan and his naga retrieved Tyrande and her soldiers.
In return for Illidan's rescue of Tyrande, Malfurion declared that he pardoned Illidan for his dangerous spellcasting. Even so, he warned Illidan never to threaten the night elves again. Largely uninterested in the race he had left behind, Illidan agreed to Malfurion's terms and opened a portal to Outland, where he hoped to evade Kil'jaeden's wrath. The Burning Legion had little tolerance for failure.
Consumed by the desire for vengeance, Maiev Shadowsong could not relinquish the hunt. She and a small group of her followers pursued Illidan through the portal. Illidan was outnumbered, and so he was eventually recaptured.
Fortunately he was only outnumbered because he had dispatched Lady Vashj and her naga to recruit further allies: Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider and his group of blood elves. These blood elves soon followed the naga to Outland and freed Illidan, who promised to teach them how to feed their addiction to magic. Kael'thas swore allegiance to Illidan, and the prince helped his new lord close all the portals on Outland. By carrying out this endeavor, Illidan hoped to cut off further demonic reinforcements from the Twisting Nether and block any attempts by Kil'jaeden to locate Illidan.
The ruler of Outland at the time, a pit lord named Magtheridon, became a feasible target. Illidan led the powerful army of blood elves and naga against Magtheridon, defeated him, and took possession of his fortress, the Black Temple.
Yet Illidan did not celebrate his conquest for long. In a storm of magic and fury, Kil'jaeden descended upon Outland, regardless of the fact that Illidan had closed all portals on the planet. Illidan had colossally underestimated the demon lord's power.
Thinking quickly, Illidan told Kil'jaeden that he had only come to Outland to bolster his forces before making a final assault upon the Frozen Throne. Kil'jaeden was hardly appeased, but he decided to give Illidan one last chance. He warned Illidan that failure would result in death.
With no other option, Illidan led the blood elves and naga back to Azeroth. The Scourge kept Illidan's army at bay until Arthas and the crypt lord Anub'arak arrived. Arthas and Illidan faced off in single combat, and Arthas was the victor. He warned Illidan to leave Azeroth and not return.
Since that time, Illidan has returned to the Black Temple. While his allies fight to keep Outland's many portals sealed, Illidan is preparing for the day that Kil'jaeden arrives to punish Illidan for failing to destroy the Lich King.
As is the case with certain demons, Illidan does not consider himself a servant of the Burning Legion. Indeed, Illidan has alternately been the Legion's ally and its enemy at various points in the past. A rarity among demons, he has retained vast tracts of his original personality despite his demonic transformation. As a demon, he is fundamentally evil and often cruel, but he has thus far been able to preserve a few tattered remnants of nobility. Their inevitable conflict with his ambition and his hunger for power makes him a dangerously unpredictable adversary.