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The Shadow Council is a demon-worshipping order of warlocks that appears in the Warcraft universe. The are the mortal servants of the Burning Legion.
Formation of the Shadow Council
When Gul'dan supplanted Ner'zhul as Kil'jaeden's favorite pawn, he began to reorganize the Orcish clans of Draenor into a single engine of destruction. To this end, he promoted a public figurehead, Blackhand of the Blackrock clan to the new position of Warchief. Though Blackhand was cunning, he lacked the loyalty to Kil'jaeden and deviousness needed to drive the Horde. Thus, Gul'dan secretly brought together a collection of warlocks, necrolytes, chieftains, and even the occasional ogre into a clandestine council — the Shadow Council.
The original purpose of the Council was to ensure the stability of the Horde in their quest to destroy the draenei, manipulate the clans and spread the use of warlock magics. When the time came, the Shadow Council fed the blood of Mannoroth to the clans, apart from the Frostwolf clan (whose chieftain, Durotan, forbade them from partaking) and a few other individuals.
The Council made their headquarters at the Black Temple and oversaw the destruction of the draenei until Kil'jaeden mysteriously vanished. As the Horde began to fragment, the Shadow Council was contacted by Medivh, who offered a new world to plunder.
The First War
The Shadow Council operated a number of the Horde's workings during the war effort against the Kingdom of Azeroth. But their time was near.
King Llane Wrynn was assassinated by one of the Shadow Council's finest killers: the half-orc, Garona Halforcen. Following the death of Medivh, Gul'dan was incapacitated for several weeks. During this time, Orgrim Doomhammer killed Blackhand the Destroyer and seized the mantle of Warchief. He captured and tortured Garona to learn of the existence of the Shadow Council, and sensing it threatened his position, launched an attack on Gul'dan's citadel near the ruins of Azeroth, annihilating most of the warlocks of the Council. Their spirits were subsequently imbued into the death knights.
The Legion's Second Invasion and Beyond
Even in the aftermath of the second invasion of the Burning Legion, the Shadow Council still remains. It is not clear how the Council was reformed after the death of most of their members, including Gul'dan. It is known that some of its members, including Vorpil and Blackheart, survived by hiding in Auchindoun. The current Shadow Council now includes members of all races, provided they possess the ideology of acceptance of the tenets of the Burning Legion.
The shape of the original Shadow Council is unclear. Gul'dan is described as a "warlock of the Inner Circle" (also an "initiate of the Seventh Circle") and Cho'gall as an "initiate of the Fifth." This means that there are at least seven circles of the Shadow Council, the Inner Circle being the Seventh.
The hold of the current Shadow Council is extensive; they control cell-based organizations throughout Kalimdor including the Burning Blade and Searing Blade cults, which utilize the powers of the Demon Seed. Agents of the Council have even infiltrated areas of the Orcish capital city of Orgrimmar. It is also revealed from a questline in Darkshore that the Cult of the Dark Strand is another branch of the Shadow Council, and certain clues, like Argus Wake members they employ, Marez Cowl, and Darbel Montrose, lead some to believe that the Syndicate may be affiliated, if maybe loosely, with the Council. The Shadow Council is also present at Jaedenar in Felwood, Grangol'var Village in Terokkar Forest, and Kil'sorrow Fortress in Nagrand. Its headquarters are in the Shadow Labyrinth of Auchindoun.
Sub-groups of the Shadow Council
The Shadow Council consists of many sub-groups and cults spread throughout Azeroth.
- Burning Blade - Primarily orcs. Concerned with undermining the Horde. Based in Durotar, Orgrimmar, Desolace, the Barrens and elsewhere. Led by Neeru Fireblade.
- The Cabal - A faction in Outland consisting of Shadow Council remnants from the time before the First War.
- Searing Blade - Primarily orcs. Concerned with undermining the Horde. Once based in Ragefire Chasm, beneath the city of Orgrimmar, they were driven out by the Dark Shaman. Led by Bazzalan and Jergosh the Invoker.
- Argus Wake - Primarily humans. Concerned with sowing chaos among the areas of Lordaeron controlled by the Alliance and Horde. Allied with the Syndicate of the Alterac Mountains. The Wake's leader is unknown, but its members in Alterac were once led by the orc Nagaz, who disappeared during the Cataclysm.
- Cult of the Dark Strand - Various mortal races. Concerned with cultivating an alliance between themselves and the foul satyrs. Based in Darkshore and Ashenvale, led by Athrikus Narassin. Since the Cataclysm, the Dark Strand has been annhiliated.