Zhaitan, like the other Elder Dragons, is thought to have last awakened 10,000 years ago, around the time of the disappearance of the Giganticus Lupicus, and then fallen back into slumber from consuming all life they could find. For more than a millennium, it rested beneath the land that would become the Kingdom of Orr. When the Six Human Gods revoked the gift of magic back into the Bloodstone to split it into the familiar four schools in 1 BE, they tapped into the dormant dragon's energy and increased the power of magic in doing so, not knowing of Zhaitan's existence.
In 1219 AE, Zhaitan awoke and brought the lost nation of Orr (which had previously been destroyed by the Cataclysm) to the surface. Cobiah Marriner had seen the rising of Orr, seeing thousands of swarming undead on the rising lands over a tidal wave later called the Great Tsunami. The Great Tsunami drowned thousands, sank hundreds of ships, flooded Lion's Arch and the Battle Isles, and dramatically reshaped the coastline of the Sea of Sorrows. Corsairs who took refuge docked in the shattered peninsula were wiped out, and in its place there came an undead navy of Dead Ships, manned by the Risen servants of Zhaitan. The black-sailed ships swept across the Strait of Malchor towards the Ring of Fire and the southern Sea of Sorrows, blocking sea access to Cantha and Elona, and beginning an age of isolation for Tyria.
Afterwards, he had sent Captain Whiting on the Indomitable to lead his Risen forces to decimate the most populated ports along the Sea of Sorrows, starting with Port Stalwart in 1229 AE, and attacking Lion's Arch in 1256 AE which ultimately failed with the death of Whiting. Sometime afterwards, Zhaitan's forces had decimated Port Noble. Most of the time until recent years, Zhaitan had focused sending his forces along the eastern shores of the Sea of Sorrows, only recently sending risen to the Tarnished Coast. In the height of his reign, his domain reached from the Ring of Fire islands to the northern borders of Elona, to the pockets along the northern shores of the Sea of Sorrows.
In 1325 AE, Zhaitan launched an attack on Claw Island, defeating the Lionguard stationed there and readying an attack on the rebuilt Lion's Arch. With the Elder Dragon poised to rip out the heart of Tyria, the Vigil, the Order of Whispers, and the Durmand Priory pooled their collective resources and formed the Pact to retake Claw Island. The combined forces of the Pact, under the leadership of the sylvari Firstborn Trahearne, managed to defeat the champion Blightghast and launch a counter-offensive into the Steamspur Mountains and eventually Orr. In a battle above the skies of Arah, the Pact airship The Glory of Tyria, incorporating engineering secrets of every race and crewed by a reunited Destiny's Edge, engaged the Elder Dragon and crippled it using the ship's MEGA-LIT cannon. As Zhaitan made its final stand, The Glory of Tyria bombarded it with special anti-Elder Dragon armed cannons, and the Elder Dragon fell defeated, crashing on the eastern edge of the City of the Gods.
Since Zhaitan's defeat, the corruption of Orr has begun to reverse, and the Risen forces have thinned but remain a threat.
 Personal storyline involvement
Zhaitan's abilities, behavior, and history are uncovered during much of the personal storyline.
- Zhaitan was designed by Kekai Kotaki, and modeled by Katy Hargrove. The model's design was so complex that it had to be animated in several stages.
- In Islam, Shayṭān is a name for the devil.
- Size comparisons
Size of Zhaitan (left) compared to Tequatl the Sunless (right).
- Concept art