an excerpt from
World of Warcraft:
Cycle of Hatred
World of Warcraft:
Cycle of Hatred
|Erik had been cleaning ale off the demon skull mounted behind the bar when the stranger walked in.
The Demonsbane Inn and Tavern didn’t usually get much by way of tourists. Rare was the day when Erik didn’t know the face of one of his patrons. More common was when he didn’t know their names—he only remembered their faces due to repeated exposure. Erik didn’t much care who came into his tavern, as long as they had coin and a thirst.
Sitting down at a table, the stranger seemed to be either waiting for something or looking for something. He wasn’t looking at the dark wooden walls—though you could barely see them, seeing as how the Demonsbane had no windows and illumination only from a couple of torches—or at the small round wooden tables and stools festooned about the floor. Erik never bothered to arrange the tables in any particular pattern, since folks would just go and move them around to suit themselves anyhow.
After a minute, the stranger got up and walked up to the wooden bar. “I’m trying to get some table service.”
“Don’t have none,” Erik said. He never saw the sense in paying good money for waiters. If folks wanted a drink, they could walk up to the bar. If they were too drunk to walk up to the bar, he didn’t want them to drink anymore anyhow, since folks who were that drunk were like to start fights. Erik ran a quiet tavern.
The stranger plunked a silver piece on the bar, and asked, “What’s the most expensive drink you have there?”
“That’d be the boar’s grog from the north. Orcs make it, ferment it in—”
The stranger’s nose wrinkled. “No—no orc drink.”
Erik shrugged. People had weird considerations when it came to alcohol. He’d seen folks argue about the relative merits of beer versus corn whiskey with an intensity greater than political or religious disagreements. If this gentleman didn’t like orc drinks, that wasn’t Erik’s lookout. “Got corn whiskey—fresh batch made last month.”
“Sold.” The stranger smacked his hand on the wooden bar, disturbing some of the nut shells, berry seeds, and other detritus that had gathered there. Erik only cleaned the bar about once a year or so—unlike the demon skull, no one could really see the bar, and he never saw the need to clean a surface that wasn’t visible.
One of the regulars, a soldier who always drank the grog, turned to look at the stranger. “Mind tellin’ me what you got against orc booze?”
The stranger shrugged while Erik pulled the glass bottle of corn whiskey off the shelf, and poured some of its contents into a mug that was mostly clean.
“I have nothing against orc drink, good sir—it’s orcs themselves I have issue with.” The stranger held out a hand. “My name is Margoz. I’m a fisherman by trade, and I have to say that I’m not well pleased with how my nets have filled up this season.”
Not bothering to shake the hand or introduce himself, the soldier said, “All that tells me is you ain’t no good as a fisherman.”
Lowering his hand upon realizing that the soldier wasn’t feeling friendly, Margoz took his corn whiskey instead. “I’m a fine fisherman, sir—I thrived in Kul Tiras, before circumstances forced me to move here.”
On the other side of Margoz sat a merchant who sputtered into his ale. “Circumstances. Right. Got conscripted to fight the Burning Legion, did you?”
Margoz nodded. “As I’m sure many were. I tried to make a new life for myself here in Theramore—but how can I, with the damned greenskins taking all the good fishing waters for themselves?”
Erik found himself nodding in agreement with the first half of Margoz’s statement, if not the second. He himself had come to Theramore after the Burning Legion was driven off—not to fight, as the fighting was over by the time he made the journey, but to claim his inheritance. Erik’s brother Olaf fought against the Legion, and died, leaving Erik enough coin to build the tavern Olaf had dreamed of opening after he finished his service. In addition to the money, Erik was bequeathed the skull of a demon that Olaf had slain in combat. Erik had never particularly wanted to run a tavern, but he’d never particularly wanted to do anything else, so he opened the Demonsbane in honor of his brother. He figured, rightly, that the community of humans in Theramore would gravitate toward a place with a name that symbolized the driving off of demons that led to the city-state’s formation.
“I ain’t standin’ for this,” the soldier said. “You fought in the war, fisherman—you know what the orcs did for us.”
“What they did for us is not what distresses me, good sir,” Margoz said, “but rather what they are doing to us now.”
“They get the best of everything.” This was the boat captain at one of the tables behind the soldier. “Up Ratchet way, them goblins always favor orcs for repairs or dock space. Last month, I had to wait half a day ‘fore they’d let me dock my skiff, but some orc boat come by two hour after me, and got a spot right off.”
Turning to face the captain, the soldier said, “Then go somewhere other than Ratchet.”
“T’ain’t always an option,” the captain said with a sneer.
“S’not like they always need the repairin’, neither,” the man with the captain—Erik thought it might have been his first mate, since they dressed similarly—said. “They got oaks up in mountains above Orgrimmar, be makin’ their ships from them. What we got? Weak spruce, is all. They hoard ‘em, they do, keepin’ all the good wood. Our boats’ll be leakin’ all over thanks to the marshy garbage we gotta work with.”
Several other voices muttered in agreement with this sentiment.
“So you’d all like it better if the orcs weren’t around?” The soldier slammed his fist on the bar. “Without them, we’d be demon-food, and that’s a fact.”
“I don’t think anyone’s denying that.” Margoz sipped from his whiskey mug. “Still, there does seem to be an unequal distribution of resources.”
“Orcs used to be slaves, you know.” This was someone else at the bar whom Erik couldn’t see from where he was standing. “To humans, and to the Burning Legion, if you think about it. Can’t blame ‘em for wanting to take everything they can now.”
“I can if they’re takin’ it away from us,” the captain said.
The merchant nodded. “You know, they’re not from here. They came from some other world, and the Burning Legion brought ‘em here.”
The first mate muttered, “Maybe they oughtta go back where they came.”
“Makes you wonder what Lady Proudmoore was thinking,” Margoz said.
Erik frowned. At those words, the tavern suddenly got rather quiet. Lots of people had been muttering assent or disagreement, either with the sentiments expressed or the people expressing them.
But as soon as Margoz mentioned Jaina Proudmoore—worse, mentioned her in a disparaging manner—the place got quiet.
Too quiet. In the three years Erik had been a tavern owner, there were two
times when you expected a fight to break out: when the place got too loud or got too quiet. And the latter were usually the really nasty fights
Another soldier stood up from next to the first one—this one was wider in the shoulders, and he didn’t talk much, but when he did, it was in a booming voice that made the demon skull behind the bar rattle on its mount. “Don’t nobody talk bad ‘bout Lady Proudmoore ‘less he wants to be livin’ without teeth.”
Swallowing audibly, Margoz quickly said, “I would never dream of speaking of our leader in anything but reverent tones, good sir, I promise.” He gulped down more of the corn whiskey than it was advisable to drink in one sip, which caused his eyes to greatly widen. He shook his head a few times.
“Lady Proudmoore’s been very good to us,” the merchant said. “After we drove back the Burning Legion, she made us into a community. Your complaints are fair, Margoz, but none of it can be laid at the lady’s feet. I’ve met a few wizards in my day, and most of ‘em aren’t fit to be scrapings off my sandals. But the lady’s a good one, and you’ll find no support for disparagements toward her.”
“It was never my intent to disparage, good sir,” Margoz said, still sounding a bit shaky from his ill-advised gulp of corn whiskey. “But one must wonder why no trade agreements have been made to obtain this superior wood that these fine gentlemen have mentioned.” He looked thoughtful for a second. “Perhaps she has tried, but the orcs would not permit it.”
The captain swallowed a gulp of his ale, then said, “Perhaps them orcs told her to leave Northwatch.”
“We should leave Northwatch,” the merchant said. “The Barrens are neutral territory, that was agreed to from the beginning.”
The soldier stiffened. “You’re crazy if you think we’re givin’ that up.”
Margoz said, “That is where the orcs fought Admiral Proudmoore.”
“Yes, an embarrassment. As fine a leader as Lady Proudmoore is, that’s as much of an idiot her father was.” The merchant shook his head. “That entire sordid incident should be put out of our heads. But it won’t be as long as—”
The captain interrupted. “If’n you ask me, we need to expand beyond Northwatch.”
Sounding annoyed, though whether at the interruption or the sentiment, Erik neither knew nor cared, the merchant said, “Are you mad?”
“Are you? The orcs’re squeezin’ us out! They’re all over the blessed continent, and we’ve got Theramore. It’s been three year since the Burning Legion was sent off. Don’t we deserve better than to be lower class in our own land—to be confined to one cesspool of a city-state?”
“Theramore is as fine a city as you will see in human lands.” The soldier spoke the words with a defensive pride, only to be followed by a more resigned tone. “But it is true, that the orcs have greater territory. That is why Northwatch is essential—it allows us to maintain a defense beyond the walls of Theramore.”
“Besides,” the first mate said with a laugh into his ale mug, “the orcs don’t like us there. That’s reason enough to keep it, y’ask me.”
“Nobody asked you,” the merchant said snidely.
The other man at the bar—Erik had wandered downbar a bit, and now saw that it was that bookkeeper who worked the docks—said, “Maybe someone should. The orcs act as if they own Kalimdor, and we’re just visiting. But this is our home, too, and it’s time we acted like it. Orcs aren’t humans, aren’t even from this world. What right do they have to dictate how we live our lives?”
“They have the right to live their lives, don’t they?” the merchant asked.
Nodding, the soldier said, “I’d say they earned that when they fought the Burning Legion. Weren’t for them?” He gulped down the remainder of his wine, then slid the mug toward Erik. “Get me an ale.”
Erik hesitated. He had already started reaching for the grog bottle. This soldier had been coming into the Demonsbane ever since Erik opened the place, and he’d never drunk anything save for grog.
But that three-year-long patronage had earned him the right not to be questioned. Besides, as long as he was paying, he could drink soapy water, for all Erik cared.
“Fact is,” the captain said, “this is our world, by right of birth. Them orcs are just guests in our home, and it’s high time they started actin’ like it!”
The conversation went on from there. Erik served a few more drinks, tossed a few mugs into the basin to be cleaned later, and only after he gave the merchant another ale did he realize that Margoz, who started the whole conversation, had left.
He hadn’t even left a tip. Erik shook his head in disgust, the fisherman’s name already falling out of his head.
But he’d remember the face. And probably spit in the bastard’s drink next time he came in—only having one drink and then starting trouble. Erik hated troublemakers like that in his place. Just hated it.
More people started complaining about the orcs. One person—the bruiser next to the soldier—slammed his ale mug on the bar so hard that it spattered his drink on the demon skull. Sighing, Erik grabbed a rag and wiped it off.
There was a time when Margoz would have been too scared to walk the darkened streets of Theramore alone.
True, crime was not a major concern in so closed a community as Theramore—everyone knew most everyone else, and if they didn’t, they knew someone else who did—so criminal acts were rare enough. Those that were committed, were generally punished quickly and brutally by Lady Proudmoore’s soldiers.
Still, Margoz had always been small and weak, and the big and strong tended to prey on the small and weak, so Margoz generally avoided walking around alone at night. You never knew what big and strong person was lurking to show how big and strong he was by beating up on a lesser target. Many times, Margoz had been that target. He soon learned that it was best to do what they said and make them happy to avoid the violence.
But Margoz no longer had that fear. Or any other kind of fear. Now he had a patron. True, Margoz had to do his bidding, also, but this time the reward was power and wealth. In the old days, the reward was not being beaten within an inch of his life. Maybe it was exchanging one type of gut-crippling fear for another, but Margoz thought this was working out better for him.
A salty breeze wafted through the air, blowing in off the port. Margoz inhaled deeply, the scent of the water invigorating him. He spoke at least partly true in the Demonsbane—he was a fisherman, though never a particularly successful one. However, he did not fight against the Burning Legion as he claimed, but instead came here after they were driven back. He’d hoped to have more opportunities here than he had at Kul Tiras. It hadn’t been his fault that the nets were substandard—it was all he could afford, but tell the dock authority that and see where it got you.
Where it got him, mostly, was beat up.
So he came to Kalimdor, following the rush of people hoping to provide services for the humans who lived there under Lady Proudmoore. But Margoz hadn’t been the only fisherman to ply his trade, nor was he anywhere near the best.
Before his patron arrived, Margoz was close to destitute. He wasn’t even catching enough to eat himself, m
uch less sell, and he was seriously considering just grabbing his boat’s anchor and jumping off the side with it. Put himself out
But then his patron arrived, and everything got better.
Margoz soon arrived at his modest apartment. His patron hadn’t let him move to better accommodations, despite his pleading—the patron called it whining, and unseemly—regarding the lack of good ventilation, the poor furnishings, and the rats. But his patron assured him that such a sudden change in his status would draw attention, and for now, he was to remain unnoticed.
Until tonight, when he was instructed to go to the Demonsbane and start sowing anti-orc sentiments. In the old days, he never would dared have set foot in such a place. The types of people who liked to beat him up usually congregated in large groups in taverns, and he preferred to avoid them for that reason.
Or, rather, used to prefer to avoid them.
He entered his room. A pallet that was no thinner than a slice of bread; a burlap sheet that itched so much he only used it when the winter got particularly cold, and even then it was a difficult choice; a lantern; and precious little else. A rat scurried across into one of the many cracks in the wall.
Sighing, he knew what needed to be done next. Next to the inability to move to better quarters, the thing Margoz hated most about his dealing with his patron was the odor he carried with him whenever they spoke. It was some kind of side-effect of the magic at his patron’s command, but whatever the reason, it annoyed Margoz.
Still, it was worth it for the power. And the ability to walk the streets and drink in the Demonsbane without fear of physical reprisal.
Shoving his hand past his collar to reach under his shirt, Margoz pulled out the necklace with the silver pendant shaped like a sword afire. Clutching the sword so tightly that he felt the edges dig into his palm, he spoke the words whose meaning he’d never learned, but which filled him with an unspeakable dread every time he said them: “Galtak Ered’nash. Ered’nash ban galar. Ered’nash havik yrthog. Galtak Ered’nash.”
The stink of sulfur started to permeate the small room. This was the part Margoz hated.
Galtak Ered’nash. You have done as I commanded?
“Yes, sir.” Margoz was embarrassed to realize that his voice was getting all squeaky. Clearing his throat, he tried to deepen his tone. “I did as you asked. As soon as I mentioned difficulties with the orcs, virtually the entire tavern joined in.”
Margoz didn’t like the threat implied in that one-word question. “One man was a holdout, but the others were ganging up on him to a certain degree. Provided a focus for their ire, really.”
Perhaps. You have done well.
That came as a huge relief. “Thank you, sir, thank you. I am glad to have been of service.” He hesitated. “If I may, sir, might now be a good time to once again broach the subject of improved accommodations? You might have noticed the rat that—”
You have served us. You will be rewarded.
“So you’ve said, sir, but—well, I was hoping a reward would come soon.” He decided to take advantage of his lifelong fears. “I was in grave danger this evening, you know. Walking alone near the docks can be—”
You will come to no harm so long as you serve. You need never walk with fear again, Margoz.
“Of—of course. I simply—”
You simply wish to live the life you have never been permitted to live. That is an understandable concern. Be patient, Margoz. Your reward will come in due time.
The sulfur stench started to abate. “Thank you, sir. Galtak Ered’nash!”
Dimly, the patron’s voice said, Galtak Ered’nash. Then all was quiet in Margoz’s apartment once again.
A bang came on the wall, followed by the muffled voice of his neighbor. “Stop yelling in there! We’re tryin’ to sleep!”
Once, such importunings would have had Margoz cowering in fear. Today, he simply ignored it, and lay down on his pallet, hoping the smell wouldn’t keep him from sleeping.
To learn what happens next, you’ll just have to buy the book……
Kalecgos and Anveena continue their quest to unravel the mystery about Anveena’s past. A mysterious bearded Elder wizard named Borel is all they have to lead them to unveil Anveena’s past. Although she’s never met him, her parents used to talk about Borel who lived in Tarren Mill.
However, their search leads them to Aerie Peak.
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Written by Richard A. Knaak
“Set in the rich universe of Blizzard’s online RPG World of Warcraft, Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy recreates the world of Azeroth as you’ve never seen it before: as a manga!
The three-volume graphic novel series follows the adventures of Kalec, a blue dragon in human form fleeing from forces that seek to destroy his race, and Anveena, a maiden with a mysterious power. What starts as a flight for survival turns into a quest to save the entire High Elven Kingdom from the forces of the Undead Scourge.
In the era after the Battle of Mount Hyjal, the world attempts to recollect itself from the onslaught left in the wake of the Burning Legion.
The world thought it finally would be at peace. However, when an immense power emanates throughout the land all eyes turn in search of its source. Kalecgyos, a member of a decimate race of blue dragons quests towards the elven kingdom of Quel’Thalas in search of answers but he will have to deal with a vengeful dwarf… the army of the Undead Scourge… and the unveil the mystery behind a peasant girl with an enchanting mystery before he can finally obtain what he seeks.”
The story is set after the plaguelands. Tarren Mill is still a human town. Kalecgos the blue dragon is sent by Malygos the Dragon Aspect to investigate a strange source of magic in the Plaguelands. Dra’Khan—the High Elf who betrayed Quel’Thalas by guiding Arthas on how to open the gates of Silvermoon, leading him to the Sunwell—is seeking the source too: The Essence of the Sunwell.
And Kalecgos find it just to unravel a mystery. The Essence of the Sunwell lies within a hatching egg … which sprung a strange creature. Raac.
Kalecgos and Anveena reach Tarren Mill with help of Tyrygosa, the dragon mate of Kalecgos. Once there, they are ambushed by Dar’Khan’s mercenaries, just to be double-crossed by a more dangerous threat. Tarren Mill is now under attack by the Undead Scourge and Dar’Khan.
After a fight for their life and with help of a Fallen Paladin of Lordaeron named Jorad Mace, they finally rest to plan their next plan of action. Jorad knows where to find the Elder Wizard Borel. The mercenaries, who were being mind controlled by Dar’Khan, have recovered their free will and pledge to help Kalecgos and Anveena. Next book … Shadows of Ice, leads them to Aerie Peak.
Thanks to Richard A. Knaak for giving us an exclusive artwork, shown below.
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Our Interview with Richard A. Knaak
Warcraft: War of the Ancients Trilogy
Written by Richard A. Knaak.
But there were others waiting in growing expectation, others with dire dreams far older than even that of the demon lord. They had waited for so very long for the means to escape, the means to reclaim what had once been theirs. Each step of success by Sargeras toward strengthening his portal was a step of success for them. With the Well, with the Demon soul, and with the lord of the Legion?s might, they would open up a window into their eternal prison.
And once open, there would be no sealing it again. The Old Gods waited. They had done so for so very long, they could wait a little longer. But only a little . . .”
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Our Interview with Richard A. Knaak
Warcraft: War of the Ancients Trilogy
Written by Richard A. Knaak.
Mannoroth . . . it is you . . .
But not that of Sargeras.
We have waited too long…it said in a cold, analytical tone that made even the huge demon shrink into himself. The way must be made completely open for him. I will see to it that it is finally done. Be ready for me, Mannoroth . . . I come to you even now.
And with that, the blackness spread, becoming a huge emptiness above the pattern. The portal was not quite as it had been when first the night elves created it, but that was because the one who spoke from the other realm now also strengthened it. This time, it would not collapse.
“To your knees!” Mannoroth roared. Still under his sway, the sorcerers had no choice but to immediately obey. The Fel Guard and night elven soldiers in attendance followed suit a moment later. Even Captain Varo’then quickly knelt.
The demon was the last to kneel, but he did so with the most deference. Almost as much as he feared Sargeras, he feared this one.
We are ready, he informed the other. Mannoroth now kept his gaze on the floor. Any single act, however minute, that could be construed as defiance might mean his painful demise. We, the unworthy, await your presence . . . Archimonde . . .”
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Our Interview with Richard A. Knaak
Book One: The Well of Eternity
Written by Richard A. Knaak.
“A terrible howl echoed through the pass.
A massive, eight-legged lupine form dropped down on Rhonin. Had he been other than what he was, the wizard would have perished there, the meal of a savage, saber-toothed creature with four gleaming green eyes to go with its eight, clawed limbs. The monstrous wolf-creature brought him down, but Rhonin, having magicked his garments to better protect him from the elements, proved a hard nut to crack. The claws scraped at a cloak they should have readily tattered, only to have instead one nail snap off.
Gray fur standing on end, the beast howled its frustration. Rhonin took the opening, casting a simple but effective spell that had saved him in the past.
A cacophony of light burst before the creature’s emerald orbs, both blinding and startling it. It ducked back, swatting uselessly at flashing patterns.
Dragging himself out of reach, Rhonin rose. There was no chance of flight; that would only serve to turn his back on the beast and his protective spell was already weakening. A few more slashes and the claws would be ripping the wizard to the bone.
Fire had worked against the ghoul on the island and Rhonin saw no reason why such a tried and true spell would not benefit him again. He muttered the words-
And suddenly they came out in reverse. Worse, Rhonin found himself moving backward, returning to the wild claws of the blinded beast.
Time had turned in on itself…but how?”
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Our Interview with Richard A. Knaak
This is an excerpt from the eBook, displaying Chapter One out of 124-pages:
Chapter One: A Clash of Arms
A soft, cool breeze blew through the upper branches of the mighty oak trees of the Hearthglen Woods. A peaceful quiet had fallen over the tranquil forest, leaving Tirion Fordring alone with his thoughts. His gray stallion, Mirador, trotted at an easy pace along the winding hunting path. Though game had been strangely scarce for the past few weeks, Tirion came to hunt here whenever the opportunity presented itself. He preferred the grandeur and crisp air of the open country to the musty, confining halls of his keep. He had been hunting in these woods since he was a small boy and knew their numerous, winding trails like the back of his hand. This was the one place he could always find refuge from the burdens and bureaucratic pressures of his station. He mused that someday he would bring his young son, Taelan, to hunt with him so that the boy could experience the rugged majesty of his homeland for himself.
Lord Paladin Tirion Fordring was a powerful man. He was strong in both mind and body, and was counted as one of the greatest warriors of his day. Though he was slightly over fifty years of age, he still looked as fit and dynamic as he had when a younger man. His signature bushy mustache and his neatly trimmed brown hair were streaked with gray, but his piercing green eyes still shone with an energy that belied his years.
Tirion was the governor of the prosperous Alliance principality of Hearthglen, a large forested region nestled at the crossroads between the towering Alterac Mountains and the mist-shrouded shores of Darrowmere Lake. He was respected as a just governor and his name and deeds were honored throughout the kingdom of Lordaeron. His great keep, Mardenholde, was the center of commerce and trade for the bustling region. The citizens of Hearthglen took great pride in the fact that the keep’s mighty walls had never fallen to invaders, even during the darkest days of the orcish invasion of Lordaeron. Yet, of late, Tirion was disgruntled to find a different kind of army scurrying worriedly through the halls of his home.
In recent weeks the keep had been overrun with traveling dignitaries and representatives from the various nations of the Alliance, who passed through Hearthglen on their secret diplomatic errands. He had met with many of them in person, offering his hospitality and assistance wherever he could. Though the dignitaries were appropriately appreciative of his efforts, Tirion could sense a growing tension within all of them. He suspected that they were charged with carrying dire news directly to the Alliance High Council. Try as he might, he could not discern the specifics behind their urgent communiqu?s. Yet Tirion Fordring was no fool. After thirty years of serving the Alliance as a Paladin, he recognized that only one thing could cause the otherwise stoic emissaries to be so troubled: War was returning to Lordaeron.
It had been nearly twelve years since the war against the orcish Horde had ended. It was a terrible conflict that had raged across the northlands, leaving many of the Alliance kingdoms razed and blackened in its wake. Too many brave men fell before the rampaging Horde was finally stopped. Tirion had lost a number of good friends and soldiers over the course of the war. Though the Alliance had rallied at the eleventh hour and pulled victory from the clutches of certain defeat, it had paid a heavy price. Almost an entire generation of young men had selflessly given their lives to insure that mankind would never be slaves to savage orc overlords.
Near the war’s end, the battered and leaderless orc clans were rounded up and placed within guarded reserves near the outskirts of the Alliance lands. Though, as a precautionary measure, it was necessary to police the reserves with full regiments of knights and footmen, the orcs remained docile and passive. Indeed, as time passed, the orcs seemed to lose their raging bloodlust completely and lapse into a strange communal stupor. Some supposed that the foul brutes’ lethargy was brought on by inactivity, but Tirion remained to be convinced. He had seen, firsthand, the orcs’ brutality and savagery in battle. Memories of their heinous atrocities had plagued his dreams for years after the war. He, for one, would never believe that their warlike ways had left them completely.
Tirion prayed every night, as he always had, that conflict would never endanger his people again. Perhaps naively, he hoped fervently that his young son would be spared the rigors and horrors of war. As a Paladin, he had seen far too many children orphaned or left for dead over the course of the tragic conflict. He wondered how any child could not become cold and disassociated when faced with terror and violence all around them. He would certainly never allow that to happen to his own boy, that was certain. Yet, despite his best wishes, he could not ignore the reality of the present situation. His closest aides and advisors had been telling him of the grim rumors for months now—that the orcs were once again on the move. Hard as it was to believe, the presence of so many emissaries in his keep confirmed it to be true.
If the orcs were foolish enough to rise up again, he would do whatever it took in order to stop them. Duty had always been the one constant in his life. He had spent the majority of his years defending Lordaeron in one way or another. Though he had not been born a noble, his enthusiasm and honor had won him the rank of knight at the tender age of eighteen. Tirion served his king with undying loyalty and won a great deal of respect from his superiors. Years later, when the orcs first invaded Lordaeron, intent on crushing civilization, he was one of the first knights to be given the honor of standing with Uther the Lightbringer and being anointed as a holy Paladin.
Uther, Tirion, and a number of devout knights were handpicked by the Archbishop Alonsus Faol to become living vessels of the holy Light. Their special, sacred charge was twofold: aided by the holy Light, the Paladins would not only lead the fight against the vile forces of darkness, but heal the wounds inflicted upon the innocent citizens of humanity as well. Tirion and his fellows were given the divine power to heal wounds and cure diseases of every kind. They were imbued with great strength and wisdom that enabled them to rally their brethren and give glory to the Light. Indeed, the Paladins’ leadership and strength helped to turn the tide of the war and insure the survival of humanity.
Though his own Light-given powers had waned somewhat over the years, Tirion could still feel strength and grace flow through his aging limbs. Surely he would have strength enough when he needed it the most. For his son and for his people, he would have strength enough, he vowed.
Clearing his head of concerns, Tirion stopped to get his bearings. To his surprise, he found that he’d wandered much farther up the winding path than he’d intended. The path snaked its way up and over the densely forested mountain. There were no outposts this far up, Tirion remembered. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t recall the last time he had ventured up this far. He took a moment to drink in the raw beauty of the place. He could hear babbling streams nearby and smell the clean, crisp air. The sky was blue and clear as he watched two falcons circle high above. He truly loved this land. He told himself that he’d return to this spot when a more opportune moment presented itself. Running his hand through his thinning, graying hair, he chided himself for becoming so lost in thought. He had come out to hunt, after all. Tirion deftly turned his mount around on the thin path and spurred Mirador to a quicker pace back down the mountain. He pulled sharply on the reins and steered his faithful mount into the dense woods.
After a few minutes he slowed his pace and galloped into a wide clearing that surrounded the ruins of an abandoned guard tower. He stopped near the old tower’s base and peered up at the lonely structure. Like many other ruins that dotted the land, it was a painful reminder of a darker time. The tower’s walls were broken and scarred by blackened blastmarks. Obviously the work of orcish catapults, he thought. He remembered how the destructive machines had hurled their fiery projectiles from great distances and devastated entire villages during the war. He wondered how the ruined structure could still be standing after having been left to the unforgiving elements for so long. While examining the tower’s base he caught sight of strange tracks upon the ground. He dismounted to inspect them. His blood nearly froze in his veins as he realized that the oversized tracks had not been made by any man—and that they were fresh.
Tirion quickly looked around and found more tracks scattered throughout the clearing. He surmised that orcs had been here within the past few days at least. Could the vile brutes be mobilizing so soon, he wondered? No. There had to be some other explanation. Hearthglen’s borders were secure. There was no way that a group of orcs could go undetected in his land for any length of time. Subtlety, of all things, was definitely not a part of their nature. His scouts and guardsmen would have been alerted to any orcish incursion into Hearthglen immediately upon their arrival. Yet the fresh tracks were there, just the same.
Tirion walked Mirador around to the back of the tower and drew his heavy bastard sword from the scabbard attached to his saddle. He wished fervently that he had brought his mighty warhammer instead. Though he was well-practiced with a blade, he would have preferred to wield his traditional hammer, as all Paladins did in the face of danger.
As stealthily as he could, Tirion crept around the tower and entered through what was left of its front door. A number of large wooden beams had fallen from the rickety ceiling and splintered all over the chipped stone floor. He inspected the dilapidated guardroom and found a small, makeshift fire pit near a ragged, patchwork bedroll. The fire in the ash-laden pit had only recently burnt out. Apparently the orcs had taken up residence within the old tower. Strangely, he saw no weapons or token trophies, which orcs were fond of collecting. He wondered what could possess the brutes to so recklessly squat on Alliance-held lands.
Deciding to return to the keep and gather his men, Tirion exited the tower and strode boldly out into the clearing. To his surprise, he immediately locked eyes with a gargantuan orc, who had suddenly emerged from the tree line. The orc, who seemed as startled as Tirion, dropped the bundle of firewood it had been carrying and reached for the broad battle-ax that was slung to its back. Tirion gritted his teeth and brandished his own sword threateningly. Slowly, the orc planted his feet firmly on the ground, unslinging the mighty ax.
It had been years since Tirion had laid eyes on an orc. He looked upon the brute with unabashed awe and revulsion. Yet, through his surging adrenaline, Tirion noticed that there was something quite different about this orc. Certainly, the creature was as immense and well-muscled as any other he had beheld. Its coarse, green skin and ape-like stance marked it as clearly as any other orc. Even its hideous tusks and pointed ears were reminiscent of every savage that Tirion had faced during the war. But something in the creature’s stature and demeanor seemed different. There was an aged weight in its stance and far too many wrinkles around its eyes. Its ratty beard and ritually topknotted hair bore heavy streaks of gray. Where most orc warriors adorned themselves with mismatched plates of armor and spiked gauntlets, this one wore only stitched furs and ruddy leather pants. Its calm lethality and assured, comfortable battle stance clearly indicated that this orc was no rampaging youngster, but, indeed, a seasoned veteran. Despite its apparent age, it was potentially more dangerous than any orc Tirion had ever faced.
The hulking creature stood motionless for a long moment, as if daring Tirion to make the first move. Tirion quickly surveyed the tree line to make certain there were no other orcs preparing to ambush him. Peering back at the orc, he found that it had not moved even an inch. The orc nodded as if to confirm that it was alone. The creature’s knowing gaze left Tirion with the impression that it wanted his full attention before it engaged him in combat.
Feeling somewhat unhinged by the orc’s calm demeanor, Tirion lunged forward. The orc easily sidestepped Tirion’s initial attack and brought his great ax around in a wide arc. Reflexively, Tirion ducked under the savage strike and rolled into a defensive crouch. Seizing the moment, he thrust his blade up at the orc’s exposed belly. The creature expertly blocked the thrust with the haft of his ax, and leapt backward to give himself more room to maneuver. Tirion feinted to his right and then brought his blade around in a sweeping reverse thrust. Momentarily caught off guard by the clever move, the orc whirled around in the opposite direction and brought his ax down in a fast overhead swipe, meant to cut Tirion in two. Tirion rolled out of the way as the ax crashed down only inches from where he had stood. The two opponents straightened and squared off once more. They stared at one another in surprise. Tirion had to admit that the orc was as formidable a foe as he had ever faced. The grim smile that passed over the orc’s bestial face seemed to impart a similar respect for Tirion’s own abilities.
They began to circle one another, each sizing up the other’s strengths and weaknesses. Tirion was again surprised by the orc’s demeanor and focus. Every other orc he had encountered had rushed forward with reckless abandon, preferring savagery and brute force to finesse and tactical maneuvering. This orc, however, demonstrated remarkable skill and self-control.
For a moment, Tirion wondered whether or not he could actually best the creature. For a split second, he worried that his tired limbs and reflexes would fail him at a crucial moment. Sporadic thoughts of his beloved wife and son being left to fend for themselves without him flashed through his mind, weakening his resolve by a fraction. With a derisive snort, he shook off his doubts and readied his weapon. He had faced death a hundred times. He had a job to do. He relaxed slightly and reminded himself that his battle instincts were as sharp as ever. And he had the power of the Light on his side. No matter how impressive the orc’s fighting prowess might be, it was still a creature of darkness as far as he was concerned—it was the sworn enemy of humanity, and for that it had to die.
Rushing forward with grim resolve, Tirion slashed at the orc with every ounce of strength he could muster. The orc was forced to give ground before the Paladin’s furious attack. Tirion pushed the orc backward until it felt as if his sword arm would burst into flames. The orc managed to block and counter a number of the Paladin’s thrusts, but was thrown off-balance by an expertly placed strike. Tirion cut a gaping gash in the orc’s thigh, sending the brute stumbling into the dust. The old orc grunted loudly as it slammed down onto the packed dirt. Gripping its bloodied leg in pain, the orc attempted to rise again, clearly expecting Tirion to take advantage of its precarious position. To its obvious surprise, Tirion backed off and slowly motioned for it to rise. The orc blinked in astonishment.
Tirion was a Paladin—a Knight of the Silver Hand—and to him, butchering a fallen foe in the midst of single combat was unquestionably dishonorable. The holy code of his Order demanded that he give the orc a reprieve. He nodded to the orc in assurance, and once more motioned for him to rise. Gritting his sharp, yellowed teeth in pain, the orc slowly recovered his ax and got to his feet. They stood there for a moment, facing each other with eyes locked. The orc straightened slightly and raised his clenched fist to his heart. A salute, Tirion realized. Now it was Tirion’s turn to blink in disbelief. Certainly no savage orc had ever saluted him in battle before. He conceded that perhaps there was more to the fierce creature than he would have guessed. Nevertheless, it was his enemy. He nodded to the orc in understanding and raised his sword again.
This time it was the orc who surged forward. Unable to support its great weight upon its wounded leg, the orc was forced to lunge at the Paladin with short, violent leaps. Wielding its heavy ax with one hand, the mighty orc slashed wildly at Tirion. The Paladin was hard-pressed to evade the brute’s savage blows, and was forced back toward the tower’s entrance. Barely dodging a particularly brutal strike, Tirion crashed into the guardroom through the open doorway. Momentarily stunned, Tirion roared as the razor-sharp ax bit deep into his left arm. Fighting to keep his head clear from pain, he managed to slash at the orc’s exposed hand. The surprised orc howled in rage as his ax clattered upon the stone floor. Tirion moved in, hoping to end the duel as quickly as possible.
Instantly, the orc grabbed hold of a fallen beam and swung at the advancing Paladin.
Tirion backed up a pace as the orc swung the beam in a clumsy arc. The beam smashed into the brittle wall. Dust and loose rock rained down from the high ceiling. The remaining beams creaked and groaned as the tower’s walls shifted their weight. Tirion continued his attack, cutting the orc’s makeshift weapon to splinters with every fevered strike. Realizing the desperate nature of its situation, the orc dropped what was left of the beam and lunged straight at Tirion with its sinewy arms outstretched. Howling in fury, the massive orc reached out for Tirion’s throat. The Paladin managed to stab the orc once before the full weight of the creature’s body slammed into his. The two entangled combatants crashed into the weakened wall as the rickety ceiling finally gave way and collapsed down upon them.
Tirion woke to the sounds of creaking timber and clattering stone. He blinked as thick clouds of dust settled all around him. All else was black in the shattered guardroom. His body was numb, but he could feel a great pressure upon his chest. As the dust cleared, he could see that he was pinned under a large, split beam. His legs, too, were pinned beneath immense chunks of mortar. Frantically, he looked around for any sign of the orc. He would be defenseless if the creature decided to finish him off. Reaching down, he grabbed hold of the beam and heaved with all of his remaining strength. The beam toppled to the side and clattered against the rubble.
Pain immediately flooded Tirion’s body. His head swam as the open cut on his arm gushed his precious blood upon the floor. He attempted to lift himself up and felt an acute burst of pain as his broken ribs ground against one another. His right leg, too, felt like it might be broken beneath the heavy blocks of mortar. His battered body reeling from agony and exhaustion, Tirion felt as if he would black out. He could hear the remaining walls of the structure creaking and groaning. The whole tower was going to collapse. With consciousness rapidly slipping away, Tirion sensed a rustling behind him. Fighting to stay awake, Tirion barely turned to see the orc’s green, menacing hands reaching out for him. His gasp of terror was cut short as blackness overtook him.
Copyright ? 2000 by Blizzard Entertainment
You can order Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor—written by Chris Metzen—in Acrobat PDF Format (Windows PC Only) for only $ 4.00
World of Warcraft Storyline
Those who didn’t know, the main characters of this book are NPCs in World of Warcraft. The Paladin is the simple guy outside a cabin near the Thondroril river—northwest of Eastern Plaguelands, by the entrance to Terrorweb Tunnel. At the beginning, his name will not be evident unless you complete all his quests. Once you comple all his quests, he will reveal to you his true name … Tirion Fordring. The second NPC is named Eitrigg, former member of the Blackrock Clan, now an NPC next to Thrall at the Valley of Wisdom. This book also features Taelan Fordring, son of Tirion, lord Daelin Proudmoore, Archmage Antonidas and Archbishop Alonsus Faol.Warcraft: Of Blood of Honor is about this Alliance Paladin and the Orc. Enjoy the excerpt, and order the eBook at your leisure.
Warlord Goretooth: “By order of Warlord Goretooth, the following inhabitants of Blackrock Spire must be destroyed:
The rotund menace, Highlord Omokk.
The cruel and ruthless troll, War Master Voone.
Overlord Wyrmthalak, taskmaster of the lesser city.
You will also be required to return any important documents that you may find. Succeed and be honored. Fail and be forgotten.”
Warlord Goretooth: “Rend Lives? Impossible!
It had been thought that Rend was slain decades ago. Seek out the wisdom of Eitrigg. None know the workings of the Blackrock better than he and if what is written here bares truth, Eitrigg should be informed. No person should be denied the right of vengeance. You will find him in Orgrimmar. Once you have spoken with Eitrigg, confer with the Warchief to find out what he wishes to do about this problem.
For the Horde
Thrall: “Rend dares make such grand claims because of the protection he is afforded by the black flight. You, will find a way to pass through the Halls of Ascension. You will then find ‘Warchief’ Rend Blackhand and you will destroy him – FOR THE HORDE! The next time you return to my chambers, you will hold his head high in triumph and then you shall present it to your Warchief. Do this and be honored as a hero of the Horde.
Quests: Tirion Fordring
Storyline of the Scarlet Crusade and a New Order of the Silver Hand founded by Tirion in-game.
Blood Tinged Skies
Tirion Fordring: “Woe to those that foolishly wander into the Plaguelands. All manner of foulness inhabit these woods – from the fanatical Scarlet Crusade, who will kill any that do not bear the mark of the Crusade, to the murderous Scourge, who only look to bolster their numbers by adding more undead to their ranks.
Even the wildlife have been transformed into rapacious, man eating beasts. I ask that you destroy 20 of those that would strike from the skies: The Plaguebats.”
Tirion Fordring: “My food supplies are running low. I am ashamed to admit that I might not have enough food to share with you.
Could you assist an old man with a simple task? Around here, the only manner of beast unaffected by the ravages of the Plague are the Carrion worms. While rather bland in taste, the meat of the worms can easily be preserved to last for months. I will need several hundred pounds to restock for the coming winter!”
Tirion Fordring: “If you are going to remain here, I ask only that you earn your keep. We have many nuisances that could use some ‘discipline. You can start with the Plaguehounds and their runts.
I cannot offer much in return, but you are guaranteed a warm meal and some conversation should you succeed.—Slay 20 Plaguehound Runts, 5 Plaguehounds and 5 Frenzied Plaguehounds. Return to Tirion Fordring when the task is complete.”
Tirion Fordring: “You have worked hard, friend. Rest your weary bones and allow me to properly introduce myself.”
NOTE: When you find him originallly, his name is plain Tirion Fordring. Hereafter, his name plate/tag changes to Tirion Fordring (Order of the Silver Hand).
““Race does not dictate honor. While you remain on my farmstead, I ask that you remember and respect this credo. I have known orcs who have been as honorable as the most noble of knights and humans who have been as vile as the most ruthless of Scourge. But I shall not bore you with tales of my youth! There is much work to be done. IF that is what you desire.”
Of Forgotten Memories
Tirion Fordring: “To help Taelan regain what he has lost, you must gather items from his past. The first such item is a toy that I gave to him on his 7th birthday. It was his most cherished possession: A miniature war hammer; an exact replica of my very own. After I was banished for treason, his mother told him that I had died. He was taken to my false grave at the Undercroft, where he buried the hammer along with my memory – forever. You must venture to the Undercroft and recover Taelan’s hammer.”
NOTE: When you open the Loose Dirt Mound near Tirion Fordring’s grave behind the Undercroft, Mercutio Filthgorger and 3-5 Crypt Robbers will spawn and attack you. Mercutio drops the hammer you need. Engraved on the hammer is the text: “To my dear boy, Taelan, with love, Father”
Of Lost Honor
Tirion Fordring: “The Order of the Silver Hand was utterly decimated when Uther was slain. The boy held out for as long as he could. Pushed to the war torn hamlet of Northdale, he made his final stand. Were any of the Order left alive, he thought – and did it matter? It was with that thought that Taelan threw down the standard of the Order and renounced all that he had known. His honor left upon the blood soaked ground of Northdale. You must travel to Northdale and recover that symbol of lost honor.—Travel to Northdale, in the northeastern region of the Eastern Plaguelands, and recover the Symbol of Lost Honor. Return to Tirion Fordring upon completion of your objective.”
Of Love and Family
Tirion Fordring: “When Taelan was a child, we would often visit Caer Darrow on family excursions. On our last visit, an artist by the name of Renfray painted a portrait of us poised along the beachside. It is my fondest memory of both Taelan and Karandra. For it was at that moment, with my wife and son in my arms, that I felt a bond of love and family that I would never know again. If this painting still exists, you must find it. Travel to the ruined island of Caer Darrow and see if the painting or the artist remain.”
Tirion Fordring: “You have done all that I have asked thus far. Only one step remains in your quest of redemption. You must deliver the items you have collected to Taelan. Unfortunately, Taelan and his Scarlet Crusaders will attack you on sight. There is only one way in which to deliver my message and that is through a guise of deception. To the south you will find Uther’s tomb. An old and trusted confidant of mine, Myranda, now resides there – seek her out. Show her the items and she will assist you.”
Myranda: “I am what you would call, an illusionist. Though I may be able to create an illusion to allow you entry into Hearthglen, be warned; my powers have their limitations. Should you travel too far from these lands, the effects of the illusion will cease. The spell itself takes a great amount of concentration and power from me, and thus, I can only sustain the effect for a short time.—Speak to Myranda to gain the Scarlet Illusion. Travel to Hearthglen while under the Scarlet Illusion and deliver Tirion’s Gift to Highlord Taelan Fordring. Hearthglen is to the north, Taelan should be inside of Mardenholde Keep”
Highlord Taelan Fordring: “For so long, I have been a puppet of the Grand Crusader. What reason was there to fight against what the Scarlet Crusade had become? It has been decades, yet the memories of my father; those precious memories, they are what have kept me alive.I have dreams, stranger. In these dreams my father is with me. He stands proudly at my side as I am inducted into the Order. We battle legion of Scourge, side by side. We bring honor to the Alliance, to Lordaeron.I want not to dream anymore.Take me to him.”—Escort Taelan Fordring out of Hearthglen.
NOTE: Many Scarlet Crusade spawn to attack Taelan and you. High Protector Lorik shows up and kills Taelan. Suddenly, Tirion Fordring walks in and kills some Scarlets and kills High Inquisitor Isillien. Then Tirion kneels to grab his son Taelan’s corpse to sorrow his death.
Tirion Fordring: “A thousand more like him exist. Ten thousand. Should one fall, another will rise to take the seat of power.”
(Lord Tirion Fordring falls to one knee.)
“Look what they did to my boy.”
(Lord Tirion Fordring holds the limp body of Taelan Fordring and softly sobs.)
“Too long have I sat idle, gripped in this haze… this malaise, lamenting what could have been… what should have been.
Your death will have not been in vain, Taelan. A new Order is born on this day… an Order which will dedicate itself to extinguishing the evil that plagues this world. An evil that cannot hide behind politics and niceties.
This i promise… This i vow…”
NOTE: After this proclamation, we may assume from now on Tirion Fordring will take the mantle of Uther Lightbringer in founding a new Order of the Silver Hand. Note that the old Order crumbled when Arthas disbanded the Silver Hand and Uther from service at Andorhal in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos. Later, Arthas found Frostmourne in Northrend to avenge the death of his people by using the sword to kill Mal’ganis the Dreadlord. The sword drove Arthas to the brink of madness as it bound his soul to the Lich King. Transformed into a Deathknight, the Lich King sent Arthas to seek an Urn in possession of Uther Lightbringer in the forests of Andorhal. To Arthas’ surprise what the Lich King sent him to seek contained his own father King Terenas’ ashes—to be used in the resurrection of Kel’Thuzad later on. Arthas killed Uther the Lightbringer—leader of the Order of the Silver Hand. The Order mourned the loss of their great leader and the loss of Lordaeron made them bitter. The Old Order of the Silver Hand rechristened themselves as the Scarlet Crusade.
A Dreadlord named Balnazaar used this hatred to his favor jumpstarting the Order of the Silver Hand into zealots. His psychic manipulations posessing the leader of the Scarlet Crusade High General Abbendis made the Order of the Scarlet Crusade—former Silver Hand—kill Undead and Humans alike with no remorse. The Dreadlord Balnazaar used the Scarlet Crusade to pursue his vengeance against the Scourge, the Forsaken and the Alliance.
With the Old Order of the Silver Hand corrupted by Dreadlord Balnazaar, now Tirion Fordring pledged to start the foundation of a new Order of the Silver Hand as its leader.
Further info about the Scarlet Crusade and its leaders: Official Head— High General Abbendis(Tyr’s Hand) and Grand Inquisitor Isillien(Hearthglen) can be found at page 165-167 within Warcraft RPG: Lands of Conflict which reveals lengthy lore of what happened to the Order of the Knights of the Silver Hand after Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos between year 20(Fall of Lordaeron) and year 25(World of Warcraft begins).
|Written by Christie Golden with cover art by Blizzard’s Sam Didier.
The excerpt below is a duel between Thrall and Orgrim Doomhammer the Hermit
“I will not be here long,” said Thrall.
“Come spring, I will rejoin Grom Hellscream, and help his noble clan storm the camps and free our people.”
“Grom Hellscream,” sneered the stranger, waving his hand dismissively. “A demon-ridden dreamer. I have seen what the humans can do, and it is best to avoid them, believe me.”
“I was raised by humans, and believe me, they are not infallible!” cried Thrall. “Nor are you, I would think, you coward!”
“Thrall—” began Drek’Thar, speaking up at last.
“No, Master Drek’Thar, I will not be silent. This stranger comes seeking our aid, eats at our fire, and dares to insult the courage of our clan and his own race. I will not stand for it. I am not the chieftain, nor do I claim that right. But I will claim my right to fight this stranger, and make him eat his words sliced upon my sword!”
The strange Orc laughed heartily and rose. He was almost as big as Thrall, and now, to his astonishment, Thrall saw that he was completely clad in black plate armor, trimmed with brass. Uttering a fierce cry, the stranger opened his pack and pulled out the largest warhammer Thrall had ever seen. He held it aloft with seeming ease, then brandished it at Thrall.
“See if you can take me, whelp!”
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Our Interview with Christie Golden
|Written by Richard A. Knaak with cover art by Blizzard’s Samwise Didier.
“To free the Dragon Queen . . .
An impossible task to some, certain death to most. Dragonmaw clan would forever retain its hold on Khaz Modan unless Alexstrasza was freed, and so long as the orcs continued the work of the Horde, they remained a possible rallying point for those in the guarded enclaves.
A brief rumble of thunder disturbed Rhonin’s contemplations. He looked up but saw only a few cottony clouds.
A second, more menacing rumble set every muscle taut as a massive shadow covered their surroundings.
An ear-shattering roar shook the vicinity and a force akin to a tornado ripped at the landscape. Rhonin twisted around so as to see the heavens—and saw instead a hellish sight.
A dragon the color of raging fire filled the sky above and in its forepaws it held what remained of his horse and his costly and carefully chosen supplies. The crimson leviathan consumed in one gulp the rest of the carcass, eyes already fixed on the tiny, pathetic figures below.
And seated atop the shoulders of the beast, a grotesque, greenish figure with tusks and a battle axe barked orders in some harsh tongue and pointed directly at Rhonin.
Maw gaping and talons bared, the dragon dove toward him.”
Book available at our Blizzplanet Store
It had once seemed to some of the Kirin Tor, the magical conclave that ruled the small nation of Dalaran, that the world of Azeroth had never known anything but constant bloodshed. There had been the trolls, before the forming of the Alliance of Lordaeron, and when at last humanity had dealt with that foul menace, the first wave of orcs had descended upon the lands, appearing out of a horrific rip in the very fabric of the universe. At first, nothing had seemed able to stop these grotesque invaders, but gradually what had looked to be a horrible slaughter had turned instead into an agonizing stalemate. Battles had been won by attrition. Hundreds had died on both sides, all seemingly for no good reason. For years, the Kirin Tor had foreseen no end.
But that had finally changed. The Alliance had at last managed to push back the Horde, eventually routing them entirely. Even the orcs? great chieftain, the legendary Orgrim Doomhammer, had been unable to stem the advancing armies and had finally capitulated. With the exception of a few renegade clans, the surviving invaders had been rounded up into enclaves and kept under secure watch by military units led personally by members of the Knights of the Silver Hand. For the first time in many, many years, lasting peace looked to be a promise, not a faint wish.
And yet . . . a sense of unease still touched the senior council of the Kirin Tor. Thus it was that the highest of the high met in the Chamber of the Air, so-called because it seemed a room without walls, only a vast, ever-changing sky with clouds, light, and darkness, racing past the master wizards as if the time of the world had sped up. Only the gray, stone floor with its gleaming diamond symbol, representing the four elements, gave any solidity to the scene.
Certainly the wizards themselves did nothing in that regard, for they, clad in their dark cloaks that covered not only face but form, seemed to waver with the movements of the sky, almost as if they, too, were but illusion. Although their numbers included both men and women, the only sign of that was whenever one of them spoke, at which point a face would become partially visible, if somewhat indistinct in detail.
There were six this meeting, the six most senior, although not necessarily the most gifted. The leaders of the Kirin Tor were chosen by several means, magic but one of them.
?Something is happening in Khaz Modan,? announced the first in a stentorian voice, the vague image of a bearded face briefly visible. A myriad pattern of stars floated through his body. ?Near or in the caverns held by the Dragonmaw clan.?
?Tell us something we don?t already know,? rasped the second, a woman likely of elder years but still strong of will. A moon briefly shone through her cowl. ?The orcs there remain one of the few holdouts, now that Doomhammer?s warriors have surrendered and the chieftain?s gone missing.? The first mage clearly took some umbrage, but he kept himself calm as he replied. ?Very well! Perhaps this will interest you more. . . . I believe Deathwing is on the move again.?
This startled the rest, the elder woman included. Night suddenly changed into day, but the wizards ignored what, for them, was a common thing in this chamber. Clouds drifted past the head of the third of their number, who clearly did not believe this statement.
?Deathwing is dead!? the third declared, his form the only one hinting at corpulence. ?He plunged into the sea months ago after this very council and a gathering of our strongest struck the mortal blow! No dragon, even him, could withstand such might!?
Some of the others nodded, but the first went on. ?And where was the corpse? Deathwing was like no other dragon. Even before the goblins sealed the adamantium plates to his scaly hide, he offered a threat with the potential to dwarf that of the Horde. . . .?
?But what proof do you have of his continued existence?? This from a young woman clearly in the bloom of youth. Not as experienced as the others, but still powerful enough to be one of the council. ?What??
?The death of two red dragons, two of Alexstrasza?s get. Torn asunder in a manner only one of their own kind?one of gargantuan proportions?could have managed.?
?There are other large dragons.?
A storm began to rage, the lightning and rain falling upon the wizards and yet touching neither them nor the floor. The storm passed in the blink of an eye, a blazing sun once more appearing overhead. The first of the Kirin Tor gave this latest display not even the least of his interest. ?You have obviously never seen the work of Deathwing, or you?d never make that statement.?
?It may be as you say,? interjected the fifth, the outline of a vaguely elven visage appearing and disappearing faster than the storm. ?And, if so, a matter of import. But we hardly can concern ourselves with it for now. If Deathwing lives and now strikes out at his greatest rival?s kind, then it only benefits us. After all, Alexstrasza is still the captive of Dragonmaw clan, and it is her offspring that those orcs have used for years to wreak bloodshed and havoc all over the Alliance. Have we all so soon forgotten the tragedy of the Third Fleet of Kul Tiras? I suspect that Lord Admiral Daelin Proudmoore never will. After all, he lost his eldest son and everyone else aboard those six great ships when the monstrous red leviathans fell upon them. Proudmoore would likely honor Deathwing with a medal if it proved true that the black beast was responsible for these two deaths.?
No one argued that point, not even the first mage. Of the mighty vessels, only splinters of wood and a few torn corpses had been left to mark the utter destruction. It had been to Lord Admiral Proudmoore?s credit that he had not faltered in his resolve, immediately ordering the building of new warships to replace those destroyed and pushing on with the war.
?And, as I stated earlier, we can hardly concern ourselves with that situation now, not with so many more immediate issues with which to deal.?
?Because now Gilneas has thrown its weight into the situation.?
Again the other mages stirred, even the unspeaking sixth. The slightly corpulent shade moved a step toward the elven form. ?Of what interest is the bickering of the other two kingdoms over that sorry piece of land to Genn Greymane? Gilneas is at the tip of the southern peninsula, as far away in the Alliance as any other kingdom is from Alterac!?
?You have to ask? Greymane has always sought the leadership of the Alliance, even though he held back his armies until the orcs finally attacked his own borders. The only reason he ever encouraged King Terenas of Lordaeron to action was to weaken Lordaeron?s military might. Now Terenas maintains his hold on the Alliance leadership mostly because of our work and Admiral Proudmoore?s open support.?
Alterac and Stromgarde were neighboring kingdoms that had been at odds since the first days of the war. Thoras Trollbane had thrown the full might of Stromgarde behind the Lordaeron Alliance. With Khaz Modan as its neighbor, it had only made sense for the mountainous kingdom to support a united action. None could argue with the determination of Trollbane?s warriors, either. If not for them, the orcs would have overrun much of the Alliance during the first weeks of the war, certainly promising a different and highly grim outcome overall.
Alterac, on the other hand, while speaking much of the courage and righteousness of the cause, had not been so forthcoming with its own troops. Like Gilneas, it had provided only token support; but, where Genn Grey-mane had held back out of ambition, Lord Perenolde, so it had been rumored, had done so because of fear. Even
among the Kirin Tor it had early on been asked whether Perenolde had thought to perhaps m
That fear had proven to have merit. Perenolde had indeed betrayed the Alliance, but his dastardly act had, fortunately, been short-lived. Terenas, hearing of it, had quickly moved Lordaeron troops in and declared martial law in Alterac. With the war in progress, no one had, at the time, seen fit to complain over such an action, especially Stromgarde. Now that peace had come, Thoras Trollbane had begun to demand that, for its sacrifices, Stromgarde should receive as just due the entire eastern portion of its treacherous former neighbor.
Terenas did not see it so. He still debated the merits of either annexing Alterac to his own kingdom or setting upon its throne a new and more reasonable monarch . . . presumably with a sympathetic ear for Lordaeron causes. Still, Stromgarde had been a loyal, steadfast ally in the struggle, and all knew of Thoras Trollbane?s and Terenas?s admiration for one another. It made the political situation that had come between the pair all the more sad.
?This will tear the Alliance apart. . . .? muttered the young mage with the accent.
?It has not come to that point yet,? pointed out the elven wizard, ?but it may soon. And so we have no time to deal with dragons. If Deathwing lives and has chosen to renew his vendetta against Alexstrasza, I, for one, will not oppose him. The fewer dragons in this world the better. Their day is done, after all.?
?I have heard,? came a voice with no inflection, no identifiable gender, ?that once the elves and dragons were allies, even respected friends.?
The elven form turned to the last of the mages, a slim, lanky shape little more than shadow. ?Tales only, I can assure you. We would not deign to traffic with such monstrous beasts.?
Clouds and sun gave way to stars and moon. The sixth mage bowed slightly, as if in apology. ?I appear to have heard wrong. My mistake.?
?You?re right about the importance of calming this political situation down,? the bearded wizard rumbled to the fifth. ?And I agree it must take priority. Still, we can?t afford to ignore what is happening around Khaz Modan! Whether or not I?m wrong about Deathwing, so long as the orcs there hold the Dragonqueen captive, they?re a threat to the stability of the land!?
?We need an observer, then,? interjected the elder female. ?Someone to maintain watch on matters and only alert us if the situation there becomes critical.?
?But who? We can spare no one now!?
?There is one.? The sixth mage glided a step forward. The face remained in shadow even when the figure spoke. ?There is Rhonin. . . .?
?Rhonin?!?? burst out the bearded mage. ?Rhonin! After his last debacle? He isn?t even fit to wear the robes of a wizard! He?s more of a danger than a hope!?
?He?s unstable,? agreed the elder woman.
?A maverick,? muttered the corpulent one.
?Untrustworthy . . .?
The sixth waited until all had spoken, then slowly nodded. ?And the only skilled wizard we can afford to be without at this juncture. Besides, this is simply a mission of observance. He will be nowhere near any potential crisis. His duty will be to monitor matters and report back, that is all.? When no more protests arose, the dark mage added, ?I am certain that he has learned his lesson.?
?Let us hope so,? muttered the older of the women. ?He may have accomplished his last mission, but it cost most of his companions their lives!?
?This time, he will go alone, with only a guide to bring him to the edge of Alliance-controlled lands. He shall not even enter Khaz Modan. A sphere of seeing will enable him to watch from a distance.?
The elven figure nodded brusquely. ?Then let us agree on this and be done with the topic. Perhaps if we are fortunate, Deathwing will swallow Rhonin, then choke to death, thus finishing forever the matters of both.? He surveyed the others, then added, ?And now I must demand that we finally concentrate on Gilneas?s entry into the Alterac situation and what role we may play to diffuse it. . . .?
He stood as he had for the past two hours, head down, eyes closed in concentration. Around him, only a dim light with no source gave any illumination to the chamber, not that there was much to see. A chair he had left unused stood to the side, and behind him on the thick, stone wall hung a tapestry upon which had been sewn an intricate, knowing eye of gold on a field of violet. Below the eye, three daggers, also gold, darted earthward. The flag and symbols of Dalaran had stood tall in their guardianship of the Alliance during the war, even if not every member of the Kirin Tor had performed their duties with complete honor.
?Rhonin . . .? came a voice without inflection, from everywhere and nowhere in the chamber.
From under thick, fiery hair, he looked up into the darkness with eyes a startling green. His nose had been broken once by a fellow apprentice, but despite his skills, Rhonin had never bothered to have it fixed. Still, he was not unhandsome, with a strong, clean jaw and angular features. One permanently arched brow ever gave him a sardonic, questioning look that had more than once gotten him in trouble with his masters, and matters were not helped by his attitude, which matched his expression.
Tall, slim, and clad in an elegant robe of midnight blue, he made for quite a sight, even to other wizards. Rhonin hardly appeared recalcitrant, even though his last mission had cost the lives of five good men. He stood straight and eyed the murk, waiting to see from which direction the other wizard would speak to him.
?You summoned. I?ve waited,? the crimson-tressed spellcaster whispered, not without some impatience.
?It could not be helped. I myself had to wait until the matter was brought up by someone else.? A tall cloaked and hooded figure half-emerged from the gloom?the sixth member of the Kirin Tor inner council. ?It was.?
For the first time, some eagerness shone in the eyes of Rhonin. ?And my penance? Is my probation over??
?Yes. You have been granted your return to our ranks . . . under the provision that you accede to taking on a task of import immediately.?
?They?ve that much faith left in me?? Bitterness returned to the young mage?s voice. ?After the others died??
?You are the only one they have left.?
?That sounds more realistic. I should?ve known.?
?Take these.? The shadowy wizard held out a slim, gloved hand, palm up. Above the hand there suddenly flashed into existence two glittering objects?a tiny sphere of emerald and a ring of gold with a single black jewel.
?You are astute, which is why I took up your cause in the first place, Rhonin. The sphere?s purpose you know; the ring will se
rve as protection. You go into a realm where orc warlocks still exist. This ring will help shield you from their own devices of detection. Reg
?So I?ll be on my own.? Rhonin gave his sponsor a sardonic smile. ?Less chance of me causing any extra deaths, anyway. . . .?
?In that regard, you will not be alone, at least as far as the journey to the port. A ranger will escort you.?
Rhonin nodded, although he clearly did not care for any escort, especially a ranger. Rhonin and elves did not get along well together. ?You?ve not told me my mission.?
The shadowed wizard propped back, as if sitting in an immense chair the younger spellcaster could not see. Gloved hands steepled as the figure seemed to consider the proper choice of words. ?They have not been easy on you, Rhonin. Some in the council even considered forever dismissing you from our ranks. You must earn your way back, and to do that, you will have to fulfill this mission to the letter.?
?You make it sound like no easy task.?
?It involves dragons . . . and something they believe only one of your aptitude can manage to accomplish.?
?Dragons . . .? Rhonin?s eyes had widened at first mention of the leviathans and, despite his tendency toward arrogance at most times, he knew he sounded more like an apprentice at the moment.
Dragons . . . Simply the mention of them instilled awe in most younger mages.
?Yes, dragons.? His sponsor leaned forward. ?Make no mistake about this, Rhonin. No one else must know of this mission outside of the council and yourself. Not even the ranger who guides you nor the captain of the Alliance ship who drops you on the shores of Khaz Modan. If word got out what we hope from you, it could set all the plans in jeopardy.?
?But what is it?? Rhonin?s green eyes flared bright. This would be a quest of tremendous danger, but the rewards were clear enough. A return to the ranks and obvious added prestige to his reputation. Nothing advanced a wizard in the Kirin Tor quicker than reputation, although none of the senior council would have ever admitted to that base fact.
?You are to go to Khaz Modan,? the other said with some hesitation, ?and, once there, set into motion the steps necessary to free from her orc captors the Dragonqueen, Alexstrasza. . . .?
You’ve just read Chapter One of Warcraft: Day of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak. But the full novel at Blizzplanet Store Here.