Since the beginning of time, the angelic forces of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells have been locked in an eternal conflict for the fate of all Creation. That struggle has now spilled over into Sanctuary—the world of men. Determined to win mankind over to their respective causes, the forces of good and evil wage a secret war for mortal souls. This is the tale of the Sin War—the conflict that would forever change the destiny of man.
Three thousand years before the darkening of Tristram, Uldyssian, son of Diomedes, was a simple farmer from the village of Seram. Content with his quiet, idyllic life, Uldyssian is shocked as dark events rapidly unfold around him. Mistakenly blamed for the grisly murders of two traveling missionaries, Uldyssian is forced to flee his homeland and set out on a perilous quest to redeem his good name. To his horror, he has begun to manifest strange new powers—powers no mortal man has ever dreamed of. Now, Uldyssian must grapple with the energies building within him—lest they consume the last vestiges of his humanity.
Order this book at the Blizzplanet Store
Chapter One Excerpt
The shadow fell across Uldyssian ul-Diomed’s table, enveloping not only much of it, but also his hand and his as-of-yet-undrunk ale. The sandy-haired farmer did not have to look up to know who interrupted his brief respite from his day’s labors. He had heard the newcomer speaking to others in the Boar’s Head—the only tavern in the remote village of Seram—heard him speaking and prayed silently but vehemently that he would not come to Uldyssian’s table.
It was ironic that the son of Diomedes prayed for the stranger to keep away, for what stood waiting for Uldyssian to look up was none other than a missionary from the Cathedral of Light. Resplendent in his collared silver-white robes—resplendent save for the ring of Seramian mud at the bottom—he no doubt awed many a fellow villager of Uldyssian’s. However, his presence did nothing but dredge up terrible memories for the farmer, who now angrily fought to keep his stare fixed on the mug.
“Have you seen the Light, my brother?” the figure finally asked when it was clear that his potential convert planned to continue to ignore him. “Has the Word of the great Prophet touched your soul?”
“Find someone else,” Uldyssian muttered, his free hand involuntarily tightening into a fist. He finally took a gulp of his ale, hoping that his remark would end the unwanted conversation. However, the missionary was not to be put off.
Setting a hand on the farmer’s forearm—and thereby keeping the ale from again touching Uldyssian’s lips—the pale young man said, “If not yourself alone, think of your loved ones! Would you forsake their souls as—“
The farmer roared, his face red with a rage no longer held in check. In a single motion, Uldyssian leapt up and seized the startled missionary by the collar. As the table tipped over, the ale fell and splattered on the planked floor, unnoticed by its former drinker. Around the room, other patrons, including a few rare travelers passing through, eyed the confrontation with concern and interest . . . and from experience chose to keep out of it. Some of the locals, who knew the son of Diomedes well, shook their heads or muttered to one another at the newcomer’s poor choice of subjects.
The missionary was a hand taller than Uldyssian, no small man himself at just over six feet, but the broadshouldered farmer outweighed him by half again as much and all of that muscle from day after day of tilling the soil or seeing to the animals. Uldyssian was a square-jawed man with the bearded, rough-hewn features typical of the region west of the great city-state of Kehjan, the “jewel” of the eastern half of the world. Deep-brown eyes burned into the more pale ones of the gaunt—and surprisingly young—features of the Cathedral’s proselytizer.
“The souls of most of my family are beyond the Prophet’s gathering, brother! They died nearly ten years ago, all to plague!”
“I shall s-say a prayer for . . . for them—“
His words only served to infuriate Uldyssian, who had himself prayed for his parents, his elder brother, and his two sisters constantly over the months through which they had suffered. Day and night—often with no sleep in between—he had first prayed to whatever power watched over them that they recover, then, when that no longer seemed a hope, that their deaths would be swift and painless.
And that prayer, too, had gone unanswered. Uldyssian, distraught and helpless, had watched as, one by one, they died in anguish. Only he and his youngest brother, Mendeln, had survived to bury the rest.
Even then there had been missionaries and even then they had talked of the souls of his family and how their particular sects had the answers to everything. To a one, they had promised Uldyssian that, if he followed their particular path, he would find peace over his loved ones’ losses.
But Uldyssian, once a devout believer, had very vocally denounced each and every one of them. Their words rang hollow and his refusals seemed later justified when the missionaries’ sects faded away as surely as each season on the farm.
But not all. The Cathedral of Light, though only of recent origin, seemed far stronger than most of its predecessors. Indeed, it and the longer-established Temple of the Triune seemed to be quickly becoming the two dominant forces seeking the souls of Kehjan’s people. To Uldyssian, the fervent enthusiasm with which both sought out new converts bordered on a strenuous competition much in conflict with their spiritual messages.
And that was yet another reason Uldyssian would have no part of either.
“Pray for yourself, not for me and mine,” he growled. The missionary’s eyes bulged as Uldyssian easily hefted him by the collar off the floor.
The squat, balding figure behind the counter slipped out to intervene. Tibion was several years senior and no match against Uldyssian, but he had been Diomedes’s good friend and so his words had effect on the furious farmer. “Uldyssian! Mind my establishment if’n you can’t mind yourself, eh?”
Uldyssian hesitated, the proprietor’s words cutting through his anguish. His gaze swept from the pale face before him to Tibion’s round one, then back again.
A frustrated scowl still on his face, he let the figure in his grip drop in an undignified heap on the floor.
“Uldyssian—” Tibion started.
But the son of Diomedes did not wait to hear the rest. Hands shaking, he strode out of the Boar’s Head, his heavy, worn leather boots clattering hard on the well-trod planks. Outside, the air was crisp, which helped soothe Uldyssian some. Almost immediately, he began to regret his actions within. Not the reasons for them, but that he had acted so before many of those who knew him . . . and not for the first time.
Still, the presence of the Cathedral’s acolyte in Seram grated on his heart. Uldyssian was now a man who only believed in what his eyes showed him and what his hands could touch. He could see the changes in the sky and so tell when he needed to rush his work in the field or whether time enough remained to complete his task at a more moderate pace. The crops his work brought forth from the soil fed him and others. These were things he could trust, not the muttered praying of clerics and missionaries that had done nothing for his family but give them false hope.
Seram was a village of some two hundred folk, small by many standards, of reasonable size by others. Uldyssian could have paced its length in as many breaths, if that much. His farm lay two miles to the north of Seram. Once a week, Uldyssian went into the village to get what supplies he needed, always allowing himself the short break for food and drink at the tavern. His meal he had eaten and his ale was lost, which left only his tasks to complete before he departed again.
In addition to the tavern, which also acted as an inn, there were only four other buildings of consequence in Seram—the meeting house, the trading station, the village Guard quarters, and the smithy. All shared the same general design as the rest of the structures of Seram, with the roofs pointed and thatched, and the bodies wooden planks over a frame whose base was built of several layers of stone and clay. As was typical in most areas under the influence of Kehjan, the windows of each were arched sharply at the top and always numbered three on a side. In truth, from a distance it was impossible to tell one building from another.
Mud caked his boots as he walked, Seram too provincial to have paved streets or even stone ones. There was a small, dry path to the opposite side from where Uldyssian trod, but at the moment, he had no patience for it and, besides, as a farmer, he was used to being one with the soil.
At the eastern edge of Seram—and thus nearest to Kehjan—stood the trading station. The station was, other than the tavern, the busiest of places in Seram. Here it was that locals brought in their goods to trade for other necessities or to even sell to passing merchants. When there were new items in stock, a blue banner would be raised by the doorway up front, and as he approached, Uldyssian saw Cyrus’s night-tressed daughter, Serenthia, doing just that. Cyrus and his family had run the trading station for four generations and were among the most prominent of families in the village, although they dressed no more fancy than anyone else. The trader did not look down on his customers, who were also, for the most part, his neighbors. Serenthia, for example, was clad in a simple cloth dress of brown, cut modestly at the bodice and whose bottom hem ended just above the ankle. Like most villagers, she wore sensible boots designed for both riding and walking through the muddy ruts in the main street.
“Something of interest?” he called to Serenthia, trying to focus on other matters in order to forget both the incident and the images from the past it had conjured up.
Cyrus’s daughter turned at the sound of his voice, her thick, long hair fluttering about. With her bright blue eyes, ivory skin, and naturally red lips, Uldyssian felt certain that all she needed was a proper gown to allow her to compete with the best of the blue-blood females in Kehjan itself. The unadorned dress did not hide her curves, nor did it detract in any way from the graceful manner in which she somehow moved regardless of the terrain.
“Uldyssian! Have you been here all day?”
There was that in her tone that all but made the farmer grimace. Serenthia was more than a decade younger than him and he had seen her grow up from a child to a woman. To him, she was nearly one of the sisters that he had lost. However, to her, Uldyssian evidently seemed much more. She had turned down the attentions of younger and more affluent farmers than him, not to mention the flirtations of several visiting merchants. The only other man in whom she showed any interest was Achilios, Uldyssian’s good friend and the best hunter in Seram, but whether that was because of his ties to the farmer, it was difficult to say.
“I arrived just past the first hour of day,” he replied. As he neared, he caught glimpses of at least three wagons behind Cyrus’s establishment. “A fair-sized caravan for Seram. What goes on?”
She finished hoisting up the banner, then tethered the rope. Gazing over her shoulder at the wagons, Serenthia said, “They got lost, actually. They were bound for passage through Tulisam.”
Tulisam was the next nearest habitation, a town at least five times as great as Seram. It was also more on the route from Kehjan proper to the sea, where the master ports were.
Uldyssian grunted. “The handler must be a novice.”
“Well, whatever the cause, they’ve decided to trade some. Father’s trying to hide his excitement. They’ve got some beautiful things, Uldyssian!”
To the son of Diomedes, beautiful things generally consisted of strong, sturdy tools or a newborn calf that had its health. He started to speak, then noticed someone walking by the wagons.
She was dressed akin to a noble of one of the Houses that sought to fill the gap of leadership caused by the recent infighting between the ruling mage clans. Her lush golden hair was bound up behind her head with a silver band, allowing full view of the regal, ivory face. Glittering green eyes surveyed her surroundings. Slim, perfect lips parted as the woman, the shoulders of her flowing emerald gown covered by a fur, viewed the landscape to the east of Seram. The bodice of the gown was cinched tight and although her clothing was the epitome of the ruling castes, it left no doubt that she was very much female.
Just as the arresting figure began to glance in Uldyssian’s direction, Serenthia abruptly took him by the arm. “You should come inside and see for yourself, Uldyssian.”
As she steered him toward the twin wooden doors, the farmer took a quick look back, but of the noblewoman he saw no sign. Had he not known himself to be incapable of such elaborate fancies, Uldyssian would have almost believed her to be a product of his imagination.
Serenthia all but pulled him inside, Cyrus’s daughter shutting the doors behind them particularly hard. Inside, her father glanced up from a conversation with a cowled merchant. The two older men appeared to be haggling over a bundle of what the farmer thought rather luxurious purple cloth.
“Aah! Good Uldyssian!” The trader prefaced everyone’s name save those of his family with the word, something that always made Uldyssian smile. Cyrus did not even seem to notice that he did it. “How fare you and your brother?”
“We . . . we’re fine, Master Cyrus.”
“Good, good.” And with that, the trader went back to his business. With but a ring of silvering hair around his otherwise clean pate and his scholarly eyes, Cyrus looked more like a cleric to the farmer than any of those wearing such robes. In fact, Uldyssian had heard far more sensible words from the man. He respected Cyrus greatly, in part because of how the trader, more educated than most in Seram, had taken Mendeln under his wing.
Thinking of his brother, who spent more time in this very building than he did at the farm, Uldyssian glanced around. Although Mendeln would have been clad in garments akin to his brother’s—cloth tunic, kilt, and boots—and resembled his brother somewhat in the eyes and broad nose, one look at him by anyone would raise the question of whether he was actually a farmer. In truth, although he did help out at the farm, working the land was clearly not Mendeln’s calling. He was always interested in studying things, be they bugs burrowing in the ground or words in some parchment loaned him by Cyrus.
Uldyssian could read and write, too, and was proud of that achievement, but he saw only the practical aspects of such a thing. There were times when pacts had to be made that required writing things down and then making certain that they said what they were supposed to. That, the older brother understood. Simply reading for reading’s sake or studying merely to learn something of no use in their daily tasks . . . such a desire evaded Uldyssian.
He did not see his brother, who had this time ridden in with him, but something else caught his attention, a sight that brought back to him fully and painfully the memory of what had happened in the Boar’s Head. At first glimpse, he thought the figure a companion of the missionary he had accosted, but then, as the young woman turned more in his direction, the farmer saw that she wore an entirely different set of robes. These were of a deep azure and had upon the breast a golden, stylized ram with great curled horns. Below the ram was an iridescent triangle whose tip jutted up just below the animal’s hooves.
Her hair had been shorn to shoulder length and the face that the tresses framed was round, full of youth, and highly attractive. Yet there was, in Uldyssian’s mind, something missing that removed for him any desire for her. It was as if she was an empty shell, not a whole person.
He had seen her like before. Zealous, an absolute believer in her faith. He had also seen the robes before, and the fact that she was alone made him suddenly eye the room with dread. They never traveled alone, always in threes. One for each of their order . . .
Serenthia was trying to show him some feminine bauble, but Uldyssian heard only her voice, not her words. He considered trying to back out of the chamber.
Then another figure joined the first, this one a middle-aged man of strong bearing and patrician features who, with his cleft chin and strong brow, would have appealed to the fairer sex as much as the girl would have the males. He wore a tight-collared golden robe that also bore the triangle, but this time above it was a green leaf.
The third of their band was nowhere to be seen, but Uldyssian knew that he or she could not be far away. The servants of the Temple of the Triune did not stay separated long. While a missionary from the Cathedral often worked alone, the Triune’s acolytes acted in concert with one another. They preached the way of the Three, the guiding spirits—Bala, Dialon, and Mefis—who supposedly watched over a mortal like loving parents or kindly teachers. Dialon was the spirit of Determination, hence the stubborn ram. Bala stood for Creation, represented by the leaf. Mefis, whose servant was missing, was Love. The acolytes of that order bore upon their breast a red circle, the common Kehjan emblem for the heart.
Having heard the preachings of all three orders before and not wanting to risk a repeat of the debacle in the tavern, Uldyssian tried to shift into the shadows. Serenthia had finally realized that Uldyssian no longer listened to her. She put her hands on her hips and gave him the stare that, when she had been a child, had made him give in to her way.
“Uldyssian! I thought you wanted to see—“
He cut her off. “Serry, I’ve got to be going. Did your brothers gather what I asked for earlier?”
She pursed her lips as she thought. Uldyssian eyed the two missionaries, who seemed engrossed in some conversation. Both looked oddly disoriented, as if something had not gone as they had assumed it would.
“Thiel said nothing to me or else I’d have known you were in Seram before. Let me go find him and ask.”
“I’ll come with you.” Anything to avoid the dogs of the Triune. The Temple had been established some years before the Cathedral, but now the two appeared more or less even in their influence. It was said that the High Magistrate of Kehjan was now a convert of the former, while the Lord General of the Kehjan Guard was rumored to be a member of the latter. The disarray within the mage clans—often bordering on war of late—had turned many to the comfort of one message or another.
But before Serenthia could lead them into the back, Cyrus called for his daughter. She gave Uldyssian an apologetic look.
“Wait here. I won’t be long.”
“I’ll go look for Thiel myself,” he suggested.
Serenthia must have caught his quick glance at the missionaries. Her expression grew reproving. “Uldyssian, not again.”
“Uldyssian, those people are messengers of holy orders! They mean you no harm! If you would just open yourself up to hearing them! I’m not suggesting you join one or the other, but the messages both preach are worthy of your attention.”
She had reprimanded him like this before, just after he had stood up in the tavern after the last visit by missionaries from the Triune and gone on at length about the lack of need for any of their ilk in the lives of the common folk. Did the acolytes offer to help shear the sheep or bring in the crops? Did they help wash the mud-soaked clothes or lend their hands fixing the fences? No. Uldyssian had pointed out then, as he had on other occasions, that all they came to do was whisper in the ears of people that their sect was better than the other sect. This to people who barely understood the concept of angels and demons, much less believed in them.
“They can say all the pretty words they want, Serry, but all I see is them contesting against one another, with how many fools they can brand as their own as what decides the winner.”
“Serenthia!” Cyrus called again. “Come here, lass!”
“Father needs me,” she said with a rueful look. “I’ll be right back. Please, Uldyssian, behave yourself.”
The farmer watched her hurry off, then tried to fix his attention on some of the items for sale or barter in the station. There were tools of all sorts that could be useful on the farm, including hoes, shovels, and a variety of hammers. Uldyssian ran his finger over the edge of a new iron sickle. The craftsmanship was the best available in a place such as Seram, although he had heard that in some estate farms near Kehjan proper a few lords had their workers wielding ones tipped with steel. Such a concept had far more impact on Uldyssian than any words concerning spirits or souls.
Then someone quickly strode past him, heading into the back. He had a glimpse of golden hair bound up and a hint of a smile that the son of Diomedes could have sworn was directed toward him.
Without at first realizing it, Uldyssian followed. The noblewoman vanished through the back door as if the station were her own home.
He slipped through a moment later . . . and at first saw no sign of her. What he did see was that his wagon was indeed full. There was no sign of Thiel, but that was not uncommon. Serenthia’s eldest brother was likely assisting with some other labor.
Having already dealt with the matter of payment, Uldyssian headed toward the wagon. However, as he neared, he suddenly saw a flash of green by the horse.
It was her. The noblewoman stood on the other side of the animal, murmuring something to it while she caressed the muzzle with one slender hand. Uldyssian’s horse appeared mesmerized by her, standing as motionless as a statue. The old male was an ornery beast and only those who knew him well could approach him without the danger of a bite. That this woman could do so spoke volumes about her to the farmer.
She noticed him in turn. A smile lit up her face. To Uldyssian, her eyes seemed to glow.
“Forgive me . . . is this your horse?”
“It is, my lady . . . and you’re lucky still to have more than one hand. He likes to bite.”
She caressed the muzzle again. The beast continued to stand still. “Oh, he wouldn’t bite me.” The woman leaned her face close to the muzzle. “Would you?”
Uldyssian half-started toward her, suddenly fearful that she would be proven wrong. However, again, nothing happened.
“I once owned a horse that looked very much like him,” she continued. “I miss him so.”
Suddenly recalling where they were, Uldyssian said, “Mistress, you shouldn’t be here. You should stay with the caravan.” Sometimes, travelers journeyed with merchants in order to make use of the protection of the latter’s guards. Uldyssian could only assume that this was the case with her, although so far it seemed that she was without any escort. Even with the protection of the caravan, a young woman traveling alone risked danger. “You don’t want to be left behind.”
“But I am not going with the caravan,” the noblewoman murmured. “I am not going anywhere at all.”
He could not believe that he had heard her correctly. “My lady, you must be joking! There’s nothing for you in a place like Seram . . .”
“There’s nothing for me in any other place . . . why not Seram, then?” Her mouth curled up in a hesitant smile. “And you need not keep calling me ‘my lady’ or ‘mistress.’ You may call me Lylia . . .”
Uldyssian opened his mouth to answer, only to hear the door swing open behind him and Serenthia’s voice call, “There you are! Did you find Thiel?”
He looked over his shoulder at her. “No, but everything’s here, Serry.”
His horse suddenly snorted, then shied from him. Grabbing the bit, Uldyssian did his best to calm the cantankerous beast. The horse’s eyes were wide and his nostrils flared; to his master he seemed startled or frightened. That made little sense, for the creature liked Serenthia more than he did Uldyssian. As for the noblewoman, she—
She was nowhere to be seen. Uldyssian surreptitiously surveyed the area, wondering how she could have possibly slipped away so quickly and without a sound. He had a fair view for some distance, but all he saw were a few other wagons. Unless she had climbed into one of the covered ones, the farmer could not possibly fathom what had happened to her.
Serenthia walked up to him, mildly curious at his behavior. “What are you looking for? Is something you needed missing, after all?”
He recovered enough to answer, “No . . . as I said, it’s all here.”
A familiar—and undesired—shape slipped through the doorway. The missionary glanced around as if searching for something or someone in particular.
“Yes, Brother Atilus?” asked Serenthia.
“I seek our Brother Caligio. Is he not in here?”
“No, brother, there’s only the two of us.”
Brother Atilus eyed Uldyssian without the usual religious fervor the farmer was accustomed to seeing from his ilk. Instead, the missionary’s gaze held a hint of what seemed . . . suspicion?
Bowing his head to Serenthia, Atilus withdrew. Cyrus’s daughter turned her attention back to Uldyssian. “Do you have to leave so soon? I know you feel uncomfortable around Brother Atilus and the others, but . . . couldn’t you stay and visit with me a bit longer?”
For reasons that he could not explain, Uldyssian felt unsettled. “No . . . no, I’ve got to head back. Speaking of looking for someone, have you seen Mendeln? I expected him to be with your father.”
“Oh, I should’ve told you! Achilios stopped by just a short time earlier. He had something he wanted to show to Mendeln and the two of them headed off for the western forest.”
Uldyssian grunted. Mendeln had promised that he would be ready at the proper time to ride home with him. Generally, his brother was very good about keeping his word, but Achilios must have come across something unusual. Mendeln’s greatest weakness was his incessant curiosity, something the hunter should have known better than to encourage. Once started on one of his studies, the younger son of Diomedes lost all track of time.
But although Uldyssian would not leave without his one remaining sibling, he did not want to be anywhere near the Triune’s followers. “I can’t stay. I’ll lead the wagon out to the forest and hope that I find them. Should Mendeln somehow return here without me seeing him—“
“I’ll tell him where you wait, yes.” Serenthia did not attempt to hide her disappointment.
Feeling uncomfortable for a more normal reason, the farmer gave her a brief—and merely friendly—hug, and climbed aboard. Cyrus’s daughter stepped back as he urged the old horse on.
He looked back in her direction as the wagon moved and the intensity of his expression made Serenthia’s own countenance light up. Uldyssian paid her reaction no mind, for his thoughts were not on the trader’s raven-haired daughter.
No, the face that had burned itself into his thoughts was that of another, one whose tresses were golden.
And one whose caste was far, far above that of a simple farmer.
Copyright ? 2006 by Blizzard Entertainment
Since the beginning of time, the angelic forces of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells have been locked in the Eternal Conflict for the fate of all Creation. That struggle has now spilled over into Sanctuary—the world of men. Determined to win mankind over to their respective causes, the forces of good and evil wage a secret war for mortal souls. This is the tale of the Sin War—the conflict that would forever change the destiny of man.
Bent on destroying the evil cult of the Triune, Uldyssian does not yet suspect that Inarius—secret Prophet of the Cathedral of Light—has been subtly aiding his quest. Obsessed with restoring Sanctuary to its former glory, Inarius has been playing Uldyssian against the two great religions in a reckless attempt to topple them both. But another player has slipped back into the equation. The demon Lilith, once Inarius’s lover, seeks to use Uldyssian as her own pawn in a scheme to turn humans into an army of naphalem—godlike beings, more powerful than any angel or demon, who could overturn all Creation and elevate Lilith to supreme being.
An original tale of swords, sorcery, and timeless struggle based on the bestselling, award-winning M-rated computer game from Blizzard Entertainment. Intended for mature readers.
Order this book at our Blizzplanet Store
This Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Pocket Star, May 2007
Availability: Ships on or around March 27
Since the beginning of time, the angelic forces of the High Heavens and the demonic hordes of the Burning Hells have been locked in the Eternal Conflict for the fate of all Creation. That struggle has now spilled over into Sanctuary—the world of men. Determined to win mankind over to their respective causes, the forces of good and evil wage a secret war for mortal souls. This is the tale of the Sin War—the conflict that would forever change the destiny of man.
The demon-backed Triune has fallen. All that now stands in Uldyssian’s path to freeing humanity is the Cathedral of Light and its charismatic leader the Prophet. But the Prophet is actually the renegade angel Inarius, who sees the world he created as his uncontested domain. Facing a cunning foe that would just as readily see Sanctuary destroyed than let it slip from his grasp, Uldyssian is blind to the others who would possess his world. Both the Burning Hells and the High Heavens now know of Sanctuary…and their warring hosts of demons and angels will stop at nothing to claim it.
An original tale of swords, sorcery, and timeless struggle based on the bestselling, award-winning M-rated computer game from Blizzard Entertainment. Intended for mature readers.
Order this book at our Blizzplanet Store.
EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE
The man in the middle of the pentagram shrieked as Zorun Tzin deftly used his magic to peel away another area of skin. The patch, a tidy three inches by three, methodically rolled back without hesitation. It left in its wake a bleeding gap that revealed the muscle and sinew underneath. Streaks of blood flowed from the gap down the naked figure’s body to add to that already decorating the floor.
The gaunt, bearded mage was not at all bothered by the splatters on the stones. They would be gathered later for other uses having nothing to do with the dark-skinned Kehjani’s current interest. The Council of Clans had managed to cease their feuds long enough to implore him to discover what he could about the fanatics pouring across the land, fanatics with powers unbelievable.
That these—edyrem, they called themselves—had brought down the mighty Temple of the Triune was not the point. The mage clans were more than happy to be rid of the powerful sect, which had been the first to wrest influence away from the spellcasters. Indeed, that had been in great part the cause of the first feuds, as clans had struggled to seize from one another what stature remained.
No, what disturbed the clans so much that they had been able to agree to something at last was the simple fact that the edyrem were nothing more than untrained peasants for the most part. They were farmers, laborers, and the like, and yet their leader promised them abilities that the mages had painstakingly toiled for most of their lifetimes. Not only that, but the use so far of those powers revealed a recklessness that endangered so very much. It was clear that the edyrem were a hazard and had to be contained.
And who better than the mage clans to do that? Under their strict guidance, these mysterious powers could be properly explored and exploited.
“I say again,” Zorun rasped. “You saw the outsiders bring down an entire temple with only their bare hands! What words did they chant? What gestures did they make?”
“D-don’t know!” bellowed the prisoner. “I—I swear!” The man was bald and still fit, despite the mage’s interrogation. He had once been a temple guard, one of the few who had escaped the fanatics’ grasp. It had taken Zorun some weeks of scrying to locate even this individual, so deep underground had any survivors of the Triune gone into hiding. “I swear it is s-so! They did—did n-nothing like that!”
With a gesture, the Kehjani had the square of skin finish peeling. A new shriek of agony escaped the captive. The orange-sashed mage waited impatiently for the cry to die down before speaking again. “You cannot expect me to believe that they just willed something to happen. Magic does not work that way. It takes concentration, gestures, and long practice.”
From the prisoner, he received only gasps. Frowning, Zorun Tzin slowly paced around the pentagram. The octagonal chamber in which he had spent the last day interrogating the former guard was meticulously clean and neat. Each vial, each parchment, each artifact was set properly on the correct shelf. Zorun believed that neatness and order were paramount to success in the arts. Unlike some mages, he did not let clutter overwhelm him, nor did he allow dust and vermin to render his sanctum piggish.
Even when it came to himself, the Kehjani sought to be immaculate. His brown, wide-shouldered tunic and flowing pants were freshly cleaned. He kept his beard trimmed to a proper shape and length. Even his thinning gray hair was artfully oiled back.
The manner in which he ran his own life perhaps gave indication of why Zorun pursued the secrets of the fanatics as he did. They were a slovenly, disorderly factor, and their spellcasting appeared to be based on whim and emotion. In truth, when he had been approached by the council for this task, Zorun had already been delving into the situation in secret. Of course, he had not informed them of that; otherwise, they might not have granted him the list of demands he had given or promised even more should he succeed.
No, there was no should. Zorun did not fail.
“You saw the Ascenian leader, this Uldyssian ul-Diomed, he is called. Is this true?”
“Y-yes! Yes!” screamed the guard, sounding almost grateful to be able to respond to any question. “Saw him! Pale! H-he is—w-was a farmer, they say!”
“A digger in the dirt,” the spellcaster muttered disdainfully. “Little more than a beast.”
The figure above the pentagram let out a gurgle that might have been agreement.
“It is said that he brought down the temple himself. Did you see that?”
The response caused Zorun to grow more exasperated. “You are wasting my time, then.”
He gestured, and the bleeding figure suddenly gasped. A choking sound escaped the stricken guard. He tried to reach for his throat, which had now swollen monstrously around the apple. Yet, even had the Kehjani’s captive been allowed to move his arms—which, of course, he was not—he would have been able to do nothing to stop Zorun’s work.
With one last garbled cry, the guard slumped. Zorun Tzin finally let the body drop to the floor, where it sprawled, quite ungainly, over the pattern.
At his summoning, a hulking Kehjani with too small a head came shambling into the chamber. He wore nothing but a simple tunic. The face much resembled one of the small primates considered sacred by many lowlanders, although Zorun saw as little divinity in them as he did in his servant. Terul was excellent at obeying direct orders without question, the reason the spellcaster had first picked him out of the slums.
Terul grunted, the closest he ever came to speaking. His too-small head dipped down to acknowledge his master.
“The body.” Zorun had to say no more. The servant understood exactly what he desired. Terul hefted the dead guard as if the latter weighed as little as air, utterly ignoring the blood that stained his skin in the process. The giant had been trained by his master always to clean up afterward.
Terul shuffled out with the corpse. There were many passages in the sewers coursing underneath Kehjan the city. All eventually emptied into the river beyond the walls. From there, the wild lands beyond—also called Kehjan by the ancients—would deal with the refuse.
Glancing at the pool of blood and the trail following in Terul’s wake, Zorun muttered an incantation and drew the proper symbols. He watched with immense satisfaction as the crimson liquid smoothly and cleanly began rolling toward the pentagram, leaving not a trace behind. How many on the council itself could perform such a feat? It had taken Zorun ten years to perfect that spell….
He grimaced. No doubt, this Uldyssian ul-Diomed could do the same without more than a glance.
This must not be…or, if it must, then it shall be I who am able to do it, not some fool of a peasant!
Zorun seized a cloak and departed from his sanctum. There were those he needed to visit to gather the necessary items for his work. That would require some tricky bargaining that he had no desire for those who had hired him to know about. A mage’s secrets were more valuable than simple coins or jewels. They were worth lives.
And if Zorun’s plans fell into place as they should, one of those lives would be that of the Ascenian, Uldyssian.
“You must speak to your brother,” Rathma encouraged, his generally toneless voice now hinting at concern. “He is growing reckless as his power further manifests itself.”
“What can I tell him that is new?” Mendeln asked with a shrug. They were both contrast and similarity, the pair. Rathma was taller than most people and with perfect features that might have been chiseled by a master sculptor. His skin was far paler than that of any other living person, and that was made more noticeable by the cowled and hooded black cloak and robes he wore.
By comparison, Mendeln ul-Diomed, was average in height and more plain of feature. He had been a farmer’s son, albeit not so good a farmer himself. His broad nose made him feel ugly in contrast to the one with whom he spoke. His dark hair seemed lighter against the pure black of Rathma’s.
Yet in their manner, in their speech, and in their clothing, they were more like brothers than he and Uldyssian. Mendeln wore a cloak and garments similar to Rathma’s, and his flesh, while bearing some pink tint, was still far paler than normal—especially for an Ascenian, who should, like his brother and Serenthia, be baked nearly as dark as the lowlanders.
It was not so surprising, though, that Mendeln should be very like Rathma. The latter had chosen the younger son of Diomedes to be his pupil, the first mortal to learn the path walked by one who was son of both an angel and a demon.
“He thinks he is being very practical,” Mendeln went on. “Hints of the Triune’s stirring again forced him once and for all to stamp out their kind. That makes sense to him, as it does to many of the others. Even I understand the logic.”
Rathma’s cloak swirled around him, despite there being no wind. Mendeln often wondered if the garment were alive, but he never asked.
“But he thus remains blind to my father,” the tall figure reminded him. Rathma was an Ancient, one of the first generation born to the world known to a select few as Sanctuary. Like him, all of that generation had been the progeny of refugees from the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, who had forsaken the eternal conflict and bound together to seek a new existence.
They had found that existence, for a time, in a place of their own making, masked from the sight of the two great powers. Yet, in finding common cause, the refugees also had begun their downfall. Familiarity brought with it the intermingling and, with that, Rathma’s generation—the first humans.
In the beginning, the new children had seemed harmless enough, but when they had started to manifest powers—powers unlike those of their parents and with unlimited potential—the angel Inarius, leader of the group, had declared them abominations. Only barely had he been convinced by a few of his fellows not to act instantly. He and the other refugees finally had agreed to retire to their separate sanctums carefully to consider the fate of their children.
But among them was one who had already made her decision. Inarius’s own lover, the demon Lilith, secretly stalked the other demons and angels, slaughtering them one by one. In her madness and ambition, she saw herself as the savior of the children and also, thus, the only one with the right to mold their destiny.
A destiny that saw her as mistress over all.
However, she had dearly underestimated Inarius. Discovering her treachery, he cast her out of Sanctuary. Then, using the gigantic crystal called the Worldstone—which had been created to keep Sanctuary hidden—he had altered the artifact so that it caused the innate powers of the children to decline until they became so dormant as never to have existed.
Some of Rathma’s generation, called the nephalem, had protested…and they had been crushed. The rest had scattered, Rathma himself forced to hide beyond the mortal plane. Over the centuries, most of his kind had vanished, and the generations that followed grew up in ignorance of the birthright that had been stolen from them.
But no more…
Mendeln turned from Rathma as he considered the other’s words. The two of them stood deep within the jungles of Kehjan, well away from where Uldyssian’s vast following camped. The scent of smoke that wafted by did not come from the huge encampment but rather from Urjhani, a town about half a day to the south. There, Uldyssian had tracked down some of the last priests to a minor temple, which he had afterward burned to the ground.
“My brother is painfully aware of the angel,” Mendeln finally responded. “Just as he will always be painfully reminded of Lilith.”
The demoness, despite Inarius’s confidence, had managed to return from exile. The angel, distracted by the incursion of the Burning Hells into his world, did not notice her slow, subtle manipulation of the Worldstone. That manipulation had reversed his intentions, awakening the potential within the many humans now inhabiting Sanctuary. Lilith had chosen Uldyssian for her pawn, stirring through violence and lust his latent powers.
In the end, however, she had failed to turn him to her cause. Uldyssian had fought her in the main temple, and although her body had not been recovered from the rubble that was all that remained of the towering edifice, everyone, including Rathma, was certain that she was at last dead. Unfortunately for Uldyssian, who had once loved her as the woman Lylia, the demoness would never truly be gone.
“And for that, I can but apologize to him. I knew my mother’s evil, just as I knew my father’s sanctimony…and for generations, I did nothing but cower.”
Rathma had hardly cowered, but Mendeln said nothing to assuage his mentor. Still…“I shall bring up the Cathedral’s missionaries to him again. You said earlier that there are already a number of them en route to Urjhani, and we left that place only the other day. That would have to mean that they were dispatched from the Grand Cathedral itself even before we reached the town.”
“Which is not the first time, either, Mendeln. My father almost appears to know Uldyssian’s path even before he does.”
“I will make mention of that also.” But still Mendeln did not depart. He suddenly surveyed the jungle, as if expecting some beast to leap out at them.
“I am not hiding him,” remarked Rathma with a rare show of frustration. “I am not pretending my ignorance of your friend Achilios’s location. Both Trag’Oul and I have searched, but of the hunter there is no trace.”
“But you were the one who raised him from the dead!”
“I? I only influenced the situation. You are the one who brought Achilios back, Mendeln. Your gift and your link to the realm of afterdeath are what enabled him to return.”
Rather than begin an old argument over, Mendeln left the shadowy figure behind. Rathma did not call after him, and the human, aware of his mentor’s ways, knew that the Ancient had already melted into the shadows.
Neither of them had uttered what both suspected concerning Achilios’s disappearance. The one time in the past when they had discussed the possibility, Mendeln had nearly lost all heart. What point was there in trying to change the world, if the world was soon to be no more?
It was all too obvious to Uldyssian’s brother what had happened to the hunter. Rathma had detected no demonic traces in the vicinity of Achilios’s last known location. The absolute absence of any such trace could mean only two things. One was that Inarius had seized Achilios for some plot against them, a dire notion indeed. Yet, as terrible as that might be—especially to Serenthia—there was a second scenario that made the first welcome by comparison.
What if another angel had stolen away the hunter?
They all knew what that meant. The Burning Hells were already aware of Sanctuary and had been so for centuries. They had let it survive because of their interest in the potential of using humans as a turning point in the eternal war. The Temple of the Triune had been created by the demon lords—the Prime Evils—in order to bring Mendeln’s race into the fold. Had not Inarius taken personal umbrage at their act—seeing Sanctuary and all in it as his—humanity might even now be marching into battle against the angels.
But now, if the High Heavens did know of the world, they were sure either to fight to possess it or simply to destroy it so that it could not be of use to the demons. That thousands of lives would perish was not of interest to either side.
It is essential that we find Achilios, Mendeln determined as he reached the edge of the encampment. For all our sakes, it is essential!
His thoughts were violently interrupted by an invisible force against which he collided. As he rubbed his nose, two figures appeared—one with the swarthy skin of a lowlander, the other as pale as any Ascenian tended to look next to one of the locals. Mendeln recognized the second as one of the dwindling number of Parthans, Uldyssian’s first converts. There were perhaps a little more than a hundred of them left, where once there had been many times that number. Being among the earliest of his brother’s followers, the Parthans had, unfortunately, faced monstrous dangers before having the chance to truly begin to come into their powers.
“Ah! Forgive us, Master Mendeln!” blurted the Parthan. “We couldn’t know it were you!”
The other edyrem nodded nervously in agreement. Whether from the lowland jungles or the highland forests, nearly all of Uldyssian’s flock treated Mendeln with a combination of veneration and fear. The fear came from Mendeln’s calling, which dealt much with the dead. The veneration…well, he was wise enough to understand that it originated simply from the fact that he was their leader’s sibling.
Oddly, a small handful had begun to come to him for learning, but Mendeln did not set any store by their interest. They were just morbidly fascinated by certain aspects…at least, that was what he told himself.
“You need not apologize,” he told the pair. “I left without giving word. You did as you were commanded.”
They opened the way for Mendeln, watching with some visible relief as Mendeln passed. He pretended not to notice.
And, as if by passing the guards, the younger son of Diomedes had entered a new realm, suddenly the area around him was filled with magic. Colored spheres of energy dotted the vast camp, as if arranged for some festival. Yet none of them was secured by string, but rather floated above those who had cast them. There were still fires, but mainly for cooking, not for illumination.
But the spheres were not all. As Mendeln strode through the throngs, a continual array of magical displays caught his gaze. One swarthy lowlander had created a glowing stream of energy that entwined around itself like a serpent. Another edyrem levitated a number of small stones, then proceeded to have them move around as if in the hands of an invisible juggler. A fair-haired Parthan woman created a spear from empty air, which she threw with perfect accuracy at a distant tree. The spear hung embedded for a moment, then dissipated as she forged a new one.
These were but a few examples. The many spells cast by the edyrem varied in power and skill, but that the seemingly insignificant faces around him—faces drawn from all castes and occupations—were those of people mastering what had once been available only to a select few was both astounding and troubling to Mendeln. Common folk such as himself were supposed to live out their lives toiling in the field. They were not supposed to become powerful sorcerers.
And that was what troubled him, even as he watched one inventive youth create for his smaller siblings—yes, Uldyssian’s “army” even included children—bright butterflies that flew in a dozen different directions. In some ways, many of those who followed his brother were naïve about the potential they wielded. At best, they saw it as a tool, like a hoe, not as something that could possibly either turn on them or brutally maim one of their own.
Perhaps I am being too harsh, Mendeln considered. They have fought for what they believe in and have been forced to slay those who would make them their slaves and puppets.
Yet his misgivings did not go away. Despite everything, Mendeln felt magic was something that needed to be studied carefully and used with the utmost consideration. One had to grow into its use and learn to respect its dangers.
Then, ahead, there arose a soft, comforting blue glow. Mendeln hesitated but finally stepped toward it. He had no reason to fear the source. After all, it was only Uldyssian.
Even amidst so much magic, one could feel his brother’s presence. A large group of edyrem sat or stood in a circle around the area Uldyssian had chosen for his bed. Mendeln could not see his brother, but he could sense exactly where Uldyssian was. Without hesitation, the younger sibling strode into the crowd, which immediately took notice of his presence and began to open a path for him.
And barely had Mendeln made it halfway when at last he caught sight of Uldyssian.
The sandy-haired figure had the strong build and looks of a country farmer, which, of course, Uldyssian had been. Quite good at it, too. Broad-shouldered and square-jawed, with a short, trimmed beard, the elder sibling was handsome in a rough-hewn way, and that helped him appeal to others. He did not look in the least like one of the haughty priests or fiery prophets with whom most of his followers were familiar. He was one of them, the common folk. He had prospered, and he had suffered, his greatest loss that of all his family save Mendeln years before to plague. At that time, Uldyssian had turned from one missionary to the next, seeking salvation for his loved ones and receiving nothing but empty words and suggestions of donations. That tragedy had given him a fierce hatred for sects such as the Triune and the Cathedral even before both had gone hunting for him.
Uldyssian sat atop a log, talking earnestly to all. Mendeln did not have to listen to know that Uldyssian was speaking words of encouragement to his flock, explaining what walking his path meant. His words all had great merit, but too often, Mendeln’s brother did not follow them himself. Of late, Uldyssian had been letting his incredible abilities take command of him, not the other way around.
Urjhani was the latest example of that. Uldyssian had intended to capture the priests, not slay them. There were questions about their true masters, the demon lords, that he had wanted to ask. Yet, when one had struck at the edyrem in a desperate attempt to stave off the inevitable—an attempt that had been easily deflected—Uldyssian had angrily hit back.
What had once been the priests had been strewn for yards, each having exploded from the inside. Uldyssian had shrugged off the situation as if he had intended this end from the start.
“They were Triune” was the reasoning with which he cut off any other protest from Mendeln. That said, Uldyssian had ordered the final temple burned down so that no memory would remain of the sect.
Now, the same man who had so casually torn apart those living souls and burned their temple dismissed his followers with a genial nod. The glow muted but remained strong enough to be noticed.
Only one figure stayed behind: Serenthia, daughter of the merchant Cyrus, who had been one of the first slain by Uldyssian’s powers. That had not been his fault, naturally, Lilith having manipulated the situation to bring about such terrible results. Serenthia was a beautiful woman, with long black tresses and bright blue eyes. Like Uldyssian’s her once-pale skin was bronzed. In contrast to the brothers, she wore the loose-fitting, flowing clothing of the lowland regions. The spear in her right hand was a constant companion, and if anything marred her beauty, at least in Mendeln’s opinion, it was the dread determination in her expression.
“Mendeln.” Uldyssian rose and greeted his brother as if the latter had been gone for days. “Where have you been?”
“Beyond the boundaries.”
“Ah.” Some of the older sibling’s pleasure faded. “Who was it this time? The dragon or her spawn?”
By “her,” he meant Lilith. “Rathma, yes. He warns of his father—“
The aura abruptly blazed bright, causing some nearby to start. However, all eyes quickly turned away again. “As he does every time! Does he think I keep no watch for that one? Rathma could serve us better by standing at our side rather than running off into the dark after he whispers another fearful warning.”
The glow continued to increase in intensity. Mendeln felt his own anger stirring but kept it in check. “You know he risks as much as any of us, Uldyssian…and you need not hate him for being Lilith’s progeny. He regrets that more than you can ever imagine.”
The blue muted again. Uldyssian exhaled. “You—you’re right. Forgive me. The past few days’ve been long ones, haven’t they, Mendeln?”
“To me, the days seem to grow longer and longer with each breath I take.”
“I miss the farm.”
“As do I, Uldyssian. As do even I.”
Serenthia finally broke her silence. Gaze narrowed at Mendeln, she muttered, “And any word of Achilios?”
“You know I would speak if I knew even the slightest hint.”
She thrust the bottom end of the spear into the ground. A brief scattering of red energy marked where the spear struck. Of all Uldyssian’s acolytes, Serenthia was the most powerful. Some of that strength, unfortunately, was fueled by her concern for the hunter, and the longer he remained missing, the more careless she became. It was becoming not an uncommon trait among the edyrem, and as the only relative outsider, Mendeln appeared alone in noticing it.
“Achilios will find a way to return to you,” Uldyssian interjected. “He will, Serry.”
But she looked uncertain. “If he could’ve, he would be standing with us now!”
“You wait and see.” Uldyssian put a hand on her shoulder, which, long ago, would have made the merchant’s daughter turn red. She had adored him most of her childhood, only discovering her love for Achilios just before the demon Lucion had slain their brave friend.
Turning back to Mendeln, Uldyssian added, “And, as I said, I keep wary about the angel, but what can he do against us that the Triune didn’t? Rathma’s hidden so long it’s hard for him to think that—“
There was a shout from the edge of the encampment and a host of angry voices that did not belong to the edyrem.
Uldyssian stared into the sky. He frowned, looking more frustrated than surprised.
“We’ve guests,” he told Mendeln and Serenthia. “Many uninvited guests…”
“Triune?” she asked, almost eagerly. Serenthia hefted the spear, looking as if she intended to throw it now.
“I don’t know, but who else can it be?” Uldyssian headed toward the direction of the cry. “Well, whoever they are, they’ll receive the same greeting we always give the Temple.”
Cyrus’s daughter smiled, a look that reminded Mendeln just briefly of the expression often on her countenance when she had been possessed by Lilith. She raced eagerly after Uldyssian, the two quickly leaving Mendeln well behind.
He did not move, although it was not because he shirked battle. Rather, as the sounds of struggle rose, Mendeln wondered at this desperate surprise attack. It hardly sounded like the Triune, assuming that they could muster any size force now. Yet the only other choice in his mind was Inarius. Mendeln, though, could not conceive of something so overt, so simple, from Inarius, whom Rathma had often described as one who worked behind the obvious, manipulating events as he desired—
Mendeln swore, suddenly rushing to join the others. Whatever this attack appeared on the surface to be, it would have another, far more dread reason behind it—one that it might already be too late to stop.
Chronicles of the War in Azeroth
A treatise of the events leading to the war between Mankind and the Orcish hordes as related by Sir Lothar, Knight of the Realm
Note: This is straight from the Warcraft: Orcs and Humans Game Manual
I am Sir Lothar, Armsman to the Brotherhood of the Horse, and a warrior in the King’s service. I feel it necessary to inform you of the events that have led us to this time of conflict. The tale of our battle with the Orcs begins some forty years in the past. I tell you of these things so that you might glean some understanding of our plight, and gain insight into our enemy. As a student of history and battle, I have found that only through understanding the past can we make well thought decisions for the future.
All has been peaceful for many generations, and the reign of King Wrynn III is a prosperous one. The constant bickering and infighting that marred the rules of former Kings has no place in the court of Wrynn. The child sorcerer Medivh is born of a coupling between the Court Conjurer and a mysterious traveler. After the child is born, the woman disappears, and the baby is taken into the court as a ward of the kingdom.
The child Prince Llane is born to King Wrynn and Lady Varia. This is their first and only offspring, but the birth of a son marks the continuation of their line. It is a grand day in the kingdom that is celebrated by great feasts and tournaments. King Wrynn proclaims the day to be a time for festival for the duration of his rule, and to mark the occasion gives each citizen of Azeroth one gold sovereign.
The marking of the Age of Ascension from childhood to adulthood is one of great anticipation for both parent and youth. Medivh attains that time and is expected to be given the title as Apprentice Conjurer to the Court. On the eve of this occasion, the boy’s sleep is troubled by dark dreams of figures giving chase through deep chasms. Waking in a cold sweat, Medivh makes his way to the bedchamber of his father. As the conjurer reaches out to touch his fevered brow, a burning fire ignites in the child’s eyes. This backlash of power must have reached as far as Northshire Abbey, for within the hour over one hundred clerics arrived at the castle.
Only by combining their abilities with the powers of the conjurer were one hundred enough to contain Medivh. As magiks unimagined poured forth from him, the boy screamed in unholy pain at the energies that were channeling through him. Hours passed, perhaps even days, for time seemed to stand still as the onslaught grew in fury.
Then, as simply as one snuffs a candle, both father and son crumpled into a heap. The Conjurer laid dead, drained of all life, and only the faintest breath escaping his lips. After long discussion, the King and the Abbot of Northshire agree that Medivh should be taken to the Abbey for the safety of both child and kingdom.
Llane reaches his Age of Ascension, and the full station of Prince of Azeroth is bestowed upon him. At this ceremony, tens of thousands of devoted subjects come to offer their wishes of support and long life. During the evening feast with the family, and those close to the crown, a cold wind began to chill the air. A gentle breeze at first, it grew in intensity, until the doors to the great hall were blown off their hinges. As the guests leaned into the wind, a figure entered, riding the winds like some great bird of prey.
The torches set about the great hall ignited with the blue flame and the visage of Medivh was revealed. As he set down in front of the King’s table, the guard sprang to their feet. A mere pass of his hand kept them motionless – frozen in their places. The sorcerer, now a man, explained that his years of sleep had ended. The years of constant tending from the clerics of Northshire Abbey enabled him to gain control over his powers. When his spirit and body became attuned, he awakened himself, and set out to Stormwind Keep at once. Medivh explained that he had come to repay the court for the kindness it had shown to him while he was in their keeping, and to acknowledge the occasion of the Ascension ceremony for Prince Llane.
From within his flowing cloak he produced an hourglass, crafted of deepest obsidian, with sands as white as undriven snow. The young Prince looked closely, but although the sand seemed to constantly sift from top to bottom, the lower half never filled, and the top never emptied. Medivh claimed that these sands represented the people of the kingdom, and so long as the glass never emptied, the reign of King Wrynn would not fail.
Six years passed, and the land slowly grew sick. Crops began failing in the richest soils of the kingdom. Children were stricken ill and never fully recovered. even the moods of the subjects of Azeroth seem dark. The weather would become unseasonably cold during harvest, and the summer sun scorched the earth and made working out of the shade almost unbearable. Neither cleric nor conjurer could fathom what could be the cause of this change in the lands. More and more people became disheartened, and what once would have been looked over, now caused bitter argument.
During a bleak morning, Prince Llane rushed to his father’s side, carrying the hourglass. During the night, the sands had run down from the top, and it was near emptied. King Wrynn took the glass into his hands, and a chill ran through the very core of his being. As the last sands trickled to the bottom of the glass, a great crashing sound was heard at the gates of Stormwind Keep. Suddenly, the grounds were filled with hideous creatures. gross deformities, a cruel reflection of humanity, they swarmed over the King’s guard and tore them to shred. King Wrynn sent Llane and Queen Varia with an escort of knights to Northshire Abbey, promising to call for them when the foul beasts had been destroyed. That day has not yet come.
At the age of twenty years, Llane is pronounced King of Azeroth. His task is clear – to rid the lands of these creatures. The few that have survived battle refer to themseves as Orcs. When questioned, they will tell little else, and prefer death to releasing information. They are cruel, sadistic and vile – making no distinctions between soldier or child, warrior or woman. They will slay anyone who they encounter without a second thought. The only humans who do not fall to the Orcish blade are those who are taken to the swamps that have festered in the east, where the Orcs have made their encampments. What they do with these people is unknown, though the worst is feared for none have ever returned.
Nearly ten years of skirmishes and raids along the Borderlands have kept the people of Azeroth wary, but the Orcish hordes had been beaten back into their swamps. King Llane has found that the Orcs, though incredibly strong and vicious, were seldom well trained in combat, and always disorganized. This has been the key to holding them at bay, and is the weakness he hopes to exploit in the future. The mystery that no Cleric or Conjurer had found the answer to, though, is the origin of the creatures.
In the tenth year of his reign, King Llane is visited by the mysterious traveler (Aegwynn)*. She has come to the King with a warning that she hopes will aid him in his fight against the nemesis to his land. the coupling between the King’s Conjurer and herself was intended to created a child that she could pass her knowledge and power onto before leaving this place. she did not count upon other forces in this world, and others, that would seek to dominate the child. He was now become a beacon to mystic power.
She sought him out only a fortnight before, and found that the powers that course through his veins have twisted him, making him insane. Realizing the threat he now posed, she was forced to attempt to destroy him. He all but slew her.
The battle left both combatants drained, but Medivh held enough power to banish her from his sight, and command her never to return. His magiks were strong enough that even she cannot break this bond, and so can offer no aid in his downfall. The traveler also informs King Llane that it was Medivh who was responsible for the coming of the Orcs to Azeroth. During the battle with his father, he inadvertently opened a gateway to the domain that they, and many other foul creatures, call home. The Orcs are disciples of chaos, however, and not even Medivh has the power to control them.
Although the battle has Medivh in a greatly weakened state, the traveler warns that there will be a time when Azeroth will be forced to deal with him. Her parting words to the King were of her hope that the sorcerer would not become so strong, by that time, that the whole of this world would suffer.
Stirrings of war now come from the swamps. The attacks upon our settlements, once scattered and poorly executed, have become more organized. The King has found it necessary to send footmen and archers to protect settlements along the Borderlands. Rumors of the rising of a great Orcish Warchief have been heard about the land. He is heard to be a harsh leader who has gathered the feuding Orcs under one banner. King Llane’s scouts and spies have found him to be as cunning as he is bloodthirsty. This foul creature’s name is Blackhand, and his control of the Orcish hordes could spell doom for Azeroth. The King has ordered me to seek out new recruits to train in the druiments of combat for the time has come to call upon the people of Azeroth and prepare the kingdom for war.