Grim Batol: its dark legacy stretches back into the mists of Azeroth’s past. But most know it as the site of a terrible tragedy—where the vile orcs corrupted the hatchlings of the noble Dragonqueen, Alexstrasza, and used them as weapons of war. Though a band of heroes, led by the enigmatic mage, Krasus, defeated the orcs and freed the captive dragons, the cursed mountain stands as another ravaged landmark within the…
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
But now Krasus—known to some as the red dragon Korialstrasz—senses the malice of Grim Batol rising once more to threaten those he holds dear. Determined this time to confront this evil by himself, he is unaware of the quests that will draw others to Grim Batol and reveal the monstrous truth that could not only herald their deaths, but usher in a terrible new age of darkness and destruction.
The aging orc shaman Ner’zhul has seized control of the Horde and reopened the Dark Portal. His brutal warriors once again encroach upon Azeroth, laying siege to the newly constructed stronghold of Nethergarde Keep. There, the archmage Khadgar and the Alliance commander, Turalyon, lead humanity and its elven and dwarven allies in fighting this new invasion.
Even so, disturbing questions arise. Khadgar learns of orcish incursions farther abroad: small groups of orcs who seem to pursue a goal other than simple conquest. Worse yet, black dragons have been sighted as well, and they appear to be aiding the orcs. To counter Ner’zhul’s dark schemes, the Alliance must now invade the orcs’ ruined homeworld of Draenor. Can Khadgar and his companions stop the nefarious shaman in time to stave off the destruction of two worlds?
Pocket Star, June 2008
Authors: Aaron Rosenberg & Christie Golden
“Throw down, damn you!”
“Fine!” Gratar growled, half-rising, his powerful shoulder muscles bunching. One arm whipped forward and down, fist descending in a blur—and his fingers opened, the small bone cubes spilling from them to clatter upon the ground.
“Hah!” Brodog laughed, tusks jutting up as his lips pulled back in a grin. “Only one!”
“Damn!” Gratar sank back down onto his stone, sulking as he watched Brodog again gather the cubes and shake them vigorously. He didn’t know why he kept throwing against Brodog—the other orc practically always won. It was almost unnatural.
Unnatural. A word that had nearly stopped having any meaning for Gratar. He glanced up at the stark red sky that filled the horizon, the sun a burning globe of the same shade. The world had not always been thus. Gratar was old enough to remember blue skies, a warm yellow sun, and thick green fields and valleys. He’d swum in deep, cool lakes and rivers, blissfully ignorant of how precious a thing water would one day become. One of the most basic needs of life, uncontaminated water was now brought in in casks and stingily parceled out.
Rising, Gratar kicked idly at the ground before him, watching the red dust puff upward, parching his mouth, and he reached for the waterskin and drank sparingly. The dust covered his skin, dulling the green hue, lightening his black hair. Red everywhere, as if the world had been drenched in blood.
But the most unnatural thing of all was the reason he and Brodog were stationed here, whiling away the dusk-clogged day with idle games of chance. Gratar looked past Brodog at the towering archway just beyond them and the shimmering curtain of energy that filled it. The Dark Portal. Gratar knew that the strange mystic doorway led to another world, though he had not passed through it himself—none of his clan had. But he had watched as proud Horde warriors had entered the portal to win glory over the humans and their allies. Since then, a few orcs had returned to report the Horde’s progress. But lately there had been nothing. No word, no scouts; nothing.
Gratar frowned, ignoring the clattering sound of Brodog’s tossing of the bones. Something about the portal seemed…different. Gratar stepped closer to the towering gateway, the hairs along his arms and chest tingling as he approached.
“Gratar? It’s your turn. What are you doing?”
Gratar ignored Brodog. Squinting, he stared at the rippling veil of energy. What was going on beyond it, on that strange other world?
As he watched the curtain’s undulating shimmer grew and became more translucent, allowing Gratar to see through it as if through murky water. He squinted his eyes, peered intently—and gasped, staggering back.
Playing out before his eyes, as if he were watching a ritual enactment, was a fierce and violent battle.
“What?” Brodog was beside him in an instant, the game forgotten, and then he was gaping as well. They both stared for a second before Gratar regained his wits.
“Go!” he shouted at Brodog. “Tell them what’s happening!”
“Right—the commander.” Brodog’s eyes were still glued to the scene before them.
“No,” Gratar replied sharply. He had a gut feeling that what was about to happen would be more than his commander was prepared to handle. But one orc he knew might be. “Ner’zhul. Get Ner’zhul—he’ll know what to do!”
Brodog nodded and took off at a run, though not without glancing back a few times. Gratar heard him leave, but still his gaze was riveted to the battle that was so violent but so oddly veiled. He could see orcs, some of whom he thought he recognized, but they were fighting strange figures, shorter and more narrowly built but more heavily armored. The strangers—they were called “humans,” Gratar remembered—were quick and as numerous as gnats, swarming over the beleaguered orcs and overpowering them one by one. How could his people be suffering such a defeat? Where was Doomhammer? Gratar saw no sign of the massive, powerful warchief. What had happened on that other world?
He was still watching, sickly enraptured, when he heard the sound of approaching feet. He tore his gaze away to see that Brodog had returned with two others. One was a massive figure, larger by far than any orc and much stronger, with pale milky skin and heavy features. An ogre, and a mage, by the cunning Gratar saw glinting in his small, piggy eyes. More important than this towering figure was the orc who accompanied him, pushing his way forward right up to the portal itself.
Though his hair was gray and his face heavily lined, Ner’zhul, chieftain of the Shadowmoon clan and once the most skilled shaman the orcs had ever known, was still powerfully built and his brown eyes were as sharp as ever. He stared at the portal and the vaguely glimpsed disaster unfolding behind its
“A battle, then,” Ner’zhul said as if to himself.
And one the Horde is losing, Gratar thought.
“How long has—” Ner’zhul began. Suddenly the space framed by the Dark Portal shifted, its energies swirling violently. A hand thrust from the curtain as if it were rising from water, gleams of light and shadow clinging to green skin as it breached the barrier. A head followed, then the torso, and then the orc was through. His war axe was still in his hand but his eyes were wild as he stumbled, then caught himself, racing past Ner’zhul and the others without even looking.
Behind him came another orc, then another and another and another, until there was a flood of them, all racing to pass through the portal as fast as their feet would carry them. And not just orcs—Gratar saw several ogres emerge, and a group of smaller, slighter figures with heavy hooded cloaks bridged the gap as well. One warrior caught Gratar’s attention. Too tall and bulky to be a full orc, his features brutish enough to have some ogre blood in him, this one did not run with the air of panic the others did, but with purpose, as if he was running to something rather than from it. At his heels loped a massive jet-black wolf.
An orc shoved past this warrior as they stepped from the portal, snarling at the obstruction. “Out of the way, half-breed!” the orc snapped, but the warrior merely shook his head, refusing to be baited at such a time. The wolf, however, snarled at the orc before the warrior silenced it with a sharp hand gesture. The wolf fell silent, utterly obedient, and the warrior dropped a huge hand on the black head with affection.
“What has happened here?” Ner’zhul demanded loudly. “You!” The shaman pointed toward one of the unfamiliar creatures. “What manner of orc are you? Why cover your face so? Come here!”
The figure paused, then suddenly shrugged and stepped closer to Ner’zhul. “As you wish,” he said in a cold voice that had a slightly mocking tone to it. Despite the heat of the land’s baked, lifeless soil, Gratar shivered.
A mailed hand slid the hood back, and Gratar could not help crying out in horror. Perhaps the being’s features had once been fine and regular, but no longer. The skin was a pale grayish green, and had burst open at the juncture where ear met jaw. A thin trickle of ooze glimmered. Swollen, cracked, purple lips drew back in a smile as the eyes glowed with malevolent humor and a fierce intelligence.
The thing was obviously dead.
Even Ner’zhul shrank back, though he rallied quickly. “Who—what are you?” Ner’zhul demanded in a voice that shook only a little. “And what do you want here?”
“Don’t you recognize me? I am Teron Gorefiend,” the figure replied, chuckling at the shaman’s obvious discomfiture.
“Impossible! He is dead and gone, slaughtered by Doomhammer along with the rest of the Shadow Council!”
“Dead I am indeed,” the creature agreed, “but not gone. Your old apprentice Gul’dan found a way to bring us back, and into these rotting carcasses.” He shrugged, and Gratar could hear the lifeless flesh creak in slight protest. “It suffices.”
“Gul’dan?” The old shaman seemed more shocked by that revelation than by the sight of the walking corpse in front of him. “Your master still lives? Then you should return to him. You forsook me and the shaman tradition to follow his lead and become a warlock when you lived, abomination. Serve him now that you are dead.”
But Gorefiend was shaking his head. “Gul’dan is dead. And good riddance. He betrayed us, halving the Horde at a crucial moment and forcing Doomhammer to pursue him instead of conquering a human city. That treachery cost us the war.”
“We…have lost?” Ner’zhul stammered. “But…how is that possible? The Horde covered the very plains, and Doomhammer would not go down without a fight!”
“Oh, he fought,” Gorefiend agreed. “Yet all his might was not enough. He killed the humans’ leader but was overpowered in turn.”
Ner’zhul seemed stunned, turning to look at the panting, bloodied orcs and ogres who had rushed through the gates moments earlier. He took a deep breath and straightened, turning to the ogre who had accompanied him. “Dentarg—summon the other chieftains. Tell them to gather here at once, bringing only weapons and armor. We—“
The wave washed out of the portal with no warning, a massive energy burst that slammed all of them to the ground. Gratar gasped for breath, the wind knocked out of him. He stumbled to his feet, only to be greeted by a second explosion, more violent than the first. This time hunks of stone had been snatched up by the energy that powered the portal and came flying past them, chips and slabs and slivers and sheets. The curtain wavered, becoming opaque.
“No!” Ner’zhul raced toward the portal. He was still several feet away when the shimmering curtain of light flickered, contracted, froze—and then exploded. Stones and dust erupted from the archway. Ner’zhul was tossed into the air like an old bone, and struck the earth hard. Dentarg let out an angry bellow and rushed to his master’s side, scooping him up as if he weighed nothing. The old shaman lay limp, head lolling, eyes shut, a trickle of blood along his right side. For a wild moment energy screamed and shrieked about them all, howling like angry spirits. Then as abruptly as they had come the lights vanished, the curtain disappearing utterly, leaving only an empty stone portal behind.
The Dark Portal had been severed.
Gratar stared at that stone archway, and at all the Horde warriors who had escaped back through it one last time. Then he glanced over at Dentarg, and the elderly shaman cradled in the ogre’s surprisingly gentle grasp.
In the name of the ancestors…what would they do now?
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World of Warcraft: Tides of Darkness
After killing the corrupt Warchief Blackhand, Orgrim Doomhammer was quick to seize control over the Orcish Horde. Now he is determined to conquer the rest of Azeroth so that his people will once again have a home of their own in the…
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
Anduin Lothar, former Champion of Stormwind, has left his shattered homeland behind and led his people across the Great Sea to the shores of Lordaeron. There, with the aid of the noble King Terenas, he forges a mighty Alliance with the other human nations. But even that may not be enough to stop the Horde’s merciless onslaught.
Elves, dwarves, and trolls enter the fray as the two emerging factions vie for dominance. Will the valiant Alliance prevail, or will the Horde’s tide of darkness consume the last vestiges of freedom on Azeroth?
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
Despite himself, Lothar was impressed.
Stormwind had been a towering, imposing city, filled with spires and terraces, carved from strong stone to resist the wind but polished to a mirror sheen. But in its own way Capital City was equally lovely.
Not that Capital City was the same as Stormwind. It was not as tall, for one. But what it lacked in height it made up for in elegance. It sat on a rise above the north shore of Lordamere Lake, gleaming all in white and silver. It did not glitter as Stormwind had, but it glowed somehow, as if the sun were rising from its graceful buildings instead of beating down upon them. It seemed serene, peaceful, almost holy.
“It is a mighty place,” Khadgar agreed beside him, “though I prefer a little more warmth.” He glanced behind them, toward the lake’s southern shore, where a second city rose. Its outlines were similar to those of Capital City, but this mirror image seemed more exotic, its walls and spires suffused in violet and other warm hues. “That is Dalaran,” he explained. “Home of the Kirin Tor and its wizards. My home, before I was sent to Medivh.”
“Perhaps there will be time for you to return, at least briefly,” Lothar suggested. “But for now we must concentrate on Capital City.” He studied the gleaming city again. “Let us hope they are as noble in their thoughts as they are in their dwellings.” He kicked his horse into a canter, and rode down out of the majestic Silverpine Forest, Varian and the mage right behind him and the other men trailing them in their carts.
Two hours later they reached the main gates. Guards stood by the entrance, though the double gates were wide open and large enough for two or even three wagons to pass abreast. The guards had clearly seen them long before they reached the gates, and the one who stepped forward wore a crimson cloak over his polished breastplate and had gold traceries in his armor and helmet. His manner was polite, even respectful, but Lothar could not help noticing how the man stopped only a few feet away, well within sword range. He forced himself to relax and ignore the laxity. This was not Stormwind. These people were not seasoned warriors, hardened by constant battle. They had never had to fight for their lives. Yet.
“Enter freely and be welcome,” the guard captain stated, bowing. “Marcus Redpath warned us of your arrival, and your plight. You will find the king in his throneroom.”
“Our thanks,” Khadgar replied with a nod. “Come, Lothar,” he added, nudging his horse with his heels. “I know the way.”
They rode on through the city, navigating its broad streets easily. Khadgar did indeed seem to know the way, and never slowed to ask directions or puzzle over a turn until they had reached the palace itself. There they surrendered their horses to some of their companions, leaving them to mind the steeds. Lothar and Prince Varian were already striding up the palace’s wide steps and Khadgar quickly joined them.
They stepped through the palace’s outer doors and into a wide courtyard, almost an outdoor hall. Viewing boxes lined the sides, and though empty now Lothar was sure they filled with people during celebrations. At the far end another short flight of steps led up to a second set of doors, and these opened onto the throneroom itself.
It was an imposing chamber, its arched ceiling so high overhead its edges were lost in shadow. The room was round, with arches and columns everywhere. Golden sunlight streamed down from a stained-glass panel set in the ceiling’s center, illuminating the intricate pattern in the floor: a series of nested circles, each one different, with a triangle at their middle overlapping the innermost ring, and the golden seal of Lordaeron within that. It had several high balconies and Lothar guessed these were for nobles but also appreciated their strategic value. A few guards with bows could easily strike anywhere in the room from those vantage points.
Just beyond the pattern stood a wide circular dais, its concentric steps rising up toward a massive throne. The throne itself looked carved from glittering stone, all sharp edges and planes and angles. A man sat there, tall and broad, his blond hair only lightly touched with gray, his armor gleaming, the crown upon his head shaped more like a spiked helmet than a coronet. This was a proper king, Lothar knew at once, a king like his Llane who did not hesitate to fight for his people. His hopes rose at the thought.
There were people here, townsfolk and laborers and even peasants, gathered facing the dais from a respectful distance. Many carried items, scraps of parchment, even food, but they parted before Lothar and Khadgar, falling away from the pair without a sound.
“Yes?” the man on the throne called out as they approached. “Who are you and what do you wish of me? Ah.” Even from here Lothar could see the king’s strangely colored eyes, blue and green swirled together—they were sharp and clear, and his hopes rose still further. Here was a man who saw well and clearly.
“Your Majesty,” Lothar replied, his deep voice carrying easily across the large room. He stopped several paces from the dais and bowed. “I am Anduin Lothar, a Knight of Stormwind. This is my companion, Khadgar of Dalaran.” He heard several murmurs from the crowd now behind them. “And this”—he turned so that the king could see Varian, who had been standing behind him, unnerved by the crowd and the strange trappings—“is Prince Varian Wrynn, heir to the throne of Storm-wind.” The murmurs turned to gasps as people realized the youth was visiting royalty, but Lothar ignored them, concentrating only on the king. “We must speak with you, your Majesty. It is a matter of great urgency and major import.”
“Of course.” Terenas was already rising from his throne and approaching them. “Leave us, please,” he asked the rest of the crowd, though it was an order despite its polite wording. The people obeyed quickly, and soon only a handful of nobles and guards remained. The men who had accompanied Lothar faded back to the sides as well, leaving only Lothar, Khadgar, and Varian when Terenas closed the distance between them.
“Your Majesty,” Terenas greeted Varian, bowing to him as to an equal.
“Your Majesty,” Varian replied, his training overcoming his shock.
“We were grieved to hear of your father’s death,” Terenas continued gently. “King Llane was a good man and we counted him as a friend and an ally. Know that we shall do all in our power to restore you to your throne.”
“I thank you,” Varian said, though his lower lip trembled slightly.
“Now come and sit, and tell me what has happened,” Terenas instructed, gesturing to the dais steps. He sat on the top one himself and motioned for Varian to sit beside him. “I have seen Stormwind myself, and admired its strength and beauty. What could destroy such a city?”
“The Horde,” Khadgar said, speaking for the first time since they had entered the throneroom. Terenas turned toward him, and Lothar was close enough to see the king’s eyes narrow slightly. “The Horde did this.”
“And what is this Horde?” Terenas demanded, turning first to Varian and then to Lothar.
“It is an army, more than an army,” Lothar replied. “It is a multitude, more than can be counted, enough to cover the land from shore to shore.”
“And who commands this legion of men?” Terenas asked.
“Not men,” Lothar corrected. “Orcs.” At the king’s puzzlement Lothar explained. “A new race, one not native to this world. They are as tall as we are, and more powerfully built, with green skin and glowing red eyes. And great tusks from their lower lips.” A noble snorted somewhere, and Lothar turned, glaring. “You doubt me?” he shouted, turning toward each of the balconies in turn, looking for the one who had laughed. “You think I lie?” He struck his armor with his fist, near one of the more prominent dents. “This was made by an orc warhammer!” He struck another spot. “And this by an orc war axe!” He pointed to a gash along one forearm. “And this came from a tusk, when one jumped me and was too close for our blades to strike one another! These foul creatures have destroyed my land, my home, my people! If you doubt me come down here and say so to my face! I will show you what sort of man I am, and what happens to those who accuse me of falsehood!”
“Enough!” Terenas’s shout silenced any possible reply, anger plain in his own voice, but when he turned to Lothar the warrior could see that this king’s anger was not directed at him. “Enough,” the king said again, more softly. “None here doubt your word, Champion,” he assured Lothar, a stern look around daring any of his nobles to disagree. “I know of your honor and your loyalty. I will take you at your word, though such creatures sound strange to us.” He turned and nodded at Khadgar. “And with one of the wizards of Dalaran beside you as a witness, we cannot discount what you say, nor the notion of races never seen here before.”
“I thank you, King Terenas,” Lothar replied formally, reining his anger back in. He was not sure what to do next. Fortunately, Terenas was.
“I will summon my neighboring kings,” he announced. “These events concern us all.” He turned back toward Varian. “Your Majesty, I offer you my home and my protection for as long as you shall need it,” he stated, loud enough for all to hear. “When you are ready, know that Lordaeron will assist you in reclaiming your kingdom.”
Lothar nodded. “Your Majesty, you are most generous,” he said on Varian’s behalf, “and I can think of no safer and finer place for my prince to reach his maturity than here in Capital City. Know, however, that we did not come here merely for sanctuary. We came to warn you.” He stood tall, his voice rumbling across the room, his eyes not leaving Lordaeron’s king. “For know this—the Horde will not stop at Stormwind. They mean to claim the entire world, and they have the might and the numbers to make their dream a reality. Nor do they lack magical might. Once they have finished with my homeland—” His voice grew deeper and rougher and he forced himself to continue. “They will find a way across the ocean. And they will come here.”
“You are telling us to prepare for war,” Terenas said quietly. It was not a question, but Lothar answered nonetheless.
“Yes.” He looked around at the assembled men. “A war for the very survival of our race.”
an excerpt from
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