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.
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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.
Note: Be warned that there could seem to be some mistakes in the original lore. Blizzard Entertainment makes changes to the lore to accommodate new content and lore in future games like Warcraft II, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft.
To read the storyline of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans with Medivh as main character, we recommend reading the great novel pocketbook Warcraft Archive which reprinted Warcraft: The Last Guardian —written by Jeff Grubb, writer known by many fans of Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and Magic the Gathering Ice Age, Starcraft: Liberty’s Crusade, among other books.
Aegwynn* – Former Guardian of Tirisfal, Mother of Medivh, who defeated Sargeras in Northrend 800 centuries ago. The Court Conjurer, father of Medivh, was named Nielas Aran.
eBook, 180 pages
Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles are locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end. She is the Zerg Queen of Blades. Her name has become legend throughout the galaxy, and that legend is death for all who stand against her. Yet once, long ago, Sarah Kerrigan was human—the unwilling subject of an insidious clandestine experiment. She was forced to serve as a merciless assassin for the Terran Confederacy until a twist of fate propelled her toward a destiny none could have foreseen. This is the untold tale of Kerrigan’s shadowy origin…and the war that was fought for her very soul. An original tale of universal conflict set in the world of the award-winning, bestselling computer game from Blizzard Entertainment.
Chapter One: The Seeds of Rebellion
Throughout the course of every person’s life, a large-scale catastrophe is certain to occur. At some point, fate will hand each of us the ultimate test: a tragedy so profound and so inescapable that it will forever alter the remaining course of the life affected. This event will have one of two outcomes. The man or woman confronted with the catastrophe may be defeated in the test, and live the remainder of their life as a shadow of the person they once were. Or a person might transform and become strengthened by their experience, transcending all self-imposed limitations and flourishing in a way they had never deemed possible.
Arcturus Mengsk was one such man. He had overcome a tragic event in his life, and now it had changed him, forever molded him into a being of single-minded purpose and unshakable determination. Lesser men would have been broken by the tragedy. Lesser men would have just given up. But lesser men did not take their place in the proud annals of Terran history.
During his formative years, young Arcturus would often awake from dreams in which he had seen himself as a figure of importance, a preeminent leader of men. Mostly, Arcturus would dismiss the dreams as whims of an overactive imagination. In the waking world, Arcturus did not see himself as the leader-type at all. He didn’t care about the affairs of others; he didn’t care about the Confederacy. All he cared about was serving his time in the Confederate military and how much money he might be able to earn as a fringe-world prospector when that time was done. He had certainly done his duty, and, lack of desire to lead notwithstanding, had ascended to the rank of colonel before the climate changed; before he realized he was not fighting for what he believed in, and of course, before the tragedy.
Now, in the wake of the tragedy, things had changed. Arcturus’s self-perception had changed; the man he once saw himself as seemed no more than a distant relative. Now Arcturus was on his way to becoming the man he was in his dreams.
For the most part, up until now, it had all been about preparation: keeping in constant communication with his colleagues in the underground network on Korhal (although they had become so vocal and overt as of late that the term “underground” no longer applied); recruiting like-minded, eager civilians for training; and observing the actions of the Confederacy here among the relative safety of the Umojan Protectorate.
Preparation was well and good, and Arcturus prided himself on planning ahead. But he believed that the time had now come for action. Blowing up supply route bridges on key planets, hacking into Confederate mainframes and staging mine-worker revolts was all well and good, but the time had come to strengthen his numbers and to set out on his quest in earnest. The time had come to raise hell.
And so General Mengsk now stood looking into the determined eyes of the roughly twenty or so Umojan men before him. They were an able-bodied lot, though not as many as he had hoped for, and he was fairly certain that none of the men had ever seen combat. Still, they were capable, and they were willing to fight for what they believed in, and that’s where the seeds of rebellion truly began to germinate.
The general greeted each man’s eyes in turn. Once he was confident that he held their attention, he spoke. “You men are gathered here today because you share common beliefs and a common desire. Among the beliefs you share is the tenet that no man or body of government should have authority to treat you unjustly; the desire you share is the pursuit of independence. Make no mistake men—these are the ideals that wars are made of. The least of the troubles that lie ahead for all of you is a life of forced seclusion, of being branded as seditionist by the very government that would impose her unfair laws upon you. The worst of what you may face—of what we all face—is death. Pollock and I and the rest of our fighters are, as you know, already considered turncoats by the Confederacy….”
Arcturus motioned to a man standing at parade-rest to his left. Pollock Rimes was a man who looked the part of a battle veteran—his bald head and face were covered with scars, and the upper left hemisphere of his skull bore a slight indentation the size of a large man’s fist. His left ear was mostly missing and the bridge of his nose formed a backward S. Pollock’s eyes stared ahead blankly as Arcturus continued. “It is important that all of you go into this knowing that there exists a very real possibility that you may not live to see it through.”
As Arcturus allowed his words to sink in, his eyes fell on a man outside the room, visible through one of the large windows. The man, of Asian descent, wearing the clothes of a low-level prospector, seemed to be quite intrigued by what was going on inside. When the man looked up and saw Arcturus staring at him, he held the gaze for a second before looking away. He seemed to be wrestling with some kind of decision. Just then Arcturus heard the sound of one of the men clearing his throat. He turned to see a somewhat crazed-looking older man standing near the front of the group whose face bore a web of wrinkles and whose white tonsured hair circled his bald dome like wispy clouds hovering around a particularly worn mountain peak. “My mother, may she rest easy, used to say that there wan’t nothing worth living fer that wan’t worth dyin’ fer.”
Arcturus allowed himself a half-smile. “I see. And what might your name be, civilian?”
“I’m Forest Keel, and I seen my share o’ friction in the seven cycles I served in the Guild Wars.”
“I’m sure you did. And I’m sure you made your superiors proud.” Old Forest beamed a smile devoid of a few teeth as Arcturus’s eyes once again scanned the nearby window, where the prospector was still standing, nervously undetermined. Arcturus turned his attention back to the group. “Well men, the time has—“
Just then Arcturus was interrupted by the sound of an entryway opening. Looking to the far side of the room, the general saw Ailin Pasteur—one of the Protectorate’s ambassadors—stick his head in. The usually unflappable man looked pale and distressed.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, General, but there is a situation that requires your immediate attention.”
The Spy Deck was an area where mining foremen watched image-enhanced holograms of planets within the system that might be fertile grounds for prospecting. For the enlistment of its current purpose, the Spy Deck could not have been more aptly named. Not long ago, Ailin Pasteur had served under the command of Arcturus’s father, Angus. Angus had saved the man’s life on one occasion and Ailin had repaid the favor by being one of the voting members of the Ruling Council that appointed Arcturus the rank of general, and leader of the revolution. The Council also allowed Mengsk to use the Protectorate as a base of operations, and to use the Spy Deck as a somewhat archaic means of surveillance. The imaging program contained detailed charts of all the planets within the known systems. It was also capable of charting the progress of freight ships carrying their valuable cargo through the trade routes in real-time—a primitive kind of “radar” system to be sure, but more than adequate for Arcturus’s needs. It was here on the Spy Deck that the Ruling Council of the Umojan Proctectorate stood, their haggard faces revealing collective concern.
Ailin turned to Arcturus and spoke in a halting voice: “We received an anonymous transmission suggesting that we keep on eye on this sector.”
Arcturus looked at the sector currently being displayed. He recognized the planet at the display’s center immediately. “Korhal,” he said, to no one in particular.
The superintendent nodded slightly. Arcturus noticed that the man was sweating heavily. “Yes.”
Several smaller objects that looked like orbiting satellites of some kind surrounded the image of the planet. Arcturus had an idea, even before the superintendent spoke, of what the objects really were.
“Battlecruisers,” Ailin confirmed. “We make out twenty of them. We’ve been monitoring the military channels and have overheard nothing that might explain this.”
“Nothing they’re willing to admit, anyway,” offered Mengsk. “But you can bet your bottom credit that the Confederates are the source of your anonymous tip. And if those ships are orbiting Korhal on Confederate orders, they mean to start trouble. Send an intelligence report to Achton immediately.”
In Korhal’s capital city of Styrling, Colonel Achton Feld—the elected leader of the rebel forces in the absence of General Mengsk—was busy shouting orders, standing atop a guardwalk at the city’s perimeter, the myriad antiair missile turrets that served as outer defenses forming a jagged outline on the horizon behind him. At one time, this fortress in the center of the city had been a Confederate post. That was before the revolution. Now it served as the rebel headquarters on Korhal.
The rebels had of course known about the presence of Confederate ships in their orbit, but their limited surveillance systems had been unable to uncover what the recent intelligence transmission confirmed: that the orbiting ships numbered twenty—quite a number, especially with the capacity of each ship to hold hundreds of marines, dropships, siege tanks, even armored Goliaths. And those were just the ground forces. They were sure to be bombarded from the air first. But none of that mattered now. The rebels had spent almost a full cycle beefing up their antiair defenses and had recruited enough of the planet’s population to form an army that was more than just sizable—it was huge.
The confrontation with the Confederate forces was inevitable. And even now, in the midst of all the fear and the panic and the anticipation, Achton was glad. He was glad that the waiting was over and that the battle was about to begin. The Korhalians were about to send a message to the Confederates: that they were the citizens of a free planet, and that they would fight to ensure that freedom. Let them come, thought the Colonel, let them bring their armored walkers and their cloaked fighters, but just let them come.
Colonel Achton smiled and waited for the first dropships to appear.
The holo-image now showed several tiny objects, no more than minuscule dots. They came from the ships in swarms, like locusts, leaving the battlecruisers and snaking their way toward Korhal’s atmosphere.
“Dropships?” Ailin responded to the unasked question on everyone’s mind. Mengsk shook his head. “No. Too small. They look more like … no, no that couldn’t be, just could not—” Mensgk continued shaking his head, refusing to believe, because he knew that if he believed, that just might make it all the more real.
He watched with the others as the scores of tiny, luminescent dots began descending into Korhal’s dense atmosphere.
Achton waited, looking out at the array of defenses beyond Styrling’s walls. A lieutenant raced up onto the guardwalk, out of breath. He had the harried look of a man who suddenly wished he were somewhere else.
“Sir, we’re tracking hundreds of incoming objects that have locked onto several positions across this side of the planet. I’m not sure, but I think we got a report from the Underside that they’re tracking objects as well.”
“Hundreds, you say?” The colonel’s calm veneer was slipping, and the naked fear began to become apparent on his face.
“Yes, sir. Too small for us to identify just yet, but they’re coming fast.”
Just then the colonel heard a low hum, barely detectable, like the whine of a small insect. Then he looked to the horizon and saw a swarm of small objects descending, trailing tails of smoke from behind, and he knew. “Not fair…” he whispered.
But the lieutenant did not hear him. The hum/whine had become almost deafening now. As the lieutenant looked up and saw more of the objects descending on them from directly above, he began to scream.
On the Spy Deck, a palpable silence pervaded as pools of brilliant light began spreading across the surface of the already luminescent image of Korhal. They continued from multiple locations until the majority of the planet was engulfed in that brilliance and no one in the room could question what they had just seen.
“By the fathers, it’s gone … Korhal’s gone. Every-body. Millions of people …” Ailin seemed on the verge of fainting.
Arcturus felt his stomach tighten and was aware of nothing but that image in front of him, the image of Korhal burning. After a short time, the pools of light began to fade, and the holo-image of Korhal became a darker, featureless facsimile of its former self.
In the midst of his shock and denial, Arcturus managed to speak three words: “Gather the men.”
The case of Korhal was, like many others throughout history, an example of a government attempting to suppress upheaval among its populace through tyrannical means and thereby only strengthening the determination of its dissenters. Inside the ready room where twenty men had stood just moments before, a throng of over fifty now crowded, exchanging angry and violent discourse over the loss of Korhal and the impudence of the Confederacy.
A hatchway slid open at the head of the room and Arcturus entered, looking like a lion that has stalked its prey into a corner and is savoring the moment just before the kill.
“You all know what has just transpired. For those of you who want the specifics—and I think you all deserve to know—twenty battlecruisers just launched about a thousand Apocalypse-class missiles from Korhal IV’s orbit. The missiles impacted on the planet’s surface and 35 million people will never again see the light of day. You need no stirring speeches; you need no coercion or coaxing. You all know the difference between right and wrong. Now the time has come to fight for the values you hold dear and to challenge those who would strip you of your individual freedoms. Are you with me?”
Fifty fists raised into the air simultaneously as the mob responded with a deafening roar. Mengsk waited for the din to subside before continuing. “As of this day, I declare that you are all no longer civilians. You are now soldiers. And we are now at war.” Mengsk prepared to go on, then stopped as a hatchway at the side of the room opened, and the Asian prospector he had spotted outside earlier now stepped in. The crowd was silent. Mengsk’s eyes traveled to the newcomer.
“I want to join,” he said.
Mengsk approached the smaller man and stood before him, an intimidating presence.
“I saw you before. You seemed hesitant.”
The Asian man nodded. “I wasn’t sure yet. But I am now.”
Somewhere among the crowd a mocking comment was made. A man near the general muttered “Fringe-squib” under his breath. The general silenced the man with a glance, then turned back to the Asian. “Indecision on the battlefield costs lives, boy.”
The smaller man held the general’s gaze. “Sir, all I’m asking is that you give me a chance.”
“Will you follow orders without question?”
Mengsk searched the other man’s eyes for a moment, then finally nodded. “What’s your name?”
“Somo. Somo Hung.”
“Welcome aboard,” said the general before he walked back to his spot next to Pollock and surveyed the men. “As I said, from now on … you are soldiers. And you will bear that mantle proudly. And as for the name of our little army, the name that shall be the bane of the Confederacy’s existence, I think it only appropriate that we call ourselves the Sons of Korhal!”
Once more the room erupted, this time with spirited cries of “Mengsk! Mengsk! Mengsk!”
Ailin stood next to the general, looking out into the docking bay where a battered, barely recognizable craft hung suspended. Workers pored over the behemoth busily, their torches spraying out sparks of light as final fittings and adjustments were made.
“She’s not exactly pristine, but she’ll serve her purpose,” Ailin offered, nodding his head toward the craft outside.
“That she will, my friend.” Arcturus was visibly pleased with the progress.
The battlecruiser was the casualty of a navigational systems error, much like the snafu that landed four supercarriers, carrying convicted criminals onto a few inhabitable worlds (including Umoja) into the deepest reaches of space just a few millennia ago. Those criminals were the forefathers of the Terrans, a blanket term that applied to all the generations of humans who followed and spread, inhabiting world after world and marching on in the way only humanity can.
The battlecruiser now in the docking bay had crashed onto a fiery planet not far from the Protectorate, but well out of range of the Confederacy’s hailing frequencies. Ailin and Mengsk went to the crash site immediately and stripped the craft of its tracking beacon. In the cargo bay they found several SCVs as well as a fully operational siege tank, and in the launching bay they found two CF/A-17G Wraith fighters, as well as four dropships.
The Protectorate shepherded the cruiser into one of its many docking bays. The Confederacy was obviously angered by the loss of one of their ships, but without proof of the Protectorate’s subversion, was unwilling to start another war. The crew was pronounced dead, and offered better pay and shorter hours to remain among the Protectorate and remain silent (a proposition no one balked at), and not too long after that the displaced ship’s captain became Arcturus’s most trusted soldier, Pollock Rimes.
It seemed like so much time had passed since then, though it was only a cycle. The craft had remained, being upgraded and modified slowly and methodically, until it became what Arcturus now saw before him, a battlecruiser he could call his own.
Ailin interrupted the general’s thoughts briefly. “What would you like to call her?” he asked.
Mengsk thought for a long moment.
“Hyperion,” he said at last. “I’ll call her the Hyperion.”
Just then Pollock approached the two men. “The soldiers request an update of status, General.”
Arcturus turned his bright eyes to Pollock. “Tell them we set out at next interval.”
Pollock’s lip lifted slightly, the closest thing to a smile Arcturus had ever seen cross the man’s face.
Copyright ? 2000 by Blizzard Entertainment
Pocket Book, 272 pages
Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles is locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end.
Danny Liberty was a good reporter…too good. When his investigations struck too close to the heart of the corrupt Terran Confederacy, he faced a simple choice: continue his current series of expos?s, or take a hazardous new assignment covering the Marines on the front lines of the Koprulu Sector. It didn’t take him long to decide….
Behind the attacks of the Zerg and the Protoss lies the story of a lifetime, but every piece of information blurs the mystery further. Thrown into the middle of a war where the outcome will determine mankind’s very survival, the only thing that Danny Liberty knows for sure is that the only person he can trust to keep him alive is himself.
The first in an epic new series of space warfare novels set in the world of the bestselling computer game!
Chapter 1: The Press Gang
Before the war, things were different. Hell, back then, we were just making our daily living, doing our jobs, drawing our paychecks, and stabbing our fellow men and women in the back. We had no idea how bad things would get. We were fat and happy like maggots on a dead animal. There was enough sporadic violence—rebellions and revolutions and balky colonial governments—to keep the military going, but not enough to really threaten the lifestyles we had grown accustomed to. We were, in retrospect, fat and sassy.
And if a real war broke out, well, it was the military’s worry. The marines’ worry. Not ours.
—The Liberty Manifesto
The city sprawled beneath Mike’s feet like an overturned bucket of jade cockroaches. From the dizzying height of Handy Anderson’s office, he could almost see the horizon between the taller buildings. The city reached that far, forming a jagged, spiked tear along the edge of the world.
The city of Tarsonis, on the planet Tarsonis. The most important city on the most important planet of the Confederacy of Man. The city so great they named it twice. The city so large its suburbs had greater populations than some planets. A shining beacon of civilization, keeper of the memories of an Earth now lost to history, myth, and earlier generations.
A sleeping dragon. And Michael Liberty could not resist twisting its tail.
“Come back from the edge there, Mickey,” said Anderson. The editor-in-chief was firmly ensconced at his desk, a desk as far away from the panoramic view as possible.
Michael Liberty liked to think there was a note of concern in his boss’s voice.
“Don’t worry,” said Mike. “I’m not thinking of jumping.” He suppressed a smile.
Mike and the rest of the newsroom knew that the editor-in-chief was acrophobic but could not bear to surrender his stratospheric office view. So on the rare occasions when Liberty was summoned into his boss’s office, he always stood near the window. Most of the time he and the other drudges and news hacks worked way down on the fourth floor or in the broadcast booths in the building’s basement.
“Jumping I’m not worried about,” said Anderson. “Jumping I can handle. Jumping would solve a lot of my problems and give me a lead for tomorrow’s edition. I’m more worried about some sniper taking you out from another building.”
Liberty turned toward his boss. “Bloodstains that hard to get out of the carpet?”
“Part of it,” said Anderson, smiling. “It’s also a bitch to replace the glass.”
Liberty look one last look at the traffic crawling far below and returned to the overstuffed chairs facing the desk. Anderson tried to be nonchalant, but Mike noted that the editor let out a long, slow breath as Mike moved away from the window.
Michael Liberty settled himself into one of Anderson’s chairs. The chairs were designed to look like normal furniture, but they were stuffed so that they sank an extra inch or two when someone sat down. This made the balding editor-in-chief with his comically oversized eyebrows look more imposing. Mike knew the trick, was not impressed, and set his feet up on the desk.
“So what’s the beef?” the reporter asked.
“Have a cigar, Mickey?” Anderson motioned with an open palm toward a teak humidor.
Mike hated being called Mickey. He touched his empty shirt pocket, where he normally stashed a pack of cigarettes. “I’m on the wagon. Trying to cut down.”
“They’re from beyond the Jaandaran embargo,” said Anderson temptingly. “Rolled on the thighs of cinnamon-shaded maidens.”
Mike held up both hands and smiled broadly. Everyone knew that Anderson was too cheap to get anything beyond the standard el ropos manufactured in some bootleg basement. But the smile was intended to reassure.
“What’s the beef?” Mike repeated.
“You’ve really done it this time,” said Anderson, sighing. “Your series on the construction kickbacks on the new Municipal Hall.”
“Good stuff. The series should rattle a few cages.”
“They’ve already been rattled,” replied Anderson, his chin sinking down to touch his chest. This was known as the bearer-of-bad-news position. It was something that Anderson had learned at some management course but that made him look like a mating ledge-pigeon.
Crap, thought Mike. He’s going to spike the series.
As if reading his thoughts, Anderson said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to run the rest of the series. It’s solid reporting, well-documented, and best of all, it’s true. But you have to know you’ve made a few people very uncomfortable.”
Mike mentally ran through the series. It had been one of his better ones, a classic involving a petty offender who was caught in the wrong place (a public park) at the wrong time (way after midnight) with the wrong thing (mildly radioactive construction waste from the Municipal Hall project). Said offender was more than willing to pass on the name of the man who sent him on this late-night escapade. That individual was in turn willing to tell Mike about some other interesting matters involving the new hall, and so forth, until Mike had, instead of a single story, a whole series about a huge network of graft and corruption that the Universe Network News audience ate up with their collective spoons.
Mike mentally ran through the ward heelers, low-level thugs, and members of the Tarsonis City Council that he had skewered in print, discarding each in turn as a suspect. Any of those august individuals might want to take a shot at him, but such a threat wasn’t enough to make Handy Anderson nervous.
The editor-in-chief saw Mike’s blank expression and added, “You’ve made a few powerful, venerable people very uncomfortable.”
Mike’s left eyebrow rose. Anderson was talking about one of the ruling Families, the power behind the Confederacy for most of its existence, since those early days when the first colony ships (hell, prison ships) landed and/or crashed on various planets in the sector. Somewhere in his reporting, he had nailed somebody with pull, or perhaps somebody close enough to one of the Families to make the old venerables nervous.
Mike resolved to go back over his notes and see what kind of linkages he could make. Perhaps a distaff cousin to one of the Old Families, or a black sheep, or maybe even a direct kickback. God knew that the Old Families ran things from behind the scenes since the year naught. If he could nail one of them…
Mike wondered if he was visibly salivating at the prospect.
In the meantime Handy Anderson had risen from his seat and strolled around the side of his desk, perching on the corner nearest Mike. (Another move directly out of the management lectures, Mike realized. Hell, Anderson had assigned him to cover those lectures once.) “Mike, I want you to know you’re on dangerous ground here.”
Oh God, he called me Mike, thought Liberty. Next he’ll be looking plaintively out the window as if lost in thought, wrestling with a momentous decision.
He said, “I’m used to dangerous ground, boss.”
“I know, I know. I just worry about those around you. Your sources. Your friends. Your co-workers…”
“Not to mention my superiors.”
“…all of whom would be heartbroken if something horrible happened to you.”
“Particularly if they were standing nearby when it happened,” added the reporter.
Anderson shrugged and stared plaintively out the full-length window. Mike realized that whatever Anderson was afraid of, it was worse than his fear of heights. And this was a man who, if office rumor was correct (and it was), kept a locked room in the sub-basement that contained dirt on most of the celebrities and important citizens of the city.
The pause dragged beyond a moment into a minute. Finally Mike broke. He gave a polite cough and said, “So you have an idea how to handle this ‘dangerous ground’?”
Handy Anderson nodded slowly. “I want to print the series. It’s good work.”
“But you don’t want me anywhere in the immediate vicinity when the next part of that story hits the street.”
“I’m thinking of your own safety, Mickey, it’s…”
“Dangerous ground,” finished Mike. “I heard. Here be dragons. Perhaps it would be time for an extended vacation? Maybe a cabin in the mountains?”
“I was thinking more of a special assignment.”
Of course, thought Mike. That way I won’t have the chance to figure out whose tail I’ve inadvertently twisted. And give those involved time to cover their tracks.
“Another part of the Universe News Network empire?” Mike said with a broad smile, at the same time wondering what godforsaken colony world he would be doing agricultural reports from.
“More of a roving reporter,” teased Anderson.
“How roving?” Mike’s smile suddenly became flinty and brittle. “Will I need shots for off-planet?”
“Better than getting shot for being on-planet. Sorry, bad joke. The answer is yes, I’m thinking definitely off-planet.”
“Come on, spill. Which hellhole do you want to hide me in?”
“I was thinking of the Confederate Marines. As a military reporter, of course.”
“It would be a temporary posting, of course,” continued the editor.
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Sort of ‘our fighting men in space,’ battling against the various forces of rebellion that threaten our great Confederacy. There are rumors that Arcturus Mengsk is rallying more support in the Fringe Worlds. Could turn really hot at any moment.”
“The marines?” sputtered Mike. “The Confederate Marines are the biggest collection of criminals in the known universe, outside of the Tarsonis City Council.”
“Mike, please. Everyone has some criminal blood in them. Hell, all the planets of the Confederacy were settled by exiled convicts.”
“Yeah, but most people like to think we grew out of that. The marines still make that one of their basic recruiting requirements. Hell, do you know how many of them have been brain-panned?”
“Neurally Resocialized,” corrected Anderson. “No more than fifty percent per unit these days, I understand. Less in some places. And the resocialization is more often done with noninvasive procedures. You probably won’t notice.”
“Yeah, and they pump them so full of stimpacks they’d kill their own grandpas on the right command.”
“Exactly the sort of common misconception that your work can counter,” said Anderson, both eyebrows raised in practiced sincerity.
“Look, most of the politicos I’ve met are naturally nuts. The marines are nuts and then they started messing with their heads. No. The marines are not an option.”
“It’d make for some good stories. You’d probably get some good contacts.”
“Reporters with experience with the military get perks,” said the editor-in-chief. “You get a green tag on your file, and that carries weight with the more venerable families of Tarsonis. In some cases even forgiveness.”
“Sorry. Not interested.”
“I’ll give you your own column.”
A pause. Finally Mike said, “How big a column?”
“Full column-page print, or five minutes stand-up for the broadcast. Under your byline, of course.”
“You file, I’ll fill.”
Another pause. “A raise with that?”
Anderson named a figure, and Mike nodded.
“That’s impressive,” he said.
“Not chump change,” agreed the editor-in-chief.
“I’m a little old to be planet-hopping.”
“There’s no real danger. And if something does flare up, there’s combat pay. Automatic.”
“Fifty percent brain-panned?” Mike asked.
Another pause. Then Mike said, “Well, it sounds like a challenge.”
“And you’re just the man for a challenge.”
“And it can’t be worse than covering the Tarsonis City Council,” Mike mused, feeling himself sliding down the slippery slope to acceptance.
“My thoughts exactly,” his editor agreed.
“And if it would help the network…” Yep, Mike thought, he was on the edge, poised to pitch over into the void.
“You would be a shining light to us all,” said Anderson. “A well-paid, shining light. Wave the flag a little, get some personal stories, ride around in a battlecruiser, play some cards. Don’t worry about us back here at the office.”
“Cushiest. I’ve got some pull, you know. Was an old green-tag myself. Three months work, tops. A lifetime of rewards.”
There was a final pause, a chasm as deep as the concrete canyon that yawned beyond the window.
“All right,” said Mike, “I’ll do it.”
“Wonderful!” Anderson reached for the humidor, then caught himself and instead offered Mike his hand. “You won’t regret it.”
“Why do I feel that I already do?” Michael Liberty asked in a small voice as the editor’s meaty, sweaty hand ensnared his own.
Copyright ? 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment
Pocket Book, 288 pages
The book novel plot is from Jim Raynor’s point of view, and it details the events that occur on planet Char, specifically the interactions between Raynor, Kerrigan, Tassadar, and Zeratul. However, look forward to reading what happened in the meeting between Tassadar and Zeratul.
“Former marshall-turned-rebel Jim Raynor has broken away from the power-crazed Emperor Arcturus Mengsk. Enraged over Mengsk’s betrayal of the powerful telepath, Sarah Kerrigan, to the ravenous Zerg, Raynor has lost all faith in his fellow humanity.
Yet, in the aftermath of Mengsk’s treachery, Raynor is plagued by strange visions of Char—a deadly volcanic world haunted by horrifying alien creatures. As the nightmares grow in intensity, Raynor begins to suspect that they may not be figments of his imagination—but a desperate form of telepathic contact. Convinced that the woman he loves is still alive, Raynor launches a mission to rescue Kerrigan from Char. But deep beneath the planet’s smoldering surface, Raynor finds a strange chrysalis . . . and is forced to watch in horror. as a terrible, all-too-familiar entity arises from it.
Before him stands a creature of malice and vengeance . . . Sarah Kerrigan : The Zerg Queen of Blades.”
Copyright ? 2006 by Blizzard Entertainment
The world went dark.
Not just a darkened sky—no mere nightfall could produce such utter darkness. No, this was the dark of captivity, confinement, blindness. Nothing visible, no light, no shadow, only a smothering visual shroud. A stark contrast to the blinding lights and sudden bursts of color from just before.
I struggle to make sense of my surroundings. Where am I?
Nothing but blankness answers, and an instant later a far larger question looms up, erasing the first. Who am I?
A wave of panic rises deep within, bile carried along its edge, threatening to drown me as I realize I cannot remember. I do not know who I am!
Calm, I tell myself. Calm. I force the panic down, pushing it back by sheer will, refusing to let it envelop me. What do you remember, then?
Nothing. No, brief flashes. A battle. A war. Horrid, horrible foes, great monstrous beings surrounding me, dwarfing me. Betrayal—though I cannot recall the act itself I can still taste the bitter realization of it. Abandonment. Desperation, a last frenzied struggle. The feel of sinewy flesh pinning me, choking me, killing me. The light fading around me as the numbness creeps in.
And now this.
Where am I? I stretch my senses to their limit, probing my surroundings. The results, though hazy and disjointed, form a single conclusion.
I am being carried.
I can feel the movement, the gentle rocking motion. Not directly—something cushions me, envelops me, holds me all around. But that cushioning is moving, and me with it.
I try lashing out, but my limbs will not cooperate. I feel sluggish, drained—drugged. Senses dulled, body leaden, but nerves oddly on fire. I am burning from within! My flesh crawls, creeps, melts, morphs—I have no control over my own form anymore. I am changing.
Around me I can feel others shifting. They are not confined as I am—they are free to move, though their minds are oddly blunted. They are my captors, conveying me in my confinement.
I can hear their thoughts, slithering across me, through me. A part of me recoils but another part—a newer part—welcomes their intrusion. Vibrates in tune with their gibbering, allowing the patterns to resonate through me. Changing me further, bringing me closer to those waiting just beyond.
The part that is still me, the old me, recoils in horror. I cannot, I will not become one of these! I must escape! I must be free! My body is captive but my mind soars, reaching out for help, any help. I scream, desperate for anyone to hear.
And, far away, I know that my pleas have been heard.
Rubble lay everywhere, evidence of a city in flames, a world in demise. Buildings had fallen, vehicles were crashed and crushed, bodies littered the ground. A sign still stood near the edge of the destruction, its scorched surface reading “Welcome to”—the name New Gettysburg only a jagged hole with blackened edges. All manner of bodies, from the pale flesh of the Terrans to the smooth hides of the protoss to the sinewy blades of the zerg. People, those not yet dead and unable to evacuate, ran screaming, wailing for help. Some brandished weapons, crazed beyond rational thought, desperate to defend themselves and their families. Others cowered, weeping, unable to face the end of their world. A few hid or ran, hoping to escape their fate.
The Swarm ignored them. It had a higher agenda.
The battle had not gone as expected. The Terrans had put up a strong fight but with fewer soldiers than anticipated. The protoss, the hated protoss, had appeared as always, gleaming in their battle suits and glowing in their arrogance, but had rapidly lost focus, dividing their attentions as if facing not one but two opponents. In some places the Swarm had sighted Terrans battling protoss, a strange but welcome sight. Yes, it had been a strange battlefield, the sides constantly shifting. But that was for the Overmind to consider and digest. For now, the conflict was over, the battle won. The remaining Terrans posed little threat and the protoss had vanished once the outcome was clear. For some reason they had not razed the planet, a fact which had allowed the Swarm to discover and claim a previously unexpected prize.
Now, their linked minds already turned from this conflict to those stretching out before them, the zerg marshaled their forces and prepared for their victorious departure.
One brood cleared a path, removing any obstructions, whether flesh or stone or metal. A second brood followed close behind, its ranks protectively closed around its prize. Near the center several ultralisks moved in close formation, their back-spikes almost touching. Between them were four hydralisks, thick arms linked to support the large oblong they held. Through its rough, sticky shell the cocoon pulsed with light, though its faint glow was lost amid the fires and flares and explosions that had once been this city.
“Carefully,” warned the brood’s cerebrate, observing their progress through the overlord floating just above the sphere. Because the celebrant itself could not move, the airborne overlords served as its eyes, ears, and mouth. “The Chrysalis must not be harmed!”
Obedient to its will, the ultralisks shifted slightly closer and slowed their pace, allowing more time for the brood before them to open the way. Their heavy feet crushed bone and metal and wood without thought or pause as they lumbered on, shielding the Chrysalis from attack.
“We have it, Master,” the cerebrate announced in the depths of its own mind. “We have your prize.”
“Good.” The reply echoed from within, rising from the deep well of the zerg hive-mind. “You must watch over the Chrysalis, and ensure that no harm comes to the creature within it. Go now and keep safe my prize.”
Accepting the Overmind’s orders as always, the cerebrate redoubled its efforts, making sure its brood’s defenses were secure. The Chrysalis would be protected at all costs.
On the zerg marched, the city burning around them. At last the Swarm had gathered itself within a vast crater where once the city’s vaunted lake had stretched. Now the surface was glass-smooth, seared by the force of the protoss’s landing ships and unmarred by the heavy feet that had trekked across toward the city under siege.
“We are ready, Master,” the cerebrate declared, arraying its brood around the Chrysalis.
“I am well pleased, young Cerebrate,” the Overmind answered, the warm glow of its benediction washing over the cerebrate and through it all the members of its Swarm. “And so long as my prize remains intact, I shall remain pleased. Thus, its life and yours shall be made as one. As it prospers, so shall you. For you are part of the Swarm. If ever your flesh should fail, that flesh shall be made anew. That is my covenant with all cerebrates.”
As the cerebrate swelled with pride, a great darkness descended upon the crater, a shadow of the mass that drifted into view high above them. Beyond the upper reaches of the planet’s dying atmosphere hung a massive storm, a swirl of orange and violet gases that spun around strange flickering lights. They moved faster and faster, the colors merging in their fury, until the center of the storm collapsed in upon itself, light and color giving way to a shadowy circle far darker than even the space hovering beyond.
“Now you have grown strong enough to bear the rigors of warp travel with the Swarm,” the Overmind stated, its words sending a thrum of power through the Swarm. “Thus we shall make our exit from this blasted world and secure the Chrysalis within the Hive Cluster upon the planet Char.”
As one the first brood rose, soaring high above the ruined city. They broke free of the planet’s weak, fading grasp and approached the storm above, pulled into that yawning, beckoning darkness at its center, and vanished. The cerebrate felt their transit through the hive-mind link all zerg shared and allowed a spark of contentment to linger within its own mind. Then the Overmind summoned it as well, and the cerebrate called its brood together, linking them tightly for travel through the warp. They rose from the crater, letting the power of the Swarm fill them as they ascended, and soon the darkness had drowned out all thought, all sense, as it carried them across the vastness of space to their destination.
And within the Chrysalis, faintly visible through its thick skin and viscous contents, a body writhed in pain. Though not conscious the figure within shifted, stirred, unable to lie still as the zerg virus penetrated every cell, changing DNA to match their own. Soon the Chrysalis would open and the new zerg would emerge. All the Swarm exulted with the Overmind.
And, as they departed and Tarsonis died behind them, the mind trapped within the Chrysalis screamed.
STARCRAFT ? 2006 Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.
|June 26, 2001
Pocket Book, 272 pages
Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles are locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm. Each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars in a war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter—or foretell its violent, bloody end.
Bhekar Ro: a bleak, backwater world on the fringe of the Terran Dominion, where every day is a struggle to survive for its handful of human colonists. It is a veritable wasteland—one speck of dust among many in the vast, dark sea of space. But when the most violent storm in recent memory unearths an unfathomable alien artifact, Bhekar Ro becomes the greatest prize in the Terran Sector—the Holy Grail of the Zerg, the Protoss, and Humanity alike—as forces from the three great powers converge to claim the lost secrets of the most powerful species the universe has ever known.
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As a smothering blanket of darkness descended over the town of Free Haven, the rugged settlers scrambled to avoid the storm. Night came quickly on the colony planet of Bhekar Ro, with plenty of wind but no stars.
Pitch-black clouds swirled over the horizon, caught on the sharp mountainous ridge surrounding the broad valley that formed the heart of the struggling agricultural colony. Already, explosive thunder crackled over the ridge like a poorly aimed artillery barrage. Each blast was powerful enough to be detected on several still-functioning seismographs planted around the explored areas.
Atmospheric conditions created thunder slams with sonic-boom intensity. The roar itself was sometimes sufficient to cause destruction. And what the sonic thunder left unharmed, the laser-lightning tore to pieces.
Forty years earlier, when the first colonists had fled the oppressive government of the Terran Confederacy, they had been duped into believing that this place could be made into a new Eden. After three generations, the stubborn settlers refused to give up.
Riding in the shotgun seat beside her brother Lars, Octavia Bren looked through the streaked windshield of the giant robo-harvester as they hurriedly trundled back to town. The rumble of the mechanical treads and the roar of the engine almost drowned out the sonic thunder. Almost.
Laser-lightning blasts seared down from the clouds like luminous spears, straight-line lances of static discharge that left glassy pockmarks on the terrain. The laser-lightning reminded Octavia of library images she had seen of a big Yamato gun fired from a Battlecruiser in orbit.
“Why in the galaxy did our grandparents ever choose to move here?” she asked rhetorically. More laser-lightning burned craters into the countryside.
“For the scenery, of course,” Lars joked.
While the bombardment of hail would clear the air of the ever-present dust and grit, it would also damage the crops of triticale-wheat and salad-moss that barely clung to the rocky soil. The Free Haven settlers had few emergency provisions to help them withstand any severe harvest failure, and it had been a long time since they had asked for outside help.
But they would survive somehow. They always had.
Lars watched the approaching storm, a spark of excitement in his hazel eyes. Though he was a year older than his sister, when he wore that cocky grin on his face he looked like a reckless teenager. “I think we can outrun the worst of it.”
“You always overestimate what we can do, Lars.” Even at the age of seventeen, Octavia was known for her stability and common sense. “And I always end up saving your butt.”
Lars seemed to have a bottomless reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. She gripped her seat as the big all-purpose vehicle crunched through a trench and continued along a wide beaten path between plantings, heading toward the distant lights of the town.
Shortly after their parents’ death, it had been Lars’s crazy suggestion that the two of them expand their cultivated land and add remote automated mineral mines to their holdings. She had tried, unsuccessfully, to talk him out of it. “Let’s be practical, Lars. We’ve already got our hands full with the farm as it is. Expanding would leave us time for nothing but work—not even families.”
Half of the colonists’ eligible daughters had already filed requests to marry him—Cyn McCarthy had filed three separate times!—but so far Lars had made plenty of excuses. Colonists were considered adults at the age of fifteen on this rough world, and many were married and had children before they reached their eighteenth birthday. Next year, Octavia would be facing the same decision, and choices were few in Free Haven.
“Are you sure we want to do this?” she had asked one last time.
“Of course. It’s worth the extra effort. And once we’re established there’ll be plenty of time for each of us to get married,” Lars had insisted, shaking back his shoulder-length sandy hair. She had never been able to argue with that grin. “Before we know it, Octavia, it’ll all turn around, and then you’ll thank me.”
He had been certain they could grow crops high on the slopes of the Back Forty, the ridge that separated their lands from another broad basin and more mountains twelve kilometers away. So the brother and sister had used their robo-harvester to scrape flat a new swath of barely arable farmland and plant new crops. They also set up automated mineral mining stations on the rocky slopes of the foothills. That had been almost two years ago.
Now a gust of wind slammed into the broad metal side of the harvester, rattling the sealed windowports. Lars compensated on the steering column and accelerated. He didn’t even look tired from their long day of hard work.
Laser-lightning seared across the sky, leaving colorful tracks across her retinas. Though he couldn’t see any better than his sister, Lars didn’t slow down at all. They both just wanted to get home.
“Watch out for the boulders!” Octavia said, her piercing green eyes spotting the hazard as rain slashed across the windows of the impressive tractorlike vehicle.
Lars discounted the rocks, drove over them, and crushed the stone with the vehicle’s treads. “Aww, don’t underestimate the capabilities of the machine.”
She snorted indelicately. “But if you throw a plate or fry a hydraulic cam, I’m the one who has to fix it.”
The multipurpose robo-harvester, the most important piece of equipment any of the colonists owned, was capable of bulldozing, tilling, destroying boulders, planting, and harvesting crops. Some of the big machines had rock-crusher attachments, others had flamethrowers. The vehicles were also practical for traversing ten- to twenty-klick distances over rough terrain.
The hull of the robo-harvester, once a gleaming cherry red, was now faded, scratched, and pitted. The engine ran as smoothly as a lullaby, though, and that was all Octavia cared about.
Now she checked the weather scanner and atmospheric-pressure tracker in the robo-harvester’s cabin, but the readings were all wild. “Looks like a bad one tonight.”
“They’re always bad ones. This is Bhekar Ro, after all—what do you expect?”
Octavia shrugged. “I guess it was good enough for Mom and Dad.” Back when they were alive.
She and Lars were the only survivors of their family. Every family among the settlers had lost friends or relatives. Taming an uncooperative new world was dangerous, rarely rewarding work, always ripe for tragedy.
But the people here still followed their dreams. These exhausted colonists had left the tight governmental fences of the Confederacy for the promised land of Bhekar Ro some forty years before. They had sought independence and a new start, away from the turmoil and constant civil wars among the inner Confederacy worlds.
The original settlers had wanted nothing more than peace and freedom. They had begun idealistically, establishing a central town with resources for all the colonists to share, naming it Free Haven, and dividing farmland equally among the able-bodied workers. But in time the idealism faded as the colonists endured toil and new hardships on a planet that did not live up to their expectations.
Nobody among the colonists ever suggested going back, though—especially not Octavia and Lars Bren.
The lights of Free Haven glowed like a warm, welcoming paradise as the robo-harvester approached. In the distance Octavia could already hear the storm-warning siren next to the old Missile Turret in the town plaza, signaling colonists to find shelter. Everyone else—at least the colonists who had common sense—had already barricaded themselves inside their prefabricated homes to shelter from the storm.
They passed outlying homes and fields, crossed over dry irrigation ditches, and reached the perimeter of the town, which was laid out in the shape of an octagon. A low perimeter fence encircled the settlement, but the gates for the main streets had never been closed.
An explosion of sonic thunder roared so close that the robo-harvester rattled. Lars gritted his teeth and drove onward. Octavia remembered sitting on her father’s knee during her childhood, laughing at the thunder as her family had gathered inside their home, feeling safe….
Their grandparents had aged rapidly from the rigors of life here and had the dubious distinction of being the first to be buried in Bhekar Ro’s ever-growing cemetery outside Free Haven’s octagonal perimeter. Then, not long after Octavia had turned fifteen, the spore blight had struck.
The sparse crops of mutated triticale-wheat had been afflicted by a tiny black smut on a few of the kernels. Because food was in short supply, Octavia’s mother had set aside the moldy wheat for herself and her husband, feeding untainted bread to their children. The meager meal had seemed like any other: rough and tasteless, but nutritious enough to keep them alive.
Octavia remembered that last night so clearly. She had been suffering from one of her occasional migraines and a dire sense of unreasonable foreboding. Her mother had sent the teenage girl to bed early, where Octavia had had terrible nightmares.
The next morning she had awakened in a too-quiet house to find both of her parents dead in their bed. Beneath wet sheets twisted about by their final agony, the bodies of her mother and father were a quivering, oozing mass of erupted fungal bodies, rounded mushrooms of exploding spores that rapidly disintegrated all flesh….
Lars and Octavia had never returned to that house, burning it to the ground along with the tainted fields and the homes of seventeen other families that had been infected by the horrible, parasitic disease.
Though a terrible blow to the colony, the spore blight had drawn the survivors together even more tightly. The new mayor, Jacob “Nik” Nikolai, had delivered an impassioned eulogy for all the victims of the spore plague, somehow rekindling the fires of independence in the process and giving the settlers the drive to stay here. They had already lived through so much, survived so many hardships, that they could pull through this.
Moving together into an empty prefab dwelling at the edge of Free Haven, Octavia and Lars had rebuilt their lives. They made plans. They expanded. They tracked their automated mines and watched the seismic monitors for signs of tectonic disturbances that might affect their work or the town. The two drove out to the fields each day and labored side by side until well after dark. They worked harder, risked more…and survived.
As Octavia and Lars passed through the open gate and drove around the town square toward their residence, the storm finally struck with full force. It became a slanting wall of rain and hail as the robo-harvester ground its way past the lights and barricaded doors of metal-walled huts. Their own home looked the same as all the others, but Lars found it by instinct, even in the blinding downpour.
He spun the large vehicle to a halt in the flat gravel clearing in front of their house. He locked down the treads and powered off the engine, while Octavia tugged a reinforced hat down over her head and got ready to jump out of the cab and make a break for the door. Even running ten feet in this storm would be a miserable ordeal.
Before the robo-harvester’s systems dimmed completely, Octavia checked the fuel reservoirs, since her brother never remembered to do so. “We’ll need to get more Vespene gas from the refinery.”
Lars grabbed the door handle and hunched his head down. “Tomorrow, tomorrow. Rastin’s probably hiding inside his hut cursing the wind right now. That old codger doesn’t like storms any more than I do.”
He popped open the hatch and jumped out seconds before a strong gust slammed the door back into its frame. Octavia exited from the other side, hopping from the step to the broad tractor treads to the ground.
As she ran beside her brother in a mad dash to their dwelling, the hail hit them like machine-gun bullets. Lars got their front door open, and the siblings crashed into the house, drenched and windblown. But at least they were safe from the storm.
Sonic thunder pealed across the sky again. Lars undid the fastenings on his jacket. Octavia yanked off her dripping hat and tossed it into a corner, then powered up their lights so she could check one of the old seismographs they had installed in their hut.
Few of the other colonists bothered to monitor planetary conditions or track underground activity anymore, but Lars had thought it important to place seismographs in their automated mining stations out in the Back Forty foothills. Of course, Octavia had been the one to repair and install the aging monitoring equipment.
Lars had been right, though. There had been increasing tremors of late, setting off ripples of aftershocks that originated deep in the mountain range at the far side of the next valley.
Just what we need—another thing to worry about, Octavia thought, looking at the graph with concern.
Lars joined her to read the seismograph strip. The long and shaky line appeared to have been drawn by a caff-addicted old man. He saw several little blips and spikes, probably echoes of sonic thunder, but no major seismic events. “Now that’s interesting. Aren’t you glad we didn’t have an earthquake tonight?”
She knew it would happen even before he finished his sentence. Maybe it was another one of Octavia’s powerful premonitions, or just a discouraged acceptance that things would get worse whenever they had the opportunity.
Just as Lars formed another of his cocky grins, a tremor rippled through the ground, as if the uneasy crust of Bhekar Ro were having a nightmare. At first Octavia hoped it was merely a particularly close blast of sonic thunder, but the tremors continued to build, lurching the floor beneath their feet and shaking the entire prefab house.
Lars tensed his powerful muscles to ride out the temblor. They both watched the seismograph go wild. “The readings are off the scale!”
Astonished, Octavia pointed out, “This isn’t even centered here. It’s fifteen klicks away, over the ridge.”
“Great. Not far from where we set up all our automated mining equipment.” The seismograph went dead, its sensors overloaded, as the quake pounded the ground for what seemed an eternity before it gradually began to fade. “Looks like you’re gonna have some repair work to do tomorrow, Octavia.”
“I’ve always got repair work to do,” she said.
Outside, the storm reached a crescendo. Lars and Octavia sat together in weary silence, just waiting out the disaster. “Do you want to play cards?” he asked.
Then all the lights inside their dwelling went out, leaving them in pitch blackness lit only by flares from the laser-lightning.
“Not tonight,” she said.
Copyright ? 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment
|May 21, 2002
Pocket Book, 256 pages
Far in the future, 60,000 light-years from Earth, a loose confederacy of Terran exiles is locked in battle with the enigmatic Protoss and the ruthless Zerg Swarm, as each species struggles to ensure its own survival among the stars—war that will herald the beginning of mankind’s greatest chapter or foretell its violent, bloody end.
All Ardo Menikov ever dreamed of was to live in peace on the verdant colony world of Bountiful. But when the vicious Zerg Swarm attacked the colony and annihilated his loved ones, Ardo was forced to wake from his dream and accept the brutal realities of a war-torn galaxy. Now a confederate marine, charged with defending the worlds of the Terran confederacy, Ardo must come to terms with the painful memories of his past—and the unsettling truths that may dominate his future.
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Chapter 1: Downfall
That was his word for it, that rare…, perfect day that warms the soul with a golden glow of joy. There was peace in a golden day.
Some days were gray, hung with leaden clouds and rain punctuated by brilliant flashes of burning white and rolling thunder. Other days were a vibrant cold blue arching over the frost-encrusted domes and sheds of the settlement. Some days were even red—the evening sky painted by the dust in the spring winds before the crops had gotten their own hold on the soil. Some days even extended into the night with a velvety cobalt blanket across the sky.
He liked those autumn nights when he could leave his world behind by staring up into that rich darkness. God had put pinpricks in the dome of the night, he imagined, so that His light could shine through. As a child he had searched the stars, hoping to see through to the other side and catch some glimpse of this Creator. He had never stopped looking, even though he had reached his nineteenth birthday and had thought himself too mature for such things.
Each day held different colors for him. He had experienced them in all their hues. Each held a memory and a place in his heart. Yet none in his experience could compare to a golden day. It was the color of the wheat fields that rolled like waves across the low hills stretching out from his father’s homestead. Golden was the warmth of the sun on his face. Golden was the glow he felt within him.
Golden was the color of her hair and the sound of her voice.
“You’re dreaming again, Ardo,” she whispered playfully. “Come back to me. You are much too far away!”
He opened his eyes. She was golden.
“Melani, I’m right here.” Ardo smiled.
“No, you aren’t.” She pouted—a formidable weapon in getting her way. “You’re off dreaming again and you’ve left me behind.”
He rolled onto his side, propping his head up on one elbow so that he could get a better look at her. She was just a year younger than he. Her family had arrived back when Ardo was nine years old, another group in a long line of religious refugees that fell from the sky to join with other Saints in Helaman Township.
Refugee survivors had been gathering from nearly all the planets of the Confederacy back then—reluctant pioneers of the stars. Many devout religious groups had been among the first to be outlawed by the United Powers League on Earth back in ‘31. It was not a new story to Saints and Martyrs. Throughout humanity’s history, those who did not understand the faithful had driven them from place to place and home to home. That they should be driven from planet to planet, then star to star, was beginning to sound painfully repetitious in their Heritage classes. Now, exiles once more, families of the faithful were scattered among the ill-fated transports of the ATLAS project, and when that mission ended in such cataclysmic failure, those families who survived searched desperately for their brothers and sisters. When communication was finally established between worlds, the Patriarchs chose an outlying region on a world they called Bountiful for their new home. Soon, Orbital Dropships were landing at the Zarahemla Starport daily. The newly arrived families would then make their way to the outlying settlements as best they could. Arthur and Keti Bradlaw, with their wide-eyed daughter, were one of five families that arrived that day. Ardo had joined his father as the entire township came out to welcome the new families and get them settled.
Ardo could not remember much about Melani then, although he had been vaguely aware of the stick of a girl who seemed awkward, lonely, and shy. He first took real notice of her when her fourteenth year brought some rather remarkable changes. The “stick girl” seemed to burst into his awareness like a butterfly unfolding from its chrysalis. Her features held a natural beauty—body painting and makeup were frowned upon by the Patriarchs of the township—and it had been Ardo’s great good fortune to have been the first to approach her. His heart and soul fell into her large, luminescent blue eyes.
The nimbus of her long, shining hair played softly in the warm breeze drifting over the wheat fields. The wind carried the distant hum of the mill and the faint scent of the bread at the bakery.
“I may be off dreaming, but I’ll never leave you behind,” he said to her, smiling. The wheat rustled about the blanket where they lay. “Tell me where you want to go. I’ll take you there!”
“Right now?” Her laugh was sunshine. “In your dreams?”
“Sure!” Ardo pulled himself up to kneel on the heavy blanket he had spread out for them.
“Anywhere in the stars!”
“I can’t go anywhere.” She smiled. “I have a test in Sister Johnson’s Hydroponics class this afternoon! Besides,” she said more earnestly. “Why would I want to go anywhere else at all? Everything I want is right here.”
Golden. Who could ever leave on such a golden day?
“Then let’s not go anywhere,” he said eagerly.
“Let’s stay here… and get married.”
“Married?” She looked at him, half bemused and half questioning. “I told you, I have Hydroponics class this afternoon.”
“No, I mean it.” Ardo had been working himself up for this for some time. “I’ve graduated, and things are working out really well on Dad’s agra-plots. He said he was thinking of giving me forty acres at the far end of the homestead. It’s the sweetest place, right up near the base of the canyon. There’s a spot there next to the river where… where… Melani?”
The girl with the golden hair did not hear him. She sat up, her blue eyes squinting toward the township. “The siren, Ardo!”
Then he heard it, too. The distant wail, rising and falling across the fields.
Ardo shook his head. “They always sound it at noon…”
“But it isn’t noon, Ardo.”
The sun was eclipsed in that instant. Ardo leaped up, wheeling around toward the darkened sky. His mouth fell open as the lengthening shadow surged across the yellowed fields of wheat. Ardo’s eyes went wide with the rush of fear. Adrenaline roared into his veins.
Enormous plumes of smoke trailed behind fireballs roaring directly toward him from the western end of the broad valley. Ardo quickly reached down and pulled Melani to her feet. His mind raced. They had to run, find shelter… But where could they go? Melani screamed, and he realized that there was nowhere to go and no place safe to hide.
The fireballs seemed so close that both of them ducked. The flames arched over them, the thunderous sound of their fury quickly drowning the distant warning siren. The shadow of their wake covered the entire valley. Five enormous columns crossed overhead, their fingers reaching over Ardo and Melani toward the clustered buildings of Helaman Township. Then the fireballs wheeled as one, lifted over the township, and descended in roiling flames into Segard Yohansen’s instantly ruined fields, about a mile past the center of Helaman.
Ardo shook—whether from fear or excitement he could not tell—but at least his stupor had ended. He clasped Melani’s arm and began pulling at her. “Come on! We’ve got to get into the town before they shut the gates! Come on!”
She needed no further urging.
He could not remember how they got into town.
The golden day had turned a muddy brown fading to gray from the smoke that still coated the sky overhead. It was an oppressive color, slate and cold. It seemed so out of place here.
“We’ve got to find my Uncle Dez,” he heard himself say. “He has a shop in the compound! Come on! Come on!”
Ardo and Melani struggled to move through the center of the township, now crowded with refugees. Helaman originally had been nothing but an outpost in the far reaches of Bountiful. Its town center was the original fortress compound with the defensive wall encompassing the main buildings. Since then, the town had grown well beyond those central walls. Now more than ten thousand people called Helaman their home—and nearly all of them had poured into the safety of the old fortress compound.
He could just see the sign “Dez Hardwarez” across the packed central square.
The rattle of automatic weapons clattered suddenly from the perimeter wall. Two dull explosive thuds resounded, followed by even more chattering machine guns.
A cry arose from the crowd in the square. Ardo felt more than heard the fear in the seething mob. Shouts rang out, some strident and others calming. The smoke overhead cast an oppressive veil over the surging mob.
“Please, Ardo!” Melani said, “I… Where do we go? What do we do?”
Ardo glanced around. He could taste the panic in the air.
“We just need to get across the square,” he choked out, then, seeing the look in her eyes. “We’ve done it hundreds of times.”
“It isn’t any farther than it was before. Just a little more crowded, that’s all.” Ardo looked at the tears welling up in those beautiful blue eyes. He squeezed her hand tightly. “Don’t worry. I’ll be right here with you.”
Somehow, they were halfway across the square when it came.
A sheet of flame erupted beyond the fortress’s outer wall. Its crimson light flashed against the blanket of smoke that hung oppressively over the town. The blood-red hue electrified the panicked crowd in the square. Screams, shouts, and cries all tumbled into a cacophony of sound, but several disembodied voices penetrated Ardo’s thoughts clearly.
“Where are the Confederacy forces? Where are the Marines?”
“Don’t argue with me! Get the children! Stay together!”
“It can’t be the Zerg! They couldn’t have penetrated so far into the Confederacy…”
Zerg? Ardo had heard rumors about them. Nightmares, so he thought, to scare children or keep outsiders from settling in the Outer Colonies. He could not remember all the whispered tales, but the nightmare was here now, and very real.
Another voice penetrated his thoughts. He turned toward her.
“Ardo, I’m frightened!” Melani’s eyes were wide and liquid. “What is it? What’s going on?”
Ardo opened his mouth. He could not answer her question. No words came out. There were so many words he wanted to say to her in that moment—so many words that he would regret never having said for uncounted years to come. But no words came out.
A light flared. He felt the heat on his back. He turned, holding Melani behind him.
The eastern wall had been breached. The old rampart was being pulled down from the other side, dismantled before Ardo’s eyes. It seemed as though a dark wave was breaking against the breach, an undulating silhouette. Then details lodged in his mind: a gleaming purple carapace, red-streaked ivory claws sliding from a colonist’s limp body, the arching, snakelike bodies writhing across the broken stone.
It was unthinkable…. The nightmare had come to Bountiful.
The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the square roared their deep fear and turned to run from the breach. There was nowhere to go. Zerg Hydralisks had already crested the opposite wall, cascading into the street like black drops from a greasy spill. Within moments, hideous cobra-like hoods had unfolded above their razor-sharp talons. They arched their tails upward. Armored spikes exploded from their serrated shoulder sockets and darted with deadly effect into the western edge of the crowd.
Those facing the new threat suddenly tried to reverse direction, crushing back into the surging crowd behind them.
Ardo heard Melani gasp behind him. “I can’t… I can’t breathe…”
The mob was crushing them. Ardo looked desperately around him, trying to find a way out.
Movement overhead caught his eye. A bloated, bulbous form like a disembodied brain drifted over the colony wall. Tendrils hung like viscera beneath it, quivering with activity. It was reaching down for the center of the crowd. Ardo had heard tales in which the Zerg had captured colonists and taken them alive to a fate that could only be worse than death.
Tears flooded Ardo’s eyes. There was nowhere to go and nothing left to do.
Suddenly the Zerg Overlord drifting above the colony shuddered and slid sideways. Several explosions erupted from the side of the hideous beast. The Overlord exploded in an enormous fireball. The Zerg Hydralisks entering the compound suddenly hesitated.
A wing of five Confederacy Wraith fighters ripped through the smoke overhead, the scream of their engines nearly drowning out the cries of the terrified crowd below. Twenty-five-millimeter burst lasers pulsed repeatedly as the Wraiths wheeled through the air, the bolts slamming against targets on the far side of the crumbling fortress wall.
One of the Wraiths wavered suddenly, then exploded under a hail of ground fire from the outraged Zerg.
The Zerg who had entered the compound were pressing their attack, killing some and dragging others off without apparent distinction. They had corralled the humans; now all they had to do was harvest them from the edges of the crowd inward. A second flight of Wraiths tore through the smoke blackened sky. Then a single Confederacy Dropship ripped through the air, spinning in a rapid breaking maneuver and descending toward the square. The downblast from the engines created an instant hurricane on the ground. Trees bent over nearly double. It was impossible to hear anything over the roar of the engines. People all about Ardo tumbled to the ground, shielding themselves from the gale.
Ardo blinked through the dust. The Dropship continued to hover but managed somehow to lower its transport ramp into the square. He could see the silhouetted figure of a Confederacy Marine beckoning to them.
Everyone else in the square saw the Marine also. Mindlessly they charged the ramp. A human tide pulled Ardo along.
He lost Melani’s hand.
“Melani!” he screamed. He tried to fight against the crushing press of the panicked crowd. His words were lost in the roar of the Dropship’s engines. “Melani!”
He saw her behind him. The Zerg were pressing their attack with anger now. The Dropship was depriving them of their prize. Ardo was appalled at how quickly the large crowd had been sundered—harvested like blood-red wheat in the field. The Zerg were already nearly at Melani’s side.
Ardo clawed and fought. He screamed.
Three Hydralisks grasped Melani at once, dragging her back from the edge of the crowd.
“Please, Ardo!” she wept. “Don’t leave me alone!” The mindless mob pushed him farther into the ship.
Zerg claws suddenly rang against the sides of the Dropship. The pilot had played out all the time his luck would afford. The ship responded instantly to his command, lurching upward away from the Zerg and bearing Ardo away from his home, his life, and his love.
“Don’t leave me alone!” Those were her last words to him, pounding through his mind and soul, louder and louder, threatening to burst his skull…
Ardo’s world went black. It would stay black for a very long time.
Copyright ? 2002 by Blizzard Entertainment
Pocketbook, 320 pages
Four years after the end of the Brood War, Emperor Arcturus Mengsk has rebuilt much of the Terran Dominion and consolidated a new military force despite an ever-present alien threat. Within this boiling cauldron of strife and subversion, a young woman known only as Nova shows the potential to become Mengsk’s most lethal and promising “Ghost” operative. Utilizing a combination of pure physical aptitude, innate psychic power, and advanced technology, Nova can strike anywhere with the utmost stealth. Like a phantom in the shadows, she exists only as a myth to the enemies of the Terran Dominion.
Yet Nova wasn’t born a killer. She was once a privileged child of one of the Old Families of the Terran Confederacy, but her life changed forever when a rebel militia murdered her family. In her grief, Nova unleashed her devastating psychic powers, killing hundreds in a single, terrible moment. Now, on the run through the slums of Tarsonis, she is unable to trust anyone. Pursued by a special agent tasked with hunting down rogue telepaths, Nova must come to terms with both her burgeoning powers and her guilt—before they consume her and destroy everything in her path….
Pocket Star, November 2006
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
As soon as she felt Cliff Nadaner’s mind, Nova knew that she could destroy her family’s murderer with but a thought. She’d spent days working her way through the humid jungles of the smallest of the ten continents of Tyrador VIII. ‘Funny how I tried so hard to avoid this planet’s twin, and now I wind up here’, she had thought when the drop-pod left her smack in the middle of the densest part of the jungle—before the rebels had a chance to lock onto the tiny pod, or so her superiors on the ship in high orbit insisted. The eighth planet in orbit of Tyrador was locked in a gravitational dance with the ninth planet, similar to that of a regular planet and a moon, but both worlds were of sufficient size to sustain life. They also both had absurd extremes of climate, thanks to their proximity to each other—if Nova were to travel only a few kilometers south, farther from Tyrador VIII’s equator, the temperature would lower thirty degrees, the humidity would disappear, and she’d need to adjust her suit’s temperature control in the other direction.
For now, though, the form-fitting white-with-navy-blue-trim-suit—issued by her teachers at the Ghost Academy when her training was complete—was set to keep her cool, which it did, up to a point. The suit covered every inch of her flesh save her head. The circuity weaved throughout the suit’s fabric might interfere with Nova’s telepathy, and since her telepathy was pretty much the entire reason WHY she was training to become a Ghost, it wouldn’t do to interfere with THAT. This suit wasn’t quite the complete model she would be using when she became a Ghost—for one thing, the circuitry that allowed the suit to go into stealth mode had yet to be installed. Once that happened, Nova would be able to move about virtually undetected—certainly invisible to plain sight and most passive scans. But she wasn’t ready for that yet. First she had to accomplish this mission.
The suit’s design meant that sweat dropped into her eyes and plastered the bangs of her blond hair to her scalp. The ponytail she kept the rest of her hair in was like a heavy damp rope hanging off the back of her head.
“At least the rest of my body is comfortable”.
The suit’s stealth mode would probably have been redundant in this jungle in any case. The flora of Tyrador VIII was so thick, and the humid air so hazy, she only knew what was a meter in front of her from the sensor display on the suit’s wrist unit. Intelligence Section told her that Cliff Nadaner was headquartered somewhere in the jungle on this planet. They weren’t completely sure where—though still only a trainee, albeit not for much longer, Nova had already learned that the first half of IS’s designation was a misnomer—but they had intercepted several communiqu?s that their cryptographers insisted used the code tagged for Nadaner.
In the waning days of the Confederacy, Nadaner was one of many agitators who spoke out against the Old Families and the Council and the Confederacy in general. He was far from the only one who did so. The most successful, of course, was the leader of the Sons of Korhal, Arcturus Mengsk—in fact, he was so successful that he actually did overthrow the Confederancy of Man and replaced it with the Terran Dominion, of which he was now the emperor and supreme leader. Nadaner did somewhat more poorly in the field of achieving political change, though he was very skilled at causing trouble and killing people.
Days of plowing through the jungle had revealed nothing. All Nova was picking up was random black ground radiation, plus signals from the various satellites in orbit of the planet, holographic signals from various wild animals that scientists had tagged for study in their natural habitat, and faint electromagnetic signatures from the outer reaches of this continent or one of the other nine more densely populated ones. All of it matched existing Tyrador VIII records and therefore could be discarded as not belonging to the rebels. And now she was reading a completely dead zone about half a kilometer ahead, at the extreme range of the sensors in her suit.
“This is starting to get frustrating”.
She had completely lost track of time. Had it been four days? Five? Impossible to tell, since this planet’s fast orbit gave it a shorter day than what she was accustomed to on Tarsonis, with its twenty-seven-hours day. She supposed she could have checked the computer built into her suit, but for some reason she thought that would be cheating.
“Let’s see, I’ve got enough rations for a month, which means ninety packs. I’ve been eating pretty steadily, more or less on track for three squares a day, and I’ve gone through fourteen packs, so that makes—“
Then, suddenly, it hit her.
“A dead zone.”
She adjusted the sensors from passive scan to active scan. Sure enough, they didn’t pick up a thing—nothing from the satellites, nothing from the animal tags, nothing from the cities farther south.
Nothing at all. Nova smiled. She cast her mind outward gently and surgically—not forcefully and sloppily, the way she always had back in the Gutter—and sought out the mind of the man who killed her family. In truth, Nadaner had not personally killed her family. That was done by a man named Gustavo McBain, a former welder who was working a construction contract on Mar Sara when the Confederates ordered the destruction of Korhal IV—an action that killed McBain’s entire family, including his pregnant wife Danielle, their daughter Natasha, and their unborn son. McBain had sworn that the Confederacy of Man would pay for that action. However, instead of joining Mengsk—himself the child of a victim of Korhal IV’s bombardment with nuclear weapons—he looked up with Cliff Nadaner’s merry band of agitators. Nova learned all that when she killed McBain. Telepathy made it impossible for a killer not to know her victim intimately. McBain’s last thoughts were of Daniella, Natasha, and his never-named son. Now, three years later, having come to the end of her Ghost training, her “graduation” assignment, which came from Emperor Mengsk himself, was to be dropped in the middle of Tyrador VIII’s jungle, and to seek, locate, and destroy the rest of Nadaner’s group. Mengsk had even less patience for rebel groups than the government his own rebel group had overthrown.
Within five minutes, she found the mind she was looking for. It wasn’t hard, once she had a general location to focus on, especially since they were the first higher-order thoughts she’d come across since the drop-pod opened up and disintegrated. (Couldn’t risk Dominion tech getting into the wrong hands, after all. If she completed her mission, they’d send a ship to extract her, since then they could land a ship without risk, as Nadaner’s people would be dead, and her suit was designed to do to her what was done to the drop-pod if her life signs ceased. Couldn’t risk Dominion telepaths getting into the wrong hands, either, dead or alive.)
It was Nadaner. Also about a dozen of Nadaner’s associates, but their thoughts were focused on Nadaner—those that were focused at all. The man himself was chanting something. No, singing. He was singing a song, and half his people were drunk, no doubt secure in the kinowledge that no one would find them in their jungle location, with its dampening field blocking any signals. It probably never occurred to them that an absence of signals would be just as big as a signpost.
“Complacent people are easier to kill”, she thought, parroting back one of Seargent Hartley’s innumerable one-sentence life sessions.
She was to kill them from a d
istance, using her telepathy. Yes, her training was complete, and sh
e should have been able to take down Nadaner and his people physically with little difficulty—espacially since half of them were three sheets to the wind—but that wasn’t the mission. The mission was to get close enough to feel their minds clearly and then kill them psionically.
That was the mission. For the next two hours, Nova ran through the jungle, getting closer to her goal. After her “graduation”, the suit would be able to increase her speed, allowing her to run this same distance in a quarter of the time, but that circuitry hadn’t been installed, either.
“The hell with the mission. That bastard ordered McBain and the rest of his little gang of killers to murder my family. I want to see his face when I kill him right back.”
Soon, she reached the dead zone. She could hear Nadaner’s thoughts as cleary as if he’d been whispering in her ear. He’d finished singing and was now telling a story of one of his exploits in the Confederate Marines before he got fed up, quit, and started his revolution, a story that Nova knew was about ninety percent fabrication. He had been in the Marines, and he had been on Antiga Prime once, but that was where his story’s intersection with reality ended.
With just one thought, she could kill him. End him right there.
“That is the mission. You don’t need to see his face, you can feel his mind! You’ll know he’s dead with far more surety than if you just saw him, his eyes rolling up in his head, blood leaking out of his eyes and ears and nose from the brain hemorrhaging. Kill him now.”
Suddenly, she realized what day it was.
“Fourteen packs, which means the better part of three days. Which means today’s my eighteenth birthday. It’s been three years to the day since Daddy told me I was coming to this very star system.”
She shook her head, even as Nadaner finished his story, and started another one, which had even less truth than the first.
A tear ran slowly down Nova’s cheek. “It was such a good party, too…”
Pocket Book, 352 pages
Jake Ramsey—an unassuming, yet talented archaeologist—has been given the chance of a lifetime. Hired to investigate a recently unearthed Xel’Naga temple, he knows this latest assignment will open up whole new possibilities for his career. Yet, when Jake discovers the remains of a long-dead protoss mystic, his hopes and dreams are irrevocably drowned in a flood of alien memories. Bonded to the spirit of the dead protoss, Jake has become the sole inheritor of the protoss’s total history—every event, every thought—every feeling.
Struggling to maintain his own fragile identity amidst the raging psychic storm in his mind, Jake soon realizes that he has stumbled upon a secret so cataclysmic in magnitude—that it will shake the very foundations of the universe.
An original tale of space warfare based on the bestselling computer game series from Blizzard Entertainment.
An original tale of space warfare based on the bestselling computer game series from Blizzard Entertainment.
Driven by the living memories of a long-dead protoss mystic and hounded by the Queen of Blades’ ravenous zerg, archaeologist Jake Ramsey embarks on a perilous journey to reach the fabled protoss homeworld of Aiur.
Seeking a vital piece of protoss technology, Jake finds that Aiur has been overrun by the zerg. Descending into the shadowy labyrinths beneath the planet’s surface, he must find the sacred crystal before time runs out—for him…and the universe itself.
Yet, what Jake discovers beneath Aiur is a horror beyond his wildest nightmares—Ulrezaj—an archon comprised of the seven most deadly and powerful dark templar in history….
EXCERPT – CHAPTER ONE
In the darkness, there was order.
Her haven was inviolable. She was queen of all she surveyed, and her vision was vast.
What those who served her unquestioningly knew, was her knowledge. What they saw, was her sight. What they felt, were her feelings. Unity, complete and utter, shivering along her nerves, racing in her blood. A unity that began with the lowest and most base of her creations and ended with her.
“All roads lead to Rome” was a saying she remembered from when she was weak and fragile, her mighty spirit encased in human flesh, when her heart could be softened by such things as loyalty, devotion, friendship, or love. It meant that all paths led to the center, to the most important thing in the world.
She, Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, was the most important thing in the world of every zerg who flew, crept, slithered, or ran. Each breath, each thought, each movement of the zerg, from the doglike beasts to the mighty overlords, lived but by her whim. Lived to service her whim.
All roads led to Rome.
All roads led to her.
She shifted in the damp, dark place, flexing wings that were sharp and bony and devoid of membrane as she might have rolled her neck to ease tension when she was a human woman. The walls pulsated, oozing a thick, viscous substance, and she was as aware of that as she was of the larvae hatching in the pods, as she was of an overlord on a distant planet assimilating a new strain into the whole. As she was of her own discontent.
Kerrigan rose and paced. She was beginning to grow impatient. Before her arrival as their queen, she knew, the zerg had had a mission. To grow, to absorb, to become perfect, as their creators had wanted them to be. Their creators, whom they had turned on without so much as a breath of conscience. Sarah Kerrigan understood the idea of “conscience.” There had been moments, even in this glorious new incarnation, where she had had twinges of it. She did not see such a thing as a weakness, but as an advantage. If one thought like one’s enemies, one could defeat them.
The zerg were still on that mission under her guidance. But she had brought something new into the mix: the pleasure of revenge and victory. And for too long now, she had been forced to rest and recover, lick wounds, and fall back on the original mission. Certainly, she had not been idle over the last four years. She had rested here on Char, had found new worlds for her zerg to explore and exploit. The zerg had thrived under her leadership, had grown and advanced and improved.
But she hungered. And that hunger was not sated by moving from planet to planet and simply re-creating and improving zerg genetics. She hungered for action, for revenge, for pitting her mind—keen even as a human’s, awesome in its ability now—against her adversaries.
Arcturus Mengsk, self-styled “emperor” of the Terran Dominion. She’d enjoyed playing with him before and would again. It was why she had let him survive their last encounter, why she’d even tossed him a few crumbs, just to ensure he’d make it.
Prelate Zeratul, the dark templar protoss. Clever, that one. Admirable. And dangerous.
Unease fluttered inside her, quickly quelled. Once, before her transformation, she had cared for the easygoing marshal. Perhaps she had even loved him. She would never know now. It was enough that thoughts of him were still able to unsettle her. He, too, was dangerous, although in quite another way than Zeratul. He was dangerous for his ability to make her…regret.
Four years of waiting, gathering strength, resting. She had been sick of slaughter, but no more. Now that she—
Kerrigan blinked. Her mind, processing at light speed, sensed something and latched onto it. A psionic disturbance, far, far distant. Of great magnitude—it would have to be for her to have picked up on it from so far away. But then again, she herself had been able to telepathically contact Mengsk and Raynor when she was undergoing her transformation—touch their minds and cry out for aid. Aid which had not come in time, and for that, she was grateful, of course. But what was this, that sent ripples out as if from a stone tossed into a lake?
It was fading now. It was definitely human. And yet there was something else to it, a sort of…flavor, for lack of a better word. Something…protoss about it.
Kerrigan’s mind was always on a thousand things at once. She could see through any zerg’s eyes, dip into any zerg’s mind as she chose. But now she pulled back from all the ceaseless streaming of information and focused her attention on this.
Human…and protoss. Mentally working together. Kerrigan knew that Zeratul, the late unlamented Tassadar, and Raynor had shared thoughts. But they’d created nothing like what she now sensed. Kerrigan hadn’t even realized such a thing was possible. Human and protoss brains were so different. Even a psionic would have difficulty working with a protoss.
Her fingers came up to touch her face, trailing along the spines that lay like Medusa locks on her head. She had been remade. Part human, part zerg. Maybe Mengsk had done the same thing with a human and a protoss. She wouldn’t put it past him. She would put very little indeed past him. She herself might even have been the one to give him the idea.
She’d been what was known as a ghost herself, once. A terran psychic, trained to assassinate, with technology that enabled her to become as invisible as the ghost for which she was named. She knew that people who trained in this program were made of stern stuff; the people who put them through the training, heartless.
Ripples in a pond.
She needed to go to the source.
What had gone wrong?
Valerian Mengsk couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His ships were just…sitting there in space while the vessel with Jacob Ramsey and Rosemary Dahl aboard made a successful jump. They were gone. He’d had them, but now they were gone.
“Raise Stewart!” he snapped. His assistant, Charles Whittier, jumped at his employer’s words.
“I’ve been trying to,” Whittier stammered, his voice pitched even higher than usual in his agitation. “They’re not responding. I can’t raise anyone at the compound either.”
“Did Dahl’s ship manage to emit some kind of electromagnetic pulse?” It was a possibility, but not a likely one; all of Valerian’s ships were well protected against such things happening.
“Possible, I suppose,” Whittier said doubtfully. “Still trying to raise—“
Eight screens came to life at once, with nearly a dozen people talking simultaneously. “Talk to Ethan,” Valerian ordered, leaning down to mute all the other channels. “Find out how it is that he managed to let them slip through his fingers. I’ll talk to Santiago.”
Santiago did not look like he wanted to talk. Valerian would go so far as to say the man looked positively rattled, but the admiral managed to compose himself. “Sir,” Santiago said, “there was…I’m not sure how to explain it—some kind of psi attack. Ramsey rendered us all completely unable to move until he jumped.”
Valerian frowned, his gray eyes taking in images of the others on the vessel. They all looked shaken in one way or another, but—was that young woman over there smiling?
“Let me speak with Agent Starke,” Valerian said. If somehow Jacob Ramsey and the protoss inside his head had indeed been able to send such an attack against his best and brightest, Devon Starke would know the most about it.
Agent Devon Starke was a ghost, one who had come perilously close to becoming a literal one a little more than a year ago. That was when Arcturus Mengsk had decided that the ghost program needed a serious overhaul.
“They are useful tools,” Mengsk had said to his son. “But they are double-edged ones.” He’d frowned into his port. Valerian knew he was thinking about Sarah Kerrigan. Mengsk had helped Kerrigan escape the ghost program, and for that he’d won passionate loyalty from the woman. Valerian had seen holos of her; she’d been beautiful and intense. But then when Kerrigan had outlived her usefulness, started to voice questions, Mengsk had abandoned her to the zerg. He thought they’d kill her for him, but they had another idea. They’d taken this woman and turned her into their queen. Thus it was that Mengsk had unwittingly created the being who was now probably his greatest enemy.
Valerian was determined to learn from his father, both the good lessons and the painful ones. A ghost who was loyal to you was a good thing; letting one out of your control was not.
So when Mengsk decided that he would terminate—in a controlled environment this time—fully half the current ghosts in his government, Valerian had spoken. He’d asked to have one.
Mengsk eyed him. “Squeamish, son?”
“Of course not,” Valerian said. “But I’d like one to help me with my research. Mind reading is a useful thing indeed.”
Arcturus grinned. “Very well. Your birthday’s coming up, isn’t it? I’ll let you have your pick of the litter. I’ll send their files over to you tomorrow.”
The following afternoon, Valerian was perusing a data chip containing the files of two hundred and eighty-two ghosts, two hundred and eighty-one of which would be dead within thirty-six hours. Valerian shook his head at the waste. While he understood that his father was dedicating all his resources to rebuilding his empire, it seemed a poor decision to Valerian to simply terminate the ghosts. But it was not his place to challenge or even seriously question his father on such decisions.
Not yet anyway.
One file in particular stood out. Not because of the man’s history or his physical appearance—neither was remarkable—but because of an almost offhand notation about Starke’s area of specialization. “#25876 seems to excel in remote viewing and psychometry. This predilection is counterbalanced by a proportionate weakness in telepathic manipulation and a less efficient method of termination of assignments.”
Translation—#25876, known now by his birth name of Devon Starke, didn’t much care to plant mental orders for suicide or murder, and didn’t like to kill with his own hands. Devon Starke could do these things, certainly, which was why he had not been terminated before now. Mengsk wanted tools he could use immediately. Later, when the empire was firmly established, there would be a place for those who could, say, tell who had held what wineglass and where their families might be hidden away. But that was later, and at this moment Mengsk wanted to keep the best assassins and at the same time send them a very firm message about what would happen to them once they were no longer useful to him.
Valerian knew well what had happened the last time Mengsk had a ghost who was “problematic.” Mengsk did not want that to happen again.
So for his twenty-first birthday, the day he had come of age, his father had given him another human being as a gift. #25876 had been freed from the cell where he had been awaiting death. The neural inhibitor that had been deeply embedded into his brain as a youth was removed, and Starke was permitted to remember his identity and history. He was also permitted to know why he’d been spared, and who had chosen him.
He therefore was utterly loyal to Valerian Mengsk.
Starke’s face appeared on the screen. Devon Starke was, like Jacob Ramsey, someone you wouldn’t give more than a passing glance. Slight, shorter than average, with thinning brown hair and an unremarkable face, the only memorable thing about Devon was his voice. It was a deep, musical baritone, the sort of voice that immediately caught and held one’s attention. And because being memorable was not exactly what being a ghost was all about, Devon Starke had gotten used to seldom speaking.
“Sir,” Devon said, “there was indeed a psychic contact from Professor Ramsey. But I wouldn’t call it an attack. A delaying tactic, maybe, to allow them time to escape.” A pause. “Perhaps we should continue this conversation in private? I can step into my quarters and have you patched through.”
“Good idea,” said Valerian.
At that moment, Charles Whittier turned and looked at him, visibly upset. “Sir—I think you should hear this. Someone named Samuels; he says it’s urgent.”
Valerian sighed. “One moment, Devon.” He punched a button and turned to the screen Charles had indicated.
Samuels, dressed in medical scrubs and looking a bit panicked, was gesticulating. The sound came on in mid-sentence. ”—critical condition. They’re operating on him now but—“
“Hold on a moment, Samuels. This is Mr. V,” Valerian said, using the false name he had adopted when working with most underlings. Very few knew his true identity as the Heir Apparent to the Terran Dominion. “Calm yourself and speak clearly. What’s going on?”
Samuels took a deep breath and ran his hands through his hair in what was obviously a nervous gesture. Valerian observed that Samuels’ hands were bloody and that the man’s fair hair was now clotted with the substance.
“It’s Mr. Stewart, sir. He was injured when Ramsey and Dahl escaped. He’s in critical condition. They’re working on him now.”
“Tell me what happened with Dahl and Ramsey.”
“Sir, I’m just a paramedic, I don’t know much about what went on, only that we have wounded.”
“Please, then, find someone who does know, and have him or her contact me at once.” Valerian nodded to Charles, who continued speaking with the flustered paramedic. Briefly, he permitted himself to wonder why someone who was trained in handling life-and-death situations was so upset by what had happened.
He switched back to Starke, who was alone in his quarters. “Do we have privacy?”
Devon grinned. “Yes, sir.” Devon had, of course, read the minds of the rest of the crew to make certain that their line was not being tapped. Having a ghost was so terribly convenient.
“Continue.” Valerian placed his hands on the table and leaned down closer to the screen.
“Sir…as I said, it was psychic, but it wasn’t an attack. There was nothing hostile or harmful about it. Somehow, Ramsey managed to link our minds. Not just mine to his…all of our minds. Everyone in this immediate area. And not just thoughts, but…feelings, sensations. I—“
For the first time since Valerian had known the man, Starke seemed at a complete and utter loss for words. Valerian could easily believe it, if this was indeed what had happened. This was protoss psi-power, not human. Only a tiny fraction of humanity had any psychic ability at all, and only a small percentage of those could do what the ghosts could do. And from all accounts, even the most gifted, most finely trained human telepaths were pitiful compared to an ordinary, run-of-the-mill protoss.
He hungered to hear more, but he could tell that Starke was in no real position to tell him. Pushing aside his impatience and burning curiosity, Valerian said, “I’m recalling your vessel and two of the others, Devon. We’ll discuss this more when you’ve had a chance to gather your thoughts.”
Starke gave him a grateful expression and nodded. His image blinked out, replaced by that of the vessel floating serenely in space.
Valerian tapped his chin thoughtfully. Now he understood better why the paramedic he’d spoken with seemed so shaken and distracted. If Devon had the right of it—and knowing his ghost, Valerian was certain he had—then the man had just undergone what was possibly the most profound experience of his life.
Not for the first time, Valerian wished he had the freedom to have been present when these miraculous things were happening, rather than hearing about them secondhand. To have been with Jake Ramsey when he finally entered the temple. To have felt this strange psychic contact that Devon was certain wasn’t an attack. He sighed. Noblesse oblige, he thought ruefully.
“Sir, I have a Stephen O’Toole who says he’s now in charge,” Whittier said. At Valerian’s nod, Whittier put the man through.
Valerian listened while O’Toole related what had happened. Rosemary Dahl had managed to take Ethan Stewart hostage, using her former lover to get to the hangar in Stewart’s compound. Once inside the hangar, fighting had broken out. Apparently someone named Phillip Randall, Ethan’s top assassin, had been killed—the witness said by the professor. Ethan himself had gotten a round of slugs in the chest from Rosemary. Fortunately a team had been on hand with sufficient time to get Stewart into surgery, although the prognosis was not good.
Valerian shook his head as he listened, half in despair, half in grudging admiration. Jacob Ramsey and Rosemary Dahl were proving to be more than worthy opponents. The problem was, he’d never wanted them to be opponents at all. None of this was supposed to happen. Rosemary, Jake, and Valerian should have been together in his study, sipping fine liquor and discussing the magnificent archeological breakthroughs Jacob had made. And perhaps that would yet happen.
It was a pity about Ethan. Valerian had poured a great deal of money into financing Ethan Stewart. If he died, it would be quite the loss.
“Thank you for the update, Mr. O’Toole. Please keep Charles apprised of Mr. Stewart’s condition. I’ve recalled three of my vessels but am leaving the others there for the time being. I will be in contact.”
It had been touch-and-go for a long while. Ten more minutes and it would have been too late. As it was, Ethan Stewart was a mess. Whoever shot him had done so at close range, but had been a bit impatient, which had meant he hadn’t stopped to make sure he’d finished the job. Paramedics had snipped off just enough bloodstained clothing to get an IV in one arm and lay bare the bloody chest, impaled with several spikes. The chief surgeon, Janice Howard, had deftly removed the spikes, and they lay in a glittering crimson pile on a table near the bed on which Ethan rested. One had gotten too close—she’d had to suture up a slice to his heart. But Ethan was incredibly fit and apparently as strong-willed in an unconscious state as he was while waking, and against all odds, they’d saved him.
She was closing up the chest cavity, daring to think the worst was over, when suddenly a harsh, wailing sound cut through the air and the room’s lighting changed from antiseptic white to blood red. Howard swore. “Hit the override!”
For a second, her assistants just stared at her. She knew what the sound meant, and so did they, but Janice Howard had taken an oath, and even if the base was under attack she wasn’t going to stop in the middle of a life-and-death operation.
“Hit the damn override!” she yelled, and this time the assistant obeyed. The sound of the Klaxons dimmed and the light returned to normal. Howard gritted her teeth, calmed herself, and returned to the delicate job at hand. She was almost done. A few moments later, she’d finished stitching up her employer like a cloth mannequin and let out a long sigh.
“Someone find out what’s going on,” she said. Samuels nodded and began trying to raise someone from security. She wasn’t overly worried for her personal safety or that of her team; the compound was complex and well guarded and the medical wing was located deep inside. Of more concern to her were the casualties elsewhere on the base. They’d already weathered one attack today; she wondered how many people they’d have to stitch up when it was all over.
She stepped back, peeling off her bloody gloves and disposing of them while her assistants cut away the rest of Ethan Stewart’s bloodstained clothing.
“Can’t raise anyone,” Samuels said. “Everything’s down.”
“Keep trying,” Howard ordered, fighting back a little flutter of panic.
“Huh…this is weird,” Sean Kirby said. Howard turned to look at him and her eyes fell to Ethan’s left wrist.
The clothing on the right arm had been cut away so they could insert the IV, but they’d ignored his left arm until now. The wrist was encircled by a small bracelet which had been taped to his skin. No, not a bracelet, a collection of wires and hardware—
“Shit,” moaned Howard, darting forward, blood still on her upper arms. She grabbed at Ethan’s hair, knowing now that it wasn’t hair at all, hoping she wouldn’t find what she knew she would, and tugged off the hairpiece.
A delicate netting of fine, luminous wires was wrapped around Ethan’s bald pate, held in place by small pieces of tape.
Damn it! There’d been no time to check for such things, he’d been within minutes of death when they’d found him and the surgery had begun almost immediately. It’d taken six hours. How long had he been wearing this thing before then? What kind of damage had it done? Why was he wearing it anyway, Ethan was no telepath—
Gunfire rattled in the corridor. All heads turned toward the doorway. All heads but Janice Howard’s.
“We’re medical staff; they won’t kill us, whoever they are,” said Howard, hoping to calm them. Howard did not look at the doorway, instead bending over Ethan and starting to remove the tape that fastened the softly glowing wires to his cleanly shaven scalp. She didn’t know much about these things. Every instinct told her to just rip it off, but she feared that might damage him further.
More gunfire, and screams. Horrible, shrill, agonized screams. And a strange, chittering sound, a sort of clacking.
“What the…,” whispered Samuels, his eyes wide.
Howard thought she knew what it was. She was pretty sure everyone else in the room had guessed as well. But there was nothing to be done, except their jobs. There were no weapons in an operating room; no one had ever expected they would need them. And if the sound came from the source Howard thought it did, it was unlikely that any weapon any of the doctors and assistants could wield would do anything but make them die slower. They had a patient. He came first. With hands that did not shake, she continued to unfasten the tape.
The screaming stopped. The silence that followed was worse. Howard removed the last piece of tape and gently disengaged the psi-screen.
A bubbling, liquid sound came from the door and a harsh, acrid odor assaulted her nostrils. Coughing violently and holding the psi-screen net in her hands, Howard turned. The door was melting into a steaming puddle, the acid that had dissolved it now starting to eat through the floor. Framed in the hole that was now the doorway to the operating room were creatures straight out of nightmares.
Her team stood frozen in place. The zerg, strangely enough, also did not advance. There were three of them that she could see, standing almost motionless. Two of them were smallish; she’d heard the term “doglike” used in training to describe zerglings, but now that she beheld them, they were nothing so pleasant. They waited, incisors clicking, red human blood shiny on their carapaces. Above them, its sinuous neck undulating slightly, towered something that looked like a deranged cross between a cobra and an insect. Scythelike arms, glinting in the antiseptic light of the operating room, waited, presumably for the order to slice off heads.
The zerglings drooled, fidgeting a little, moving slightly into the room so as not to be standing in the puddle of acid. The medical team backed up as if the creatures were indeed dogs, sheepdogs from old Earth, herding them into the corner. They went, terrified into obedience, confused that the creatures they were told would rip them to pieces on sight were not doing so. Thinking that maybe they might be deemed unimportant, and live to talk about the encounter over a beer somewhere someday.
Howard hoped that too. But she knew in her gut she was wrong. The zergling in the lead was staring at her intently, and Howard knew without knowing how she knew that someone other than the creature was looking through its eyes. Those black eyes, flat and emotionless, went from her face to her hands to the prone form of Ethan Stewart on the bed.
The cobralike thing—hydralisk, that was the name; somehow it was important to Howard to use the proper term for things, even now when the properly named hydralisk was about to kill her and the thought made hysteria bubble up inside her—reared back and spat something on Ethan. It was a strange gooey substance, and as she watched, it spread, rapidly encasing him in some kind of webbing or cocoon.
Attacking her patient.
“No!” Howard cried, the paralysis broken. A saver of lives to the last, she sprang forward. The zergling whirled on her, chittering with excitement, happy to be freed from its command to sit, to stay; by God it really was like a dog, wasn’t it—
She heard the screams around her as she hit the ground, and after that, heard nothing more.
StarCraft: Frontline Volume 1
The brutal, dark and fascinating world of StarCraft comes alive in this collection of never-before-seen thrilling adventures.
Why We Fight
In this profoundly moving introduction to the StarCraft universe, the three species in StarCraft are examined—and what drives their war for survival will shock and awe.
Story by Josh Elder
Art by Ramanda Karmaga
In a story by Richard Knaak, a Thor driver’s ego leads him and two partners to try to pull off a heist in the middle of a war zone.
Story by Richard A. Knaak
Art by Naohiro Washio
Weapon of War
A psionic six-year-old boy is at the center of a conflict between a Terran mining colony and the Zerg—and the Marines and miners must decide whether to shelter the boy, kill him, or use him against their attackers.
Story by Paul Benjamin and Dave Shramek
Art by Hector Sevilla
A Viking pilot must battle his mentor—for the lives of an entire colony. Dogfight/mecha combat w/ a psychological/strategic edge.
Story by Simon Furman
Art by Jesse Elliott
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1500 x 2231 (300dpi)
Sixty-thousand light-years from Earth, the corrupt Terran Confederacy holds the Koprulu sector tightly in its tyrannical grip, controlling every aspect of its citizens’ lives. One man dares to stand up to this faceless empire and vows to bring it to its knees: Arcturus Mengsk—genius propagandist, tactician, and freedom fighter.
A monstrous act of bloody violence sows the seeds of rebellion in Arcturus, but he is not the first Mengsk to rail against such oppression. Before Arcturus grew to manhood, his father, Angus Mengsk, also defied the Confederacy and sought to end its brutal reign.
The destiny of the Mengsk family has long been tied to that of the Confederacy and the Koprulu sector, but as a new empire rises from the ashes of the past and alien invaders threaten the very existence of humanity, what will the future hold for the next generation…?
Warcraft: Legends Volume 1
Hot on the heels of the bestselling Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy comes a stunning and truly awesome collection of original adventures set in the Warcraft universe.
From Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim comes an intriguing follow-up to Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy. Trag Highmountain, the courageous Tauren who first made an appearance in Warcraft: Shadows of Ice, finds himself reborn…as one of the Undead.
Story by Richard A. Knaak
Art by Jae-Hwan Kim
The arrival of a group of adventurers with promises of gold and excitement will disrupt a simple farmer’s life in ways unimaginable as he takes a nightmarish ride into Scourge-ridden Andorhal.
Story by Troy Lewter and Mike Wellman
Art by Mi-Young No
How to Win Friends
Lazlo Grindwidget is a Gnome engineer with a house full of seemingly useless inventions and a knack for saying the wrong things at the right time. But when a Troll goes on a rampage in town, Lazlo may be the only one who can sooth the savage beast.
Story by Dan Jolley
Art by Carlos Olivares
An Honest Trade
Nori Blackfinger is known from Thorium Point to Booty Bay as a master weaponsmith who will sell his fine blades to anyone with enough coin. But when he sells a sword to Havoc, the infamous bandit and murderer, the result is an adventure that begins in tragedy and ends in blood…
Story by Troy Lewter’
Art by Nam Kim
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1500 x 2228 (300dpi)
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
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
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
Pocket Star, August 28, 2007
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
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.”
World of Warcraft: Rise of the Horde
352 pages – December 2006
Simon & Schuster Publishing
Written by Christie Golden
Though the young Warchief Thrall ended the demon curse that had plagued his people for generations, the orcs still wrestle with the sins of their bloody past. As the rampaging Horde, they waged a number of devastating wars against their perennial enemy—the Alliance. Yet the rage and bloodlust that drove the orcs to destroy everything in their path nearly consumed them as well.
Long ago, on the idyllic world of Draenor, the noble orc clans lived in relative peace with their enigmatic neighbors, the draenei. But the nefarious agents of the Burning Legion had other plans for both of the unsuspecting races. The demon-lord Kil’jaeden set in motion a dark chain of events that would succeed not only in eradicating the draenei, but forging the orc clans into a single, unstoppable juggernaut of hatred and destruction.
The new pocketbook by Christie Golden will be released on December 2006. Chris Metzen revealed post-E3 2006 some info about the Draenei and plans for the prequel book telling their story. Here is what Metzen revealed about this new pocketbook:
Chris Metzen: “Ok, so what’s the real scoop behind the eredar/draenei story then? At this point, even though the NEW lore directly counters the Warcraft III manual, we’re still going to run with it. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that I think it’s far stronger than what I crafted back in the day. The eredar were not necessarily all evil. Sargeras did come to them and tempt them with power. They did NOT make Sargeras crazy. This gives the eredar more dimensionality and roots the draenei to a key moment in Burning Legion history.
We’ve also woven all of this new lore into an upcoming novel by Christie Golden (author of Lord of the Clans) that depicts the draeneis escape from Argus and the RISE OF THE HORDE on Draenor. The book DOMINATES, and you’re going to really dig it. Durotan, Nerzhul, Guldan, Doomhammer, Hellscream, Kiljaeden, Velen; this story is the one youve been waiting for. I’m getting geeked up just thinking about it.
However, this new lore does leave a large hole. How did Sargeras go nuts? What drove him to fall and begin his Burning Crusade? I dont know yet. It will be his encounter with some evil race (who dares me to use Old Gods???), but it wont be the eredar.
I’ll chew on this. Maybe we’ll solve this by the end of the expansion. See this is that flexibility stuff I was talking about earlier.”
an excerpt from
World of Warcraft:
Cycle of Hatred
[Excerpt from the novel on sale in 2006 from Pocket Books. The book can be ordered Here.
* * *
Copyright ? 2006 Blizzard Games. All rights reserved.]
|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
of his misery.
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……
The Sunwell Trilogy
Book Two: Shadows of Ice
On the war-ravaged world of Azeroth, a young blue dragon’s quest for a mysterious power has led him and his companions to the remote mountains of northern Lordaeron. In that frozen, treacherous wasteland, they find themselves caught in a battle of life, death—and undeath!”
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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The Sunwell Trilogy
Book One: Dragon Hunt
Written by Richard A. Knaak
Drawn by Jae-Hwan Kim
“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
Book Three: The Sundering
The third novel in the epic Warcraft trilogy
Written by Richard A. Knaak.
“Above the center of the Well of Eternity, the Demon Soul flared bright. Within the abyss formed by the Sargera?s spell, forces set in play by both the Soul and the Well churned, slowly building up into the creation of a stable portal. From his monstrous realm, the lord of the Legion prepared for his entrance into this latest prize. Soon, so very soon, he would eradicate all life, all existence, from it?and then he would go on the next ripe world.
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
Concerning Hakkar the Houndmaster and Hakkar the Soulflayer dilema. And Ysera/Elune rumor.
Warcraft: War of the Ancients Trilogy
Book Two: The Demon Soul
The second novel in the epic Warcraft trilogy
Written by Richard A. Knaak.
“A point of utter blackness formed in the center of the fiery sphere. From far within it, a voice filled Mannoroth’s mind, a voice as familiar to him as his own.
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
The first novel in a new epic Warcraft trilogy
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.”
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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.?
?You?re referring to the Alterac crisis, aren?t you?? rumbled the bearded mage. ?Why should the continued sniping of Lordaeron and Stromgarde worry us more than Deathwing?s possible return??
?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
ake a deal with Doomhammer, should the Alliance crumble under the Horde?s unceasing onslaught.
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.
Gilneas, meanwhile, had no such ties to any of the lands involved; it had always remained separate from the other nations of the western world. Both the Kirin Tor and King Terenas knew that Genn Greymane sought to intervene not only to raise his own prestige, but to perhaps further his dreams of expansion. One of Lord Perenolde?s nephews had fled to that land after the treachery, and rumor had it that Greymane supported his claim as successor. A base in Alterac would give Gilneas access to resources the southern kingdom did not have, and the excuse to send its mighty ships across the Great Sea. That, in turn, would draw Kul Tiras into the equation, the maritime nation being very protective of its naval sovereignty.
?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.?
?It seems simple enough,? the younger female responded. ?Even for Rhonin.?
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.
Rhonin held out his own hand in the same manner . . . and the two items appeared above it. He seized both and inspected them. ?I recognize the sphere of seeing, but not this other. It feels powerful, but not, I?m guessing, in an aggressive manner.?
?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
rettably, it will also make it difficult for us to monitor you.?
?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.
Be warned this is a spoiler excerpt from Warcraft: The last Guardian—written by Jeff Grubb. If you ever wanted to find out more of the mysterious Kharazhan and the Tower of Medivh in World of Warcraft MMORPG, your best source of lore is this book. Where all started. Medivh the last guardian, possessed since birth by Sargeras, opened the Dark Portal to allow the Orcish Horde entry into the world of Azeroth—provoking the first war in the game Warcraft: Orcs and Humans as the first stage to bring the Burning Crusade into this new world.
Chapter 5: Sands in an Hourglass
“The orcs,” said Khadgar. “I’ve seen the orcs we fought before.”
“You didn’t mention them when you first arrived,” said Medivh absentmindedly, his fingers dancing in odd precision, lancing the needles into and out of the device. “I remember asking you about other races. There was no mention. Where have you seen them?”
“In a vision. Soon after I arrived here,” Khadgar said. “Ah. You had a vision. Well, many get them here, you know. Moroes probably told you. He’s a bit of a blabbermouth, you know.”
“I’ve had one, maybe two. The one I am sure about was on a battlefield, and these creature, these orcs, were there. Attacking us. I mean, attacking the humans I was with.”
“Hmm,“said Medivh, the tip of his tongue appearing beneath his moustache as he moved the needles delicately along the bumblebee’s copper thorax.
“And I wasn’t here,” continued Khadgar. “Not in Azeroth, or Lordaeron. Wherever I was, the sky was red as blood.”
Medivh bristled as if struck by an electric shock. The intricate device beneath his tools flashed brightly as the wrong parts were touched, then screamed, and then died.
“Red skies?” he said, turning away from the workbench and looking sharply at Khadgar. Energy, intense and uncaring, seemed to dance along the older man’s dark brows, and the Magus’s eyes were the green of a storm-tossed sea.
“Red. Like blood,” said Khadgar. The young man had thought he was becoming used to Medivh’s sudden and mercurial moods, but this struck him with the force of a blow.
The older mage let out a hiss. “Tell me about it. The world, the orcs, the skies,” commanded Medivh, his voice like stone. “Tell me everything.”
Khadgar recounted the vision of his first night there, mentioning everything he could remember. Medivh interrupted constantly—what were the orcs wearing, what was the world like. What was in the sky, on the horizon. Were there any banners among the orcs. Khadgar felt his thoughts were being dissected and examined. Medivh pulled the information from Khadgar effortlessly. Khadgar told him everything.
Everything except the strange, familiar eyes of the warrior-mage commander. He did not feel right mentioning that, and Medivh’s questions seemed to concentrate more on the red-skied world and the orcs than the human defenders. As he described the vision, the older mage seemed to calm down, but the choppy sea still remained beneath his bushy brows. Khadgar saw no need to upset the Magus further.
“Curious,” said Medivh, slowly and thoughtfully, after Khadgar had finished. The master mage leaned back in his chair and tapped a needle-tipped finger to his lips. There was a silence that hung over the room like a shroud. At least he said, “That is a new one. A very new one indeed.”
“Sir” began Khadgar.
“Medivh,” reminded the master mage.
“Medivh, sir,” began Khadgar again. “Where do these visions come from? Are they hauntings of some past or future?”
“Both,” said Medivh, leaning back in his chair. “And neither. Go fetch an ewere of wine from the kitchen. My work is done for the day, I’m afraid, its nearly time for supper, and this may take some explaining.”
When Khadgar returned, Medivh had started a fire in the hearth and was already settling into one of the larger chairs. He held out a pair of mugs. Khadgar poured, the sweet smell of the red wine mixing with the cedar smoke.
“You do drink?” asked Medivh as an afterthought. “A bit,” said Khadgar. “It is customary to serve wine with dinner in the Violet Citadel.”
“Yes,” said Medivh. “You wouldn’t need to if you just got rid of the lead lining for your aqueduct. Now, you were asking about visions.”
“Yes, I saw what I described to you, and Moroes …”
Khadgar hesitated for a moment, hoping not to further blacken the castellan’s reputation for gossip, then decided to press on. “Moroes said that I was not alone. That people saw things like that all the time.”
“Moroes is right” , said Medivh. “A late harvest vintage, not bad at all. That this tower is a place of power should not surprise you. Mages gravitate toward such places. Such places are often where the universe wears thin, allowing it to double back on itself, or perhaps even allowing entry to the Twisting Nether and to other worlds entirely.”
“Was that what I saw then?”—interrupted Khadgar. “Another world?”
Medivh held up a hand to hush the younger man. “I am just saying that there are places of power, which for some reason or another, become the seats of great power. One such location is here, in the Redridge Mountains. Once long ago something powerful exploded here, carving out the valley and weakening the reality around it.”
“And thats why you sought it out?” Prompted Khadgar.
Medivh shook his head, but instead said, “That’s one theory”.
“You said there was an explosion long ago that created this place(Kharazhan crater), and it made it a place of magical power. You then came….”
“Yes”, that’s all true, if you look at it in a linear fashion. But what happens if the explosion occurred because I would eventually come here and the place needed to be ready for me?
Khadgar’s face knitted. “But things don’t happen like that.”
“In the normal world, no, they do not.” said Medivh. “But magic is the art of circumventing the normal. That’s why the philosophical debates in the halls of the Kirin Tor are so much buffle and blow. They seek to place rationality upon the world, and regulate its motions. The stars march in order across the sky, the seasons fall one after the other with lockstepped regularity, and men and women live and die. If that does not happen, it’s magic, the first warping of the universe, a few floorboards that are bent out of shape waiting for industrious hands to pry them up”.
“But for that to happen to the area to be prepared for you …” started Khadgar.
“The world would have to be very different than it seems”, answered Medivh, “which it truly is, after all. How does time work?”
Khadgar was not thrown as much by Medivh’s apparent change of topic. “Time?”
“We use it, trust it, measure by it, but what is it?” Medivh was smiling over the top of his cup.
“Time is a regular progression of instants. Like sands through an hourglass,” said Khadgar.
“Excellent analogy,” said Medivh. “One I was going to use myself, and then compare the hourglass with the mechanical clock. You see the difference between the two?”
Khadgar shook his head slowly as Medivh sipped on his wine.
Eventually, the mage spoke, “No, you’re not daft, boy. It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around. The clock is a mechanical simulation of time, each beat controlled by a turning of the gears. You can look at a clock and know that everything advances by one tic of the wheel, one slip of the gears. You know what is coming next, because the original clockmaker built it that way.”
“All right,” said Khadgar. “Time is a clock.”
“Ah, but time is also an hourglass,” said the older Mage, reaching for one planted on the mantel and flipping it over. Khadgar looked at the timepiece, and tried to remember if it was there before he had brought up the wine, or even before Medivh reached for it.
“The hourglass also measures time, true?” said Medivh. “Yet here you never know which particle of sand will move from the upper half to the lower half at any instant. Were you to number the sands, the order would be slightly different each time. But the end result is always the same—all the sand has moved from the top to the bottom. What order it happens in does not matter.” The old man’s eyes brightened for a moment. “So?” he asked.
“So”. said Khadgar. “You’re saying that it may not matter if you set up your tower here because an explosion created this valley and warped the nature of reality around it, or that the explosion occurred because you would eventually come here, and the nature of the universe needed to give you the tools you wanted to stay.”
“Close enough,” said Medivh.
“So what these visions are, then, are bits of sand?” said Khadgar. Medivh frowned slightly but the youth pressed on. “If the tower is an hourglass, and not a clock then there are bits of sand, of time itself, that are moving through it at a time. These are unstuck, or overlap each other, so that we can see them, but not clearly. Some of it is parts of the past. Some of it is parts of the future. Could some of it be of other worlds as well?”
Medivh now was thinking deeply himself. “It is possible. Full marks. Well thought out. The big thing to remember is that these visions are just that. Visions. They waft in and out regularly and be easily explained. But since the tower is an hourglass, then they don’t. They move at their own speed, and defy us to explain their chaotic nature.” Medivh leaned back in his chair. “Which I, for one, am quite comfortable with. I could never really favor an orderly, well-planned universe”
Khadgar added, “But have you ever sought out a particular vision? Wouldn’t there be a way to discover a certain future, and then make sure it happened?”
Medivh’s mood darkened. “Or make sure it never comes to pass.”
Jeff Grubb brought to life the world of Warcraft in this book. Where it all started.
Same as Jeff Grubb did, the Developers of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade expansion will bring to life the Tower of Medivh as an instance. Players worldwide will experience through many epic quests the mysteries of Kharazhan town and the secrets behind the walls of the Tower of Medivh. If you liked the excerpt and look forward to experience the World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade—read Warcraft: The Last Guardian.
Warcraft: The Last Guardian
Stay tuned during the upcoming days for the official announcement … Blizzplanet will have a Public Q&A on IRC chat with Jeff Grubb in December. More specific details soon in our news section.
Betrayal of Sargeras
Arathor and the Troll Wars
Guardians of Tirisfal
Aegwynn and the Dragon Hunt
The Last Guardian
The Dark Portal
The Alliance of Lordaeron
Beyond the Dark Portal—Khadgar’s vision becomes reality as he witnesses the red skies of Draenor.
Read descriptions and excerpts of the Warcraft Pocket Star Books
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