On April 21, 2009 Pocket Star Books and Blizzard Entertainment will unleash one of the most awaited Warcraft novels based on the Wrath of the Lich King Expansion (World of Warcraft). Christie Golden has been known by fans of this franchise for her work on Lord of the Clans, Rise of the Horde and Beyond the Dark Portal. The last two with prominent development of Ner’zhul. In this new novel, she has the pleasure of fleshing out more of Ner’zhul and to fathom the inner-depths of Prince Arthas Menethil.
Something to note from this excerpt is the appearance of the boy Matthias Lehner (anagram to Arthas Menethil). This boy appears in very key quests at the Icecrown region, which makes fans strongly believe this novel will fill in the blanks and tie-in with the game’s storyline, and more importantly… the Icecrown Citadel raid dungeon. It’s highly probable the content patch releasing this dungeon might be live by the time this novel hits bookstores.
It was caught in a hovering, jagged chunk of ice, the runes that ran the length of its blade glowing a cool blue. Below it was a dais of some sort, standingon a large gently raised mound that was covered in a dusting of snow. A soft light, coming from somewhere high above where the cavern was open to daylight, shone down on the runeblade. The icy prison hid some details of the sword’s shape and form, exaggerated others. It was revealed and concealed at the same time, and all the more tempting, like a new lover imperfectly glimpsed through a gauzy curtain. Arthas knew the blade—it was the selfsame sword he had seen in his dream when he first arrived. The sword that had not killed Invincible, but that had brought him back healed and healthy. He’d thought it a good omen then, but now he knew it was a true sign. This was what he had come to find. This sword would change everything. Arthas stared raptly at it, his hands almost physically aching to grasp it, his fingers to wrap themselves around the hilt, his arms to feel the weapon swinging smoothly in the blow that would end Mal’Ganis, end the torment he had visited upon the people of Lordaeron, end this lust for revenge. Drawn, he stepped forward.
The uncanny elemental spirit drew its icy sword. “Turn away, before it is too late,” it intoned.
His evil is legend. Lord of the undead Scourge, wielder of the runeblade Frostmourne, and enemy of the free peoples of Azeroth. The Lich King is an entity of incalculable power and unparalleled malice—his icy soul utterly consumed by his plans to destroy all life on the…
But it was not always so. Long before his soul was fused with that of the orc shaman Ner’zhul, the Lich King was Arthas Menethil, crown prince of Lordaeron and faithful paladin of the Silver Hand.
When a plague of undeath threatened all that he loved, Arthas was driven to pursue an ill-fated quest for a runeblade powerful enough to save his homeland. Yet the object of his search would exact a heavy price from its new master, beginning a horrifying descent into damnation. Arthas’s path would lead him through the arctic northern wastes toward the Frozen Throne, where he would face, at long last, the darkest of destinies.
Below you may read an excerpt of World of Warcraft: Arthas, Rise of the Lich King.
The wind shrieked like a child in pain. The herd of shovel tusks huddled together for warmth—their thick, shaggy coats protecting them from the worst of the storm. They formed a circle with the calves, shivering and bleating, in the center. Their heads, crowned with massive antlers, dropped toward the snow-covered earth, eyes shut against the whirling snow. Their own breath frosted their muzzles as they planted themselves and endured.
In their various dens, the wolves and bears waited out the storm, one with the comfort of their pack, the other solitary and resigned. Whatever their hunger, nothing would drive them forth until after the keening wind had ceased its weeping and the blinding snow had worn itself out.
The wind, roaring in from the ocean to beat at the village of Kamagua, tore at the hides that stretched over frames made of the bones of great sea creatures. When the storm passed, the tuskarr, whose home this had been for years uncounted knew they would need to repair or replace nets and traps. Their dwellings, sturdy though they were, were always harmed when this storm descended. They had all gathered inside the large group dwelling that had been dug deep into the earth, lacing the flaps tight against the storm and lighting smoky oil lamps.
Elder Atuik waited in stoic silence. He had seen many of these storms over the last seven years. Long had he lived, the length and yellowness of his tusks and the wrinkles on his brown skin testament to the fact. But these storms were more than storms, were more than natural. He glanced at the young ones, shivering not with cold, not the tuskarr, but with fear.
“He dreams, ” one of them murmured, eyes bright, whiskers bristling. “Silence,” snapped Atuik, more gruffly than he had intended. The child, startled, fell silent, and once again, the only sound was the aching sob of the snow and wind.
It rose like the smoke, the deep bellowing noise, wordless but full of meaning. A chant, carried by a dozen voices; sounds of drums and rattles and bone striking bone formed a fierce undercurrent to the wordless call. The worst of the wind’s anger was deflected from the taunka village by the circle of posts and hides, and the lodges, their curving roofs arching over a large interior space in defiance of the hardships of this land, were strong.
Over the sound of deep and ancient ritual, the wind’s cry could still be heard. The dancer, a shaman by the name of Kamiku, missed a step and his hoof struck awkwardly. He recovered and continued. Focus. It was all about focus. It was how one harnessed the elements and wrung from them obedience; it was how his people survived in a land that was harsh and unforgiving.
Sweat dampened and darkened his fur as he danced. His large brown eyes were closed in concentration, his hooves again finding their powerful rhythm. He tossed his head, short horns stabbing the air, tail twitching. Others danced beside him, their body heat and that of the fire that burned despite the flakes and wind that drifted down from the smoke hole in the roof keeping the lodge warm and comfortable.
They all knew what was transpiring outside. They could not control these winds and snow, as they could ordinary such things. No, this was his doing. But they could dance and feast and laugh in defiance of the onslaught. They were taunka; they would endure.
The world was blue and white and raging outside, but inside the Great Hall the air was warm and still. A fireplace tall enough for a man to stand in was filled with thick logs, the crackling of their burning the only noise. Over the ornately decorated mantle, carved with images of fantastical creatures, the giant antlers of a shovel tusk were mounted. Heavy beams supported the feast hall that could have housed dozens, the warm orange hue of the fires chasing away the shadows to hide on the corners. Carved dragon heads served as sconces, holding torches whose flames burned brightly. The cold stone of the floor was softened and warmed by thick pelts of polar bears, shovel tusks, and other creatures.
A table, long and heavy and carved, occupied most of the space in the room. It could have hosted three dozen easily. Only three figures sat at the table now: a man, an orc, and a boy.
None of it was real, of course. The man who sat at the place of honor at the table, slightly elevated before the other two in a mammoth carved chair that was not quite a throne, understood this. He was dreaming; he had been dreaming for a long, long time. The hall, the shovel tusk trophies, the fire, the table—the orc and the boy—all were simply a part of his dreaming.
The orc, on his left, was elderly, but still powerful. The orange fire – and torchlight flickered off the ghastly image he bore on his heavy-jawed face—that of a skull, painted on. He had been a shaman, able to direct and wield vast powers, and even now, even just as a figment of the man’s imagination he was intimidating.
The boy was not. Once, he might have been a handsome child, with wide sea-green eyes, fair features, and golden hair. But once was not now.
The boy was sick.
He was thin, so emaciated that his bones seemed to threaten to slice through the skin. The once-bright eyes were dimmed and sunken, a thin film covering them. Pustules marked his skin, bursting and oozing forth a green fluid. Breathing seemed difficult and the child’s chest hitched in little panting gasps. The man thought he could almost see the labored thumping of a heart that should have faltered long ago, but persisted in continuing to beat.
“He is still here,” the orc said, stabbing a finger in the boy’s direction.
“He will not last,” the man said.
As if to confirm the words, the boy began to cough. Blood and mucus spattered the table in front of him and he wiped a thin arm clad in rotting finery across his pale mouth. He drew breath to speak in a halting voice, the effort obviously taxing him.
“You have not—yet won him. And I will—prove it to you.”
“You as foolish as you are stubborn,” the orc growled. “That battle was won long ago.”
The man’s hands tightened on the arms of his chair as he listened to both of them. This had been a recurring dream, over the last few years, he found it now more tiresome than entertaining. “I grow weary of the struggle. Let us end this once and for all.”
The orc leered at the boy, his skull-face grinning hideously. The boy coughed again, but did not quail from the orc’s regard. Slowly, with dignity he straightened, his milky eyes darting from the orc to the man.
“Yes,” the orc said, “this serves nothing. Soon it will be time to awaken. Awaken, and move forward into this world once more.” He turned to the man, his eyes gleaming. “Walk again the path you have taken.”
The skull seemed to detach itself from his face, hovering above it like another entity, and the room changed with its movement. The carved sconces that a moment before were simple wood undulated and rippled, coming to life, the torches in their mouths flaring and casting grotesque dancing shadows as they shook their heads. The wind screamed outside and the door to the hall slammed open. Snow whirled about the three figures. The man spread his arms and let the freezing wind wrap about him like a cloak. The orc laughed, the skull floating over his face issuing its own manic peals of mirth.
“Let me show you that your destiny lies with me, and you can only know true power through eliminating him.”
The boy, fragile and slight, had been knocked out of his chair by the violent gusts of frigid air. Now he propped himself up with an effort, shaking, his lent gusts of frigid air. Now he propped himself up with an effort, shaking, his breaths coming in small puffs as he struggled to climb back into his chair. He threw the man a look—of hope, fear, and odd determination.
“All is not lost,” he whispered, and somehow, despite the orc and the skull’s laughter, despite the shrieking of the wind, the man heard him.
Simon & Schuster is now accepting pre-orders of World of Warcraft: Arthas here.