World of Warcraft -- Wolfheart
Preview the latest World of Warcraft novel before it's released!
New York Times bestselling author Richard A. Knaak's latest book chronicles a series of pivotal events in the aftermath of the Cataclysm, as conflict engulfs every corner of Azeroth. Hungering for more resources amid the turmoil, the Horde have pressed into Ashenvale to feed their burgeoning war machine. There, acting warchief Garrosh Hellscream has employed a brutal new tactic to conquer the region and crush its night elf defenders. Unless the Alliance can overcome its own political strife, the new warchief might succeed in seizing Ashenvale.
Wolfheart is the story of King Varian Wrynn's struggle to accept the worgen of Gilneas into the Alliance and come to terms with the wolf within himself. As the Horde threat emerges in Ashenvale, Varian's ability to triumph over his own failings will determine the fate of the entire Alliance.
The breathing became labored, exhausted. The orcs heard stumbling.
Then there came a violent thud. The cage shuddered and almost slipped again. Only the strength of nearly two dozen struggling orcs kept that from happening.
Briln and the others waited several tense moments, but there was no renewed movement or sound. With caution, the captain approached the covered cage. Becoming more daring, he prodded the tarp.
Nothing happened. Briln exhaled in relief, then turned to the others. "Load that thing aboard, then get those bars bent back and that hole covered with something! Better make sure that there's always a sack of that herb concoction the shaman gave us ready to sprinkle on the thing's food! We can't afford this on the seas!"
The other orcs moved to follow his orders. The captain studied the silhouettes of the other ships. Each contained such a cage. The new warchief Garrosh had commanded that this venture be completed, regardless of the cost in seeing it done. Briln and the others here had not questioned that cost, either, for all would have readily perished for the legendary overlord of the Warsong offensive. Garrosh's deeds were epic and retold over and over in the Horde. He was also the son of the late Grom Hellscream and had been an advisor to Thrall, the orc leader who had freed their people from captivity.
Yes, no matter how many lives it had already cost and would likely cost by the time the fleet reached its destination, it was all worth it to Briln and the others. The Horde was at last within grasp of its destiny. It had the vitality, the drive, that this altered Azeroth deserved. Those who had held power so long in the world had become decadent... too weak and soft. The Horde--and especially the orcs--would finally stake its claim on the more lush regions that it needed not only to survive but finally to thrive as it had long deserved.
This recent Cataclysm, so Garrosh had impressed upon his people, was the great sign that this was their day. The world had been torn asunder, and to survive meant to be able to adapt to its much-transformed lands.
The crewmembers finally had the last cage loaded. Briln watched as they sealed the hull. They had a fair supply of the sleep powder in stock, and there were other threats that were supposed to keep the creatures in line, but the elder orc looked forward to the end of the journey.
Aboard deck, his first mate saluted. "Everything's secured, Captain! All set to sail on your word!"
"Get us going, then," Briln growled. "The sooner we get this cargo to Garrosh, the sooner it becomes the Alliance's trouble...."
The other orc grunted agreement, then turned to bellow Briln's command. In short order, the ship pulled away from the dock.
The winds whirled madly and thunder crashed. A storm was brewing, the last thing the fleet needed. Still, the captain thought it nothing compared to what the Horde's enemies would soon face. Briln stared beyond the dark, swirling waters, imagining the fleet's destination, imagining what his cargo would do once Garrosh had it under his reins.
And for a moment, Briln almost pitied Ashenvale's defenders, almost pitied the night elves.
But then... they were only night elves....
"Hail, King of Gilneas," the archdruid solemnly declared.
"Gilneas..." murmured the brawny, dour figure. Genn Greymane resembled a bear, albeit an aging one. No handsome man, he yet had a commanding presence and eyes still sharp and quick for a human of his more mature age. Unlike the night elf, Genn sported a much shorter, clipped beard. He stood taller than Eadrik, which brought him slightly nearer to the night elf in stature.
"Gilneas..." the king repeated. "In name only, Archdruid."
"For now!" Eadrik piped up.
"We shall see." Glancing at the other human, Genn added, "And why is the archdruid here? I asked you to see about an audience with him, not drag him to me--"
Malfurion interjected before the misunderstanding could grow out of proportion. "I told your man to take me to you, Genn. Your request coincided with my need to talk with you. Following Eadrik back saved valuable time."
"It's about the summit, Archdruid."
"Of course. Gilneas is one of the most prominent reasons I sought to bring it to fruition. Your people's admission to the Alliance is--"
"Re-admission, you mean," the king growled with much bitterness. "After I was foolish enough to think that Gilneas was best served taking matters into its own hands."
"Genn! The curse was something beyond your control! You could not have--"
"It doesn't matter!" the lord of Gilneas growled, for the moment sounding more like an animal than a man. He leaned into the archdruid, and although Malfurion was still taller, to the night elf it seemed that their gazes met evenly. Genn seemed bigger, wilder. "It doesn't matter! We are and will always be cursed!"
Malfurion fought to take command of the conversation again. "We wanted to speak to one another about the gathering. The first emissaries will be arriving tomorrow."
Genn deflated. "Yes. The summit. They'll all have their chance to judge me for my foolish mistakes."
"I have been in contact with several of them. They understand the necessities of the time. They understand that you regret all that happened. They also can appreciate what you and your people can offer."
"And do they understand it's a double-edged sword they're offered, Archdruid?"
The night elf extended a comforting hand to the human's shoulder. Genn accepted it without question. "You have gained far better control of it than you think. You offer nothing but advantage, Genn. At the very least, they will have to seriously consider that aspect."
"I have no answer there," Malfurion admitted. "But I have great hope." The archdruid leaned closer. "He is coming. That was what I especially wanted to tell you."
"Stormwind is coming?" blurted Eadrik. "My lord! That means--"
"Exactly nothing," the king of Gilneas responded at first. Still, his eyes shone with hope of his own. "No... perhaps it means much... if he and I can set aside our differences. I know that I'm more than willing."
"Varian Wrynn is a wise man," the archdruid pointed out. "Stormwind would not be what it is if he were not."
Genn finally could not help smiling at the news. "As you say. This lightens my heart! There is a chance, after all. If he's coming, he must be willing to let bygones be bygones...."
Malfurion pulled back. "I need to return to dealing with the summit. I merely wanted to assure you that there is every reason to believe that Gilneas will be accepted into the Alliance. I want your promise that you will attend as previously stated and be willing to show your humility as well as your strength."
"I'll be doing my part, don't you doubt it, Archdruid." Genn offered his hand, which Malfurion shook. "There's my promise again on all we agreed to. If there's any hope of seeing our home again, it's to get through this summit."
"And I promise again to see that everyone understands the import of this... even Stormwind."
Genn Greymane signaled to Eadrik, who slipped into the forest. The lord of Gilneas gave Malfurion one last grateful nod. "I know you'll do all you can. It wouldn't have gotten this far without you, Archdruid." Genn gritted his teeth. "But from here on, you know it all lies in one man's hands."
"He will come to see things as they must be for all our sakes."
"I believe that, but let us pray to your Elune just the same. I'll take all the help we can get...." With that, the king slipped into the forest.
The archdruid stood there, momentarily caught up in his thoughts. His gaze fixed on the area into which Genn and Eadrik had departed.
A large, dark shape momentarily arose among the underbrush, then disappeared among the trees again. It was tall enough to be a man... but was not.
The sight, though expected, still jarred the night elf slightly. As he turned, he again silently swore to do everything he could to help the refugees from Gilneas, including ensure that they were welcomed back into the Alliance by everyone.
After all, they might never even have been cursed if not for Malfurion.