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The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm (Part 1)

Updated 6 years, 3 months ago by Virendra in Books, Lore, Warcraft. View the change log.


“Shattering” is a powerful word. When something is shattered, it breaks into a thousand irreparable pieces. Even if you can glue it back together, it’s never quite the same again. It’s more prone to falling apart in the future. It’s usually ugly and misshapen. When something is shattered, it is never truly whole again. The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm is not about the physical shattering of Azeroth, but the shattering of life as it is known. Uneasy peace, status quo, and personal relationships are tested.

The Story

PART I (Read Part II here.)

“The land will weep, and the world will break!” Proclaims Drek’thar, elder orc shaman of the Frostwolf Clan (and resident of Alterac Valley), awakening from another vision. His attendant, Palkar, listens dutifully but believes Drek’thar to merely be having another “bad dream”. The once-wise Drek’thar has been slipping into senility and delusions.

The actual story opens with tauren chieftain Cairne Bloodhoof sailing to Northrend with a small fleet to decommission the remaining outposts in the Borean Tundra and bring a number of Horde soldiers back to Kalimdor. Varok Saurfang and Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grommash Hellscream, greet him as he makes landfall. Varok Saurfang is the father of Dranosh Saurfang, who fell victim to the Lich King himself at Wrathgate. He was raised as a Death Knight sometime later, serving as an encounter in Icecrown Citadel. As a result, Varok is emotionally gutted. He chooses to remain in Northrend with a skeleton crew to maintain a few Horde holdings in peace.

Garrosh Hellscream is high on the victory in Northrend, choosing to disregard the untold loss of life and resource. He sees only the glory of a battle hard-fought and honorably won. Even Cairne notices Garrosh’s high opinion of himself. His ego was earned with blood, however. Garrosh led the Warsong Offensive in Northrend, guaranteeing the Horde’s victory here, making him a war hero. On the way back to the boat, Cairne, Garrosh, and the rest of the returning soldiers are ambushed by vrykul disguised as the ghostly kvaldir. After a bloody battle, the remnants of the Horde forces depart from Northrend. Though he has slowed in his old age, Cairne fought impressively and saved many wounded soldiers.

Garrosh in Icecrown Citadel Thumbnail
Garrosh in Icecrown Citadel

Not long after departure, a sudden storm breaks out. The storm proves to be unnatural when the waves take the form of a giant hand, targeting the individual ships. As soon as it appears, it vanishes again. Cairne’s ship is still afloat, but others in the fleet were not so fortunate. Horde vessels were not the only victims; the crippled remnants of an Alliance ship is spotted not far off, having been blown into Horde waters. Garrosh demands to engage in battle, while Cairne argues for compassion and empathy. By technicality, Garrosh’s authority supersedes Cairne on matters of war and battle. Alliance presence in Horde waters violates the treaty, even if by accident. Garrosh and his men slaughter most of the Alliance crew and take their supplies. In a display of power to his fellow Horde, and to get under the skin of King Varian Wrynn(1), Garrosh sends eleven Alliance off on a small skiff to tell the tale. Garrosh and Alliance King Varian Wrynn have repeated encounters that come to blows. To say they do not respect one another is an understatement. Garrosh can and will do whatever possible to show dominance.

(1) Garrosh and Alliance King Varian Wrynn have repeated encounters that come to blows. To say they do not respect one another is an understatement. Garrosh can and will do whatever possible to show dominance.

Upon returning to Orgrimmar, the soldiers are received with extravagant festivities at Garrosh’s insistence. Once again, Cairne bristles at his decisions, knowing the colossal cost of the war. To Cairne, this is just another show of Garrosh’s ego so everyone will praise him for the hero he is. At the parade’s end, Warchief Thrall presents Garrosh with Gorehowl, the axe of Grommash Hellscream.

While the rest of Orgrimmar celebrates, Thrall convenes with Cairne, Garrosh, and a number of other advisors for solemn discussion. The war effort cost the Horde untold resources. The land itself feels wounded. To complicate things, the events at Wrathgate (2) soured relationships with the Alliance, meaning no more trade from the night elves in Ashenvale. Cairne reminds Thrall of the tauren’s unique relationship with the night elves through druidism and the Cenarion Circle, positing that through Hamuul Runetotem they might be able to re-open negotiations with the night elves.

(2) During the battle at the Wrathgate, a renegade undead faction unleashed the Blight, devastating both the Alliance and Horde present. Because the perpetrators proclaimed their actions in the name of the Forsaken, the Alliance blames the Horde entirely.

Garrosh is utterly insulted that Cairne would dare suggest a peaceful resolution. Garrosh firmly believes negotiating is a sign of weakness, and the Horde should take what they need. Thrall tries to use this disagreement as a teachable moment to Garrosh: violence should not be sought out when there is another route. Garrosh storms out into the night. It is becoming more and more obvious to Thrall that Garrosh might be an incredible warrior with a head for battle, but his place in a peaceful Horde is questionable at best. As Garrosh looks upon Mannoroth’s bones, Elder Crone Magatha of the Grimtotem tauren (3) approaches him. She praises Garrosh’s actions in Northrend, even alluding that perhaps the Grimtotem would join the Horde should it ever have a Warchief like Garrosh.

(3) The Grimtotem tauren had never formally joined the Horde. However, Cairne allowed them to continue to live in Thunder Bluff and even bring Magatha to formal gatherings. He prefers to keep his enemies close-by, suspecting Magatha of plotting his eventual downfall.

Jaina Proudmoore makes her way to Stormwind to attend a ceremony for the staggering amount of lives lost in Northrend. The ceremony is difficult and emotional for Jaina, given her previous relationship with Arthas (the subject of the novel Arthas: Rise of the Lich King). Sometime during the vigil, two night elf Sentinels arrive to speak with Varian Wrynn. Knowing the Sentinels do not show up on a whim, Jaina excuses herself to join the conversation. The Sentinels bear grim news of a horrifying attack on a supply caravan in Ashenvale. One dozen sentinels were slaughtered, bodies mutilated and skinned. The skins were hung from the trees and bore Horde symbols written in night elven blood. King Wrynn accuses Thrall of sanctioning the attack, while Jaina defends him. Anduin Wrynn enters the room as the argument grows heated. He too exchanges harsh words with his father before returning to the public eye. Jaina leaves as well, after Varian assures he will remain reasonable in his discussions with the Sentinels. While the exchange between the Wrynns is short, it reveals quite a bit about the nature of their relationship. Anduin’s age belies the trials and tribulations he had to overcome during his father’s absence , but he still needs the guidance of a level-headed father figure. Varian is still reconciling his two halves (4) and tends to let Lo’Gosh rule him while stressed. Their father-son relationship is strained, at best.

(4) Varian Wrynn was kidnapped by Onyxia and split into two different people: Lo’Gosh and Varian. The Lo’Gosh half lost his memories and was enslaved as a gladiator for the Horde, where his ferocity in battle earned him the name “Lo’Gosh”. The Varian half was an easily suggestible shell of the full Varian. The two halves have since recombined, but Varian has trouble completely melding his two personalities. (Gladiator comic)

Jaina takes some time to think during the rest of the service before reconvening with Varian. Varian apologizes for his short temper with her. She reminds him that Anduin is also owed an apology, and takes that moment to discuss an idea she has concerning the young prince.

Minutes later Jaina shows herself to Anduin’s room. The youth is relaxed and cheerful around her, thinking of Jaina like an aunt. Jaina reveals she has made a hearthstone for Anduin (made before she ever left Theramore and before his fight with Varian). The hearthstone is linked to Theramore so that he can visit her at any time with the promise she could portal him back to Stormwind. Anduin eagerly accepts her gift and warns her that he’ll visit often.

Some time later, Jaina is back in Theramore. Varian has issued his formal response to Thrall: Thrall must issue a public apology, reaffirm his dedication to the treaty, denounce the brutal attacks, and turn over the assailants to Alliance justice. Jaina has covertly slipped away from the city to meet with Thrall and Eitrigg(5) and discuss the recent events. To Jaina’s disappointment, Thrall is quick to say that he will not meet Varian’s demands. This scene is great because it shows insight into Thrall’s philosophies for leading the Horde. Though he values Jaina’s friendship, and he values peace, to capitulate to Varian is to betray the Horde. In particular, Thrall knows he cannot turn over the perpetrators to the Alliance, even if he knew who they were. He would lose the respect and trust of his followers, and could even be overthrown. Furthermore, Thrall explains that though he personally finds the attack horrendous, the supplies recovered from the attack have bolstered morale and alleviated some of the post-war resource scarcity. To the orcs, the night elves committed a grievous offense when they cut off access to basic necessities (ie wood to build shelter), justifying the attack.

(5) Eitrigg is only other orc that respects/understands humans as much as Thrall.

In the end, Jaina reaches an understanding of Thrall’s position, though she isn’t happy about it. Thrall and Eitrigg depart and converse between each other, where Thrall focuses on the troubled elements. Despite being a powerful shaman, he has been unable to hear the elements as of late. He is deeply conflicted between leading the Horde and healing the land. It is becoming more clear that to do both at the same time is a disaster waiting to happen. At that moment he decides that he must seek the wisdom of his Grandmother, Geyah, a powerful shaman residing in Outland. Thrall reasons that the elements in Outland have gone through so much turmoil and strife they might provide insight into Azeroth’s problems. But first, he has to prepare the Horde for his absence…

Anduin Wrynn awaits Jaina in her parlor, immediately deducing that she was visiting with Thrall. When Anduin is portaled back to Stormwind, Varian deduces much the same. In the meantime, Thrall has responded to Varian’s demands saying only that he condemned the breaking of the treaty. Varian also tells Anduin he has arranged for him to spend time in Ironforge, learning from Magni Bronzebeard. The young prince leaps at the opportunity.

In Orgrimmar, Thrall awakens to shouts about fire (6). Wooden huts are blazing and the fire is spreading rapidly. Through his shaman abilities, Thrall communes with the fire, imploring it to cease its destruction and return to the braziers and bonfires. Shockingly, the element refuses and chooses to continue its path of destruction. In an uncharacteristic display of brute force, Thrall subdues the elemental, nearly destroying it. There is no more time to waste; Thrall must return to Outland as soon as he is able.

(6) This scene is part of the Elemental Unrest pre-expansion event for Cataclysm.

The Shattering answers one of the most asked questions in WoW today: why Garrosh? What could possibly make Thrall believe he was doing the right thing in appointing Garrosh as acting Warchief? Thrall mulls over every possible candidate. He knows, though, that he must pick an orc. The orcs would only follow and respect another orc. That one constraint narrows down the list considerably. Dranosh Saurfang would have been his first choice, had the young warrior not been slain in Northrend. As a result, the older Saurfang was not longer an option either. But, one orc remained that was well-liked among the commoners, and known for his honor and valor in combat. More than that, he reminded his people of their warrior spirit and unconquerable nature. That orc, of course, is Garrosh. Thrall feels as if he has no other choice, but believes that Eitrigg and Cairne would temper Garrosh and guide him. With doubt in his heart, Thrall makes Garrosh the acting warchief. Cairne privately challenges his decision, leading to an argument between the old friends before Thrall departs.

Once in Ironforge, Anduin meets with King Magni and a female dwarf named Aerin, who instructs him in the ways of the sword. Aerin and Anduin would continue to grow close over the days and weeks. After his first training session, Anduin wanders into the Hall of Mysteries, finding a dwarf priest named Rohan (this character is the priest trainer in Ironforge). This moment itself is fairly insignificant, but it plants the seeds of Anduin finding comfort and healing in the Light, learning to seek it out when he is needed. During his stay, an ancient tablet is unearthed. An earthquake hits briefly, magnifying the urgency of his words.

Kharanos, outside of Ironforge Thumbnail
Kharanos, outside of Ironforge

When Anduin learns that Kharanos, a nearby dwarf village, was hit much harder, he and Aerin mount up and ride out. Anduin is determined to lend whatever aid he can, despite the looming danger of more earthquakes. Rohan is already in Kharanos by the time they arrive, tending to the many wounded. Another tremor strikes, causing mass panic among the wounded and the rescuers. Using the Light, Rohan is able to dispel the fear and bring everyone to a state of calm while the tremor passes. Anduin takes charge of the rescue effort to dig out the newly caved in Thunderbrew Distillery, jumping in to help clear what debris he can. Yet another aftershock hits the devastated area, this time swallowing the remains of the distillery in a massive sinkhole. Anduin barely leaps away in time, but Aerin is not so lucky, and is lost to the earth.

Magni, turned into a giant diamond (Wowhead) Thumbnail
Magni, turned into a giant diamond (Wowhead)

Thrall is not the only one that has noticed the elements’ change. After some work deciphering the tablet, Magni believes this ancient tablet can help him communicate directly with the elements to pinpoint the source of their troubles. The devastation at Kharanos has prompted Magni to initiate the ritual as soon as possible. The night before the ritual, Magni secretly presents Anduin with Fearbreaker, an ancient dwarven mace that has not seen the light of day in ages. The weapon is beautiful and ornate, and glows when Anduin holds it. Magni and Anduin share a special bond, and Fearbreaker solidifies that, as does Anduin being the only human present during the ritual. The ritual does not go as planned, and Magni is turned into a giant diamond, effectively killing him. He remains in the heart of mountain below Ironforge until Legion. A funeral is held, and diplomats from all over attend, including a tauren and a blood elf. (Read the Fault Lines comic for more on the ritual.)

Parting Words for Part I

Both factions have suffered heavy losses in Northrend, the magnitude of which can never be explored in-game. While the average player sees nothing more than the end of one raid tier and the start of another, what happens in between is just as important. Part I describes the start of the Cataclysm pre-launch event Elemental Unrest, albeit with a few slight changes from what was seen in-game. What was just another world event for most players, actually sets the stage for serious repercussions, like Garrosh leading the Horde, and Magni losing his life. If Part I is all set-up, Part II makes sure to knock it all down.

If you're ready, continue on to Part II.

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