If you haven't already, read Part I.
Where we last left off, the elementals were acting out, starting fires and causing earthquakes. Both Magni Bronzebeard of the Alliance and Thrall of the Horde look to investigate the happenings, and both have sacrificed more than they ever intended. But, things have to get worse before they get better, so time to dive into Part II.
PART II - ...And the world will break
Thrall arrives at the Mag’har village in Outland. He is greeted roughly by Aggra, a female shaman studying under Geyah. Geyah, Thrall’s grandmother, has assigned Aggra to be his main instructor. Aggra is brash and rude, and never hesitates to speak her mind. She is also a very skilled and natural shaman.
Ironforge is without a leader while Brann or Muradin Bronzebeard are being tracked down. Varian insists that Anduin stay in Ironforge to help the people regroup after losing their great leader. Weeks later, Anduin and High Priest Rohan are summoned to the throne room, where they greeted by Moira Thaurissan (7), Magni’s daughter. Moira is the legal heir to the Bronzebeard throne and is the Empress of the Dark Iron dwarves. She shuts down all traffic through Ironforge by closing the tram, holding mages captive to prevent portals, and quarantining the gryphons. Anduin is trapped in the great city as a political pawn.
(7) Moira married Emperor Dagran Thaurissan of the Dark Iron dwarves. Magni sent adventurers into Blackrock Depths in classic WoW to slay the Emperor, believing Moira to be under a spell. It is revealed that she married the Dark Iron willingly and had no desire to return to Ironforge.
Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem of Thunder Bluff has successfully brokered a meeting with night elf druids of the Cenarion Circle. With four companions, he sets off to Ashenvale to meet with the night elf Archdruid Elerethe Renferal and a group of her druids. Both the night elves and the tauren have brought symbols of peace: an ancient goblet from the elves and a pipe from the tauren. Though tensions are high, both factions have come with noble intentions. Renferal was a quest-giver in the Alterac Valley battleground before Cataclysm, helping the Alliance to summon Ivus the Forest Lord. Before the meeting can begin in earnest, a group of orcs ambushes the druids and slaughters all of them, night elf and tauren alike. This attack, and the one before it, were carried out by the Twilight’s Hammer cult specifically to cause strife between the factions and frame Garrosh for the atrocities. Hamuul Runetotem manages to barely survive, regaining consciousness after being buried in the mass grave with the other slain druids. He works his way out and finds an owl to carry a message to Cairne Bloodhoof in Thunder Bluff.
An angry Cairne rushes back to the newly ironclad-Orgrimmar to accuse Garrosh of ordering the attacks in Ashenvale. Garrosh denies any knowledge of the incident, but Cairne is convinced he is lying. Cairne strikes Garrosh and challenges him to a mak’gora, an orchish duel of honor. Garrosh accepts under the condition that it be a traditional mak’gora, a fight to the death. He believes this will cause Cairne to stand down and preserve both of their honor. Surprisingly, Cairne eagerly accepts, even taunting Garrosh that he, a tauren, knows the traditions of the mak’gora (ceremonial garb, weapons, witness number, etc) better than Garrosh, an orc.
An hour later the pair meet in a crowded arena, wearing only a loin cloth and armed with one weapon of their choosing. Cairne brings his ancient runespear, while Garrosh wields Gorehowl. As tradition dictates, both parties may have a shaman bless and anoint their weapon. To Cairne’s surprise, Magatha Grimtotem is the one blessing Gorehowl. The fight is fierce and evenly-matched. Cairne even appears to have the upper-hand at first, before the runespear is shattered by a devastating blow from Gorehowl. The blow also gashes his chest, leaving a shallow wound that would not be life-threatening were it not for the poison Magatha put on Gorehowl. The poison swiftly works its way through Cairne, weakening him enough that he cannot even move when Gorehowl strikes its final blow, ending his life. Cairne Bloodhoof, wise and elder leader of the tauren, is now dead.
That very night, Magatha Grimtotem launches her strike on Thunder Bluff. Assassins scale the bluffs, taking the sleeping city by surprise. Many tauren are slaughtered in their sleep. By morning, the Grimtotem rule Thunder Bluff. Grimtotem assassins target other tauren villages to solidify their claim. Baine Bloodhoof, son of Cairne, is absent from Thunder Bluff during the takeover, residing nearby in Bloodhoof Village. Led by Jevan Grimtotem (also known as Stormsong), assassins surround Bloodhoof Village, ready to strike Baine down at any cost. However, Stormsong goes ahead of his group and warns Baine, turning traitor to the Grimtotem tribe by allowing him to escape. Stormsong allies himself with Baine and flees Mulgore with him. Baine regroups at Camp Taurajo in the Barrens and meets up with Hamuul Runetotem. Hamuul tells Baine about the attack on the druids, blaming Garrosh for the attack and for Cairne’s death. Baine concludes that Garrosh could be backing the Grimtotems and he cannot go to him for help in re-taking Thunder Bluff. With that, Baine sets his sights on the one person left in the world that might help him: Lady Jaina Proudmoore.
Anduin Wrynn remains an “honored guest” of the self-proclaimed Queen of Ironforge, Moira. They find common ground as they speak of peace between the warring peoples. For Moira, being empress of the Dark Irons and queen of the Bronzebeards has put her in a position where she might be able to bring that peace to the dwarves. However, Moira is trying to force peace through her draconian lockdown of Ironforge, causing more problems than ever. The two also discuss the burdens of trying to please their respective fathers, and how they have never lived up to the expectations. After this particular conversation, Anduin decides to take action. He gathers up Fearbreaker and uses his hearthstone to return to Theramore. To everyone’s surprise, Anduin teleports right in the middle of Jaina Proudmoore and Baine Bloodhoof’s secret meeting. In a show of trust, Anduin informs Baine about Moira and her takeover of Ironforge and his escape.
Longwalker Perith Stormhoof has journeyed to the Alterac Mountains to deliver news to Drek’thar about Cairne’s murder and the Ashenvale slaughter. Drek’Thar had a vision of the attack on the druids many months prior. When that vision did not come to pass in the following weeks, it was chalked up to a nightmare instead. The news shocks Drek’thar into lucidity, and Palkar realizes Drek’thar’s visions were right all along. Palkar immediately drafts a letter to Thrall in Outland.
Thrall’s training has not been what he was expecting. Aggra and Thrall grow closer, despite her stubborn and brusque attitude. A mutual respect develops as they learn more about each other’s motivations. Finally, it is decided that Thrall is ready for a proper vision quest. The ritual involves much preparation and the participation of the entire village. Aggra herself is his spirit guide, taking the form of a ghostly wolf to lead him through his visions. Every vision Thrall experiences is meant to show how he connects with each element. The visions show painful memories, but with Aggra by his side to offer a meaning for each one, Thrall finally finds inner peace.
Finally, Aggra declares Thrall is ready to visit the Furies at the Throne of Elements. At the Throne, Thrall speaks with each Fury, representing air, fire, water, and earth. Only Gordawg, the earth Fury, is able to offer insight. Thrall gives Gordawg a rock from Azeroth which he consumes to learn that the elements from the other world are afraid of being wounded or destroyed.
Jaina Proudmoore contacts Varian Wrynn through an enchanted mirror to inform him of Anduin’s escape from Ironforge. It is decided that Anduin will stay in Theramore for the time being, while Varian plans what to do about Moira. That night, Baine, Jaina, and Anduin convene again. Anduin once again finds that he has common ground with someone unexpected. Baine’s doubts about leading the tauren are clear and present. To assuage his thoughts and as a show of mutual respect, Anduin gifts Fearbreaker to Baine Bloodhoof. When he grasps the ancient mace, it glows for him, as well.
Magatha Grimtotem implores Garrosh for aid, knowing that Baine’s escape means he will eventually come for her. By now, Garrosh knows she interfered in his mak’gora and has stained his honor with her treachery. He responds that he only wishes her to have a slow and painful death.
Stormsong travels to Ratchet to secure supplies for the attack on Thunder Bluff, paid for using gold from Jaina. Days later, the assault begins. Zeppelins and bombs take Magatha by surprise. Baine’s forces succeed in subduing the Grimtotem tribe and reclaiming Thunder Bluff. Rather than kill her, Baine crushes Magatha’s shamanic totems and banishes her to the Stonetalon Mountains (interestingly enough, Magatha actually resurfaces in the Thousand Needles in Cataclysm). Any Grimtotem who swear their allegiance to him will be allowed to remain in Thunder Bluff, but all others are banished with Magatha. Finally, Baine and Garrosh meet face-to-face. Both now understand that Magatha caused Cairne to fall unfairly in the duel, and though Baine still has reservations about Garrosh, he reaffirms his loyalty.
Once again, Anduin Wrynn finds himself at the center of another elemental upheaval. As storms and floods wreak havoc on Theramore, he throws himself into the fray to help rescue as many people as possible. During the chaos, Jaina lets it slip to Anduin that Varian is planning to infiltrate Ironforge through the Deeprun Tram and assassinate Moira. Horrified, Anduin insists he has to be portaled back to Ironforge to stop his father. He arrives just in time to stop Varian from killing Moira in the middle of the city. After some persuasion, Varian declares that Ironforge will now be ruled by a council, with Moira representing the Dark Irons. A representative for the Bronzebeards and the Wildhammers has yet to be decided, but Ironforge is once again opened to the world.
Thrall receives word of Cairne’s passing and Drek’thar’s visions, and knows he must return to Azeroth immediately. With Aggra, Thrall leaves Outland behind. He has finally realized what he knew to be true all along: he cannot be the leader of the Horde and the shaman Azeroth needs him to be at the same time. The elemental unrest grows in urgency, and so Thrall leaves Garrosh as acting warchief.
The world is on the verge of breaking, and those who fight to keep it together are stymied at every turn. Both the Alliance and the Horde lost great leaders. Others have stepped up to take their places, sometimes with devastating consequences. Throughout the narrative, characters learn to discard what is expected of them in order to pursue a greater destiny. The story itself was an excellent lead-in to the Cataclysm expansion, where everything is changing and the world is in upheaval. The Shattering sets the bar in that respect, and after reading the other pre-expansion novels, I have to say this one is certainly the most well-done.