World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is a little over two months away. But the expansion’s tie-in novel, Before the Storm, releases next week.
World of Warcraft: Before the Storm tells the story of the brewing war between the Horde and Alliance. After years of facing much greater threats to Azeroth, the two factions finally have time to focus on their age-old hatred for one another.
The young King Anduin Wrynn of the Alliance and the undead Banshee Queen and Warchief of the Horde, Sylvanas Windrunner, will finally see their breaking points in this novel, leading to all-out war between the factions for players to experience in the fall expansion.
Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment, we have some preview pages for Before the Storm, which you can read below.
World of Warcraft: Before the Storm is published by Penguin Random House and written by Christie Golden, the senior writer on Blizzard Entertainment’s story and franchise development team. While Golden only officially became a Blizzard employee last year, she’s been writing Warcraft books for almost 20 years. Warcraft fans will be able to pick up a copy of Before the Storm on June 12.
Fredrik Farley was used to providing food, beverages, and entertainment for a crowded inn. He also was used to subsequently breaking up the brawls that often resulted from the combination. He’d cleaned up blood a time or two and had to expel a few too-rowdy individuals from the Lion’s Pride Inn, but mostly he simply made people happy. His patrons, be they locals or those just passing through, came to sing songs, tell tales, or sit by the fire with a mug of ale. Sometimes they poured their hearts out to him or his wife, Verina, as they offered a sympathetic ear.
What Fredrik Farley was not used to was appearing before the king of Stormwind.
His first reaction when presented with the summons was terror. He and his wife took pains to run an aboveboard inn at the Lion’s Pride. It had been in the Farley family for years and had offered brews to thirsty visitors since King Llane’s time. Had someone lodged a complaint because of a recent scuffle? Accused them of watering the beer?
“Young King Anduin has a kind reputation,” Verina had said, trying to bolster them both. “I can’t imagine him throwing you in the stocks or closing our public house. Maybe he wants to talk to you about a private party.”
Fredrik loved Verina, had since they were both in their early twenties. And now he loved her more than ever. “I think if King Anduin Wrynn wanted to host a party, he’s got a lovely keep to do it in,” he said, kissing her forehead lightly. “But who knows, right?”
The letter the courier presented to him referenced “a personal matter” and asked for him to come “at his earliest convenience.” That, of course, meant reaching for his coat and hat after the quick conversation with his wife and accompanying the courier back to Stormwind Keep.
He was escorted to the Petitioner’s Chamber. It was a large, austere room. Lit by lamps and candles, it included an area with a thick, richly embroidered rug and a few benches as well as a small table with four chairs in the center. A nobleman with an elegantly trimmed beard and two long, graying braids of hair greeted him, introducing himself as Count Remington Ridgewell. Fredrik was invited to take a seat.
“No, thank you, my lord—er—Count,” he stammered. How did one address a count, anyway? “I prefer to stand if it please you,” he said.
“It matters not at all to me,” the count said. He stepped back a few paces and clasped his hands behind his back, waiting.
Fredrik removed his cap and held it, now and then nervously running a hand over his bald pate. He expected to be kept waiting for a while. Kings, he supposed, had quite a lot of things they needed to do in a day. He looked about the great chamber. So big! I could fit the entirety of the Lion’s Pride in here with room to spare, he mused.
“Am I addressing the innkeeper Fredrik Farley?” came a pleasant, youthful-sounding voice.
Fredrik turned, expecting to see a squire, and instead found himself face to face with King Anduin Wrynn. But the ruler of Stormwind was not alone. An older woman stood beside the king, dressed in a flowing white robe. And slightly behind him was a muscular older man with white hair, a neatly trimmed beard, and piercing blue eyes.
“Your Majesty!” Fredrik said, his voice climbing with surprise. “Your pardon—I wasn’t—”
He’s so young, Fredrik thought. My Anna is older than he is. I hadn’t realized that . . .
The startlingly young king smiled easily and indicated a chair. “Please, do sit. Thank you for coming.”
Fredrik edged toward the chair and sank down, still holding his hat. The king sat down across from him, and the priestess and the older man who had accompanied him did likewise. King Anduin folded his hands and regarded Fredrik steadily but kindly. The older man crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat. In contrast to the king and the priestess, he looked almost angry. Fredrik thought him familiar-looking but couldn’t place him.
“I’m sorry for the mystery of all this, but it’s a bit of a delicate matter, and I wanted to speak with you myself.”
Fredrik knew his eyes were as big as eggs at that point, but he was utterly unable to do anything about it. He gulped. Anduin waved to the attendant nobleman. “Wine for Mr. Farley, please, Count Ridgewell. Or would you prefer a beer?”
The king of Stormwind is asking me if I want wine or beer, Fredrik thought. The world had gone mad.
“W-whatever you’re having, Your Majesty.”
“A bottle of Peaked Dalaran Red,” he said, and the count nodded and left. The king returned his gaze to Fredrik. “You’re an innkeeper. I’m sure you’ll be familiar with my selection.”
Fredrik was indeed familiar with the vintage, but it wasn’t something there was much call for in the Lion’s Pride, as the price was exorbitant. “I’m offering you a glass now because we’re going to toast a very brave man,” the king continued. “And then I’m going to ask you if you yourself would, if it were possible, be inclined to do a very brave thing.”
Fredrik nodded. “Of course, sir. It’s as you wish.”
The priestess placed a gentle hand on his arm. “I know it’s hard not to be nervous, but I promise you, you’re free to leave at any time. His Majesty’s request is just that, not an order.”
Fredrik felt some of the trepidation abate, and his heart, which had been pounding fiercely ever since the courier had arrived at the inn, finally started to slow down despite the older man’s glower.
“Thank you, Priestess.”
Anduin continued. “It’s my understanding you lost your brother to the plague. I want you to know that I am truly sorry for your loss.”
This wasn’t at all what Fredrik had been expecting. He felt like he’d been gut punched. But the young king’s blue eyes remained friendly and sympathetic, and Fredrik found himself speaking freely.
“Aye,” Fredrik said. “We was close as boys. Frandis always liked to play with swords. He was good at it—ever so much better’n me. Got a job guarding supply caravans from ruffians. He would go from here to Ironforge or wherever the caravans went. That day, they went to Lordaeron.”
The boy—no, Fredrik, the king!—looked down for a minute. “And you thought Frandis died, didn’t you?”
Sudden hope seized the innkeeper. “He’s not—is he alive?”
The king shook his blond head sadly. “No. But he eventually became a Forsaken. And it was as a Forsaken that he became a hero. He was killed because he defied a tyrant—the warchief of the Horde, Garrosh Hellscream. He died because he wouldn’t follow orders he knew were wrong and cruel.”
Count Ridgewell returned, bearing a tray with four glasses and a bottle of the promised wine. The king nodded his thanks and filled the glasses. Fredrik reached for his, careful not to hold the fragile blown glass too tightly. It was not the heavy mugs he was accustomed to at his tavern, that was for certain.
Frandis—his brother—had been a Forsaken. Abruptly Fredrik started to tremble, and the wine sloshed around in the beautiful goblet. He took a gulp to steady his nerves, then kicked himself for not savoring the rare vintage.
“A hero,” Fredrik said, repeating King Anduin’s words. “That don’t sound like a Forsaken,” he added cautiously, wondering if this was some kind of game.
“Not like what we think of as Forsaken, no,” the woman said. Beside her, the gray-haired man was looking increasingly irritated.
“But does it sound like Frandis?” the king asked.
Tears shimmered in Fredrik’s eyes. “It do,” he said. “He were a good man, Your Majesty.”
“I know,” the king said. “And he was a good man even after he died. There are other Forsaken who also retain themselves even after . . . their transition. Not all of them, certainly. But some.”
“It . . . don’t seem possible,” Fredrik murmured.
“Let me ask you a question,” the king said. “Let’s suppose, by some chance, Frandis was still with us. As a Forsaken. Knowing that he was still largely himself, still the good man who was your brother, would you have liked to meet with him?”
Fredrik dropped his gaze to his lap. He saw that his large, strong hands had been clutching and twisting his hat until it had completely lost its shape.
What a question! Would he want that?
“Bear in mind as you answer, this may be your brother—but he would also be Forsaken.” For the first time, the older man had spoken. His voice was deep and had almost a growl to it. “He wouldn’t be alive. He might be rotting. Bones would likely be jutting through his skin. He would have done terrible things as a member of the Scourge. And he would serve the Banshee Queen. Would you still be interested in meeting your ‘brother’?”
King Anduin did not look pleased with the older man’s words, but he did not silence him, either. Fredrik felt cold, reeling from the graphic picture that had been painted. It would be terrifying to come face to face with—
With what? Or, more important, with who? With a monster? Or with his brother?
Fredrik would have to find that out for himself, wouldn’t he?
The innkeeper swallowed hard and looked squarely first at the boyish face of his king, then at the gentle one of the priestess, then less willingly, at the almost angry older man.
His answer was for his king.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” he stated. “I’d have wanted to see him. And if he was as you say he was—someone who tried to stop something evil—then he’d still be my brother.”
The king and the priestess exchanged pleased glances, and the king refilled Fredrik’s glass while the older man shook his head and sighed in frustration.
More of the novel has been previewed in various locations, including how the meeting between the Forsaken of the Undercity and the humans of Stormwind plays out. If you’re looking for a detailed look at those pages, check out the video below.
Before the Storm will be released in its entirety on June 12, two months before World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth comes to PC on Aug. 14.