clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Everything we know about the lore leading up to World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Plus, a new excerpt from novel Shadows Rising

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Bolvar Lich King Image: Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft has concluded the tale of its current expansion, Battle for Azeroth. The next expansion, Shadowlands, is due before the end of the year. Now, fans are waiting for the pre-expansion event that will help usher in new systems, story materials, and a prelude to the next expansion’s new zones.

Here’s everything we know about the pre-patch event for Shadowlands, and what players can expect from Battle for Azeroth’s final days.

New world event: Scourge Invasion 2.0

At BlizzCon 2019, game director Ion Hazzikostas explained that the in-game Shadowlands pre-event would be a second take on the Scourge Invasions that will help people get up to speed, if not level up alts.

Long-time fans will be familiar with the Scourge Invasions, which first appeared in Patch 1.11. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion specified that there must always be a Lich King. The Shadowlands cinematic trailer shows Bolvar Fordragon, the current Lich King, losing his Helm of Domination to Sylvanas and having it snapped in half. No crown means no Lich King, and no Lich King means the Scourge will go bananas. This will be an upgraded, modern take on the original Scourge Invasions, and will likely work in a similar fashion to the pre-Legion demonic invasions that offered tons of experience and a special set of scaling gear.

Getting revenge on the absolute worst guy

Data miners have uncovered the existence of dialogue from Nathanos Blightcaller in the Shadowlands pre-event. It looks as though players may finally get to confront this character, which will be a juicy opportunity for both Horde and Alliance heroes. Nathanos has been sneering his way through the story for the majority of Battle for Azeroth; he’s a grade-A villain who cannot stop twirling his mustache. He’s helped commit genocide, desecrated corpses, and made fun of the Horde player for a full expansion. Most players actively dislike (or love to hate) him, so it’ll be interesting to see how this encounter plays out.

A novel full of lore: Shadows Rising

World of Warcraft lore largely takes place in the game itself, but expansions usually kick off with an external novel. Battle for Azeroth began with the book Before the Storm, and that novel had tons of important implications for the expansion’s plot, including setting up the story of the undead queen Calia Menethil.

The next book, Shadows Rising, will be released on July 14. Shadows Rising is written by Madeleine Roux, who recently wrote a romantic short story between two fan favorite elves.

This novel has an ensemble cast. Nathanos is one of the main characters, and he’s been sent on a mission to kill the troll god of death, Bwonsamdi, Meanwhile, Queen Talanji and Zekhan, aka Zappy Boy, will be working to uncover the plot behind an assassination attempt. It looks like the Shadows Rising novel will include many of the cast introduced with Battle for Azeroth, and will continue their stories. Not only are Bwonsamdi, Talanji, and Zekhan all returning, but so are characters like Sira Moonwarden, who was killed and raised into undeath during Patch 8.1.

Publisher Random House has granted Polygon an exclusive excerpt of Shadows Rising that confirms that Flynn Fairwind and Matthias Shaw will be included in the book. These two characters were high points in the Battle for Azeroth story. Shaw is a long-time character who came to the forefront as the grim, ends justify the means-style Alliance spymaster, while Flynn Fairwind is an absolute disaster boy who fumbled from one job to the next. The two characters were forced into situations together, and it’s great to see that last beyond Battle for Azeroth; they’re a great comedic duo.

We also have the audiobook version of this excerpt, narrated by Susan Wokoma, who voices Queen Talanji in World of Warcraft. Here, we learn that Shaw and Fairwind are on the case, and they may be playing a bigger role than we first anticipated in Shadows Rising — and maybe even Shadowlands.

The excerpt from Shadows Rising can be read below:

“What do you think of her? The Bold Arva! Say it with me: The Bold Arva. Has a certain ring, doesn’t it?” Flynn Fairwind cackled, slapping the mainmast vigorously as he turned his chest to the wind and breathed deep, a serene, almost religious glow about his face. “Christened her myself. The old name was—to be frank—rubbish. The Prowse. Can you believe it? I mean, I’m sorry. Pardon me? The Prowse?”

Mathias Shaw stared straight ahead, convinced that if he said nothing at all and ignored the sailor like a basilisk desperate for a glance then Fairwind would be forced to cease his blathering.

He was wrong.

“What even is a prowse? Blimey. Sounds like something you pick out of your teeth. No, it’s much better this way. Can you believe I won her in a dice game? Who would be stupid enough to wager this gorgeous girl?”

“You,” Mathias said without thinking it through. Well, in for a copper, in for a gold. “And you would be soused.”

“Yes. Yes! Absoluuuutely hammered! Ha!” Fairwind dissolved into further ridiculous laughter, doubling over as he gallivanted up and down the deck. “Well, well, well. You know me well, Shaw? Do a bit of digging before we came aboard? What does the dossiers on me say, by the way? Devilishly handsome? Irresistible in every conceivable way? Crack sailor? Deadly with a blunderbuss?”

The significantly less glamorous answers would have to wait. Ca-crack. A fork of lightning, white as alabaster, split the horizon. A moment later, waves rocked the Bold Arva so hard, Flynn wrapped an arm and a leg around the mast to stay upright. Sailors began their calls. Whistles blew. Clouds the color of slate gathered thick and threatening just a few miles from the bow. Shaw tumbled to the railing, an old break in his shin screwing up tight enough to squeal. They were in for one hell of a storm.

“We should have another day,” Shaw spat between gritted teeth.

“Survival weather!” Fairwind was sober enough to shout. “Grigsby to the helm! Keep speed, my lads and ladies, aim for the flats! Rig out the storm sails and watch the decks, nobody overboard on my watch!”

Mathias didn’t dare relinquish his grip on the rail. He had seen his share of storms while posted in Kul Tiras, and they had only taught him that the cautious and wary survived. Light, but he despised sailing. Give him a good old solid office tucked away behind a false bookcase, a roaring fire, and plenty of desk space the only true creature comforts a spymaster required. His stomach churned, his jaw clacked, his entire body protesting the sudden lurch of the ship as a particularly nasty wave broke against the bow.

“Tides be kind, I hope they’re quick enough.” Fairwind slid to the railing beside him, his lately acquired parrot pet struggling to flap to his shoulder, tossed hither and yon by the oncoming storm. “Honestly, this is very, very bad. If the storm sail isn’t up soon then we’re all well and truly f—”

A wave knocked the words out of Fairwind’s mouth, and both men found themselves shocked across the ship, Fairwind landing against the opposite railing with a pained grunt while Mathias had far less luck, his fingernails scratching along boards as slick as ice before he bypassed the railing and slid right off the edge of the ship, nothing but churning water beneath him. He watched a gnome holding a sail line soar overhead, mouth open in a scream, the sound of it drowned out by the thunder of twenty-foot waves.

Before Mathias could make the steep fall into the sea below, Fairwind managed to clamp a hand around his wrist and began to pull, but his chest slamming into the side of the hull left him breathless and seeing stars. Mathias collected himself, scrambling with his free hand for some purchase on the seams in the hull while Fairwind braced a foot on either side in the gap in the railing, heaving and sweating, cursing as he at last found the leverage to hoist Mathias back aboard.

“Below deck!” Fairwind shouted. “Now! You don’t have the sea legs for this, and I’m entirely too drunk. See? Nobody overboard on my watch.”

It was an undignified retreat to the stairs. The threat of another wave meant that crawling on all fours was the safest option. Mathias sprang to his feet the moment they reached the relative safety of the sheltered corridor leading below deck. Water washed across the boards at his feet, spilling down into the stairwell, though there seemed to be no signs yet of flooding.

When Mathias had traveled down the stairs a ways, Fairwind grabbed a passing sailor. To Mathias it seemed like chaos, yet every man and woman aboard went about their job diligently, even if it appeared as if they were all running in random directions.

“The flats . . .” Fairwind shook the sailor by his coat.

“The mist is thick, but Nailor up the crow’s nest spotted a gap. We’re bringing her around and threading it, then we should have a safe stretch heading north.”

It was a screamed conversation, but both men kept their calm.

“And Melli?”

The sailor grinned and nodded, sodden from head to foot. “Never seen speed like that in me life, captain.”

He was referring to Melli Spalding, one of the finest tidesages in Kul Tiras, transferred urgently from the Proudmoore fleet. At first she didn’t seem to fit in well with the crew, keeping to herself, a head taller than the average sailor aboard. But then Grigsby had produced a flute one night and Melli had come out of her shell, beguiling them all with a run of shanties so beautiful it left almost everyone in tears. Her voice rang out as crisp and haunting as a gust whistling off the Waning Glacier.

“Are we to survive this?” Mathias demanded, ducking out of the cramped stairwell and into the marginally taller corridor. He flattened himself against the wall to let a sailor pass. Fairwind jogged down the stairs to meet him, following as Mathias shouldered open the captain’s cabin, the view from the windows nauseating as the ship crested a wave and barreled back down.

“No, no, it’s all fine, Shaw. Completely fine. We live for storms like this, keeps us all on our toes.” Fairwind gave a barking laugh then wiped the saltwater out of his ginger mustache. “Hard to find a crew this fit. Melli and Nailor will bring us through, you’ll see.” Predictably, he crossed to the well-stocked liquor cabinet in the corner, carefully fishing out a bottle while the ship tossed like an enraged shardhorn.

“Just something to settle the gut,” Fairwind assured him, tossing back a healthy gulp from the bottle.

“I’m sure,” Mathias sighed. “We should have had more time.”

Smacking his lips, Fairwind kept the bottle, ambling over to the windows and watching the furious crash of the waves. It made Mathias sick to even glance at it.

“Maybe your source lied.”

“Maybe.” Mathias rubbed at his stubbled chin. “Or maybe this is just the opening act, and the real show hasn’t even begun.”


Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.