Christie Golden: The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm

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Christie Golden The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm
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The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Thrall, wise shaman and the warchief of the Horde, has sensed a disturbing change… Long ago, Azeroth's destructive native elementals raged across the world until the benevolent titans imprisoned them within the Elemental Plane. Despite the titans' intervention, many elementals have ended up back on Azeroth. Over the ages, shaman like Thrall have communed with these spirits and, through patience and dedication, learned to soothe roaring infernos, bring rain to sun-scorched lands, and otherwise temper the elementals' ruinous influence on the world of Azeroth. Now Thrall has discovered that the elementals no longer heed the shaman's call. The link shared with these spirits has grown thin and frayed, as if Azeroth itself were under great duress. While Thrall seeks answers to what ails the confused elements, he also wrestles with the orcs' precarious future as his people face dwindling supplies and growing hostility with their night elf neighbors. Meanwhile, Varian Wrynn of Stormwind is considering violent action in response to mounting tensions between the Alliance and the Horde, a hard-line approach that threatens to alienate those closest to him, including his son, Anduin. The conflicted young prince has set out to find his own path, but in doing so, he risks becoming entangled in political instability that is setting the world on edge. The fate of Azeroth's great races is shrouded in a fog of uncertainty, and the erratic behavior of the elemental spirits, troubling though it is, may only be the first ominous warning sign of the cataclysm to come.

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The sound of rain beating on the tightly drawn hides covering the small hut was like that of a drum played by a swift hand. The hut was well made, as all orcish huts were; no water seeped inside. But nothing could close out the humid chill of the air. If the weather turned, the rain would become snow; either way, the cold damp penetrated to Drek'Thar's old bones and kept his body taut even during sleep.

But it was not the cold, not this time, that caused the elderly shaman to toss and turn.

It was the dreams.

Drek’Thar had always had prophetic dreams and visions. It was a gift — a spiritual sight, as he no longer had physical sight. But since the War Against the Nightmare, the gift had grown teeth. His dreams had worsened during that dreadful time, and sleep promised not rest and refreshment, but terror. They had aged him and turned him from one who had been old but strong into a frail, sometimes querulous elder. He had hoped that with the defeat of the Nightmare, his dreams would return to normal. But while the intensity had lessened, his dreams still were very, very dark.

In his dreams, he could see. And in his dreams, he longed for blindness. He stood alone on a mountain. The sun seemed closer than normal and was ugly and red and swollen, casting a bloody tinge on the ocean that lapped at the foot of the mountain. He could hear something… a distant, deep rumbling that set his teeth on edge and made his skin prickle. He had never heard this sound before, but due to his strong connection with the elements, he knew that it indicated something terribly, terribly wrong.

A few moments later the waters began to churn, surging angrily now at the foot of the mountain. The waves grew high, hungry, as if something dark and dreadful stirred beneath their crashing surface. Even on the mountain, Drek’Thar knew he was not safe, knew nothing was safe, not anymore, and he could feel the once - solid stone shuddering beneath his bare feet. His fingers curled tightly, painfully, about his staff, as if somehow its gnarled length would stay stable and secure despite a roiling ocean and a crumbling mountain.

And then, with no warning, it happened.

A fissure zigzagged along the earth beneath him. Roaring, he half - leaped, half - fell out of the way as it opened like a mouth attempting to devour him. He lost his hold on his staff, and it fell into the widening maw. As the wind whipped up, Drek’Thar clung to an upthrust shard of rock and, trembling as the earth trembled, peered with eyes that had not seen in far too long at the blood - red, boiling ocean beneath.

Huge waves crashed against the sheer wall of the mountain cliff, and Drek’Thar could feel the blistering spray as they surged impossibly high.

From all around him came the screams of the elements, frightened, tormented, calling out for aid. The rumbling increased, and before his terrified gaze a massive chunk of earth broke the surface of the red ocean, rising, rising seemingly without cease, becoming a mountain itself, a continent, even as the land upon which Drek’Thar stood cracked open yet again, and he fell into the fissure, crying aloud and clutching at air, falling into fire — Drek’Thar bolted upright in the sleeping skins, his body convulsing and drenched in sweat despite the cold, his hands clawing the air, his again - unseeing eyes wide open and gazing into blackness.

"The land will weep, and the world will break!" he shrieked. Something solid touched his flailing hands, enclosed them, stilled them. He knew that touch. It was Palkar, the orc who had attended him for several years.

"Come now, Greatfather Drek’Thar, it is only a dream," the young orc chided.

But Drek’Thar would not be brushed aside, not with the vision he had had. He had fought in Alterac Valley not so long ago, until he had been deemed too old and weak to serve in that capacity. If he could not serve there any longer, he would serve with his shamanic skills. His visions.

"Palkar, I must speak with Thrall," he demanded. "And the Earthen Ring. Perhaps others have seen what I have… and if they have not, I must tell them! Palkar, I must!" He attempted to rise. One of his legs gave way beneath him. Frustrated, he pounded at his betraying, aging body.

"What you must do is get some sleep, Greatfather." Drek’Thar was weak, and struggle as he might, he could not offer sufficient resistance to escape Palkar's steady hands pushing him back on the sleeping skins.

"Thrall… he must know," muttered Drek’Thar, slapping ineffectually at Palkar's arms.

"If you feel it necessary, tomorrow we will go and tell him. But now… rest."

Exhausted from the dream, and feeling the cold in his aged bones afresh, Drek’Thar nodded and permitted Palkar to prepare him a hot drink with herbs that would send him into a peaceful sleep. Palkar was a good caretaker, he thought, his mind already wandering again. If Palkar thought tomorrow would be soon enough, then it would be. After he finished the drink, he laid his head down, and before sleep claimed him, wondered driftingly, Soon enough for what?

Palkar sat back and sighed. Once, Drek’Thar had been mentally as sharp as a dagger, even though his body was growing increasingly fragile under the weight of his years. Once, Palkar would have sent a runner off to Thrall immediately upon learning of Drek’Thar’s vision.

But no longer.

Over the last year, the sharp mind that had known so much, had held wisdom almost beyond comprehension, had begun to wander. Drek'Thar's memory, once better than any written record, was becoming faulty. There were gaps in his recollection. Palkar could not help but wonder if, between the twin enemies of the War Against the Nightmare and the inevitable ravages of age, Drek'Thar's "visions" had deteriorated into nothing more than bad dreams.

Two moons ago, Palkar recalled painfully as he rose and returned to his own sleeping skins, Drek’Thar had insisted that runners be sent to Ashenvale, because a group of orcs was about to slaughter a peaceable gathering of tauren and kaldorei druids. Runners had been sent, indeed, warnings issued — and nothing had happened. The only thing that had been accomplished by listening to the old orc was that the night elves had grown more suspicious. There had been no orcs within miles. And yet Drek’Thar had insisted that the peril was real.

There had been other, lesser visions, all equally imaginary. And now this. Surely if the threat was real, others than Drek’Thar would be aware of it. Palkar was not an inexperienced shaman himself, and he had had no such forebodings.

Still, he would keep his word. If Drek’Thar wished to see Thrall, the orc who had once been his student and now was warchief of the very Horde Drek’Thar himself had helped to create, in the morning Palkar would prepare his mentor for the journey. Or he might send a runner so that Thrall would come to Drek’Thar. It would be a long and difficult trek; Thrall was in Orgrimmar, a continent away from Alterac, where Drek’Thar insisted on making his home. But Palkar suspected such a thing would not happen. Come tomorrow Drek’Thar would likely not even remember he had dreamed at all, let alone the content.

Such was usually the case these days. And Palkar took no joy in the fact. Drek'Thar's increasing senility caused Palkar only pain and a fierce desire to wish the world were otherwise, the world that Drek’Thar was so convinced was about to be broken. Little did the old orc know that for those who loved him, the world was broken already.

Palkar knew it was useless to grieve for what had been, for what Drek’Thar himself once had been. Indeed, Drek'Thar's life had been longer than most and certainly full of honor. Orcs faced adversity and understood that there was a time to fight and rage and a time to accept the reality of what was. Since Palkar had been a small child, he had cared for Drek’Thar, and he had vowed to continue until that old orc's last breath, no matter how painful it was to bear witness to his mentor's slow decline.

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