Warcraft: War of the Ancients Book Three: The Sundering

Warcraft: War of the Ancients Book Three: The Sundering

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by Richard A. Knaak

The hour of wrath draws near...
The valiant night elves have been shattered by the loss of their beloved general. The black dragon, Neltharion, has claimed the Demon Soul and scattered the mighty dragonflights to the winds. Above all, the demonlord, Archimonde, has led the Burning Legion to the very brink of victory over Kalimdor. As the land and its denizens

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The hour of wrath draws near...
The valiant night elves have been shattered by the loss of their beloved general. The black dragon, Neltharion, has claimed the Demon Soul and scattered the mighty dragonflights to the winds. Above all, the demonlord, Archimonde, has led the Burning Legion to the very brink of victory over Kalimdor. As the land and its denizens reel from this unstoppable evil, a terror beyond all reckoning draws ever nearer from the Well of Eternity's depths...
In the final, apocalyptic chapter of this epic trilogy, the dragon-mage Krasus and the young druid Malfurion must risk everything to save Azeroth from utter destruction. Banding together the dwarves, tauren and furbolg races, the heroes hope to spark an alliance to stand against the might of the Burning Legion. For if the Demon Soul should fall into the Legion's hands, all hope for the world will be lost. This then, is the hour...where past and future collide!
An original trilogy of magic, warfare, and heroism based on the bestselling, award-winning electronic game series from Blizzard Entertainment.

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Product Details

Pocket Star
Publication date:
Warcraft Series, #3
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.30(d)

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Chapter One

They could smell the stench in the distance and it was difficult to say which was strongest, the acrid smoke rising from the burning landscape or the incessant, almost sweet odor of the slowly-decaying dead lying sprawled by the hundreds across it.

The night elves had managed to stem the latest assault by the Burning Legion, but had lost more ground again. Lord Desdel Stareye proclaimed it a retrenching maneuver enabling the host to better gauge the Legion's weaknesses, but among Malfurion Stormrage and his friends, the truth was known. Stareye was an aristocrat with no true concept of strategy and he surrounded himself with the like.

With the assassination of Lord Ravencrest, there had been no one willing to stand up to the slim, influential noble. Other than Ravencrest, few night elves truly had experience in warfare and with the dead commander the last of his line, his House could present no one to take his place. Stareye clearly had ambitions, but his ineptitude would see those ambitions crushed along with his people if something did not happen.

But Malfurion's thoughts were not simply concerned with the precarious future of the host. Another, overriding matter ever caused him to look in the direction of distant Zin-Azshari, once the glittering capital of the night elves' realm. Even as the dim hint of light to the east presaged the cloud-enshrouded day, he went over and over again his failures.

Went over and over again the loss of the two that mattered most to him — fair Tyrande and his twin brother, Illidan.

Night elves aged very slowly, but the young Malfurion looked much older than his few decades. He still stood as tall as any of his people — roughly seven feet — and had their slim build and dark purple complexions. However, his slanted, silver eyes — eyes without pupils — had a maturity and bitterness cast in them that most night elves lacked even under such diversity. Malfurion's features were also more lupine than most, matching only his brother's.

More startling was his mane of hair, shoulder-length and of a unique, dark green — not the midnight blue even his twin had. People were always eyeing the hair just as they had once always eyed the plain garments to which his tastes turned. As a student of the druidic arts, Malfurion did not wear the garish, flamboyant robes and outfits considered normal clothing by his race. Instead, he preferred a simple, cloth tunic, plain leather jerkin and pants, and knee-high boots, also of leather. The extravagant garb worn by his people had been a telling sign of their jaded lives, their innate arrogance — something against his nature. Of course, now, though, most night elves save Lord Stareye and his ilk wandered as ragged refugees in muddied, blood-soaked clothes. More to the point, instead of looking down their noses at the peculiar young scholar, they now eyed the green-haired druid with desperate hope, aware that most of them lived because of his actions.

But what were those actions leading him toward? Not success, so far. Worse, and certainly more disconcerting, Malfurion had discovered that his delving into the natural powers of the living world had begun a physical change.

He rubbed his upper head, where one of the two tiny nubs lay hidden under his hair. They had sprouted but a few days ago, yet had already doubled in size. The two tiny horns chilled Malfurion, for they reminded him much too much of the beginning of a satyr's. That, in turn, reminded him too much of Xavius, the queen's counselor who had come back from the dead and, before Malfurion had finally dealt with him, sent Tyrande into the clutches of the Burning Legion's masters.

"You've got to stop thinking about her," someone coming up behind him urged.

Malfurion glanced without surprise at his companion, although most others in the host would have stared even harder at the newcomer than they did the druid. There was no creature in all Kalimdor like Rhonin.

The hooded figure draped in dark blue robes, under which could be seen similarly-colored shirt and pants, stood more than a head shorter than Malfurion even despite boots. But it was neither his height nor his garments that raised eyes and comments. Rather, it was the fiery, shoulder-length hair spilling out from the hood, the rounder, very pale features — especially the nose that bent slightly to one side — that so unsettled other night elves. The eyes were even more startling, for they were a bright emerald green with utterly black pupils.

Despite his comparative shortness, Rhonin was built stronger than Malfurion. He looked very capable of handling himself in combat — which he had — an unusual ability for one who had proven himself quite versed in the magical arts. Rhonin called himself a "human," a race of which no one had heard. Yet, if the crimson-tressed traveler was an example, Malfurion wished that the host had a thousand more just like him. Whereas his own people's sorcery, so dependent upon the Well of Eternity, now often failed, Rhonin wielded his own power as if the offspring of a demigod.

"How can I stop? How do I dare?" Malfurion demanded, suddenly growing angry at one he knew did not deserve such malice. "Tyrande has been their prisoner for too long and I've failed over and over again to even see within the palace's walls!"

In the past, Malfurion had used the training he had received from his mentor — the demigod, Cenarius — to walk a realm called the Emerald Dream. The Emerald Dream was a place where the world looked as it would have had there been neither civilization or even animal life. Through it, one's dream form could quickly reach locations all across the world. It had enabled him to pass through the magical barriers surrounding Queen Azshara's citadel and spy upon her Highborne and the commanders of the Burning Legion. He had used it to disrupt the plans of Xavius, the queen's counselor, and, after a harrowing imprisonment, temporarily destroy the portal and the tower containing it.

Now, however, the great demon, Archimonde, had strengthened those barriers, cutting off even the Emerald Dream. Malfurion had continued to try to pierce the barriers, but he might as well have been physically battering himself against a real wall.

It did not help that, in addition to awareness that Tyrande was within, the druid also suspected that Illidan might be.

"Elune will watch over her," Rhonin replied steadfastly. "She seems very much a favorite of the Mother Moon."

Malfurion could not argue with that reasoning. But a short time ago, Tyrande had been a young novice in the service of the lunar goddess. Yet, the coming of the Legion seemed to have precipitated in her a transformation as great as in him, if not more so. Her powers had grown strong and, to her immense surprise, when the high priestess had been mortally wounded in battle, she had chosen Tyrande as her successor over many much more experienced and high-ranking sisters. Regrettably, that newfound status had ultimately led to her kidnapping by a transformed Xavius and his satyrs. Xavius had finally paid the price for his actions, but that had not saved Tyrande.

"Can even Elune stand up to the darkness of Sargeras?"

Rhonin's thick brow arched. "Talk like that won't help any, Malfurion," He glanced behind himself. "...and I'd especially appreciate it if you'd not speak so around our new friends."

For a moment, the druid forgot his misery as the shadowed forms rose up from the direction the wizard had come. Immediately it was clear that they were of more than one race, for some dwarfed the night elf in both height and girth while others came up short even to Rhonin. Yet all who strode up to where the pair stood moved with determination and a sense of strength that Malfurion had to admit his own people had just begun to find.

A musky scent wafted past his nose and he immediately tensed. A furred figure clad in loincloth and wielding a massive spear paused to gaze down at the night elf. The giant's breath came in heavy snorts which caused the ring through his nose to jingle slightly. His muzzle was more than a foot long and at the skull met two deeply-entrenched, black eyes that burned with determination. Above the harsh, wrinkled brow, a pair of treacherous-looking horns thrust ahead of the muzzle.

A tauren...

"This is — " Rhonin began.

"Know that Huln Highmountain stands before you, night elf," rumbled the shaggy, bull-headed creature. "Huln of the eagle spear!" He raised the weapon, displaying the sharp, curved end forged to resemble the raptor's beak. From the lower end of the metal head to the bottom tip of the shaft, a tightly-bound skin had been wrapped, upon it markings in the language of Huln's people. Malfurion knew just enough about the tauren to understand that here was marked the history of the weapon, from its forging through the epic feats of its owners. "Huln, who speaks for all the tribes gathered."

The bull nodded his head brusquely, accenting his words with his gestures. His coat had more than two dozen braids in it, most of them dangling from under his jaw. Each was recognition of a kill in battle.

The squat but muscular figure below the tauren's right arm snorted. Vaguely, he looked like some kin of Rhonin's, at least in features. However, there any resemblance ended. His build made it seem as if some powerful force — perhaps either the tauren or the ursine brute behind him — had taken a war hammer and pounded the heavily-bearded figure flat.

More astounding, he was made of stone, not flesh.

His rough-hewn skin appeared to be a gray granite, his squinting eyes glittering diamonds. The beard was actually an intricate series of mineral growths that even made it look as if the figure was graying with age.

The dwarf — for that was as Malfurion knew his kind — reached into one of his many belt pouches and removed a clay pipe and tinder box. As he lit the pipe, the fire briefly outlined the grizzled face, especially the huge, round nose. Whether or not the "gray" in the beard marked advanced age, he showed no infirmity. Despite being of stone, the dwarf wore a hooded outfit, wide, flat boots, and had the pants and shirt a miner might wear. Across his back hung an ax nearly as big as him with one extremely sharp edge.

"Dungard Ironcutter, speaking for the clans of the Earthen," was all he said, dwarves not much on conversation.

The Earthen. Malfurion made certain to remember the last. "Dwarf" was a night elven word, a derogatory one at that.

The bearlike thing behind Dungard suddenly growled. Neither the dwarf nor the tauren paid the fearsome utterance much attention, but Malfurion instinctively backed up a step.

The creature lumbered forward. It resembled a bear, yet moved more like a man. In some ways it reminded Malfurion of the twin gods, Ursoc and Ursol, but was clearly a primitive creature. It wore a pale, brown loincloth and a necklace made of claws. The three-toed beastman raised a club in one hand. The other four-fingered paw formed a fist.

The creature roared again, its tone slightly different from the first time.

"The furbolg Unng Ak says that he speaks for the packs," Rhonin translated readily.

There were others behind them, but they did not choose at this time to step forth. Malfurion gazed at the unique gathering and eyed Rhonin with some admiration. "You convinced all of them to come..."

"Brox and I helped, but it was mostly Krasus."

Malfurion looked among the throng of creatures, but did not see Rhonin's mentor. Taken at a glance, the tall figure in the cowled, gray robes looked the most like a night elf of any of the outsiders. Certainly much more than Brox, the hulking, green-skinned warrior who called himself an orc. Yes, Krasus could have passed for a night elf — but one long dead, for his skin was very, very pale and much of his hair was a brilliant silver. The mage's features were also more hawklike than any of Malfurion's kind. In addition, his eyes somewhat resembled Rhonin's, but were long and narrowed and held in their dark pupils a fire borne of ancient wisdom.

The ancient wisdom of a being who was in truth a dragon.

A figure stalked toward them. Not Krasus, but Brox. The orc looked weary but defiant, as he always did. Brox was a warrior who had battled all his life. The tusked orc had scars everywhere. He vied with the tauren in musculature. Lord Stareye dismissed Brox as a beast no better than Huln or the furbolg. Yet, everyone respected the orc's arm, especially when he wielded the enchanted wooden ax Cenarius and Malfurion had created just for him.

The druid continued to seek out Krasus, but the latter was nowhere to be found. Malfurion did not like that. "Where is he?"

Pursing his lips, Rhonin sourly answered, "He said he had something else that had to be done quickly, regardless of the consequences."

"And that means?"

"I've no idea, Malfurion. In many matters, Krasus trusts only himself."

"We need him...I need him..."

Rhonin put a hand on the night elf's shoulder. "I promise you...we'll rescue her."

Malfurion was not so convinced, just as he was still not convinced that Lord Stareye would accept such allies as these. The mission that Rhonin and his companions had undertaken had not been sanctioned by the host's commander, but Krasus had been convinced that once the noble was confronted with such aid, he would see reason. But convincing Desdel Stareye would be a much more difficult quest than talking sense to furbolgs.

The druid finally surrendered to the fact that there would be no new and immediate attempt to rescue Tyrande. In truth, they had already tried everything they could, at least for now. Still, even as he turned again to the matter of the new arrivals, Malfurion's thoughts ever worked to devise some manner by which to save his childhood friend...and, at the same time, discover the truth concerning Illidan's fate.

The dwarf puffed stolidly on his pipe, while Huln waited with a patience belying his brutish form. Unng Ak sniffed the air, taking in the different scents and clutching the club tight.

Rhonin, eyeing their potential allies, remarked, "Of course, damned if I wouldn't prefer Krasus here right now myself. I can hardly wait to see Stareye's face when this bunch stands before him..."

The noble's jaw dropped. His eyes bulged as much as was possible for his kind. The pinch of snuff almost to his nostril crumbled to the floor of the tent like ash as his fingers twitched.

"You have brought what into our midst?"

Rhonin's expression remained calm. "The one chance we have left of staving the losses and perhaps even winning."

Lord Stareye angrily flung aside his richly embroidered cloak. A flurry of intertwining green, orange, and purple lines marked its passage. In contrast, his armor was the more subdued gray-green common among the night elves, although its breast plate was decorated in the center by his House symbol, a multitude of tiny, gem-encrusted stars in the center of each of which a golden orb had been set. Lying on a table used for mapping out strategy was his similarly-decorated helm.

The haughty night elf stared down his lengthy, pointed nose. "You have disobeyed a direct order, yes! I shall have you clapped in irons and — "

"And I'll dissolve them before they lock. Then, I'll leave the host, as, I suspect, will some of my friends."

It was simply stated, but all there understood the threat. Stareye stared at the three other nobles who had been with him when Rhonin and Malfurion had come to announce the arrival of allies. They returned his stare blankly. None wanted to take the responsibility of urging the commander to rid his force of its most prominent fighters.

The senior night elf suddenly smiled. Malfurion resisted shuddering at that smile.

"Forgive me, Master Rhonin! I speak in haste, yes, in haste! Certainly I would not wish to offend you and yours..." He reached into the pouch, removed some more of the white powder, and inhaled it in one nostril. "We are all reasonable. We shall deal with this in a reasonable manner, however unjustly it was thrust upon some of us." He gave a negligent gesture toward the tent's flap. "By all means, show the — them in."

Rhonin went to the entrance and called out. Two soldiers stepped through, followed by an officer very familiar to Malfurion. Jarod Shadowsong had been a captain in the Suramar Guard when he had had the misfortune to take as a prisoner Krasus. In the ensuing events, he had become a reluctant part of their band and had even been placed in charge of keeping watch over them by the late Ravencrest. Stareye had left Jarod in such a role even though it had long become clear that no one could keep the band in one place, especially the elder mage.

In Jarod's wake came Huln, the furbolg, and Dungard. Behind the trio rushed in a full dozen more soldiers, who quickly took up strategic positions in order to protect their commander.

Stareye's nose wrinkled. He did little to hide his contempt. Huln stood as if a rock. Unng Ak grinned, showing many sharp teeth.

Dungard smoked his pipe.

"I would prefer that you douse that instrument," the noble commented.

In response, the dwarf took another puff.

"Insolent! You see what beasts and refuse you expect us to ally ourselves with?" Stareye growled, already forgetting his words to Rhonin. "Our people will never stand for it!"

"As commander, you must make them understand," the wizard calmly returned. "Just as these three and those representing the others had to do so with their own kind."

"You prissy night elves need some folks who know how to fight," Dungard abruptly muttered, the pipe still in the corner of his mouth. "Someone to teach you real livin'..."

Unng Ak let out with a loud bark. It took Malfurion a moment to realize that the furbolg had laughed.

"At least we understand the intricacies of civilization," another noble snapped back. "Such as bathing and grooming."

"Maybe the demons'll let you live to be their handmaidens."

The night elf drew his sword, his companions following suit. Dungard had his ax out so swiftly that the movement was but a blur. Huln gripped his spear and snorted. Unng Ak swung his club once in challenge.

A flash of blue light abruptly burst to life in the center of the tent. Both sides forgot their argument as they attempted to shield their eyes. Malfurion turned away to protect himself, noticing only then that Rhonin was unaffected by it all.

The human stepped between the parties. "Enough of this! The fate of Kalimdor, of your loved ones — " He hesitated a moment, his eyes looking into the distance. "Of your loved ones...depends on overcoming your petty prejudices!"

Rhonin glanced at Huln and his companions, then at Stareye's nobles. Neither side seemed inclined to have him repeat his blinding display of power.

He vehemently nodded. "Good, then! Now that we understand, I think it's time to talk..."

Krasus struck the floor of the icy cavern with a painful thud.

He lay there gasping. The spell to transport him here had been a chancy one, especially considering his condition. The cavern was far, far away from where the elven host lay — almost half a world away. Yet, he had dared risk the spell, knowing not only what it might do to him but also that it might already be too late to do what he desired.

He had dared not tell even Rhonin of his intentions. At the very least, the wizard would have demanded he accompany him, but one of the pair had to maintain control over the situation with the night elves' potential allies. Krasus had full faith in the human, who had proven himself more adaptable, more trustworthy, than nearly any one else the former had known in his long, so very long life.

His breathing stable, Krasus pushed himself up. In the chill cavern, his breath came out in narrow clouds that drifted slowly up to the high, toothy ceiling. Stalactites vied with jagged ice formations and frost covered the rocky floor.

The mage mentally probed the immediate area, but found no trace of another presence. The news did not encourage him, but neither did it surprise Krasus. He had been there to witness the catastrophe first hand, the vision of Neltharion the Earth Warder — the great black dragon — in his madness turning upon his race still seared into Krasus's memory. Every one of the four other flights had suffered, but the inhabitants of this cavern had paid for their resistance most of all.

The children of Malygos had been slaughtered to a one, their lord cast far away. All this by the power of the Earth Warder's treacherous creation, which the dragons themselves had imbued with power.

The Dragon Soul...known better to him as the Demon Soul.

"Malygos..." Krasus called, the name echoing through the glittering chamber. Once, despite its chill, it had been a place of merriment, for the blue flight were creatures of pure magic and reveled in it. How hollow the cavern was now, how dead.

When he had waited long enough for the great Aspect to respond, Krasus strode cautiously over the slippery, uneven ground. He, too, was a dragon, but of the red flight of Alexstrasza, the Mother of Life. There had never existed animosities between the blues and reds, but, nonetheless, he took no chances. Should Malygos dwell somewhere deeper within the cavern system, there was no telling how the ancient guardian would react. The shock of seeing his kind decimated would throw him over the edge into madness from which it would take centuries to recover.

All this Krasus knew because he had lived those future centuries. He had struggled through the betrayal of Neltharion, who would later be called — more appropriately — Deathwing. He had watched as the dragons had fallen into ruin, their numbers dwindling and those of his own kind, including his queen, forced to be the beasts of the orcs for decades.

The dragon mage again probed with his higher senses, reaching deeper and deeper into the caverns. Everywhere he sought, Krasus found only emptiness, an emptiness too reminiscent of a vast tomb. No significant aura of life greeted his search and he began to despair that his sudden urge to come here had been all for naught.

Then...very, very deep in the bowels of Malygos's sanctum, he noted a vague life force. It was so faint that Krasus almost dismissed it as a figment of his own desire, but then he sensed another, similar presence near it.

The cowled figure wended his way through the treacherous, dark passages. Several times Krasus had to steady himself as the path turned precarious. This was a realm used by creatures a hundredfold larger than he presently was and their massive paws easily spread across cracks and ravines he had to climb through.

Had it been his choice, Krasus would have transformed, but, in this time period, that option was not available. He and a younger version of himself existed here simultaneously. It had enabled the pair to accomplish great things together against the Burning Legion, but demanded also limitations. Neither could transform from the shapes they wore and, until recently, both had been vastly weaker when away from the other. While that latter problem had been solved — for the most part — Krasus was condemned to remain in his mortal body.

A shriek overhead made him press against the wall. A huge, leathery form fluttered past, a wolf-sized bat with a feline face, thick fur, and incisors as long as a finger. The creature spun around for a second dive at the mage, but Krasus already had one hand up.

A ball of flame met the beast in mid-air. The bat flew directly into it.

The fiery sphere swelled, then quickly imploded.

Cinders — the only remnants of the creature — briefly showered Krasus. That he had not sensed the bat perplexed him. He caught a few of the ashes and probed them with his senses. They revealed that the beast had been a construct, not a true living thing. A sentinel, then, of the Master of Magic.

Wiping away the last of the bat, Krasus continued his daunting trek. It had cost him heavily to transport himself by spell to such a faraway place, but for this task, no effort was too great.

Then, to his surprise, he was suddenly greeted by a warmth from ahead. It grew as he continued on, but not to the levels that the dragon mage would have expected. A deeper frown cut into his narrow features as he neared what looked to be a second major cavern. By his calculations, the level of heat should have been several times what it was.

A faint, blue radiance from the cavern illuminated the last bit of passage. Krasus blinked once in order to adjust his eyes, then entered.

The eggs sat nestled everywhere. Hundreds of blue-white eggs of varying size, from as small as his fist to almost as large as him. He let out an involuntary gasp, having not expected such a bounty.

But no sooner had Krasus's hopes risen, then they crashed hard. A more detailed examination revealed the awful truth. Savage cracks lined many, but they were signs of decay, not birth. Krasus placed a gloved hand atop one larger egg and sensed no movement inside.

He went along from clutch to clutch, and as he did, the dragon grew more bitter. History appeared destined to repeat itself regardless of his decision to so flagrantly defy it. The future of the blue dragon flight lay spread before him, but it was a future as devoid of hope as originally. In the time line of which Krasus was familiar, Malygos had been unable to rouse himself from the catatonic state Neltharion had left him until after the magic maintaining the egg chamber — magic bound to the great Aspect — had long failed. Unprotected from the cold, the eggs had perished, and, with them, all hope. In the far future, Alexstrasza had offered to aid Malygos in slowly recreating his flight, but even at the time of Krasus's departure into the past, that plan had barely even begun.

Now, despite everything he had initially preached to Rhonin, Krasus had been attempting perhaps the most precarious change yet to the future of his world. He had hoped to salvage the clutches and bring them to a place of safety, but the constant battle against the demons and the need to force allies onto the foolishly-reluctant night elves had delayed him too much.

Or had it? Krasus paused hopefully over a half-developed egg. Life still yet grew within it. A bit sluggishly, but well enough so that the mage felt certain that new warmth would keep it going.

He checked another and found it, too, a viable candidate. Eagerly, Krasus moved on, but the next several eggs revealed no aura. Gritting his teeth, the robed figure rushed to the next clutch.

He discovered four more salvageable eggs. With one finger, he marked each of those and the ones discovered earlier with a soft, golden glow before continuing his survey.

By the end, there were far fewer eggs than Krasus had hoped to find, but more than he deserved. The dragon mage eyed the ones marked, their glow letting them stand out wherever they were in the vast chamber. He knew with absolute certainty that there were no more. Now, though, what mattered was keeping the select few from perishing as the rest had.

The other dragons, even his beloved Alexstrasza, were invisible to his senses. He could only conclude that they had secluded themselves somewhere in an attempt to recover from Demon Soul's horrific power. His own memories of this period were scattered, the result of his journey and his injuries. Eventually, the other flights would return to the battle, but, by that time, it would be too late for Malygos's kind. Even his younger self was not available to him. Korialstrasz, badly beaten in his heroic struggle to distract Neltharion, had gone to find out what had happened to the other leviathans.

And so it was left to Krasus to decide what to do. Even before he had left for Malygos's lair, he had tried to think of a place he considered secure enough for dragon eggs. Nothing satisfied him. Even the grove of the demigod, Cenarius, had proven unworthy in his eyes. True, the antlered deity was the trusted mentor of Malfurion Stormrage and might very well be the offspring of the dragon, Ysera, but Krasus knew that Cenarius had far too many matters with which to deal already.

"So be it, then," the cowled spellcaster murmured.

With one gloved finger, Krasus drew a circle in the air. Golden sparks accented the tracing his finger made. The circle was perfect and looked as if it had been cut into the very atmosphere itself.

Touching his fingertips to the center, the dragon mage removed the circle. A white gap floated before him, one reaching beyond the mortal plane.

Krasus muttered under his breath, The circle's outline flared red. There was a moan from within it and small, loose stones began rolling toward the gap. Krasus muttered more, and, although the suction grew more intense, the stones slowed to a halt. Instead, the eggs began to shake slightly, as if even in the cold, dead ones, something moved.

But it was not so. One of the viable eggs nearest to Krasus's creation suddenly rose. It drifted almost serenely toward the small gap. A second marked egg did likewise, then the rest followed. The dead eggs continued to quiver, but remained where they were.

And as he watched, the future of Malygos's flight lined up before the hole and started to enter.

Curiously, as each egg approached, it seemed to shrink just enough to fit through. One by one, in constant succession, Krasus's valuable find disappeared into the gap.

When the last had vanished, the cowled spellcaster sealed the opening. There was a brief, golden spark, and then all trace of the gap vanished.

"Enough to survive, but not enough to thrive," Krasus muttered. It would take centuries for the blues to reach secure numbers. Even supposing every egg hatched, there would still not be that many blue dragons even by the time period from which he had come.

Still, some were better than none.

A sudden wave of nausea and exhaustion overtook Krasus. He barely prevented himself from falling. Despite having for the most part solved the puzzle of the original malady striking him when he had entered the past — that being that both he and his younger self had to share their life force — there were limits yet.

But he could not rest. The eggs were secure, placed in a pocket universe where time ran so slow as to be negligible. Long enough to pass them on to one he could trust...assuming he survived the war.

Thinking of that war, Krasus began mustering his strength. Whatever his confidence in Rhonin and Malfurion, there were too many question marks about the certainty of the outcome. The time line had forever shifted; it was possible that the Burning Legion, who had originally lost this struggle, would triumph. Whatever his own meddling with the line, Krasus was well aware that now he had to do everything he could to assist the night elves and the rest. All that mattered now was that there had to be a future.

As he began the spell that would carry him back to the host, Krasus eyed the scores of dead eggs. There would also be a future if the demons won. This would be it. Cold, dark, no life. An eternity of emptiness.

The dragon mage hissed vehemently and vanished.

Copyright © 2005 by Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

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Meet the Author

Richard A. Knaak is the New York Times bestselling author of some three dozen novels, including the The Sin War trilogy for Diablo and the Legend of Huma for Dragonlance. He has penned the War of the Ancients trilogy, Day of the Dragon and its upcoming followup, Night of the Dragon. His other works include his own Dragonrealm series, the Minotaur Wars for Dragonlance, the Aquilonia trilogy of the Age of Conan, and the Sunwell Trilogy — the first Warcraft manga. In addition, his novels and short stories have been published worldwide in such diverse places as China, Iceland, the Czech Republic, and Brazil.

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