The Shattering covers a lot of ground, but you should know ahead of time that the main players in this story are orcs, tauren, humans and dwarves. The other races are mentioned only in passing or have very minor roles, but that's OK. There's a lot here to love, and we finally have clarification on some rumors that we've heard second- and third-hand for a year now.
Rather than going in full chronological order, I've instead divided the summary by character, so you can follow each of their particular storylines. Today's summary is for Thrall.
Remember, this summary is full of spoilers, so don't read it if you don't want the book spoiled!
It all starts with Drek'Thar. He's growing old and senile. His caretaker is worried about him. He's tormented by nightmares of the elements raging all over Azeroth. He wakes in the middle of the night, screaming that he must warn Thrall, that the world will burn, but his caretaker thinks he's just in the throes of senility. Drek'Thar's message never reaches Thrall.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.
When a fire rages loose in Orgrimmar, Thrall attempts to calm the flames with his shamanistic powers. He can't. He first asks nicely, then pleads, then threatens, but the flames are angry and apparently afraid -- afraid of something much worse than Thrall. Orgrimmar burns. Not all of the city is destroyed, but a large portion of it is.
Gazlowe, the goblin who originally built Orgrimmar, is tasked with repairing the city, but the cost is steep. Very steep. Too much for an already-suffering Orgrimmar city coffer, but Thrall has little choice -- the city can't go unrepaired. Gazlowe repeatedly lowers the price out of respect for Thrall, but it's still exorbitant.
Thrall mulls over how to get more supplies for Orgrimmar. Durotar has been suffering droughts, which caused the fire that raged through the city, and the night elves have cut off trade with the Horde after the incident at the Wrathgate. Garrosh recommends attacking the night elves and taking what they need from Ashenvale, but Thrall reminds him that, post-Northrend, a truce is in effect between the Horde and Alliance. Hostilities have ceased in even the smallest theaters (like Warsong Gulch).
When word gets back to Orgrimmar of a night elf village in Ashenvale being brutally devastated (its inhabitants skinned alive and chopped to pieces), it's assumed that Garrosh was the one who ordered it. He denies it. Varian Wrynn catches wind of it thanks to some night elf sentinels crashing the memorial service for the over 50,000(!) Alliance members, mostly human, who died in the Northrend war. He sends a message to Thrall stating that he demands an apology, an open condemnation of the attacks, a reaffirmation of his support of the truce, and finally that he send the offenders to Wrynn personally to meet Alliance justice.
Jaina meets with Thrall secretly to discuss the order. Thrall says that the only demands he'll meet are a reaffirmation of the treaty and a condemnation of the attacks. He won't send over the offenders, mainly because he has no idea who they are but also because he knows that Wrynn would never send over Alliance criminals to face Horde justice. And he won't apologize for the violence, because doing so would be downplaying how severely the night elves' cutting off trade has affected his people. Jaina is disappointed and leaves.
A weary Thrall decides that it's time to revisit his shamanistic roots and talk to the elements of Draenor to determine what's wrong with the ones on Azeroth. He wants someone to lead the Horde in his stead while he's away, but his options are few. Orcs wouldn't accept an old tauren as their leader, so Cairne Bloodhoof is out. Varok Saurfang is essentially retired, holding down the fort in Grommash Hold following the extended Northrend campaign and his son's two deaths. Saurfang the Younger, who would've been the perfect choice, is out for obvious reasons. Vol'Jin is occupied with rebuilding the Echo Isles. Only one suitable alternative remains."A pity," Eitrigg said, apropos of apparently nothing.
"What is?" asked Thrall.
"That she is not an orc," Eitrigg said.
With some trepidation, he appoints Garrosh Hellscream not as Warchief but as temporary leader, thinking that this kind of responsibility could put Garrosh in his place. Garrosh doesn't even want the job. He begs Thrall to find him a position more suited to him -- leading an elite group of soldiers, fighting battles, claiming territories for the Horde, anything -- but finally caves under Thrall's insistence. He accepts the honor with respect. Thrall's advisors and friends disagree with the decision, but his mind is made up. He leaves Orgrimmar after a heated discussion with Cairne, who vehemently opposes Thrall's interim replacement.
In Nagrand, Thrall meets up with a young female orc shaman named Aggra, an apprentice of Greatmother Geyah. He had hoped to study under Geyah, but the training Thrall needs requires travel, and she's an invalid. She appoints Aggra as Thrall's instructor. Neither of them are pleased about this. Aggra believes that Thrall's use of his slave name is demeaning to him and to every orc. Thrall can't stand Aggra's acerbic nature. But they both deal with the situation for the sake of saving Azeroth."You are Thrall, son of Durotan," she said without preamble.
"I am," he replied.
"A filthy name. Here, you will be called Go'el."
It turns out that the ritual Drek'Thar originally gave Thrall to help him become a true shaman wasn't a true shamanistic vision quest, just a placeholder performed when the Frostwolf clan was just trying to survive. If Thrall wants to really speak with the elements, he needs to go through a real vision quest. Geyah and Aggra note that he dresses like a warrior, but if he wants to become a true shaman, he needs to shed his skin. He loses the plate armor and the Doomhammer, taking up the ritual robe and prayer beads instead. He spends weeks training with Aggra and learning more about natural order of things -- and more about Aggra.
Through his vision quest and conversations with the Four Furies at the Throne of the Elements, he learns some important information. Gordawg, the earth fury, tells that Thrall that based on the chunk of Azeroth he brought through the portal, the elements on Azeroth are terrified and won't listen to anyone. He says that the last time he saw behavior like that was when his world (Draenor) was about to shatter. The fire elemental, lamenting that he cannot provide his flame to the flames of Azeroth, gives Thrall the fire of passion to do what must be done. The rest impart their knowledge to Thrall, who leaves the Throne of Elements with a new goal: Find out what force has the elements so frightened.
Unfortunately, he's too late. Shortly after Thrall's discussion with the furies, every shaman on Azeroth feels the Maelstrom churn, a chaotic rift forming in its center, sending shockwaves all over Azeroth. Menethil Harbor is flooded, Stonewrought Dam destroyed, The Barrens split in half, Theramore beset by tidal waves, Thousand Needles flooded ... The destruction is unbelievable.
With a new mission -- heal the world at any cost -- Thrall heads back to Azeroth, with his new mate at his side.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm will destroy Azeroth as we know it; nothing will be the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion (available Dec. 7, 2010), from brand new races to revamped quests and zones. Visit our Cataclysm news category for the most recent posts having to do with the Cataclysm expansion.