In recent Geekend articles, I detailed the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm systems changes and shared news from BlizzCon 2010 about the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion. Before that expansion hits, WoW fans should sign in and participate in the in-game events and quest lines and read the new book The Shattering: Prelude to Cataclysm by Christie Golden.

Let’s take a look at the book and the quests and see how they mesh. (Warning: This article contains spoilers about the book’s plot.)

The Land Will Weep and the World Will Break

Starting with patch 4.0.1 in October, Azeroth has been plagued by periodic earthquakes that started out fairly infrequent but have seemed to increase in frequency. These earthquakes can be felt all over the world. Meanwhile, in The Shattering, characters have been noticing droughts, floods, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena at an increasing rate.

The Shattering details many unfortunate events that lead up to the game we will see in Cataclysm. From the sundering of all trade between the Night Elves and the Orcs (which leads to a lot of deaths, as some renegade orcs retaliate) to the deaths of Magni Bronzebeard, King of Ironforge, and Cairne Bloodhoof, High Chieftain of the Tauren.

Also tied in heavily to the story are Anduin Wrynn, Prince of Stormwind, and Baine Bloodhoof, now-chieftain of the Tauren. Anduin, when he gets trapped in Ironforge after Magni’s daughter Moira returns to claim the throne from the Dark Iron dwarves she was captured by years ago (and who made her empress when she married Emperor Dagran Thaurissan) and locks down Ironforge. Anduin is only able to escape by using the hearthstone given to him by Lady Jaina Proudmoore, leader of Theramore Isle, to escape to that island.

Thrall also takes a harsh turn when, after it’s realized that the elements are troubled, turns over control of the horde to Garrosh Hellscream, newly returned from Northrend, so that he can travel to Nagrand and commune with the spirits there to help figure out what is wrong with Azeroth.

While in Nagrand, Thrall meets Aggra who becomes his tutor and guide during his training and vision quest. Even though they butt heads (and probably because of it), Thrall brings Aggra back with him to Azeroth to help heal the elements and to be his wife.

While Thrall is off-planet, Cairne Bloodhoof challenges Garrosh to a duel to the death (based on an incorrect assumption that Garrosh had the Night Elves and some Tauren Druids attacked) which, as mentioned above, he loses because Garrosh’s blade was poisoned by a rival Tauren leader. This Tauren, Magatha Grimtotem, triggers a coup on Thunder Bluff, eradicates many of the other Tauren leadership, and takes over as High Chieftain. Baine Bloodhoof narrowly escapes death, thanks to a Grimtotem who turns against Magatha at the last minute.

Baine immediately goes to Jaina, knowing that Thrall puts a lot of faith in her, but their meeting is interrupted when Anduin hearths in from Ironforge. Anduin gives him a weapon, Fearbreaker (given to him by Magni Bronzebeard), as a token of good will. The receipt of this weapon makes Baine the first-ever Tauren Paladin, which is what enables that race-class combination in-game.

Baine is able to overthrow Magatha in an epic battle with the help of some Goblins; Thrall returns to Azeroth just in time for Cairne’s funeral; and Anduin returns to Ironforge in time to stop his father, King Varian, from assassinating Moira. This caused Varian to rethink his plan and instead set up the new Dwarven leaders, the Three Hammers – Moira for the Dark Irons, Falstad for the Wildhammers, and Muradin or Brann for the Bronzebeards — thus re-uniting the three Dwarven factions.

A BlizzCon 2010 attendee asked, essentially, why the book stated that Falstad was the Wildhammer representative while Kurdran Wildhammer was in his spot in the Beta version of Cataclysm. (Check out the attendee’s video response here to explain why he sounded funny.) Thanks to his question, not only was Falstad restored to his rightful place as Wildhammer leader and representative to the Council of the Three Hammers, but Blizzard created a brand new NPC, the Wildhammer Fact Checker, as an homage to the attendee now known as simply the “Red Shirt Guy”!

The book ends with the Cataclysm happening as Deathwing shatters the ocean floor and erupts from his prison at the center of Azeroth. Thrall, determining that Garrosh can indeed lead the Horde, sets off for the Maelstrom (the giant storm at the center of the ocean) to attempt to heal what Deathwing has broken with Aggra at his side.

Cataclysm pre-launch events

Many of the in-game events tie in to the book fairly well. Beginning on November 1, 2010, quests were available that introduced players to the Twilight’s Cult, the Earthen Ring, and the Elemental Invasion. These quests have been broken in to four phases, which has outlined quite well.

Phase 1

Phase 1, which is not discussed in the book, includes a relatively extensive quest line that introduces players to the Twilight’s Hammer cult, a new enemy faction for Cataclysm. Players are first asked to learn what the Doomsayers in part of either Orgrimmar or Stormwind are preaching about, gathering scrolls as they go. After your faction’s guard realizes the danger of these Doomsayers, you’re asked to put up some warning posters throughout the city. Once that is accomplished, your next task is to infiltrate the cult using a robe you can get from one of the Doomsayers to learn who is leading them and what they are trying to do. It turns out they’re planting elemental summoning devices in the city, so you’re then asked to destroy some. You’re asked to inform your leader, Varian for the Alliance and Garrosh (!) for the Horde.

The other part of phase 1 is the beginning of the Elemental Invasion. While this isn’t exactly the same as events in the book, it roughly corresponds to the floods, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural events, but in a more epic manner suitable for player interaction. Rifts open up about every hour in most zones in the game, allowing players of all levels and races to participate in the event. Players are required to kill a dozen or so elemental spirits to close the rift. Depending on the zone, the elementals could be Earth, Fire, Water, or Wind based and will grant a one-hour buff specific to the elemental type to players who are nearby when the rift is destroyed.

Phase 2

The shortest of all four phases, phase 2 introduces the Earthen Ring, a new friendly faction to the Alliance and the Horde with a simple quest that seems to tie in to the earthquakes in Kharanos and the fires in Orgrimmar. After defending a tablet that a member of the Earthen Ring has found from a member of the Cult and his elementals, you are asked to subdue agitated spirits of earth (Alliance, in Ironforge) or fire (Horde, in Orgrimmar) using a special Cleansing Totem.

Phase 3

The Twilight’s story continues with the search of Ogrimmar/Stormwind citizens outside the gates followed by the detection of stealthed Cultists within the city. Next, you don your Recruit’s Robe again to get a new Book of Incantations from the Cult Overseer, which you use to disrupt some of the Cultists activities in the city by saying the wrong words (“Ancients of flour and earth, I have peppered the way for you. Come forth and glaze Orgrimmar!” with the response: “You fool! This is a ritual, not a recipe!”) during an incantation. You are sent to Nagrand to speak with a special person from your faction. For the Alliance, this is Gavan Frayfeather, the first Dwarf Shaman. For the Horde, this is Thrall, who is now also missing from his throne.

Phase 4

Phase 4 began on the live servers on November 15, 2010. This phase centers around the elemental invasion of Orgrimmar, Thunder Bluff, Stormwind, and Ironforge. Depending on the city and what is likely an alternating sequence, players will have to battle Earth and Fire elementals in Orgrimmar and Ironforge or Water and Wind elementals in Thunder Bluff and Stormwind. The event sequence is:

1. Upon warning of the elemental invasion by an NPC, players should begin building sandbag walls or barricades.

2. After five minutes, or when the barricades are finished, the elementals attack.

3. 32 elementals rifts spawn, which will need to be defeated in each city. There is a UI feature that will tell you how many elementals stand in each district.

4. Successful defeat of the elementals triggers a new instanced boss fight based on the type of elementals defeated –a minor elemental lord that is part of an existing “Vanilla WoW” instance that has been souped up to level 80 dungeon level. This is able to be queued for in the Dungeon Finder just like holiday bosses once the elementals are defeated on your server for each round. There are also quests available for the first fight per character against each boss from your faction’s representative inside the instance.

  1. Fire: Grand Ambassador Flamelash within Blackrock Depths
  2. Earth: Crown Princess Theradras within Maraudon
  3. Water: Kai’ju Gahz’rilla within Zul’Farrak
  4. Air: Prince Sarsarun within Ahn’Qiraj