In this exclusive Shadows Rising novel excerpt, Nathanos is on the hunt
There are plenty of unanswered questions around Shadowlands, and that’s why we’re so keen to get our hands on Shadows Rising by Madeleine Roux. This novel will bridge the gap between Battle for Azeroth and the upcoming expansion — and hopefully give us a clue as to how (and why) we’ve come to the land of the dead. Though we don’t know when Shadowlands will arrive, we know that Shadows Rising will be out on July 14 (you can pre-order it now), so there’s not much longer to wait for the answers we crave.
The novel’s description reads like a political thriller, and it stars a wide-ranging cast of characters from both sides of the faction divide. If you haven’t been keeping up, here’s the premise: as the Horde tries to rebuild after the events of BFA, an assassination attempt against Talanji threatens its tenuous political balance, leading to a hunt for the would-be killer. Anduin has tasked Turalyon and Alleria with bringing Sylvanas to justice, sending them deep into Zandalari territory. And somewhere in all this, Nathanos Blightcaller and Sira Moonwarden are trying to kill Bwonsamdi.
In short, there’s a lot happening, and we only know the barest details.
But we have a few new details to share by way of a fresh except from the book. This story snippet comes from chapter 13, as Nathanos and Sira look for a way to kill death… and find the price is a bit higher than expected.
If you don’t want spoilers for Shadows Rising, stop reading here.
Now, on to the excerpt:
“What a pit,” Sira Moonwarden sneered, pulling her foot up out of the mud and listening to the resounding squelch. “A blessing that this post is only temporary.”
Beside her, Nathanos stood stalk still, ignoring the visible cloud of flies gathering around his head. He often wore a subtle cologne to ward off the scent of being neither living nor dead. Many found the complete absence of scent unnerving. Sira had only just grown accustomed to it herself. She did not handle the bugs as gracefully, batting at them while they gathered in ever thickening swarms.
“Where are they?” Sira added, annoyed. “Patience, Warden. Patience.”
She had little on a good day, even less when she was forced to stand knee-deep in rotting mud, the Frogmarsh a strangely painful reminder of how undead she truly was. Here, life roared at her from every direction, from the damp trees draped with green curtains of moss to the crabs clicking their way up and down the shore behind them, to the deafening chorus of frogs and insects robbing any chance of a peaceful thought.
Life. It was everywhere there. Brash, audacious life. It probably smelled green. Not an inch of it went uncovered in vines or nests or pond scum. Through the trees ahead, a herd of riverbeasts snorted and huffed, the brass section of the teeming band of chittering, birdsong, and ribbets.
It was, in a word, loathsome.
“We’ll be eaten alive,” she huffed, swatting a dozen bugs before all the words had left her mouth.
“There.” Nathanos pointed to the same trees that concealed the riverbeasts. Long, dripping strands of moss made the beach feel claustrophobic. The four dark rangers spread about to stand watch dutifully endured the stinging of bugs and stinking of the bog.
“Do you see them?” he asked. Sira squinted.
“They move like shadows along the forest floor, and being shadows they will continue being very useful to us.”
She marked movement among the tall roots jutting out from the base of the trees. Trolls cleverly smeared in mud crept toward them, nearly invisible in the jumble of bushes and fallen logs in the swamp. Sira would not argue about their usefulness—they had already had to move the Banshee’s Wail out of deep water to avoid the deadly storms raging along the coasts.
“They can come out of hiding,” she snapped. “They called for this meeting.”
“I happen to agree.” With a smirk, Nathanos whistled with his fingers in his mouth, alerting the Zandalari rebels that he had noticed their presence. They stood one by one, their leader among them, slowly making her way to their location with a pronounced limp. Sira somewhat liked the witch, Apari, for they had both been betrayed by the one thing that had always defined their lives.
For Sira, it was her worship of the goddess, Elune. For Apari, it was her loyalty to the Zandalari crown.
For the seriousness of her injury, Apari navigated the swamp deftly. They met in a clearing not far from the sands, the Widow’s Bite leader arriving with her bulbous tick pet on her shoulder, a small entourage of twelve or so guards, and her ever-present lieutenant, the tall, black-haired troll called Tayo.
Apari’s white hair had been streaked with mud to hide her identity. None of the trolls wore the distinctive white-and-black robes of the insurrection but rather nondescript rags and bits of armor.
Only Apari and her bodyguard Tayo broke away to speak with them. The troll witch leaned her weight onto her good leg and pressed her palm to her heart. “Greetings, pale rider.”
“At last,” Nathanos replied shortly. “I realize it must have been difficult, given your limitations, but next time I expect promptness.”
Her eyes flashed. “I’ve no limitations ya need worry about, pale rider.”
“Indeed. At least you have understood our need for secrecy. We cannot risk venturing further inland. If Zandalari loyalists lay eyes on us then our plans are forfeit.”
The witch waved away his words impatiently. “Have ya brought our payment?”
“You are hardly in a position to make demands.” Nathanos snorted. “But I am eager to be out of this swamp.”
He twisted at the hip and gestured Ranger Visrynn forward. The dark-haired ranger brought forward a small enameled chest, silently placing it on the neutral ground between the trolls and Blightcaller. Aboard the ship, Sira had seen them preparing the payment, a collection of gems, jewelry, beautifully hammered metal necklace plates, small flagons of rare spirits, and daggers. It struck Sira as slightly excessive given their dwindling resources, but Nathanos had made clear that this was the price of a successful mission.
“Soon,” he had assured her aboard the Banshee’s Wail not an hour earlier, “where we will be going none of these trifles will matter at all.”
Sira slapped at another swarm of insects buzzing around her head, watching as the witch’s bodyguard knelt and flicked open the chest with one finger. No smile. No thanks for their generosity. No reaction at all. Sira simmered, looking to Nathanos, who revealed as little as the black-haired troll.
“This is not what I want.” Apari shook her head, sneering. “This is not what we agreed upon.”
Clearing his throat, Nathanos calmly signaled for Visrynn to return. She did and with equal serenity picked up the chest and returned to her sisters behind them.
“Insulting,” Sira murmured. Perhaps she should not have. At once, the witch fixed her piercing turquoise eyes upon Sira. An instant later, Sira felt a sensation like a thousand spiders skittering down her back. She shivered but refused to tear her gaze away. Just a witch’s trick, she told herself, nothing more.
“Now, now,” Nathanos intervened. “This is a simple misunderstanding. What would you have from us instead?”
Apari grinned, showing a set of yellowed teeth sharpened to points, the ends blackened by the foul, strong spirits the Zandalari distilled in charred vats. She hobbled forward, looking Nathanos up and down as if he were a prize cut of meat. Whatever came next, Sira mused, would not make him happy.
“Your messenger said ya want to kill a loa.” Apari nodded. Her eyes lit up, the idea clearly exciting her. “You want to kill Bwonsamdi, but ya can’t, not without us. ’Tis no easy thing, what ya ask. He must be weakened first. Believers and tribute keep him strong, but without faithful followers he be vulnerable. His shrines be protected by powerful magic, the tribute I need from ya will dispel that magic.”
Nathanos hurried her along, at last reaching a state of visible impatience. “Go on.”
“It will require somethin’ precious,” she continued. Pointing to Visrynn and the chest, she flapped her hand and shrugged. “That might be precious to some, but not to you. Ya must give up somethin’ painful, somethin’ irreplaceable.”
“What we offer should be more than sufficient.” Nathanos stood firm. “You are not in a position to bargain.”
The witch was stunningly bold, Sira could give her that. With a theatrical sigh, the troll witch began to turn around, avoiding her bad leg and refusing help from her bodyguard as she began rounding up the members of the Widow’s Bite. For a moment, Sira remained certain it was just a bluff, but no, the trolls regrouped and slowly disappeared back into the dense foliage of the swamp.
The trolls paused, looking to their leader. Apari waited, only offering a glance over her right shoulder. Before Nathanos could relent and submit to their demands, Sira took him by the elbow, lowering her voice and tilting her head toward him. “Wait . . .”
But he was already pulling a chain out from under his heavy black coat, a green-and-gold badge, warped and faded with time, hung from the tarnished necklace. An officer’s badge? A remnant from a war long since forgotten? Sira couldn’t say. Nathanos and Sylvanas had once served Silvermoon, he so tactically gifted that he had been raised to the rank of ranger lord in the Farstriders, an achievement no other human had managed. The Dark Lady herself had been the one to give the promotion, the dark rangers serving Sylvanas had told the tale many times at sea. It seemed to be a favorite. Was this the badge recognizing as much? Though his eyes always pulsed with the same steady crimson glow, Sira saw that dim for a moment, fading just like the old, etched memento. “What are you doing?” Sira whispered. “We cannot simply give in to every demand and roll over like trained dogs. They will think you weak.”
At that, Nathanos curled his lip, eyes now as hot and bright as his flaring rage. He seemed to collect himself, breathing hard. His strength, it seemed, was not to be questioned. Sira nearly recoiled, but he only pushed the hair back off his forehead, his gaze burning into her with the same furious intensity.
“You will learn the value of silence, or I will teach it to you.” That seemed to satisfy his fury, and when he looked at her again it was as if she were no more than a pustule on his foot, something he loathed to notice but must.
Sira stewed in indignant silence as he pulled at the chain around his neck, breaking it, before closing the gap between them and the troll witch, holding out the badge for her to take. Apari might have been severely injured, but she moved swiftly then, her arm but a blur as she tried to snatch the necklace from his palm. Nathanos, however, was ready for her, and quickly trapped her hand there before she could take the payment.
“This is no trinket, witch. If you fail to destroy the loa’s shrines as you have promised, then there will be severe consequences. You may have conjured a few clouds off the coast, but payment this dear demands results.”
The novel is due out July 14 — that’s only a few weeks away! — and you can pre-order Shadows Rising in hardback, ebook, or audiobook format from your favorite retailer now.
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