Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects -- Excerpt One

Thrall: Twilight of the Highlands

Written by New York Times bestselling author Christie Golden, the new novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects is now on store shelves.  We’re pleased to present a series of three excerpts from the novel for your reading enjoyment.

Read the first excerpt below.

Nobundo turned to Thrall and Aggra as they approached. He was a former draenei. His form was not proud and strong and tall, but bent, almost deformed, caused by exposure to fel energies. Many Broken were dark and corrupted, but Nobundo was not. Indeed, he had been blessed, his great heart opening to the shamanic powers, and it was he who had brought these powers to his people. Beside him were several draenei, their blue forms undamaged, sleek, clean. Yet, to Thrall and many others, Nobundo outshone them all because of who he was.

When the high shaman's gaze fell upon Thrall, the orc wanted to look away. This being—indeed, all the other shaman gathered here—was someone Thrall respected deeply, and had never wished to disappoint. And yet, he had.

Nobundo beckoned Thrall to him with an oversized hand. "Come, my friend," he said quietly, regarding the orc kindly.

Many were not so charitably minded, and Thrall felt angry gazes being cast his way as he approached Nobundo. Others came silently to join in this informal gathering.

"You know the spell we were attempting to work," Nobundo said, his voice still calm. "It was to soothe and comfort the earth. It is admittedly a difficult working, but one that all of us here know how to do. Can you tell us why you—?"

"Stop dancing around the subject," growled Rehgar. He was a massive orc, battle-scarred and hulking. One would not look at him and think "spiritual," but whoever made that assumption

would be very wrong. Rehgar's life journey had thus far taken him from gladiator to slave owner to loyal friend and advisor to Thrall, and that journey was far from over. Now, though, a lesser orc than the former warchief of the Horde might have quailed before his anger. "Thrall... what the fel was going on with you? We could all feel it! You weren't focusing!"

Thrall felt his hands curl into fists and forced them to relax. "Only because you are my friend will I permit you to speak so to me, Rehgar," Thrall said quietly, but with an edge to his voice.

"Rehgar is right, Thrall," Muln Earthfury said in his deep, rumbling voice. "The working is hard, but not impossible—not even unfamiliar. You are a shaman, one who has been through all his

people's true rites. Drek'Thar hailed you as the savior of his people because the elements spoke to you when they had been silent for many years. You are no inexperienced child, to be coddled and sympathized with. You are a member of this Ring—an honored and strong one, or else you would not be here. And yet you crumbled at a crucial moment. We could have silenced the quakes, but you shattered the working. You need to tell us what is distracting you so that we may aid you."

"Muln—" Aggra began, but Thrall lifted a hand.

"It is nothing," he said to Muln. "The work is demanding and wearying, and I have a great deal on my mind. Nothing more than that."

Rehgar uttered an oath. "You have a great deal on your mind," he spat. "Well, the rest of us do as well. Trivial things like saving our world from ripping itself apart!"

For a second, everything went red in Thrall's vision. Muln spoke before Thrall could. "Thrall was leader of the Horde, Rehgar, not you. You cannot know what burdens he bore and perhaps still does bear. And as one who until recently owned slaves, you cannot sit in moral judgment upon him!"

He turned to Thrall. "I am not attacking you, Thrall. I am merely seeking to see how we can aid you, that you can better aid us."

"I know what you are doing," Thrall said, his voice close to a snarl. "And I do not like it."

"Perhaps," Muln said, striving for diplomacy, "you are in need of some rest for a while. Our work is very demanding, and even the strongest must tire."

Thrall did not even grace the other shaman with a verbal reply; he merely nodded curtly and stalked off to his shelter.

He was angrier than he had been in some time. And the person he was most angry with was himself.

He knew he had been the weak link in the chain, had failed to put forth the ultimate concentration at the moment when it was most desperately needed. He could not yet drop deep into himself, touch the Spirit of Life within, which was what had been required of him. He didn't know if he would ever be capable of doing so. And because he could not do this thing, the effort had failed.