Beyond the dark portal

The aging orc shaman Ner’zhul has seized control of the Horde and reopened the Dark Portal. His brutal warriors once again encroach upon Azeroth, laying siege to the newly constructed stronghold of Nethergarde Keep. There, the archmage Khadgar and the Alliance commander, Turalyon, lead humanity and its elven and dwarven allies in fighting this new invasion.
Even so, disturbing questions arise. Khadgar learns of orcish incursions farther abroad: small groups of orcs who seem to pursue a goal other than simple conquest. Worse yet, black dragons have been sighted as well, and they appear to be aiding the orcs. To counter Ner’zhul’s dark schemes, the Alliance must now invade the orcs’ ruined homeworld of Draenor. Can Khadgar and his companions stop the nefarious shaman in time to stave off the destruction of two worlds?
June 24 2008
PROLOGUE
“Throw down!”
“Shut up!”
“Throw down, damn you!”

/> “Fine!” Gratar growled, half-rising, his powerful shoulder muscles bunching. One arm whipped forward and down, fist descending in a blur-and his fingers opened, the small bone cubes spilling from them to clatter upon the ground.
“Hah!” Brodog laughed, tusks jutting up as his lips pulled back in a grin. “Only one!”
“Damn!” Gratar sank back down onto his stone, sulking as he watched Brodog again gather the cubes and shake them vigorously. He didn’t know why he kept throwing against Brodog-the other orc practically always won. It was almost unnatural.
Unnatural. A word that had nearly stopped having any meaning for Gratar. He glanced up at the stark red sky that filled the horizon, the sun a burning globe of the same shade. The world had nor always been thus. Gratar was old enough to remember blue skies, a warm yellow sun, and thick green fields and valleys. He’d swum in deep, cool lakes and rivers, blissfully ignorant of how precious a thing water would one day become. One of the most basic needs of life, uncontaminated water was now brought in in casks and stingily parceled out.
Rising, Gratar kicked idly at the ground before him, watching the red dust puff upward, parching his mouth, and he reached for the waterskin and drank sparingly. The dust covered his skin, dulling the green hue, lightening his black hair. Red everywhere, as if the world had been drenched in blood.
Unnatural.
But the most unnatural thing of all was the reason he and Brodog were stationed here, whiling away the dusk-clogged day with idle games of chance. Gratar looked past Brodog at the towering archway just beyond them and the shimmering curtain of energy that filled it. The Dark Portal. Gratar knew that the strange mystic doorway led to another world, though he had not passed through it himself-none of his clan had. But he had watched as proud Horde warriors had entered the portal to win glory over the humans and their allies. Since then, a few orcs had returned to report the Horde’s progress. But lately there had been nothing.
No word, no scouts; nothing.
Gratar frowned, ignoring the clattering sound of Brodog’s tossing of the bones. Something about the portal seemed… different. Gratar stepped closer to the towering gateway, the hairs along his arms and chest tingling as lie approached.
“Gratar? It’s your turn. What are you doing?”
Gratar ignored Brodog. Squinting, he stared at the rippling veil of energy. What was going on beyond it, on that strange other world?
As he watched the curtain’s undulating shimmer grew and became more translucent, allowing Gratar to see through it as if through murky water.