Time travel. It’s complicated. And I don’t mean just the extremely powerful magic necessary to make it reality. Once you’re there, in the past or in another timeline, there is an almost infinite number of factors you have to take into account. Every step you take can end up undoing hundreds of possible lives. And every major change that brings a given timeline out of its alignment… out of its one, true fate can be disastrous. This is what the Infinite Dragonflight has been attempting for… forever, I will have to say because our mundane descriptions of duration or time lose meaning here. They attempted to throw timelines out of alignment, and thus to disintegrate them. Why? To bring chaos, entropy. And when all universes, all realities are destroyed, our entire multiverse ceases to exist and the only thing left are the Old Gods – external parasites from beyond all of creation. Without our universe to contain them, they are free. And perhaps they deserve to be free, but not at the cost of uncountable myriads of innocent lives.
Azeroth-28. An empty, dark corner of Dalaran, one that is ruled by a militaristic, jingoistic and magi-elitist Kirin Tor. One that enviously looks out to other worlds out there in the galaxy and seeks to dominate them all – but lacks the manpower and resources to do so. Not long ago, their Emperor, Khadgar, went into the white tower of Karazhan, using its temporal instability to seek new power that could overthrow the other worlds out there. He went missing for years and his Council tried to keep the Empire intact. Until, one day, he reappeared as mysteriously as he disappeared – having witnessed an alternate Azeroth, one much less developed and already embroiled in a conflict with yet another timeline. He saw this as an opportunity. Now they could command not one Azeroth, but two… or more. An infinite number of Azeroths, all striking out at the potential threats among the stars. But he underestimated the defenders this Azeroth had – the Timewalkers.
In that dark corner of Dalaran, suddenly a magical vortex opened. But this time, it was not another lazy mage quickly transporting himself from the top floor to the street. This time, it was a dwarf clad in bronze robes with the symbol of infinity on his tabard. Or rather someone that looked like a dwarf – it was, in fact, a bronze dragon, Keeper Morozdormu. And behind him, three more characters, subordinates, step out. An arakkoa hunter with a pet arcane serpent coiling behind him – Watcher Tarakan and Pita. Then, a red-haired human male with a hopeful look – Historian Llore. And finally, a dark-skinned, human-looking female mage – Weaver Agam. The four looked around until the dwarf spoke up.
“Alright, folks,” Moros said, “it looks like we landed safely, with no witnesses. Time to work.” He raised his left hand, with a strange hourglass in it. “According to our Vision of Time, we can safely stay here for just over a day. Let’s get digging!”
As the four were walking through Dalaran’s market, they were quietly discussing their mission. The Timewalkers knew the potential threat coming from this timeline and wanted to make sure they cannot go through, no matter their advancements. The problem of what happened to the bronze dragonflight in this timeline and why they aren’t acting was something that wouldn’t let them sleep at night.
Llore looked carefully at Agam, and especially at her eyes. She might have looked mostly human, but she wasn’t. She was a vishkanya – a member of a rare, alien race that in our timeline never came to Azeroth. But in hers, Azeroth-7, rampaging Illidan conquered their world and forced them to seek refuge on Azeroth, one of the few worlds everyone knew Illidan wouldn’t touch in his campaign against the Burning Legion. What made her different from humans was a voice, which she could suppress, and her eyes – serpentine in appearance and easily betraying she isn’t human. “Shouldn’t you cover up your eyes in some way?” Llore asked.
She just looked back at him. “Aren’t there bigger issues in our appearance? A single Timewalker hiding around corners, that I understand. But we’re just… flaunting these symbols around another timeline’s bazaar. Isn’t that… dangerous?”
“Not at all,” Moros responded, “It’s what we call ‘willful suspension of oddity’. People tend to rationalize what they can, and forget what they can’t. And we just help them along a bit with some passive camouflage.”
The vishkanya, new to this job, wondered for a moment. “Are we invisible?”
Llore grabbed an apple from a shop stand, only to get a quick yell. He quickly put the apple back. “Not at all,” the historian said, “We’re just… unusually uninteresting. A bit of magic makes people subconsciously avoid noticing anything out of the ordinary about us.”
Agam squinted, processing the information. “But the shopkeeper noticed you taking that apple.”
Llore chuckled in response. “I said, they avoid noticing anything out of the ordinary. I’d say trying to rob a shop stand down here is pretty ordinary.”
Tarakan raised his taloned hand to speak up. “Unless we specifically point out anything strange about us, they will not notice. So don’t draw attention, and our Timewalker symbols will remain unnoticed.”
“So my eyes,” she continued inquiring, “Why would my eyes be noticeable? Aren’t they extraordinary too?”
Llore sighed. “There are limits to how much we can cover up with this passive effect. A robe, a symbol, maybe even a big, blue box in the corner. A woman with snake eyes…”
“It’s serpent eyes,” she interrupted.
“Serpent eyes, yes. That might be too much for some people.”
But on a nearby corner, a man in a black suit and slicked-back hair looked carefully. He kept looking, but he was squinting his eyes and looking away for a brief moment, as if he had problems seeing. He rubbed his eyes and looked once again. Then, he suddenly opened his eyes wide, almost as if he saw a ghost. He quickly pulled a disk out of his pocket and pressed a button. A semi-transparent vision of another human showed up on the disk.
“I have a report to make,” the man said to the vision in his disk, “It’s them. They’re here.”
“I’m telling you, I look even weirder now.” Agam was wearing dark-shaded glasses to cover her eyes.
Llore was smiling strangely, trying to hide his true reaction. “I think you look fine.”
They were standing inside a building – an office of some sorts, with an empty desk with papers scattered around. Tarakan and Moros were looking through the papers for something. Tarakan then looked up and at Agam. “It looks terrible. These lenses would look bad even on an old gnome.”
“See,” she said to Llore, “At least he’s honest.”
“He’s always honest.” Llore responded, looking disappointed. “Painfully so.”
She threw the glasses away and turned to a wall lined with notices and wanted posters. “I’ll take painful honesty over getting me to wear those ridiculous glasses. I couldn’t see a thing!”
Llore sighed and joined her. “You’ll change your mind after a while.”
“Come on, people,” Moros said, taking his nose out of the papers, “We have a job to do here. This is not a vacation. We are not sightseeing a strange and exotic timeline. We are looking for ways to disable these people.”
Llore turned to him. “I never said we were.”
Moros leaned on the desk. “But you behaved like you were, so get to work!”
Then suddenly, the door opened. An elf in a clerk’s outfit entered and looked around the scene. Four strangers, scattering around official papers. It didn’t look favorably. “Who are you people?” she said.
Moros furrowed his brow, thinking on his feet. “Inspection.”
The clerk looked between all four of them. “I wasn’t informed of any inspection.”
“That’s exactly the point, my dear,” Moros responded, posturing himself like an inspecting official. “It’s a surprise inspection. We had to make sure you do not just cover up any mistakes.”
She didn’t look convinced, however. “We never have surprise inspections.” She looked out of the room. “Guards!”
Tarakan squawked seeing this development. “Watch your tongue!” Moros said, scowling. He rose his hand and threw a sandy spell in the clerk’s direction. The elf quickly collapsed to the floor and the four gathered together.
“Now,” the vishkanya said, “I don’t think those ‘perception filters’ will help us much in this situation.”
“Not quite,” Morozdormu responded, cooking up another spell. “We’ll have to timewalk away from here.”
Tarakan closed the door and Moros threw a strange blob of sand that kept it closed. The arakkoa looked at the others. “We’re not walking away from the timeline yet, are we? We are not nearly done.”
“We are not,” the dragon said, looking at his Vision of Time. “We still have a lot of time left here. We will just use the timeways to step into another part of the city and evade the guards.”
All four gathered together, as Moros was preparing. Just as they grabbed each other to timewalk away together, the door opened despite their efforts. Two men in the same black suits walked in, looking at the Timewalkers with surprise. Then, the four stepped forward all at once and just… disappeared. As if they walked through an invisible barrier. The two guards went into the room and waved their arms around, expecting the intruders to be invisible, but found nothing.
The four Timewalkers appeared again in another small street, just next to the waters of Lordamere Lake. They moved out of each other’s grasp and looked around their new location. Llore stared in awe at the sight just across them – a large citadel on the water, on a cross-shaped island.
“Is that…” he began asking, but Moros interrupted him.
“Yes, lad, it is,” he said, checking his robe.
“I’ve never actually seen it. I was too young to see Dalaran before it was destroyed, and I never been to any alternate Dalarans that still had it.”
Moros just furrowed his brow again. “You were too young? Are you sure it’s even still part of our timeline?”
Llore quickly grabbed a large book at his belt. “According to my lore bible, its existence was never contradicted. It seems that no one mentions it anymore… but there’s no confirmation by a Watcher to see it undone.”
“Why would someone undo this island, specifically?” Agam asked.
Llore shrugged. “Some people don’t like references to crosses. And then there was this mess about a God-” His speech was interrupted by a dart suddenly landing in his shoulder. “What is… that…” he said, collapsing on the floor and letting his book fall from his hands.
“Llore!” Agam yelled and immediately knelt next to him. Another dart bolted right past her. Had she knelt a moment later, it’d have hit her. Moros then tackled her to the side, hitting her head on Llore’s still opened book.
“Ye daft girl!” he yelled, slipping into a Dwarven accent. “It’s a trap! Get out!” Tarakan quickly pulled his crossbow, as his arcane serpent came out of stealth. He started looking for whoever was shooting at them across the nearby rooftops, but to the best of his ability, he couldn’t find anyone. Then, another dart landed in his chest. He started wobbling on his talons.
“Go!” he just managed to yell out before he passed out. Moros and Agam immediately began running, but the dragon was just a bit too slow – a dart landed in his back, as we swore in Dwarven and… disappeared, timewalking away. Unnoticed to anyone, his Vision of Time fell out of his belt and rolled down a dark corner. Agam, left alone, ran off as fast as she could.
She kept running and running, until she finally stopped in a semi-crowded street and looked behind her. There were no more darts flying, and no pursuers behind her. For a moment, she still awaited more darts, but nothing was coming. In this moment, a realization dawned upon her. She, a novice, was left alone in a strange and dangerous timeline, with no knowledge of timewalking, or a Vision of Time, or any advantage a Timewalker would normally have. She was stranded and her only option was to find and free the others.
TO BE CONTINUED
NEXT: Part II