PREVIOUSLY: Time and Again, part I
Tarakan was tied up to a chair in a dark room. When he woke up there, his first instinct was to timewalk away but not only were his legs tied to the chair, his gear was gone as well and as a hunter he had no magical powers of his own. Through the few beams of light coming from a hatch in the door he managed to spot a strange, red stone lining the walls. Red stone… he heard about it before. Tarakan’s brother encountered it. A stone that negates all magic where it’s around so no one can enter the room magically, including the arcane serpent being unable to phase through the walls. Most people would have no idea how much time has passed. But he was not most people – he was a Timewalker. Time was his domain.
Suddenly, the door opened and a lot of light burst into the room – something especially painful for a cursed arakkoa. But in that burst of light emanating from the door frame he saw a human-shaped shadow. The shadow stepped in and the door closed behind him, as a faint lamp turned on near the roof. The shadow was no other but Khadgar. But not our Khadgar. It was a parallel Khadgar from this timeline, one that grew up to be a very different man. He was smiling and scratching his goatee, contemplating his captive.
“We meet again, Timewalker,” Khadgar said. “I must admit, I expected you to already turn into a dragon and attempt escape by now.”
Tarakan sighed. “I’m not a dragon. I’m a Timewalker. I am a mortal servant of the bronze dragonflight.”
Khadgar chuckled. “Mortals willingly serving dragons? Do you think we had no dragons over here? The capricious, gluttonous things wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from eating mortals standing around nearby.” Either dragons were very different in this timeline, or Khadgar was lying. “Especially ones that look like they would taste like chicken.”
Tarakan frowned. Cannibalistic jokes never amused him, and especially the numerous ‘do you taste like chicken’ lines from orcs who thought they were oh-so-clever. “You don’t know the first thing about us. And I’m not going to help you find it out.”
“We’ll see,” Khadgar said, “We’ll see how much pain and hunger a… not-dragon can withstand.”
Agam was sitting on a lone chair standing behind a house. She was avoiding public sight very carefully. Not only her fellow Timewalkers said her eyes would be too noticeable, she wasn’t sure if the regular perception filter would still work with them away. It’s been only a few hours, but the sun was slowly setting and she didn’t yet know any magic that could return her to her timeline. She knew she had until early afternoon next day before her presence would start degrading the timeline… but she hoped by then the Keepers would send someone to look for them. For now, no one was coming and she was beginning to lose hope.
Then, the door nearby opened. She jumped up from her chair and wanted to leave quickly but the elderly woman noticed her. The two met their gazes. The Dalarani was looking at her carefully, as if she couldn’t quite understand what she’s looking at. Agam was worried. She must have noticed her eyes.
“I can explain!” Agam shouted, raising her hand. The woman shrugged.
“Explain what?” She said. “This alley belongs to everyone. It’s no crime to sit here.”
“No, I meant my…” Agam stopped herself right there. The woman probably didn’t see anything. “Never mind.”
She looked at Agam again and shook her head. “You look troubled. Hungry. Come in, we have enough to share.”
Agam was charmed by the hospitality but her mind was still elsewhere. “I can’t. I have a job to do.”
“Nothing that can’t wait till you get your belly filled.”
“Actually, it cannot wait. There are people, my friends, who got in trouble, and I have to help them.”
“In trouble, hmm?” The elderly woman gave her a sly smile. “Now you just must come in!”
Moments later, Agam was sitting behind a table, with the elderly woman next to her. A younger human male was taking his seat next to them. Grizzled-looking, he was wearing brown leather and some kind of harness on top of it.
The woman spoke up. “This is my son, Jonathon. He works with a local group of people who… are not very keen of the Kirin Tor regime.”
“You’re… bandits?” Agam didn’t know how to word it better.
“We’re rebels,” the man spoke up. “The mages hold an elitist regime that only allow other arcanists to keep positions of power. People such as me have no say in how their lives are being managed. They think we’re just dumb cattle they can throw to make food for them, or as guinea pigs for their experiments, or as footsoldiers in their armies. And the worst part about that? Those armies then go and kill other people such as us.”
Agam was just nodding. “So how can you help me?”
“You said the mages took your friends,” Jonathon replied. “We were already preparing a strike force into the Violet Hold, to free some of our comrades imprisoned there. If they’re as dangerous as you told my mother, they will undoubtedly be held there.”
“And how do you attempt to go against mages without any power of your own?” the vishkanya asked.
The man smiled. “We are not completely without power.” He pulled out of his waist a blade made of the red, anti-magical stone. “We have a few tauren shamans with us. And we have this. The same red stone the Kirin Tor mine on Mesonyx and use to keep their magical enemies in check. They think we don’t know about the stone, or their actions on the planet, but a native recently arrived and began helping us. This blade thrust into a mage’s heart will not only penetrate any of their personal shields, but prevent any resurrection attempts.” Jonathon then looked at Agam. She was visibly unnerved at the sight of this shortsword. He frowned. “What’s the matter?” He looked carefully between the blade and the guest. “You’re a mage, aren’t you?”
“Jonathon, please…” the older woman said.
“Don’t Jonathon me!” he shouted to his mother and then looked back to Agam. “You came here to get information from us, didn’t you?”
She knew she was in trouble, but then she realized… the Timewalker logo on her robes. He must still be unable to notice it due to the magic. And the effect can be broken when you… “You see this sign?” She pointed to her tabard. “This is a symbol of the Timewalkers. I am not of this world. Your Kirin Tor is trying to use our world in their campaign of conquest. We came here to stop them, but they surprised us.”
The facts clicked in the man’s mind and calmed him down. He put down the blade on the table. “It’s worse than I thought. If they had two Azeroths… nay, Infinite Azeroths at their disposal… nothing would stop them anymore.”
A dead silence befell the room. After a short time, Agam disrupted it. “If I may ask…” she said, “What happened to Timewalkers… or bronze dragons in this timeline?”
The man looked at her with a very grim face. “They died.” He wasn’t going to elaborate. “We must stop them. Now.”
Khadgar opened the door to an office. Inside, a serious looking male tol’vir was standing behind a desk and looking through a set of papers with some kind of magical device. The tol’vir raised his head in the presence of his Emperor, but failed to pay any other honors.
“Secretary Menrim,” Khadgar said, “did your people find anything from the captives yet?”
Menrim quietly growled under his nose. “Not much, Your Wisdom. I can just assure you they are both what they appear to be. A human and an arakkoa. If I’m right, we even have the arakkoa cataloged.” He grabbed a paper from a pile on his left. “Or at least his counterpart from our timeline. He’s a brother to a collaborator from Draenor. Was a known fugitive until we found their rebel lair and killed him, along with a few others head figures in the Philistine Rebellion.”
Khadgar took the paper and cringed. “Can we stop calling it the Philistine Rebellion? It sounds so… strange. Philistine alone makes sense, but here it sounds like a nation.”
The tol’vir nodded. “It’s just what the people call it. Anyway, we think we could manage to find a leverage on the captive by using the relationship against him. Threaten his brother, probably. He might care about the brother, even if he’s from another timeline.”
Khadgar smiled. “I knew I could depend on you, Secretary. Get this plan in motion immediately. I have other matters to attend to.” The mage turned to leave and in the door, he began casting a spell. In a moment, he was gone in a flash of light.
Secretary Menrim began working on his papers again when a red light started blinking on his desktop. He turned his attention there and saw a message – intruders in sewer entrance, section C. “What is this?” He muttered to himself. “Probably just rats. We must fix this at once.” He gathered his bag and a few papers and left the room.
It wasn’t rats. Or the wind. The crate was blown open by a dwarven gun and a group of people, most wearing armor made of the red stone, was entering the sewers of the Violet Hold, including Weaver Agam and Jonathon. The dwarf in front of them was waving a still-smoking gun around, looking for hostiles. “Okay,” the dwarf shouted, “It’s all clear down here.”
“Good,” Jonathon replied. “We need to make our way to wing B. That’s where our people were last held according to what Pam wrote to me.”
“Hey!” Agam shouted, tapping him on the shoulder. “Aren’t you forgetting about something?”
“We will get your friends,” Jonathon assured her. “We just need to free our people first.”
“Didn’t I remember you saying something like ‘if they get what they want from these guys, we’re all screwed’?”
“Hardly,” Jonathon replied, still looking around. “Don’t worry. We will get them.”
“Unless you get interrupted and need to escape and I’m left…” Agam was starting to rant, but suddenly the dwarf silenced her.
“Shh! You hear that?” the dwarf said and took off his hood. Everyone stopped talking and heard footsteps coming down. After a second, they heard the characteristic, roaring voice of a tol’vir talking to a human.
“Did you get the alert?” the tol’vir voice said.
“Son of a bitch,” Jonathon swore quietly. “I knew there was another alarm.”
The human guard was responding. “Yes, but down there it was probably just rats. Damn things are crawling on everything.”
“You idiot,” the tol’vir responded, “When will you people learn to investigate everything?” Suddenly, the footsteps were drawing closer.
The dwarf swore and ran towards a rock. Everyone scattered, but the guards appeared from above. Clad in the same black uniforms, they noticed the movement and ran down, their hands brimming with flame. The dwarf jumped out from behind his rock. “Eat lead, motherf-” But before he could finish, he was hit by a fireball right in his face and collapsed. Jonathon roared in fury and ran at the guard. Guard shot another fireball, but it dispersed on the red armor and Jonathon pierced the human’s stomach with his blade. The guard fell down, dying, while the other guard raised a magical shield around himself and began cooking up a bigger spell. Unfortunately for him, a red-tipped arrow pierced through his shield and into his shoulder. Then, another arrow shot him in the chest, killing him as well. The group ran up to the stairs and looked up. The frightened Secretary Menrim was trying to run towards a glowing device on the floor above. Then, one of the archers pointed his bow directly to him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Jonathon yelled to Menrim. The tol’vir stopped and turned around, seeing the bow and the arrow.
Menrim raised his hands. “Don’t kill me! I can help you! I have tons of materials on them! Give me five minutes in my office and I’ll give you so much evidence against them half the commoners will join your rebellion.”
Jonathon chuckled. “That’s a very nice offer, thank you, but right now we were just looking for some of our friends.”
Menrim nodded. “I think I know exactly who you mean.”
A few moments later, Menrim was leading the rebels, and Agam towards the elite cells. The ones reserved for those hardest to control. That’s where they had to keep a young orc called Go’el, one who had designs for having his people return to their roots – and the Kirin Tor could not have it happen. That’s where they kept the one known as Krasus when he turned out to be more than just a powerful mage. And now, it housed the two Timewalker captives. Menrim carefully approached one of the cells and looked right into a slot next to the door. A beam scanned his eye and opened the cell. The rebels, now strengthened with their freshly freed compatriots, entered the cell and started untying Historian Llore.
“Agam!” the historian said when he noticed the vishkanya. “Where are the others?”
“We’re about to free Tarakan,” Agam said, “But we couldn’t find Moros on the prisoner manifest. You don’t happen to know where he is?”
Llore looked surprised. “He wasn’t with us when we were brought to the cells. I thought he was with you.”
Agam took a step back, worried. “I thought he was… Wait.” She thought for a moment. “I think he disappeared right after he was shot.”
The historian stood up and grabbed his chin, thinking. “But where could he have gone?”
Agam shrugged. “I have no idea.”
They left the cell and went down the corridor, towards Tarakan’s cell. A guard popped up from behind a corner and got quickly shot with an arrow to the knee, falling down in pain. Menrim unlocked the door just as he did before and the group went inside. Tarakan woke up, but was barely able to stand up. Some kind of shadowy spell must have been cast on him to cause pain. Llore supported him and they walked out of the cell together. Just as they did, the arcane serpent appeared from nowhere outside the cell.
“Pita…” Tarakan muttered. “I knew they didn’t hold you.”
“It’s all very sweet,” Jonathon said, looking around with the sword out, “but we need to get out of here now.”
Llore raised a hand. “We still don’t know what happened to Keeper Morozdormu.”
“Well,” Jonathon replied, “You’re finding out another day. He’s not on the prisoner manifest. Now, out!” The group moved towards the stairs but suddenly, a bright light showed up before them. Emperor Khadgar and three guards teleported right in front of them!
“Look who we have here,” said Khadgar, smirking. “Looks like the bird and his keeper escaped the cage. You didn’t honestly think it would be this easy?”
A moment later, the stand-off was still tense. The two groups were staring at each other, planning, when Historian Llore decided to move. He cast entangling roots that appeared beneath Khadgar’s feet, when the Emperor… suddenly disappeared. As if he timewalked away. Then, he showed up behind the rebels.
“Is this what you’re looking for?” Everyone looked towards him, only to see he was holding Morozdormu’s Vision of Time. The same one he dropped in the alley.”It’s a great gadget. Cracking its true power took me no time at all and I must say, with this thing I will not need my creepy old mentor’s tower anymore. I was sick of it, you know. After what he did to me, after what I had to do to stop his plans… Now, thanks to your meddling, I can do everything on my own.” Then, Khadgar noticed Menrim trying to sneak away. “And you,” Khadgar spoke to the tol’vir, “I really expected more of you.” Menrim looked at the Emperor, worried. “You’re a coward and a traitor. We’ll be better off without you.” Then, he shot a group of large arcane missiles towards the Secretary. Jonathon attempted to intercept them with his sword, but took only one… three others succesfully hitting Menrim and dropping him with a roar a few floors down.
“Enough!” Jonathon yelled. “You’re going down!” The warrior charged forward, swinging his red sword… only for the Emperor to disappear, timewalking away again. “Damn it!” he swore. The guards began casting their spells, as the rebels and the Timewalkers engaged them. Jonathon meanwhile looked around, until he was suddenly backhanded by a reappearing Khadgar. Jonathon fell down and dropped his sword.
“You know,” Khadgar said. “Funny thing about your fancy armor. It’s good against magic. But it’s bad against everything else.” He pulled out his own dagger and quickly stabbed Jonathon in the chest. A female archer yelled Jonathon’s name in shock and quickly shot an arrow towards Khadgar… who disappeared again. Then, he reappeared right next to her, and stabbed her as well. “Pitiful.” he taunted again. But then, he heard a dwarven voice behind him.
“I believe that belongs to me.” Khadgar looked around, only to see a dwarf in Timewalker robes swipe the hourglass from his hand.
“Moros!” Agam yelled, throwing spells against the guards. “Where were you?”
“In the Cryptozoic,” Moros replied. “That’s what happens when you timewalk while falling unconscious.”
Khadgar was visibly unhappy with the turn of events. “How did you get past our wards?”
“I wasn’t teleporting, you blistering idiot!” Moros yelled out. “Timewalking moves you through time. There is no barrier to stop that!”
Khadgar thrust his blade forward in anger, but the dragon used the same trick on him – he timewalked away and appeared behind him. The Emperor quickly turned on his feet. “And you’re just going to let me live with that information?”
“Aye,” Moros nodded. “The history say I didn’t murder you today.” Khadgar grinned at that. “That’s because he did.” Morozdormu pointed behind Khadgar. The Emperor turned around just in time to see Jonathon right behind him, standing again despite a bleeding wound.
“That’s for Miera,” Jonathon said, stabbing Khadgar straight in the heart. The archmage collapsed, trying to grab Jonathon’s shoulder, but couldn’t hold on and fell to the floor, life finally escaping him. Jonathon quickly collapsed right next to him.
Nearby, last of Khadgar’s guards was defeated and Agam ran towards Jonathon. “Moros,” she said looking up to the dragon, “we must help him.”
“We can’t,” Llore responded, getting to them, “history records he died this day and became a hero of the revolution.”
“Surely, there must be a way,” she said, kneeling next to the dying man.
“There is none,” Moros continued. “We cannot interfere in history to save anyone, or we would become the very thing we fight.”
Jonathon coughed up blood and grabbed Agam’s hand. “It’s okay,” he said, “I took down the greatest tyrant of the modern era.” He smiled. “And I get to be remembered as a hero in the end.”
The girl let out a few tears, but quickly wiped her face. In a moment, Jonathon wasn’t giving any signs of life. Agam slowly closed his eyes and stood up. “He was a good man.”
“He was,” Moros nodded, “in every timeline I met him in.”
“See,” Llore said, grabbing her shoulder. “He still lives in many timelines. And often, he has a full, long life. Nothing is ever lost forever.”
Tarakan walked up to them, his arcane serpent coiling around his arm. “Now, can we retrieve my crossbow? I’m useless without it.”
NEXT TIME: Parasite