The outskirts of Stormwind were filled with rickety, provisional homes, draped in multi-colored cloths and filled with ringing and clanking bells and windchimes. Despite what someone from Azeroth Prime would say, it was not a goblin camp. It was a shanty-town built by the vishkanyas when they arrived on Azeroth in this timeline. Azeroth-7, or as some know it, the Illidari timeline. Maiev failed to stop Illidan from cracking Northrend apart. The Lich King died, and the Scourge was wiped out. While some would feel that was a positive change, no one expected what followed. Not only the tidal waves from the melting glaciers destroyed numerous cities and broke ancient dams, Illidan went on to become an unchallenged Lord of Outland. And with this power, he took fight to the Legion and fought them across the stars. Numerous innocent worlds found themselves in the crossfire, including the vishkanya world. A small percentage of their people successfully escaped to Azeroth through one of Illidan’s portals.
Now, they live here, in the outskirts of Azerothian civilization. Cast out, abandoned, unwanted. Although King Varian accepted them and let them stay, most of the humans feel they have enough problems with orcs and draenei “squatting” on Azeroth, some feel the vishkanya are the final nail in the coffin of humanity’s power.
Agam was careful to cover her face when she was crossing the streets of Stormwind. For about ten years she lived in this city and knew what the people on both sides were capable of. Does the perception filter even work when she’s in her own timeline? It does, after all, filter out only the extraordinary and on Azeroth-7 her eyes are not something completely out of place. No, they are just something that could get you in trouble. Luckily, Llore was at her side, showing his face without a care in the world, drawing attention away from her hooded face. Together, they walked right out of the Dwarven District and continued down the path to the outskirts.
Once there, she could finally take off the hood and look at all the lights and bells, and take in the smells of the familiar cuisine. She could finally once again hear the familiar noise of her native language, even if it was the crooked merchants hawking their wares and old women yelling at disobedient brats. For all its issues, this was home.
“Agam,” she heard from behind. She quickly turned around and saw what appeared to be a large, muscular human with a bronzed skin… but with eyes just as serpentine as hers. Llore looked up at the man who was showing a rather forbidding visage.
“Is he trouble?” Llore asked her.
“No,” Agam responded, smiling. Suddenly, the mustachioed man smiled back. “He’s my brother.”
Meanwhile, a human guard was leaning on the walls of one of the houses and looking at the two vishkanyas, and then frowning at the sight of Llore – a human, unusual in this district. He snarled and looked back to another guard, sitting nearby and sipping wine someone left over at his porch.
“You seen him?” The first guard asked.
“Whom?” The second answered, for a moment getting the bottle out of his face.
“That one,” The first guard continued, pointing at Llore. “Looks like we got ourselves a snake-fucker.”
Tarakan was standing at the feet of an arakkoa tower standing at the corner of an ancient grove. Twilight Grove, they called it. Despite what most people these days think, it had nothing to do with the Twilight’s Hammer. Named so after the actual twilight in times immemorial, it has kept its biome from the times of Old Kalimdor to this day. Tarakan used to think it had something to do with time standing still here but no, it was only nature. It always finds a way to surprise us.
The door finally opened, revealing a green mogu clad in strange armor, chomping a cigar in his tusked jaw. A mogu with a cigar, in an arakkoa tower. That would surprise most people, but not Tarakan.
“Oh,” the mogu said, “Mr. Tarakan.” The two clearly knew each other.
“Yu Gwai,” Tarakan responded, with a bow.
“No need to bow, sir,” Yu Gwai responded, pulling the cigar out. “I’m just surprised, we weren’t told you’d be coming.”
“It was a bit of a… last minute decision.”
“Of course,” the mogu nodded and stepped aside. “You’re always welcome. Your brother is not in the Tower right now.”
Tarakan nodded and looked away, to the outer gate in the wall surrounding the Tower. “Should I come later? I have all the time in the world.”
“No, sir,” Yu Gwai continued, “He’s on the Island. You should remember it. You’ve already been there.”
“Ah, so it happened to you already? Good,” the arakkoa said, coming in. The mogu just looked strangely at the Timewalker and put the cigar back in. The old bird is getting stranger due to this job. Stranger than boss, even.
Not long after that, Tarakan made his way through the secret portals and to the Island. His brother, Verroak, has built himself quite a research complex on a forgotten island somewhere in the Great Sea. The labs, built in the ancient arakkoa styles, intertwined with a dark, foreboding forest growing on the Island made for quite an experience. Verroak always liked these kinds of environments. Darkness, madness, these things always pulled at Verroak and made Tarakan worried about his brother’s future. The brother managed to function fairly well and did not stoop to villainy, somehow. Despite his lack of moral compulsions, Verroak somehow always found himself on the right side. Perhaps not because he was a good person… he was simply clever enough to always be on the winning side.
Tarakan opened the doors before him. Inside the alchemy lab, he saw a lot of boxes with the icons of the black dragonflight. Clearly the equipment of the dragonkin Verroak hired. Tarakan could not remember his name. But besides those, at the main alchemy table were standing three people – two arakkoa of very familiar silhouettes and a draenei clad in heavy armor.
“Are you sure?” a younger voice spoke up. “This doesn’t seem to make much sense.” Orkan. Tarakan’s son. From another timeline, unfortunately. Tarakan, this Tarakan, never had a son. But somewhere else, he found a mate that gave him a single son that survived to adulthood. Orkan’s Azeroth was shattered by a victorious Gul’dan but the boy survived. With some bronze wizardry, he was safely deposited in the Prime timeline, far away from the crumbling Azeroth.
“Well,” an older voice responded, “you’re not the enchanter. You’re a clever boy, as any Krasha would be, but I’m gonna trust him here.” Verroak. Tarakan’s half-mad clutch brother. He’s staving his insanity off only with a special elixir of his own making.
But finally, another voice spoke up. It was familiar, but it wasn’t fitting this place and time. “If that’s all, I will go back to my lab,” said a draenei voice. It cannot be. The draenei turned around and looked straight at Tarakan. Zovaar. An enemy of the Timewalkers. A minor one, but nevertheless one of many mortals who thought he knew better than the guardians of time. Someone who didn’t care about damaging the fabric of reality just to save his family.
“You!? Here?” Tarakan said in surprise.
“Brother,” Verroak responded, coming from behind the table. The alchemist slowly limped on his crooked leg to stand in front of the draenei. “You should have told me you were coming.”
“You hired this guy?” Tarakan said, angered. “Do you know what he was trying to do? What we only narrowly stopped because of his recklessness?”
Verroak covered his face, trying to think of a way to control the situation. Orkan just grabbed at the table and prepared himself for a hurricane. “We need to talk, alone.”
Agam and Llore were sitting down in a small, packed room, filled with amulets, pictures and other sentimental items. An older vishkanya man just came from the kitchen with two plates filled with some kind of pasta, topped with a dark red sauce. Even looking at it was making Llore feel the burn on his tongue. The man put the plates on the table and sat next to Agam. Soon, two more men, the previously seen brother and another, younger one, appeared with more plates.
“How’s grandma?” Agam asked the older man – her father, Bharna.
“She’s resting,” Bharna responded, “She hasn’t been getting better. Getting the right venom to help her is not exactly easy on this world.”
“I know,” Agam responded and grabbed at her bag. She briefly noticed Llore, poking at the plate with a fork, thinking if he wants to try eating it. She pulled a large jar out of her bag. “My Timewalker friends managed to get this in another timeline. It should work perfectly.”
Bharna’s eyes flared with excitement. “That’s great news!” he said, standing up. He approached the younger man with the jar. “Get this to grandma quickly. We’ll have enough for weeks.”
The boy just nodded happily and left with the jar. Father sat back down, as Agam’s older brother joined them.
“Who is your friend?” the brother asked.
“Are you dating?” the father interrupted before Agam could answer.
“Surya, don’t interrupt me. It’s important. She’s 24 now, she should find herself a good partner.” Bharna looked at confused Llore. “Even a human.”
Llore raised his hand. “Well, first, we are NOT a couple.” The father looked disappointed. “I’m happily married, with two children. I never… uh…” his eyes and Agam’s crossed for a moment. You better not finish this sentence. “We are just colleagues. I’m here to just check something in the timeline, and decided to accompany Agam on the way. And I’m not exactly human.”
Surya looked at Llore’s eyes carefully but he couldn’t see a hint of vishkanya heritage. “Then what are you?”
“Well, I’m afflicted with the worgen curse.”
“Worgen?” said surprised Bharna. “Like those monsters?”
“They’re not monsters in my timeline.”
A moment of silence fell. The two men didn’t know what to say. Alternate timelines are confusing, especially when things you expect to be monsters can turn out to be people. Will this guy eat politely or will he…?
“We should eat,” Bharna finally said, breaking the silence.
Llore felt out of place in this room. A culture he never experienced before, people confusing his friend for a partner… Without thinking, he grabbed a large portion of the spicy dish and gulped it down. He immediately regretted it.
The three vishkanyas looked with concern at the historian, choking and coughing thanks to their special vishkanya sauce. Llore quickly grabbed a pitcher of water and gulped almost all of it without stopping. Everyone else was just wordlessly looking at him.
Finally, Bharna broke the silence again. “Too hot?”
“No, no,” Llore responded, his throat still rough from the surprise. “I just…” Will it offend them to admit it? “I need some fresh air.” Immediately, he got up and out of the room, ashamed by the whole situation.
Agam looked cross. “Did you do it on purpose?” she said to her family.
“No!” Bharna vehemently denied.
But Surya was smirking. “Maybe a bit.”
Llore just stood on their porch, taking deep breaths. He thought he liked spicy food, until now. Vishkanya may look mostly human, but there are things about them that just aren’t. And he didn’t mean the eyes. They were just made for different things. Although they are far removed from their scaled ancestors, they are just more tolerant of certain… food ingredients. I probably shouldn’t linger outside too long, he thought. I’d make a bad impression. But as he turned around, he heard someone yelling.
“Hey, snake-fucker!” Someone yelled. Llore looked back, saw two human guards, but thought nothing of it. He simply walked towards the door. Then, someone grabbed his shoulder. “I’m talking to you,” one of the guards talked right into his ear.
Llore took a step back. “I beg your pardon?”
“Tell me, does she have scales down there?” The other guard said.
Llore’s face immediately went from surprised to… something between angry, afraid and disgusted. “I don’t know what you’re insinuating. We are not a couple.”
“Look,” the first guard responded, taking his hand away. “Just a little pressure and he even pretends he doesn’t know her.”
“We just work together,” Llore kept insisting and backing to the door.
“Well,” the first guard said, pulling out his sword, “I just don’t believe you.”
“You don’t want to do this,” the historian warned them.
“Or what?” The second guard responded, pulling at a dagger. “You call your girlfriend to bite us?”
The guards launched themselves at the historian, but to their surprise, he avoided their attacks with surprising speed. When they turned around, something that they didn’t understand was happening to Llore. Suddenly, claws and fur emerged from under the mild-mannered druid’s form, and instead of a red-headed human, a large, snarling wolf-like beast was standing before them. The guards stepped back, shocked and surprised at they were seeing.
“What the fel is that?” Asked the second.
The first just looked on nervously. “I think it’s one of them worgen things.”
“Sure,” the second said, spitting, “only a non-human freak would love another freak.”
The first guard looked at him. “You think we can bring it down?”
The second laughed. “Sure.”
Then, the door burst open, with four vishkanyas coming out. Agam looked at the gathered people. “What is happening here?” She asked. Llore was just standing there in worgen form, battle-ready, and wasn’t responding.
Bharna ran at the first guard and punched him hard enough to bring him down. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“NO!” Llore yelled out in the guttural, inhuman voice. Then, he began shifting back to his human form and correcting his now-tattered robe. “Don’t do this. It will not help anyone.”
“What?” Surya shouted in surprise. “Are we supposed to just let them beat our friends and families into submission?”
“No,” Llore said, now fully human. “Violence only begets violence. You will only perpetrate their vicious cycle.”
Bharna came up to Llore. “Do you think this is the first time they’re doing this?” The two guards looked at each other and began silently slipping away. “We’ve lost good friends because of these punks. Good people, who are now afraid to step here because this Garithos and his men keep persecuting them for associating with ‘aliens’ who ‘steal jobs from honest humans’. People have DIED for defending us. And you expect us to lie down because ‘violence begets violence’?”
“You have the right to defend yourselves,” Llore responded, “But if you go too far, you will just cause more humans to hate you.”
Surya stood at the side. “You have no idea what it’s like to be persecuted by the people who are supposed to protect you.”
“I’m sorry,” Llore responded, “Have you seen what I turned into? Do you think it’s easy to live with that monster inside you? I may look human, but people notice I’m not. And some are not exactly pleasant when they do. And you are just people who look slightly different. The creature inside me is literally a monster, full of animalistic fury. It’s easy to give in to it, but I choose to be the better man.”
“Well,” Bharna responded, “Fuck you and your human morality. If I ever wanted to be a part of their messed up world, I would go to peaceful protests. I just try to defend my people.”
Llore just shook his head. He looked at all the people gathered around and walked out, back towards Stormwind. Agam looked at her family.
“You do not support him?” Surya asked her.
“It’s a… very complex matter. I believe that one day, we will find peaceful measures to live together.” She looked at Llore, growing more and more distant. “But I know something has to be done here.” Everyone else nodded. She just put her hood on and ran after the historian.
“Father,” said the younger brother, “What do we do?”
Bharna looked back at his son, with a smirk that bared his viper-like fangs. “Find uncle Yashur. Tell him we’ll need his people. There will be a surprise snake attack on guard barracks tonight.”
Verroak and Tarakan were sitting at a table just outside the living quarters on the Island. It was probably the only building there that wasn’t based on arakkoa architecture. It was a simple, square-ish housing block, with featureless walls and windows. Tarakan found it strange the work stations would be more ornate than the living quarters but he said nothing.
“Look,” Verroak said, “I know about Zovaar’s past. I know he’s not exactly on good terms with the Timewalkers…”
“Not exactly,” Tarakan said, tapping his talons on the table. “He intervened in the past of OUR Draenor. Not even an alternate, like Kairoz did. He and his associate killed a Watcher, like me, and used his instrument in Outland to go back to the final hours of Shattrath. They almost killed Maraad in an effort to ‘correct’ the timeline. You know where we would be today without Maraad?”
“Well, it’s not like he did much until he died…” Verroak responded.
“You’re wrong. If Maraad wasn’t there to help Garona and Med’an few years back, Med’an would now be under Cho’gall’s control. The Old Gods would have won. Not to mention this crucial point could have just destroyed the timeline, since they of course did not do the stabilization Kairoz did.”
Verroak squawked quietly. “Have you taken a good look at most of the people here?” A murloc was just passing by, as a wolvar was looking out of a window and Holly Altenno, a criminal from Kul Tiras, could be heard playing with her grell. “Most of these people are outcasts, criminals or monsters. I am not going to judge them, or their past. I’m giving them a second chance. I know that since you found your calling with the Timewalkers, you’ve been sitting on this high moral pedestal. I know you think the bronze dragons can do no wrong. And you know what I think?” Tarakan just looked on quietly. “I don’t give a squawk. This is not a house of justice. I am not here to re-establish Order of the Silver Hand. I gather the best people in their disciplines and look forward to their future with me.”
Tarakan raised an eyebrow. “So you turned philosophical now? I always thought you were just an egoist who cared only about what’s best for him.”
Verroak leaned on the table. “Maybe I’m philosophically egoist now. And so were you, before you got this job. This… moral outrage doesn’t suit you. If that’s what being a Timewalker turns you into… maybe you shouldn’t have taken it up.”
Tarakan wanted to protest. He really did. But deep inside, he knew his brother was right. Without realizing, he was beginning to play a role the Timewalkers told him to play. “I’m a Timewalker now, whether you like it or not,” Tarakan responded finally. “Don’t expect me to like your new friends. I know what you mean, but I am what I am. I changed. Maybe so should you… one day.”
Moros awaited at the entrance to the Caverns of Time. He was talking to a large drakonid, scratching his head.
“Just say ‘temporal’,” Moros said, “It’s not a hard word.” But the drakonid just bellowed out a roar. “Come on! I can say ‘sesquipedalian loquaciousness’ in my dragon form, and you’re not even a full dragon!” It just shrugged back.
Then, Agam, Llore and Tarakan entered, mildly shimmering by entering the same place from different timelines. The three noticed each other and bowed in welcome. Moros just waved his hand at the drakonid and walked towards the three.
“How has it been, my friends?” He inquired.
Llore sighed. “It could have been better. It could have been better.”
The three Timewalkers walked off deeper into the caverns, while Morozdormu was left with the drakonid. “For once, I was happy, but then they had to ruin it.” The drakonid grunted something looking at Moros. “Yes, that’s how ‘happy’ looks like for me!”