My role in the Battle for the Frozen Realm earned more attention than it was worth. The King of Stonehaven was, as Christine expected, overjoyed to know that a magic user from his realm had been the one to save the day, preventing a terrible sabotage from destroying all of our efforts in the frozen realm.
On the day of celebrations, when names were being granted titles, and knights were accepted into various orders, the King of Stonehaven finally asked me what I could gain from him. I took on the most humble of appearances and asked only for full access to the city of Udiria, to my childhood home, so that I could relive memories that reminded me of my innocent youth. There was only a minor amount of hesitation before the King proudly told me he’d take care of it.
Udirian leadership wasn’t happy to hear of his royal pardoning, but a lot of the King’s money had gone into the city’s infrastructure and protection during the war in the frozen realm. Giving one little magic user access to the city wouldn’t cause them any harm, and they knew it.
Less than a month after being banished, I was granted access once more.
I returned to Udiria a few days later.
I brought Surfal with me. I marched into the Grand Library, showed off my royal scroll from the King of Stonehaven, and headed inside to begin browsing the books for what I needed. Valiera had heard of my success, and she had made her way to the city as well, now that they were allowing more travelers to return.
We had made it.
Our plans could finally come to fruition.
I wasted no time in seeking out the book, a thick tome titled “The Trouble With Time: An Expanded Collection of Time Warping and Manipulation”.
Deep in its forbidden pages was the spell of time long past. I knew the cost to use the spell. It would take all of my energy, perhaps my very ability to use magic, and I would have to use the shard of Marjan’s soul to fuel the incantation. In exchange, I could send my life force back in time through the aether to the day that Marjan died. I would be able to save her. I could stop her from dying.
The spell was located on a blank page, concealed by an ancient protection ward. I stripped it away with ease, and then looked at the spell before me, written out on an old yellowed page, so simple and innocent and easy to perform.
The words were simple.
I set it down for a moment, then whipped up a teleportation portal and brought Surfal through it so that he was with me in the library. Then, I went to work. The plan was to use the spell to send myself back through time, to save Marjan, and then help Valiera by using the same spell to send her even farther back in time to when her sister was killed.
I read the first few lines, and glowing energy began to spiral around me. I felt energy crackling in every direction, pulling from Surfal and the soul he still held. Suprisingly, I also heard the creature give me a surprised whiny, as though it felt the process.
I continued, speaking the words and inserting my own needs, aiming the time spell so that it would land me to over a year ago where I could prevent the tragic events that would unfold. I thought of the other things I could change too, and I felt proud of my decision.
Then, the spell began to grow more powerful. The room began to tremble, and I felt more energy pulling Surfal. The horse whinnied again, this time louder, and I realized that I might actually be hurting him.
I would have to be quick. I continued the spell, but then I was interrupted by someone shouting my name. I looked up as the wind picked up in the library and books began to fall off the shelves, I saw Christine standing in the doorway.
“Sionis! You have to stop!” She shouted.
I didn’t understand. “What? Why?”
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” she said. “Please. Valiera told us the truth. You have to stop.”
“She told who? Who else knows?” I asked, looking angrily toward Valiera, who frowned.
“Me,” Evanor said, stepping out from behind the paladin. “Sionis, that spell isn’t going to get you what you want, and worse, it could very well damage time itself!”
“How can you possibly know that?” I asked. “It’s a forbidden magic!”
“Using it is forbidden,” Evanor said, her voice calm. “Studying it is not. I’ve studied it a lot. If you change the past, you will create a new timeline. Every change you make will cause further deviation. The timelines could collapse together, or one of them might be destroyed. You’ll be responsible for so much… destruction and loss. It’s not within your power to do this!”
The spell was gaining power, and Surfal was struggling. I hadn’t anticipated harming him in the process, but I was so close, I couldn’t… no, I wouldn’t back down now. I would change the past, and the future would be altered, sure, but I saw all the good I could do.
“I can warn them about Arugan before he gains that much power,” I said, pleading. “I can make it better.”
“Sionis,” Christine shouted. “You’ll lose yourself in this! You’ll lose me. You’ll lose her.”
“Look at Surfal. He’s dying. You’re already losing more than you will gain. If you change the timeline, you won’t know what happens next. You won’t be in the right place at the right time. It’ll all be different. It’ll all be wrong.”
“I can save her,” I said, begging them to understand.
“Do you remember, back in the Basalt Dalles, when I told you my fiancé left to fight the scourge and never returned?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“He did come back,” she shouted, trying to talk over the storm the spell was producing. “He came back to our home, as an Shadowsleeper. He tried to murder me. He told me that he knew I couldn’t love him now, and that if I was dead, then our souls could be together. He thought he was bringing us together, Sionis, but he wouldn’t have saved us. He would have made it worse… he was wrong.”
I was shocked by the revelation. “I’m so sorry.”
“I was too,” she said. “The thing is, I’m not anymore. I still think about him, the man he was before he was lost. I loved that man, but I had to let him go. My time with him made me who I am now, and your time with Marjan, and the loss you suffered, it’s who makes you who you are now. You know the pain of loss, and you want to stop others from feeling it too. That’s a good thing. That’s not something to undo!”
“We can save him too,” I said. “We can go back—”
“No,” she said. “We can’t. Then, I might not go to the frozen realm. I might not rally others to Birchwood, and Arugan might help Ayla topple our armies. Don’t you understand, Sionis? This is who we are. The things that have happened, well, they’ve happened. We can’t change them, we shouldn’t change them.”
I felt a tear run down my face. “I’m the reason she died,” I mumbled, trying to choke back the emotions.
“If you do this, how many others will be lost?” she asked. “You can’t change the past, Sionis, and even if you do, you can’t forget it. You’ll be a prisoner to loss, no matter what. Using this spell will only change the scenery.”
I knew she was right, my heart ached with the truth.
I looked at Surfal and saw the horse struggling to stand. I wondered about Evanor, trapped in the cage and nearly dead. Would I be there to save her? Could I really keep things right? I looked down at the spell, and despite the pain within, I started to close the tome.
“What are you doing?” Valiera asked angrily. “No! Don’t listen to them. We’ve come so far!”
“I can’t,” I said. “I’ve known all along it was wrong… I can’t.”
“Then I will,” Valiera roared, grabbing the book and forcing it open again. She started calling out the spell, picking up where I left off. She held my hands to the page as she spoke, letting the spell continue to channel my magical energy. The whirlwind of magic grew in strength, and the room was shattering. Valiera spoke in a frenzy, but I noticed she had changed a few words… changed the order.
“Valiera!” I shouted. “You have to stop!”
“I won’t let her go!” Valiera called out. “I will save them all!”
She continued the spell, nearing the end, and the world exploded.
Valiera didn’t send yourself back in time. Instead, she reached through the shattered reality of time and space in the aether, and she found her old World Ship. She reached through the magical veil and forced her hands on the entire vessel, like a goddess reaching out to harness a prize.
“Valiera!” Evanor called. “What are you doing!?”
“Help me! Or face the end of our own reality!”
She was right. We had all realized what she was doing now. She wasn’t traveling back through time, she was pulling the World Ship through time and into our reality. She was no magic user, and she spell she’d initiated needed more power. I hadn’t been helping her, but I realized now that the crack in reality needed to be stabilized or her plan might rip us all apart.
“Evanor!” I called. “I can’t stop her. We have to help!”
Evanor looked angry, but she stepped up and started weaving her own spells, bolstering my strength. We poured our magical energy into the spell, but it was clear we weren’t doing enough. The doors to the library were soon kicked open, and a dozen magic users rushed in, led by Zoran himself, and they all looked terrified when they saw us there, barely holding on.
“Everyone!” Zoran shouted without delay. “Aid them!”
As more and more Udirian magic users rushed into the room, the sheer power of the twisting aether seemed to permeate every living being. I felt like I was floating, and I watched as Valiera pulled, refusing to release the grip she had on what represented every hope and dream she had watched die decades ago.
It was like trying to pull a bowling ball through the eye of a needle, and we were doing it.
It finally gave, and an explosion of twisting aethereal energy erupted from the library, blasting out and away from our World Ship. The energy released ripped across our World Ship, felt in both our realm, the world below, and the world above. Deep vibrations in the ship’s hull caused earthquakes across every realm, and the world as we knew it was impacted in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
The power of the spell vaporized in an instant, and everyone, including the dozens of soldiers that had come to investigate our activity, fell to the ground with all of their magical energy being drained from them.
Zoran struggled to find his footing, then looked at the book. “What have you done?” he asked.
“I saved them,” Valiera repeated. “I did it without breaking your rules of time… mostly.”
“Where are they?” Christine asked. “Who did you save?”
“They’re out there, somewhere,” Valiera replied. “We need to find them and go to them.”
“The only place you’re going, is to the magical hold,” Zoran boomed. “The power you just unleashed has shaken the very foundations of the aether! You could have doomed us all!”
As several guards closed in on Valiera she looked to me. I didn’t know what to do. I probably should have thrown in with her right then and there, helped her fight… but I had decided not to use this spell, and she had done it anyway. I was confused… I was angry.
I saw the disappointment on her face when she realized I wouldn’t help. “Fine,” she said. “So be it.”
Valiera spun around, and several smoke bombs flashed at our feet, forcing us to cover our eyes and faces from the smell, the flash of light, and the thick smoke. She evaded every single magic user that day, and she vanished without a trace.
When the smoke cleared, I was left standing with Christine and Evanor.
They arrested me instead.
Finally, Zoran, after hearing Evanor and Christine tell their account of events, dropped the charges against me and released me from prison. He also encouraged me to get out of Udiria and never show my face there again. I decided it would be best to skip town, as he suggested, and I asked Christine and Evanor if they’d be coming with me. They both declined, which I should have expected.
“I have to get back to Vers,” Evanor explained. “They need leadership, and… Sionis… whatever Valiera did, the spell damaged our world. There are reports of chaos all across the realms. I have to go help my people. I wish you’d consider coming with me.”
“What about you?” I asked Christine.
“Back to Birchwood Lodge,” she replied. “Evanor’s right. That spell did a number, and folks like Angus have more need of heroes like me than ever before.”
“Where are you going to go?” Christine asked.
I didn’t know. I was about to answer with that exact statement, when a magical poof in front of me caught my attention. A magical summons, from the magic users of Stonehaven. I broke the official seal and read it over before looking at Evanor and Christine.
“Well?” they both asked.
“I’ve been summoned,” I replied. “Stonehaven is going to war.”