We walked together down the sandy entrance to the Caverns of Time.
We made our way deep through the caverns, reaching the very core where swirling vortexes leaked into important moments of time, moments that the bronze dragons worked to protect from numerous foes… moments that defined our history and had to be maintained. It was all a bit much.
In the very center of this vortext hub, a massive dragon seemingly floated in the air, using the energy from all of the portals to keep himself in a sort of levitation. We all knew it was Nozdormu, or at least three of us did. The young paladin seemed rather flabbergasted by it all.
“It’s been a long time,” I said loudly. “I have come to talk.”
The dragon twisted and lowered its massive head to look at me. Without a word it began to approach, but as it drew closer its shape shifted in size and stature, until it had completely transformed into a masculine and youthful elf male.
“I knew you would come eventually,” Nozdormu said as he finished his approach on foot. “I am glad you put the pieces together on your own.”
“We are still missing a few,” I said.
Nozdormu let out a heavy sigh. “When I set my plan into motion, I didn’t fully calculate the impact that a few dozen heroes could have on our future. I ended up saving well over a hundred of you. When I brought you to safety and set you loose, the fractures in time were small… almost microscopic. I thought my plan was working, but I was too lost in my own pride. Saving each person made another small crack in the timeline. Each time you saved someone or inspired them to join your cause, you were then causing your own small cracks. Time became fractured and stressed by the changes. The longer this went on, the worse things got. I thought, because Garrosh would soon cause his damage, thing would equalize on the other side. Many of the heroes I saved would die during the fight against the Iron Horde. Time would stabilize…”
“I’m guessing that didn’t happen?” Fynn, the paladin, asked.
“No, when Garrosh Hellscream altered the past, it was like setting off a bomb in the timeline. The first time he did it, the timeline survived with only a centralized crater that impacted a short moment in time. That was the pocket dimension where Draenor now resides, but then I began strengthening Azeroth with my plan, and inadvertently cracking time along the way. With each new crack I put into the past, I weakened the timeline a little more.”
“So when Garrosh did his thing, the cracks you made had weakened time itself?”
“The vortex of the twisting nether sits just beyond our understanding of time and space. The timeline itself was broken in the resulting creation of an altered Draenor. This is the worst damage I have ever seen. It has also led to something fascinating, but equally unknown to me.”
“Time itself appears to be attempting to stabilize. It’s like it’s a body fighting an infection or trying to heal a wound. I don’t know what this new force is, but it is not mine to question. I have done so much damage. Now I can only watch.”
“So the darkness…”
“Like a self-defense mechanism coming to kill an intruder. You’re a disease on the timeline, all of you that should have died. Until you’re removed from the equation, the timeline can’t heal properly.”
“What about Fynn?” I asked. “This young paladin didn’t get saved by you.”
“No, he was saved by Kaellax, who was saved by Evanor,” Nozdormu explained. “In a pure timeline, the timeline where I began my work, Fynn would have died in Theramore when Garrosh dropped his mana bomb.”
“That must mean thousands of souls are at stake,” I said.
“No,” Nozdormu said, his face looking sad. “This darkness as you call it, is incredibly efficient. It has already removed many of those that we worked so hard to save…”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Why hasn’t this entity come for me?”
Nozdormu squinted. “It hasn’t?”
“No,” I replied. “I’ve been out living my life, no clue about any of this.”
“On Draenor,” Evanor added. “Nozdormu, we believe that this entity cannot reach the pocket dimension that Garrosh created.”
“Cannot, or chooses not to do so,” Nozdormu amended. “An interesting theory.”
“I have others with me,” I said. “Others that this darkness should be after. It hasn’t bothered us at all.”
“This alternate reality cannot be undone, the timeline exists with it attached as a kind of… anomaly. That planet’s existence is minute, a drop in the ocean, so long as it remains contained. I suppose sending you all there could solve both of our problems. The timeline may become stable again, and the darkness might not pursue you.”
“So we would be safe there?” Fynn asked.
“Safe?” Nozdormu repeated, looking shocked by the word. “You’re not safe anywhere, my young paladin friend. You are, however, in less danger there, at least from a stance of educated guesses.”
“Okay,” I said. “If we go back to Draenor with all those that remain, the timeline will stabilize and then you can come take us home, right?”
“There are two potential outcomes,” the dragon replied. “One option is that the timeline will be repaired enough that this entity will leave. Draenor’s alternate reality will exist alongside our own, within the same time-space, but… separate. The second option is that this entity, whatever has been unleashed, cannot or will not yield, and you will be forced to remain hidden away forever.”
“So we hide, or we die?” Evanor stammered.
Nozdormu nodded. “This is the choice.”
“Fine,” I said, trying to find the positive int his. “Lunarfall is more than happy to take on new recruits. We go there, we let this storm blow over, and then we come home.”
“There is one other problem.”
“Only those that would not exist in the alternate timeline can travel there without risking more fractures… more attention…”
“That’s fine,” I said. “My parents only met because of the First War.”
“The young paladin also exists because of the fallout of the invasion of the orcs on Azeroth.”
“That’s good, I guess,” Fynn mumbled.
“You’ll love it on Draenor,” I assured him. “My friend Iliera is a crazy powerful draenei paladin and she will happily teach you in the ways of the Light.”
“Nice,” Fynn said, cheering up a bit. “Alright, another chance to not die. I’m in.’
Nozdormu looked at the group gathered here, then turned to Lady Evanor and Kaellax. They frowned, knowing full well what was about to unfold. “There are some here, however, that cannot travel across the veil…”
“Our parents met before the war,” Evanor said with a heavy sigh. “We would exist in the alternate timeline, eventually, and the fracture in time would draw the entity’s attention.”
“Well they can’t stay here,” I said angrily. “What do we do?”
“I’ll take my chances with the entity,” Kaellax said. “I’m too old to run.”
“Fine, but what about Evanor?”
Nozdormu met eyes with Evanor and I could have sworn he looked at her with… regret, or disappointment. I don’t know. He wasn’t happy. That much was true.
“Lady Evanor’s future is not a linear path,” Nozdormu said. “I have watched you for a long time, but I never knew I would be the one to put the pieces in motion.”
“What are we talking about, exactly?” she asked.
“I will send you back in time. If you remain here, the entity will surely destroy you, and your story does not end today.”
“Wait. If you send me back in time, won’t that make a crack?”
“It will, but without the damage that Garrosh has caused, you will be unnoticed. The flow of time will wash away your disturbance long before any of this comes to pass.”
“Then what?” she asked. “When the dust settles and the timeline is stable again you will just come and get me?”
Nozdormu shook his head. “This trip will come at a cost.”
“I have to stay in the past?” she asked.
“You can stay with me, Evanor,” Kaellax said. “I know we can survive this.”
Evanor laughed. “I believe you, old friend, but surely you understand what is happening by now, don’t you?”
Kaellax paused. “What?”
“You and I will meet again,” Evanor said, laughing, crying now.
“We’re not following,” I said.
“Oh, my sweet Sionis Sepher,” she added. “I will guide you well.”
I still didn’t understand.
Evanor straightened herself up, turned to Nozdormu, and nodded furiously as she wiped a few tears from her eyes. “Yes, of course, I will travel back in time. I suspect I will need a new identity, to avoid confusion?”
Nozdormu smiled gently. “You will have it. My fellow dragon Chromie can work out the details. You will have a name, a home, and all other information as needed.”
“You can’t go through with this,” I said, stepping forward.
“You dense mage,” she said, smiling at me. “I already did.”
“What does that mean?”
“I have a new name picked out,” she said, looking to Nozdormu. “I want to be Sonea.”
It hit me like a brick to the face. Lady Sonea. Lady Evanor’s teacher. The woman that took me in when I was but a child. My guardian angel. She had been Lady Evanor all along. The choices, the warnings, the guidance… all of it had been leading us here.
“It shall be done,” Nozdormu said. “Evanor, you will return to the past. Sionis, you and your allies will flee to Draenor. You will wait there while Kaellax and I gather the others like you and send them to you. Then, we must wait and hope that the entity is able to repair time and leave us all in peace once more.”
“Not a fan of the waiting part,” I grumbled.
“Well Sionis,” Evanor said. “I guess this is goodbye for us. For now.”
“I guess so.”
“Any advice for your old teacher?”
“Don’t go so hard on me the first time I perform magic,” I said, grinning slightly.
“Okay then,” she replied. “Done. Anything else?”
“Actually, yes,” I said, thinking of my wand. “Lady Sonea gave me a wand when I was a child. I didn’t know it for a long time, but the wand was named Iliera. Do you know why you named it that?”
Evanor shrugged. “You mentioned the name to Flynn. Anything special about her?”
I shrugged. “I dunno. Maybe? Her teachers say she’s strong. Full of energy.”
“Hmm,” Evanor mused. “I can’t say, Sepher, but I’ll make sure to follow through.”
“It is time, Evanor,” Nozdormu said. “Come with me.”
Evanor smiled, looked at us one last time, then turned to the dragon.
I hesitated. If Evanor was Sonea, then Sonea would eventually die in the Third War. I thought of reminding her about this, but then I knew that she already knew that too. We had all lived through those dark times. Now, she would live through them again…
“It’s okay, Sionis,” Evanor said, as though she could read my mind. “I’ll be okay.”
I nodded, but still didn’t move. I felt Kaellax’s hand come down on my shoulder and she turned me away from Evanor as she left. “Come on, kid. We need to move.”
I turned to leave. My heart ached, but there was nothing to do.
My future wouldn’t be found here in the caverns of time.
After we departed the caverns of time, I used a portal to get us to Stormwind. There, we had a quick meeting with the city war council, updated them on the efforts on Draenor, and then used a more powerful and carefully crafted time portal to reach the Lunarfall Garrison. When I stepped through, I was happy to see Iliera and a few others waiting for us.
“The mage returns,” Iliera said proudly. “I have missed you, Sepher.”
I gave her a shy smile and she responded by wrapping me in a hug that was so tight she proceeded to pick me off the ground. When she finally released me, she slid me to the side and stepped up to the young blonde paladin that I had brought along.
“Light be with you,” she said. “You are a paladin of Azeroth?”
“I am,” Fynn said nervously.
“I would be honored to have you as my apprentice.”
Fynn smiled. “Really?”
“Of course. I am eager to take on my first student, and you can teach me of Azeroth, the paladins there, and the tactics that you have on your world.”
“That sounds great,” Fynn said, appearing to warm up. “Yeah. This is good.”
“There will be others,” I added. “I don’t know how many. Nozdormu and Kaellax are gathering anyone else that has survived this long and sending them our way.”
“We accept all who need our assistance,” Iliera said.
“Blackrock Foundry?” I asked.
“Fallen,” Iliera replied.
Iliera’s smile dropped. “None of the prisoners are talking, yet, but in time we will find a solution. I promise you.”
“For now, Sionis, nothing changes. We have a war to fight. When the war is done… when Draenor is safe… then you and I will discuss the future. Do you agree?”
I nodded. “I agree.”
“Then we fight on. For Draenor.”
“For Draenor!” I shouted in reply.
I bottled up the fear, the anxiety, all of the mixed emotions I had about being trapped here in a folded piece of an alternate reality… I swallowed it and told myself it was going ot be okay. It had to be okay.
But first, the Iron Horde had to go.