Episode 50: The Timeline Catastrophe
The Caverns of Time: Tanaris
As I marched down the sandy entrance to the Caverns of Time, I looked to my left and saw Salonis and Keiara. To my right, Evanor and Tabetha had joined me as well. The teleportation had been simple enough with three magi to make it happen. Now, here in the cave, it was time to get some answers.
We walked together down the tunnel, walking side by side until they reached the very core of the caverns, where swirling vortexes that leaked into important moments of time floated all around us.
In the very center of it all stood a massive bronze dragon that I knew to be Nozdormu.
"It's been a long time," I said loudly. "I've come to have a chat."
The dragon looked to me and lowered its massive head. It shifting in shape as it lowered to the ground.
"I knew you would come eventually," Nozdormu said as he stepped toward our group. "You've put the pieces together by now."
"Not all of the pieces," I replied. "We want the truth. What is this darkness?"
Nozdormu let out a heavy sigh. "It's exactly what you think it is. I went too far in my planning. I thought that by impacting only small moments in time I could avoid making it worse, but I failed."
"We need you to tell us what is happening," Evanor said to the dragon. "Why do you think you failed?"
For a moment the dragon said nothing, but then he moved forward, stepping very close to us all. I felt my muscles tighten and worried that he might strike, but thankfully he seemed to simply stepping closer so he didn't speak so loudly.
Nozdormu spoke in a near whisper. "I went back to save you and others. I saved dozens; over a hundred of them. You would have died anyway. 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 you was just a small crack in the timeline, but then you saved someone else and they saved another. The cracks started to spread, they started to connect. They turned into fractures and the timeline became more stressed. The longer you lived the worse things got, but time was still moving, still driving on. I foolishly assumed that eventually it would heal, seal up the cracks and press forward."
"I'm guessing that didn't happen?" Salonis asked.
"No, when Garrosh Hellscream went back in time and altered the past, it was like setting off a bomb in the timeline. The first time he did it, the timeline had survived with only a centralized crater that impacted a short moment in time, but after he invaded Azeroth, after the Eastern Kingdoms had fallen, I went back and started saving old heroes of the Alliance. With each new crack I put into the past, I weakened the timeline a little more."
"So when Garrosh travelled through time, the altered timeline was too weak to handle it."
"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've ever seen. Time appears to be trying to heal itself, like a body might fight an infection! It's fascinating and terrifying. I can't control it, but I can't dare stop it."
"So the darkness..."
"Like a self-defense mechanism coming to kill an intruder. You're a disease on the timeline, Sionis Sepher. Until you're removed from the equation, the timeline can't heal properly."
"It went after Salonis," I said. "He wasn't involved in any of this nonsense."
"He wasn't part of this fracture," Nozdormu agreed. "He was the result of a different crack in time, when you created him in the arcane energies years ago."
"So why did he survive until now?" I asked.
"It was a small crack, easily unnoticed in the grand scheme of the timeline, but once the timeline broke, the energy that Evanor calls the darkness, was released. It's sweeping over our world looking for cracks that have helped weaken our reality. Salonis was a minor anomaly, but when put under a microscope, he was still a weakness. He wasn't supposed to exist and neither are you, Sionis. You're not safe in our timeline anymore."
I didn't know what to think about all of this news. I could tell from Evanor's concerned looks that she was more worried about the implications of Nozdormu's words than even I was right now. She had let go of her staff, and was now turning to face me. The sadness in her eyes was almost unbearable, but it only lasted for a second before she turned back to the dragon that stood with them.
"You said we are not safe in our timeline," she started. "What about Draenor, the one where he now fights?"
Nozdormu raised a brow. "Well, now, I guess I never thought about that."
"What?" I asked.
"Evanor is right," he concurred. "When Garrosh went back in time he created the first fracture in the timeline by altering the past of Draenor. In a way, he created a secondary growth on the flow of time. If it is left unchecked, that timeline will eventually branch into its own. A timeline where billions of people might never be born, but billions more that did not exist in our own timeline may yet find life."
"What does that have to do with me?" I asked.
"Think of it like a road from one city to the next," Nozdormu suggested. "The city you left is the past and the city you're going to is the future. Along the way, a bridge is damaged. So, you are forced to take a side road to get around. This is the Draenor where you now fight. The bridge was destroyed by Garrosh."
"Yeah, I get that," I replied. "I go around the bridge, merge back to the main road and head on toward the future."
"Right, this is what the Kirin Tor have taught you, but let's assume that things are much worse. Let's say that you find out the city you know as the future is out of reach. You have wandered so far from the broken path that you can no longer get back. What do you do then?"
I shrugged. "I go somewhere else."
"A different future," Nozdormu corrected. "The timeline is broken. The main road, in this case, is closed for repairs. If you're found on the main road you'll be killed, but if you go to Draneor, well you aren't on the main road any longer. Now you're on the side road that's divergent from the main path. That is to say, the darkness is not looking for you there."
"So, that's why I haven't been attacked by this darkness? Because it's a separate timeline. Doesn't that mean I'm out of place in this other timeline? Am I creating an unstable crack there now?"
"Not exactly," the dragon said. "Because you destroyed the portal, the horde will never invade Azeroth in that timeline, which means your parents will never meet. That is a life that Garrosh claimed when he broke that timeline. Adding you back to that timeline actually helps to stabilize things."
"So I'm safe there?"
"Safe?" Nozdormu repeated with a frown. "You're not safe anywhere, Sepher. You're in less danger there, but I've never experienced this kind of thing before. I don't know how far time is willing to reach in its effort to repair itself."
"What about Salonis?"
Nozdormu looked to the worgen and smiled. "He was created by you before I got involved. Believe it or not, he would be as safe on Draenor as you."
"Okay," I said. "So if we go back to Draenor, if we stay there, will the timeline repair itself eventually?"
"One of two outcomes," the dragon replied, sounding older with every word. "Either the timeline will be repaired and eventually Draenor will merge back into the main timeline, or the future will be lost, and the side road that is Draenor will become the roots of a new timeline and a new future."
"This is terrible news," Evanor stammered. "You're telling us that everything we know might be lost?"
"The flow of time will continue, people will be born and people will die, but yes, this timeline may collapse and only those on Draenor will survive as remnants of the world we knew."
"Is there any other outcome?" I pressed.
"No matter the outcome," Nozdormu answered. "You have to go back to Draenor and stay there."
"Fine. We can all go. Evanor, Salonis, and Keaira too. Even other heroes you saved. We can take them all."
Nozdormu frowned. "I will gather those I can and send them to you, but Lady Evanor cannot go."
"My parents would meet regardless of the war," she guessed. "I'll create a crack in the timeline."
"Well she can't stay here!" I said firmly. "What do we do?"
"There is yet a way to save her."
"I can send her back in time."
"How will that not make a crack?" Evanor asked.
"It will, but the crack will be small and it will be long before Garrosh breaks the timeline, but it comes at a cost."
She looked nervous. "Explain."
"You must seek your younger self out and stay close to her so long as you live."
"Why must I do this?"
"It keeps your life energy in sync. You can certainly stray for some time, but you will always be tied to your own past."
I shook my head. "So that's it? She either goes back in time or stays here and dies?"
Nozdormu nodded. "Unfortunately so."
I don't know how Evanor felt, but I was suddenly dizzy. After all that we had gone through, after all that we had done, it was all for this horrible outcome? The potential destruction of the reality that I knew and cared about so deeply?
"What do you say to all of this?" I asked her.
"I'll need a new identity," she said to the bronze dragon. "Will you help me?"
"Of course, my dear."
"You're going forward with this?" I asked.
Evanor laughed. "I am. I think I already did once before."
"What does that mean?"
"Sonea," she said. "I want my name to be Lady Sonea."
It hit me like a brick to the face. Sonea had been the name of Evanor's teacher... they had looked so much alike..."
"You're Sonea?!" I nearly yelled.
Nozdormu gave a deep laugh. "Indeed she is. I'm surprised you connected the dots so quickly."
"It makes sense," she said aloud. "I always wondered if we were related and now I know."
"This settles it," Nozdormu said firmly. "Evanor, you will return to your past, and Sionis, you will take Salonis and Keaira to Draenor with you and await the others that I will send to you. Then, we will let the darkness do what it must to this timeline, whatever that outcome may be."
"I don't like the last part," I grumbled.
"Sionis," Evanor added. "Before I go, is there anything you want me to do in the past?"
"Don't be so hard on me the first time I perform magic," I said with a grin.
She smiled back. "I guess I'll see you again."
I frowned. "I guess this is goodbye for me."
"Maybe," she said, turning toward Nozdormu. "Maybe not."
"Go now," Nozdormu said to my group. "Go to Draenor and be rid of this threat."
I hesitated, but only for a moment, and then turned to leave. My future wouldn't be found here in the cavern of time.
Lunarfall: Shadowmoon Valley
Cookie, Salonis, and Keaira all stepped through the portal ahead of me. When I stepped through I patted the drake on his side and looked around as some surprised garrison members looked suspiciously at Keaira and Salonis.
"The mage returns!" Iliera shouted from behind him. "I have missed you, Sionis and worried sick."
I gave her a shy smile and she responded by wrapping me in a hug and picking me off the ground. When she saw the man standing behind me, who no doubt looked just like me, she froze in place, then lowered me to the ground once more.
"Is this the one called Salonis?" she asked.
"It is," I replied.
"Who is this?" she asked, gesturing to Keaira.
"An old friend, and Salonis' wife." I said. "They've come to Draenor to help us in our fight."
"I see," Iliera said calmly. "Very well then, let's get them settled. I'll have the garrison guard show them to the inn."
"Thank you," Salonis said. "I am thankful for your hospitality."
Iliera snapped her fingers and one of the nearby guards quickly stepped over. She gave the guard directions and he quickly welcomed the newcomers before ushering them away. Standing there alone with Iliera, I knew it was time to start explaining.
"What happened out there?" she asked. "Why did you bring them here? Is that the night elf you once shared a bond with?"
"I still do apparently," I said, pointing to Salonis. "That's me, or at least a copy of me."
Iliera looked confused. "Okay, so why are they here?"
I looked toward the large moon hanging heavy in the sky and wrapped my arms around Iliera, returning the hug. "Come along, dear Iliera. I have much to tell you."
We walked and talked for hours. I explained my entire journey from start to finish, and I explained, as best I could, the outcome for me, Salonis, and even Evanor as best as I could understand it. Then, I told her that I could not return to Azeroth. I would be here on Draenor with her indefinitely.
At the end of the silence that followed, Iliera pulled me close and smiled at me. "You listen to me," she spoke quietly. "Right now, nothing changes. Nothing is different. You are here to fight the Iron Horde. You are here to protect Azeroth, even if you now fight for the Azeroth of this timeline. We are the defenders of our worlds, no matter the cost."
I thought about these words. "No Matter the Cost". She was right, as she often was. I would have died in that underwater cave if not for Nozdormu's efforts. I would have never met Iliera, or come to Draenor, or even had the chance to study in Dalaran again. I had taken this extended life for granted, but now I was reminded of my mortality. More importantly, I was reminded that I wanted to live
Iliera finally released me and I took a moment to look around.
"I'm sorry all of this played out like it did," she said to me, reaching out and taking my hand in her own.
"No," I said. "I'm not sorry. If it had played out any other way, I wouldn't be here, now, with you."
She leaned toward me and in this secluded place, this path behind the mage tower, we shared our first kiss. A moment of intimacy sparked with the raw emotion of danger and desire. Her lips were soft against my own and I felt a spark of life that I had not felt in some time.
"Well, maybe this is even better than I thought," I added. "For the Alliance. For Draenor. For us."
"Indeed, General," Iliera replied with a sly grin. "For us!"