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Old 04-01-2013, 07:19 PM
Bolvar Bolvar is offline

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Old School

That evening, my younger self couldnt sleep, but I had no desire to help him in that regard.

I was disgusted. I had sat idly and watched as four trolls had nearly killed one of us. And its not like they were crack assassins they had left signs all over the woods, they reeked strongly enough for us to know they were coming a good 10 seconds before they struck, and Im pretty sure I could have beaten two of them alone with my bare hands if Id had to.

But you are battle-hardened now, with a decade of combat experience. He is a boy less than a week from home. Hollus astral form had appeared next to mine as I stood by the campfire glaring at my younger self.

Experience and training dont matter. The will to act is what matters. Derek should be dead right now, and I didnt lift a finger to help.

Allow me to share some perspective for you: All of your companions in this time are already dead to you. When your consciousness returns to Theramore, they will be long gone. What you are seeing here is just a memory.

I didnt bother replying to his point. I was sick of arguing it with him. I changed the subject. Why arent the health potions in our time as good as the one Shadecloak used today?

The Sunwells energy gives strength to all life in these woods, not just the High Elves. The reagents for that potion were grown on the Isle of Queldanas specifically for the purpose of providing rangers with effective healing draughts.

Smart. Its a wonder the trolls are giving them so much trouble.

The trolls outnumber them 40-1. And those you encountered today were drunken deserters. Their regular troops are substantially stronger combatants. The Elves are quite desperate now, I assure you. They have never wished to share their knowledge of the arcane with others, but Thoradin commands an army greater than anything Azeroth will see until the opening of the Dark Portal. In fact, the Elves are worried that he has become too powerful and ambitious.

And theyre making him stronger.

They have no choice. The trolls will overrun them otherwise. They can reason with Thoradin. Theres no reasoning with the trolls they want nothing more than to drive the Elves to extinction and reclaim their homeland.

Thoradin is pretty ambitious. Theyre lucky he doesnt decide to expand northward.

Thoradin does not live long enough to exercise that ambition, and, fortunately for the Elves, his heirs are not able to keep the empire together.

I nodded, and changed the subject again, This astral walking is getting much easier. Im not sure if its just that Im getting used to it, or if its because were getting closer to the Sunwell.

The latter, he confirmed, Now that you are in Eversong, you are within the borders of our strongest runes. The Sunwells energy can be felt throughout Azeroth, but it is especially potent in Quelthalas. The runes were designed not only to protect the kingdom, but to mute the energy signature of the well so that it would be more difficult for the Legion to detect.

Makes sense. I feel like I could walk 10 miles from here, and previously I could hardly leave my own head in this form.

You will also have an easier time influencing your past self. You must be especially careful.

Yeah, yeah. I get it. All this exposition, and all Ill learn is that Im a miserable, gutless turd.

There is much more to learn. The most valuable of it comes in the months ahead.

***

The remainder of the journey to Silvermoon was as uneventful as we had expected, although the group was still shaken from the troll attack. Derek had become sullen and paranoid, jumping at every sound and sleeping restlessly every night, awaking from nightmares almost hourly. Rinn kept falling behind, stopping to gather herbs at every opportunity, determined to duplicate the Elven healing potion that Shadecloak used. James kept muttering about how the Elves should have more men on the road and how his father would never leave his barony so poorly undefended. Celindra just wanted to hurry and get to Silvermoon, and chattered constantly in nervous fashion.

My younger self was gripped with fear, homesickness, and the urge to weep. It was palpable to me, and I couldnt stand it.

Relief finally came upon our arrival at Silvermoon. The majesty and grandeur of the High Elven city pushed aside the overwhelming trepidation that Id endured the last few days of the journey, and we were quickly escorted to one of the smaller buildings that made up the complex of the Arcanum, the Silvermoon academy of arcane study.

It was unlike anything I had ever seen, past or present. It had libraries greater than anything in Dalaran or Stormwind, and rows of buildings dedicated to research and learning, from all subjects ranging from alchemy to inscription. It was magnificent, and even the modern-day Silvermoon that I knew paled in comparison. I was struck with the realization of what the High Elves had lost to the Scourge.

This truly is our golden age. I hadnt noticed Hollus astral form appear next to mine.

I nodded. If I were you, Id never leave here. Its magnificent.

A painful reminder, Im afraid.

Our group was assigned an instructor that would teach us over the next several months. He met us in a large, well-appointed laboratory inside the building that housed our classrooms and dormitory. He was short and somewhat scrawny, with dark hair, a pale complexion, and a tendency to slouch his shoulders, making himself look even more unsubstantial. When we walked in, he was idly fondling a mortar and staring at nothing on the floor.

He set the object down and walked over to greet us. I didnt hear what he had to say I couldnt help notice Hollus visibly shudder at the sight.

Whats the matter?

That is Archmage Krynnas. My grandfather.

The resemblance was now quite obvious. You seem upset at the sight of him; why?

Its not him. The object he was holding. I have not been this close to it in many years.

What is it? It looked like an unremarkable stone bowl used by alchemists.

The Crucible of Azshara. It was passed down to me. Even now, I can see my grandfather is nearly as consumed by it as I was. Fortunately, he did not unlock its secrets.

But you did?

He nodded. It is how I came to be in this forsaken state of being.

I dont suppose youd want me to dispose of it for you? Since Im already here and all?

Unfortunately, no. While my exposure to the artifact ruined my life and the lives of many others, destroying it would create an unsustainable temporal paradox. I have, of course, considered this. Many times.

You might be happier if you learned to bend the rules a little bit now and then, you know?

Im bending them right now. You think the Bronze Dragonflight would sanction this expedition?

Fair enough.

With the introductions over, the group moved to settle their belongings in the dormitory, and then gathered in the common room of the building. It was a multi-purpose lounge that had the feeling of a small inn. There were tables, couches, and a small kitchen area, and a bar that had plates of food already prepared and set out.

Surprisingly, Archmage Krynnas decided to join us for dinner. Celindra wasted no time in asking him questions.

What are we going to learn first?

He replied, How to read. Ive already prepared some instructional scrolls for you to study this evening. Youll be expected to have them committed to memory before class tomorrow morning.

I already know how to read. She replied.

My dear, you need to learn to read and speak Thalassian if you expect to have any hope of learning here. I have taken the time to learn your crude tongue in order to carry out your instruction; I expect you return the favor. He passed each of us a long scroll of parchment.

All of us unfurled them and began to read over our meal, with the exception of Thornby, who took one look and cast his aside.

Is there a problem with yours, young man?

Derek shrugged. I cant read at all. Arathorian or Thalassian, makes no difference.

Krynnas raised an eyebrow. I will speak to your Counselor Winterstorm about this. I was told we were receiving students with talent, not dullards who cannot even read their own chicken scratch.

Derek glared at him. I have talent! He then waved his right hand over his plate. A dusting of snowflakes fell over his meal.

Krynnas laughed. And how effective was that parlor trick against the troll that skewered you a few days ago, hmm? You may have a weak affinity for one small portion of simple elemental magic, but youll never amount to anything if you cant write your own name, boy. No, I have no time for fools. You will be expected to have the scroll memorized by tomorrow morning, the same as everyone else, or you will be expelled from my class.

Suddenly, James spoke up. Hes not getting expelled.

Krynnas turned to the portly young man and offered a wry smile, I dont believe thats your decision to make, Mr. Braddock.

Youre right. Its King Thoradins decision. You have trolls barking at your doorstep, you come begging to Arathor for help, James here nearly gets killed on the way up here, and you talk to him like that? Go complain to Winterstorm all you want. Ill send word to my father while youre at it. Well see which one of us wins that argument.

Krynnas smile turned to a frown, Tell me, Mr. Braddock; what talent do you have?

I dont have any talent. I dont even want to be here. But Im doing what I was told to do. And if Im going to be stuck following orders, then so should you.

Krynnas laughed. Well played. You must come from nobility; a commoner would not be so clever. Ill make you a bargain then, since you are so keen to advocate for Mr. Thornby. I will give him four days to memorize the scroll. It will be up to the rest of you to tutor him to this end. I am sure good King Thoradin himself would find these terms agreeable, wouldnt you say?

He didnt wait for an answer; he just got up and left.

That guy is an asshole, muttered Thornby.

Braddock glared at him, Maybe, but youd better get your shit together. Im not really going to ask my old man to speak up on your behalf.

Then whyd you say that?

Because I wanted him to know I didnt come up here to get kicked around. He needs to learn his place. Im the son of most powerful Baron in Arathor. Hes a schoolteacher. I have six tutors at home just like him.

You dont need to be so mean about it. Celindra spoke.

What do you know about it? Braddock snapped back. Dont you all see the big picture here? This is about the future of our empire, not just some holiday in elfland. These Elves think theyre better than us. Theyre not just trying to teach us magic here, theyre trying to bend us to their way of thinking. And while theyre at it, theyll be testing our strength. We cant show them any weakness, and we need to pay attention to a lot more than just whats happening at this school.

I turned to Hollus astral form, Wow. Son of a Baron, huh? This kid is going places.

He changed the subject. Your past self will not only have the opportunity to learn arcane magic here, he will also have the chance to pursue elective research. Might I offer that you gently suggest to him that he brush up on his inscription and enchanting?

Wait, how did you know oh, yeah you see everything.

Including the meager contents of your bank account, yes.

Thats a great idea. Not breaking any rules, are we?

None that have any consequence. He will forget all of this. But you can pay attention and learn a great deal to bring back with you.

I guess they dont have to worry about auction house price gouging here.

No. The herbs and enchanting material are in abundant supply here at this time.

I shook my head. The Scourge really ruined a great thing here, you know?

They were agents of the Legion. As I was intended to be. I am constantly reminded of the destruction they leave in their wake.

***

Months passed. Rinn and Celindra, being the most patient and educated of the group, were successful in tutoring Derek enough for him to avoid any further risk of expulsion. After the outburst of the first day, James mostly kept to himself. I studied and absorbed knowledge like a sponge it was something I had always enjoyed, and I was more than a little happy to see my younger self had that same virtue.

It was after about four months of intense study that we were told we were taking a little trip.

To the Isle of QuelDanas.

The night before our departure, I spoke to Hollus.

So, hows this going to work? I asked. I assume this is the one chance I get at securing a vial from the Sunwell, right?

It has to be done carefully. You will need to completely subvert your own consciousness. Without killing yourself, of course.

Wait, are you saying I could die doing this?

If you suppress your consciousness too forcefully, you could kill yourself. Or merely render yourself catatonic. Either outcome would be undesirable.

So, what, I go knock on the door of my own brain, excuse myself for a bit, and tell myself Im going to be driving for a while?

Not exactly. You need to place yourself in a coma. It can be done while you are awake, but its easier, and safer, while you sleep. I will show you the trigger point for it.

This is a little spooky. Can I do this to other people?

Its a similar concept that is employed by certain shadow priests when they exert mind control over their victims, so, theoretically, yes. But it takes years of practice, and against an unwilling target, it never works for an extended period of time.

I dont have years to practice.

No, but you are essentially controlling your own mind your brain will not trigger a defensive response to your presence. In fact, it will appear comforting and restful to your past self. He will see the action you take as a lucid dream.

Wont that kind of screw with his character, and all that?

Hopefully not to any great degree. Dreams often fade very quickly. The important thing is for you not to get caught taking the vial and placing it in a secure place.

I hadnt thought about that. Wait I cant just take the vial back through the time rift; I need to put them someplace in this time where it will be safe for 3,000 years, right?

Correct.

But most of Silvermoon gets razed by the Scourge

You should absolutely not leave it in Silvermoon.

But, where? I mean, I need a place that is going to sit undisturbed for three millennia.

King Thoradin is currently in the process of constructing a great wall.

Of course. Thoradins wall. It divided the modern-day Arathi Highlands from the Hillsbrad Foothills. While parts of the wall were ruined, much of it was still intact, and I was familiar enough with the layout to choose an area that would still be standing in 3,000 years.

But there was another problem. So, wait, I do the mind control thing now, and have to stay in control until we head back to Strom?

Why on Azeroth would you have to do that?

Because thats where the wall is?

Are you not a mage gifted with creating portals?

Yeah, but, in this time, I can barely whip up a good fireball.

When you are in control, you will still have all of your present knowledge. In fact, you would likely surpass the skill of most of the mages here today.

Oh. Well, that changes things.

***

In fact, it made things a lot easier than Id expected. We took a boat the next morning to the Isle of QuelDanas, and were then escorted to the Sunwell, where we were given a series of lectures on its history, arcane properties, and other trivia.

That evening, as the group slept, I took control of my younger self. As expected, it went off without a hitch.

The feeling was surreal. I was myself, but not myself. I could actually feel physical stimulus for the first time in months, something I had only felt through the filter of my astral presence for so long. I was younger, more energetic, without the aches and pains that I had grown used to in my older age.

I also no longer felt the taint of the Worgen curse. I admit, it was refreshing; I had to suppress a pang of loss I felt over that piece of my humanity.

The Sunwell was guarded, but not nearly as heavily as it was in modern times. Nothing ever came close to threatening it in this age. The idea that an army of undead would someday march across the channel and right up to it was completely out of the question. I crept quietly out of the inn we were staying at, and cast a shroud of invisibility over myself as I approached the well.

Two guards patrolled the perimeter. I waited until they passed, then, under cover of darkness, quickly filled three vials.

Yes, three. I mean, that was good enough for Illidan, right? Besides, I might break one. Seeing as how Hollus didnt come bursting forth from the astral plane to object, I figured I was OK.

I re-cast the shroud and walked quietly into the woods not far from the well, and then opened a portal to Thoradins Wall.

I arrived at a spot on the north end of the wall that I knew was still in one piece. Sure enough, it was only about halfway complete. I walked up to the topmost rock, and bore a small hole in the top of it using arcane energy. Once I had a sufficient cavity in place, I put the carefully wrapped and boxed bundle of vials inside I had secured them in a gold-lined box and placed protective wards over it to hide the truth of its contents.

I then restored the rock around the cavity. Sometime in the next few weeks, more large stones would be placed atop this one, and the package would sit undisturbed for centuries until I could retrieve it. I made a careful mental note of the exact location and then ported back to the Isle.

***

I went back to bed and, somewhat reluctantly, returned to the astral plane.

My past self awoke the next morning, apparently unperturbed by the events overnight. We continued three more days of study around the Sunwell, and then returned to Silvermoon.

***

Another month passed. I had managed to learn enough about enchanting and inscription to be proficient to the point of profitability back in my own time period, but more importantly, my younger self was slinging ice lances and fireballs like a pro. He was fluent in Thalassian and even had picked up some texts on ancient Darnassian and had learned enough to be conversant in that language as well. It was remarkable how much faster I had learned here, as a youth, with proper instruction. It had taken years to re-learn all of this after losing my memory to the time rift.

Celindra was the real talent of the group. She had such a finely-tuned grasp of arcane energies she could have passed the entrance exams to study at Dalaran with ease. Rinn had augmented his gifts for alchemy and was a budding pyromancer in his own right. James had no discernible affinity for magic at all. He was academically sharp, and could answer any theoretical question asked of him, but when he tried to conjure anything, he failed miserably. Not everyone is cut out for magic, not even with the best of instruction. Derek was still an emergent reader, but could get by, and remained most comfortable with frost magic. He wasnt especially potent, but he was good with defensive spells, and those could be useful in combat.

As much as I had been impatient at the outset of the mission, I admit, I could have stayed there for years. But there wasnt time for that. The trolls were advancing in all directions, it seemed, and we were to report back to Strom for assignment.

The night before we were to leave, I conferred with Hollus. Last chance, you know. I could jump in, steal the Crucible, and port it over the middle of the ocean someplace.

Hollus offered only a sad smile. If you do that, my son will never be born. Granted, he is born into a life of great pain, but I would not even deprive him of that. There is, eventually, happiness for him.

Whatever you say pal. Why dont we head back to the future now? Ive got the Sunwell juice stashed, and Ive learned about all I can here. The journey back is going to be a drag, and Im not really sure I want to see the moment I have to go through that rift anyway.

You cant leave now. Your astral form has been tethered here for far too long. You must return through the rift. From the other side, I can bring you back to your body in Theramore, but going back the way we came would be impossible without extensive preparation.

Great. So, I have a front-seat to more tragedy.

You must exercise restraint. I cannot emphasize that enough. No matter what occurs.

What occurs?

You know I cannot answer that.

Why not?

Because the most likely outcome of me giving you that information is a temporal catastrophe.

Great. That means something really shitty is going to happen, and Im going to be real pissed off at you afterward for not telling me about it.

Yes.

You suck, you know that?

Ive been told as much.

***
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