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Old 04-17-2013, 12:01 AM
Bolvar Bolvar is offline

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The Road Home

We had made it to the southern edge of the Eversong Woods when all hell broke loose.

A small patrol of High Elven Rangers met us near the border. Their leader spoke to Shadecloak in Thalassian. I understood the exchange.

A company of trolls have attacked one of the northern runestones. It may be a ploy to draw our defenses away from the garrison in the west, which is why only a small company was sent. Can your mages help?

Shadecloak responded, These are barely more than children that have never seen real battle. They are trained, but completely green. I am responsible for their safe passage to Strom.

If the western garrison falls, there is nothing stopping the trolls from marching on Silvermoon, and we cant afford to lose that runestone. We are blinded to a large part of our border without it.

Shadecloak scowled. He knew he had little choice. I felt the fear creep up in my past self, and had to restrain myself from trying to subdue the anxiety.

Very well. We will offer what aid we can. Lead on.

***

It was, of course, a trap. We came upon a large clearing with a company of trolls hacking away at a great runestone in the center of it. Our group was to offer cover fire once the ranger patrol had a chance to circle around the opposite side of the clearing and engage the trolls from the back.

But as soon as they departed, another company of trolls attacked us from behind. Theyd been hidden in the woods about 100 yards south, and they were much better at approaching stealthily. Shadecloak never saw the arrow that pierced his heart through his back.

Derek was the first to act. The son of a soldier, and already the victim of a troll spear months ago, he wasted no time conjuring a wall of ice between us and the attackers. But it wouldnt hold for long.

Celindra began conjuring mirror images of herself that walked across the clearing and started firing arcane blasts at the trolls attacking the runestone.

What are you DOING? James yelled, we dont need THOSE trolls attacking us as well!

She shot back, Shut up and start casting the protective spells from your scrolls, James! We NEED the other rangers to know were in trouble over here!

Rinn was trying to offer aid to Shadecloak, but his efforts were in vain. The arrow was clearly poisoned, and he was already convulsing and foaming from the mouth.

My younger self just sat there.

The wall of ice fell, and Derek was shot three times, and I just sat there. I had pissed myself from fear. I wanted to vomit. I couldnt move from the sheer panic.

The second company of trolls cut down Celindras mirrors and advanced upon us, and I just sat there.

Rinn stood up and hurled a fireball in their direction. A troll from the first company identified him as a threat, and hurled an axe into his head. And. I. Just. Sat. There.

The first company of trolls drew their blades and rushed towards us. They were nearly upon James.

I couldnt just sit there.

I forced my consciousness into my past self. I heard Hollus scream NO!

I ignored him. And I embraced the power I could feel, being so close to the Sunwell.

I cast a short-range arcane teleport spell, commonly referred to as a blink, and appeared in between James and the approaching company of trolls.

I spoke a little Amani, so I greeted them with, Hey mon, how you doin?

They froze, for just a moment, and then I unloaded on them with a cone of fire. Their screams were glorious. They burned white hot for mere seconds, and then were reduced to ash. I had never had so much energy at my disposal.

I turned on the second company, and brought down a blizzard of snow, wind, and ice that cut most of them to ribbons. The second elven ranger company had emerged from the forest by now, and closed in behind them on horseback to finish them off.

And then I collapsed.

***

Time stood still. I was in my astral form again, looking at the scene. There were dead trolls everywhere. Vedoran Shadecloak was dead. Rinn Aranas was dead. Derek Thornby was dead. Celindra Chase had a look of shock on her face. James Braddock held only a blank stare.

At the center was Hollus Fenweaver, glowing with golden temporal energy.

What are you doing? I asked.

He did not look at me. He stared off into space, as he often does, but his face was a fixture of urgent concentration. Finally, he spoke, You have created a temporal crisis. I am holding it in place for the moment.

What crisis? I was about to be dead?

A second Hollus appeared at my side. No, you would not have died. But let me show you what you have done.

His astral form grabbed mines hand, and we disappeared.

***

We emerged in Strom, in King Thoradins throne room.

Hollus spoke, Six months have passed. Look what you have wrought. I watched.

Thoradin sat alone in the room. The door swung open, and the sentry announced, High Lord James Braddock, Your Majesty.

I was right, I muttered, that kid is going places.

Thoradin rose to greet him. Lord Braddock, please accept my condolences for the loss of your father. It was a great tragedy that he was cut down in battle before you were able to return to him.

I thank you, your Majesty. He always spoke so highly of you. James replied.

He fought valiantly to secure the north. We are a kingdom in his debt. What may I grant you today?

I come to your Majesty with an opportunity. As you know, I spent many months in Silvermoon studying the High Elves. I have learned much about them, and, more importantly, about their defenses.

Indeed. You understand then why they sought our aid.

Their situation is more dire than you know, your Majesty. Their defenses are thin, and depend largely on the swift response of a few small garrisons. If a large force were able to pass their southern frontier, Silvermoon would fall with little resistance.

Are you suggesting we offer them a regiment, to augment their border? We have few resources to spare. Most of the army marches on the Alterac Mountains, where we hope to finish this troll business once and for all.

No, Sire, I am suggesting you assign my fathers regiment my regiment to push forward into Quelthalas and take their rich and verdant resources for our own, while the Elves are occupied at Alterac. A small force could do it, and still leave the rest of the army to wipe out the trolls. We could secure the continent for our empire once and for all.

Thoradin offered a chilling smile. Your father was right to insist upon sending you after all, young Braddock. I assume your troops are ready?

James nodded, They are at the border of Eversong now. I have already instructed them on how to cripple a series of runestones along the way. The Elves are completely blind without them, and, even better, the energy of the Sunwell is no longer contained within Quelthalas. Our magi will be even more powerful at Alterac. The detachment I command will not be missed.

Thoradin nodded. Then make haste, Lord Braddock. I look forward to reading the report of your conquest.

I turned to Hollus, By the Light, hes mad!

Quite so. Not only will he eradicate every last troll in the northern half of this continent, he will slaughter every High Elf. When Thoradin dies next year, Braddock will take the throne. But he wont be content with Arathor alone. He will march south, and conquer the dwarves as well. His kingdom will cover the whole continent before he passes on and his son takes the throne.

So he was supposed to die

Yes. And you have spared him. Not only will he commit genocide, but he has broken the runestones before their time. You cannot pass through the rift because it will never exist now. The Dark Portal will never exist, but that does not matter, because Azeroth is aglow with the unchecked energy of the Sunwell now, and the Legion is on its way. They will dominate Braddocks heirs, and take this world for their own, just as they did with Argus. It will be easier for them than ever.

There has to be a way you froze time. I can go back and kill him, right?

Murder him in cold blood? Your younger self would be arrested and hanged. You would preserve part of the timeline, but still create a smaller paradox with your own death. I cannot even allow you to make that sacrifice.

There has to be something maybe I can get him later, make it look like an accident?

You have no skill for that, and there is no time for it. He will ride straight to Strom after this incident. You must head back to Caer Darrow to confront the time rift, as you were always meant to do.

I threw my hands up. Then WHAT? You paused time to show me how bad Id screwed up, but the world ends anyway?

There is one option. But it will bring you great pain.

What kind of pain?

Loss. Physical suffering. Emotional and spiritual torment. Every kind of the worst kind of pain.

So, basically, what you have to deal with.

Not quite. What I offer is a way to atone, and set most of this right. You will suffer, for many years, but you will have a chance at a new life.

You really need to give me more information. I might just prefer the end of the world.

I will show you.

He grabbed my hand again. We returned to the site of the battle. The other copy of Hollus was still maintaining a temporal field.

How do you do that, anyway? I asked him.

A pertinent question, as you will soon be doing the same thing.

Whats that?

Splitting your consciousness.

You can do that?

Yes, but it is painful, disorienting, and debilitating, at least temporarily.

How does that help our situation?

Part of you must become James Braddock.

Wait what?

The mind control technique that you used upon yourself. You must split your consciousness. And then you must forcefully overtake the mind of James Braddock.

So, part of me becomes James Braddock and the other part goes back through the rift to re-join my future self right?

Correct. But you must understand two things: First, what you have done today changes Simon Moongrasp forever. He will still solve the crisis of the time rift, pass through it, and emerge with his memory lost. But he will be more confident, and more prone to act. It changes your history to no small degree. You will arrive at Theramore extremely disoriented, as your current past and new past try to reconcile themselves. I will try to help show you what changes. But it will be quite a shock.

Tell me the second thing is good news

Not at all. Your other half will occupy the body of James Braddock. You will have no arcane talent whatsoever. You must insist upon accompanying Simon Moongrasp to Caer Darrow, and you must remove yourself from this timeline by following him through the rift. This is essential. Even though you are in control and will not continue his plan to attack the elves, you do not belong in this time line.

But James Braddock doesnt belong in the future, either.

No, but he can eventually become a positive force in the world there. Here, he only gets in the way of history.

How do you figure? I could just go live in the woods.

Braddocks father is already dead. He is now the Lord of one of the largest Baronies in Arathor. If he remains alive, the Barony stays intact for many more years, upsetting a critical series of events.

What events?

It is assumed that the time rift is the result of troll magic. If he is lost there, his people will assume, as they would have had he died today, that he, along with his father, were both casualties to the troll war. They rally around Thoradins banner, and are critical to the victory at Alterac. After the war, the barony dissolves; it is the first piece of the Arathi Empire to crumble, which leads to the establishment of the seven kingdoms. A knight captain previously loyal to Braddock leads a group to the north to settle a new colony. His name is Marcus Menethil.

Wait, so, if the barony doesnt dissolve after the war, theres no Lordaeron?

Exactly. And if you go into hiding, Braddocks people are divided only some want to continue the war, other minor lords will fight over the seat of the barony, and others still remain loyal with hopes of your return.

Fine. Why cant we just invade his consciousness, attack his mind forcefully, leaving him dead, and then jump back out?

His mind will be destroyed, but his body will fall into catatonic stupor. He wont be entirely dead. The Elves will take him to Silvermoon for healing, and he lives another 30 years in a vegetative state. But the barony does not collapse.

What about after I go through the rift? Can I just leave him catatonic on the other side?

No, you have to take complete control of him after his mind is destroyed. From that point on, that half of your consciousness is irrevocably bound to that body. There is no turning back. You may eventually learn further astral projection later, once your mind grows stronger, but you will never be able to leave. You will be James Braddock from this day forward.

Will I lose my memory with him, too?

No. It might be easier on you if you do, but, ultimately, you must remain aware of what has happened today. And, as I said, upon your arrival in the future, there will be much suffering. I cannot tell you more, but it would be unfair not to warn you.

What about my wife? My daughter?

They will be fine, should you choose this path. They will be changed as drastically as you will, but fate has a way of bringing you together.

Youre sure?

Yes. But, be aware part of you will be James Braddock, and James Braddock will not have them.

I had a million more questions, but really, I was just stalling. Do I really have a choice?

Not a very good one, no.

Then lets get it done.

I will handle most of the process. When I split your consciousness, you will pass out from the trauma. You will awake as James Braddock. It will be disorienting even walking and speaking will be laborious at first. And you will no longer be able to commune with me on the astral plane.

So Im on my own?

Yes. You must insist upon accompanying Simon Moongrasp to Caer Darrow. You must travel through the rift with him. Once you get through the other side, you must avoid contact with yourself until the moment I restore the other half of your consciousness in Theramore, at all costs. It will require great sacrifice.

Is there any good news?

There will be hope. You will find it, eventually. Do not give up.

OK. Anything else?

There was abject sorrow on his face. I am sorry. I know your heart was in the right place. It would have been better had I never brought you here.

Yeah, thanks. Lets just get this over with.

Remember this you must wait 1,901 days after you pass through the rift before you make contact with the outside world. That is the most important thing.

Got it.

Without any further warning, the world went black.

I awoke standing up, in my astral form, next to Hollus. Before us was the aftermath of the battle. Time had started moving again.

Celindra knelt next to Rinn and Shadecloak, helpless to do anything for their lifeless forms. The rangers rode up to assess the scene. My younger self was on his hands and knees, throwing up all over the forest floor at the sight of Dereks dead body.

James sat on the ground, staring at his own two hands, clearly bewildered and disoriented.

I thought you were sending me in to control his body. I asked.

I did, Hollus replied, but only half of you. You are the half that is left, and will be sent back to rejoin your body at Theramore. It will be equally disorienting for you, if not more so.

So, does that mean Im missing a piece of myself?

Not quite. Think of it more like making a copy. I cant explain it any better than that.

Is there anything we can do to help him?

No. He is on his own now, and will be for at least the next 5 years after he crosses the time rift.

***

We traveled to the garrison a few miles away, the bodies of our fallen comrades wrapped in cloaks and carried on horseback, so that they could be given a proper burial. The trolls had been piled up and burned on the spot.

Word was sent to Strom via a scrying portal; they replied back with new orders. Caer Darrow was being reinforced after a series of troll attacks and, as expected, I was to be sent there. Celindra was ordered to Andorhal.

James was informed that his father had fallen in battle, and was expected to rendezvous with the other Lords at Strom.

Still apparently dizzy and bewildered, he muttered, No no. I owe Moongrasp a debt of gratitude. I will travel with him to Caer Darrow to see that Lord Barov recognizes him and his family for his gallantry.

The rangers nodded, and no objection came from Strom.

***

There was time enough to bathe and obtain clean clothes. Celindra and Simon were given Silvermoon mage initiate robes, which, while simple by High Elf standards, were finer than anything most men had this side of Strom. James opted for a common cotton tunic and leather breeches, even after being offered something more befitting his station as a high Lord to wear.

We were given an escort of three rangers for the trip to Caer Darrow. It was uneventful, but I was struck upon arrival at how much the village had changed. Walls of stone and heavy timbers had been hastily erected around the perimeter, and archers were present atop them at every 30 yards.

As we crossed the bridge leading to the island, there was a sudden explosion of green light from the center of the village, followed by screams.

I turned toward Hollus, Already?

He nodded.

But he I havent even had a chance to see my parents again.

It is tragic. But we must not delay.

Simon and James rode closely behind the three rangers, who had broken into a gallop and headed toward the commotion.

There was pandemonium at the village square. A large green portal glowed against the runestone at the center, and before it stood a robed troll, screaming in Common and hurling bolts of frostfire at anyone that moved.

I am Halacrass! Flee before my might, puny humans!

I shrugged. Does he even realize nobody here can understand a word hes saying?

Clearly not. He is disoriented. It is your only advantage.

I couldnt see how there was much of an advantage. Halacrass had to have been a powerful mage in order to open the time rift from 3,000 years in the future. Now he was close to the Sunwell, and throwing around arcane energy effortlessly. The ranger escort had attacked immediately and been cut down by lances of ice.

I had no idea how the novice Simon Moongrasp was going to defeat this guy. But then, I surprised myself.

Simon, who was crouched behind a cart, muttered a quick incantation.

And suddenly Halacrass turned into a sheep.

Wow. Thats like my signature move right there. I observed.

Simon stood up and ran across the square. James followed close behind. He picked up the sheep, and walked toward the rift.

Lord Barov emerged from the crowd and asked, Simon! What are you doing?

Simon replied, The spell wont keep him like this for long. This portal probably comes from a troll encampment not far from here. Im taking him back through before he hurts anyone else, then Ill come right back.

Im going with him, said James, Lord Barov, see that Simons family is rewarded for his gallantry.

Son of a bitch, I muttered, he has no idea.

No, said Hollus, But we must follow him. The rift will collapse soon after he passes through it.

We followed Simon and James through the rift. Once again, everything went black.

Last edited by Bolvar; 01-03-2014 at 10:03 AM..
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