Special delivery from Southshore
I’ve got two pieces of news fresh from Cromush in Southshore, one on the state of the anti-plague and reliquary, and the other…well, it’s complicated.
The simple part first. Cromush reports that our people in Southshore have finished deploying our counter to the anti-plague magic…which is sort of a counter in itself…is there a special term for a counter-counter? I feel like there kinda should be. Anyway, from what they can tell, the effect has dissipated, and once they make one last sweep or two of the area to be safe, Helcular and his Forsaken peeps should be good to move back in from Tarren Mill.
Cromush also sent a few of his scouts to search the cellar of the Southshore inn, and they successfully recovered the reliquary that Isilien and Doan had planted there a decade ago. By all appearances, the holy magic that was bottled up inside has been dispelled, although the crystal fragment inside is still intact, and apparently not entirely spent. Like I think I mentioned before, I’ll probably let Liadrin hold it for safekeeping, once we get it safely out of Forsaken territory.
That’s not the complicated part, though. Cromush’s scouts returned with one other tidbit: while they were digging around in the cellar, they also found a small wooden box lodged into the stonework near the reliquary. Inside were three sealed letters – one addressed to me, one to Sylvanas, and one to Faranell. By all indications, the box had been there, undisturbed, for about as long as the reliquary, and the oddity of all this gets a little worse – or maybe better? – when you know who the three letters are from.
From my point of view, I only just saw you last a few hours ago, but by the time you see this note, I imagine quite a long time will have passed. As you no doubt already know, I’ve written similar letters to the Dark Lady and, well, to myself. Or rather, to the version of myself who is with you now.
So, about him.
I imagine you’ve probably already come to suspect this, but I’ll confirm it for you now: the version of me that you’ve brought with you to the future isn’t the one who traveled with you to the past. Who you have with you now is the past, younger me. The human me. This did not, however, happen as a result of any mistakes or carelessness. It was my doing. I orchestrated the events leading to your bringing him with you. I’d started planning to do so midway through our journey.
It really wasn’t difficult to manage. After finishing his work with Doan, my brother told me that with Kel’Thuzad hovering about, Doan had grown paranoid (even for Doan) about someone interfering with the reliquary; he’d placed a warding spell on the canister that would stun anyone who tampered with it, knocking them out for hours or even days. I realized that this could provide me the window I needed to do what I’d been contemplating for the previous few days.
When I left the inn the next morning, I found the child Herod playing with the frog he’d taken from Taelan. Which is to say, of course, my younger self, whom Mokvar had hexed. A quick polymorph spell took Herod out of the equation; at that point I needed only break the hex on my younger copy, pop invisibility quickly, and get away from the inn. From a distance I watched myself go back inside.
When the other me returned to his room (since, naturally, where else would he go?), he would find a letter I’d left for him, along with the chameleon shard. In the letter, I “explained” that I – that is, he – had learned that an inexplicably unhinged Kel’Thuzad, suddenly obsessed with Mograine and the rest, had planted a magic explosive in the inn’s cellar; that if detonated, it would kill anyone in the inn or nearby; that I had volunteered to have my most recent memories erased to prevent any mind-reading to reveal to Kel’Thuzad that I’d revealed his plans. That the crystal I’d left there for myself, used as directed, could deactivate the explosive before it was set off. There was more to it, further details to ensure the story would ring true, but I doubt I need to belabor it with you; if anything, I suspect the letters “TL” and “DR” are already dancing around the edges of your thoughts. Suffice to say, remembering that I had already begun to grow wary of Kel’Thuzad by this point in my life, I knew which buttons to press to convince myself.
And so I sent my past self on his way to the cellar to unknowingly attune the shard and be rendered unconscious by Doan’s warding spell. And before you ask why my younger self would trust this story left for him in a letter, much less follow its instructions, let me pose this to you: faced with gaps in your memory and uncertainty over whom to trust, how many sources would you trust above your own handwriting? I know myself, and I knew I would take the bait.
I can’t say I’ve never lied to myself, but I don’t think I’d ever done it quite so literally.
And here’s where you’re asking why I would go to all this trouble. Or, maybe you don’t need to. In the end, it’s really fairly simple. Since dying to the Scourge and reawakening in undeath, I had never given much thought to the life I had lost. I accepted my new existence fairly readily. I didn’t have particular occasion to look back at the old life I’d lost until we traveled to old Hillsbrad, and at that point, I wasn’t merely looking back on that life. I was actually living it again.
I never really missed being alive until I was reminded of what it’s like.
I want it back.
I’m far from greedy or ambitious, and my wants, in tangible terms, are simple ones. I want to look in the mirror and see my own face. I want to feel sunlight on my skin without it burning. I want to taste food again. I want to smell that food cooking and feel my mouth watering without my jaw hanging off one hinge. I want to smell baking bread and freshly cut grass.
I know that’s not in the cards for me, in the long run. I’m not naïve about the necessities of time, and I know I can’t cheat fate. My being here represents a reprieve, a brief window to literally smell roses I didn’t bother smelling while oblivious to time running out for me. Now I know I’m living on borrowed time, and I can soak it in while I can, but I understand that that’s all it is. I can’t live out my human life that might have been.
That is, this me can’t. But the one you brought with you to the future can.
And that was the real point of it all. To save myself, probably in the most indirect way imaginable.
I’ve thought through the logistics, and everything should line up. You and the others came to the past with a version of Edwin Faranell. You’ve brought one back with you. One was already here, and one continues to be here. The scales are still balanced. I still remember everything I was supposed to have done, all the events that need to happen, and I can make sure they still unfold the way they always did. I realize this raises all sort of questions along the lines of “How can I remember the events I did in the past, if my past self no longer did them?”, but from the conversations we’ve had with Nozdormu, I’m fairly sure that will simply be one of those oddities of time rewriting itself.
Meanwhile, I know that I can’t make major changes to history, or try to stop Arthas, or anything of the sort; while I won’t pretend it won’t pain me to watch some of those events happen again, I can at least take comfort in the knowledge, for instance, that the Lich King will be stopped, so history doesn’t need me to try to.
And then, soon enough, I’ll come to the end that was fated for me. History says that a human named Edwin Faranell died in Lordaeron and was risen into undeath; a human named Edwin Faranell will. As Liadrin pointed out, as long as I’m here, I literally am human again. I can die as I was meant to, continue playing my part among the Forsaken, and, when the time comes, be there again to travel back with you to Southshore.
I’ll become the closed loop, holding my own place in history, while the other, younger me will be free to live – live – his days in a wide-open future.
In the letter I will have written for him, I will explain all of this, and lay out the basic facts he will need to know about this new world. I’m sure he will be frightened by it, and rightly so. I would only ask, Garrosh, that you look out for him early on. While I have great admiration for Lady Sylvanas in a great many ways, I suspect she will be none too pleased with this turn of events, and she may not be above taking steps that would, let us say, undermine what I have sought to do here. I suspect, though, that you will understand why I’ve done this, and may even sympathize; I would only ask you not allow it to be for nothing.
I do not expect that I will see you again. Live well, Warchief. I hope I will do the same.
Dr. Edwin Faranell
Once and future Master of the Royal Apothecary Society
Not going to lie. I don’t even really know how to respond to that.
I’m not exactly thrilled about this, for a whole bunch of reasons, but at the same time, Faranell got the job done, end to end, both when we were in Hillsbrad and before. And as twitchy as this whole switcheroo makes me, on all kinds of levels, as far as I can tell it’s not like he’s setting out to screw with the timeline or mess something up or whatever. And I have to give it to him, he’s one of the few people around this dump who’s got the brains to pull off something like this AND go forward with it without causing some kind of stupidity-fueled collateral damage. Plus, he’s just a good dude. Or was. Or, well…will be.
Faranell was right — Sylvanas was less than thrilled when she got her letter. She right off started talking about how it would be easy enough to “correct” Faranell’s condition. I didn’t like the sound of that at all, so I’ve charged Liadrin with guarding him, and had Bragor Bloodfist divert a few of his Kor’kron up to Brill to help make sure nothing fishy happens. Because here’s the thing. For all intents and purposes, for the Faranell we knew, this was a last request. And last requests that don’t bring harm to anyone, where the only thing at stake is the person making the request? They should be honored.
I think I have an idea of how. Stay tuned.