The future never happened
The time portal was more dizzying than usual, but when we finally emerged on the other side, there it was – Hillsbrad, just like it looked a few months ago. Ten years ago. A lifetime ago, it seemed, and for all that’s happened, maybe it was. It was early in the morning, and the first rays of sunlight were just starting to peek through the trees.
At one point while we made our way toward Southshore, Edwin asked if it was a good idea for us to be taking the road like we were. At first I didn’t realize what he meant – I thought he was worried we’d run into someone who would recognize him, but I figured we could always improvise a cover story if we needed to.
Then I looked at my hands.
I don’t know if something went wrong with the portal, or if maybe Soridormi was making such an effort to get the timeline crossing to work that she couldn’t bother with anything else, but when I came through, apparently, I wasn’t changed into a human form. I was still my normal (and let’s face it, dead sexy) orcish self.
So yeah, we got off the road and into the outskirts of the woods right quick, because the last thing we needed was some patrol to see an orc rolling around loose down the road from Durnholde like it was something to do.
We made our way down to Southshore and hung around the surrounding woods. It was still early in the morning, but we could see the first signs of activity as some of the townspeople started to emerge from their homes and tend to their livestock. We waited a while longer, and finally a few people came out of the inn – Alexandros Mograine, along with Fairbanks and Doan. They went around to the stables, carrying bags. The rest of the Silver Hands would be checking out soon.
I reminded Edwin that our opening could come any minute, and ran through the details I knew for probably the fifth time since we’d arrived: at some point the kid Herod would turn up with younger-hexed-Edwin, older-Edwin would sheep Herod and break younger-Edwin’s hex, older-Edwin would go invisible and bolt. Guy-who’s-with-me-right-now-Edwin (and wow am I getting sick of specifying) nodded all the way through, but I got the sense he was getting sick of me reminding him he’d only have a short post-hex pre-invis window.
Finally, after a few more minutes, a young boy came running up from the docks chasing a frog. He caught up to it just in front of the inn.
Herod was in position. It was almost go time.
Edwin didn’t need any prompting. As he started getting up to make his move, I shook his hand and wished him luck.
From the entrance to the inn, a second human named Edwin Faranell appeared.
The Edwin who’d come with me turned just long enough to shove a folded-up paper into my hand and say “Good luck to you, too,” and then he was off.
I didn’t even fully register the paper – I was too concerned with watching Edwin go, and I tucked it into my belt. While Edwin ran into town, I kept looking around, because let’s face it, this is US, and the universe wouldn’t let us get through something important without some kind of final infuriating wrinkle. Sure enough, the universe didn’t disappoint, because look who was riding toward town on horseback, from the northern road: Kel’Thuzad.
Right off I thought of about half a dozen ways KT could make a mess of this, most of them involving some variation of the phrase “Why are there two copies of that guy I know in front of the inn?” All I could think was Kel’Thuzad couldn’t be allowed the chance to spot Edwin. My head was too busy racing in circles to come up with much in the way of a clever plan on the fly, so I ran with what I know best: the simple approach.
I jumped out of the bushes, charged Kel’Thuzad, and knocked him off his horse before he could reach the town square. As soon as I was in plain sight, two of the town guards saw me and ran to intercept, yelling about an orc intruder. They were pretty weak, and I slapped back what passed for their attacks pretty easily, but I didn’t work too hard to put the smackdown on them. Let them pay attention to me. Let the whole town pay attention to me. Just for a few more minutes.
More shouting was coming from the town, and when I looked back over my shoulder, Mograine and his two Silver Hand flunkies were running up to help the guards. Doan stood back and tossed some fireballs at me – stung a little, but nothing I couldn’t shrug off. KT, on the other hand…yeah, those frostbolts of his were no joke. Meanwhile, I had Mograine and Fairbanks and the two weak-ass guards swiping away at me from all sides.
I kept trying to look back at the inn, but in all the commotion, I couldn’t really see anything anymore. Then, while I was trading swings with Fairbanks, Mograine managed to grab me by my shoulderguard and spin me so I was facing the square, with my back to him.
And then a sharp, warm pain in my back.
It’s a funny thing. For all the bizarre distortions and traveling in time we’ve done, it’s the moment that has nothing to do with time magic that stands out – when time slows down for all its own mundane reasons, breaks down into flashes, reduces itself to images that come drop by drop.
Looking past the crowd in the square. Catching the shortest glimpse of a third Faranell appearing in front of the inn as if from nowhere.
The blur of my Faranell rushing toward the other two.
My eyes dropping to look at my chest. The blade of the Ashbringer, jutting out, coated with dark blood.
The fact that it didn’t even hurt nearly as much as I’d think it would. The thought that maybe that was still coming.
Looking back up, to the sight of flickering yellow cracks spreading silently in the air around the inn. A pulsing yellow ball of light swelling up without a sound, then bursting out in all directions.
And I remember looking down again at the sword bursting from my chest, and the blood coming in slow-motion spurts. And I remember, just as the wave of warm yellow light washed over me…I think I remember laughing.
The rest is darkness.
And then I woke up.