Monday, June 10, 2013

[Karazhan's Story] 2.0: Into the Past!

Cinematic ending scene to the Terminus storyline:

"Great sun, look! It's activating!" Suddenly, and with no warning, I found myself back in the real world. Or at least, I hope I was back to normal. normal as I could be, considering I was nothing more than a soul driving a sourcestone created body with who knows how many other souls as my passengers. A moment of amusement as I considered a group of shining balls of light (my idea of a soul) all sitting demurely in one of the Spirit-drawn carriages we employed in my home city. With a bone jarring thud, I landed, the breath knocked from my body. Well at least I had a body again. That weightless feeling of nothing, that blankness that happens when you sleep or die, had engulfed me the second I'd stepped into the breach in time that the Failsafe device had triggered was not a feeling I'd ever like to experience again. Ever. The brief moments before my mind went blank were the worst moments of my new existence. I thought I was going to die. Again.

     It took my heart a few moments to stop wanting to burst out of my chest. I'm sure I can be forgiven for having survived a face to face encounter with Regulos and gone through a time machine into the past at the same time. I could still see his horrifying face behind my eyes. I took a deep breath and hesitantly opened my eyes, half afraid I'd still be in that clearing at the base of the volcano, waiting to be devoured by Regulos. And my jaw dropped. It was like I was in a completely different world. And I guess technically, I was. A new, fresh Telara that had yet to be destroyed by the war that I'd come to prevent. Holy Spirits! It had actually worked! I'd hardly dared believe that there had actually been a way to reset everything. To go back and fix it so that the future I'd been reborn into wouldn't happen. I felt like cheering, or screaming. After the initial thrill had worn off, I glanced around curiously. I wonder where I ended up?

     I was standing on a metal platform that contained whirring and clicking gears. Behind me, a long metal arm extended out of the platform to a circle of metal overhead. A control panel sat nearby with a confusing number of dials and buttons on it that looked similar to the one Stavel was using. If I focused on bringing both this scene and the one from where I'd just come from, I could potentially see that they were the same machine. Which mean that though the timeline had changed, my location had been fixed. I'd travelled, not horizontally, but vertically, going through time to arrive at a different date but yet, not moving from my position. Even with my admittedly small understanding of time and physics, my mind just couldn't seem to want to wrap itself around the idea that time travel was actually, irrefutably, possible. It made me wonder why this device hadn't been used for other things. But than I remembered that it had taken a lot of Sourcestone to power the device. A king's ransom worth. That much sourcestone would be insanely expensive, not to mention, difficult to obtain. Another reason why everyone in the future was so fixated on my being their only hope. They literally couldn't afford to do it again if something went wrong. I forcefully pushed such grim thoughts away. It was all in the past now. Or the future...or something. What's done is done, I needed to focus on the here and now.

    Beyond the mechanical device I stood on, I could see verdant low hanging trees, gently sloping hills, and an old wooden bridge that led across a severe dip in the earth, like someone had scooped out a handful of earth. To the left the land tapered away into a short beach that ended at a sparkling body of water. Craning my neck to glance behind, I noticed a cobbled path that led to a larger, more extravagant bridge. The kind that led to castles and such. This bridge was beautiful, elegant and silver. Unfortunately, it seemed to be broken, snapped off support beams rearing into the air like accusing fingers. I wonder what happened to it.

     "Kremeny, something came through the portal..." said a different voice, which reminded me that yes I'd heard talking. I quickly swiveled around and stared at two men standing to the side of the platform, staring at me in open mouthed wonder and fear. "What is it?!" The man asked his fellow, Kremeny, who stared at me hard, as if trying to decide what type of insect I was. This brought back to me the importance that I needed to relay the information from Asha Catari from the future! The warning that the Ward would fall and Regulos would descend on Telara and destroy all! I fixed my eyes on the two men.

     "Hello." I said. My voice came out a bit scratchy and I realized I was thirsty. Insanely thirsty. I wonder if that was a side effect of the time travel. Ha, time travel. I still couldn't believe that it had worked! I looked up at the sky, feeling a grin stretching my features. My heart felt so light suddenly. I was so very glad to get away from that place of death and despair and entropy. Even now, it had mostly faded from my memory, repressed by my psyche no doubt. Probably for the best.

    "It speaks!" Exclaimed the same man again, at the same time as the other one said hello back. Kremeny rolled his eyes at his fellow guard. "Of course she speaks nitwit. Look at what she's wearing. Just think Ballard, what were we supposed to stay here and watch for?" He gave his friend a significant look, then gestured to myself. "Don't you see now? It's like Master Valis said! She's an Ascended from the future!" There was so much awe and fear and wonderment in his voice that I felt like cringing. The other guard, Ballard, turned back at me so fast I winced sympathetically, wondering if he'd strained something. He stared at me, face going even paler, and backed up a step.

     "An Ascended! Great sun! I can't believe it! No one ever thought the time machine would ever work! We've just begun trials on the Ascension process. And now there's one standing before me..." he trailed off, looking faint, and I quirked an eyebrow. Wait, like the others? There were more? I felt excitement claw at me.

    "Are you alright?" I asked distractedly in my gruff voice. It still sounded odd, hearing my words come out in a voice that was much rougher and lower than my own melodic Kelari accent. I wnt over what I was going to say in my head. Kremeny nudged his companion and rolled his eyes.

     "Yes, he's fine thanks. We're just a little shocked you understand! We knew what the machine was for of course. Everyone does. No one expected it to work so soon though! Except Orphiel...he predicted it. And you've come just in time!" I nodded absently, not really paying attention. I sent tendrils of elemental magic out on the air, testing the atmosphere. The thick cloying scent of death magic hung in the air and I frowned in alarm. Was I too late?

     "Excuse me. I am on a mission of utmost importance. Who can I speak to? I have vital information from...the future." I finished lamely, not knowing exactly how to finish. It was true, I was from the future, but it sounded so ludicrous saying it out loud. To his credit, Kremeny didn't chuckle or make a comment on my words.

      He rubbed the back of his helmeted head. "Well, Trinian Nillor is the resident temporal technologist. He knows all this sciency stuff. Me, I'm just a regular soldier. Freemarch is my home and I signed on to the Defiant's army cause they helped us when the rifts started appearing. I was sent to watch the Failsafe with my new pal Ballard here, as a show of unity between the Wardens and the Defiants" The man kept babbling and I wondered how long these two had been stationed out here to guard this device. I boldly took a step off the platform and the two guards hastily backed up a few more steps, then looked sheepish when I gave them a level look. With all that was going on in Telara they are scared of an ally from the future?

     "Where might I find this Trinian Nillor than?" I asked, keeping my voice quiet and neutral. Wordlessly, Ballard pointed behind him, where I could see a red robed male figure bent over another technical panel not far away. I was surprised he hadn't come to investigate all the antics these two were displaying. With a nod and murmur of thanks, I left the two guards discussing excitedly amongst themselves, easily eating up ground with my longer and more powerful legs. I will say this much about the Bahmi. They have well shaped bodies. I was muscular, with powerful limbs and weathered skin, but I also still had a well proportioned feminine shape. I also liked my hands. Fine boned and long fingered, they were artists hands. Or technicians hands. I grinned, imagining all the magitech experiments I could conduct now that I was among allies who encouraged such things.

     "Excuse me?" I offered to the man so as not to startle him. He gave a small yelp and fell on his rump. That wasn't exactly what I had intended. His sudden movement caused a deep seated instinct I didn't know I had to kick in, and somehow I found myself braced, staff in hand. A few moments went by where we stared wide eyed at each other in tense confusion, before I relaxed my battle stance and waved my hand in apology. The man frowned at me, than glanced behind me. I twisted my staff around and thrust it back through the harness across my back, then leaned down and held out my hand.

    The man took it, after giving me another confused look. He made a show of huffing and dusting himself off and I smirked, realizing that he must have become so absorbed in his work that he blocked out the outside world. I guess now I know why he didn't notice my sudden appearance earlier.

     "Who are you?" The man asked, his look of confusing transforming into wariness and suspicion. This may be a different world, but I could still see the marks of strife and tension on all of these men. Maybe I hadn't gone back far enough and this is only the beginning. Maybe now I have to relieve all the terrible things that had led to the future I'd been born into. Maybe...ugh get a grip Kara! I mentally chastised myself.

     "My name is Karazhan Solanta. I am an Ascended created by Sylver Valis and sent back in time to prevent the coming apocalypse." I said simply and seriously. My blunt words seemed to have the opposite effect I'd been expecting. The man's eyes widened in excited delight, as if he'd just found out that Fae Yule had come early. He veritably danced forward into my personal space, eyeing me up and down. I folded my arms and tried not to feel self conscious as he studied me. After all, it was much the same reaction as the other scientists back at the Life Factory.

     "This is amazing! Another one of you powerful beings will be essential in stopping the armies of Regulos and those blasted Guardians! Maybe soon we can have a whole army of you! Are you really from the future? Orphiel and Sylver were confident that the Failsafe would work, and that if it was needed, it would be used. He sent guards up here to watch out for such a thing...but no one actually thought it would work. Or so soon! Great sun! To think I've witnessed the success of all our work in my lifetime!" I gave an exasperated sigh at what I was beginning to realize was an overused expression. Great sun. Really, who came up with that? Probably the Eth. Oblivious to my inner musings, the man continued, "this is amazing. With this kind of power at our disposal, the Defiant will be victorious against all who oppose us!"

     I scowled. "I'm no one's tool. I am an actual person. I may be an ally but I don't like being treated like some magitech construct to be sent out to destroy enemies when the whim takes you." I admonished sharply. I may be willing to lend my considerable talent and newly awarded power to help the Defiant cause, because they were like minded individuals and I had no one else left, but I would not be used like some sentient weapon, to be aimed at anything the Defiant considered a threat. This may not be my body, but I was still me!

     Trinian had the sense to look slightly ashamed. "I'm sorry...Karazhan was it? I didn't mean for it to come out like that. It's just...we've been having so many things go wrong lately, and now the Guardians are constantly attacking us, and there's something stirring in the march, and we keep hearing rumors of death magic being on the rise, and our attempts at creating our own machineborn Ascended keep failing. It's a real mess here, and we could use any help we can get. That's all I meant." He smiled hesitantly, eyes searching mine earnestly. I stared silently at his sun darkened face than sighed and nodded.

     "Very well, I accept your apology. But I would like to ask a few questions, please. Are there other Ascended like me? What is the situation with Regulos? Has he attacked yet? What year are we in and what plans do we have to defend Telara against the Blood Storm threat?" I glanced around, making a vague hand wave. "I'm sure you can imagine this is a bit overwhelming for me. You have no idea the nightmare I've been through just to get here. And all those lives lost...Asha! Is Asha here? Is she alive?" I asked the last questions rapidly, suddenly remembering Asha's desperate last stand against Regulos. My skin suddenly felt cold when I recalled the flat, dead eyes of the destroyer as he stared right into my soul. I was very, very glad I was immortal, because I would not want to meet up with him after death. It was rumored that the Soulstream, where all souls went after being severed from their earthly ties, led to Regulos, the god of death. Trinian blinked owlishly at me for a moment, stunned.

    "Oh, right, of course!" Trinian looked around fondly. "This is Freemarch. It wasn't always called that, but we renamed it when we finally claimed our freedom against Jakub." He spat to the side as he said the name. I was curious as to who that was, but kept silent. I'm sure I could find out later. "It's year 1509, 5th moon. The year of the Ascended, as the Guardians have finally fulfilled their precious prophecy."

     I gave a puzzled head tilt and the man laughed, rather bitterly. "What, you haven't heard? Oh right, future. Well, earlier this month, the Guardians experienced a wave of powerful Ascended heroes arriving from the past. They'd suddenly disappeared after the Shade Wars, and everyone thought they were gone for good, but nope, can't get rid of those blasted Vigil worshipping fanatics. If they didn't have their hands full of their own problems we'd no doubt get a more personal up close look at their Ascended, instead of these missile strikes they keep sending. But now we have you, our very own Ascended! Although...I wish there were more of you..."
     He looked behind me in bemusement, as if expecting a dozen replicas of me to suddenly pop up. "I have heard rumors of other machine born creations, such as Asha Catari, Kira Thanos, and a few others. But I can't say for certain. I'm just one scientist, and not very important at that, so I don't hear much." He grinned. "How was the future like?" he asked innocently, eager for information.

     "I don't know, actually. From what I saw of Telara, Regulos was moments away from destroying what little that remained..." I tried hard to keep the emotions from strangling my voice and stopped to take a breath through my mouth. "This is Freemarch huh?" I said abruptly, wanting to change the subject.

      I had heard of the place before. It was where...wait. Year 1509? That means...I had died on the Ember Isles 25 years ago. I felt a cold shiver. Here I was, walking and talking, years past the date of my death. Feeling very morbid, I wondered if I'd find my tombstone if I ventured back to the Isle and looked for it. I would say I was taking that little fact very well except, compared to everything else I'd experienced, finding out that I'd died on an island far away from here 25 years ago wasn't exactly the most shocking thing I'd experienced today. Trinian and I lapsed into an awkward silence. Suddenly remembering the whole reason I was here, and how imperative it was that I relay my information to someone of authority, I fixed Trinian with a commanding look.

     "Who around here would have the highest authority? Where is an officer I can find to talk to? It's important that I inform someone of authority of what I've witnessed." Trinian Nillor blinked.

     "Oh, right, of course! Should have thought of that immediately. They will want to know about this. I can still hardly believe it....the future. You better go see Sanora Rellwyn. She's the commanding officer in charge of the defenses at the Arc. She'll definitely want to know that we have a hero from the future on our side." Inexplicably I blushed. Hero. That wasn't a word I'd labeled myself with. When hearing stories of ancient heroes who'd stood up against the dragons and done acts of bravery and selflessness, I'd always thought myself too fond of life to risk it for others, let alone strangers. But I'd changed. I could feel it. I wasn't the same girl I was before and I now felt pride in risking myself to save Telara. I shook my head to focus on the task at hand.

     Trinian pointed off to the side, where I'd seen the old wooden bridge. Now that I knew where to look, I could see a sheer smooth wall up against the point where the valley butted up against a sheer mountain. The sun winked off something shiny and red that was set into the wall. I thanked Trinian, assuring him that if I had time, I'd come back and talk more, since he looked so morose at my leaving. I made for the small, nearly invisible path that led down into the tiny valley.

     A high pitched whining noise proceeded the ground shuddering as a large flaming cannon ball slammed into the mountain to my left and I stared in shock. Glancing over my shoulder, I mentally traced the arch of the projectile's path, trying to guess where it had come from. Somewhere from beyond that broken silver bridge, I'd say. Who was lobbing cannons willy nilly? Was it those Guardians that Trinian had mentioned?

    I continued down into the dip of land, but kept my ears trained or any more projectiles. I'd rather not get reduced to a puddle of Ascended goo my first day back from the future. Even though it was still a shock to realize I was in a different time, a different Telara than I knew, I was already beginning to refer to this time and place as home. Unless another time machine could be invented to send me back to my time, I was stuck here. And it wasn't actually that bad. I'd find my place among the Defiants and I'd carve a place for myself here. I had the power and the strength and the magic to make a difference, and I sure wasn't going to waste it.

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