[Story] Sideways

The first place that Renzdormu went was the Dragonshrine. With the mage keeping an eye on the boy, he felt confident enough to leave the school. It would only take a few moments here, anyway. He stepped out into the darkened, quiet garden, letting his elven illusion fade away as he opened a portal to the Dragonshrine. There was less need for secrecy now, and he had to hurry. They hadn’t got any answers from the boy, not that he’d really expected to. He was blind, as most of them were until taught how to think differently. But he’d said that his “father” had killed the dragons pursuing him. If that were true… Renzdormu didn’t want to believe that it was.

He alit on the sand, warm and dry and familiar. Here, his true size was reflected in an echo of another time, whatever “age” really meant to a bronze dragon. Certainly, this version of him was much larger, and bore more scars on his hide. That he appeared younger now was the result of his traveling backward; he did this primarily because he could, and for a change now and then. He’d also found that elves and other small people reacted with less panic to a smaller dragon than a large one. He shook his head free of the clinging sand, and looked for whoever might be here. Everyone was here in one time or another, their images keeping watch from another time. But he needed those who were here now, those who could give him information — he hoped.

There were a few perched on a small rock outcropping, seemingly discussing something. That was good. As he approached, Renzdormu realized that one of them was Zaradormi — he’d recognize those sinuous haunches anywhere! But he hadn’t any time to admire them, as she whirled and struck at him as he approached, swift as a cobra. Her teeth made a gouge in the scales of his neck, which startled him more than it hurt.

“How dare you show yourself here!” she hissed, her jaws still wide. “This is all your fault!”

Behind her, the other two dragons said nothing, but watched Renzdormu with reproachful gazes.

“I didn’t teach that one,” he protested, backing a few steps away from Zarah’s waiting jaws.

The female dragon snorted, tossing her head. “Not now. But you could have. They don’t just learn these things on their own. He had to be taught. He’s strong.”

Renzdormu nodded meekly, because he knew she was right. His mind had been searching for an alternative, but it kept returning to that possibility, because it was the most likely. But a dragon knew better, had known from before it ever hatched, the mysteries of time and the ways that it could be manipulated — and the ways that it couldn’t. “It could have been someone else. There are a lot of timewalkers now, aren’t there? Don’t you have one?”

Zarah’s eyes flashed in indignance. “My student would never dream of something so foolish. She’s responsible. Look what yours has done! Think of how much work it will be to repair all of this.”

If he remembered rightly, Zarah’s student was a human that lived in Stormwind. But he didn’t see her here at the shrine. “You didn’t bring her?”

“Of course not! It’s far too dangerous. Or hadn’t you heard? He’s killed four already, and wounded a fifth. Their blood is on your hands.”

Renzdormu lowered his head. He had hoped that the boy was wrong about that. To be able to kill any dragon, let alone four, meant that this mage was very strong indeed. Hethurin was strong, but not -that- strong. Was this mage even Hethurin at all, or someone who had stolen his appearance? Zarah was staring at him expectantly.

“Well?” she demanded, her tail lashing the sand. “What are you going to do?”

The dust was the only connection they had, unless the mage returned to the school for the boy. He wasn’t certain if he would. “I have a bit of portal residue. Maybe it will tell me where it originated.”

The other dragon snorted. “Hadn’t you better do that then? Before he breaks another?”

When he had first come to the school, Des often asked whether he’d had a girlfriend or not. Then later, when Hethurin told her the truth, she’d asked whether he wanted to have offspring of his own. His answer had been vague, because even now he wasn’t exactly sure where things stood between them. They had been mates once, or something like it, though they had never raised a clutch of eggs. They’d certainly tried, on more than one occasion. And now it could never happen, though “never” meant little to bronze dragons. Still, the revelation had soured Zarah’s disposition toward him greatly. She definitely hadn’t liked his suggestion that they try anyway, he still had a scar on his side from that. He had always been too busy — whether monitoring the timeways or fixing the messes that elves had made, just as he was doing now.

“You won’t come with?” he asked, and for a moment he thought he saw her eyes soften.

“We’ll see,” she said at last.

Terellion thought he’d woken late, because Hethurin wasn’t there under the covers with him. It looked like his side had been slept in, though. He couldn’t wait to tell him about the really weird dream he’d had last night. In the dream, they’d all been woken up by a loud sound in the room, and a boy came through the portal from another time. He kept saying that Hethurin was his father, that was the weirdest part of all. Renner and Des were there too, in their sleeping robes. They must have heard the sound and come to investigate as well. Everyone had been arguing about what to do with the boy, whether to hide him from Tik in the kitchen or the bathroom or the cellar. Maybe he’d eaten something strange late last night, but he couldn’t remember eating anything besides cake close to bedtime.

He pulled the curtain back and saw Hethurin sitting in the the chair with two cups of tea. Terellion smiled — until he saw the figure on the floor, covered with blankets. He rubbed his eyes, but the strange boy was still there. How could this all be real? It was like something you’d read in a book, not real life.

“The tea’s ready,” said Hethurin, as if nothing was wrong at all.

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