Rann held her breath, struggling to avoid considering how she would next try to find her quarry if this didn’t pan out.

Mallory hadn’t been seen since she had opened a small cafe in Boralus. One day, she simply stopped showing up. The cafe had eventually closed, repossessed by Kul Tiras and reopened under a different name when the funding from Mallory had stopped.

No one had heard from her. Even her sister, Emma, and her bodyguard, Doradrassil, couldn’t find her. But recently, Emma had strange rashes appearing on her skin, and refused to allow anyone but Mallory to see her. And Doradrassil had vanished into thin air not long after Mallory. Given her role as a Warden, it was likely she had placed her military duties above all else, but the fact that she’d never been heard from again worried Rann.

When Rann had first began searching for Mallory, the Warden had told her that her friend was “exceptionally good at going undetected. If she doesn’t wish to be found, she won’t be found.”

Rann just wanted peace of mind that her precious friend was okay. They had been through so much together. She couldn’t simply write Mallory off as gone without a trace indefinitely. But try as she might, there was no trace to be found. It was as if, after her stint at the cafe in Boralus, she had simply ceased to exist. For that matter, so had Razboom, the goblin who had once bickered with Rann so hilariously that she had very nearly fallen for him. A high elf… falling for a goblin! Imagine the scandal in the old days of Quel’thalas!

Even the Shadowlands hadn’t coughed up hide nor hair of Mallory, Doradrassil, or Razboom… though Rann had to admit she hadn’t searched them thoroughly, so unsettling and disturbing were they to her. It was entirely possible she had missed some clue there. Perhaps, if this didn’t pan out, that would be where she would return to in her quest for answers, if she could make herself stomach the place. So now, here she was, slipping through timeways with the aid of the Bronze Dragonflight. It had taken no small amount of favors to finally earn their help. She had an old contact in the flight who had been nearly as difficult to track down as Mallory, but even then, many strings had to be pulled.

“Thanks for helping me,” Rann whispered to her friend as they wove between timelines and images of Teldrassil, both burned and whole, shifted around them.

“Don’t mention it. Helping you helps us too,” the dragon replied. “After all, the closest bead we have to your friend also corresponds with a minor disturbance in the timeways.”

“So if we find the disturbance, we find her?”

“Well, that’s the theory. Here we are now. Just push through these sands here.”

Rann obeyed, pushing through a whirling mist of bronze sands, and stepping out into Darnassus, just as she remembered it. She glanced around, but saw no immediate sign of Mallory. She turned to her bronze friend. “You see anything?”

A low growl, perhaps a hum of thinking, came in reply before the disguised bronze dragon pointed to the Tradesmen’s Terrace. “That way for the disturbance. Let us hope your friend is there.”

Rann frowned. There was a good chance they would indeed run into Mallory, but would it be the present-day Mallory, or the Mallory of the past who had actually lived here during this time?

“What if she meets herself or something?” Rann asked. “Wouldn’t that be bad?”

“Not as bad as you may think,” came the reply as they walked toward the Tradesmen’s Terrace. “Several of us have met our future and past selves. But something like a time loop is active here. And someone isn’t bound within it. That friction is what’s causing the disturbance.”

Rann frowned again. This was sounding less and less like it would be related to Mallory, but she was here now. She might as well investigate.

They soon approached Mallory’s home on the Tradesmen’s Terrace, a second-floor open-air loft, little more than a breezeway with a bed and a privacy screen, and a smattering of other furniture.

“The disturbance is coming from here,” the bronze dragon murmured to Rann. “Shall we?”

Rann nodded, then rounded a corner so that the home’s “interior” came into view. There sat Mallory, clothed simply in loungewear, writing at a desk. A small artifact on the desk glowed with the telltale time magic of the Bronze Dragonflight. Although she looked just as pretty as she always had, but she looked somehow older than Rann remembered. Tired.

“Mallory?”

Mallory turned in open-mouthed surprise, blinking in shock. She quickly grabbed at the artifact and stuffed it into her pocket before turning fully to Rann and standing from her seat.

“Rann? What… what are you doing here? Why have you come? And… how did you…” She narrowed her eyes for a moment at the disguised bronze dragon, and it was clear she had seen through the disguise. “Ah… the Bronze Flight. Of course.”

“Mal, I’ve been looking for you for years. You just… stopped showing up at the cafe and then…”

At this, Mallory had a far-away look in her eyes. “Years? How… how long have I been gone?”

“Never mind that now,” Rann said, shaking her head. “How did you get here?”

Mallory turned back to her desk, settling back into her chair and gesturing to two other seats, which Mallory and her bronze dragon friend took.

“I wanted a fresh start,” Mallory started. “Or that’s what I told Emma. Truth is, I just wanted to go back. I couldn’t bear to let go. Of… of Teldrassil, of all I accomplished here. Any of it. I worked the cafe, but… my heart wasn’t in it. I think people could tell. Then, one day, a high elf came in. A disguised bronze dragon, like your friend here. It was a slow day and he was the only patron, so we got to talking. Eventually I opened up about what had brought me to Boralus. All the awful things… and he offered me a trinket that I could use to loop time around me. I came here with his help… figured out ‘when’ I was, and waited for a day that the original me was out for the day. So, there’s another Mallory out there right now, sailing to Stormwind on this particular day as I recall. So I pose as her… or, as myself, and can loop this day repeatedly, and continue living in Teldrassil.”

“But… you’re living the same day over and over?” Rann asked.

Mallory shrugged. “People want to talk about the same thing every day. Of course, what can be different is me, and people do respond differently depending on me, so there is at least some newness there. It’s… not a bad price to pay, considering there are only so many days one can live in this doomed place.”

Rann gaped at her. To be unwilling to let go of the place was one thing, and the Bronze Dragonflight was known to make arrangements now and then to help people in such cases. But this…

“No wonder we sensed a disturbance,” Rann’s bronze companion seethed. “You’ve been repeating the same day, deliberately, adding to the disturbance each time!”

“Mallory, I don’t blame you,” Rann said. “But this… you can’t keep doing this.”

“Can’t I, though? So what’s happened in the world since I’ve been away? And come to think of it, again… how long have I been away?”

Rann shook her head sadly, looking down at her hands folded in her lap. “I… I’m not sure how to begin. It’s been… it’s been seven years, Mallory.”

Mallory blinked, the color draining from her face. “S-seven… years? I’ve been gone that long?”

Rann nodded, choking back tears. “I’m sorry you didn’t think you could come to your friends. I know what it’s like to lose my home, Mallory.”

“I’ve lost mine twice,” Mallory spat back, a sharp bite in her tone. “I couldn’t deal with it the second time.”

This was going nowhere. She decided to get back on subject. “A-anyway… you disappeared 33 years after the Dark Portal. It’s now the year 40. I searched everywhere for you. The whole length and breadth of Azeroth. Doradrassil didn’t know where you went… then she disappeared too. Probably went off fighting the Horde.”

“I hope she tore them all to shreds,” Mallory spat.

Rann was taken aback at Mallory’s bitterness, but then, for her, the pain of losing Teldrassil was still fresh. It was still one of the most recent things she knew. And living in its memory for seven years, how could it not be?

“I’m… I’m sure she fought bravely,” Rann said tentatively. “I never heard from Razboom either.”

At this, Mallory tensed and looked away. It was clear she knew something, but Rann wasn’t about to press just now.

“Kul Tiras joined the Alliance, like you hoped for,” Rann continued, “And Zandalar joined the Horde. The two had it out. There was a Fourth War.”

“Who won?” Mallory asked quickly.

“…No one did. We all lost. Queen Azshara made a move. The Old Gods made a move along with her. Faceless ones, Black Empire, all that stuff. All over the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and Uldum and places like that. Horde and Alliance united against Sylvanas, much the same way they did against Garrosh. They deposed Sylvanas, but she escaped. There was some big to-do where the realm of death could be seen in the skies over Icecrown. We could go there. I even looked for you there, fearing the worst, but nothing. Long story short, Sylvanas finally paid for her crimes and… from what I heard, she’s serving some kind of penance or something. And, if you can believe it, after that, we actually had a few years of peace. Real peace! Then some ancient islands started ‘awakening,’ and a new World Tree was grown. A new Teldrassil. They call it Amirdrassil. A new city for the night elves, and it’s connected to the Emerald Dream. I… I think you’d love it, Mallory.”

She studied her friend for a long while. Mallory closed her eyes for several long moments, and Rann almost began to wonder if she had fallen asleep.

“I can almost see it,” Mallory whispered. “I’m sorry I missed it all. Especially the peace.”

Rann offered a hand. “You know… it might be a good time to come back. You’ve missed some things, yes, but… it’s not too late.”

Mallory stared at Rann’s open hand for a few moments before narrowing her eyes at the disguised bronze dragon. “As if I had a choice,” she hissed.

“You do have a choice, Mal,” Rann insisted. “You can come back of your own volition, as my friend, or you can come back as the dragon’s prisoner. But you can’t keep damaging the timeline like this.”

“The artifact you were given,” the dragon spoke, “was likely from an infinite dragon seeking to subvert the timeways.”

Mallory slowly nodded. “Yeah… I… gathered that from the beginning, actually. I’m just tired. I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“You had too much of the pain, so you decided to wallow in it forevermore?” the dragon chided.

“I’m going to do you a favor and pretend you didn’t say that,” Mallory seethed, her eyes narrowed. “But Rann’s right… I can’t keep this up forever.”

“There’s one other thing, Mal,” Rann added. “Emma’s… something’s happened to her. Some sort of rash, I guess? But she won’t see anyone but you. She flat refuses.”

At this, Mallory actually chuckled. “Stubborn sister… heh… Fine, I’ll go to her. And I’ll tell you what her deal is. You of all people have earned the right to know. But you say Doradrassil is still missing?”

“Yes,” Rann replied, trying not to grow too excited that Mallory would finally be returning. “And Razboom too.”

Mallory winced again as if in pain. “I… guess I should tell you about him first. I’m sorry, Rann. I know how much Razboom meant to you… but… he’s…”

“He’s gone?” Rann felt her heart sink, even though she had suspected as much for a long time.

“If you searched this ‘realm of the dead,’ he should have been there somewhere. He… when Teldrassil was burned, he discovered who I was. He learned that I was the Shadow Trader, and he tried to kill me. I… I had no choice, Rann. I had to defend myself. I’m so sorry.”

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