"Taldrus, don't start…at least, not in front of THEM."

 

That was what Rann imagined Arialynn said with the look on her face. The two paladins, heroes in many respects, accompanied Rann and Shadowsage on a very special trip. Rann wasn't sure now whose idea it had been — hers or Shadowsage's — but they had managed to get the Bronze Dragonflight to agree: a special honor would be accorded those two, both to increase the chances of them returning alive from the campaign on Draenor, and to rally the forces of the Templars.

 

Seeing Justicar Dawnfield herself ride valiantly into the Templar fortress on her charger, a horse who had died at Theramore, would surely inspire any who might otherwise lose heart. They were allowing Arialynn to do the impossible…and for Rann, it was a way to thank her for making the Templars the organization it had become. Without them, the quel'dorei mage thought, she might well have severed ties with Horde and Alliance alike. Kageseji would still have been her student, but the incidents with the Kirin Tor would not have been overlooked, and Rann would likely have become a very bitter hermit. The Templars had provided her some stability in these tumultuous years of late, and she owed them — and Arialynn — a debt of gratitude. This was an attempt to repay some of that. 

 

Arialynn always surprised Rann, though — and yet, she was entirely predictable. The woman was stoic, almost frustratingly so. Moving montages and recordings, elegant speeches had been composed to bring to mind all those she had inspired, to answer the obvious question of why she had been chosen for this honor. But the Justicar never asked, "why me?" She took facts at their face value — a good policy, but right now, Rann wished Arialynn would just ask why. 

 

Actually, she wished she could save all of these people. She was sure the Justicar and Taldrus felt the same way. Shadowsage seemed cold at times like this…unfeeling. But Rann had known her Bronze Flight-employed friend long enough to know better. As Rann looked over her friend while they walked the streets of the doomed city, she realized Shadowsage's coldness wasn't about her lack of caring. That cold exterior was only that: the exterior. An armor to keep herself from the ever-present temptation to change history…especially now.

 

Shadowsage walked slowly, giving Taldrus and Arialynn plenty of space in front of them, the reins of Arialynn's mighty horse, Titan, firmly in her grip. Her eyes stayed focused firmly on the couple, but occasionally darted over to Rann. When she caught Rann staring at her, she asked, "What?"

 

Rann shook her head, then nodded to a passing guard whom she was sure was dead today. "I just don't know how you do this all the time."

 

Shadowsage looked down, her words coming slowly. "It…never gets easier. It's like…healing a deep wound. You get in quickly, do exactly what you're there for — no more or less — then get out and close it, quickly…without messing with anything you don't absolutely need to. This isn't an adventure, Rann… It's surgery." She looked over at the mage. "And it IS wounded. Time is alive, and it hurts, thanks to Garrosh and Kairoz. Now our people are hemorrhaging out of that wound. We're losing them. This, at least, might ensure that Arialynn and more of our fellow Templars survive: Arialynn as a direct result of having Titan, and other Templars thanks to the morale boost. But we can't change anything else."

 

Rann had begun staring off toward the docks where she saw a familiar face. There stood Sumeri Jordan, a young woman who, in the present, was one of Rann's apprentices. Sumeri had lost her eyesight on this day, blinded by the mana bomb as she escaped through her own portal at the last fraction of a second. As if noticing Rann's eyes on her, Sumeri turned and looked directly at, sparing her a friendly smile before returning her attention to those she was evacuating. What a simple thing it would be to just shove her through her own portal, or to tell her, "Don't wait until the last second, okay?" 

 

"Rann."

 

Rann blinked and looked back at Shadowsage, whose silver eyes were narrowed at her. She knew that look: not suspicion, but accusation. Sage clearly knew exactly what Rann had been thinking. 

 

"Nothing else," Shadowsage insisted.

 

"I know, sorry. I was just…arguing with myself about saving Sumeri's sight." 

 

Shadowsage sighed. "I have that argument every time I see her. You never know, though. Suppose I told you to go for it. Do it. Her righteous anger against Garrosh is the same for Theramore's destruction, but without the handicap of blindness to make her cautious, she pushes harder at the Siege of Orgrimmar, grows reckless, and gets herself killed. Perhaps even gets us all killed. You think you're helping, but really, you could be changing so much more than you know."

 

Rann had to admit to herself that she hadn't thought of that possibility. "That's…" 

 

Shadowsage shook her head. "Like I said…it never gets any easier."

 

"I expect this can't be easy for Arialynn and Taldrus either," Rann said. "When this is done tonight…they'll have to say goodbye to Theramore again."

 

"Again?" Shadowsage asked. "Everyone who survived would say it happened so fast, there was no goodbye. This, though… You're right, it won't be easy, but I suspect it will bring some measure of closure."

 

Rann nodded. "Highmaul's defenses are crumbling, and soon we turn our attacks on the Foundry. They'll have to be focused. I hope you're right."

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