I have murdered one of my own.
The thought hit Nozdormu the Timeless One the instant he saw the desiccated bronze dragon. Zirion had shriveled into a husk half his original size. Lesions covered his body from head to tail. Instead of blood, golden sand cascaded out of the wounds in unending streams upon which shimmered ghostly images of his life that had not yet come to pass. His future was bleeding out of him.
Nozdormu strode across one of the isolated peaks of Mount Hyjal to stand by Zirion’s side, every moment of history rippling over the Timeless One’s sun-colored scales. As he loomed over the dying dragon, a wave of helplessness flooded through him. An impenetrable veil had descended on the timeways, one that not even he, the Aspect of the bronze dragonflight and the Guardian of Time, could pierce. The past and future—things he had once seen with clarity—had become muddled.
“Where are the othersss?” Nozdormu craned his great neck toward Tick, who stood nearby. The loyal dragon had transported Zirion on her back from the bronze flight’s lair in the Caverns of Time with all due speed, a feat possible only because of her passenger’s withered state.
Tick’s breaths were still labored from the ordeal. “He returned alone.”
“How can that be?” Nozdormu growled in frustration. “Twelve I dispatched into the past. Twelve!”
He had tasked his agents with investigating the unsettling condition of the timeways, but now he couldn’t shake the feeling that he had merely consigned them to their deaths. Upon returning to the present, the dragons were supposed to have met the Timeless One atop Hyjal precisely at midday. It was well past noon when Tick, whom he had not sent into the timeways, had arrived, bearing Zirion.
“What did you sssee, Zirion?” Nozdormu asked as he began weaving spells to reverse the sands of time escaping from the other dragon.
“I fear he has lost the strength to speak,” Tick put in.
The Timeless One barely heard her. The impossible was happening: his magic was having no effect. His actions had been predicted and countered by equally powerful spellwork. There was only one being in existence who possessed the foresight and skill to best the bronze Aspect in the realm of time…
“When he first returned from the timeways,” Tick continued hesitantly, “he recounted what he saw. No matter where he and the others attempted to journey in history, they always emerged at the same point in the future… the Hour of Twilight.”
Nozdormu lowered his head and clenched his eyes shut. It was as he had feared. The strands of time had been gathered and pulled toward the apocalypse. In that gray and lifeless future, even the Timeless One would meet his end. That, at least, was what he believed. Ages ago, when the titan Aman’Thul had imbued him with his mastery over time, Nozdormu had also gained knowledge of his own demise.
“Who was responsible for hisss wounds?” The Timeless One knew the answer, but he hoped more than anything that he was wrong… that what he had seen was an anomaly. Tick averted her eyes from Nozdormu.
I have murdered one of my own. The damning words echoed in the Aspect’s head.
He had once thought the infinite flight was merely a symptom of an errant timeline. Yet, as inconceivable as it seemed, he had learned that he and his bronze dragons would in the future abandon their sacred charge—protecting the integrity of time—and work to subvert it.
Nozdormu mulled over the events of the past weeks, struggling to control his anger. He had been trapped in the timeways until recently, when the mortal Thrall had reminded him of the First Lesson: that living in the moment was far more important than dwelling on the past or future. The bronze Aspect had emerged from his captivity with a newfound understanding of time… only to find himself now confronted by his darkest fears.