I stared up at the ceiling, barely making out the pattern of the fabric hanging above me. My tired eyes saw stars in the fabric, the very same that I had seen when I was a little girl. I closed my eyes to try to sleep, but my mind kept circling around the information that Diahnee had given me, as well as the murals.
My dreams were strange and troubled. I saw Diahnee, but not as I knew her at present. She took on different forms and faces, but I knew without a doubt that it was her. Each time that I met her, we fought side by side until we reached a cave. In that cave were books as far as the eye could see. When I looked up, I saw the ceiling of the cave was gone and I could see two moons hanging in the night sky.
When I woke, I made sure to write my dreams down. I read over them and remembered something that Ölrún had once told me: dreams could reveal things to us that the waking world couldn’t. Out of curiosity, I rummaged through my things and pulled out more parchment and wrote down my thoughts. The word “reincarnation” and the phrase “time loops in on itself” leapt out at me. I glanced back at my dream and began to consider the possibility that I have been reincarnated. Kara and Helgi were reincarnated; why not me?
I decided to speak with Diahnee again. I was admitted into her private chambers and I was surprised to see Solara absent. What surprised me more was seeing Diahnee without the hood of her robe pulled up to cast her face in shadow.
“You asked to see me,” she prompted, gesturing for me to sit.
“Yes,” I replied, sitting down on one of the plush cushions adorning her room. “You said that time is looping in on itself.”
“The disturbances could cause time to loop in on itself,” she corrected. “Not all of time, mind you. Pocket time loops could be created.”
“Certain events would repeat until that loop was broken. If the loops continue, they could complicate matters further,” she explained. Diahnee looked as though she was about to say more, then stopped.
“What is it?” I demanded. I was tired of being in the dark all the damn time. I wanted answers. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into, of what I could be facing.
“These loops, changes, and breaks have been occurring for some time,” the woman admitted. “They weren’t noticed until now.”
I frowned. “How is that possible? I thought every change was felt.”
Diahnee leveled a look at me. “If an event in your past was changed, everything until this very moment would reflect that change. You, however, would not know that something was changed because that event is exactly as you remember it. It is part of your past, a part of your history. Only the person who changed it would know about it.”
It took a moment for me to understand what she was saying. “I wouldn’t notice a change because everything is exactly as I remember it,” I said slowly, watching the other woman to see if I understood correctly.
“That is why it took us so long to realize something was wrong.”
“How did you notice the changes?”
“People like Brynhildr having a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Due to our unique nature we were able to investigate. We noticed anomalies, but nothing definitive.”
Diahnee sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “We thought Lyrac left our clan because of differences with our beliefs. Instead, one of our clansmen ran into him and discovered the unfortunate truth: Lyrac wants to change the Realms. For what reason, we have yet to find out.”
“Destroy the universe?” I offered, half in jest. It seemed likely to me. Isn’t that what most madmen do? Destroy or conquer a world or universe?
The woman offered me a small smile. “Probably not, as he would die along with everyone else. Besides, he did declare that he wanted to change the universe.”
I had the distinct feeling that Diahnee wasn’t revealing everything to me. I wanted to press for more answers but something told me that she would be less than forthcoming if I tried. Instead, I asked more questions.
“Are we,” I gestured between the two of us, “caught in a time loop?”
Diahnee shook her head. “No,” she said, “We are not. But someone else is.”
I knew it. I fucking knew it. My reaction must have shown on my face for I heard her quiet laughter. I scowled at her until she quieted.
“Peace, Lady Vaeramae.” She held up a placating hand. “We wish for your help. It is entirely up to you if you choose to help us or not. You can choose to let things be as they are or you can begin your journey to help save the Realms.”
I very nearly rolled my eyes. “That’s not much of a choice,” I said rather sourly. “Be selfish-” I raised one hand as if it were a scale “-or do something heroic.” I raised my other in a similar manner.
“I never said it was an easy one,” the woman countered.
I lowered my hands to my lap and sighed. Form what I understood, it would be a couple of years of peace or I could help fix things in the Realms, ensuring that the Universe didn’t collapse in on itself. In my mind, there was no choice. Who else would help? Who else would be willing to set aside everything to help those in need? I could think of a few mortals and gods, but not many. If I didn’t become one of their number, keeping the universe from practically falling in on itself would be far more difficult than it already seemed to be.
“Why do you need my help?” I asked at last.
“We need everyone’s help. We are already stretched thin, so we seek help form those that would be able to effect events in the timeline.”
“Because I’m half-divine?”
She inclined her head toward me. “That is one of many things we look for.”
I weighted my options once more before finally saying, “Who is it? Who is caught in a time loop?”
“Many are, but there is one in particular that we are aware of that the chances of success are great. We don’t know his name,” she gave me an apologetic look, “ but he is caught up in an even that ultimately costs him his body. Every time he dies, the loop is reset. We think Lyrac is involved, but we are unsure if he is directly influencing things. If so, we don’t know what his plans are for the man. We – I would like for you to save him We will provide you with supplies for your journey as well as spells.””
“Spells?” I repeated sharply.
“You either need technology or spells to break into an event, as well as out. Others will be needed for defense and attack, if needed. Lyrac seems to have a plan, even if it does appear to be random. I doubt he would go unarmed in any way.”
That made sense. If Lyrac was there, how could I fight an Aevum on my own? I told Diahnee as much and thanked her for the help. “But what of my report to Brynhildr? She’ll need to know.”
“I will ensure that she receives the information myself.”
I nodded absently, my mind already on something else. “How is it that you know so much?” I wondered aloud. It was a question that had been bothering me for some time and I wanted an answer.
Diahnee raised an eyebrow. “I am a magi of the Aevum. I know many things.”
I wanted to call her out on it, but I held my tongue. There was that feeling again that if I pressed too far and with too much pressure I may not like the result. I left shortly after, with the promise that Solara would begin teaching me all that I would need to know tomorrow.
When I thought about the task that I was given, I found that my calm and inability to feel outraged or overwhelmed by the enormity of it all may serve me well. If I were to help change events, to break time loops, or whatever it was I was to do – for I had no doubt that this would be the first of many tasks – it would do me no good to panic, to worry incessantly, or become overly emotional. How could I determine the best course of action in a closed loop if my emotions overcame me?
It was these thoughts that kept me company as I trained with Solara. To this day I don’t know if I was trying to reassure myself that I was doing the right thing or examining things in a detached way. I’m often accused of doing such things, but I find that it helps.
And then the time arrived for me to leave.
“Fare thee well, Lady Vaeramae.” I was surprised when Diahnee hugged me. “May our paths cross again.”
I had a feeling they would and I returned the hug. “Under better circumstances, I hope.” I paused, pulling away and holding her out at arms’ length. “Diahnee, how will I know when I’m supposed to save this man you mentioned?”
“Just as you found your way to us: you will know.” She pointed to my heart and then my head. “You should trust yourself more.”
“Why? Because I’ve done this before?” I asked wryly.
“No, you didn’t. This choice is different.” She wouldn’t elaborate, only telling me that if we met again she promised to explain.
But the answer did give me pause. I was changing things. I changed an event in my life. Did the mural deep within the Aevum temple change because of my decision? It didn’t matter if it was for better or worse. With those words, I realized how much of an impact I could make. Maybe all this time I had it wrong and simply believing that I could change things was all that really mattered. Or, as each time these events happened, something built up to the point that a change occurred.
“How many times have we done this?”
Diahnee shook her head. “Enough times that a change was bound to happen.”
I frowned, not enjoying how she answered the question yet avoided it all together. It only made me wonder how many times this has happened before. “Who are you? How is it that you remember so much?”
“Questions for another time,” she told me. “After you’ve helped the man from Lyrac.”
I gave her a flat look but let it be. She seemed to have her reasons for not telling me. I doubted I could get an answer from her if I had stayed anyway. We said our goodbyes one last time and I left the Realm of the Aevum.