Changing Time

A survivor of Stratholme is called back into the Caverns of Time to stop the time assault on Stratholme.


1. Changing Time

It had been the perfect evening after adventuring. It had started when Xiara, Vyeri and Gracandrea had gone to the inn in Dalaran. They had brought kungaloosh, breads and fish. Soon they were joined by the confident night elf Deidriu who brought his pet Fenris and fruits bought in Outland. Drakeham, the red headed mage and leader brought mana strudels and sat down with them.


“How has your day been?” Drake asked the paladin sitting next to him.


“The usual routine,” Grace replied, “Getting food stores, practicing for argent tournament and things like that.”


“Very nice,” he replied distantly.


“We have a mission set up for tomorrow, “ Drake continued, “ I've got Grace assigned as a tank, Vyeri, Deidriu and I as dps and Minn is going to heal for us.”


Vyeri and her cousin looked at each other with raised eyebrows. It was the first time that Vyeri was going on a mission with the others. Vyeri gave an excited smile to her cousin.


“Grace, I need to see you privately,” the bearded mage stood up and beckoned to the paladin leading her to a small room in the inn. Grace followed perplexed.


“What do you need Drake?” she tilted her head upwards at the mage with a mixture of affection and concern.


“The mission tomorrow,” he said, stopping as though unsure of himself, “I need to talk to you about it.”


“What is it?” Grace was puzzled. She had been Drake's protector or tank as he called it teasingly, a hundred times over. She loved being able to protect him so that he could cast the spells that killed everything in his path. Now she was able to do that for Vyeri as well.


“The person that asked us to do this was Chromie,” Drake referred to the leader of the Bronze Dragonflight who was known as the Keeper of Time, “there's been a time assault on Stratholme.”


“Stratholme?” Grace's voice caught, “what could anyone want to change in Stratholme?”


“They are trying to stop Arthas's culling of the city.”


“And they want us to just let him?” Grace's voice rose in disbelief, “the worst atrocity committed in our world and they want us to stop him? My parents were killed in Stratholme, the only reason I survived is that I was staying at a friend's house in a nearby village.”


“Grace, will you calm down, please?” Drake's voice was even, calming to the paladin.


“What?” Grace's voice came down slightly, not wanting the others to overhear her arguing with the guild leader, “you assigned this to me? Knowing full well?”


“Will you listen to me for a moment?” Drakeham's shoulders raised in a large sigh, he was well used to dealing with Grace's ups and downs. “I have my reasons.”


“Well they'd better be good ones.” Grace snapped at her friend, sitting down and wrapping her arms around her body as

if to protect herself from the onslaught.


“How long have I known you Grace?”


“Two years.”


“Do you trust me?”


Grace bit her lower lip in thought. After she came home at the age of 13 to Uther standing away from the remains of her city she had trusted few people. Her prince, the monarch who was supposed to protect her had come into her city in the darkness of night and massacred everyone. Uther had seen something in her however and had spoken to the paladin trainers. She had at the age of 17 been sent to the cathedral to train under Lord Grayson. There, she had met Drakeham and he had slowly worked around her defenses. The two were a good team by this point and Drake was one she did trust explicitly.


“Yes,” she said slowly, “I do.”


“Do you think I'd make you do this without a reason?” Drake worked his fingers thoughtfully through his red beard. “And not just because I want you in front of me as a tank, though you are very good at it.”


Grace smiled somewhat at the mage's rare compliment.


“It was actually my idea,” the sometimes cocky hunter poked his head around the door. “Can I join in Drake?”


At the guild leader's nod, Deidriu came in and sat beside Grace, dismissing his pet quickly. “I told Drake that you needed to go and he agreed with me.”


“You too?” Grace's eyes narrowed at the hunter that she had trained with since her days fighting the burning legion in Outland. “This had better be good Dei.” She didn't care if she sounded snippy at this point.


“You need to do this Grace,” Deidriu started, staring right into the young paladin's eyes, “ever since we went through the ruins at Stratholme you've been searching. Every time you pass one of the Forsaken, your eyes go searching as if you expect to find your parents.”


“My parents' remains were not in our home,” Grace recalled searching the site of her home in Stratholme and finding nothing except the faded portrait of herself and her family. “They could have survived or possibly were scourged. There is no way to find out.”


“Actually there is,” the hunter replied softly, “you left your home for an overnight stay in another village that day, correct?”


“I rode to drop off some food for the hermit across the river and then I went to stay at a friend's home.” she later found that the hermit was in fact one of the greatest paladins of all time, but did not mention that fact to Deidriu. “I heard nothing, saw nothing until I came back the next morning,” her normally calm voice broke, “Uther was standing above my village with tears in his eyes. He took me to Theramore to stay with Lady Jaina. My parents were not among the survivors. I did not question after that.”


“You apprenticed to an alchemist then, correct?” Drakeham leaned in as if to catch all of the facts.


“Yes, and at the age of 17 Lord Grayson sent for me at the cathedral. I learned the art of the paladin from him and learned the arts of protection from Lursul,” she referred to the Dreanai with a smile. He was a favorite teacher and teammate for raids.


“That is why you need to do this Grace,” Deidriu spoke seriously to the young woman, “Chromie agreed with me. Before you can face Arthas and make him pay for what he did to your family, you need to find out what happened those years ago. Before you are ready to stand in ICC in front of the Lich King you need to make sure that you are taking your revenge on the right person.”


“Paladins are not supposed to take revenge.”


“Whatever,” the night elf's eyes were serious as he looked at Grace,”I know better.”


“And I agree with Deidriu in this case Grace,” Drakeham broke into the conversation, “You need to close that chapter of your life before you can move on. I am giving you warning but you need to be ready at dawn for this mission.”

Grace understood a dismissal when she heard one and turned heel, walking away quickly.


“What is it cousin?” the young dreanai was carefully laundering and pressing her robes for the next day's excursion. Grace never understood why she felt the need to do so, but she usually laughed it off.


“Just some details about tomorrow's mission,” there was no sense in upsetting Vyeri who was just as likely to go and tell Drakeham how she felt as opposed to accepting the situation. She gave the drenai a quick hug and took her armor to the blacksmith in her usual preparation for a mission.


Preparation for a tank was a time consuming process for the most part. She repaired her heavy armor almost constantly, knowing that any disrepair would eventually allow her to get hurt more and make the healer's jobs more difficult. The blacksmiths in Dalaran knew her well and got done quickly. Following that job, she checked her potions. Mana and health potions were not an issue as her alchemy abilities enabled her to make never-ending flasks, but she usually kept strength elixirs as well. Finally, foods and drinks were checked and replenished from her bank vault. Grace sighed inwardly, though the preparations had taken time they had not taken thought. She was so well trained she did these things automatically. Her feet followed orders and her mind did not consider.


The night in Hero's Welcome was fitful at best. She might have slept but she did not recall doing so. Her eyes would no more close than they would open again with a start. Her parents waving good-bye to her as she left to stay at her friend's house, her neighbors walking around the peaceful village as she left. She didn't ingrain the details into her memory, although now she wished that she had. She remembered every detail of the ruined Stratholme however.


Dawn came entirely too early, she thought as she rose and started to layer on her armor. First the simple linen shirt, followed by strapping on each individual piece. Breastplate, legs, arms, gloves, each and every piece was enchanted, cleaned and gemmed for maximum survivability. Finally, she strapped the chinstrap on her helm and looked into the mirror. The woman staring back at her was covered from head to foot, green eyes peeping through the slits in the helm looking worriedly back at her.


She stepped out of her room, and met with the others. Minn, a druid and one of her favorite healers was waiting for her. She felt the druid's eyes give her a once over as she stood for inspection. Often, the healers would check her, make sure that she was at full health before they went inside a dungeon. Minn glanced over her with healer's eyes and nodded but her face showed some concern. Grace took a deep breath trying to hide her nervousness. Before Minn could ask however, Vyeri came out of the room in a rush, hopping on one foot and putting on her last cloth shoe.


“Sorry I'm late” she said excitedly, “I forgot to get my mana potion”


Grace rolled her eyes at her cousin, despite her nervousness and held out 5 flasks of the precious substance. Vyeri was ALWAYS forgetting potions. Her skill as an alchemist, luckily held her in good stead to keep up with the dreanai as well as others in the guild who similarly would forget. She smiled at the younger mage, doing her best to hide her apprehension.


Dei and Drake arrived at the same time. Dei skipping out in the flips typical of the night elf race and Drake, much more subdued and solemn. Deidriu was a wonderfully caring friend, but little squashed his thrill to a new challenge. Drake on the other hand, was of a more somber appearance and Grace gave him a half smile in spite of everything.


“We're transporting in to the caverns of time to speak to Chromie.” he spoke quietly with a firm authority, “The people in Stratholme will not be able to speak to us, we can do nothing for them,” his voice grew heavier and he gave a sideways glance to Grace, “our job is to protect Arthas and to stop the dragons from changing time, no more no less.”


“Stratholme?” Vyeri's voice rose to almost a shout, but she was silenced by her cousin's narrowed eyes.


“Should've expected this out of Vyeri,” Grace murmured in a low voice to her guild leader.


“I had my reasons,” he replied just as quietly. “You may be pissed at me, but you won't let anything happen to her.”

Grace's green eyes just glared through the slat in her helm.


“Kidding,” the mage quickly backtracked, “she's more than ready and I had no reason not to take her.”


Grace nodded, as she mounted on to her war talbuk, a recent reward for her hard work for the Kurenai, and rode with the

group to the Caverns of Time portal in the Violet Citadel. Almost involuntarily, she followed the others through the portal.

Chromie was waiting at the top of the stairs in her gnome form as usual. Grace narrowed her eyes at her for one moment but bowed slightly anyway. It was always good to show respect to a dragon, especially one of the Bronze. Chromie then gave them the first part of their mission, to alert Arthas to the plagued grain that had entered the city.

Grace followed the others reluctantly through the time portal and landed in a familiar area. A red headed child waved good-bye to her parents and skipped away with the basket of food for the local hermit. She bit her lip, turn around, she pleaded to her younger self, look at your parents once more, but instead, as she knew what would happen, the child walked away.


“Grace?” Drake's hand rested gently on her shoulder, “we need you now, you can ride in the side cart of the chopper.” Riding on Drake's motorcycle was usually a highlight for the paladin, but today, she only kept her head craned to see what was going on. Her parents blew her younger self a kiss then turned back into their house.


“Remember Grace, they can't see you,” Drake's voice was steady, pulling Grace back to her duty.


Remembering the smell of plagued grain, Grace had no trouble finding the stuff. It had become more common these days, but at the time it was only considered a slight odor. After Chromie double checked that their task was complete, they were told to go forward, to the gates of the city. Quietly, she got back into Drake's side cart and sighed. This day was not going to get better, and the headache that had been threatening was becoming a harsh reality.


The smell of death, scourge and fire were starting to permeate the air as they reached the gates of Stratholme. The city looked quiet enough from the outside, except the raised voices from the gate, from Uther, Arthas and Lady Jaina. Gracandrea paused, allowing her eyes to feast upon the face of Uther Lightbringer, the man who had spoken of her to Shadowbreaker. The man who had inspired her to become a paladin. That admiration, however, broke off when she gazed at Arthas. Arthas had been her liege, her supposed protector and on this night he betrayed that trust. And on this night, she was not allowed to stop him from shattering her own world.


“Are you ready Grace?” Dei's voice broke through Gracandrea's thoughts, and she nodded to him, quickly buffing the party and making sure her own auras and abilities were ready.


“The scourge is at King's Fountain!” she heard the voice calling out and stood for only a moment consulting her own memory of the city. She ran to the area, scourge trailing her. For a moment, she forgot she was in Stratholme, only knowing that fighting the undead was what she had trained for, waited for. Her eyes focused on one narrow goal, keeping the zombies focused on her so that they did not attack Drake, Dei, Vyeri or Minn. It was at these moments that she remembered why she had chosen to be a protection paladin and kept doing it despite the pain it sometimes caused her, despite the repair bills, despite people saying she couldn't do it. Again and again, she threw her shield out, consecrated the ground around her and watched as the undead fell as they moved throughout the city.   The light pushed her on and on as she did her job, even the large abominations and the necromancers were not a match for this group. She had almost forgotten she was in Stratholme until they went to the inn.


A riot was going on around the inn, people were calling out to Arthas, asking him what was going on and then she saw them. Her parents were standing there asking their prince what he was going to do about the invasion. Then she saw the flash of the sword, and her parents were cut down in front of her.


“NO!” she screamed at Arthas, lunging for him as she ran up the stairs, following him into the inn, but of course, he didn't hear her and she couldn't kill him. There was nothing she could do except run back outside mourning over her dead parents.


“GRACE! WE NEED YOU!” Suddenly she heard Vyeri's scared, pleading voice inside the building. She hesitated for a moment, caught between the past and the present and then ran inside to confront the dragons that had just tried to kill her party. Vyeri and Drake had already been wounded and Deidriu was keeping the dragons somewhat in check with his pet. Grace tossed out her shield, gathered them to her and burned them down. Minn quickly healed the wounds as Grace ran up the stairs past Arthas, she was beyond caring what had happened, but she had to focus on her friends and she just wanted to kill something, anything, make someone pay for the atrocities on her home city.


Waves of dragons fell in front of them until they had to confront the dragon that was assaulting the time stream. Three times, he stopped time in the middle of the fight, freezing them and reminding them of the consequences if they let Arthas carry out his plans. Grace saw her parents murder each time that he did this and she had to work through tears to keep his attention on her.


Again, they followed Arthas down a secret passage into the streets of her once beloved city. It was starting to be covered in undead and fires. The stench of the undead was so bad that she was ready to vomit, recalling the smell when she had returned the following day. A literal plague of zombies and cultists was standing between them and the other side where the air was still clear.


“I have to clear this before I can deal with Arthas,” she thought, eyes narrowed. And she moved through the undead, consecrating the ground underneath her and started pulling more and more of the undead to her. She was numb to the touch, the smell, numb to anything but her need to get out of this place.


“Not so many!” Minn called out to her, but the young paladin was beyond caring what was going to happen. Slowly they cut through the group and were on the other side where the air was once more clear.


“One more thing to do,” Drake said softly to Grace, putting his hand on her shoulder, “and we are out of here.”


“The demon responsible for starting this, Mal'Ganis himself,” Grace said with a determined set to her chin, “He's going down.”


She waited only for a few moments so that Minn, Drake and Vyeri could drink up and get mana back then with a grimace, she spoke to Arthas and they went to confront the demon responsible for this heartache in the first place.


There he was, tall and looking down at the party. Grace glared, she would not let him beat her, calling on every power she had, she threw out her shield, consecrated the ground beneath her and popped out her wings. She threw everything she had at that demon and watched as he was so close to death and then jumped away from them, taunting Arthas to meet him in Northrend.


Arthas told them to take whatever was in the trunk and he was leaving, he was going to go to Northrend to continue to his future as the Lich King. Grace didn't wait though, she used her hearthstone to get back to Dalaran.


Once back in the safe city, in between fits of retching and vomiting, she changed back into a simple linen skirt and top, then sat on her bed, drew her knees to her chest and began to cry. Again and again she saw her parents deaths and there was nothing she could do. She wondered if her parents had an inkling what would happen when they sent her away that day.


“Do you want any dinner cousin?” Vyeri's voice came through the door, tinkling like music.


“No, I'm sick, please leave,” her reply was short.


“May I come in?” Minn came behind her a few minutes later, and she allowed the druid to walk in to check her. Anyone who had fought so many undead usually had to be checked for infections, and her violently ill stomach gave the healer pause. She felt Minn's eyes check her thoroughly and Minn walked out.


“It's emotional, not physical Drake,” she reported right outside of Grace's door, as she passed the red headed mage.


“Can I come in Grace?” Drake asked softly.


“Yes,” her voice was small inside the room as he stepped in and sat down at the chair beside her bed.

“I'm sorry you had to witness that,” he spoke to her firmly, comfortingly, “And I'm even sorrier that it happened. Though now you know. You know that your parents were not scourged and it might be some comfort to know that.”


“I keep seeing it over and over again,” Grace's voice was quiet, muffled by her arms, “I can't stop it, I am the one that is supposed to protect the innocent and I couldn't stop it.”


“You are a protector, you protect us all,” Drake's voice was firm, leaving no room for argument, “I saw what happened back there, as much as you wanted to mourn your parents, your call to your guild family was stronger. You saved Vyeri's life, you saved Minn's life. The ability to put away your personal feelings and do what needs to be done is the sign of a true protector.”


Grace's head began to lift slightly, “You aren't just saying that to make me feel better are you?”


The mage looked down at the young paladin, “You followed orders, you did what was necessary. I'm just sorry that you had to go through all of that again.”


“It feels like I've lost my parents all over again,” she replied, slowly uncurling from the position she was in to sit on the edge of the bed facing Drake.


“It will probably feel like that for a very long time,” his voice was quiet as he ran his fingers through his red beard, “but at least this time you have a chance to grieve properly.”


“That's little comfort to my churning stomach right now,” she half glared at the mage, “You knew I'd be going through this, you could have chosen another tank. Why me?”


“Because like I said before, you needed to know and you needed the opportunity to make the decision to go after Arthas for the right reasons.” He replied calmly, “You needed to be able to make the decision to go into the citadel and fight him. You are a protector of us all, and you will keep being that as we go to kill Arthas himself.”


The paladin's chin stuck out in a determined, defiant look. “I will be there. Nothing will stop me from killing the man responsible for murdering my parents.”


“But if your parents had not been killed, would you be that woman you are today?” Drake's question hung in the air

between them.


Grace paused, unsure of what to answer.   If she had not seen the evil that could happen to innocents would she have sworn to protect them?   Would she still have had that strength that Uther had seen that day?   The strength that made him speak to the trainers?   "I don't know," she said brokenly.


“That is an answer you will have to ponder, daughter of Stratholme, daughter of Lorderon,” he stood up, brushing invisible dust from his robes, “There was something in the chest for you.” He walked out and brought in a shield, but not just any shield, one with the crest of Lorderon on it, the shield used by the guards so long ago.


Grace's eyes filled with tears as she remembered the guards in Stratholme using these shields and wondering if she could ever have one too. The cost was great, but this was the shield that would go with her to the Citadel. This was the shield she would carry when Arthas paid for the broken hearts he had left in his wake.


She nodded to Drakeham, “Maybe I wouldn't have become a paladin if my parents had not been killed, but I am one now and Arthas can not and will not be left unchecked.”


“That's the woman I know,” Drake gave her a hug and walked out, leaving the paladin to ponder her destiny.

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