by Scott Felske
Softly the fire crackles in the hearth adjacent to the table where you sit to gather some warmth against the late evening chill. The Venomous Viper stands empty save yourself. After your lengthy journey, you long for the bed and rest that await you shortly.
'Tis been a fortnight since your departure from home, with your destination only a half-day's journey more away. Your Master's urgent summons to his Keep troubles you. His instruction to bring a rare form of herb found only on your part of the continent baffles you. Though now a full-fledged mage and no longer bound to him, you still feel obligated to fulfill his request.
Your thoughts are abruptly interrupted when a robed figure stumbles down into the chair across from you. Your jaw drops to the floor as you see yourself! Or at least someone who looks like you, and is dressed exactly as you are. However, his face is burned in several places and his robes are scorched and tattered.
You instinctively reach into a pouch for the components of the first defensive spell that comes to mind, but the words are lost as his gaze holds you enthralled. He speaks very slowly, with great pain.
"Please do not be alarmed. Listen very carefully. This is no trick. I am you. Or we are each other, I should say. I am you from your own future. Two days hence, I, or I should say 'we', will be thrown back in time to today." A coughing fit wracks his body, a flood of pain washing across his face. You offer assistance but he waves you away. "I am dying. There is nothing that can prevent that now. I am here to warn you. You must not deliver the herbs to the Master! You will arrive at his laboratory, and he will require your assistance in perfection of his time-travel spell. The experiment will result in an explosion that will incinerate the Master and somehow throw me back in time. You can see the result. Turn back! Go home! Your future... our future... depends on it!" With these last few words he slumps over the table and dies. He vanishes from sight.
Your million questions remain unanswered. Is this some sort of hoax or illusion set up by your Master's enemies? You had heard of your mentor's experiments with time travel. What went wrong? Did you bring the wrong herbs with you? If the experiment was a partial success and you did get thrown back in time, the experiment might only need refining. Time travel has never been perfected by any wizard. Perfection would mean a major breakthrough for the Art. Should it be developed? Could moving back and forth through time alter the present? Could time travel be a major weapon to be exploited to alter events? Should I turn back home? Should I continue to my mentor so that the experiment continues, insuring all knowledge of the experiment and its creator are forever destroyed? Would doing so throw me back in time to the present to warn myself what had gone wrong and act accordingly? Could I exploit this time loop until the experiment is a success and the spell is perfected? These are the questions you ask yourself as you ponder your next move....
(Originally appeared in Re:Quests!, issue #35, October 1994, pp. 37-38; Mary H Kelly, editor.)
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