Time Always Wins
At first all he could hear was the sound of the wind. Wherever he was, it seemed hot, the air felt dry in his nose, and he was sure that if he inhaled too deeply, he could start to cough.
Ray forced his eyes open.
He was face down on a dusty stone floor, inside a small forgotten room, like the anteroom of a temple. There was a door to his left, that showed endless sand and a bright, blue sky, but other than that, he had no idea where he was.
'Greetings, Raymond,' said a kindly voice above him. Ray looked up.
A short old man was standing there, with long grey-white hair and shining eyes, he was wearing a red robe, and Ray noticed the bright crystal that hung around his neck.
'What? What happened? Who are you?'
'You have travelled through space and time,' the old man told him. 'You have come back, to here and now, where your present is the past, and the future is yet to be written.'
Ray closed his eyes for a few seconds, trying to remember. He could remember the blue light from the Crystal, the others were…
'What about my friends?' he asked suddenly. 'Are they safe? Are they alright, at least?'
The old man looked sombre for a moment.
'I do not know fully what has transpired,' he told Ray. 'But your friends are neither safe, nor in danger.'
'What do you mean?'
'Raymond, the world you came from does not exist. You're friends are not there. They are not anywhere.'
'The other's are gone?'
Ray closed his eyes, thinking of the others, of Sheila and Presto. He'd failed.
'That world does not exist,' said the old man. 'Yet.'
Ray looked up sharply.
'No. The Crystal of Kronos is a portal through Time. You have gone to a time before your friends have arrived in the Realm. Before they have even been born.'
'Before?' whispered Ray.
'How do you know my name?'
The old man just looked at him calmly.
'You're Dungeonmaster!' Ray said, with a sudden understanding. 'You're the one they spoke about!'
'And I am your Guide in the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons,' he said.
'Will I see them again?'
'Perhaps,' said Dungeonmaster. 'There are many trials ahead of you. But now you have the opportunity to stop Venger before he takes the children from their rightful parents and changes the Realm forever. If you succeed, you will save them.'
'Will I succeed?' he asked.
'Perhaps.' The old man looked immensely sad. 'But even if you do, they will not remember. You will have changed their past. They will not know you.'
'What if I do stop Venger? Can I save them? Can I save Sheila, and Presto and the others?'
'When the children are safe, everything will change.' Dungeonmaster gave him a smile. 'Be brave, Raymond! For Time must always win.'
Ray looked out, to the lands beyond the cave, then down to the curved Sword on the floor.
'But what about me? What do I do? Where do I go… I don't know… I don't know what to do.'
'If you travel east towards the rising suns, you will soon find the place you are looking for.'
'But I don't know what I'm looking for!' he said.
'Do you not?'
He took a deep breath, and opened his mouth to say something. But the moment he looked round, the old man had gone.
Alone once more, Ray looked out of the stone doorway across the sands.
He looked once more at his Staff. The stone in the centre was grey and dead, so Ray let it fall to the floor and it cracked into three pieces.
At his feet was the curved Sword of the Paladin. He picked it up, hefting it in his hand the way Joseph had done. There was a sharp pang of pain at the memory of the betrayal.
But that was in his past now, and he was going to make sure it never became the future. He had to find Venger, and stop him from taking Hank and Eric. He would do it. There and then he promised himself he would do it, and see his friends, and see Sheila again.
Ray walked off, his head held high, into his future.
Dungeonmaster watched Ray leave from a corner darkened by shadows, nodding to himself.
'Fear not,' he murmured. 'You will succeed. Though you have many trials to go through before you meet them again. And you will be a king, a great king. A king of many kings! For it is their destiny to come to this Realm and save it. And you shall see them again.'
(and it's only a few months late)