As the conflict between Abyss and Pyre begins to ignite once more, almost everyone from across the Realm has sprung to action: Magistrate, Resistance, Paladins. Broken goddesses and wayward monks. Many will heed this call. However, one man has decided he will sit out. The man out of time with no future. Atlas, the one who helped put the Darkness away, has prevented his reality from ever existing. A paradox of his own creation; he cannot return home. He only has the present to look to…or so he thought.
WE ARE THE MAW, WE SHALL FEAST. YOUR NATURE IS TO SURVIVE.
The Maw may return, Atlas had accepted that. He watched as heroes of legend rallied around him to fend off Yagorath, he saw the might of Azaan come down from above and seal her away. If she were to be released one day, they would be there to stop her. He had faith in them all, in his father. Their time was their own to save now, and his part was played.
Defying death has a price, one that lingers long after the living return. Return to us, my queen. Rise, Nyx.
Atlas was supposed to be gone. His future was erased as the course of time itself was altered. Except…he had to exist. If he hadn’t, time would’ve never changed in the first place. As he learned from Valera, his use of Crystal magic is beyond anything they thought possible. He had mastered time but still couldn’t understand it. Now, new threats arise that he has never heard of before…an Abyssal Queen? Had he delivered his future from one evil to another?
Soon, she will return, and everything will be hers to use. Even you.
The power he possessed is too dangerous for anyone to control, including himself. It was a burden he must now bear: protecting the Realm he fought to save from his discoveries. There was only one solution in his mind, one possibility out of an infinity of choice. He must travel once more to a time where no one would go. A reality, forgotten and resolved. A place where time has no effect and he could finally rest. All he needed was an opening.
I…we have a problem. Seris, she-
He felt the disturbance wash over him, like wounds reopening from within. Someone had broken the seams of reality, the fabric of the Realm past, present, and future. They would use it to move through space, but he…could travel through time as well, to another Realm. These threats would never know where he had gone, he could keep the timeline safe. He channeled all the energy left in his chronon weapon and focused in on a single vision: one he had long forgotten, of a life unlived. Then, he vanished.
ENCHANTED FOREST, ALPHA RIFT
His arrival was much more crashing than the last. On entry, he found himself flung through what looked to be a version of the fish market he would frequent after Yagorath’s fall. However, there was little activity to be seen. He had accomplished his goal: he was in a Realm beyond the reality of his own. There were familiar sights and faces, but nothing was the same.
No Magistrate, no Resistance…there were Paladins, but unlike those he had come to know. The first one he encountered on his journey was Barik, looking rugged and seeming much more…cruel than the craftsman he knew. This one only spoke of how fascinating his armor was & the potential treasure he could plunder if he could invent off of it. Atlas had no use of it anymore, so he left it with the dwarf.
Then came Cassie, a much more familiar likeness beyond the large bow she carried instead of her crossbow. She spoke of how it belonged to her father, but the name she gave reminded Atlas instead of an ancestor to the Cassie he knew, one whose banner became that of a House. Perhaps the reason time here has stopped is due to such anomalies. Zigs was as friendly as ever though.
As he wandered his way, he soon saw Fernando in the distance. He looked and sounded much the same, but this one felt off in the same way his current one has. He always knew, though the Knight would never admit it, he was not who he said he was. This Fernando in front of him was the same…but he was also a different man entirely. Maybe every Realm has a different Fernando under the helm, all pretending to be another Fernando.
These types of encounters would continue, from a Viktor who was older and more grizzled than his, to a Grohk much less poised to be a leader, to a Pip much less self-reliant. In each, Atlas would find himself amused by how quaint their problems were, and how passionate they all were in their fights over what amounted to personal gain. It…soothed him, and soon he felt at home. Not as a warrior, but a spectator.
Time would pass, and as it did the wounds time dealt him would heal. He could never live the life he saw in visions, that of a future he lived in safe from the horrors he saw it fall to. In this realities’ past, however, he would come to make his own future…he would fall in love, they would build a farm. He would have a daughter. All that he lost would be returned, not through saving reality, but by slowing down to appreciate what life offers. He finally had his second chance, and he took none of it for granted.
As his weapons rusted away in the fields, he stashed away his journal beneath the floorboards. The source of time magic, kept safe in a small farmhouse. He couldn’t reason with destroying it, in case it was ever needed again. The Man Out of Time must always be ready, but Atlas – he would retire. He would laugh, he would sing, he would rest. Though, deep down, he knew if anything came for his new home: he would be ready to fight them until the end of time.
Paladins Chronicles are short stories meant to enrich the world of Paladins & serve as context for future events. This is a part of Series 1, please provide us your feedback on socials!