I cannot stop thinking about how Inifra utterly destroyed Zorga’s fortress two nights ago. The rain continues to pound the jungle around us, often coming down in isolated waterfalls from the canopy above. Each drop serves distinctly as a reminder of Inifra’s hidden power.
Hidden power. My expression… gods.
The incessant rain makes it difficult to keep the pages of my journal dry. The mountains are lost to us already as we march north. It took half of the day to descend, but already we are back in the relative flat we have come to expect from our overlong time in the Nanten. Inifra said that the mountains we had entered continue directly east for a few leagues, but it is not a very long range.
Will the KoraKora hear of us soon? Will they know it was more than just a priestess that uprooted their protectorate and come looking for us? Their chief has sworn himself to our destruction. How far will he go to fulfill that vow? Destroying his supply lines as we go cannot ease his hatred of us any.
I had to explain what happened in Zorga’s hall to Inifra, for she saw enough to know what I am. Balthandar seemed unsurprised, though I doubt he ever had any inclination. Perhaps I didn’t do as well as I thought at hiding what I can do.
But no, I must have. Inifra would have known if I had let my guard down. She would have sensed it.
I am a Timeshift.
I’ve never written that phrase. I’ve barely ever spoken it. I am a Timeshift and I am exposed, but gods it feels good to write it.
There are a lot of stories about Timeshifts, and a lot of misunderstandings as to what it is we are capable of. I feel as though I can finally share my story here, though. I have longed to unburden myself for decades and if I cannot do it in this journal, which no one is likely to ever read, then where else can I?
It felt so freeing to tell my companions today.
When I was a boy, probably around the age of seven, my mother realized that I was a Pure. I had a natural connection to the Atmosphere, my ability to interact with it was expressed without training or the need to study. She could sense it before it fully manifested; before I knew it myself.
In her wisdom she kept that knowledge a secret as she waited and watched. She didn’t take it to the Silver Council, though it is required by our order, for she knew she needed to see what my expression would be before she could trust anyone with the knowledge.
It was when I was almost to my eleventh summer that I first skipped. It was only a few minutes. I think I was bored at the table as my father pontificated about the glorious history of the Tetrarch. Then suddenly he was off in the kitchen. The lecture was over. My mother was the only one still sitting with me. If she hadn’t seen my reaction to the shift, no one would have known. I had skipped forward in time.
Little is really known about Timeshifts, for the ability has never been formalized into an expression. It is too dangerous. The consequences of its use can be grave and far-reaching. I know this all too well myself already.
But in that moment I simply skipped forward. My mother took me aside immediately and began to test me. To push me. She made me swear I would hide my ability and never let it show. To do so early would be to invite a quick death. To do so later would be to give away my greatest advantage.
To keep something like that a secret at such an early age is no small task. I wanted to use it, to brag about it to my friends, but I was forbidden. The powerful, my mother told me, seek to use all expressionists as their tools. But Timeshifts they kill, for there is no controlling those who control time.
I should explain now what my mother barely knew then: Timeshifts do not control time. I control my perception of time and carry my consciousness with me as I shift time around me. With practice I have been able to pull even my body along with my consciousness to a degree. This is more dangerous than you can imagine however, because my consciousness can only handle so much before I black out. That is when I skip.
If time moves too quickly or too slowly around me, if I go too far in either direction, I can lose my connection to my consciousness entirely and awake once time has resumed its normal pace. Assuming I am still alive.
In this way it can be an advantage: When the world slows down around me I can see more, hear more, and react more quickly to whatever is happening. There are any number of advantageous applications like this, but the danger is that the more I use it the more I weaken my anchor to reality. Someday I won’t be able to control my perception of time. On that day I will suddenly find myself an old man, withered and dying with no memory of the life behind me. Or I will simply shift time beyond my death and cease to live.
Moving backwards, I affect if not alter everything I have ever known from that point. Then, in moving forward, I do not know how far I can go without completely losing my grip and being unable to return.
So hiding my power is an act of self-preservation, both to keep it from those who would hunt me for it and because someday I will simply lose my grip on the present. I have already experienced my first jitter, my first uncontrolled shift of time both forwards and backwards in rapid succession. I do not know when something like that will happen again.
So I understand Tarsh, Bantish, and Prestorn better than any of them would have guessed. They hide their abilities to avoid discovery, to avoid the tyrants of the Nanten. But they can still use what abilities they have when they must. I, however, must remain conservative to the point that I practically never use my abilities. To do so is to play with forces I still don’t fully understand. To reveal my ability in this place is to risk losing what advantage it gives me where they are already so few.
But when Inifra died I could not hide any longer. I took the greatest risk I can and I moved backwards in time. There is no knowing what the consequences of moving back in time will be. If my consciousness had broken then, and I lost control of time’s speed around me, I do not know how far back I would have gone. Once there, to return to what I knew would have been impossible, for that one shift would have changed everything from that point forward.
I shifted time back just before Zorga stood. As Dionus’ signal struck the fire I resumed time’s forward momentum and slowed it. I reached for a throwing dagger as Zorga began to stand and threw it into his arm so hard that he was carried back into the fire.
I didn’t stop there. I was so angry. So scared for Inifra.
I kept time slow, gods I kept it so slow. I’ve never held a shift for that long.
I ripped through those godsdamned bandits. I could see their every move, their every intention. I never use my ability in a fight, and if I ever come up against another Timeshift I absolutely will not be able to. But in Zorga’s hall I slaughtered his men before they knew they were under attack. I finished the last of them just as the ash began to settle.
I was exhausted but invigorated. I had done something I thought was impossible and kept my mind intact. Focus, I realized. All I needed was this intense focus driven by my fear for Inifra.
But who knows if and when I will have that level of concentration again? I certainly do not want to need it. But it felt so good to be myself. To do what only I am capable of and save the life of the woman I… of this woman who… to save Inifra’s life.
Using my power only makes me want to do so again.