He watched through alien eyes as their worlds broke. The legendary sleeper never awakened. A sacred weapon was destroyed on an unholy alter of death. A war priest never received his calling. The fiery halo of a knight's faith was extinguished before it could ever be ignited. The greatest sorcerer of an age was never born. Their fates had been changed. Their worlds had been broken, but not forever. Their fates could be reversed. The fates of countless souls swept along in the forks of the great river could be changed, but he could not change them. Not directly.
He hovered cross-legged above the timeless stone of his retreat on the nigh invisible shores of the all-powerful river. His slender gray fingers steeped together to form an apex of knobby joints. As he stared into countless temporal eddies he began to tap the tips of those fingers together. One spongy fingertip slapped against its opposite number in a steady rhythm. The tap tap tap of his fingers was the only sound in his great chamber. The rhythmic flow of his fingers against one another created a constant motion that traveled from index finger to pinky, index finger to pinky, index finger to pinky. He hovered quietly in the flickering green glow of time itself, nestled in a bubble of iridescent light that was swallowed up by the shadowy nothingness that surrounded him. His immediate place did not matter. Not now. Not to him. Others would look upon this place with wonder in time, but not now.
He smiled impishly, twisting his unnaturally smooth cheeks into a wrinkled mockery of themselves, and suddenly his two thumbs joined the tiny drum line. Working in tandem the two digits changed the beat and created a new cadence that tapped tapped tapped itself along in the place of the old one. Change one note, throw one pebble into a single current and everything that flowed outward from it was different, he mused. Each ripple brought changes, big and small. Each tap created a slightly new sound. Each fork split in an unforeseen way. Another world died. Another world was born. The river ebbed and flowed into countless undertows and currents. Gods died here. A nation rose there. A kodragon crossed the road at an inappropriate time and a key kender hero was never born in more then a few places. That surprised him. He liked seeing the differences. They amused him.
Moments like these, where he simply observed, had become far more common place for his liking. He didn't swim through time as often as he had before. That one pesky ripple had somehow caused dangerous tidal waves throughout his immortal waterway. Chaos erupted from one terrible war in the strongest, most central current, and damned up inconceivable others. Navigation on the river had become more difficult and more dangerous, even for him.
He was unique, he knew. Few other beings could say so, not even the gods of so many worlds. He was one with time. He was not time itself, but he and it were inexorably linked. He had yet to find another being exactly like him swimming in the currents. He had a people. He'd met them, but they'd found him unnatural. Amongst his own kind he was an outcast.
These five were outcasts now too, travelers along the river who had been thrown from their crafts by the damming power of Chaos. With no life line to cling to they would soon drown. He watched them thrash about in the metaphysical river and nodded to no one. The tap tap tapping of his fingers stopped. They flexed instead, criss-crossing and intertwining in silence. All he heard now was the flow of the river. These five would do. There were other struggling mariners in need, but these five best suited his purposes for now. He would save them and, with the proper guidance, they would save others. They would break the dam down. They would correct the courses of the river's wayward currents.
He smiled, then unclenched his smooth, clammy gray hands and let them wrinkle, dry and pale as he reached into the timestream. His smile broadened. Sharp needles elongated from behind a lip-less mouth before they blunted and were shielded by chapped aged flesh. He let his joy encompass the whole of his new face. He felt the pull. He felt the ebb and flow of time in his very soul. His head-splitting grin shrank to a thin, cheerful line. He was fishing here, he reminded himself, not swimming.
The Wayfarer plucked the sorcerer from the River of Time first.
Hold please; another post is on the way!