'So Logan walks in, right, like some kind of hero, wearing all his armour, and a big old gash across his head, carrying this girl in his arms, and says to me, he says: could I look after her for a few nights until she gets better. And you know how much I fancy him, right? I mean, he's so delicious, I just couldn't say no, but now here's me thinking, who is she and why is he making her my problem? And anyway what's in it for me? I mean, besides the silver he paid me.'
Idira opened her eyes. She lay in four poster bed covered by a threadbare canopy, heavily patched. Two tallow candles stood in cheap iron holders, their flames bobbing up and down, caught in a draught, sending up little gouts of black smoke. In the candleholders' drip pans, puddles of melted tallow shimmered, greasy. One candle holder perched on top of a scuffed, otherwise bare dresser, the other stood right at the edge of a rickety bedside table, its candle jammed into the holder at a crooked angle so its fat dripped down the side of a gouged and scarred cabinet and onto the stone-flagged floor.
The light from the candles made Idira's eyes hurt. She closed them again, sensing an awakening ache, a deep hollowness gnawing at her, suffusing her in grief, though she had no idea why. Something had happened. Something terrible. She struggled to remember. Whatever it was, it felt important. Flashes of memories, sharp as lightning appeared, incoherent, only to disappear just as quickly. She searched her mind, washed clean like the shore of the beach at low tide. Nothing.
From outside the half-open door came the clatter of crockery and the steady clop clop of someone chopping vegetables against a wooden board. Further away, laughter, singing, the merry strings of a fiddle, playing a jig. Someone called for more wine in a shouty, obnoxious voice. The delicious smell of roasting meat and the warmth of fresh baked buns mingled with the sour tang of spilled ale, all of it overlaid by the pervasive scent of tallow candles and wood smoke.
The voice continued, a little nasally, though it was softened by a pleasing lilt, with just an edge of tease, leaving Idira uncertain whether the woman's words were serious or in jest.
'Now don't you be looking at me like that Ryback, you know Logan's had me once or twice, well,' she giggled, 'more'n twice. And the last time, he even stayed all the way until the morning, although it might have been because he was so drunk, but still, don't you be telling me he's not thinking of taking things further, alright? But this favour he's asked of me, well, it takes the biscuit. Who does he think he is dumping some girl on me like that, without so much as telling me her name or what she is to him?'
Ryback, whoever they were, said nothing. The sound of chopping continued, steady and calm, like the hooves of a plodding horse.
'Anyway,' she continued, lowering her voice, conspiratorial, 'I don't like the look of her. She's got strange eyes. When Logan laid her on the bed, she opened them a little, and I swear on Lord Uther's grave her eyes glowed bright purple. Like nothing I ever saw in my life. Gave me the willies, it did.'
The chopping ceased. 'Don't you have tables to be seeing to, Elly?' a man asked, his voice gravelly and a little rough, like he drank and smoked a lot. The chopping started again, at exactly the same pace.
'Well! I never!' Elly exclaimed in mock outrage. 'What's got into you?' She laughed, though it sounded a little mean. Idira could hear the sound of crockery being loaded onto a tray, careless. 'Oooh, maybe our Ryback has a thing for our new guest. Maybe he wants to give her some Ryback sausage, eh? You do like it freaky don't you. I heard about you and that draenei healer, Maegan told me.'
The chopping slowed for a beat, then continued, a little faster and definitely much louder.
'Logan's girl is real pretty,' Ryback finally replied, obviously choosing to ignore Elly's taunt. He stopped chopping. An empty pot clanged onto the table followed by the scrape of a knife against the cutting board. A cascade of thuds as the vegetables tumbled into the pot. 'Curves in all the right places. Can see why he likes her, purple eyes aside.'
'What do you mean Logan's girl?' Elly demanded, sharp. 'I'm his girl. Everyone knows it too.' She grunted, presumably from lifting the serving tray filled with plates of food. She huffed, sounding deeply annoyed as she moved across the stone floor and stomped up a little flight of creaky, wooden stairs and out into the noise of an inn, which was where Idira guessed Logan had brought her. She wished she could remember who he was and why she was here.
'Huh,' Ryback said, sniffing, indignant. ''Everyone knows it', she says. You're dreaming girl. Any man with eyes in his head can see Logan's just using you cause he can't have the one he really wants. I always wondered who she was, but I don't need to wonder anymore, not the way he was looking at her when he brought her in, like he was scared out of his mind she was going to die. If that ain't love, I don't know what is.'
The sound of more vegetables tumbled onto the table. The chopping started again. Lulled by the rhythmic sound of his work, Idira felt the pull of sleep. She had almost slipped away when Ryback stopped, abrupt, and huffed.
'And I only kissed that draenei for a bet. That doesn't make me freaky. And even if I did do something with her later—which I didn't—well, not much, anyway, still, it's not like I took a gnome home with me. Now that would definitely be freaky. Draenei are ok, though. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.'
When Idira opened her eyes again, a well-built man wearing a leather tunic and breeches sat on the edge of the bed beside her, his big hand holding hers. She watched him as he stroked her fingers with his rough, calloused ones, deep in thought, unaware of her gaze on him. Though his long, dark hair had been tied back in a ponytail, his face remained hidden in shadow. Only one candle still burned, the one on the dresser, though it guttered, clinging to the last remnants of its life. Outside her room, the inn lay shrouded in quiet. A faint glow came from the half-open door, presumably from the banked fire in the kitchen. A terrified squeak, followed by the patter of feline feet. The crunch of tiny bones. The sound reminded Idira of something, but she couldn't remember what. Had she had a cat?
The candle spluttered and went out, the shadows deepened. The man sighed and let go of her hand. She closed her eyes, listening to the creak of leather as he leaned over and stroked the hair from her forehead.
'Come back,' he murmured. 'It's been two days now. I'm getting really worried.'
She peeked out from between her lashes. The only light came from the banked fire, but it was enough for her to see the faint glint of tears in his eyes.
'Logan?' she whispered, guessing by his behaviour he might be the same man Elly and Ryback had been talking about. Despite having no memory of who he was, or what he meant to her, she tried to sit up. She couldn't, she had no strength at all.
He blinked, and a smile fleeted over his lips. 'Thank the Light,' he breathed, his arm going under her shoulders, strong, solid, reassuring. He eased her up with almost no effort and settled her back against the bed's headboard.
So he was the Logan she had heard the others speaking about, after all. She could just about make out the contours of his face, the gleam of his even, white teeth as he smiled again.
'It's been a long wait,' he said, quiet. 'You have no idea how relieved I am to see you awake again. How do you feel?'
Numb, she felt numb. But she didn't think that was the answer he was looking for, instead she answered, 'Tired, mostly. I can't remember anything from before I woke up, even though it feels like I have much to recall,' she hesitated, then decided not to tell him she couldn't remember who he was, at least until she knew whether she could trust him. She glanced at the door. 'Where am I?'
'The Pig and Whistle Inn, Stormwind,' he replied. 'I'm a regular here since it's close to the barracks. Elly's the head waitress here. I asked her to look after you for me until I can figure out what to do next. I couldn't take you to the barracks with me, obviously.' He fell quiet, appearing to take some time to consider his next words. 'Perhaps it's for the best you don't remember anything for now.' He sighed. 'You need to get your strength back first. Plenty of time for the rest later.'
An awkward silence fell. Idira couldn't help but think of the conversation she had overheard between Elly and Ryback when she had first woken up. Before she could stop herself she blurted out, 'Is Elly your girlfriend?'
'What?' Logan started. 'No!'
'She seems to think so,' Idira pointed out, dry. 'I heard her saying you—'
'Well, she's not,' Logan interrupted, his tone leaving no doubt in Idira's mind the conversation was over. He fell silent for a beat, then took her hand again.
'Idira,' he said, low, hesitant, 'I know we can't ever be together like a man and wife, but if you want, now you are all alone, I'd like to take care of you. I've been promoted a few times in the last four years and have a good amount of money saved up, not quite enough yet to buy an apartment and furnish it, but I'm close.' He stopped and rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, the fingers of his other hand absently stroking the back of hers. 'I was thinking maybe when you get better, you could work here for your food and board, and tips of course, until I can get us a place of our own. What do you think?'
She sensed he was nervous as he waited for her answer, as though he had offered her a marriage proposal. She wished she knew who he was to her. Would she accept if she had all her memories? He certainly had presence, and even in the dim light of the banked fire she could see why Elly had a thing for him, he was the kind of man women dream of. But what did he mean about them not being able to be together as a man and wife, why wouldn't she want to be with him? Maybe there was something wrong with her. Would she have to live with him and his wife one day? She didn't like the thought of that.
Now you are all alone. His words flashed through her mind, sharp, vivid. An intense stab of grief struck her, so strong it took her breath away. Her throat tightened, aching and raw, as ragged emotions, anger, sadness, rage, and longing tore through her. She pressed her hand against her chest, to ease the ache in her heart. Something terrible had happened, she could feel it. Something so awful her mind wasn't letting her remember, though she sensed she wouldn't remain like this forever, oblivious to what had gone before. The sensation of grief melted away, as quick as it had speared her. She blinked back her tears, biting her lower lip as a tendril of hope rose from the ruins of her pain. A glimmer of certainty washed over her. Someone else was out there, waiting for her. Logan was wrong.
'Idira?' Logan asked, quiet. 'Will you share your life with me this way? I promise to keep my private arrangements separate.'
So he wasn't going to marry anyone else. Stranger and stranger. She realised with a start Ryback had been right, Elly was nothing more than a 'private arrangement' to make up for the one Logan couldn't have, who apparently happened to be her.
'Perhaps I should remember the past first,' she said, soft, 'before I answer you.'
He nodded, though she sensed the weight of his disappointment. 'Of course. I should have waited.' He reached up and stroked her hair, his touch gentle, at direct odds to his powerful presence. 'I tried to find your friends, I thought maybe it might help for you to see them again. The priestess Arinna and Bishop Mattias are gone; the good Bishop died of old age three years ago, and Arinna went to Northrend to join the Argent Crusade quite some years back. I believe she's still there, training others in the way of healing. She's married now, to a paladin.' He paused, his chiselled profile outlined by the faint light coming from outside the door. He glanced back at her. 'The Lady Nin, I'm terribly sorry to say, died when the fiery dragon attacked Stormwind. They said it was instantaneous. When you are better, I could take you to her memorial in the royal cemetery. We can stop at the flower seller and bring flowers if you like. Anything you want, even roses. She was very good to you, gave you a bank note worth ten gold, you spent it all on books . . .'
Logan fell silent, waiting, she presumed, to see if she would remember anything. Idira tried to remember the bank note and the books, searching through the corridors of her memories, running from one deserted room to another, traversing the empty halls hoping for a glimpse of the faces that belonged to the names, or even an item which might connect her present life to the one she had lost. But everywhere she went only blank, grey rooms and stark silence greeted her.
'Nothing?' Logan asked, quiet.
Idira shook her head, ashamed. Those people had meant something to her once, yet she felt nothing for them, even the one who'd died, who had been so kind to her.
'Well, never mind for now,' he said, squeezing her hand, his calluses thick and rough against her palm. 'The Light must be protecting you, when the time is right you'll remember. I just hope I'm there with you when you do.'