Idira's feet hurt. She slid her shoes off and rubbed her aching soles against the soft, thick carpet. It helped, a little at least. Despite clinging to his belief that she was probably a liar, Duncan had warmed to her. After several days of enduring her pleading, he had finally relented and started casting portals for her to the Apprentices' Library once her day at the archives ended.
‘Learn to make teleports,’ he said, just like he did every time he cast the portal for her.
‘I would if only I could find the book,’ Idira smiled back, just like she did every time she departed. But it was true. She couldn't find the book, despite her Light having helped her discover every one of the other books.
With a quiet sigh, she finished the last of her sandwich and folded away the wrapper, still feeling hungry. Over the course of the past two and half months, since she had been banished to the archives and more or less isolated from the rest of her peers—only seeing them occasionally as she left the mess hall, having only had just enough time to bolt down a bowl of porridge between the mess hall opening and the time she needed to leave for work—she'd lived off takeaways from the Bagel Brothers and the free lunches at the Library Cafeteria. It had become her habit to spend her lunch break running across Dalaran to buy her dinner from the busy sandwich shop, hoarding the precious parcel until the evening so she could eat while she studied in the Apprentices' Library.
The sandwich wrapper safely tucked in her pouch, she reached down and rubbed her feet while trying to take in the contents of the elaborately illustrated book in front of her, demonstrating in six simple steps the art of polymorphing someone into a sheep, rendering them harmless for a limited period of time. As she read, Idira massaged a stubborn knot on the inside of her arch, wishing for the hundredth time she could polymorph Margot forever. A part of her suspected the woman had removed the book on teleportation so Idira could never have the advantage of it while running all over the Academy delivering documents. Or perhaps, Margot had done it because she suspected Idira had told Wynn where the books they needed were hidden so her fellow apprentices couldn't progress their own educations.
It had been a tricky arrangement at first, but it seemed to be working, Wynn made sure the right book lay hidden in amongst a clutter of wrong ones spread across the table, each of them surreptitiously studying it one at a time, making notes so they could practice what they'd learned back in their dorm rooms. Never again had any of them made the mistake of showing their progress in front of Margot. Failures, on the other hand, they made sure she saw plenty. Even Asur had kept his attitude in check, which considering how insufferable the arrogant know-it-all was to live with was perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all.
With the exception of Asur, Idira did miss the company of her peers. Apart from a quick hello at breakfast, she rarely saw them anymore, her lonely work in the archives and her studies in the evenings consuming all of her time and energy. Although last night when she had returned, drooping, to her bed, Wynn had been waiting up, excited to show Idira her mastery of the conjuring of refreshment, which was good because Idira was starving. Wynn made her a cinnamon bun. It was delicious, but then she couldn't sleep for hours. A magical perk for those fighting in battle, not so great for those wanting the oblivion of dreams.
She rubbed her eyes, fatigue dogging her, and reread the last portion, realising she had taken nothing in at all. She read it again, and still couldn't remember any of it. She sighed and closed the book. A glance at the clock told her it was still too early to leave, she'd only been studying for two hours. She looked around the room, only two others remained, another apprentice buried deep in a pile of books, and one of the senior students, a mentor, covering desk duty, reading a novel, neither of them remotely interested in her. Just for a few minutes she would rest her head, it couldn't hurt, then she could study some more. She folded her arms in front of her and lay her head down. Within heartbeats she was asleep, dreaming of nothing.
A shove woke her. She looked up, bleary and disoriented. ‘What the—?’
‘Library's closing,’ the senior student muttered, casting a portal for her. Idira barely had time to ram the book onto a shelf, grab her shoes and get into the portal before it winked out. She stepped out into the quadrangle inside the residential towers, warm evening air washing over her, heavy with the scent of hibiscus. As the senior student hurried away to his bed, she sank onto a nearby bench and pulled on her shoes, her neck and shoulders aching from sleeping crooked. She rubbed her face, feeling worse than she had before she fell asleep. She sighed. A whole evening of studying, lost. She looked around the deserted area, glum. She was far behind the others—even Asur, who was the dimmest of the lot was racing ahead of her. She didn't have the time or the energy she needed to keep up. She signed, resigned. Margot was winning after all. Despite her best efforts, Idira was going to get expelled. But then again, if she didn't find the book on teleportation on time, all of them would fail.
For the thousandth time, she wondered, bleak, how she would ever fulfil her dream and meet Khadgar. She looked up at the towering Citadel, its massive bulk dominating the glowing skyline. Rising up through the clouds, the windowless tower shimmered with ethereal blue light. Every now and again a current of arcane energy streaked along its length.
She eyed the thing, morose. Khadgar was in there, somewhere, both as near as a heartbeat and as far as another planet. Shut up in the Academy, she might as well still be on the farm in Westfall for all that coming to Dalaran had brought her nearer to him. The man lived in a world she couldn't begin to comprehend. Yet despite the impossible divide looming between them, every day Idira nourished the hope that a request for documents from the city's seat of power would materialise on her desk. Every day she locked up the archive hall, disappointed.
Since she started her duties, she felt like she had discovered every nook and cranny of the Academy; out of the way experimental labs, crooked corridors in the rafters of the towers, even a strange dome-shaped observatory hulking down in a large clearing of Dalaran's Park. When she asked what they did there, she was told the mages monitored the movements of the stars in the sky, searching for the anomalies in their movements which might indicate inter-dimensional warps. Fascinated, she stayed as long as she could, listening to the talkative blood-elf woman at the reception desk explain the details of how inter-dimensional warps worked and how badly the Kirin Tor wished to harness one in the hopes it might help in the fight against the Legion. Idira had had no idea such a thing was possible, the ability to watch the stars or harness warps of space and time. When the receptionist had to return to her duties, Idira left, her mind filled with impossible thoughts and her arms full of new documents to file back into their places in the archive. There was so much the Kirin Tor could do, so much she wanted to learn, but because of one woman's hatred, she spent her days running around, footsore and exhausted, carrying heavy books to and fro, learning nothing at all, except how political, petty, and divided the city of Dalaran really was.
She gazed awhile longer at the Citadel, willing someone from within to send for her, just once. Please, she thought, using the last of her energy to force her thoughts out into the Nether. Send for me. Let me see Khadgar before my time runs out and Margot sends me away. Please. Don't let my dream only have been just a dream.