Idira didn't have to wait long for her next summons to the Citadel. She had just returned to the archives, reeling with disappointment, footsore and hungry, when the next request came in. By the look of the books on the list, the Council wished to know everything they could about what could have caused the flaring of violet light. She groaned. Twelve books this time and as many more documents from the archives. She would definitely need a satchel this time, maybe two.
The satchels helped, but not much. She still had to carry eight of the books in her aching, trembling arms on top of the additional weight of a satchel over each shoulder, the straps crossing her chest like a pack horse, making her neck and shoulders burn, hot as a forge's fire. She had just staggered up the seventy-five steps and through the main entrance into the front hall, ignoring the sneers and taunts of the guards when a stunning, green-haired night elf dressed in a shimmering silver and white gown rode past on a giant sabre-toothed cat, the claws of its enormous paws clacking against the marble tiles. The woman was so astonishing, so beautiful, fierce and uncommon, that Idira couldn't help but stare as she walked. She had never, in all her life, neither in her fairytale books or in Stormwind or Dalaran ever seen such a beautiful woman. She looked like a goddess. She looked like—
A sharp pain in exploded from Idira's hip as she clipped her hip bone against the corner of a table. She cried out, letting go of the precious books to clasp her side, biting her lip against the jagged waves of pain shearing through her, rough like broken glass. The books clattered to the floor, causing a terrible racket. In her haze of agony, she caught the woman on the cat glancing at her, her expression filled with cold disdain. Other mages came running, helping to gather up the fallen books, all of them looking at Idira with disgust. Her cheeks flamed. Now it was really over. There was no gnome to save her this time. Guards came forward, taking hold of her, the offender, while others took the satchels from her, to carry her delivery the rest of the way. Three of them struggling to do the job she had been left to do alone.
She watched them walk up the stairs to the Council Chamber, following after the night elf riding her sabre-toothed cat, the mages patting the books, reverent, checking them for damage. The guards pulled her arms, yanking her backwards, back out into the sunlight, and across the city like a criminal, delivering her to Duncan, reporting what she had done in the most censorious tones.
Duncan nodded, his cheeks aflame, enduring their loud, scathing accusations of his obvious inability to do his duty. When they were gone, Idira found herself hustled away by the library guards back to her room and warded inside. Despite her frantic questions, no one told her anything.
She was left alone to wait. Food and drink arrived three times a day, and a covered chamber pot left was for her to use to relieve herself, replaced once a day by one of the mute servants. For three days she waited, pacing, claustrophobic, barely sleeping or eating, her heart and mind filled with terror and regret, imagining terrible things. She fretted constantly, even in her snatched moments of exhausted sleep, she continued stewing in her dreams, dwelling on the same question: why had she allowed herself to be distracted by that night elf? Over and over she wished for the chance to go back and relive the moment. Each time she imagined herself doing her task right, paying attention to where she was going and not hitting her hip so she could deliver the books and give Khadgar another chance to see her. But it was too late for all that now. She had crossed the line and there was no going back. She would never see Khadgar again. There would be no balcony. There would only be a portal back to Stormwind, or perhaps, even worse, to the middle of nowhere.
On the evening of her third day of confinement, her door opened. Idira looked up startled, it wasn't the usual time for either her meals or the changing of her chamber pot. She stood up, trembling, her dread spiking. Now it was coming. Margot walked in, looking like the cat that got the cream, her dark blue gown covered with silver embroidery shimmered in the lowering light of the sun. Her mouth twisted with disgust. Idira suppressed a smile at her own small triumph. Even if she had long become inured to the stink of fear and bodily excretions, the narrow room probably smelled worse than an outhouse during a Westfall summer. She hoped it deeply offended her pampered tormenter.
‘Come with me,’ Margot said, lifting her hand over her mouth and nose as she moved back out into the fresher air in the corridor. Idira followed, eyeing the other woman's gown, keenly aware of her own dishevelment. She longed for a bath and her violet dress which, unsurprisingly, had never been returned from the laundry.
Once out in the hallway, Margot cast a quick spell and wash of arcane light swept over Idira, as cold as a gust of sea air. She looked down at herself. Whatever Margot had done had cleaned Idira up as well as if she had gone and spent an hour scrubbing herself in the bath.
Without saying another word, Margot cast a portal. As she waited, Idira glanced at Wynn's door, but it was firmly closed, as were all the others, the corridor deathly silent. Somehow Idira suspected her colleagues had been warned not to come out until Idira was removed. Her heart sank. She would have liked to see Wynn at least one last time to say goodbye.
The portal swirled open, shimmering. ‘After you,’ Margot smirked, triumphant. ‘Archmage Modera is waiting. She knows all about your demon-slaying light and has expressed a great interest in being the one to personally expel you not just from the Kirin Tor, but Dalaran, permanently. She, like me is very keen to keep lying filth like you from our pristine, noble city.’ Margot waved her hand towards the portal, her eyes narrowing, malicious. ‘Shall we?’
Resigned, Idira stepped through the portal. She looked up, her heart juddering to a halt. Khadgar sat at a desk going through a vast pile of papers. He glanced up, distracted, as Margot appeared. He turned back to his papers, saying nothing.
‘Oh! I'm sorry to disturb you Archmage,’ Margot said, hastening to cast her portal spell again, ‘it seems I have cast to the wrong address.’
Nothing happened. ‘I don't understand,’ she muttered, trying again, her cheeks colouring with embarrassment.
‘Ah, it's the disbursement of magic caused by the anomaly in the Council Chamber,’ Khadgar said, his attention on one of the papers he held in his hand. ‘For the last three days it's been redirecting all sorts of things to me that ought to be going elsewhere. It even gets past my wards.’ He glanced up again, brief. ‘Who have you got there? An apprentice? I could use some help here if you don't mind.’
Idira caught her breath. She waited, aching with hope, hardly even daring to breathe. Margot blinked, taken aback. She swallowed and nodded, unable to gainsay the Leader of the Kirin Tor.
‘Leave her with me for an hour or so,’ he continued as he rifled through the piles, looking like he was searching for something. From one of the heaps, several papers slipped free and drifted down onto the thick rug. He leaned over the edge and picked them up. He sighed. ‘Once we've gotten on top of this mess I will send her back to you at the Academy.’
Her expression stiff, Margot backed out of the room. As she pulled the door closed behind her, she shot Idira a cold, warning look, the message clear. Don't try anything funny.
The door closed. Idira glanced behind her and saw the balcony, the exact one she had dreamed of twenty long years ago, where she had stood with Khadgar as he looked at her the way she had seen VanCleef look at Myra. Her heart pounding, she smoothed down her dress, and waited.