Idira hurried through the library's atrium into the cover of the garden and peered out from behind one of the trees at the front desk, praying Duncan would still be at the Main Reception. The atrium lay almost deserted. She glanced up at the clock hanging above the library's entrance, hanging suspended in thin air. Seven-thirty pm. Of course. Dinner time. She scoffed. Evening meals were a grand affair in the Academy; three courses, silver service, not that she had enjoyed very many of them, however.
Duncan popped up from behind one of the desks, looking stressed as usual. She looked for the others, but barring the guards there was no one else around, thank the Light. She had a plan, not a very good one, but it would have to do. As much as Khadgar had intuited her circumstances, he still didn't know was she was due to be kicked out of Dalaran right about now, and if Margot found her, Idira suspected it wouldn't be long before she would be shoved into the nearest portal to anywhere.
Somehow she had survived the harrowing trip back into the Academy without being detected, sneaking in through the gates without a pass card by surrounding herself in a group of students chattering about their field trip to the Citadel. But her frenetic trip across the campus had left her giddy with terror. She only had this one last hurdle and then it would be over; she would be safe within Khadgar's office.
Duncan stepped down from the reception’s platform, carrying a wad of scrolls under his arm, moving in her direction.
‘Duncan?’ she called to him, quiet.
He looked up, distracted. His gaze fell on her. ‘You!’ he exclaimed, marching up to her. ‘Do you know how much trouble you have gotten me into?’
‘I'm sorry,’ she said, looking around, frantic, checking the guards hadn't noticed her. She held out her hand with Khadgar's ring inside and opened her fingers.
Duncan's eyes widened. ‘That's the ring of the Leader of the Kirin Tor,’ he breathed. ‘How did you—?’
She shushed him. ‘He gave it to me, just now,’ she whispered. ‘He wants me to go to his office and study his books. I need a portal up to it. Will you do it for me? Please?’
Duncan rubbed the back of his neck, uneasy. ‘That's a lot to ask after all that's happened lately. I mean, how do I know you didn't steal his ring? I could lose everything if I help you and you are up to something bad.’
Idira slumped. ‘You would really believe that of me?’
‘I don't know,’ he shrugged, though he looked uncertain. ‘Margot's been saying some pretty serious things about you. Word has it you're not what you seem. She says your magic isn't normal magic and you're a danger to Dalaran. You were supposed to be getting banished today. The fact you are here with that ring makes me wonder if Margot has got it right.’
‘A danger?’ Idira spluttered, indignant, thinking of Margot's deep machinations. ‘Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!’
Duncan lifted his brow at her outburst. He shook his head. ‘Don't ask me to do this, it's too dangerous. I've worked hard to get to where I am, and don't want to lose everything I've worked for because I end up on the wrong side of the fence.’
‘But—’ Idira said, showing him the ring once more, desperate.
Duncan waved his hand at it, shooing it away. ‘Maybe you are telling the truth,’ he sighed. ‘I suppose what I can do is go over there—’ he tilted his head in the direction he intended ‘—and have a look at the notice board before casting the portal I need to put these scrolls back. If you were to follow after me without my permission, that would be another matter entirely.’ He lowered his voice as he adjusted the scrolls under his arm, ‘You'll need to go up one more floor to get to his office but of course you would have known that already. Didn't hear it from me.’
He turned and went to the notice board. She edged her way after him, moving through the garden until she was as close to him as she could get. She caught him glancing over his shoulder, making sure she was nearby. He cast the portal. She bolted out from the garden into the portal and tumbled out the other side, knocking Duncan into a wall.
‘Run! That way!’ he jerked his head in the direction she needed to go before he began yelling for help, raising the alarm.
Holding Khadgar's ring tight, she gathered up her skirts and pounded up the curved staircase. Shouts came up the stairs just as she reached the next floor. She scanned the circular walkway. No guards. Thank the Light. Along the wall were several doors, widely spaced apart, all of them closed. She ran past them reading the nameplates of the Archmages: Modera, Karlain, Ansirem. Her lungs were beginning to ache, the walkway was enormous; if only she'd been able to learn how to teleport! Ahead, a pair of wooden double doors loomed, ornately carved. She hoped those were the doors to Khadgar's office as black spots began to speckle in front of her eyes. On the opposite side of the walkway, four guards burst up from the stairwell, bellowing at her to stop. A sudden blur of colour at the corner of Idira's eye made her look back. One of the doors had been thrown open. A woman strode away from Modera's office, dressed in red, her gown shimmering with rubies. Margot.
‘What in the name of—?’ Margot shouted. Their eyes met. ‘You!’
She began to cast a spell. Idira ran faster, terrified, irrationally believing if she somehow managed to get into Khadgar's office and closed the doors, she would be safe. A bolt of frost fire crashed into the carpet in front of her. She bit back a cry and jumped over the blue flames incinerating the plush carpet and slammed up against the double doors, panting, her throat on fire. The nameplate read Leader of the Kirin Tor, Archmage Khadgar.
She pushed on the door handle. Nothing happened. The guards were closing in, their daggers drawn, further down Margot was nearing the end of another spell. A fireblast. Not good.
Frantic Idira raked her gaze over the doors, seeking the way to open them. Beside the right hand door, she spotted a little panel recessed into the wall. In its centre, highlighted in a glow of arcane energy, the reverse impression of the sigil on his ring pulsed. Her fingers shaking, she held the ring up to the panel and pressed his ring against it. The doors swung open, silent. She rushed into marble foyer, turning to shove the doors closed. They refused to budge. The pounding of feet neared, the guards had given up yelling, their silent focus somehow much more terrifying. With a cry she bolted through another pair of double doors into a large room, hoping the doors would close behind her on their own. She staggered around in a circle, Khadgar's office was massive, laid out like an apartment, with several more suites branching off the main room, all of them crammed with books. She spun around searching for a place to hide. On the opposite side of the room, a little alcove held an active portal.
The fireblast hit the spot in the foyer where she had just been, a beat later an intense wall of heat hit her, sending her stumbling backwards, her eyes watering. The guards pushed in through the billowing smoke. Margot following right after.
‘Whatever you think you are doing, this stops now,’ she snarled, lifting her hands to cast another fireblast.
Without a second thought, Idira hurled herself into the portal just as another burning wall of heat slammed into her. She rolled out the other side, disoriented. She could be anywhere. She blinked, recognising her surroundings. Of course. The portal had brought her back to the landing outside Khadgar's private office. She ran down the corridor's length to his door, looking back just as the guards and Margot emerged from the portal, furious. She reached Khadgar's door, and pounded on it, frantic. Once he told them everything, she would be alright. No answer. The guards were running now, murder in their eyes. Margot was casting a new spell. Polymorph. No. No. No.
She beat on the door, terrified. Still no answer. The guards would be on her within heartbeats. She had no choice. She pulled on the latch, opened the door and slid inside, slamming it closed behind her. She searched for a key to lock it. Nothing. She backed up, panting, watching the door, wary, expecting her pursuers to come barging in at any moment. She could hear someone jiggling the latch. Maybe they were afraid to go in without permission. She waited, hope kindling in her breast. She might be safe after all. A burst of blue light slammed through the middle of the door, spreading out, dozens of blue-tinted lightning bolts clawing at doors edges, crackling over its surface. She stared at the bolts of arcane energy as they slid over the door, harmless, fading away.
A sound came from behind her, she turned, hoping to find Khadgar. Instead she found the faint outline of a portal hanging in the air. The sound had come from the other side—what looked like a library. Curious, she went to it. Another blast of magic slammed against the door. She turned, watching the magic slither over the door and around its frame, useless, wondering if Margot was trying to attack her from outside. Perhaps she was unwilling to enter Khadgar's private office without permission. Idira didn't want to wait around to find out. Taking one last look around the room to be sure Khadgar wasn't there, she stepped into the portal, hoping with all her heart she wasn't jumping from the frying pan into the fire.