The font was enormous. It stood in the centre of an austere windowless hall, its dark stone floors and walls stripped bare of furnishings, tapestries, and rugs. Supported by an ancient ashlar of stone, the contents of the font’s wide, shallow basin undulated as they approached, its viscous, metallic fluid shifting; a greasy, molten silver. A shudder of revulsion rippled through Idira as she sensed its sentience, quivering as it followed them around the room, reacting to their presence. Behind the font, a narrow stone staircase butted up against the plinth, leading to the basin. Freed of her body, she stood in spirit form beside Khadgar on the top step and looked back at their bodies held immobilised within an arcane force field; arcane runes spinning and rotating around them, enclosing them in a complex web of intricate blue light.
Frozen in time, Khadgar stood positioned in the casting stance, holding her protectively against him with one arm, while casting with his other hand, his staff held outward, its crown glowing with arcane energy. She had rested her head against his shoulder as she waited, her hand against his chest, frost riming the front of his collar where her fingers touched the leather. The pain had come soon after. Ice and fire had sluiced into her, releasing the bonds which connected her body to her spirit. It had been most unpleasant. How Khadgar could have gone down this path more than once told her just how committed he was to the protection of Azeroth, even beyond his own brutal suffering. She endured the agony of her terrifying transition from corporeal to incorporeal, feeling his hand finding hers, holding it tight, reassuring her, reminding her he was there with her, that she was not alone.
Before he had opened the door to the shadowy room he had told her they would only have one hour within the font for her to complete her readings. Quavering with dread anticipation, she looked down at the quivering meniscus within the basin. An hour? Even a minute in that thing would be too long. As though reading her thoughts, Khadgar squeezed her hand again, reassuring her. Before they left their bodies behind, she had added an additional spell of her own, enabling them to speak to each other through their thoughts, a spell she had discovered encrypted deep within one of Medivh's books buried in his office, something Khadgar had missed.
Are you ready? Khadgar asked.
Yes, she answered.
Follow me into the font.
He stepped into the basin, lifting his hand to steady her so she could follow him in. She hesitated for a heartbeat then stepped over the basin's ridge. Her foot disappeared into the liquid, but she felt nothing. It was as though she had stepped into thin air, despite the metallic liquid swirling around the outline of her foot. She brought her other foot down and watched, horrified as the liquid swam around the outline of her gown's hem, creeping upwards.
Khadgar pulled her against him. Don't look.
She slid her arms around his torso, trying and failing not to look at the liquid slithering up, moving toward her waist, terror clawing at her.
Hold on tight. Do not let go.
She tightened her grip on him, sensing his concentration as he cast the incantation that would carry them to their destination.
The font disappeared. She blinked and looked around. She stood within a damp, dark, claustrophobic tunnel, cut from living stone. Fel torches dotted its length—lurid pools of sickly green light stretching into the shadowy distance.
Her Light bloomed, awakening, reacting to the Legion's foul taint; scenting the dark magic which lurked, hostile and malevolent at both ends of the tunnel, paid for with the souls of the living. Her senses prickling, she moved forward, her Light intuiting the complicated weave of the wards blocking the tunnel, at once understanding Khadgar's difficulty in unravelling them. The wards were not only the work of the necromancer Gul'dan. Deep within them, at their core lay the darkest wards of all, enhanced by the power of a titan.
Her Light tugged on her, guiding her. She moved away, Khadgar's hand capturing hers, ensuring their tenuous contact. He followed after her to the end of the tunnel, waiting as she pressed her hand against the solid stone blocking the way out. Through the residue of its wards, she saw the tunnel let out into a large cave, half-filled by the ruins of an ancient elven temple. The wards blocking the way were layered, complex, and dangerous, crafted to ensure there could be no way through apart from using the magic made for them—the magic the Council needed her to decode, magic only someone belonging to the Legion could see and use. Or someone like her. It took her several painstaking, time-consuming tries to work out its order: seven layers, designed to change over time and reassemble into a different order to further ensure no one but one of Gul'dan's inner circle could use them.
Can you take us back in time, slowly, over the past three days? she asked.
Yes, of course. Khadgar began to scroll back through time, stopping at various intervals whenever she asked him to, so she could check the patterns. Satisfied she had learned all she could, she asked him to take them into the future: perhaps there might be hidden wards awaiting them, she wanted to be certain she had checked all the possibilities. He moved them forward in time, the wards clicking into place just as she suspected they would. They had progressed into the afternoon of the next day when she felt a lurch, as though hitting a wall.
Strange. He said, and tried again. A bubble of resistance pressed against her, heavy with the weight of time. She shoved hard, using all her will, fearing a hidden ward. She burst through, a flash of her Light blinding her as she stumbled out alone on the other side.
A woman, the same woman she had seen on the sabre cat in the Violet Citadel, stood before her in a large circular room, the floor blazing with fel runes; a massive portal to the Nether gaping like a festering wound in the wall, its edges framed by more glowing runes, the colour of pestilence. The woman spoke, with the voice of a powerful male. No longer beautiful, the elven queen's face and body had been ravaged almost beyond recognition, only her eyes remained intact, flaming with fel fire. Idira watched, horrified, realising she was looking at her future, when she would confront Sargeras's avatar.
She watched, horrified, as her future self, wearing her full regalia, reached out and touched the titan's avatar, her fingers glowing, brilliant with her Light, consuming the power imprisoning Tyrande, freeing her. Tyrande fell, and the being Sargeras emerged, hovering at the threshold of the portal to the Nether, enraged, a flaming entity of pure energy. His burning eyes met hers. He hissed one word: Azeroth. In response, a brilliant flash of violet light flared out from the torso of her future self, the entire room pulsating with Azeroth's blinding, cleansing Light. The Light faded.
Wounded and bloodied, Khadgar crawled across the ravaged room to a metallic object laying on the floor. He picked it up and clutched it against his chest, over his heart, his face twisted with anguish. She stared, disbelieving at the item in his hands. Her silver circlet. Of her and Sargeras, there was nothing. The runes on the floor lay dormant, extinguished; the portal to the Nether gone, replaced by the ashlars of the stone structure. She looked around, frantic, it had to be a mistake, her future self was somewhere else, thrown aside by the blast.
Tyrande, the night elf woman, still remained, her ravaged, bleeding body caught up into the arms of a male night elf, also bloodied and injured, who wept over her limp form. Two more bodies lay on the floor, mutilated beyond recognition and the crushed remains of something made of glass lay scattered amongst the debris. But of herself, there was nothing. It was as though she had never existed. She sank to her knees, disbelieving. No. It couldn't be. This was not how it was to end. To defeat the Sargeras, Azeroth's Light would need to consume her, obliterate her? Her whole existence was meant for this? To cease to exist? She staggered, unable to comprehend why she had been the one chosen for this horrible destiny. What had she done to deserve such a terrible end? She wanted to scream, but she had no voice, her heart stuttered as she caught sight of Khadgar's desolation, his eyes haunted, disbelieving, stricken, her name on his lips. She screamed, in total silence, her soul rending in two, shorn apart. She reeled, plummeting into darkness, riven by loss and despair.
Pain slammed into her, harsh, jagged, shattering her into a thousand pieces, the force of it blinding her. Smears of colour danced at the edges of her vision. An epochal silence surrounded her. The colours faded. Darkness. She weighed nothing. A voice, faint, called to her. She swam towards it, frightened. Khadgar? No, not Khadgar, another. They called again. A familiar voice, filled with love, urging her to them.
A hand grasped hold of hers, firm, dragging her back. She plunged backwards, barrelling through the darkness, back through the circular chamber, past Khadgar, bleeding and kneeling on the floor, clutching her circlet against his heart, past her future self confronting the titan's avatar, and onwards, through the barrier, and into the arms of Khadgar, holding her tight against him; surrounded once more by the fel light of the tainted tunnel.
She sagged in his grip, quaking, her thoughts in chaos, as the awful, terrible truth slammed into her. Her whole life had only been lived for one purpose: to face Sargeras, and stop him. She was nothing without her Light, and once she channelled the Light of Azeroth into Sargeras, her body would not survive, the power needed would be too great, would tear her apart until there was nothing left of her. She struggled to elide the path of her life with the cost of being chosen as the Light's vessel. No. It was too much. It was unbearable, the burden too great. She had never been given a choice, never even been warned. Her life had only just begun and now she was to lose it?
Khadgar's arms tightened around her. The memory of him clutching her silver circlet against his heart seared through her mind. And what about him? Guilt clawed at her. She should not have persisted in trying to tempt him. Her Light had never promised him to her and he had done his best to do what was right by resisting her. Her selfish determination to make the supposed fairytale of her life story come true was going to exact a terrible price. He was the Leader of the Kirin Tor, with grave responsibilities and obligations. He was not a man to be trifled with, to act out her childish ideals of love conquering all. Far better for him if she had been nothing more than another journal entry, another woman to add to his list of women he had loved from afar. He asked her how she was, but she couldn't answer. What could she say? She couldn't tell him the truth, that tomorrow she would cease to exist. He had a world to save.
She shuddered, stricken, devastated, unable to stop the relentless march of the pieces of her life rearranging themselves, revealing her true path, glaring, brutal, cruel. Pain slashed through her, tearing at her, the disjunct of passing the threshold of her death while still alive fragmenting her. Agony sheared at her, clawing at her from the inside out, the rending far more brutal than the severance she had endured to enter the font. It worsened, deepening, making it difficult for her to think; she suspected the time disjunct had made her connection to the font unstable, her continued presence within it might even be killing her. She needed to get out of the font, and soon.
She turned, trembling and weak, staggering from the slicing rifts of darkness scything into her, her spirit struggling to maintain its integrity against the unstoppable forces tearing at it—ignoring Khadgar's rising concern, his need for reassurance she was not harmed—progressing as fast as she could down the tunnel. At the tunnel's termination, she went to work again sensing and reading the wards, again asking to go back in time, for three days, but all of her readings came back the same as before. Sagging with relief, she turned to him, sliding her arms around him, shuddering, broken.
I have learned all I can, she said. Please, take us away from this place.
He brought them back through the font and led her down its steps to where their bodies stood, immobile. She juddered, enduring the searing pain of ice and fire as their spirits merged with their bodies. When it was over, she clung to him, quaking, barely able to remain conscious, pain continuing to sear through her. Blood dripped from her nose, mouth and eyes, freezing on her skin.
With a cry of alarm, Khadgar swept her up and carried her to the bed, conjuring a bowl of warm water and fresh linens, cleaning the blood and pressing compresses against her nose and mouth, cursing with frustration when the linens began to freeze. She lay passive to his ministrations, letting him tend to her, hopelessness paralysing her. He changed the compresses continuously, but despite the pressure he applied, she continued to bleed.
He took hold of her shoulders, giving her a shake. ‘Idira,’ he said, his voice taut with fear, ‘are you aware?’
She pulled herself toward his voice and opened her eyes, noticing the pile of bloodied linens beside him, the desperation in his eyes. She called to her Light. The bleeding stopped. Another spell and her regalia disappeared, replaced by a simple robe, the frost on her skin melting away. She felt his hand on hers, chafing her, trying to warm her. He lit another fire, and covered her with the blanket. Shivering, she curled into herself, turning her back to him, despair consuming her. Tomorrow she would be gone forever. Azeroth was a cruel mistress after all.
Khadgar's fingers moved against her head, stroking her hair, his movements taut with apprehension. The mattress shifted as he lowered his weight onto it and lay down behind her, pulling her freezing body against his, rubbing her arms and legs, trying warm her. She lay silent and unresponsive in his embrace, her heart aching, letting him do his work. His murmurs of concern finally pierced her shroud of depression. She shifted in his embrace, turning to face him, her heart breaking anew at the sight of his steel-grey eyes gazing at her, consumed with trepidation.
‘I will be able to open the tunnel tomorrow without Gul'dan knowing,’ she said, quiet.
He watched her, uneasy, waiting for her to say more. When she didn't, he brushed her hair from her face, his tenderness nearly undoing her. ‘Won't you tell me what it is that is troubling you?’ he asked, her eyes searching hers.
She closed her eyes, fearing he might see the truth in them. She would never tell him. Never. She felt a tear slip free. He kissed it away, waiting for her answer.
‘Just love me,’ she whispered against his neck, desperate to escape the darkness consuming her. ‘I need to forget.’
With an anguished groan, he undressed her and made love to her, gentle, cradling her against him as though she were made of porcelain, his kisses soft and tender, and when she cried out with her release, her tears were not tears of joy, but sorrow.
He dressed afterwards, quiet, watching her, his eyes dark with concern as he prepared to return to his duties at the Citadel. He promised he would return that evening with her favourite dinner, asking her to wait up for him. She watched him leave, her throat so tight she could barely breathe. He vanished. On the other side of his teleport, he walked away; she watched him, crushed by the unbearable burden of her knowledge. Dragging his pillow against her chest, she drank in his lingering scent, grieving at how little time she had left to love him. Unable to hold back her heartache any longer, she bent her face against his pillow and wept.