Idira woke to Khadgar’s touch, the fire reduced to a smoulder, her body caught in the thrall of her innate chill. She sat up. The fairytale book slipped from her numb fingers and toppled to the floor. Khadgar picked it up.
‘Love, Courage, and Honour,’ he said, reading the title. ‘These are very sad stories.' He murmured a spell and rekindled the fire. ‘The Horde races prefer tragic endings to their fairytales, believing a difficult ending reflects life more accurately than the happy endings of the Alliance versions.’
‘Perhaps the Horde are wiser than we,’ Idira remarked, rising to her feet, letting him wrap his arms around her, enclosing her against his warmth. ‘Their children will not grow up to be disappointed, as I am sure many of the Alliance's have.’
Khadgar made a non-committal sound as he leaned over and set the book onto the side table, still holding her in his arms. ‘I read these stories when I was Medivh's apprentice—the whole book in one sitting—hoping each new tale would come to a better end. Not one of them does.’ He caught her chin in his fingers and tilted her face up to his. ‘Call me a romantic, but I like to believe in happy endings. I must, for why else do we fight?’
Idira blinked, unable to find an adequate response to his question. He kissed her brow, undisturbed by her silence, seeming to accept it as evidence of her concurrence.
‘We have just a few minutes before I must take you to meet the others,’ he said, ‘if there is anything you would like to have teleported to my residence I can send it over now.’
Idira looked down and shook her head. ‘No, there is nothing,’ she whispered.
‘Not even one or two books?’ Khadgar suggested, hopeful. ‘I am sure none of them would mind leaving the fortress to stay with you.’
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she shook her head again, unable to answer.
‘Ah, well, perhaps this isn't the time,’ he said, gentle. ‘I imagine you have other things on your mind at the moment, hmm?’
She looked nodded, envying him his ignorance. He let her go. She sank back onto the chair. ‘Are you hungry?’ he asked. ‘I could conjure some food if you like.’
‘No. Thank you,’ Idira said, letting her gaze drift over him, memorising him. She bit her lip, her heart aching, unable to stop herself from thinking of what was to come.
‘It will be alright,’ he said, keeping his eyes on hers. ‘I will be beside you the whole time. Kalec and Xe'ra will be there as well, along with Archdruid Malfurion. We will be in and out, quick. No harm will come to you, I swear it.’
She stood up, abrupt, agitated, dismayed by his words, knowing he would soon curse himself for ever having said them. ‘I should get ready,’ she said turning away so he wouldn't see her face, the tears glinting in her eyes.
‘Of course,’ he said, moving to the door, ‘shall I wait for you in the library?’
‘No,’ Idira said, dull, thinking of the grieving books, ‘not the library.’
He came back to her and took her by her shoulders. ‘What is it?’ he demanded, his eyes searching hers. ‘A blind man could see something is troubling you.’
For several heart-stopping moments, she thought he could read her mind, his gaze so piercing, so filled with sadness, she couldn't answer. He pulled her into his arms, holding her fast against him.
‘Is it what grieved you yesterday?’ he asked, soft.
She wouldn't lie to him. Her face buried against his chest, she nodded, blinking back her tears. He waited for her to say more, but she kept quiet.
‘It will be alright,’ he sighed, ‘whatever it is. It will pass.’ His arms tightened around her, reassuring.
Her ear pressed against his chest, she listened to his heartbeat, savouring its steady, strong cadence. ‘I love you,’ she whispered into his tunic. ‘I have always loved you.’
Khadgar's heart sped up, just a touch. She pulled from his embrace. ‘Do you remember me?’ she asked.
His brow creased. ‘Remember you?’ he repeated, puzzled.
‘One night in Shattrath, when you were walking and looking at the stars, you saw me.’ When he continued to look perplexed, she said, ‘You were asking the sky about my Light. I was dreaming and saw you first. Somehow you also saw me. You said: 'A child. It cannot be'. Once you recovered, you asked me about Gul'dan. I answered you but you couldn't hear me.’
He blinked, taken aback, his gaze turning inward as he searched his memories. ‘Shattrath?’ he mused, his brow furrowing. ‘That was a long time ago, much has happened since then. It would be difficult—’ he stopped, staring at her, recognition flickering; seeing her with new eyes. ‘You?!’ he breathed. ‘You were the child, obscured by the violet Light?’ he shook his head, slow, incredulous. ‘Of course. Yes. It all makes sense now. How could I not have remembered that the moment I saw your eyes? For weeks, your Light had been coming to my dreams, warning me about Gul'dan, which I couldn't understand since in Shattrath’s world he was already long dead. After I saw you, the dreams stopped, and I confess I forgot about the whole thing when nothing more happened. Yet years later, here we are, facing Gul'dan. It is as though your Light had planned this all along. How fascinating.’ He took her hands in his, running his thumbs over the backs of her knuckles. ‘It is as though our destinies were already entwined, even then.’
‘Hmmm,’ Idira said, not wanting to encourage him. She decided to steer the conversation to safer waters. ‘I also saw you once in Stormwind, just over three months ago. At the flower seller's cart.’
‘You did?’ he asked, glancing at her in surprise. ‘But surely I would have remembered you—your eyes.’
‘I didn't let you see my eyes,’ she answered, quiet. ‘I stumbled. You caught me.’
‘Well at least I did one thing right,’ he smiled, his expression softening. ‘How different things would have been had I seen your eyes, we could have had—’
‘Who were you buying flowers for?’ Idira interrupted, desperate to stop him from reminding her of their missed opportunity.
‘What's that?’ he asked, startled by her non-sequitur.
‘The flower seller,’ Idira persisted, dogged, ‘she asked if you wanted the usual or something new.’
‘Ah,’ he smiled, ‘is it not enough you have read my journal, now you must know all my secrets?’
‘You don't have to tell me if you'd rather not,’ Idira said, and meant it.
‘They were for a memorial,’ he said, relenting, his lips quirking, ‘for a young woman I once met, a long, long time ago before Stormwind was sacked by the orcs. We crossed paths at the Stormwind Palace when I was a youth. She showed me kindness while I was still an awkward Kirin Tor apprentice, helping me find the books I needed in the Royal Library. Since we never introduced ourselves, it was only afterwards I found out who she really was.’
‘Oh. A memorial?’ Idira asked, intrigued. ‘She doesn't have a grave?’
‘No. She died in the attack by Deathwing. Incinerated. An instantaneous death while getting a group of orphans to safety. Just think of it, the niece of one of Stormwind's previous queens, sacrificing her life for those with nothing. She could certainly teach the Kirin Tor a thing or two about compassion.’ He fell into his thoughts, ruminating for several moments. He looked up, abrupt. ‘Perhaps you might have heard of her. Lady Nin.’
Idira's body tingled. Pieces clicked, falling together. Another from her past, sacrificing their life for others. A pattern. Over and over, surrounding her, repeating. A message, written in the destinies of others. She blinked back a fresh onslaught of tears. ‘I have heard of her,’ she whispered, a blanket of peace settling over her, granting her a oneness with her fate. ‘In fact it was her memorial I was on my way to visit.’
‘Oh?’ he said, his brow creasing, ‘I didn't see you there.’
‘Something else came up and I wasn't able to go,’ she said, soft, thinking how he had been the one to unlock her memories; the brutal truth of what the Legion had cost her, the memory devastating her, paralysing her with grief.
‘It's a very fine memorial,’ he said, picking up the poker and stirring the fire. ‘The House of Nobles commissioned a marble statue of her surrounded by children holding hands, and dancing in a circle around her. She is smiling down at them, completely serene. It's quite beautifully done. When things are calmer, I will take you to see it if you like.’
Idira imagined the memorial, her heart clenching. ‘I would like that very much,’ she said, grateful to have learned the truth behind Nin's demise. She brushed away a tear, her emotions taking hold of her, though her feelings were not of grief, but of resolve. Logan. Lady Nin. Benny. Unambi. They had died with courage. With purpose. With love in their hearts.
‘Better now?’ Khadgar asked, after a long quiet.
She looked into his eyes as her Light clothed her in her regalia. ‘Better,’ she answered, shivering, enduring the icy pain of a layer of frost creeping over her skin, sparkling in the firelight. She held out her hand. Her staff materialised. ‘I am ready to finish this.’