Idira passed through the ice barrier, the fel tendrils sliding between Kalec, Khadgar, Illidan and Sargeras easing away from her, avoiding her Light. She touched Khadgar's face, the fel tendrils encasing him parting, shunning her.
‘My love,’ she whispered, ‘I shall miss you.’
Silenced by the power of Sargeras, he could only gaze at her, communicating with his eyes; in them she read his desperation, his fear, his struggle to free himself from his bonds, his fury at his helplessness to stop her. His denial, even now, to accept what they both knew was to come.
‘I lived my whole life to love you,’ she said, soft, the shadows in her mind parting, exposing the crystalline truth, its purity hidden until now by fear, sorrow, bitterness. She had been meant to love Khadgar, her love for him paradoxically giving her the courage to face her death. ‘I beg you, forgive me, for what I must do to you.’
He sagged in the grip of the fel. No, he plead, his thoughts slamming into her, his love for her overcoming the power of the titan.
Protect Azeroth, my love, she answered. You are her true Guardian, just as you have been mine.
Idira. Please. Light! Don't do this.
‘Sargeras,’ she said, quiet, ‘you will not have me.’
Tyrande rose up to face her, a slow smile spread across her blistered lips. ‘Ah . . . Azeroth herself comes to me.’
A surge of Light rose within Idira, responding to the dark voice of the titan. She succumbed, relinquishing herself, letting the Light of Azeroth take over, its power resonating, thrumming, rotating, flaring so bright the entire Chamber glowed in violet light. The voice of Azeroth came from her mouth, neither male nor female, but a hybrid of the two. ‘You are wrong in your thinking Sargeras. Life will overcome the Void, not fire.’
Tyrande raised her hand. Fel fire flamed from her fingers. ‘Fire is all there is,’ Sargeras hissed. ‘Even for you.’
A wall of flames struck Idira. They slid over her frozen gown, harmless, extinguishing. She smiled, soft. ‘Even in fire, life remains, both good and evil. You cannot cleanse evil by destroying life. It is the way of wisdom to understand there must be balance. Always, there must be balance.’
She reached out and touched Tyrande's fingers. The fel burning in them retreated, rushing back up Tyrande's arm and into her torso, sweeping upwards until only the colour of fel continue to burn in Tyrande's eyes.
‘You have done much harm to me, Sargeras. I have been patient, but the time has come to end this once and for all.’
From the planet's depths, Idira sensed the full force of Azeroth's Light gathering, hurtling toward her, a tsunami. It surged up into her, plunging through her, a torrent, the intensity of it threatening to tear her apart. She screamed, staggering, unable to bear it. Light exploded out from her, a pristine beam of violet energy. It rammed into Tyrande, spreading through her, freeing the night elf woman from her imprisonment, the titan slithered out from her mouth, roaring, furious. The sickening crunch of bone breaking as Tyrande's jaw succumbed to the force of his release. She tumbled to the floor, ruined, broken, bleeding, brutally disfigured. A tendril of Azeroth's Light wove itself into her, sustaining her, keeping her at the brink of death, holding back the inevitable. Giving her time.
Within their cocoon of violet Light Idira shuddered, quivering, reeling with pain, the power of Azeroth's Light scorching her, clawing at her, seething, surging, preparing for its final onslaught. Sargeras stood before her, proud, unrepentant, the shape of him unexpectedly human-like, his appearance terrifying, glorious, strangely beautiful; a being of immense power, shifting, wavering, pure energy, his eyes black, riven with darkness and hate.
‘Azeroth used you,’ he said, cold, calm, eyeing her suffering, merciless. ‘I would have given you eternal life.’ He glanced at Khadgar locked behind the wall of ice, her lover smashing his fist against it, screaming, desperate to break through; Kalec pulling on him, struggling to drag him back. ‘I would have given you your heart's desire.’
Azeroth's Light answered him. Searing pain slammed into Idira, cold, hard, jagged, a thousand daggers slicing her apart. She cried out but no sound came, she lifted up her hands, watching as they fragmented, pieces of her breaking apart, swarming around her just like The Echo's body had done in the font. Light streamed out of her core, freed of her body. Its beams pierced Sargeras, breaking him apart. He bellowed, clutching at his chest, his power flickering as he fought to extinguish the Light, pulling him apart from the inside out.
The Light's power increased, more of Idira's body fell away, collapsing, separating, folding, tiny pieces of her, her life, her memories, broken apart, lost. Gone. Sargeras bellowed, falling to his knees, the Light continued to work, relentless, dissolving him into millions of tiny particles; darting and weaving through the swarming pieces, cleansing them, burning away the taint of hatred. His cries ended. Silence fell. The Light continued to stream out of what was left of Idira, carrying the last of his energy away with her through the portal into the Nether. Idira looked down, only a tiny part of her remained. The Light within her dimmed, flickering, dying. A brief spark, and it guttered. The cocoon of Light collapsed and plummeted towards her.
She looked back one last time at Khadgar, pounding on the ice wall, crying out her name, trying to see through the icy barrier and into the blinding light. A deep vibration plummeted through Idira, her contact with her life dissipating as the last pieces of her drifted away, pulled by the nexus of the portal. It was over now. It was time to leave. She called out to him, hoping with all her heart he would hear her last words.
Khadgar, it was always you. Live, my love.
The ice barriers exploded. The winds of a hurricane blew outwards. She flew away, a leaf in a storm, sucked into the portal, spiralling, tumbling, Khadgar's form retreating, fading away. The portal shimmered and sealed over. Silence. Darkness. Nothing.
Smears of colour danced at the edges of her vision. An epochal silence surrounded her. The colours faded. She weighed nothing. A voice, faint, called to her. She swam towards it, frightened. Khadgar? No, not Khadgar, another. They called again. A voice, filled with love, urging her to them.
Idira drifted in the darkness, lost, searching. The voice came again, calling to her, faint, as though from a great distance. Formless, she struggled to reach it, aware she was nothing more than her consciousness. In an immaterial place of timelessness, Idira fought to retain her memories. Khadgar. His hand on her elbow in Stormwind, holding her steady; his eyes on hers as he made love to her; sharing a cup of wine together. The edges began to fade. Soon she sensed she would forget all of it, even what he looked like. Agonised, she continued toward the voice, calling to her, guiding her, a solitary beacon in a place of utter stillness and silence.
How long she drifted, searching, moving in one direction only to have to turn back, returning in the direction she had just come from, she couldn't say, it could have been an eternity, it could have been mere minutes. She longed for the release of oblivion.
Please. I'm lost. Let it end. I cannot find you.
Daughter, the clarion voice from her dream answered, you are so close. Do not give up. They are waiting for you.
Idira heard the voice calling to her again, stronger, clearer. A male voice, as warm and smooth as syrup. It called again, so near if she had had hands, she could have reached out and touched it. She reeled, stunned. It couldn't be. Too much time had passed. It was impossible. It had to be a trick of her consciousness. He wasn't here. It was a lie. A lie she was telling herself to cope with this unimaginable place of isolation and disconnection. He called her name again. A question, uncertain. She said nothing, wishing it would stop, wishing the torture would end. Hadn't she suffered enough?
Ya be safe now.
No. It couldn't be. She turned away. Unambi was long gone, broken down by the Nether.
Idira? Don' ya rememba' me? Worry etched his words.
She hesitated. How can you still be here? she finally asked, wary, still believing it a trick of her consciousness.
Ya Light, he said, relieved, when ya be killin' all dem demons, dat's what got me. Boom. But ya Light be grabbin' on ta me before it be too late, askin' me if I be wantin' ta wait for ya, ta give ya a second chance, after it told me about all da tings ya be givin' up for Azeroth. Well, ol' Unambi didn't have ta tink long 'bout dat.
It was you. Idira said, overcome, realising the meaning of Azeroth's cryptic message from her dream. It wasn't a lie, it was real. Unambi was there, with her, in the Nether, his soul held intact against its decimating forces by the strength of Azeroth's Light.
So, he continued, Unambi be havin' one last ting ta be doin' for ya. Dis time it be goodbye for good. Ya and me, we neva goin' ta be meetin' again, dat be da only ting I be feelin' sorry for, so don' be forgettin' ol' Unambi. It be da only way ta keep him livin' on.
Unambi! she cried out, sensing his soul fading away. I don't deserve this!
Ya be deservin' dis an' so much more, he said, faint. Ya be real special. Idira. Real special. Be happy.
She lunged after his fading voice. Thank you. I will never forget you.
He didn't answer. Silence surrounded her. He was already gone.
Grief enveloped Idira. She wished she could cry, but all she could do was ache, lost in the agony of Unambi's ultimate sacrifice, obliterated so she could return to the man she loved. She drifted, suffering, able to think of nothing else but him, gone forever, as though he had never been.
Daughter. It is time. The way is open for your return. I will guide you back. Follow my Light.
In the far distance, a point of violet light appeared, a mere speck, a tiny shaft, a pinprick of light probing into the depths of a black-dark sea. She swam towards it, working her way through the inky darkness, the pinprick becoming the size of a coin, a plate, a table, the Light brightening, consuming the darkness, suffusing her. She moved faster now, the opening widening, the size of a door, a room, a building, the darkness receding. Azeroth's violet Light surrounded her, enclosing her, tugging at her. She sped up, caught in its pull, the Light on either side of her smearing, streaking as she hurtled towards its centre, its core shining as bright as a star, spinning, pulsing, thrumming, alive.
She plunged into it, millions of particles of Light plummeting towards her, swarming around her, rebuilding her soul. She watched, fascinated as she formed into a being of Light. She held up her ethereal hands, their outline sparkling with pinpoints of glimmering light, tiny white stars. Ahead, an opening, a doorway, its edges churning, outlined in spinning whorls, an event horizon. She moved towards it curious; the light from the other side dull, pale, blue, cold, ordinary. She stopped at the opening's threshold. Khadgar lay on the bed in the fortress with her echo, his arms around her, holding her fast against him, her head cradled against his chest. He slept, exhausted, his face ravaged, hardened by grief.
Go to him, Daughter. You have served me well. My final gift will follow.
Idira stepped through the churning opening. Pain slammed into her as she crossed the boundary, darkness once more enveloping her, wrapping itself around her, pulling her downward; the unexpected heaviness of being dragging on her as her soul slid into the body of her echo. She tried to open her eyes. She couldn't. Her body's unconscious state captured her, holding her in its thrall.
A rhythmic thudding, steady and slow against her ear. The beating of a heart. His heart. She listened to it, filled with wonder, savouring the feeling of being alive again, of lying with him, granted an impossible, incredible second chance.
She could wait, just a little longer. Safe within Khadgar's arms, she slept.