Idira woke to the smell of coffee. A mug stood on the table beside the bed, a platter of still-warm pastries tucked up tight against the mug. She sat up, the faint leathery, earthy, cedar-infused scent of Khadgar still lingered in the room. By the fireplace, the residue of a teleport shimmered, leading into his office. The space beyond stood silent and empty. She lay back again and stared up at the inside of the bed's silken canopy, enduring a wash of disappointment. Why couldn't she have woken up in time to catch a glimpse of him as he departed? It would have been nice to have the chance to look at him again.
Khadgar's raven left its perch atop one of the chairs and landed on top of the bed's footboard. It tilted its head, eyeing her, its yellow eyes glowing. She sat up again, slow, wary. She hadn't noticed the raven's eyes glowing before. Perhaps Khadgar was using it now, to look at her. She pulled the sheet up, gripping it tight against her sides, holding it in place under her arms. She hadn't found anything to sleep in, so had stripped down to her knickers.
‘If you are looking at me now,’ she murmured, feeling a little foolish to be talking to a bird, ‘make your raven jump down onto the bed.’ The bird shuffled along the top of the footboard, turning its head to look down at the mattress, getting its bearings. It jumped down and looked up at her, using its other eye this time. She pulled the sheet tighter against her chest, feeling exposed and vulnerable, although she supposed it was fair. She had watched him through his teleport.
‘Thank you for the coffee and the pastries,’ she said, examining the mouth-watering contents covering the narrow table. ‘You are spoiling me.’ She smiled as she lifted the coffee mug and breathed in its rich resinous aroma. She sipped. ‘Oh Light,’ she sighed, ‘that's coffee.’
The bird hopped back up onto the footboard. Its steady gaze unnerved her a little. She wondered where Khadgar was as he watched her. She glanced back at the teleport, the space within remained empty, although she couldn't see the balcony. Maybe he was there, drinking his own coffee as the sun came up over Dalaran, she wished she could be there with him.
‘When will I see you again?’ she asked, reaching over to pick up the platter of pastries. The sheet slid free from her grip, giving the bird a sudden view of the curve of her breasts. She scrabbled to pull the sheet back up, catching it just before it reached her nipples. She glanced at the raven, it stood utterly still, watching her, its eyes glowing brighter than before. Her cheeks burned, as first embarrassment, then arousal sheeted through her. ‘Maybe you could give me some time, wait until I am dressed?’ she whispered, tugging the sheet so tight around her, she realised too late it left almost nothing to the imagination anyway.
The light faded from the raven's eyes. The bird blinked and shook itself, turning to the work of preening its wing feathers. She let go of the sheet and watched it fall down to her hips, exposing her full breasts, her nipples tightening as the cool air of the room touched them. She took a pastry and ate, a naughty part of her wishing the Kirin Tor's Leader might cheat and look at her again. But of course, he didn't. She dallied as long as she could over her breakfast, dragging things out even longer by taking her time getting dressed, but the bird's eyes remained dull. She sighed, giving up. He had probably left to join the Council. After the horrifying things she had read yesterday she expected she wouldn't see him again for a long time. She decided she'd better learn how to conjure food, just in case.
The library made Idira happy in ways she couldn't begin to explain. The books welcomed her into their aisles and corridors like a long-lost friend, and no matter what she wanted to know, the books responded to her every request with alacrity, bringing her everything she needed, cross-references, glossaries, notes. Yet despite the wonder surrounding her, she sensed Khadgar's magic-laden library awakening in her a deeper sense of purpose, of pieces falling together; her first impression of having finally found the place where she belonged solidifying. The raw power within the once-Guardian's fortress seeped into her, energising her, empowering her. Before the morning passed, she learned all the spells for conjuring food, some of the dishes masterpieces of culinary art. She looked down at the buffet laid out before her, thinking if Khadgar didn't come back, at least she wouldn't starve.
She wondered what she should learn next. She asked the books. They fluttered up to the tower's heights, returning a few minutes later with several new companions. The new books lay down on the table, their silver clasps unlocking. She glanced across the row of open books. All of the magic in them contained spells from the path of frost and ice.
‘Am I to be a frost mage then?’ she asked, a smile tugging at her lips. The idea pleased her. The books rustled a little, as though affirming her query. She bent over the first book, sensing her Light kindling, igniting within her. Running her finger over the lines and columns, her eyes roamed over the sigils and formulas, drinking in the arcane text. She turned the pages, quickly moving through the first book, her Light flaring, her learning progressing at a rapid pace. She felt as though she was remembering things long forgotten, finding missing pieces of a puzzle she had never realised were lost. She didn't question the strangeness of it. Instead she let the tower's magic flow through her, granting her the potential to learn more and faster. She moved to the second book, devouring it, then the third, the fourth, and the fifth, each book increasing in complexity and depth, though the more she learned, the more she realised how much knowledge she still lacked. The books departed and a new set arrived. It didn't seem to matter she had never seen the language before, written in archaic runes, it seemed to be enough just to see the runes, the magic in the tower and her Light working together for her to be able to manifest the knowledge held within the books.
Cut adrift from the circuit of day and night, Idira followed the rhythm of her body. She slept when she drooped with fatigue and dined when hunger called to her. Though she hoped he would, Khadgar did not return, not even to leave her food or drink. Every now and again his raven would land close to her, its eyes flaring, glowing bright yellow, the colour of the sun, usually in the late evening. She would talk to him, telling him of her progress, her Light circling her, infusing her with power. Pleased to have his company, she would conjure some wine and sip it while she talked to the yellow-eyed raven, perched close by watching her, unmoving, silent, intense. Khadgar had never again looked at her in the morning, though she often wondered if he ever watched her while she slept.
On her fifth night in the fortress, she had her answer. She woke, abrupt, her flesh tingling, sensing another's presence. She sat up. Khadgar's warm, earthy, cedar and leather scent washed over her. She shivered, tingling with delicious anticipation as she looked around the large room, her gaze raking over the chairs and sofas cloaked in shadow, all of them empty. Out in the corridor, the residue of a teleport glowed, its light faint. She slipped from the bed, clad only in her knickers and went to the door. Her heart aching with hope, she peeked around the doorframe.
Khadgar stood in his bedroom, just on the other side of the teleport, his back to her, rigid, his hands clenched into fist at his sides. She approached the portal, slow, resisting a wild urge to follow after him. He turned suddenly and looked back at her, unseeing, standing so close to her only the thin slice of the teleport separated them.
‘Idira,’ he said, hoarse, ragged, the tautness of the muscles in his jaw betraying his torment. ‘How I want to share that bed with you . . .’ He looked down at his hands still clenched into fists and cursed, low. He looked back up, right at her, though she knew he couldn't see her. He stepped back and began to cast a teleport, she watched, holding her breath, edging back to the bedroom door, watching him, her heart pounding. In moments he would be there, she glanced at the bed, giddy, thinking of what might soon follow. He stopped the spell, the light dying in his hands.
‘No,’ he said, his hands once more curling into fists.
‘Yes,’ Idira whispered, her body crying out for him, aching for him. ‘Please, come to me.’
‘No,’ he said again, anguished, and turned away. He went to his bed and lay down, fully clothed. He crossed his arms and stared at the ceiling, morose.
Choking back a shudder of disappointment, Idira sank onto the rug and watched him, tears burning her eyes. He would never come to her. He belonged to Azeroth. There could never be anyone else for the Leader of the Kirin Tor. Not even her. She heard him say her name again, his voice thick with longing and regret. He dragged a cushion against his chest, clutching tight it against him, his thumb stroking the material, as though it was she he held and not a pillow. He turned onto his side and put his back to her. Her throat tight, she watched him, willing him to turn back towards her. He didn't. After a long while his body relaxed, finding release in sleep.
Though she knew she shouldn't, she stepped through the teleport's residue and crept across the thick carpet to his bed. She stood over him, drinking in the scent of him, the size of him, the steady movement of his tunic as he breathed, deep in the realm of dreams. She longed to touch him, but she dare not. Holding her breath, she bent over to look at him. He still held the cushion in a lover's embrace, possessive, protective. His eyelids moved as he dreamed, flickering back and forth as though reading something on the inside of his eyes. He moaned deep within his chest, the sound a primal, visceral thing, soaked with longing. Idira's heart clenched. A single tear slipped out the corner of his eye and slid over the bridge of his nose, processing, slow across his scarred cheek toward his pillow. Idira backed away, stricken, and fled through the teleport back to her empty bed. The Leader of the Kirin Tor had made his decision. Though he wished it otherwise, she would never be his. Her heart aching, she succumbed to her grief, and wept.