Several hours must have passed, though once Idira recovered and returned to the library, she lost all track of time. As the raven flew up into the reaches of the tower, circling and exploring, the books clustered around her once more, as tender and curious as little birds, hovering beside her. They fluttered ahead, leading her along the rows of bookshelves into the middle of the tower where she discovered a large desk and chair dominating the open space. She turned full circle. All around her, bookshelves fanned away like spokes in a wheel.
She went to the table, curious, her fingers trailing across the open books strewn across the table's heavy oaken surface. A half-empty wine cup sat on the table. Idira lifted it and sniffed its contents. A red wine, full, robust, with tantalising notes of toasted oak. She sipped the ruby liquid, sighing with pleasure as it rolled, complex and buttery over her tongue and down her throat, recalling the moment Khadgar had pulled her away from the portal, his breath smelling of wine. This wine. She touched her lips, her heart beating a little faster as she relived how close he had held her, how easy it would have been for him to have kissed her. She sipped from his cup again savouring the thought, letting the wine soften the aches and pains in her body. She looked up, the books drifted closer, waiting for her, patient.
As she continued to sip the wine, one of the tomes fluttered down and lay itself on the table before her, flicking through its pages, a blur. It stopped with a quiet rustle. She leaned down and read the arcane lettering. How to Conjure the Lost Vintages of Kul Tiras. She smiled. Of course. His homeland, long gone. It would be the first thing she would learn so she could surprise him when he returned.
She began. It didn't take long to learn the spells, but there were so many vintages, and she wanted to find the perfect one. By the time he returned carrying a large paper bag bearing the Bagel Brothers' logo, she was tipsy from tasting all the wines she had conjured.
‘Oh!’ she exclaimed as she lowered her wine cup, catching him coming up between the bookshelves, looking even better than she remembered. He glanced over the table littered with more than a dozen silver goblets, his expression amused. With a shake of his head, he pushed aside several of the goblets, making space for the bag containing her dinner. He leaned back against one of the bookshelves and crossed his arms over his chest.
‘I see you have your priorities right, at least,’ he said, his lips quirking into a half-smile.
Idira didn't know what to say. Instead she held out the wine cup containing the vintage she thought he might enjoy. He took it, his eyebrow raised, intrigued.
‘You don't intend me to drink alone do you?’ he asked, nodding at the table. ‘Which one will you have?’
She picked up the second best one and waited for him to lift his cup to her. ‘To your studies, then,’ he said, soft.
He sipped, keeping his eyes on her. They widened as he tasted the wine. He swallowed, slow. ‘This is excellent,’ he murmured, moving over to the book, curious. ‘Vintages of Kul Tiras,’ he read. He glanced back at her, and said, quiet, ‘My homeland.’
‘I read a book about you, a long time ago,’ Idira admitted, feeling her cheeks darken as he watched her, his expression changing in a way that made her heart beat faster. ‘I thought you might like something from the home you had to leave behind.’
He sipped again, his eyes holding hers once more. She clutched her wine cup tighter, shivering with pleasure under his steel-grey gaze. ‘I do like it,’ he said taking his eyes from hers and looking down into the wine as he swirled around, airing it, bringing out the fullness of its notes. ‘I like it very much.’
He gestured at the paper bag. ‘How about some food to go with this good wine?’ he asked.
Idira edged nearer as he opened the bag and pulled out half a dozen wrapped parcels. ‘Forgive me,’ he said as he opened them, checking their contents, ‘I had no idea what you liked so I bought an assortment. Let's see now, there's lamb with minted cress, or roasted tomatoes and pepper with caramelised onions and organic goat's cheese,’ he glanced at her, bemused, ‘—it's a new thing, this organic trend—and what else? Oh yes, smoked whitescale salmon with wild mustard—’
‘Yes, that one. I love whitescale salmon,’ Idira interrupted, reaching out to take the parcel from him, delighted he had bought her favourite.
Khadgar cocked an eyebrow at her, one hand still holding an unopened package. ‘Don't you want to know what else I have,’ he teased as he handed her the one she wanted, ‘in case you like it better?’
‘No,’ Idira smiled, ‘there is nothing I like better than salmon, especially when it's smoked.’
‘Very well,’ Khadgar answered as he rummaged through the rest of the parcels and chose a baguette filled with wafer-thin slices of roast venison, ‘I like a woman who knows her own mind. No dithering. Makes a refreshing change.’
‘Like Archmage Jaina?’ Idira blurted, the wine hijacking her tongue. Her hand flew to her mouth, as she realised too late she had spoken her thoughts aloud.
Khadgar stared at her for a beat, utterly astonished, holding his sandwich halfway to his mouth. ‘Jaina?’ he repeated, confused. ‘Ah I see,’ he said, starting to laugh, ‘yes, well no, not quite like Jaina.’
Chuckling, he pulled himself up onto the table. He nodded at Idira before tucking into his food, making small sounds of appreciation as he ate. Idira turned to her own dinner, realising she was starving despite being full of wine. Khadgar didn't say much, letting her eat in peace. When they were done, he handed her wine to her before picking up his own.
‘Shall I tell you where you are?’ he asked, eyeing her over the rim of his goblet.
‘Please,’ Idira answered, taking a sip, glancing up into open space in the centre of the tower, glittering with chaotic bursts of arcane energy. ‘I'm pretty certain we are not in Dalaran.’
Khadgar set his cup aside. ‘No, not Dalaran,’ he said, folding up the empty sandwich papers and stashing them back into the bag. ‘We're not anywhere, actually.’
‘What do you mean?’ Idira asked, intrigued, leaning forward.
‘You have heard of Karazhan?’ When Idira nodded, Khadgar waved his hand indicating their surroundings. ‘This tower and the other rooms along the corridor are just a small part of what was once Medivh's fortress. After his fall, I hurried to salvage what books I could into this wing, those books still untainted by the spreading darkness. When the darkness had almost consumed the fortress, I separated this wing from Karazhan and sealed it outside of space and time. Until you arrived this was my sanctuary, and my most cherished secret.’
Idira looked down into her wine, finally understanding his terse, then deadly reaction to her arrival. She couldn't think of anything to say. Shame filled her, she had breached his most private sanctuary.
He leaned over and caught her chin in his hand. He tilted her face up to his. ‘I don't know who you are or even what you are,’ he said, his gaze capturing hers, ‘but I swear, from now on you are under my protection. My sanctuary is your sanctuary, and my books are your books. Learn all you can, as fast as you can, the Kirin Tor needs every possible advantage right now. What you did, following me through a closed teleport should be impossible. It is as though you are able to transcend time.’
‘I don't know about that,’ Idira whispered, trembling a little under his look, ‘but Logan told me my Light killed all the demons that came to Westfall.’
He nodded, slow, his eyes never leaving hers. ‘I felt the force of your power when you broke through my shield. It's been a very long time since anyone has sent me flying across a room. Your Light protects you, doesn't it?’
‘That's what Unambi said,’ Idira murmured.
‘Unambi?’ Khadgar asked, his brow creasing, perplexed. ‘That's a troll's name.’
‘He was my protector. He gave up his life to save me when the Legion came.’ Idira looked away, blinking back tears. It still hurt so much, the ache he left in her heart.
‘'The only one who ever loved you',’ Khadgar said, repeating her words from the balcony. ‘I thought you meant your father, but it was Unambi you were speaking of, wasn't it?’
Idira nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Khadgar stood up, pacing, silent, lost in his thoughts. He stopped.
‘How old are you?’ he asked.
She glanced up at him, startled by his non-sequitur. ‘Twenty-six,’ she said.
He fell silent again. ‘Hmmm. Which means you grew up when VanCleef was running Westfall. A dangerous man.’
‘Not as dangerous as my father,’ Idira muttered, thinking of the day he attacked their house with cannons.
‘Wait,’ Khadgar said, turning to look at her, curious. ‘You said your name was Northshire. You aren't related to Jac Northshire, the notorious Defias Enforcer who went rogue, are you?’
‘He was my father,’ Idira said, low, unable to look at Khadgar, her shame almost unbearable.
Khadgar knelt beside her, his interest in her deepening, genuine. ‘How incredible,’ he breathed. ‘Someone like you growing up in a place like that, with a father like that. One day, I would like to hear your story, from the beginning, if you wouldn't mind sharing it with me.’
‘Maybe one day,’ Idira said, soft, in no hurry to go over the sordid details of her past with someone like him.
‘You and I,’ he said, nudging the edge of one of the books back onto the table, ‘we may have more in common than first meets the eye.’
Idira took a sip of her wine. ‘I doubt it.’
He eyed her. ‘We have both lost our homes, and everyone we loved, while carrying the burden of powerful magic, alone.’ He stood up and held out his hand to her. She took it. He brought her to her feet, easily.
‘I understand your tutor was Margot,’ he said as she brushed up against his chest, making her heart do a fresh somersault.
‘My tutor?’ Idira asked, taken aback, by both the question and the sudden change of subject, something she was beginning to realise he did often.
He nodded, terse, his expression tightening. ‘Someone like you, applying to the Academy with eyes that colour should have been brought straight to the Council, instead you were buried in the archives where you could learn nothing. I won't tolerate it. I can't help but wonder how many others I have lost to the fight against the Legion because of the rampant pettiness and politics of the Kirin Tor.’ He looked away, his jaw clenching. ‘It sickens me, the corruption in Dalaran, it's rotten, right to the core. Once we have dealt with the Legion, there is going to be some housecleaning done, mark my words.’
Idira waited as he fell silent once more, retreating into his thoughts. ‘Margot will be removed from her duties for the time being,’ he said, crossing his arms over his chest, ‘perhaps a stint in the archives might do some good for her, hm?’ He glanced at Idira, his expression softening. ‘Ah, you are tired, as am I. It must be close to midnight by now. Will you be alright, alone here tonight?’
Idira desperately wanted to say no. With all her heart she wanted him to stay with her and hold her against him on that soft bed of his. ‘I have your raven,’ she smiled instead.
‘You do,’ he said, soft, watching her, waiting.
‘And if I call for you,’ she asked, hesitant, ‘you will come to me?’ She bit her lower lip, uncertain.
‘In an instant,’ he said, solemn as he began to cast a teleport. He glanced back at her, catching her biting her lip. His eyes darkened, a look, filled with hunger fleeted across his eyes, quickly suppressed. They shared one last look before he vanished. On the other side of his teleport, he walked across his lavish bedroom, forgetting she could still see him. She watched as he shed his shoulder collar and tunic, dropping his clothing onto the rug, careless; drinking in the sight of him clad only in his leather breeches and boots, as well built as Logan, the archmage's chest and back marked with the prestige of his many battle scars. He paused at a sideboard to pour himself a cup of wine. He turned, abrupt, and stared at the spot where he had materialised, quaffing his wine, reckless. Distracted, he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.
‘How beautiful, how intriguing, how utterly, blindingly rare you are,’ he murmured, looking right at her, unseeing. He ran his hand through his hair, agitated. ‘Twenty-six. Just over half my age, and an apprentice.’ He scoffed as he poured more wine and drank again. ‘Of all the women who could have crossed my path why must I be drawn to the only one completely forbidden to me? And yet, who would know if we . . . ? No. Azeroth needs me. I cannot, will not, risk it.’
He sighed and set aside his cup, his fingers moving to his groin to unlace his breeches. Idira turned away, unwilling to spy on him any longer. She went to the bedroom, exultant, Khadgar's raven close behind. So, the Leader of the Kirin Tor felt it too; the frisson between them, the tension, the longing. It was enough. She could wait.
Far into the night she dreamed of him joining her, wearing nothing more than his breeches, holding her against him, murmuring We can't even as his lips touched hers, light at first, then harder, possessive and fierce, sending them falling, tumbling, hungry, deep into their forbidden love. She woke, in an agony of longing. Eventually, she slept again, dreaming of him standing on his balcony, drinking deep from his wine, watching her with the eyes of his raven, oblivious to the world as it burned in the fires of the Legion, and Azeroth turned to ash.