Much later on, a servant wearing Kirin Tor livery arrived at Idira's room carrying a neatly folded pile of bed linens, blankets, and a set of pillows. On the top of the pile, a set of fluffy white towels embroidered with the sigil of the Kirin Tor lay tied together with a golden cord. The servant set the items down on top of the bed and waited, her hands folded in front of her, her eyes on the floor.
‘Um,’ Idira said, uncertain. ‘Thank you?’
The servant didn't move or answer. She just stood at the end of the opposite bed, silent, and as still as a statue. Idira raised her eyebrows and moved away from the wall to sit on the edge of the bed, feeling a little uneasy. The woman, who looked a few years older than Idira, wore a simple blue dress and a crisp white apron bearing sigil of the Kirin Tor emblazoned over its breast; her dark blonde hair had been tied back into a neat bun, and a little square blue cap perched on her head, her face bore no cosmetics and was as plain as a piece of blank paper, utterly forgettable. Idira waited some more. The servant still didn't move. Idira had no idea what was happening. In Moonbrook, the servants carried out their duties automatically, unobtrusive and near invisible. She'd never needed to talk to them. Wynn passed by the door, her head popped back around the doorframe.
‘Oh,’ she laughed, coming in to lean against the jamb, her hand on her hip, ‘happened to me too, you have to say which bed you are planning to use, so they can make it for you. They can't talk. It's a silencing spell, it's so they can't gossip.’
‘What!?’ Idira asked, utterly flummoxed. ‘Why ever would anyone want to work in a place where they are forced to become mute?’
‘They get to see some crazy stuff,’ Wynn shrugged, ‘so I suppose it's worth it, plus I heard the pay is amazing. No taxes here, either, so they can retire when they are forty, go home and live in wealth for the rest of their days.’
‘But they can't talk ever again?’ Idira asked, eyeing the poor woman as she pointed at the bed she wanted made up.
‘Nah, they can talk again, once they leave,’ Wynn said as she came in to watch the servant work. ‘One year later, the spell wears off. I guess the Kirin Tor figure anything the servants would have to talk about would be old news by then, so it's okay.’
‘These Kirin Tor,’ Idira murmured, suddenly uneasy, wondering how Khadgar could be a willing part of such a political, hierarchical, abusive organisation, ‘they are not what I expected. At all.’
‘They aren't all bad,’ Wynn said as she opened the wardrobe, and looked at Idira's new dress hanging inside. ‘Pretty,’ she said closing the door again. ‘No, there's this one Archmage on the Council of Six, he's old but kind of important, what's his name again?’ She looked up at the ceiling, snapping her fingers, trying to remember. ‘Starts with a K, I think.’
‘Khadgar?’ Idira offered, feeling a tingle of pleasure just from saying his name.
‘That's the one,’ Wynn said pointing at Idira. ‘Him. Well he's an interesting one. Ages ago, he saved Azeroth by closing off a portal to another invading planet, but then he got stuck on the other planet for some reason. I don't know why. Anyway, he stayed there a long time until the demons opened up a new portal again, so then he was able to come back, but then there was a bunch of other stuff that happened in between then and now so he was away a lot in another time-line trying to fix the past or something.’ She started to look confused. Idira raised her eyebrows, dubious. ‘Look, it's complicated,’ Wynn snapped, impatient, ‘I guess he just likes to spend his time in a lot of other places that aren't here. But what I'm trying to get at is, he's finally back and hanging around Dalaran a lot, like all the time, and now he's here he's seeing all the injustices and stuff and has been trying to fix it.’
‘I bet that's going down well,’ Idira muttered, glancing at the servant who was clearly listening to their conversation with great interest. A thought struck Idira, she dithered for a beat, then decided to take a chance, curiosity overwhelming her. She moved nearer to the servant who was folding the most perfect sheet corners Idira had ever seen.
‘Have you . . . ever waited on the Archmage Khadgar?’ she asked, hesitant.
The servant ducked her head, but not before Idira saw the woman's cheeks flare up, bright red.
‘I'll take that as a yes,’ Idira said, hiding a smile. ‘Is he nice?’
The servant's hands stopped moving and she stared down at the bed, biting her lip. For a heartbeat, Idira was afraid the woman would flee, unwilling to partake in 'gossip', but she turned and looked Idira right in the eye. She nodded, her eyes telling Idira everything she wanted to know. He's different. Kind. Good. Not like the others.
It was over almost as quick as it began. The woman returned to her work, her motions quick and efficient.
‘Well,’ Wynn breathed. ‘Now we know for certain we have at least one of the Council of Six on our side.’
Before Idira could reply, three blinding flashes of bright blue light flared through the open door, one after the other, shearing into the room, brilliant as lightning.
‘Everybody down to the cellars. Now!’ a guard bellowed, storming up and down the hall, throwing doors open, uncaring of the shouts of indignation coming from within. ‘Into the portals with you. Go! Go! Go! There is almost no time left.’
The servant moved so fast, slipping past them and out the door she was almost a blur. Slower to react, Idira reached the door just in time to see the back of the servant's dress disappearing into one of the three shimmering portals down the hall in the circular, central portal chamber.
‘Three portals? What's happening?’ Idira cried out as a massive vibration shot up through the floor and into her body, numbing her legs. A vicious tug pulled on her, dragging her down, making her feel like she weighed a ton. For a wild panicky moment she wondered if Dalaran was falling from the sky.
‘Boar's balls!’ Wynn yelped, as someone pushed past her, knocking her against the wall in their haste to escape. ‘They're moving Dalaran already, it was supposed to be tomorrow!’ Wynn grabbed Idira's hand and pulled her towards the portals. ‘Come on! We have to evacuate to where it's warded. Hurry!’
Lines of energy broached the floor. A crosshatch of blue light swarmed into the hallway and over their bodies. The mesh slid upwards, inexorable, and pushed its way through the ceiling. The drag increased on Idira, the pressure so intense she thought her head might explode. She tried to move. She couldn't.
‘We're caught in the grid!’ Wynn cried out, her eyes wild. Idira had no idea what the grid meant but it didn't sound good, and from the look of terror on Wynn's face, she suspected it was very bad.
Ahead, the remaining apprentices dodged the spreading lines and leapt into the portals, one after another. The guard stopped to look back at them, eyeing the lines shimmering over their bodies, holding them immobile. He shook his head, pity in his eyes and turned into the nearest portal. One of the portals winked out, then another.
‘Wait!’ Wynn screamed, frantic, as the last portal vanished, leaving nothing but a shimmering white imprint of its previous existence behind, rapidly fading. Wynn's hand tightening on Idira’s, and she read the despair in her new friend's eyes. We're going to die.
The volume and intensity of the vibration increased, relentless, until Idira felt as if every cell in her body resonated with the vibration's insistent, hypnotic thrum, her self aligning to it, becoming one with it, until she couldn't tell where she ended and the power surging along the grid lines began. It was impossible to talk, and even if she had wanted to, she didn't think she could have moved her jaw, her entire being felt weighted down, crushed in the grip of a force she couldn't even begin to comprehend. Impossibly, the force increased. Though she didn't change, she felt as though she was shrinking, condensing, her body compacting into the tiniest, densest possible amount of space.
Pain came, beyond anything she ever could have imagined. If she could have screamed she would as the vibration tore into her, pulling her apart piece by piece, fragmenting her, shattering the layers of her being, delving past her physical boundaries and crashing through her mental, emotional, and psychological barriers, disintegrating them, and her, until she couldn't remember who she was, what she was, if she was. Each ragged breath took a millennia to complete. The agony of her existence stretched out, tight, like a skin stretched on a tanning frame. She longed for oblivion, for it to end, for silence, for death.
A glow of violet light ballooned out from her core, distorting in the dense space as it spiralled around her, surrounding her, billowing out so that it cocooned both her and Wynn within its soft layers. The pain lessened, then ceased. She could feel again, move again. Wynn looked up at her, still holding her hand, astonished, her mouth hanging open as she stared at Idira's face, incredulous. Outside their sphere of light, the grid lines began to move, sliding over their violet sanctuary, rotating faster until the structure of the hallway, the doors, even the central portal room blurred, distorted by the sweeping light of the grid. The grid lines spun on, speeding up, their thrum deafening, the violet sphere trembling as the lines reached a terrifying velocity, transforming the space outside the sphere into a blinding wall of light.
An explosion of blue light washed over them, impossibly bright, blossoming out, brilliant, the centre of a star. The sphere's light flared, shielding them from blindness, still, the backs of Idira's eyes burned, raw from the onslaught. The vibrations stopped. In the blast's wake, silence screamed into Idira's senses, her body juddered, spasming with relief. She sagged onto her knees, no longer captive to the grid's deep thrum. Stillness. One heartbeat. Two. Three. The light began to fade, slow, like the reverse creep of dawn. Her eyes watering, Idira squinted past the light of the sphere, trying to see. The faint outlines of the hallway coalesced, highlighted by the light of the grid lines as they slipped down from the ceiling, along the walls, and through the floor, sliding away, sinuous, back to wherever they had come from.
The violet sphere melted away. Clinging to each other, Idira and Wynn collapsed onto the floor, trembling. By degrees the hallway returned, solidifying, the central portal room coalescing. Natural light filtered in through Idira's window, illuminating the hallway's carpet beside Idira's head, touching her shoulder, warming it. The ordinariness of the sudden warmth of a shaft of sunlight jarring, yet reassuring.
Wearing an expression that flitted from suspicion to awe, Wynn examined Idira, her eyes narrow. ‘You,’ she croaked. She shook her head and cleared her throat. ‘Your eyes,’ she continued, still hoarse, ‘glowed. You saved us, somehow.’ She shook her head again, as though fighting her thoughts. ‘You alone resisted the combined power of the Council of Six. How did you—’
‘I don't know,’ Idira interrupted, not wanting Wynn to continue down that line of thinking. Her throat ached. She really needed a drink of water. ‘That's why I came to Dalaran.’
Wynn backed away, uncertain, respectful. ‘I never noticed your eyes before,’ she whispered. ‘Violet. Just like your new dress. You . . . you're not like the rest of us.’ With a soft groan, she lifted herself up onto all fours and edged her way backwards to her room. ‘Thank you for saving my life,’ she murmured as she scuttled inside. With one last frightened look, she shut the door, quiet, in Idira's face.