Over the next two weeks, Idira spent every free moment she had going through her books. Logan had managed to buy fifty-two books for her, three of them about Khadgar, though they didn't tell her much about him as a person; they only detailed his achievements in the many battles he had fought up until he left Azeroth, never to return. One of the books did have a full-page colour illustration of him standing tall and proud, his staff raised, crackling with magic as he wielded it against powerful humanoid creatures with green skin, hefting enormous double-bladed axes and clubs.
At first, she had no idea what the creatures were so she asked Unambi, but he said he didn't know either. Later, as she read through the book, she learned what they were and where they came from. Orcs, more frequently referred to in the books as The Horde, had reached Azeroth via a massive magical portal opened by dark magic from their home world, Draenor. As she read, she finally learned why VanCleef had had to rebuild Stormwind. The orcs had nearly destroyed the city as they marched across the Eastern Kingdoms, leaving destruction in their wake. Idira had never known the reason why Stormwind had to be rebuilt, but now she understood.
These orcish invaders had been a terrible threat to Azeroth and from what she read, Khadgar had been the main reason for their defeat. The destruction of Stormwind might have happened seven years before Idira was born, but to learn Khadgar had been there, fighting against the orcs, perhaps looking just like he did in the picture in the book, made her feel warm and tingly inside. He had been so close, just on the other side of the mountains.
But now he was gone. When the portal couldn't be kept closed, Khadgar had decided to take Azeroth's fight to their world. He must have won, because the portal had fallen silent. The books said no one knew what his life was like there, or even if he still lived since everyone who had travelled with him on that expedition had never returned.
Idira smiled to herself as she cleaned the fish for dinner. She knew. Perhaps she might be the only person in Azeroth who knew Khadgar was still alive and living in that strange, sunken stone city. A ripple of pleasure shot through her, making her shiver despite the late afternoon's broiling heat.
She wished she could see him again, even as a shadow, just to be certain he was safe. In those rare precious minutes when Unambi went down to check the crab traps, she would close her eyes and try to see Khadgar, but nothing ever happened. Her theory seemed to be correct, they only transcended the impossible distance between them when they called to her Light at the same time. She positioned the last fish on the cutting board and slid her knife into its belly, reminding herself if her theory was true, she had been fortunate to have even seen him those two times. Still, she wished she could see him again, just one more time.
A tendril of hair slipped free from its pins and fell over her eyes. She rubbed the back of her hand against her forehead and pushed it away, her thoughts turning to her other books. She had only managed to browse through them so far, with so many things to do around the farm, she didn't have a lot of time to spare, but nothing she had read could explain her abilities or even how to begin to harness them. She knew Unambi had been captured because Arinna didn't know what Idira's magic was, but still, it was she who lived with it and knew it best. They might have missed something. She had to try.
With every new book she opened, she harboured the hope she would find something, anything, even a small reference she could latch onto, a trail she could follow, but there was nothing. The books talked about every other kind of magic in great detail, but not one of them even came close to hinting at what lived within her. Unambi had said nothing as she went through her books in the evenings, sitting on the rug with her back against the book chest, a dozen books piled up around her. She sensed he was giving her time to work out things in her own head. One day she would ask him what he knew, but first she needed to do things her way.
She sighed and set the fish into the pan for frying, keeping the heat low since she had nothing but the oil inside the fish in which to cook them. Among other things, Logan had brought a bag of sweet potatoes back from Stormwind, she stirred the ones she had peeled, tumbling up and down in the boiling water. She sighed, they would probably be done long before the fish. Cooking was harder than she'd expected it would be, everything seemed to be about timing, something she found herself not particularly good at.
Outside the kitchen window, clad in their new red-chequered curtains, she glimpsed Unambi watering their garden in the soft light of the lowering sun, singing quietly to himself, wearing a ridiculous floppy seagrass hat he had made to shade his eyes from the sun. His hat making abilities aside, she had to admit he had proven to be an adept gardener, preparing the soil beside the house with organic matter from the sea, and enriching it with broken shells, fish entrails, bones and crushed crab carapaces. Together they planted several rows of sweet potatoes as well as the okra, corn, leek, bean, and tomato seeds Logan had brought back. Already little shoots were coming up out of the ground, bright green, their tiny leaves unfurling. She had never seen Unambi as content as he had become over the past days. She whispered a prayer, asking the Light to protect them. In her heart she knew one day it would end if she was destined to meet Khadgar in that floating city, but for now, she hoped their idyll would last as long as possible.
Logan came back just as he promised, blushing and looking at his boots as he scuffed them in the dirt, saying it was nothing when Idira tried to thank him. He said he knew of someone who wanted to buy a horse and wagon, a farmer called Furlbrow, who lived near the bridge to Elwynn Forest. He told them he thought he could get all their money back, so they would have lost nothing. He left, promising to come back as soon as he was done.
He appeared on the horizon just before dinner time, whistling a jaunty tune, his dark hair sticking up in every direction and his boots raising a trail of dust behind him. Idira watched his approach from the rocking chair on the porch, shading her eyes against the light of the setting sun. He was a fine looking lad, even if his demeanour was awkward and a little immature. She tried to imagine what he would look like grown up. He would probably be handsome, like Benny. Strong too, judging by the size of him. She guessed he was between two and three years older than her, since blacksmith apprentices start at the age of fourteen and she had first seen him when she was approaching twelve.
She smiled, pleased, anticipating her chance to show her gratitude for all he had done. She had hit upon the perfect thing, an invitation to dinner. He couldn't blush and scuff his boots out of that one. All men loved to eat, of that much at least she was certain. When she had suggested her plan to Unambi, he had murmured his approval before adding his intention to surprise the lad by letting him keep the money from the sale in return for all he had done for them. With another set of gold candelabra stashed under the floorboards, he reckoned they could afford it.
Idira went into the house, tied on her apron and checked on the dinner simmering on the stove, a seafood stew with sweet potato and the last of the leeks Logan had brought from Stormwind. It smelled delicious. She ground several precious peppercorns into it and tasted it. Perfect. She hurried to set the table, finishing up just as Unambi greeted Logan out in the yard. They came in. Logan glanced at Idira, then down at his feet, blushing right up his hairline. Idira decided to take charge.
'You'll stay for dinner?' she asked, wondering why he was always blushing like that. 'I made seafood stew.'
'Oh?' he looked up from under his thick fringe, taking in the table and the pot on the stove. 'Um. Well I am a little hungry, I guess. I mean, if it's no bother, that is.'
Idira smiled, pleased. 'Of course not. I wasn't going to take no for an answer anyway.'
His eyebrows shot up. 'Really?' he asked, his voice breaking, coming out high, like a boy's. He turned an even deeper shade of red.
'Yes, really,' Idira answered. 'Go wash up, both of you. I'll serve up.'
When the sun had gone down and the stars filled the sky, Logan left still thanking Unambi for letting him keep the money; an astonishing amount as it turned out. For Logan, it equalled a half-year's wages. At first he didn't want to take it, insisting they might need it, but Unambi made sure Logan couldn't refuse, saying it was a matter of troll honour.
'Well, if it's about honour, then,' Logan had said, as he eyed the gold pieces laying on the table, still uncertain.
Unambi pushed the money across to him. 'Ya be takin' it or I be havin' ta fight ya for disrespectin' Unambi's gift.'
'Right. No problem,' Logan said, hurrying to drop the coins into the pouch tied to his belt. 'I can take the money, but I promise I will take care of it and not squander it. One day, Idira might need my help again. You never know.'
'Ya neva' know,' Unambi repeated, slow, his eyes gleaming with approval in the candlelight. He went to the door and opened it, indicating it was time for Logan to leave. 'Wheneva' ya be passin' by on ya patrol,' he said, soft, 'ya always be welcome ta dis house. Always.'