After the service at the cathedral, the carriage driver brought them to the Weary Traveller. Lanira was already there, waiting outside with Arinna. They smiled and waved at Idira as the horses pulled up. When VanCleef nodded at the women, Idira noticed their smiles faded a little, no longer reaching their eyes. Although she didn't know why, Idira sensed Lanira didn't like VanCleef, and he had threatened to kill Arinna that one time when Myra almost died. She hoped at least for the afternoon, they would be able to get along.
VanCleef stepped down from the carriage and helped Idira down onto the wooden walkway. As the adults greeted each other, Idira bounced on her toes, trying to see past them into the inn. Since moving to Moonbrook, she had never been anywhere outside the house other than the cathedral. Lanira wouldn't even let her go and play by the fountain in the square. Idira looked at the fountain with longing, perhaps she could ask to see the fish after they ate.
Laughter and soft music drifted from the inn's open double doors. Soon she would eat in the fanciest place in the whole town, dressed like a princess and accompanied by a man who treated her like a cherished daughter. How her life had changed, almost like the story from her fairytale book where an orphaned slave girl found out she was really a long-lost princess from a faraway land.
'Edwin, how good it is to see you,' Nin smiled as she approached the little group, holding out her gloved hands to him.
He took her hands in his and flourished a bow, brushing his lips against the back of her ringed fingers. 'Lady Nin, you honour us with your presence,' he said, a perfect gentleman.
'Nin is a real lady?' Idira asked, astonished. She knew enough from her lessons in decorum that one didn't greet another with the title of Lord or Lady unless they actually were nobility. She had never seen Nin so dressed up before, jewels glittered on her neck and wrists and she wore a little hat with a tiny veil that half covered her face. Her elegant burgundy gown bore the same cut as Myra's expensive dresses from Stormwind.
VanCleef turned to Idira, though his eyes remained on Nin. He arched an eyebrow, curious. 'Lady Nin hasn't told you?'
Nin smiled a mysterious smile and gave a tiny shake of her head.
'Well then,' VanCleef continued, 'Lady Nin's mother was sister to Varia Wrynn, once-Queen Consort of Azeroth, mother of King Llane, the Light rest both their souls. Lady Nin spent much of her childhood in the palace of Stormwind, growing up alongside Prince Llane—at least until Stormwind became a battleground.'
Idira gaped. No. It could not be true. Her tutor had grown up in the palace with a prince—and was related to a queen!? Idira dropped into her deepest curtsey.
'My lady, I am not worthy of you,' she breathed.
'Oh, you are Idira,' Nin replied as Idira rose up. Nin held her hand out to Idira, just like she did when they went down the stairs to dine at the big table, so Idira could practice her table manners. 'With all my heart, I am so glad to have the privilege of tutoring you. One day, I suspect it shall be me who will curtsey to you.'
Idira blushed all the way to her hairline as she took Nin's hand. With an indulgent look, VanCleef took Idira's other hand and together they walked into the Weary Traveller to celebrate her day. For the first time in her life, Idira felt like she belonged to a real family. She never wanted the feeling to end.
They swept through the crowded main dining area and up the stairs. Idira caught the stares of the patrons, particularly upon VanCleef. The looks were not friendly, some of them were even outright hostile. She wished they knew what a good man he was. If only she could tell them.
Their host led them to an elegant private dining room on the second floor decorated in pale green and cream, its sunlit sash windows overlooking the square. Idira felt a little disappointed they were not going to eat in the main room with all the other people. However, once Nin mentioned over a glass of sparkling wine that King Adamant Wrynn III, Varia's husband, had once dined in this very room while travelling to Darkshire, Idira's disappointment melted away.
Over appetisers of little squares of herbed cheese in oil, menus were perused. Idira chose slices of roast pork with apple dumplings, served with caramelised onions and carrots. For dessert, the chef carried in a fantastic two-tiered marzipan cake, sent for by Nin from the finest bakery in Stormwind. Across its surfaces little marzipan figurines of Idira's favourite fairytale characters had been artfully arranged. Nin had even remembered to include Idira's favorite fairy princess's pink carriage pulled by four rabbits.
Idira looked around at her new friends, singing the birthday song to her, all of them smiling and filled with good wine. Even Lanira and Arinna were smiling for real now, nodding at Bishop Mattias as he clapped his hands, his cheeks and nose red from drinking a whole bottle of port all by himself.
Happiness filled her up so much she couldn't bear it. She didn't deserve all this. It was too good to be true. VanCleef lifted the cake knife from the table and held it out to Idira for her to cut the cake. Blood dripped off it its sharp edge and stained the tablecloth. She cried out and backed away, horrified.
'Her eyes!' Bishop Mattias exclaimed. 'They're glowing.'
Arinna came into view, her expression kind, but worried. 'Idira, can you hear me?'
Idira nodded and bit her lip.
'What do you see?'
She glanced back at the cake knife, wary. It lay on the linen tablecloth, clean and bloodless. Everyone watched her, their faces betraying a mixture of fear, worry and curiosity. The door opened. Myra walked in.
She was completely drenched, a gorgeous ivory gown Idira had never seen before hung heavy around her. A rock dragged behind her, tied by a rope to her ankle. She tumbled to the floor.
Idira ran to her and shook her shoulders. 'Myra! Myra wake up! Why are you all wet?'
Her sister opened her eyes and met Idira's, though she did not see her. 'Benny,' she whispered. The floor turned to water. Drawn by the weight on her ankle, she slipped down into its inky depths.
Idira screamed, scrabbling at the rug, trying to pull it away.
VanCleef's arms came around her. He pulled her into his lap, and rocked her back and forth, hushing her.
The rustle of gowns filled the air as the women drew closer. The scent of port grew stronger. Bishop Mattias bent down and took her chin in his hand, gentle. His gaze moved over her, inspecting her. He glanced at the others, then around the room.
'Look how the whole room glows the same colour as her eyes, it even overcomes the daylight. What school of magic is this, Arinna?' Bishop Mattias asked, uneasy.
'I confess I do not know for certain,' Arinna answered. 'I would need time to study her and consult the archives, perhaps a mage might know better, I could—'
'She sees the future,' VanCleef interrupted, tightening his hold on Idira, protective. 'I don't know how it manifests, but it seems to strike when she is in a state of high emotion. I have seen this happen once before. On that occasion, she went temporarily blind.'
A hiss of indrawn breaths filled the air.
'Blind! The poor child,' Nin murmured, bending over to brush Idira's hair back from her face. 'Look how she shivers and quails, certainly whatever she has just seen was most unpleasant in the extreme. We cannot let her suffer like this,' she stood up and folded her hands in front of her. 'In my experience the only way to overcome the unknown is to learn about it. Edwin, I suggest you permit Arinna to spend time with Idira to study her.'
Idira didn't like the way the grown-ups were talking about her as though she wasn't even there. All her hopes that her Light was good but just a different colour were beginning to fade. She looked at Bishop Mattias and asked in a small voice, 'Is my Light bad?'
Bishop Mattias took a step back, flustered by her question. 'Well, I . . . that is to say, we don't know child. If it frightens you and makes you blind it cannot be good, although perhaps you just need to learn to control it, whatever it is.' He turned to the priestess. 'Arinna, you are the expert in these matters, what say you?'
Arinna knelt beside Idira, her white gown reflecting a faint echo of Idira's violet light. The priestess smiled, gentle, and tucked a stray hair behind Idira's ear.
'You used to live by the sea, didn't you?' she asked.
Idira nodded, uncertain what that had to do with the violet light. Arinna pressed her hands together and rested the tips of her index fingers against her lips. She fell silent for several moments, thinking.
She looked at up Bishop Mattias. 'I have one theory. Further south along the coast in Stranglethorn Vale a sect of the Gurubashi trolls have been trying to resurrect their god Hakkar. Trolls use very dark magic, a combination of shadow and nature, but with the addition of something they call mojo to strengthen it, essence from their loa spirits. They infuse items with this magic. Perhaps one washed ashore and Idira found it. Even just a touch could be enough to—'
'You might wish to have a care what you say next,' VanCleef cut her off, his voice tight with warning. He looked meaningfully at Idira.
Lanira touched Idira's shoulder. 'Come child, let's go see the fish in the fountain, it was meant to be a surprise for later but I think now is just as good a time as any. I'll have the cake sent to the house. We can take coffee in the dining room. Perhaps your sister might even come down and join us, hmm?'
Idira shook her head. 'I want to know the truth. I have dreams too. Most of them are bad, but one was nice. I was all grown up, standing on a balcony in a floating city, it was very beautiful.'
Bishop Mattias chuckled, seeking to ease the tension. 'A floating city? Well, I never. Children do have the most abundant imaginations.' No one else laughed. He went to the table and poured himself another glass of port, his hands shaking a little. He downed the drink in one go.
Arinna looked at VanCleef, waiting for his permission to continue. He nodded. She cleared her throat. 'Idira do you remember finding anything unusual on the beach, something not from the sea itself?'
Idira shrugged. 'I found a lot of things.'
'But, anything strange? Maybe it felt magical?'
'I don't remember, things always washed up on the beach, especially after a storm. Papa took everything I found so he could sell it. I was only allowed to keep the sea shells.'
Arinna stood up with a sigh. 'There is no way to know for certain without either having a description of the item or . . .'
'Or?' Nin prompted, cautious.
'Mr VanCleef, how deep do your connections go?' Arinna asked, changing direction once more.
'Deep enough,' he replied, setting Idira on her feet. He rose. 'What do you need?'
Arinna drew a deep breath. 'A troll.'
A horrified silence fell.
'No,' VanCleef answered. 'It is too dangerous. You will just have to find another way.'
'There is no other way. A troll would know how to remove it, if you would be willing to pay the price they asked.'
VanCleef crossed his arms over his chest. 'And you are absolutely certain this is what afflicts her?'
'I could spend more time studying her if you wish, but I know I will come to the same conclusion.'
'The violet colour is the key,' Arinna said, her eyes growing distant as she searched her thoughts. 'It is not the colour of arcane, shadow, nature or holy. It suggests a combination of magics, which only the trolls use. Trolls are the most ancient race on Azeroth, they were here even before the elves, and their form of magic is very powerful. Further, they are obsessed with seeing the future, blindness is common for the seers.'
Idira thoughts raced ahead, she had troll magic in her? She didn't even know what a troll was, but from the looks on everyone's faces, she gathered they were bad. Even worse than Papa. She tried to think of anything odd she might have picked up from the beach, but nothing special came to mind. Most of it was just debris from shipwrecks, at times figurines and odd jewelry, but nothing that had felt the way the violet light made her feel.
'And if we do nothing?' Nin asked.
Arinna shook her head, unwilling to answer.
Idira didn't like the look on Arinna's face. Maybe she should have gone to look at the fish after all. A thought occurred to Idira.
'Papa says my eyes have always been this colour,' she offered, hoping to help. If she was born like this, then it couldn't be troll magic.
All eyes turned to Arinna. VanCleef's hands went to his hips, he looked angry. Arinna spread her hands apart, helpless. 'Upon my soul, there can be no other possible explanation.'
Lanira stepped up beside Arinna. 'When I asked Myra about Idira's eye colour, she said there had been violet light in the room when their mother died. Jac blamed the babe, of course.'
Mattias came back from the table, carrying a half-empty glass of port. 'Perhaps their mother touched the object and it caused her death. Could the magic carry to the child?'
Arinna shook her head. 'I don't know, despite having read everything there is about them in the archives of Stormwind there is very little known about troll magic. But the rest of it fits. It is worth the risk, in my opinion.'
A murmuring rose up as they began to discuss the dangers and difficulties, some raised their doubts and others their hopes for finding another explanation. Names were brought up and discarded, even the venerable Lord Uther's was discussed at length. Idira's eyes widened, it must be serious indeed if they thought a man like him should be contacted. More wine was brought in, they emptied one bottle, then another. Idira noticed Bishop Mattias helped himself to more than his fair share.
A waiter came in with a new bottle of wine. VanCleef waved him away.
When the door closed, VanCleef rapped his knuckles on the table. He had shed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves during the long discussion. He looked tired. Everyone fell silent.
'Enough,' he said, irritable. 'Though it will cost me dearly, I see no other alternative but to do as Arinna suggests. A troll will be captured and brought to Klaven's Tower.'
He stood up and picked up the cake knife once more. He drove it into the cake's smooth marzipan icing so hard it made the little figurines on either side topple over. Idira bit her lip, watching, heartbroken as he butchered her beautiful cake into pieces.
He pulled a piece out and put it on Idira's plate. He had made a messy job of it; one of the little rabbit figurines had been cut in half. He smiled at her, though he didn't look at all happy.
He served the others and sat down. No one moved. He waved his hand at them, impatient. 'Eat the cake.'
Idira eyed the remains of her once beautiful cake, the figurines hacked and mutilated. Her light had ruined everything. She was bad, and VanCleef was going to have do something very dangerous to get the bad out of her. Her worst fears were confirmed. She had killed Mama just like Myra said. Even now she was still ruining things. She had made VanCleef angry. Papa was right. She was evil.
She pushed her cake away and cried.