Deep in the night seven months later, in the eye of a hurricane, Vanessa VanCleef arrived. Myra's screams, louder even than the roar of the wind tearing at the shutters and roof tiles, finally ended. Soon her cries were replaced by the high, thin wail of a newborn. Bursting with pride, VanCleef walked around the dining room dressed in his robe, breeches and boots, a box of cigars in his hand, offering the fat rolls of tobacco to any who wished one. Unambi eyed the others smoking, uncertain. He lifted the cigar to his nose and sniffed it. He looked at it for a moment before popping it into his mouth, his eyes lighting up as the flavours came through. When Idira asked what he thought of it, he said it was very good and took another one for later. VanCleef called out for his best cask of port to be opened. Although only just turned seven, VanCleef let Idira take a sip from his glass, but she didn't like it. She made a face. He laughed and kissed the top of her head.
The storm moved on. The cask emptied, and the staff and VanCleef's men returned to their quarters, laughing and shouting to each other about the hangovers they would be facing in the morning. VanCleef led Idira into the bedroom where Myra, washed and dressed in a clean nightgown held the newborn baby Vanessa against her breast, nursing her, her face soft with tenderness.
Idira waited until the baby finished. Myra closed her gown and cradled the infant against her. She looked up at VanCleef, her eyes filled with love. He slid onto the bed beside her, smelling of port and cigars and took hold of her chin. He kissed her, deep.
Myra broke off the kiss, smiling, and pulled Idira closer to see the baby. Idira touched Vanessa's little fingers, curled up into small fists. She looked up. 'She's so tiny. Like a doll.'
Myra adjusted the blanket wrapped around Vanessa and kissed her head. 'She is, and she has made me so happy.'
'You did scream a lot before you got happy, though,' Idira reminded her, thinking of her sister's piercing cries that tore through the house for hours. Idira thought it was never going to end.
Myra just smiled and said nothing, her eyes fixed on her baby as she stroked its face. VanCleef got up and took Idira back to the door. 'Let your sister rest. Tomorrow you can visit again. Unambi can take you up.'
Unambi waited on the landing, crouching as usual. He stood and took Idira's hand, leading her up the stairs and down the corridor to her room. Idira opened her bedroom door. Instead of the warmth of her fire, a cold gust of wind blasted out, smelling of the sea. Uncertain, she peeked in. The storm had broken her window, leaving a huge, jagged gash behind. Her curtains hung tattered and ruined. A gust of wind caught the soaking material and smacked it against the wall.
She went in and turned in a slow circle, the carpet squelching under her bare feet. Nothing had survived. Her fairy tale books lay scattered across the floor, sodden and forlorn. Her bunny slumped in a shapeless heap inside the fireplace, stained black with wet ashes. A little cry came out from under the wardrobe. Idira got down onto her knees. Blackie's big eyes looked back at her. Her heart clenched. Poor Blackie, stuck in here all this time while she sang and danced downstairs. She must have been so afraid, all alone and trapped in the storm.
Unambi came in and coaxed Blackie out with his troll language. She came to him and let him take her, soaking and trembling into his big arms. He carried her into his room and settled her by the warm brazier. He closed the door and returned to Idira's room, his eyes moving over the devastation.
'Ya be sleepin' in Unambi's room dis night,' he said, sympathy colouring his words. He touched her shoulder. 'Ya catch da chill if ya be stayin'.'
She wasn't ready to go. Her heart in her throat she pushed further into her room, searching for her colouring book. She had to find it, the picture of Khadgar. Cold wind gusted in, full of damp. Idira shivered, but kept looking. She couldn't leave it behind, it might blow out the window and she would never find it again. She found it plastered against the wall between her desk and the bookshelves, dripping wet. She peeled it away and tried to open it, but all the pages stuck together.
Unambi reached out and took the colouring book from her.
'If ya let dat be dryin' first ya can save it. Ya jus' have ta wait. Come wit' Unambi, and watch ya don' be steppin' on dat broken glass dere.'
She followed him into his room, longing to go back and salvage her books. He closed the door and went away. Consumed by loss, Idira waited by the brazier, numb, watching Blackie bath herself dry. Unambi came back after a little while with some bread soaked in milk for Blackie, and extra blankets for Idira. He tucked her into the hammock, his face sad. The door closed behind him once more. Idira lay there, filled with grief, unable to sleep. All her nice things had been destroyed. Why had it been her room and not another one? Why not one of the empty ones where it wouldn't matter?
Quiet sounds drifted through the door. She listened, curious. It sounded like Unambi was going in and out of her room. She wondered what he was doing. Out in the hallway, she heard the soft sound of a book's pages being shook out. She sat up, the hammock rocking under her. A few minutes later, she heard it again. Blackie jumped up onto the hammock and settled down beside Idira.
Idira petted Blackie, her chest tight as she listened to him work, no longer wondering, but certain. Unambi, the greatest warrior troll of the Gurubashi tribe, was saving her books.