Idira slipped back through the raised garden beds and into the warm glow of the house. She checked on her father, who snored, loud, on his pillows. She scoffed, so much for remorse if he could sleep like a baby after what he'd just said. She went to the table and sat down to wait, preparing herself, thinking of what she was going to say.
The clanking drew closer, right up to the bottom steps of the house. It stopped.
'Idira!' a man's voice called out, commanding.
Her head came up. The voice sounded a little like Logan's. She jumped up, knocking over her chair in her haste to get to the door. She flung it open, and there, stood in a full suit of armour—a little dented in places—his helm caught up under the crook of his arm, was Logan, looking every bit just like one of the heroes from her fairytale books, handsome, strong, and battle-scarred.
'Start packing,' he said, abrupt.
'What?' Idira asked, as Unambi came forward and Logan nodded at him. 'Why?'
He glanced up at the quiet sky, sparkling with its innocent carpet of stars, wary. 'Demons, from another world, attacking all over Azeroth from their sky ships. You're not safe here.'
'I thought demons can't exist without a warlock to summon them,' Idira said, struggling to keep up. 'There is no such thing as real demons.'
Logan laughed, bitter. 'If only. Pack, we leave tonight.'
'Where are we going?'
'Stormwind, it's safest for you there.'
Idira glanced at Unambi. She looked back at Logan. 'And Unambi?'
'I'll look after you from now on. With these new, dangerous times upon us, you need to be somewhere more secure than here.' He turned to address Unambi. 'You know you can't come to Stormwind. It's time for you to head back to your people. Probably best to stick to the coastline.'
'You've changed,' Idira said, noticing how brusque and commanding Logan had become, all his edges honed to a brutal, razor sharpness.
'I'm alive,' he answered, curt. He waved a gauntleted hand, gesturing for her to go back into the house. 'We can talk later, right now I need you to pack. I had to pull a lot of strings to get myself out here in time to warn you.'
'There's more than just me,' Idira said, glancing towards the bedroom.
Logan glanced at her, sharp. Jealousy flared in his eyes. 'What do you mean?'
'My father turned up half-dead three weeks ago. He's not well enough yet to walk.'
Logan stared at her, incredulous. 'And you helped him?' he bellowed. 'What's wrong with you? You should have ended him as soon as you had the chance.'
Idira blinked. The military life had certainly changed Logan, and not for the better. She wasn't so sure she wanted to do as he told her, not when he had turned into such a tactless bully.
'Dat man be da girl's father,' Unambi said into the sudden stark silence, his words tinged with reproach. 'She be needin' da time ta be comin' ta terms wit' tings, wit' what be needin' ta be done wit' him.'
Logan scoffed. 'Well, I hope you've come to terms with things because I'm not bringing him. He'll slow us down too much. He can face the demons alone, it's more than he deserves. In fact,' he said as he pulled his sword free and stormed up the steps, 'I'm going to solve this right now, that man ruined thousands of lives. This ends tonight.'
Idira threw herself in his path, bracing her arms against the doorframe. 'Wait!' she cried. 'He should be given a trial. What about all the others who deserve to see him brought to justice? No one person should have the right to take his life.'
Logan barked a harsh laugh. 'There's no time for trials. Remember when that dragon came, how much damage it did? It might have been vanquished by a multitude of champions but that one dragon, even with all its power has turned out to be nothing compared to what's happening now. The Legion Invasion is far wor—'
His mouth kept moving for several more words, but Idira couldn't hear him. A roar came from the sky, filling her ears, deafening her, making her head ache. A rushing wind rose from the ground, a vortex, sudden and sharp, pulling her hair free of its pins, sending it flying around her face and into her mouth; the skirts of her dress snapping against her legs and her apron billowing up between her and Logan, wild, like a living thing.
Above, the sky flared bright, as though filled with sheet lightning, but instead of white, a putrid, foul green slid across the sky's canopy. It touched the horizon for a heartbeat, before racing back to its point of origin and coalescing into a massive swirling maelstrom. From within its centre, a flying ship unlike any boat Idira had ever seen slid out of the maelstrom's core and materialised, black against the maelstrom's halo of green. The ship pulled free and hung suspended—a long, flattened, triangular-shaped ship—over the centre of Westfall, the vile light of the maelstrom playing against its dark metallic surface.
A long jagged blast came from the ship, deep, low and harsh, the depth of it numbing Idira's legs. She clung onto the door frame, struggling to stay on her feet. From out of the maelstrom's core, another ship slid free of the portal's viscous, streaming centre. The ship swept out—exactly the same as the first—and came to a halt further south, over Moonbrook. It hulked over the ruined town, silent, deadly, Malevolent.
The ships blasted their horns again. Idira cried out, the decimating sound sending her to her knees. She pressed her hands over her ears, desperate to shut out the sound. Pain sheared through her. The metallic taint of blood filled her mouth. A gush against her hands. She pulled one free and stared at her palm. Blood.
The noise increased, brutal, tearing at her mind. She screamed, wishing she could die to make the pain stop. One by one, the acacia trees split apart and crashed to the earth, one taking the shed with it as it fell. The chicken coop trembled, shuddering, shaking, resisting. It heaved and ballooned outwards, expanding until it exploded, the noise of its shattering drowned out by the devastating blast of the horns. The blasts stopped, abrupt. Not even an echo followed in their wake.
Pieces of wood and wire rained down onto the roof of the house from the coop, clattering against the slates, others skidded and tumbled across the yard, slamming into the walls of the raised garden beds and over Blackie's grave. All across the yard, the broken, bloodied bodies of the chickens lay in tiny, mottled heaps. A flutter of movement caught Idira's eye. She turned, slow. One of the chickens had landed on the porch, its mouth opened and closed as blood pooled under its head, thick, dark, and glutinous. Its eye rolled back into its head as its body spasmed, jerking in its final death throes. She recognised the bird. Thea, one of her favourites. Always a good layer. Numb, she reached out to stroke its feathers.
Logan grabbed Idira's arm, jerking her away from the dead chicken, hoisting her to her feet, rough. 'Get up!' he shouted into her face, though she could barely hear him over the wool in her head; the ringing in her ears. 'We have to move. Now!'
Held in his vice-like grip, she stumbled after him down the steps, her thoughts in tatters. Too much had happened, too fast. Another ship began to slip through the churning hole in the sky. Idira cowered. Nothing could survive the blasts of three of those ships, even the land would disintegrate.
She looked back at the house, feeling as though she had forgotten something. Unambi loped after them, his eyes on her, protective. Her thoughts moved slow, sluggish. Then it came, as clear as crystal. Papa. They had left him behind, helpless and alone. They were no better than him. She dug her heels into the soil, pulling Logan to a halt.
He turned, the whites of his eyes reflecting the sickly green colour of the sky. He glared at her, livid. She yanked her arm free and pointed at the house. 'Papa,' she mouthed, knowing it was no use to scream.
He shook his head and pointed at the sky, where the third ship was just pulling free from the portal. It pivoted, slow, and began to slide across the sky in total silence towards the farm, processing, bleak, stately, aloof. An incomprehensible thing.
She turned and ran, holding her skirts up around her knees, Unambi right behind her. She could feel her Light building within her, and despite the horrors unfolding around them, euphoria filled her. It wasn't gone. It wasn't over. Her Light could save them all. This was her fight, she could feel it, this was what her Light had been waiting for, this invasion of demons. She had never before felt so alive. Her whole body thrummed, awakening to a power she felt she couldn't contain. She ran up the steps into the house and tore into the bedroom. Her father huddled on the floor, blood dripping from his nose, mouth, and ears. He looked up at her, then drew back, horrified, recoiling from her touch.
'Don't ye touch me!' he shouted as she reached out to help him up. He rubbed the back of his arm against his mouth and nose, smearing blood across his face. 'Look at ye, with those accursed eyes, glowin' like that. Ye did this ta me, didn't ye, ye evil purple-eyed bitch. Jus' like at Klaven's Tower.' He reached up and pulled a kitchen knife from under his pillow. Quick as lightning he pressed its point, sharp and cold against her throat.
Unambi burst into the room, his chest rising and falling, ignoring the furious shouts of Logan coming from outside the house. His hands darted to the hilts of his daggers.
'Not so fast,' Papa growled. 'Yer days o' protectin' this witch're over.'
Idira felt the knife's point bite through her skin, stinging, burning hot, drawing blood. She stifled a cry, it hurt far more than she thought it would. She called to her Light, it seethed, crowding the inner edges of her being, visceral, hungry, yet nothing happened. She met Unambi's eyes, watching her, a dagger in each hand, waiting. He nodded at her, slow.
'Da Light will protect ya if I can't,' he said, soft. 'Don' be afraid.'
A shearing hiss sliced through the air. In the middle of the room, the distorted image of a nightmarish creature flickered, appearing in segments, the space around it liquefying as the thing took shape. Papa drew back, startled. Something hurtled past Idira, making tendrils of her hair drift past her face, caught in the draft. A heavy thud. The knife clattered to the floor. Her father slammed back against the bed, crying out, scrabbling at the hilt of Unambi's dagger embedded in his chest. He held out his hand to her.
'Help me,' he panted. She shook her head and scuttled away from him, moving on all fours across the room, grabbing hold of Unambi's outstretched hand just as the demon materialised.
A dog. No. Not a dog. It did have four legs, a head and a tail, but the similarities ended there. It was a thing. A nightmare. A pair of long, curved, pointed horns extruded from its red-scaled shoulders and pointed downwards, perfect for gouging its victim. She couldn't see any eyes, its head appeared to be nothing other than a massive mouth. It growled and sniffed, slavering, its saliva dripping onto the rug, where it sizzled and burned straight through the rug and into the floorboards, filling the room with the smell of sulphur. From its back, two writhing tentacles with dripping three-pointed appendages darted and seethed, seeking. It opened its mouth, exposing rows upon rows of jagged pointed teeth, far more vicious looking than even the dead sharks that washed up onto the beach.
Idira glanced at Unambi. He stood completely still. The thing didn't seem to be aware of their presence. Outside, the hiss of more demons arriving filled the air, the shear repeating dozens of time as they materialised all over the farm. They talked to each other, some deep and guttural, others gurgling, like boiling water; several of them screeched, their cries burrowing into Idira's spine, a dagger across glass.
Papa groaned, loud, still grappling with the dagger's hilt, his hands slick with blood. The demon snorted, its head and tentacles swivelling towards him. It howled and leapt across the room, its mouth opening wide, its teeth glistening. Unambi covered Idira's eyes and yanked her back into the kitchen. Her father's blood-curdling screams filled her ears, turning her blood to ice.
'Now be a good time ta be makin' us invisible again,' Unambi murmured, low.
Despite her father's horrifying, agonised screams, she forced herself to focus, doing exactly what she had done on The Night's Cutlass.
Make us invisible.
Nothing happened. From within the bedroom, the screams stopped, replaced by the nauseating sound of bones snapping; the stink of her father's blood, entrails and faeces filling the confined space. She tried again, her concentration wavering as the gruesome noises within the bedroom escalated. The Light churned, pounding against her inner being, desperate to escape, but no matter how hard she focussed, nothing happened. They remained totally visible.
Unambi nodded and flexed his fingers on his remaining dagger. 'Den it be time ta fight.'
Idira felt the blood drain from her face as one of the demons outside moved past the sitting room window, its massive cloven hooves carrying so much weight, the windows rattled in time to its steps as it thudded across the ground. She could only see up to its waist, which meant it was at least twice the height of the house. A sensation of dread clawed into her. Unambi couldn't fight these things and survive. To match these creatures of the Void, an army would be needed—and magic, a lot of magic. From outside, the thrust and parry of Logan fighting his way to her, calling on the Light to aid him.
The dog-like demon had stopped feeding. Idira turned, holding her breath, watching, horrified as it moved into the kitchen, using its tentacles to seek out its next kill. A sound came from the open front door, another demon ducked into the house, tall, like a man, and heavily muscled but with blue-green skin. It wore red plate armour up to its waist, plate gloves, and on one shoulder a massive plated shoulder guard. From its disproportionately small head, a massive red spike jutted out of its forehead, matching the row of spikes protruding from its spine. In his metal-encased hand it carried a large curved axe, big enough to cleave a man in two with one strike. The Light within her throbbed, hungry, making her stagger. The two demons, who didn't seem to be able to see very well, suddenly turned, homing in on her, snarling and sniffing.
'Anytime ya be wantin' ta use dat Light,' Unambi said under his breath.
Idira tried, with all her might she tried. Within her, a tsunami gathered, powerful, waiting, ready to carry her away. Yet nothing happened. She didn't know what to do. She was in danger. The Light was supposed to protect her, but it wasn't. She tried harder. Nothing.
The demons moved closer, snorting, curious. Her heart pounding, she closed her eyes, begging the Light to come to their aid. She looked up at Unambi and shook her head. They were going to die. This was where it was going to end. She should have listened to Logan and run.
Unambi slipped to the side of the dog demon, dodging its horns as it moved its head from side to side, searching, blind. He slashed away its tentacles. It threw its head up, screeching, a high, thin, ear-splitting howl as it turned in circles, crashing against the furniture in its desperation to escape. The other demon turned its head, confused, looking from side to side, its tiny eyes squinting in the bright candlelight, staggering as the dog demon crashed into him. He roared and slammed his weapon down onto it, cleaving it almost in half. The dog squealed as the demon pulled its battle axe free. It stumbled, sundered, yet still alive. The demon roared again, and lifted its weapon, hacking into the thing until it stopped moving. Its hind leg thrashed once, then fell silent.
Unambi raised his dagger. A susurration of demonic grunts and gurgles approached, the battle drawing the demons to them. Outside the kitchen window, more gathered, hungry, their red eyes glowing. Leathery wings rustled, and taloned fingers clawed at the planks. One of them held something limp in its hands, tearing at it with its teeth, as though eating a chicken. It shifted. Idira choked. Margle's empty eyes looked back at her, dull, lightless. Unambi pushed her behind him, his hand clapping over her mouth just in time to catch her scream. He shook his head.
'He be gone ta da Light, he don' feel nothin' now.'
He backed her up against the far wall of the kitchen, blocking her view of Margle's dismemberment. The house seethed with more than a dozen demons, snarling and shifting, gripping their hateful, deadly demonic blades, glowing with the same foul green light as the one in the sky.
'I tink dis time Unambi won' be gettin' up from dis fight,' he said, soft. 'But da Light got a plan, and it be a good one. Ya got ta trust dat Light. Ya real special, Idira, don' ya be forgettin' dat.'
'What do you mean?' Idira whispered, panicking, frightened by what he was saying, even as the Light surged within her, the force of it lifting her up onto her toes, overwhelming her. The shadows in the room shifted, rotating until they spread away from her, the brightest source of light. In her glare, the demons shifted, confused, trying to shield their eyes.
'It be a real honour ta be chosen as ya protecta',' Unambi said, tears glinting in his eyes. 'But Unambi got one last ting ta be doin' ta help ya be escapin' dis mess.' He patted her head, gentle. 'Don' ya be forgettin' ol' Unambi now.'
He was leaving her. No. It wasn't meant to be like this. The Light would save them. She just needed more time. She lunged after him, but he slipped free and rushed into the seething mass of nightmarish creatures, slashing into them, cutting a swathe through the first three, bringing them down before they could even react. He climbed over their fallen bodies to attack the others. Driven mad by the scent of blood, the demons bellowed, desperate to fight, clustering around him. Their weapons fell and lifted back up again, dark with blood. His blood.
'No!' Idira screamed, frantic. 'I won't lose you, too!'
The Light boiled within her, bursting through the last barriers, freed by an avalanche of terror and rage. Brilliant violet light flooded her vision, erupting from her, lifting her from the floor, rotating around her, spinning, faster and faster. She looked down, but she was nothing. Only her Light existed, radiating from her core, piercing, powerful, disintegrating the demons in front of her, those behind squirmed and shrieked, struggling to escape. The Light swarmed back to her, gathering once more, its tendrils circling her, burning hot, freezing cold, speeding up until she pulsed, burning brighter than a star.
A heartbeat of utter stillness. Visions tumbled through her mind, crystal clear. Khadgar. The balcony. A library within a stone tower filled with flying books. A dark chamber, cast in a sickly green light. A wall of ice. A silver circlet. A portal to eternity.
Her Light surged, an explosion, blasting out of her, fragmenting her. Streaming away for miles. She screamed, but she had no mouth. Silence. Darkness. Nothing.
Someone was shouting, but it came from far away. A long, dark corridor separated her from the voice, bossy and commanding. She ignored it, hoping it would go away. She was fine where she was, drifting in nothingness.
Idira. Can you hear me? Please, for the love of the Light, please. Wake up!
She opened her eyes. She couldn't move. She lay on the earth, surrounded by the shattered foundation of the house, the ragged remains of a blackened structure rose above her, parts of it still burning. In the distance, beyond the smoking beds of the ruined gardens, the remains of the acacia trees blistered and cracked, consumed by flame. She felt nothing. She wondered if she was dead.
Logan bent over her, a brutal gash across his forehead seeped blood. 'Thank the Light!' he breathed. He brushed the hair from her eyes. 'Can you hear me?' he asked, urgent.
She didn't answer, she couldn't remember how.
His metal-clad arms slid underneath her. She felt herself being lifted into the air, floating again, just like before. She gazed up at the heavens, listening to the clank of his armour as he strode away.
From somewhere deep in her mind, a fragment of an old conversation rose up out from the chaos of her thoughts. She clung to it, though it made no sense.
It's a long walk to Stormwind. Four hours if I walk fast.
Above, the sky sparkled, clear again. The swirling portal and the ships were gone, as though they had been nothing more than a bad dream. She looked up at the stars, her eyelids drifting down.
The Light had saved her, just like Unambi said it would.
She closed her eyes and slept, dreaming of the one she lost and would never forget.