Idira woke parched and perspiring. She peeled off her blanket and emerged from the house's suffocating heat to find the sun already high in the sky. Heat waves shimmered on the horizon, making the distant hills waver, their low ridges distorting in the broiling air. Unambi nodded at her as she passed him on her way to the well. Clad only in his kilt, he crouched in the shade of one of the acacia trees, sharpening one of the knives he had brought from the ship's galley.
She hoisted up a bucket of water and filled the wooden cup that hung from the hook on the beam supporting the well's roof. It had hung there ever since they'd left all those years ago. It might have needed a good cleaning, but otherwise, it was as if she had never been gone, the intervening years irrelevant. She drank, marvelling at the icy coldness of the water when the air was so hot. In a rare moment of fatherliness, Papa had once said he believed the well tapped into an aquifer fed by the mountains' glaciers. She refilled the cup and brought it to Unambi. He took it with a nod, drinking as she eyed the stove, wondering anew if they would be able to salvage it. It looked clean, very clean, better than she ever remembered it. She opened the latch to the fuel chamber and looked inside. It was spotless. She glanced at him, astonished. He got up, hefted it under one arm and carried it across the yard, the door to its fuel chamber hanging open, swinging back and forth as he lurched up the porch's steps.
It took longer than she expected to get the stove back into place and the pipes properly connected. When Unambi finally lit it, the house filled with smoke. With a muffled curse, he doused the kindled flames and went up onto the roof, holding a long stick. Straddling the roof's peak, he probed the chimney pipe, working to free an old bird's nest lodged halfway down. Bits of branches and feathers rained down onto Idira, sticking to her hair. He slipped a little and her heart juddered, dread gnawing at her. He righted himself in time but from then on, Idira couldn't stop herself from fretting. She hopped from one foot to the other, eyeing the treacherous slates, calling to him, warning him, terrified she might lose him too. He must have known, because when he was done he came down and without saying a word, gathered her up into his arms and rocked her back and forth, singing a little troll song to her. She clung to him, letting him stroke her hair as she mourned Myra, Benny, Kip, and Vanessa. She even cried for the books she had had to abandon in Moonbrook, to moulder in the darkness, unloved.
Over the next few days Idira didn't accomplish much, now her ordeal was finally over, she succumbed to an overwhelming fatigue. She would fall asleep laying on a blanket under the trees, sleepy from the heat and the warmth of the sunlight dappling her pale skin. Unambi didn't say much, he kept himself busy working in silence, lost in his thoughts, distant. Idira left him alone. She understood. He needed time to himself as well. Too much had happened over the years without either of them ever having the time or space to come to terms with their many traumas. Now her oppressor had fallen, she had time to grieve, to reflect, and to heal. The months spent in the darkness, locked in tight confinement had done something to her, robbed her of something, she could feel the lack within herself, a hollowness. She hoped it would come back, with time.
Whenever she wasn't sleeping, she spent her time sitting at the top of the cliff path, looking out over the sea, her legs dangling over the edge, savouring the wind in her hair and the sun on her body. Sometimes her murloc friend came to sit with her, burbling to himself as he looked at the sea, happy just to be. His joyful presence warmed Idira's shattered heart, bringing life back into her soul. Each morning she rose to find a fresh-caught gift waiting on the doorstep; fish, squid, crab, once, a woven seagrass basket full of clams.
After a week spent idling, Idira felt herself growing restless; feelings of anger and resentment began to plague her. Unambi said keeping busy was the best way to move on from the 'bad tings'. He offered to give her little tasks, things to occupy her mind, which would also help him in his work. The first task he gave her was to collect seashells. For three days she scoured the beach, helped by the murloc, carrying back whatever she could find gathered into a linen towel.
Under the butt of his dagger, he smashed the shells into small fragments before adding them to a soupy, foul-smelling mixture of clay, grass, and hyena dung he'd prepared in one of the old slop buckets he'd found behind the house. When it was the right consistency, he smeared the substance into the cracks in the walls of the house, filling the gaps and crevices. Idira wasn't too happy about the smell, but he promised her the stink would fade once the sun baked everything dry.
Her next task sent her back to the beach to hunt for the toughest, thinnest stalks of sea grass. Her murloc, whom she had started to call Margle, met her at the bottom of the path and followed her, watching, curious, as she hunted for the right ones. He caught on quickly enough and after disappearing for several minutes, returned carrying more than a dozen in the time it took her to find three. By lunchtime, they'd already gathered two large bundles. She carried them up, wondering what Unambi needed them for. When she reached the top of the cliff path, she found him on the roof, straightening the roof's slates at the back of the house.
She called out to him, holding up her bounty to show him, but he didn't look at her, instead he turned, abrupt, and peered around the side of the roof in the opposite direction. He sank into a low crouch, though she doubted whoever he was looking at would have seen him since he was already quite low down on the roof, almost to the eaves.
He dropped to the ground and gestured for Idira to go to him, she hurried over, following him as he moved to the corner of the house and peeked around the edge.
He pulled back. 'Dat be no wanderer,' he murmured, uneasy. 'Someone be comin'.'
Idira felt her heart stutter. So, Vanessa had told on them after all.
'Let's make for the boat,' she said, setting aside the bundles. 'We can row out of sight until they leave.'
Unambi shook his head. 'We can't be stayin' on da boat foreva. Dey can already see dat da boards be gone. Dey won' be leavin' witout ansa's.' He leaned out to look once more. He let out a breath of relief, his posture losing some of its tension. 'Dere be only da one. A young one.'
'Do you want me to go and talk to them?' Idira asked, hoping she sounded braver than she felt.
Unambi narrowed his eyes, watching their visitor. 'Dat might be da best,' he said. 'If ya be runnin' inta trouble Unambi will come ta ya. Jus' ya go an' see what dis boy be wantin'. It might be we got nothin' ta fear, it might be we do, eitha' way, we got ta be knowin'.'
Idira heard footfalls approaching, scuffing, cautious against the dusty earth.
'Hello?' a young man's voice called out, hesitant. 'Is anybody here?'
Unambi nodded at Idira and moved aside, letting her pass. She brushed the sand from her dress and pushed her hair back, trying to tidy it a little. She stepped out. The visitor turned towards her, defensive, his hands hovering over the hilts of his daggers.
'Oh,' he said. He sagged, his relief tangible. He moved his hands away from his daggers. 'Where are your parents?' he asked, eyeing the house, noting the improvements.
Idira shrugged. 'Not here.'
'Um, then when will they be coming back?'
'Never,' Idira answered and moved a little closer to him. He looked vaguely familiar. She tried and failed to place him. Maybe she had seen him in the kitchen in Moonbrook, Cook was always taking deliveries. That had to be it.
He glanced back at her. 'Then who removed the boards and took away the—' he blinked, and stared at her incredulous. 'By the Light!' he exclaimed moving closer. 'Is it really you?'
'I don't know. Who am I supposed to be?' Idira asked, noticing his cheeks had begun to darken. Maybe he was hot. She should offer him some water. She went to the well, fetched a bucket and filled the wooden cup. She held it out to him. He didn't move.
'Aren't you thirsty?'
'Oh, um, yes, actually I'm really thirsty. It's just—' he took the cup and drank, noisy. He handed back the empty cup and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. 'Everyone thought you were dead. They said no one survived the attack in the mines.'
Idira shrugged again. 'Well, here I am.'
'Of all the people I could have met today!' he burst out, excited. 'It's like I'm dreaming. You're Idira, right? Jac Northshire's daughter, the one VanCleef raised? Everyone in Moonbrook has heard about you because you have magic purple eyes. I heard a story once. I don't know if it's true, but they say you almost killed Jac out at Klaven's Tower using your eyes. I used to see you sitting in your window, looking out at the square. I smiled at you once.' His cheeks went red again. He looked down and scuffed the toe of his boot against the side of the well. 'I'm sure you wouldn't remember.'
Idira stared at him, her memory organising, that's where she remembered him from, the apprentice from the blacksmiths. He was the only boy who had ever smiled at her in the whole time she had lived in the house. He had changed a lot since then. No longer a boy but a young man, his square jaw just beginning to sport the very first signs stubble. His short dark hair stuck up in several places, messy and little dirty. His leather armour looked old, and was patched in places, though he was clearly beginning to fill it out admirably well. He thrust out his hand to her.
'I'm Logan. I patrol the northwestern part of Westfall for the People's Militia. I'm based in Sentinel Hill. It's pretty dead up this way, nothing ever happens here, that's why Borda gave me the job until I get some more experience. Worst thing I've had to face so far was a hungry Roc. I killed it. No problem.'
She took his hand, and he pumped it up and down. 'I can't wait to tell the others you're alive and safe. I'm sure they will—'
A knife slammed into the beam supporting the well's roof, right beside Logan's head, little splinters of dry wood splattered against Logan's armour. He yelped and spun around, scrabbling for his daggers.
Unambi strode over and pulled the knife out of the beam, his eyes yellow slits, menacing. 'Ya don' be tellin' no one about da girl.'
'Wha- what are you?' Logan spluttered, his eyebrows climbing so high, they almost disappeared under his greasy mop of hair. He glanced at Idira while still somehow managing to keep one eye on Unambi at the same time. 'Is this thing holding you here against your will?'
'He's my friend,' Idira said, 'and he's right. You can't tell anyone I'm here.'
Logan eyed Unambi, uncertain. He looked at Idira again.
'Because it's what I want,' Idira replied, quiet.
Logan didn't say anything for a long time. He sighed and shook his head. 'Alright, I won't say anything, but I'm only doing it because you want it, not because he says I have to.'
'Who else be comin' dis way?' Unambi asked, shoving his way into Logan's space.
'No one,' Logan said, backing up until his backside pressed against the wall of the well. 'I mean, at least from the People's Militia, there's only me. There haven't been any reports of Jac's men in this part of Westfall for more than a year, though it doesn't mean it won't ever happen. With Jac, you can't ever be sure, although we are doing a good job of keeping him in the south-east.' He picked up the cup and dipped it into the pail of water and took another drink, trying and failing to act nonchalant. 'Shame he still has Moonbrook though. Now VanCleef's gone, it'd be nice to have our town back.'
Unambi leaned in until his tusks almost touched Logan's face. 'Can ya be gettin' us some tings?'
'Like what?' Logan croaked, backing away until he leaned over the well at an awkward angle. His boots slid in the dust and he lost his balance. He scrabbled to grab onto the well to stop himself from falling in, his face turning bright red once more.
Unambi pulled back. 'Tings for da farm, like seeds, an' nails, an' we be needin' some propa' furnishin's for da girl.'
Logan pushed away from the well. He crossed his arms over his chest and paced in front of Unambi, giving the appearance of considering what he needed to do, though it wasn't convincing, since Idira could see his hands shaking.
'You don't want me to tell anyone she's here,' he said, 'but I'm supposed to find a way to get furniture to you without anyone asking questions?' He scoffed and rolled his eyes at Idira.
Unambi glanced to the north. 'What be up dat way?'
'Elwynn Forest and eventually, Stormwind.' Logan stopped pacing, suddenly wary. 'Why?'
'Ya be sayin' dat no one be comin' dis way besides yaself, so ya can be bringin' da supplies from da north.'
Logan scratched his neck. 'Well, ye-es, but that's only part of the problem. I would also need money, and as you can see, I don't really have any.'
Unambi grunted. 'Wait dere.' He went into the house and came out gripping a pair of VanCleef's golden candelabra in one hand. He tossed them down onto the ground in front of Logan's worn, dusty boots. 'Dis be helpin' ya wit dat problem.'
Logan's eyes widened. He knelt down and traced a dirty finger over one of their intricately cast curved arms, reverent. 'I'm not even going to ask where these came from. But this could get you everything you need, and probably more.'
'So ya be helpin' da girl or not?'
Logan stared at the ground, considering. He looked up at Unambi. 'I'll do it. But I'm not doing it for you, I'm doing it for Idira.' He came back to his feet. 'I could come back on my next free day and collect these on my way to Stormwind.'
'Den we do dat,' Unambi nodded. 'When ya come back we be havin' a list ready for ya. And if ya be stealin' dis for yaself, Unambi be findin' ya and leavin' ya wishin' ya neva' been born.'
Logan looked offended. 'I'm no thief, if I was I'd be in Moonbrook with Jac's men, and not in the People's Militia fighting against him.'
Unambi narrowed his eyes, searching Logan's face. Logan glared back at him, defiant. Unambi nodded, slow. 'I tink ya be tellin' da truth.'
'Huh!' Logan huffed, offended anew.
He turned to look at Idira, where she still stood by the well. She noticed he had very blue eyes, like the sky. Two spots of colour flared anew on his cheeks.
'I'll get you real nice things, I promise,' he said, soft.
When Idira didn't say anything, he turned back to Unambi. 'My next free day is in twelve days, I'll get here before dawn. It's going to take all day to get to Stormwind, buy everything and come back, but I don't mind. It'll be an adventure. I lived in Stormwind for awhile a couple of years back when my family fled Moonbrook. I know of a buyer in the Old Town who'll buy these no questions asked.'
He left soon after. Idira watched him as he moved across the fields into the shimmering waves of radiant heat, his body distorted by the liquid light. He stopped at the crest of a hill and turned to wave at her. He shifted his weight, squinting in the glare of the sun, waiting for her to wave back, when she didn't he turned with a noticeable sigh and moved down the hill, looking back at her one last time just before being swallowed up by the horizon.
'Do you really think we can trust him?' Idira asked, uneasy. She didn't like the thought that after only a few days they had been discovered. What if Logan told someone, his pride at having found her overcoming his fear of Unambi? Their idyll would come to an end and she would be taken away from her best friend. A sudden wave of bitterness washed over her as she hung the cup Logan had used back onto the support beam. When she was a child, no one ever came to the farm except for Benny, and he only made the journey because of Myra. A flash of anger shot through her as she yanked the water pail up tight against the well's roof, to keep the dust out of it. This was her father's fault. If it wasn't for him and his gang of thugs, there would be no need of a patrol.
Unambi's chuckle breached her thoughts. She turned, annoyed by his attitude and glared at him.
'What's so funny?' she snapped, irritable. 'This is serious, and you're laughing?'
'Ya be frettin' for nothin',' he answered, his gaze moving to the hill Logan had just descended. 'Ya can trust dat boy, more den ya eva' be knowin'.'
Idira had no idea how Unambi could be so certain, but he didn't say anything more. He just shook his head, still chuckling and headed back to his work on the roof. He got as far as the side of the house before he erupted into laughter, laughing so hard he doubled over and wiped the tears from his eyes.
'Dat Light,' he panted as he slapped his thigh, 'oh dat Light! It be workin' in da most mysterious ways.'