That night Idira couldn't sleep. She lay in her bunk, listening to Vanessa's even breathing, grateful her niece had been kept in the galley for the duration of Benny's brutal execution. She tried to think of something to distract herself from replaying the last moments he had had, but even thoughts of the hero Khadgar, lately her most favourite diversion, failed to draw her thoughts away.
The memory crept back, vivid: At a terse word from VanCleef, Kip and Unambi picked up Benny's body and threw it overboard. Benny fell, his eyes open, filled with pain and grief, holding Idira's gaze until the waters claimed him and he sank into its depths. Myra had just stared, locked in stricken silence, where Benny had slammed against the water, even as the surface parted and several serpents gathered, diving after him, their teeth flashing in the torchlight.
A quiet sound in the sitting room pulled Idira from her thoughts. She sat up, holding her breath, and listened. It was the dead of the night. The hatch was closed and locked from the inside. For a heartbeat she wondered if someone had come in. Not possible, she reassured herself. An intruder would have to get past Unambi first. A terrible thought crawled over her. What if Benny had come back to haunt them? Idira thought of the stories Cook had told her about ghosts—of the souls of the dead, those poor unfortunates who had been brutally murdered but remained in the realm of the living, unable to leave the ones they loved.
She swung her legs over the side of the bunk and slipped to the door, pulling it open with the greatest care, so as not to make a sound. She peeked out through the crack, her heart pounding, half expecting to see a ghostly apparition of Benny standing by the dining table.
She caught her breath. Myra, clad only her nightdress, walked slowly across the sitting room, hunched over, carrying something in her arms. Idira edged the door open a little further, frustrated by the deep shadows in the sitting room. Only one candle burned at the back, on a shelf behind the ladder, in case anyone needed to make their way to the washroom in the night, but its light was so dim, Idira couldn't make out what Myra cradled against her chest. Her sister stopped by the windows and knelt down, setting whatever she had in her arms onto the floor. She reached up and opened the window, securing it to the upper latch.
Idira furrowed her brow, perplexed, why would Myra want to open the window in the dead of the night? She watched as her sister bent down to lift up the thing on the floor and set it on the ledge, before lifting her nightdress up from her ankles to clamber up onto the ledge after it.
Something was tied around Myra's ankle. It looked fat and fuzzy. Horror swept over Idira. A rope, just like in her vision at her birthday party. The rope snaked up and wrapped around the thing on the ledge. She squinted, desperate to make out its shape. No. Her heart sank. VanCleef's strongbox, carrying all his gold. The heaviest thing Myra could have found not bolted to the floor.
Her sister sat on the window ledge, her legs dangling over the side—over the dark depths and the things that stirred within its black waters. Idira pushed the door open and ran after her sister, crying out, begging her to stop, stubbing her toes and bashing her ankles and knees against the corners of the unforgiving furniture bolted to the floor. Her sister looked back, her eyes hollow and empty. She pushed the strong box out the window.
'Benny,' she whispered.
The box tumbled out into the empty air. The rope fell away. At the last moment she pushed herself from the ledge and with a flutter of white linen she was gone, a heartbeat later a splash pierced the quiet as the strong box hit the water, followed by another one as Myra landed after it.
'Myra!' Idira screamed. She stumbled, shrieking and sobbing to the window.
VanCleef burst out of his bedroom, his eyes wild and searching. His gaze raked over the room, taking in the open window and Idira's panic. He ran to the window and looked down, horror and disbelief ravaging his face as the ripples of Myra's impact still slapped against the ship. Something huge and slimy slithered towards the spot. Its scales rose up and fell again, diving down after her. A thrashing rose up, then nothing.
'No, no, no, no!' Idira cried, hauling on VanCleef's arm. 'Save her, do something!'
VanCleef half-lunged out the window then caught himself. He fell back, stumbling against the table, his jaw slack with shock. 'It's too late. She's already gone.' He stared out the window into the wall of black beyond, stunned, his eyes welling with tears. 'Myra, my love, how will I ever go on without you . . .'
Idira rushed at him. 'How will you ever live without her?' she screamed her hands balling into fists. 'You killed her when you butchered Benny!' Rent with helplessness and frustration, she pounded her fists against the hardened slabs of his muscled torso. 'Where is my Light?! Why doesn't it come?' she screeched, panting, willing it to come, to punish VanCleef for all his crimes. 'Why do you live and they die?' she railed, rage tearing through her, driving her on, even as her hands began to ache. 'Why is everything so unfair?'
VanCleef didn't respond, he just stood, sagging against the table, tears streaking his face as Idira pummelled him, shrieking, incoherent until she tasted blood.
'Daddy?' a quiet voice called out, tremulous.
Idira looked up, her chest aching and throat raw. Vanessa stood holding a stuffed toy, her eyes wide and frightened. 'Where's Mommy?'
VanCleef pulled free of Idira and went to Vanessa. He knelt and took her into his arms. 'Mommy's gone. She's gone to the Light,' he sobbed into her hair. 'It's just us now.'
Idira lowered her fists, her rage melting away as Vanessa wailed, heartbroken, crying for her mommy, begging to know what she had done wrong to drive her away. VanCleef shuddered and wept so hard he couldn't answer her. Idira stared at him, clutching Vanessa against his chest, protective, grieving so hard she almost felt sorry for him. He turned and held out an arm to Idira, beckoning her over so she could join them. Idira shook her head and backed away.
It was over. Her sister was gone. Benny was gone. Idira's heart ached so much she couldn't breathe. She ran up the ladder and pulled the latch free. Unambi stood waiting for her. He opened his arms and she tumbled into them, crying so hard she gagged. He rocked her back and forth, saying he'd heard it all. He murmured other things in his troll language too, soothing things, and as she quieted, drifting in a world of memories, grief, and loss she realised Unambi was crying, too.