After Papa's attack, VanCleef offered five hundred gold pieces for Jac's head, and one hundred for information which would lead to his capture. With a bounty like that on offer—more than two years' wages for most people—plenty came forward with stories of things they had heard, but all of them came to nothing. After eight months, VanCleef grew tired of wasting his men on what he called 'wild goose chases'. He took down the bounty and sent Kip out along with Benny and several rogues to hunt Papa down, but they never found him.
After more than a year of searching, Kip came back carrying nothing more than rumours that Papa had reappeared for a time in Redridge, then in Duskwood, and even for a time in a remote corner of Elwynn Forest. The wildest rumor had him keeping company with a band of pirates far to the south, at the very bottom of Stranglethorn Vale, at Booty Bay.
VanCleef listened to Kip's report, his lips thin. He nodded and said if Jac were hiding amongst pirates, then VanCleef intended to turn the pirates against him. A few weeks later, Kip and Benny set sail from the south coast of Westfall, the ship's hold laden with antique furniture, fine woven rugs, and crates of rare porcelain and gold candelabra taken from Jac's house on the square. They came back four months later. The pirates were more than happy to work with VanCleef, but Jac wasn't with them, and never had been. They promised if he turned up, they would catch him and turn him over, for a price, of course.
Kip and Benny didn't come back alone, however. When it became known VanCleef was looking for a ship to modify into a juggernaut, a small green creature by the name of Captain Greenskin offered the services of his ship and crew, but at an enormous price. Kip said no, knowing VanCleef could never afford such an exorbitant demand, but he couldn't get rid of the goblin once he learned the ship would be used to sack Stormwind, where everyone who was anyone knew the banks were filled with rivers of gold.
The goblin pirate's determination to be a part of VanCleef's Brotherhood troubled Kip, so he decided to set sail in the night, planning to slip out of Booty Bay and away from the odious creature, but the canny goblin was ready to follow. Guided by the light from Westfall's lighthouse, The Night's Cutlass steered thought the narrow straight between Westfall's deadly shoals, arriving just as the horizon glowed with the pink light of dawn. As the dock workers gaped, horrified, the pirate ship eased into the dockyard, its black flags snapping in the stiff ocean breeze. It put in just outside the Deadmines' massive water gates, and made herself comfortable.
At first VanCleef was furious. He had no wish to include pirates in his Brotherhood. He complained about it at every meal, blaming Jac for this unfortunate turn of events, bitterness tainting his every word.
The goblin and his crew remained on their ship, refusing to depart from the docks. Nothing could be done. They were pirates, after all. VanCleef ignored them for as long as he could, actively seeking other options for ships, but after five months of chasing false leads, the last possibility fell through when a message from Theramore arrived, informing him there would be no business done between them. He had only one other choice left to him, hire shipwrights and build his own ship, which he had neither the time nor the means to do. He raged and stormed around the house in a foul mood for a week, cursing the day he was born, asking no one in particular why everything always had to be so hard for him.
The next day, as sour as a man could be, VanCleef went to the docks and looked at The Night's Cutlass. When he came back, his mood had lifted. As Captain Greenskin had put it, now that he was already invested in the Brotherhood what with the costs of sailing up to Westfall and waiting at the dock for nearly half a year, he offered VanCleef a deal he couldn't refuse. For five hundred pieces of gold up front and half the takings from Stormwind's attack, the boat and crew were VanCleef's to use as he pleased. VanCleef consoled himself, saying he had made a good bargain, reasoning that Captain Greenskin's connections ran deep and he would be able to recruit more members to the Brotherhood, as long as they were guaranteed their fair share of the takings from Stormwind.
Over the next few months, a variety of strange creatures arrived on various ships. One by one they joined the Captain. Reports from the docks of the new arrivals were disturbing, ogres and goblins and even a hobgoblin. Idira had no idea what these creatures looked like. She asked Arinna if she had any pictures in her books. The priestess promised she would check, but she never brought up the subject again. Idira sensed Arinna didn't want to talk about them, so she didn't ask anymore. The docks were far away, anyway. It wasn't like she would ever have to see any of them.
VanCleef said nothing publicly against Greenskin's cohorts, but privately he admitted he had lost far too many of his men in Jac's attack, and since then recruiting men for the Brotherhood had been laborious and slow. He didn't like to admit it, but he needed all the help he could get. Despite almost three years having passed since the morning of Papa's attack, the Brotherhood's numbers had shrunk from controlling Redridge, Duskwood and Westfall to only Westfall, with just a handful of men in Elwynn Forest and Redridge working as contacts for the Brotherhood, nothing more.
On the day of Idira's eleventh birthday, after a year of meticulous preparations and shipments of black market supplies being sourced and delivered from all over Azeroth, VanCleef ordered the massive water gates to the mines to be opened. He went down to supervise The Night's Cutlass's tricky navigation and positioning within the vast cavern of the Deadmines, the ship carrying VanCleef's precious cargo of supplies for the weapons he intended to build into it. He said he expected the move to take all day, but promised he would be back in time for her birthday dinner. He wasn't. They waited as long as they could, but when the dinner began to get cold, they carried on without him. Although Idira had been a little disappointed, it had still been fun with Nin, Bishop Mattias, Arinna, Lanira, Myra, and little Vanessa, two months shy of four years, running around on her little legs, laughing and play fighting with Unambi.
Afterwards, Idira stayed awake as long as she could, laying on Myra's bed talking about nothing in particular, fighting to keep her eyes open. The next morning she woke up where she had fallen asleep. She sat up, astonished. She had expected VanCleef to come home and wake her, before sending her up to her own room. It was the first time VanCleef had not come home at night in all the time Idira had known him.
He didn't come back that day, or even the next. When Myra sent Kip to the docks to check on him, Kip came back and said VanCleef was fine, just very preoccupied. When he finally did return, covered in soot and grease, he only stayed long enough to gather up the rest of his notes and designs for his weapons, and to order a trunk packed with clothes and necessities to be sent down to the docks. He pressed a gold coin into Idira's hand, telling her to buy herself something nice saying he was sorry he had missed her birthday, kissed Vanessa goodbye, and smiled at Myra, saying finally things were starting to come together for him and soon he would be able to make things right for the men who still supported him. He was in such a hurry to return, he didn't even bother to take a bath before striding back out the door and onto a fresh horse.
The summer passed, hot and languid. VanCleef came home on the first Sunday of each month, though he didn't go to the Cathedral to listen to the service. In the evenings he would to meet with Kip, his newly promoted second-in-command to look over the accounting of the takings and deal with the reports.
At the end of the autumn, a new wave of rumours rose up, spreading like wildfire in the late autumn heat. Jac had returned with a new group of villains. His men had begun preying on the good people of Moonbrook, catching them on the roads, taking everything they owned, even the clothes off their backs. Darker stories circulated, of violations against the women, some of them even abducted, taken to Jac's camps to work, and worse.
VanCleef refused to stop the work on his ship, saying he was too close to finishing. He gave Kip full authority to do whatever was necessary to find and kill Jac and his men, but as VanCleef drained all the Brotherhood's finances on additional supplies, and with VanCleef's men busy hunting Jac, money started to run out. VanCleef's men threatened to leave. Something had to be done.
Captain Greenskin knew someone who could help. He suggested contacting him. A few weeks later, a goblin dealer arrived in a hired coach, wearing a fancy black suit and top hat, a gold chain and watch hanging from the pocket of his white waistcoat. He touched everything with his strange green hands, his yellow eyes narrowing with greed whenever he saw something he particularly liked. He wrote a number down and handed it to Kip, who blanched when he read it. The goblin tapped his foot, impatient, reminding Kip that time was money. He even called him friend, though it sounded a little sarcastic.
All the art, rugs, drapes, porcelain, and gold and silver pieces were sold, even VanCleef's silver paperweight in his study. Myra refused to let Kip sell her jewelry. She screamed at him, cursing him for bringing such a hideous avaricious creature into her house, contaminating everything he touched with his filthy hands. Once the rugs and drapes were gone, the house echoed, bare of its clothing. The candles had to be placed in cheap iron holders, excavated from cobwebby crates in the cellar. But without the warm glow of the gold and silver on the sideboards and tables, the house felt colder, lonelier, sad.
Idira hadn't had any dreams in a long time, neither had her Light activated since Unambi had come to stay. She wondered if he somehow protected her from herself with his troll abilities. Either way, she had been grateful for the long reprieve. But now, as she wandered along the bare corridors of the house, stripped of their fine details, she recalled one dream where she had floated around the house and everything was gone, the windows empty gaping holes, and what furniture was left, had lain strewn across the floor, broken and gathering dust. She felt a tremor of dread, perhaps this was the beginning of the end for them, perhaps VanCleef would not succeed after all, and Papa would win, driving Westfall into poverty, terror and despair. She clenched her hands into fists, willing the thought away, afraid that even by thinking it, it might come true.
Unambi was out helping in the stable yard with the horses since Kip couldn't afford to pay for stable hands anymore. She didn't want to bother Unambi when he was mucking out the stables, he liked working with the horses, anyway. She decided to go and see Myra but she wasn't there. Idira opened the doors to the closet, it too stood empty. Maybe her sister was with Vanessa. At almost four and a half, Vanessa spent her afternoons having lessons with Nin, learning her letters. Idira sat down on the divan in the closet, at least this room was still the same. Although almost everything else was gone, Myra had managed to at least protect her personal possessions from that awful little goblin.
Sudden movement at the edge of her vision made her jump, she had thought she was alone. She peered out into the bedroom, wary. A part of the wall beside the fireplace shifted a little, caught in a draught. Her trepidation melted away. The secret passage! Myra had never told her where it was, and since her sister was usually in her room, or close by in Vanessa's room, Idira could never search for the passageway herself without fear of being caught. She crept over to it and edged it open, cautious. A narrow wooden spiral staircase descended into the shadows. Idira could hear voices, soft and indistinct. Despite knowing Nin would disapprove of her sneaking around, Idira pushed aside her qualms and let curiosity overcome her. She had waited so long. Besides she might never get another chance again.
She leaned forward. It smelled fusty, like old crates and the shut up rooms on her floor. Pulling the panel closed behind her, she edged her foot down onto the first step, bracing her hands against the walls on either side of her. The space was so narrow, she imagined VanCleef would have to go down the steps sideways. In total darkness, she felt her way down, claustrophobia clawing at her. She thought about turning back when she heard a familiar voice. Benny! She hadn't seen him in months. She hurried on. A sliver of light glowed in the darkness below, coalescing into the outline of a doorway as she drew closer. It must be the secret room where Myra had hidden on the day the attack! Idira had never found that either. Almost bursting with excitement she came to a halt at the bottom of the stairs, her hand coming up to press against the door.
A quiet sigh, followed by a deep groan made her hesitate. She knew those sounds well enough from VanCleef and Myra's nighttime activities. Idira would be twelve soon, and her own changing body had started to remind her she was no longer a little girl but growing into womanhood. Lanira had given Idira a little book about that, detailing what to expect from her body as it developed into maturity. None of those things had started to happen yet, for which Idira was glad, since it sounded terrible and frightening. But one thing was certain, her interests were definitely changing. Sometimes she would sit in her bedroom window and watch the apprentices working in the smithy across the square, the lean muscles of their arms and chests rippling with exertion and gleaming with sweat. She might not be sure what was happening to her, but she did know she liked looking at the apprentices.
Benny moaned again. The distinct sound of kissing came through the narrow wooden door. She just wanted to see Benny, that's all. Maybe they hadn't gone too far, and she could make some noise before coming in. She would just take a peek first, to see. She edged the door open the tiniest crack.
Benny had Myra in his arms, her face caught between his hands, his mouth on hers, kissing her with such passion, Idira could only stare, fascinated. Benny didn't look like a silly boy anymore, he looked like a real man. A big, strong, grown-up man.
He pulled back, his eyes hot on Myra's. 'Ye're mine. Never forget it.'
Myra nodded and pulled at the laces of his breeches, panting, frantic. His hands moved to her gown, jerking her skirts up to her waist. He picked her up and settled her against his hips with a grunt, his hands gripping her by her buttocks. Her legs slid round his waist, tightening as he rocked her against him. They began to moan, both of them breathing hard. Myra's fingers dug into Benny's shoulders, her hair falling loose from its pins as she rode him, arching her back.
Idira pulled away, ashamed, and crept back up the stairs. She went to her room and sat down in her window seat, her mind filled with the images of what she had just seen. Benny and Myra. She wondered how long they had been together. Myra had been in an inexplicably good mood for a long time now, at least since the middle of the summer. Idira had wondered why, now she knew. Even though it was disloyal to VanCleef, Idira was glad. Myra loved Benny and he loved her. They should be together, and anyway VanCleef was never home anymore, he spent all his time with his precious boat and his strange new allies. Was Myra just supposed to sit in her room and be lonely?
Idira looked down into the square. The men in the smithy were taking a break. They smoked roll-ups and talked in little groups, looking serious and worried, rubbing their big, meaty hands over their shaved heads. The apprentices continued to work, sweeping and topping up the water bath with fresh pails of water. She watched them for awhile, her thoughts drifting back to how Benny had looked at Myra. One day she hoped someone would look at her like that. One of the apprentices glanced up at her window. Their eyes met. He smiled, shy.
She bolted out of the window seat and perched on the edge of her bed, her cheeks burning with humiliation. She glared at the book Lanira had given her with loathing. According to page twenty-seven, embarrassment around boys was normal and was only the beginning of 'the exciting and delightful changes her body was about to experience'. She shook her head. She had read up to page forty-five and had to stop, the 'delightful changes' were too upsetting. Things were only going to get a lot worse from here on out. A sudden urge to cry overcame her. Page thirty-three talked about that. She decided to distract herself thinking about someone who had more problems than she. She thought about the hero Khadgar trapped on another planet. It was all so unjust, after everything he had done. Why was everything so unfair? She thought of him all alone and lonely, missing his friends and his home. The next thing she knew she was crying, though she really had no idea why.