The next day Idira woke to shouts coming from the square. A explosive crack rent the air, so loud it made her ears ring. A heartbeat later a deep crump rammed into the stone facade of the house, making the whole room shudder. Pieces of plaster showered down from the ceiling, covering Idira's face and hair. Unambi burst through the door, and scooped her up in one arm and caught Blackie in his other. He galloped down the corridor to the back of the house, Blackie wailing and clawing him as more thuds hit the house, making the chandeliers in the hallway tinkle. Plaster dust rained down, choking Idira. Her eyes watering, she coughed, fighting to breathe in the thick air.
Unambi pushed open the door to one of the empty bedrooms overlooking the stable yard and slammed it shut behind him. Blackie clawed her way free and tore around the room, desperate for a place to hide. She scrambled into the fireplace and flattened herself behind the grate, her eyes wide. Another boom shook the house. Idira screamed and clung to Unambi.
'What's happening?' she cried, barely able to hear herself through the ringing of her ears.
'Jac be attackin' da boss,' Unambi bellowed back over the thud of another assault. 'But dis time he be bringin' da big guns.' He set Idira down and pulled his daggers free. 'Don' ya be worryin' ya be safe wit' ol' Unambi.'
Another loud explosion went off, followed by a tremendous crack and the sound of masonry collapsing, tumbling down into the inner courtyard. Idira tugged on Unambi's arm. 'What about Myra and the baby! You have to help them!'
Unambi shook his head, his expression hard. 'Unambi don' be leavin' ya.'
'But they could die! Please! Go and help them,' Idira cried. Tears spilled from her eyes, hot and meesy. 'Please,' she sobbed, desperate, crippled by powerlessness.
Unambi jerked his arm free and turned his back to her. 'Da boss be lookin' out for dem, ya can be sure o' dat. I be stayin'. Now don' be askin' Unambi no more, he be gettin' ready ta fight.'
Idira retreated, shaking, crying for her sister and the helpless little baby. How could they have survived all those explosions? She was sure they were dead, strewn like dolls across VanCleef's beautiful bed, lifeless and coated in plaster dust. She sobbed so hard she began to dry heave. Why would Papa do such a thing to the house where his daughters lived? Didn't he care he could kill them?
The booms stopped, the sudden wall of silence deafening. Distant sounds of fighting rose up from the front of the house, spreading to the inner courtyard. The pounding of booted feet against cobblestones came from the stable yard. Bellows of warning sounded from the kitchens. Idira stumbled over to the window, unsteady, tripping on the hem of her dress. She fell to her knees and crawled the rest of the way to the window, quaking so hard her teeth clamped down on the inside of her mouth.
She looked down, tasting blood, the gash in her mouth aching. The yard seethed with men fighting, their swords and daggers slicing through the air, cutting and piercing each other, their blood spraying against the stable walls. She couldn't tell which men were Papa's and which were VanCleef's, they all looked the same. A man strode through them, stabbing and gouging his way through, dressed all in black. Idira drew a shuddering breath as he dispatched another man. Papa.
A door banged open in the hallway, faint against the noise of battle. Another followed soon after, then another. Shouts drifted down the hall, reporting the location of a stockpile. More doors banged open. Idira shrank back against the window, crying so hard snot bubbled out of her nose. They were coming. Unambi waited, his whole body tensed, ready to attack. He flexed his fingers around the hilts of his daggers. Voices came from just outside the door. Someone kicked it, hard. The door flew open and banged against the wall.
Three thugs stood outside, their weapons drawn. They gaped at the troll, astonished. Unambi's daggers flew free, burying themselves into the chests of two of the men. He leapt, a blur of blue and red, and grabbed the last man by the throat. He shook him like a doll. The thug's swords clattered to the floor. Unambi squeezed his enormous fingers together, slow, his eyes cold, yellow slits. The thug scrabbled at the troll's hand, his eyes bulging. Unambi tightened his grip. A sharp snap. The man's head toppled over, like a dead bird. Unambi tossed the body away. It hit the opposite wall, legs and arms tangling in a heap. Pressing his foot against the dead men's chests, he jerked his daggers free. He turned to Idira and lifted a finger to his lips, letting Idira know he needed her to be quiet. Idira gulped in a deep breath of air and held her breath. She shoved the tears and dust from her eyes and tried not to look at the blood pooling around the two dead men.
They waited a long time but no more men came up. The clashes in the stable yard lessened too. Idira peered through the window. The yard lay strewn with the dead and dying. Those still standing bolted into the house where scuffles and the bellow of orders continued to filter out.
Unambi came back in, picked up Idira and carried her over the dead men. He kicked the dead bodies aside and closed the door so Blackie, still cowering in the fireplace, wouldn't get out. His finger to his lips, he crept ahead, his daggers drawn. Idira followed close behind, her heart in her throat, listening to the melee dwindle. They passed her door. Unambi looked in. No one. He moved to the top of the stairwell, cautious. His eyes moved back and forth, searching. Satisfied, he gestured for Idira to follow. She scuttled over to him, her heart pounding. More dead and dying lay strewn on the stairs and littered the entrance hall.
They crept down the stairs to the landing on the second floor. VanCleef's bedroom door hung open at a wild angle, clinging to the doorframe by its top hinge. A ragged, gaping hole opened onto the square where a window and part of the wall used to be. Idira struggled to free herself. Unambi let her go, following close behind. She ran to the bed, panting with fear and pulled at the dusty covers, dotted with chunks of masonry. Empty. She went to the closet and pushed the doors open. Another ragged gash exposed the room to the square. All the mirrors had shattered and dust hung thick in the air. They weren't there. They had gotten away in time.
She looked at Unambi. He held out his hand to her, and nodded. 'Dey be safe. Don' be worryin' no more.'
Shouts rose up from the entrance hall. Unambi scooped up Idira and carried her to the landing. A dozen men ran out from the inner courtyard, followed by others throwing daggers and five-bladed stars. Four men fell, screaming in agony. VanCleef appeared, his blood-spattered chest heaving, wearing nothing more than his breeches and boots. His swords dripped, slick with blood. He gestured at his men to follow the ones who had fled.
'Kill them all but one. We'll keep that one for questioning.'
His men sprinted out. Silence fell. His face hard, VanCleef strode away, out the front door into the square.
'What about Myra and the baby? Why did Papa try to kill them?' Idira wailed, looking back at the gaping hole in VanCleef's once beautiful room. She slammed her hands against the banister railing. 'Why is Papa so bad?!' she screamed, her gaze raking over the dead, bleeding out over the chequered floor of the hall, where only hours ago she had danced with VanCleef, celebrating the baby's birth.
Unambi's arm came around her. He tried to hush her, but she pushed him away. Too much had happened. Idira crouched down and huddled into herself. Blood stained the hem of her nightdress. She shuddered. Why couldn't everyone just get along? Why couldn't they drink tea, buy hats in Dalaran, and read nice stories? Stories. Her books. Quick as a silverfish she slipped out of reach of Unambi's grasp. She bolted up the stairs, scrambling over the still warm bodies of the fallen. She hadn't thought about her books on the way to the landing, she had been too frightened. She raced down the hall, panting with hope. Let them be ok, just let them still be ok.
She stopped and fell to her knees, her chest so tight she could barely breathe. Her books, so carefully salvaged by Unambi, lay scattered against the sides of the corridor, destroyed by the careless, booted feet of Papa's men. She spotted her precious colouring book, the one with Khadgar's picture. She crawled over to it and slid it out from under a pile of mangled books. Shredded clean in half, it lay open at the page of Azeroth's hero. A bloody boot print stained Khadgar's face. She stifled a sob and let it go.
Nothing had been left for her. Nothing.