VanCleef slowed the horses to a canter as soon as Klaven's tower was out of sight. For a long time Idira remained by the back window, anxious, waiting for Papa's men to appear on the horizon, but no one emerged out of the billowing clouds of dust. The horses cantered on. Midday approached, hot and dry. Lulled by the movement of the coach and the rising heat, Idira gave up and returned to her place beside Arinna, who stared out the window, keeping a vigil of her own.
Soon, the dark smudge of Moonbrook's buildings appeared on the horizon, distorting in the heat. VanCleef called to the horses, the beat of their hooves slowed to a trot, then a walk. The coach lurched to a halt beside a bristly stand of scrub. A cloud of dust rolled past the windows carrying tumbleweed with it. High above a vulture wheeled in giant circles, silent, searching for its next meal.
A creak came from the front of the coach as VanCleef jumped down. He paused beside the coach's door to look in at Idira and Arinna. A fine coating of dust covered his face. He nodded at them and moved to the back. The coach's back end lifted as the troll left the ledge.
'I can't take you any further without endangering you. Can you make your way back home from here?' VanCleef asked Unambi.
'I be stayin' wit da girl,' the troll answered, quiet.
Idira crept to the back window and peeked out. VanCleef stood with his hands on his sword grips, facing the troll, who didn't seem able to stand up straight. Bent at the waist, Unambi leant forward, his strange three-digit hands hanging down to his knees. He sank down into a crouch and rested his wrists on the tops of his thighs, his movements fluid, graceful. He looked up at VanCleef, eyeing him, sharp.
'Ya don' be knowin' da magic she be havin', so ya be thinkin' da trolls be knowin'.' He jerked his head at the coach. 'She be da reason ya be catchin' Unambi.'
VanCleef crossed his arms, his expression hard under the layer yellow dust. 'And do you know?'
Unambi shook his head. 'Dere be no name for dat but I be knowin' dis much, she be carryin' da mojo o' da gods.'
'So it's troll magic. Can you get it out?'
The troll scoffed and rubbed one of his fat fingers under his nose. 'Dat be no troll magic, mon. Dat be somethin' bigga' den dat. Much bigga'.'
Unambi looked uneasy. He shifted his weight, bouncing a little on his toes. 'Da first magic. Da magic o' da world.'
VanCleef uncrossed his arms, startled. He glanced back at the coach. Idira darted back, hoping he hadn't seen her.
'Da witch docta's be havin' an old story for dat,' Unambi continued, keeping his voice low. 'Da light she be carryin' . . . dat be the first magic, da one all o' dem otha's be comin' from.'
Idira edged closer to the window, to see. VanCleef stared at the troll, disbelieving.
'You are certain?'
Unambi shrugged. 'Unambi be knowin' enough, but he jus' be a Gurubashi warrior. If ya want ta be knowin' all, ya be wantin' a witch docta'.' He chuckled. 'If ya be livin' long enough ta be catchin' one.'
'Your word is enough. Do you know how to stop it?'
'Ya don' be stoppin' dat magic, mon. Dat girl be like dat for a reason, she be chosen for somethin' big. All ya can do is protect her until da Light be doing what it came here ta do.'
'Will it hurt her?'
The troll didn't answer, he just looked up at VanCleef, enigmatic. He glanced over his shoulder into the distance.
'Dat man in black be wantin' ya job, mon. Unambi be knowin' he been buildin' an army o' his own. Ya keep me safe an' let me watch ova' dat girl an' Unambi be tellin' ya what dat man be plannin'.'
VanCleef's hands went back to his sword hilts. He stepped closer to Unambi, flexing his fingers on the hilts, menacing. 'How do I know you won't hurt her, or take her back to your people for your own purposes?'
Unambi stood up, his eyes narrowing, angry. 'Ya be sayin' such tings because ya don' understan' what she be.' He pointed at the coach, but kept his gaze on VanCleef. 'Dat girl don' belong ta da trolls, or ta da humans, or da elves. She don' belong ta nobody. She belong ta da Light. Unambi be da best berserker in da tribe and he been wonderin' for weeks why he been captcha'd like dat. Now he be knowin' da reason. Unambi been chosen. He be protectin' her till da day he be goin' ta da spirits. Dere be no greata' honour.'
VanCleef inhaled and rubbed his hand over his jaw. The dust smeared, leaving an imprint of his thumb and fingers behind. He rested his hands on his hips and glanced at Moonbrook, then down at the ground, considering.
'You'll have to stay in the cellar, in a cage, until I can confirm your information about Jac's plans.'
Unambi's eyes met VanCleef's, determined. 'I be whereva' da girl be.'
VanCleef said nothing. A muscle in his jaw twitched. Silence fell and stretched.
'He can have one of the empty rooms near me,' Idira blurted out through the window.
VanCleef glanced up, taken aback. Unambi nodded at her.
'Let da girl decide. She be da one wit da Light.'
VanCleef moved to the door and opened it. He leaned into the coach. 'Did you hear what he said?'
'All of it,' Arinna answered, pale.
He eyed the priestess. 'What do you think? Have you heard of this original magic, this . . . source?'
Arinna nodded, her lips thin.
VanCleef cursed and slammed his hand against the door frame. 'Then why didn't you mention it before I lost fourteen men trying to capture a troll?'
Arinna shrank back against the coach's interior. Wisps of her hair hung down around her face, her once neat and tidy chignon messy and dishevelled. Dried spatters of blood peppered one side of her face.
'Because it's not possible,' she whispered, her fingers clutching at the material of her cloak. 'The power would be too great. It would tear a human apart. Even a Guardian couldn't contain it.'
'Yet there she sits, alive and well,' VanCleef answered, bitter, his eyes raking over Idira. He cast a look back at Unambi, who had crouched down once more, waiting, patient, his gaze following the slow circle of the vulture sailing high up in the clear blue sky.
'If he is right, and she has a purpose yet to be fulfilled, perhaps the Light is protecting her from itself,' Arinna continued, hesitant. 'I can think of no other possible explanation.'
'Is there not anyone you can ask about this? I would rather not put all my trust in a troll,' VanCleef muttered, exasperated.
Arinna stared at her hands, her eyes moving back and forth as she searched her mind. She looked up, abrupt. 'Khadgar would know.'
VanCleef raised an eyebrow. 'The one I was commissioned to build a statue for?'
Arinna nodded, miserable. 'He is the only one I know of with ties to a Guardian,' she glanced up at VanCleef. 'He had access to Medivh's Library at Karazhan. Not even the archives within the deserted Hall of the Guardian can compare to the knowledge buried in Karazhan. If anyone would know, Khadgar would.'
VanCleef cursed. 'Well, that's no use to me, since he is gone and never likely to return.'
Idira turned on her seat and looked at them, both lost in their thoughts, both unhappy. She glanced back at the troll, still waiting, patient.
'Unambi came back and picked me up when I fell down,' she said, quiet.
VanCleef glanced at Arinna. 'He did?'
'I didn't see him pick her up,' she answered, 'but he put her in the coach, that much I remember.'
They glanced at each other, furtive, shame flickering across their features.
VanCleef cleared his throat. 'I didn't know you fell down, Idira.'
Idira shrugged. 'It's ok, I made it.' She lifted up her skirts and showed them her bloodied knees. 'Maybe Arinna could make them better. It hurts a little.'
Arinna nodded and leaned forward. Light blossomed in her hands. Within a heartbeat it was done. Idira admired her new clean skin. It hadn't hurt a bit, it had just felt soft. 'Oh,' she breathed, rubbing her hands over her knees, 'that was wonderful.' She looked up. 'Are we going to keep Unambi?'
VanCleef gave her a serious look, filled with reservation. 'Do you want him to stay with us?'
'Well, everyone has guards except me. It's not really fair.'
VanCleef and Arinna smiled a little, amused by her logic.
'But only if he likes cats,' she added. 'He has to like cats.'
'Unambi loves da kitties,' the troll called out as he smacked at something small and dark in the dried grasses a short distance away. He appeared at the window beside Idira, opposite VanCleef, holding up a dead mouse by its tail. 'And da kitties be lovin' Unambi because he be bringin' dem nice tings ta eat.'
VanCleef scoffed. 'Well now I know how you know so much of Jac's business, your range of hearing is extraordinary.'
The troll nodded and threw the dead mouse out onto the plain. The vulture veered towards it. He brushed the dust off his hands and smiled. 'Ya be seein'. Unambi be useful, mon. Real useful.'