Days passed. Myra stayed in her room, recovering, under the care of Arinna and Lanira. True to his word, VanCleef had not gone back to Myra again after Benny left, allowing her the promised time to come to terms with her new situation. She never tried to die again, though she didn't talk much whenever Idira went to visit her. She just looked out the window with a faraway look in her eyes. Idira tried to tell her what Nin had told her, so Myra could see VanCleef was a good man, but Lanira hushed her up, saying not to trouble her sister with politics.
Over the weeks, things settled into a semblance of calm, even a brief visit from Papa had been uneventful. He had moved around Idira's room like a caged animal, looking at her things, scoffing to himself. Idira showed him her writing. He looked at it, unimpressed and tossed it back onto the desk. He had changed, becoming even harder and meaner looking, his body lean and muscled, hardened from travelling and whatever else he did as the Defias's Enforcer. Idira was glad when he left. He reminded her of the criminals, maybe they were influencing him. When he came in, she had been in the midst of a lesson. Nin had been polite to him, though he hadn't been to her. He had looked at her like he was taking her clothes off with his eyes, a dirty leer on his face. When he left, Nin had reached out for the back of one the chairs, and clung to it, shuddering.
Apart from an increasing presence of thugs and criminals coming and going into the courtyard below, Idira's life fell into a comfortable routine. She gained weight and her hair began to shine, glossy with health. New clothes arrived almost daily in pretty ribbon-wrapped boxes. Soon her wardrobe became so full, the doors couldn't be closed, its rail groaning under the weight of dresses in every colour imaginable. Blackie came and went, plump and shiny from boar meat, wearing a little red leather collar, bearing a bronze tag with her name engraved on it. VanCleef had had it made to match the collars worn by the rest of the cats in his house. No one ever dared hurt the cats wearing his collars, not even the bad men. Just like Idira, Blackie had a good life. VanCleef kept his promise to Idira too, except for the occasional bellow of injury from training with his men, he had never hurt anyone again.
Idira's lessons with Nin continued everyday, except on the holy day, when they had to go to the cathedral and listen to a sermon from the bishop. Idira loved going to the cathedral and listening to his stories. They were very interesting. Bishop Mattias taught about the Light and how it resided in every living being. Sometimes he would tell stories of heroes who had used their Light for the greatest good, and would often speak of the bravery and integrity of the paladin, Lord Uther the Lightbringer. When he did, he would look meaningfully at VanCleef, who sat beside Idira on the front pew wearing his Holy Day best; an elegant fitted red jacket, cream shirt and breeches, black boots and a red silk scarf around his throat, tied like a cravat. VanCleef would nod at the bishop, a tight smile on his lips, though he didn't look pleased. Idira couldn't understand why, it seemed a great compliment to be singled out by the bishop and compared to the wondrous Lord Uther. She wondered if the violet light was her Light. Maybe she wasn't bad after all, she just had a different colour light. She wished she could have had the time to ask Benny.
Her learning progressed. Soon she was able to read her fairytale books without any help. She finished all of them. Nin brought her new books, much more difficult to read. Idira soon mastered those too. Nin said she couldn't keep up with Idira, but she smiled when she said it, her eyes shining with pride.
Nin also schooled Idira in the proper manner of speaking, gently correcting her each time she erred. Within six weeks, Idira spoke just like Nin. She loved the way the words sounded in her mouth, pretty and precise. At bedtime, she would read her books aloud to her bunny, revelling in the sudden pleasure of speaking like a proper lady.
Every evening before dinner, Idira was sent outside to play in the stable yard to get exercise and fresh air. She would pat the horses' muzzles and give them cut pieces of apple from the barrel in the kitchen. Lanira gave Idira something called a skipping rope, and once Idira learned how to use it, she used it all the time, even to skip along the hallways, though Nin frowned upon it, saying it wasn't ladylike behaviour.
One evening, after almost two months had passed, VanCleef told her he had found out her birthday would be in a week. He promised her whatever she wanted to celebrate on the coming Holy Day. Idira asked if they could eat at the Weary Traveller, Moonbrook's fancy inn on the square. VanCleef smiled, indulgent and asked if there was anyone in particular she would like invited. Secretly Idira wished she could see Benny, but she knew better than to ask. Instead she asked for Nin, Lanira, Arinna, and the Bishop Mattias. She asked if Myra would come too, since it was her birthday as well. VanCleef's smile faded. He picked up one of Idira's books and fiddled with it, saying he didn't expect so.
On the morning of her birthday celebration, Idira woke to find a ribbon-wrapped box waiting on the window seat. She jumped out of bed and pulled the ribbon away, excited. A new silk dress lay within, nestled in yellow tissue paper. She caught her breath, the dress was violet, the same colour as her eyes. With a cry of delight, she pulled it free of its wrappings, ran to the wardrobe and tugged the doors open. Holding the dress up in front her, she gazed at her reflection in the wardrobe's mirror. Little white embroidered rosebuds adorned the square neckline and bodice. Underneath, a pale yellow sash encircled the waist, tied into a huge bow at the back. A flower garden done in intricate embroidery rose up from the hem, the tallest flowers reaching knee height. Pale yellow bees hovered over the flowers. It was the most beautiful of all her dresses by far. Holding her breath, she went back to the box and peeked at the underside of the lid, aching with hope. There it was! In the middle lay the golden embossed sigil of the expensive dress shop in Stormwind where Myra's dresses came from. Idira squealed, delighted and danced round in circles, holding the dress against her chest. Her first dress from the fairytale city of Stormwind!
When it was time to depart, VanCleef came to escort her down the stairs to the waiting carriage. Instead of his best red jacket, he wore a dark blue one over his usual cream shirt and breeches. Idira noticed he wasn't wearing his red silk scarf, either. She asked why he had changed.
'Red would have clashed with the violet,' he said with a smile. She took his proffered hand and looked up at him, her heart filled with love. He was more of a father to her than Papa had ever been.
'Thank you for my dress, it is my most favourite of all,' she said, her voice catching. A wistful look crossed his face as he adjusted the matching violet ribbon holding her hair up in a ponytail. He nodded, though he didn't say anything. She had a feeling he loved her too, as the daughter he never had. The thought made her feel warm and happy inside. Maybe this was what being in a real family felt like.