Idira ran to the room and opened the door, maybe she could help. The room lay just as deserted as it had before. Confused, Idira looked around, the cries had sounded so close. Another scream rent the air, long and thin, agonised. She turned to the window, slow. It overlooked the courtyard. The place where VanCleef did bad things.
Something inside her warned her to turn around and go back to her room, to her bunny and her colouring book. But Idira didn't listen, the screams carried on, turning to shrieks, filled with pain.
She went to the window and looked down. A nightmare met her eyes. The maid who had brought Blackie the yarn lay naked on a table, her wrists and ankles tied to the table's legs. The flesh over her torso lay open, like a door, the muscle folded back, a big, red flap, exposing her innards. Her eyes wild, she panted in terror, blood pouring out of her. Wearing nothing more than trousers and a hood, VanCleef pulled her insides out, staining his arms up to his elbows with her blood. Her guts trailed out over the table and onto the stone flags, an endless chain. The woman juddered and shat herself.
VanCleef's henchmen lounged, bored, around the edges of the courtyard. One of them smoked a roll up, he flicked its ash onto the ground, unconcerned. Why didn't they help her? Apart from the woman's shuddering sobs, the courtyard lay shrouded in complete silence. Idira sensed death stalking the maid. VanCleef ran out of guts to pull out. He reached in and pulled something else out, yanking it free. The woman's eyes rolled back into her head. Blood saturated the table and ran down onto the stones underneath. VanCleef prowled around the table, careful not slip on the woman's entrails. Idira pressed her hands against the window, whispering, desperate, begging him to finish the poor woman.
He picked up a sword from one of the weapons racks and lifted it high. He brought it down fast, against her neck. Her head rolled to one side, freed of her body. Using the point of his sword, he flicked it off the table. It hit the ground and rolled across the courtyard, blood spraying behind it.
Bile burst into Idira's throat. Before she could stop herself, she threw up, her lunch splattering against the window sill.
She crumpled onto the floor, reeling from what she had just witnessed. Her maid had no head. She threw up again, emptying her stomach until she had nothing left. The dry heaves lasted a long time.
Shaking, she left the room and closed the door. She ran to get her bunny and fled to the room with the crates, hurrying through the little corridors to her hiding place. She stayed there until the daylight in the ceiling window faded. Out in the hall, doors opened and closed, loud. She heard her name called over and over, sharp and filled with worry. VanCleef. She cried. She didn't want to see him. She huddled deeper into her hiding spot.
The door opened, letting in a shaft of light. She sniffed, the sound carried, loud. He came into the room and moved through the crates. She clutched her bunny, tighter. He was coming, she would be next. She started crying again.
Strong hands reached in and took hold of her, pulling her, gentle, out from between the stack of crates and the wall. She shrank away from him. He let out an anguished sound as she clung to one of the crates, her heart pounding.
He held out his hand to her, like she had done with Blackie under the porch the day they left home, his voice pleading.
'Little one, no. Please don't be afraid of me, you will break my heart. I will never hurt you. I swear it. She was a bad woman. She almost killed your sister. Myra is safe now.'
Idira couldn't understand, with VanCleef everything was so complicated. She wept, confusion and terror making her bawl so hard snot hung out of her nose. He waited a little while before attempting to pry her fingers from the crate. She tried and failed to resist his strength.
Making soft sounds of reassurance, he picked her up in the crook of his arm and carried her back to her room. Setting her on her bed, he knelt in front of her and untied his red silk scarf from around his neck. He wiped her cheeks and nose, smearing it with her snot and tears, his attention gentle and fatherly. When he finished, he tucked the ruined thing into one of his pockets.
He looked down at the bunny in her arms. 'You like this one, then?'
Idira nodded, wary.
'And the other things?' He opened the chest and looked in. A smile of approval spread across his face. 'Oh they have done well. Just as I ordered. They must have emptied Stormwind's toy store for you.'
Idira couldn't wrap her head around what was happening. He wanted to talk about her new toys, as though he hadn't just butchered a woman. VanCleef turned back to her, his eyes kind and attentive, just like the night in the kitchen. Idira tried to think about what she had seen him do that afternoon, but her mind wouldn't let her. All she could think about was her puke.
She pointed at the door. 'I threw up. In there.'
VanCleef nodded, a spasm of guilt crossing his face. 'I know. It's alright. I didn't think. I am not used to having a little one in the house. From now on I will take care of disciplinary issues elsewhere.' He took hold of her chin, his eyes intent on hers. 'I promise you will never see or hear anything like that again. You have my word.'
He didn't wait for her to answer. He stood up and held out his hand. 'Now, let's go see your sister, shall we? You can tell her about your new things and show her your bunny.'
Idira slid off the bed. She looked at his hand, uncertain. He smiled and withdrew it.
'Perhaps you should keep both hands on your bunny while you go down the stairs. You wouldn't want to drop him.'
Idira nodded, grateful not to have to touch him.
He opened the door. 'Have you given your bunny a name?' he asked, conversational, as he went into the hallway.
'Yes,' Idira answered, quiet.
'And what should I call him?'
Idira stopped and looked at the floor. She hugged the bunny closer to her, defensive. 'Benny,' she whispered.
VanCleef went very still. She glanced up at him and caught the flicker of his disapproval, quickly concealed. He smiled again, showing more teeth than usual.
'Benny the Bunny,' he said in a sing-song voice, though it sounded a little mean. He chuckled, amused by something only he seemed to understand. He walked on. 'A good name. I like it. I like it very much.'
At the bottom of the flight of stairs, Idira ran around the landing and raced down the hall to Myra's room, eager to see her sister. She skidded to halt. Two burly henchmen with shaved heads stood in front of her closed door, clad in worn, dark leather. Both wore red bandanas tied around their necks. They eyed her, their eyes cold, reminding Idira of Papa. She turned and looked back at VanCleef, coming up the hall after her. He gestured to the men, impatient. One of them hastened to unlock the door, opening it just as VanCleef arrived.
He strode past Idira and went into the room, his eyes gravitating to the bed. Myra sat propped up against a mountain of white cushions, thick blankets covering her legs up to her hips. A tray of food sat perched in front of her, filled with small platters, a few of them half empty. Myra's nightgown lay open, its blue silk ribbons hanging loose. Idira caught the curve of her sister's breasts showing through the opening. Myra glanced up as they entered. Her complexion, already pale, drained further of colour. She lifted trembling fingers to her nightgown, fumbling with the ribbons, trying to close it.
VanCleef went to her. 'Allow me,' he said, soft.
Idira half expected him to rip the material again, but he surprised her. Instead he gingerly lifted the ribbons and tied them together, deft. In a heartbeat, Myra was decent.
Idira slipped up onto the bed. She held out her bunny to Myra.
'I have a new bunny,' she said, not knowing what else to talk about. She wasn't going to tell her sister about what VanCleef did, it would only upset her. She put the bunny on Myra's lap, in front of the tray. 'It's very soft. Ye can touch it if ye like.'
Myra stroked its fur, a faint smile ghosting her lips. She looked exhausted, weakness emanated from her. She tried to hand the toy rabbit back to Idira. She couldn't.
Idira looked at VanCleef as she collected the toy. 'Is Myra goin' ta be okay?'
He kept his eyes on Myra as he answered. 'She will, she just needs time. From now on, no more mistakes will be made. I was careless. Never again.'
He lifted the tray and set it on a side table alongside a vase filled with purple flowers. He returned and sat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to take Myra's hand. She slid her hand away, struggling to put distance between them.
He lowered his hand onto his leather-clad thigh and sighed. 'Myra, what must I do to prove my love for you?'
She didn't answer. She sagged against the cushions. Fatigue rolled off her, tangible.
Idira adjusted one of the cushions to better support Myra's head. Idira had never seen her sister brought so low.
'Maybe she wants ta sleep for awhile,' she said.
Myra closed her eyes and nodded.
VanCleef stood up. 'Of course. Perhaps tomorrow you will feel strong enough to tell me your wish.'
Myra's eyes flickered open. 'No. Now.'
VanCleef sat back down, a look of satisfaction crossing his face. 'Anything, as I promised.'
'I want ta see Benny,' she whispered, 'ta say goodbye. Alone.'
VanCleef inhaled deep through his nose. Anger flickered in his eyes. He stood up, rigid.
'Very well,' he said, his voice no longer smooth but clipped and sharp. 'If that is your wish, as a man of honour, I have no choice but to oblige.' He crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes boring into Myra's, dangerous. 'But on one point I will not concede. You will not see him alone. Idira will stay with you. I don't imagine things could go very far with a child present.'
Myra looked away, out the window into the square. The sun was beginning to set, painting the sky in dark pinks and oranges. She looked back at him, her face filled with loathing.
'I jus' want ta say goodbye. Is it so much ta ask, even of ye?'
He watched her, his dark eyes softening as she crumpled, defeated, against the cushions.
'I'll have him here by tomorrow evening. The sooner this is ended, the better.'
She met his eyes once more, but this time she looked at him like an animal, cornered. 'Aye, just so Mr VanCleef, just so.'
Idira didn't understand her sister's meaning, but VanCleef must have. His cheeks burning, he backed away, a look of deep injury upon him.
At the door he stopped but didn't look back. 'I'm a great believer in cause and effect, Myra,' he said, cold. 'It is the cornerstone of what the Brotherhood stands for. Today a woman died because of your thoughtless, selfish actions. I suggest you keep that in mind if you ever intend to behave in such a way again.'
He went out. The door slammed behind him. A key turned in the lock.
Myra closed her eyes and turned her head away. Idira went to her and stroked her hair. In the light of the setting sun, the tears on Myra's eyelashes glittered like jewels, reminding Idira of her fairy tales. The room fell dark. Myra slept. It was a long time before Lanira came to put Idira to bed.
That night Idira dreamed dreams of swords and blood, and of toys marching down the road from Stormwind to Moonbrook. Along the sides of the road starving people reached out, begging for food, their once beautiful clothing hanging from their skinny frames, patched and worn.
Her dream changed. She was back in the big house. She flew from room to room, but found all of them in ruins. Scraps of material fluttered in the gaping window frames, the glass long gone. What little furniture remained lay broken and gathering dust.
All the maids were gone, the manservants too. She drifted into the front dining room and found VanCleef and Myra dining alone together at the big table, surrounded by his henchmen. One of them flicked the ashes of his roll up into Myra's food and laughed.
VanCleef poured Myra wine and waited until she drank it. He poured her more and held the glass up to her mouth. She resisted, but he forced her to drink. He kept giving her more wine until Myra filled up like a waterskin, reminding Idira of a dead man she had once seen wash up on the seashore. VanCleef fell to his knees and wept, clutching the lifeless, bloated shape of Myra against him, begging her to forgive him.
Idira woke. The room glowed violet once more. She hugged her bunny and shut her eyes. If she didn't see the light, maybe her awful dreams wouldn't come true. She got up and lit a taper from the banked embers of the fireplace. Putting its flame against several candles, she lit them and banished the violet light. She picked up her colouring book and pencils, determined to distract herself. Back in the warmth of her bed she lost herself in her work. The act of colouring soothing her, blunting the sharp edges of her dreams.
She finished her picture and held it up to show to Blackie. The cat cracked open an eye and settled back to sleep, uninterested. Idira huffed and showed it to her bunny, remembering all at once Benny would be there that night. She bit her lip. Maybe she should tell him about the violet light. He might know of a way to make it go away. Before coming to Moonbrook she had never seen the violet light before. Maybe it was magic. She shivered as a prickle of fear spiked through her. Maybe it was bad magic. Maybe she was bad, like VanCleef.
Troubled, Idira settled back against her cushions and looked up at the canopy over her bed, her gaze following the intricate details of the pattern's design. Benny would know what to do. Idira could trust him. If anyone could help her, it would be him.
Until then, all she could do was wait.