Idira left the chaos and wandered into the kitchen in search of food. It was deserted, all its surfaces cleared and scrubbed down for the night. Within the fireplace, a banked fire glowed under its heap of slack. On the hearth a basket padded with a red blanket nestled near the heat. Two cats lay curled up together in it, sound asleep. In the middle of the room, a massive wooden table dominated the space. Three sets of candelabra stood along the table's length. Each burned with a dozen sweet smelling candles, yet even the reach of their light couldn't breach the corners of the vast room.
Set on a platter under a glass dome, a roasted haunch of meat rested on the table. Idira's mouth watered. It looked like boar meat, the same as she had had last night. She went to it and hefted the dome away. She picked up a slice and tore bite-size pieces from it, filling her mouth until her cheeks puffed out.
A door opened. VanCleef came in, followed by two of his henchmen. He stopped when he saw Idira. He made a gesture. Without a word, his men disappeared. Idira stared, mid-chew. They had just vanished, right in front of her eyes. She turned around searching for them, the skin on the back of her neck prickling.
VanCleef went to a cupboard and pulled out two plates. Rummaging in several other cupboards he filled the platters with slabs of cheese, bread, and meats. He put the two plates on the table and sat, patting the bench beside him.
Hunger made her go to him. She climbed onto the bench and sat, her feet not touching the floor. She picked up a piece of meat on her platter. It was white and a little greasy. She ate it, it tasted good. She looked up at VanCleef and smiled.
He smiled at her, kind. 'You like chicken then, do you?'
She stopped chewing. Not the chickens, they were her friends. She forced herself to swallow the meat, guilt overwhelming her. She reached for a piece of cheese, that was safe. She nibbled on it, watching him as he ate with his knife, spearing pieces and sliding them into his mouth without cutting himself on the sharp blade. It looked dangerous.
'Is it true?' she asked.
VanCleef put his knife down and turned to her. 'Is what true?'
She fiddled with the cheese, breaking it into little pieces. 'Did Papa really lose Myra ta ye in a card game?'
VanCleef lifted a brow. 'Yes.'
'Well, why did ye let him bet her? Ye could have said no.'
VanCleef looked at her in a funny way, then answered. 'Because I'm a man, and I wanted her.'
'You think I'm a bad man, don't you?'
Idira shrugged. 'Ye seem bad, and ye look a little bad, but I think ye can be nice too. All I know is ye made Myra cry until she puked. So far ye've been nice ta me, though.'
VanCleef didn't say anything for a long time. He just sat there, fiddling with his knife, its blade catching in the light of the candles. He put the knife aside.
'I'm not a bad man, I'm just trying to right a wrong. I do love your sister. I fell in love with her the moment I looked at her.'
Idira looked up at him, he seemed sincere. 'But ye ruined her pretty dress. She never had one like that before.'
He looked a little embarrassed. 'Well, I do that sometimes, it's something I like to do. When you grow up, you'll understand. Sometimes women like it, too. Myra unfortunately, did not.' He cleared his throat and rubbed his palms against his thighs. 'So, it seems you can see the future with those violet eyes of yours. You saw it today, didn't you?'
Idira half-shrugged, she didn't want to talk about it. It was scary.
He picked up his knife and began eating once more. 'We can talk about it later,' he said between bites, 'we've had enough excitement for one day, don't you think?'
Idira shoved a piece of bread into her mouth so she wouldn't have to answer, but he didn't say anything more anyway. They ate in companionable silence until she couldn't eat another bite. She made a little pile of boar meat on her plate for Blackie and shuffled off the bench.
'Bye,' he said, a soft smile hovering on his lips. 'Sleep well, little one.'
As she went out the door, she heard him say, quiet. 'Please don't think I'm a bad man.''
Idira ran up the stairs to her room and fed Blackie on the bed, revelling in the sudden decadence of her life. That night she dreamed of Myra, and Benny, and Papa, and VanCleef. All the events of the previous two days jumbling together, messy and disorganised.
The dream changed and became vivid, as clear as waking life. She found herself standing on a balcony in a beautiful floating city, it was magical, like a fairytale. A handsome man, someone she had never seen before, stood before her, his grey eyes looking at her the way VanCleef's had looked at Myra, only when she looked down at herself, she wasn't a little girl anymore but a grown woman, wearing a plain blue dress.
She woke up, her heart pounding. It was the middle of the night. Her bedroom glowed, soft, the colour of violet. It looked pretty, and terrifying.
She pulled Blackie up close, seeking comfort. Her future. She had seen her future. She was certain of it.
After a little while, the violet light faded and the room grew dark once more. With Blackie purring beside her, Idira thought about the strange city and the enigmatic man from her dream, his eyes the colour of polished steel. She found herself longing for the time to pass, so she could grow up and meet him, the man with the kind eyes.
She pulled the blankets closer around her. Twice in one day she had been able to see the future. A thought struck her. VanCleef had mentioned her violet eyes and her ability to see the future. What if he wanted to use her ability to help him with his so-called Brotherhood? Idira didn't like the thought of that one bit. Those men were bad men. Men like Papa. She didn't want to be bad.
She stared up at the bed's canopy, fretting, trying to find a way out of her predicament.
It was a long time before she fell asleep again. She dreamed once more. Green fire rained from the heavens, incinerating everything it touched. Horrible, terrifying dog-like creatures with red scales stalked the land, their huge, sharp teeth tearing those they caught apart, uncaring of their anguished screams.
She woke up, her room glowed violet once more. She cried out, fearing that might be the future too. She ran to Myra's room and got into bed with her. An empty pitcher of wine sat on the bedside table. Her sister didn't move. It didn't matter. She huddled up next to Myra, grateful not to be alone and waited for the sun to rise, too frightened to sleep again.