Hannah the Brave: Part Two
"Here's some sausage," the Usul said, "and toast, and butter.
Make sure you eat it all, Hannah."
The Usul's daughter nodded and began to eat.
Her thoughts were far away, though not too far; only in the back of the house,
where her uncle slept in secret.
Her mother sat down to watch her eat. "Oh, I
almost forgot. Grandfather wants to tell you a story after you've eaten," she
Hannah smiled. So he had remembered! She'd thought
that he would have forgotten. She nodded and took an absent bite of sausage.
She had absentmindedly buttered it in her daydreamy state, and spit the sausage
back out onto her plate.
"What's wrong, Hannah?" her mother asked. "Did
it go down the wrong way?"
The Usul nodded, thankful of a quick explanation.
"Well, have some water."
Hannah had heard this advice many times before;
when she choked on water, her mother would tell her to have more despite Hannah's
protests of 'I already had some, and I choked on it!'. Nevertheless, it was
best not to attract attention. Hannah the Brave, she thought, wouldn't attract
She sipped from her water glass politely.
"Good," her mother said. She rose and began to
collect the dirty dishes from the table, remnants of her parents' breakfast.
"Your father's out working today, so when you're done you can run up and spend
the day with Grandfather." She ran water into the sink and began to scrub the
plates and utensils.
Hannah nodded, then said, "Yes, mum." She finished
eating quickly and brought her dishes to her mother.
"Why, thank you, Hannah," her mother said, accepting
them. She smiled at her daughter. "That's quite kind of you."
Abashed-she'd been trying to avoid attracting
attention-Hannah backed towards the door, paws locked behind her. She tripped
over a chair leg and caught at the chair to brace herself; then she smiled at
her mother and went out of the kitchen as quickly as she dared.
She went up the flight of stairs that led to
her grandfather's rooms and knocked softly on the door.
"Who is it?" her grandfather's voice asked; then
the triple beat of his footsteps and his cane came to the door. He opened it
a crack and peered out. "Hannah! Good to see you." He swung the door wide so
she could enter, which she did. He closed it behind her and limped back down
the hallway that the door opened onto.
"Grandfather," Hannah said, running after him,
"Grandfather, Uncle's here yet." She immediately stopped and put her paws over
her mouth. She hadn't meant to spill that particular bit of information, just
get him to wait for her; his footsteps were longer and he'd been getting ahead
He stopped, too, and turned. His expression was
strange. "Is he now."
"Yes," she said, and then continued before she
could lose courage. "He's... he's in the study downstairs, and he was just coming
for the evening and Grandfather, Mum lied to me! She said he'd left but then
I looked and his footprints hadn't left the house."
"Well," her grandfather said, "you mustn't blame
your mother, Hannah. Your mother is a good woman. She just wants you to be safe."
Hannah thought about this. "Does that mean that
knowing Uncle's here isn't safe?" she asked, quite confused.
He nodded slowly. "I think it does." He turned
and began to stump down the hall again. He was moving more slowly now, and Hannah
could keep up with him easily. His movements seemed tired, exhausted perhaps.
"Are you... going to go talk to him?" she asked.
Her grandfather looked startled; then he smiled.
"I'll tell you a story," he said finally. "Go on into the living room. I'll
be there in a moment."
Hannah nodded reluctantly and skipped down the
hall to the living room door. She twisted the handle and went in, and sat on
the couch. A few hard-backed chairs stood around the room, and a coffee table
stood in front of the sofa; otherwise, it was bare, except for the walls, on
which were hung all manner of things. Pearl earrings that her grandfather said
had belonged to a queen; a sheathed longsword, inlaid with gold; a long, fine
quill that was still bright white despite the many years he said he'd owned
it; a necklace, heavy with gold and jewels; and many more. Hannah didn't even
now know if she'd seen them all; it seemed like her favorites were still there
every time she came, but when she looked around the room, there were many new
things to be seen and new stories to be told about them.
Her grandfather entered the room; a small wooden
chest was under his arm. He sat down on the couch next to her and set it on
the coffee table. He leaned his cane against the sofa arm and smiled at her.
She reached a paw out for the chest, which looked
like it must hold treasure, but he placed a paw on her arm. "Not yet," he said.
Hannah nodded and sat back against the back of
the sofa, awaiting the story.
"So," he said. "The story.
"Once there was a family, and though that family
wasn't as happy as some might be, they were all right. There was a father, and
a mother; and two sons." He paused, as he always did when reaching the exciting
part. Hannah looked at him expectantly.
"Now, the second son was good. He liked to do
scholarly things, and though he wasn't much good at fighting, he tried. He tried,
Hannah. That's the important part." He looked at her, and she nodded. "Everything
he did, he found some little part of him to like it. Even if most of him hated
it, he'd find some reason to like it.
"The first son, though-he wasn't so good. For
a while it looked like he was going to grow up and be even better than the second
one, so much so that the father promised that when he passed away, he would
give his only treasure to this first son.
"However, as that first son got older it was
more and more apparent that all he liked was fighting. Fighting and treasure."
"And who was that?" Hannah asked.
Her grandfather shook his head and continued.
"When the father found out about this, he kept the knowledge to himself, thinking
that maybe if he didn't do anything about it it would go away.
"But it didn't. And the son grew more and more
convinced that his father knew nothing about his true desires. So one night,
he up and ran away."
Hannah's mind went back to the conversation she'd
overheard. Now she was certain that the first son was her uncle, and the second
one her father.
"The father was sad about this, as you can imagine;
as bad as his son had been, he was still his son. But when the father heard
news of a new pirate captain who fit the description of his son precisely, well-"
Her grandfather shrugged. "He got angry. He disowned his first son, said he'd
have nothing to do with him.
"The father was more mad than most fathers would
be, because the father had spent his life trying to bring pirate treasure back
to their rightful owners, and it infuriated him that his son would become a
"So, time passed." Her grandfather shrugged.
"It always does. The father grew older, the second son grew up and became a
father himself." He patted her gently on the shoulder.
"Me," Hannah said, recognising the end of the
story for what it was.
Her grandfather nodded slowly. "And the treasure,
the one that he had promised to pass on to the first son-" He leaned forward
and opened the treasure chest. "Here," he said, taking the shimmering blue crystal
from it. He held it out to Hannah, and she took it reverently.
"It's called the Mermaid's Tear."
"It's beautiful," she said in a hushed voice.
He nodded. "I've always thought so myself.
"Now," he continued, "I've had years and years
to think about this, Hannah. But I want you to know that when I die, this is
yours to keep. Keep it safe; keep it secret; and keep it far, far away from
"But I'll keep it for you until then," he said,
smiling. She held the jewel out, and he took it back and put it into the chest
again. He snapped the lid shut and tucked it under his arm, picking up his cane.
He stood, and beckoned her to come. She followed
as he shuffled across the hall and into an empty, well-swept room; then through
a door into another. He kneeled, not without difficulty, and pried up a loose
floorboard. He set the chest in there and replaced the board, then stood on
"Now, remember, Hannah-" he said. "From the doorway
it's eleven out, and then four out from the wall."
She nodded. "I'll remember."
"Best go down and help your mother get lunch,
then," he said. "What with cooking for four, I wouldn't wonder if she needed
Hannah nodded again and skipped off. "Thank you!"
she said, remembering her manners at the door.
Her grandfather smiled wistfully. "No, thank
you," he said softly, though she was already gone. "More than you know."
To be continued...