Hannah the Brave: Part Three
"Come to help me, then, Hannah?"
Hannah nodded. "Yes, mum. Grandfather said you
might need help." She scrambled up onto a kitchen chair. It creaked ominously,
but didn't fall apart.
Her mother smiled. "That was thoughtful of him."
She picked up a spoon and stirred the large pot of soup that was boiling on
The young Usul nodded again and looked around
the kitchen. It was cozily warm and, though the decorations were few and far
between, it had an air of home to it. She tapped the table with a paw absently.
Hannah glanced up at the doorway on the other
side of the kitchen and saw her uncle sneaking past it. Her eyes went immediately
to her mother, but the Usul was still stirring soup, her back to the door.
Her eyes wide, she watched as he took his coat
from a hook and then slipped out the door. It closed quietly behind him.
She slid off her chair and, with a glance at
her mother, ran out of the kitchen. The Usul looked up from her soup and smiled,
seeing the very end of Hannah's tail disappearing behind the doorway.
The mother shook her head and smiled again, fondly,
remembering the impatience of youth.
Hannah trod quietly down the hallway and to the
room her uncle had slept in. She pushed at the door with a paw; it creaked open
an inch. With a leap of the heart, she pushed it open further and slipped inside.
It had been a library in better times; now, the
bookcases were empty except for a few lonely volumes. A few sun-bleached paintings
hung on the walls. A couch, upholstered in leather, was the only furniture in
the empty room. The floor was plain wood, except for a threadworn rug under
Hannah stepped closer to the couch; careful investigation
revealed a folded piece of parchment that was wedged down next to the cushion.
She tugged it out and unfolded it. A faint gasp escaped her lips; the Usul pressed
a paw to her mouth and padded over to the door to make sure no one was around.
Seeing that the hall was devoid of life except
the one, lone potted plant-and even that half dead-Hannah hoisted herself up
onto the sofa cushion to look at the parchment. It was a map, she saw; a map
of caves and underground lakes and spiked traps. After a moment of looking,
she slid off the couch.
Keeping the parchment tightly clasped in her
fist, she shuffled out of the room and closed the door lightly behind her. Then
she ran up the stairs to her grandfather's rooms.
"This?" he said when she asked. He ran a paw
over it and smiled. "This is a map. A map of pirate caves and pirate treasure."
He levered himself out of his chair, using his cane for support, and limped
into the room where the Mermaid's Tear was hidden. He gestured for her to take
up the floorboard, which she did.
"Put that in there, too," he instructed, handing
her the map. Hannah folded it neatly and stuck it in, then replaced the floorboard.
"Your uncle's map, then?" her grandfather asked.
Hannah drew a line on the floor with her foot
"Ah. It is, then. Keep that flint and tinder
by your side, Hannah, and keep a sharp eye out for predators like that uncle
"Could you-could you tell me a story?" she asked.
"Not a history story. Just a..."
"A story story?" he asked. Hannah nodded again,
and her grandfather smiled. "I think I could do that."
It was almost dinnertime when Hannah crept once
more down the steps. She risked a glance at her uncle's room, and saw that the
door was closed and, most likely, locked. She'd expected it, so she wasn't too
surprised; she went back into the kitchen, where her mother was making dinner.
"Father is back," the Usul said, turning her
head to give her daughter a smile. "I know you've been wanting to speak with
him, but he mustn't be disturbed, so just wait until dinner is ready and he
has to come eat, all right?"
Hannah nodded to her mother. "All right," she
echoed, hopping up to sit on a chair.
Her mother moved swiftly around the kitchen,
checking the oven, stirring a pot on the stove, tasting the contents of the
pot, then adding salt and a dark red spice to the mix. Hannah watched her, sitting
quietly, her face solemn.
The minutes dragged on for Hannah, but finally
her mother served the food and set it on the table. Then, wiping her paws on
her apron, the Usul hurried out of the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later
with Hannah's father in tow; her parents sat down and they all began to eat.
"How was your day, Hannah?" her mother asked
She shrugged. "All right," she said vaguely.
"Nice, I guess."
Her mother smiled tolerantly and returned to
eating. Hannah picked at her food, moving it around on her plate with her fork.
Her father, too, seemed ill at ease. Though he ate, it was absently, as if his
mind was on something else entirely; when Hannah's mother wanted the salt, she
had to ask three times before he responded.
Finally Hannah dropped her fork onto her plate
and looked up. "Can I be excused?" she asked.
"May you, Hannah. Not can." Her mother smiled.
"Yes, you may."
Hannah slid off her stool and took her dishes
to the sink, then ran from the kitchen. She was passing the back door when she
heard a noise, like a stealthy footstep, and a muffled exclamation. She glanced
around, then slipped into a nearby room and pulled the door nearly closed, so
that just a crack remained open, then placed her eye against it to see out.
The back door opened, and her uncle tiptoed in.
He held the door carefully so that it wouldn't slam, a paw pressed against it;
then he began to creep down the hallway. He glanced suspiciously around as he
walked, one paw on the hilt of the sheathed sword that hung by his side. His
left paw was behind his body, so Hannah couldn't see it, but she didn't need
to see it to remember it; that paw was replaced by a shining metal hook.
His eyes swept around, and Hannah froze into
place, certain he'd seen her. But his gaze moved away, and Hannah let out her
breath that she hadn't even been consciously holding.
He went on, out of the sightline of the crack
she peered through. She waited until she was certain he was gone, then darted
out of the room and up the stairs to her room. There, she pulled the covers
over her head, finding solace in the darkness. She might've fallen asleep for
a time; she might have simply sat there.
A floorboard creaked outside her room, and Hannah
sat bolt upright in the darkness. Her parents were always careful not to step
on the creaking ones, especially when she was asleep; and her grandfather almost
never came down from his third-floor apartments.
Her uncle was still here, and near her room.
Hannah slid out of bed and put on her slippers, then peeked out of her door.
Her uncle's tail was just disappearing around the corner. She was momentarily
confused-there was nothing in that direction, no rooms, just an empty hallway
with a stairway at the end of it.
The stairway! Hannah hurried to the corner and
peered around it. Sure enough, her uncle was halfway up the stairs, muttering
curses under his breath as he stepped on a creaking stair. She held her breath
and watched; he went up the rest of the stairs quickly, as if he was hoping
that that would make his ascent soundless.
When he was completely out of sight at the top
of the stairs, Hannah waited for a moment, then scurried after him. He was just
going down the hallway, and she froze into place to watch.
He entered her grandfather's living room; quick
footsteps, counterpointed with her uncle's heavy slow ones, told Hannah that
her grandfather was in there. She drew in her breath sharply, then hurried up
the rest of the stairs and down the hallway. The door stood open, and she peered
around the doorframe.
Her grandfather stood against one of the walls,
his gaze fixed on her uncle. His cane lay a few feet away, out of his grasp.
Her uncle had drawn his sword and was advancing on him, sword held out in his
steady right paw. The hook on his left paw glittered oddly in the little light
Hannah held her breath and, in her thoughts,
urged her grandfather to do something, do something! He seemed content to simply
stand there, but as her uncle got within sword range, he moved along the wall
at a shuffle. His paw darted out and he grasped the hilt of the sword that hung
on the wall, sliding it out of its sheath.
There was a glint of challenge in her grandfather's
eyes, and her uncle answered it, swinging his sword at the elderly Usul. Her
grandfather deflected the blow with his own sword, and for a moment all was
still and silent. Then her uncle moved again, more swiftly than Hannah could
follow, and her grandfather parried and gave a return blow.
The noise of steel on steel filled Hannah's head,
sliding and crashing as her uncle and grandfather traded blows and parries.
She watched, egging her grandfather on, but it was soon apparent that, while
her grandfather had the benefit of years of practice, her uncle was stronger
Her uncle's sword flashed in a complicated pattern,
and her grandfather's sword flew from his hand. It landed on the floor, not
too far away from where Hannah crouched behind the doorframe, but she didn't
dare touch it.
The sword in her uncle's paw gleamed menacingly,
and Hannah turned away, covering her ears with her paws and scrunching her eyes
"It's only a dream," she told herself, though
she knew it to be real. "It's only a dream. It's only-" She stopped and gave
a shuddering sigh.
Her uncle's footsteps came to the door, and she
could almost feel his gaze on her back.
"Where is it." His voice was flat and emotionless;
he didn't even bother to make it a question. Hannah turned to face him, and
her eyes went to the sword still in his paw, now stained red. "Where is the
jewel. The Tear."
Trembling, she pointed at the door that led to
the room with the Mermaid's Tear hidden safely under the floorboards.
"No. Show me."
She nodded, then swallowed and walked across
to the door. It opened easily, too easily, and she thought belatedly of pretending
it was locked.
She went through that room and into the next,
where the Tear was hidden, and counted floorboards as her grandfather had shown
her. She pointed at the loose one. "That one. It's... it's under there."
He nodded and walked forward, sheathing his sword
as it was. He knelt and pried up the floorboard. It made a terrible noise, screeching
and creaking. He didn't seem to mind it, though; he simply lifted out the casket
that held the Mermaid's Tear, not noticing the rolled-up parchment wedged alongside
He opened it to assure himself that Hannah had
led him truly; when he saw it, he nodded and shut it quickly. He tucked it under
his left arm and shot a warning glare at her, then left.
Hannah huddled against the wall, her eyes on
the parchment. A map of pirate caves, her grandfather had said. Well, he'd have
to put the Tear somewhere. She could find it, bring it back to its rightful
Quick footsteps came to the door, and then her
father stood in the doorway. She looked up at him, and he came over, hugging
her tightly. "I'm sorry, Hannah," he said. Tears rolled down his face and onto
"I'm sorry. I didn't know this would happen,
I swear to you, Hannah-" He stopped and wiped his tears away, but they were
swiftly replaced by others. "I never meant this to happen."
She nodded, but didn't speak; tears weren't running
down her face, but she was crying inside. Hannah the Brave wouldn't have shown
her uncle where the treasure was. Hannah the Quick would've nipped out and shut
the door, trapping her uncle inside the room until her father came. But Hannah,
just plain Hannah, had obeyed her uncle.
A few tears leaked out of her eyes, and she made
a promise to herself and to her grandfather: she would find the Mermaid's Tear,
and keep it safe. Keep it secret, keep it safe, and keep it away from her uncle-just
like her grandfather had told her. And she'd always have flint and tinder, she