Disclaimer: Don't own it, don't sue me.
Note: Ha ha! Got an update up within the week! I rock! Just kidding. I hope you enjoy this chapter; it was really easy to write, for some reason. Please review! They mean so much to me…
The rest of the visit flew by for Andean and Hanna. They continued to do work in the village, and provided many of the poor with supplies and even found jobs for a few that were willing to work hard. Mistral had had a good deal of progress in his healing, and Hanna had been successful in procuring a job for him with the local cobbler. He was very neat with his hands, and making shoes seemed to suit him. She herself ordered a pair of boots and a pair of fine black slippers from Tudessa's newest artisan. He had been thrilled with the order.
Hanna had noticed with increasing worry, though, that both her mother and Andean were becoming melancholy and much quieter than their wont. Even though she thought she knew the causes for both of their lethargy, she was still concerned. Andean knew that he must face his decision about his mate when he returned, and Maryla was sure to be worried about the time, fast approaching, when her daughter would leave and she would be left alone again. Hanna felt powerless to help these two dear ones…what could she say? What could she do?
Just ask them straight out, Caedmon advised when she asked for his thoughts on the matter. You can get a lot further with a person with honesty than with diplomacy. Beating around the bush doesn't solve anything. You'll have to be careful with Andean, though…elves are not accustomed to sharing their innermost feelings with others, especially not humans.
The day before they were due to leave, Hanna went looking for Andean, and found him on her own old mountain precipice. She came up behind him, silently she thought, but the elf still heard her. "Do you know what this place is, Hanna-elda?" he asked, without a greeting beforehand.
Hanna was surprised by his breech of etiquette, but said, "Yes. This is where I found Caedmon's egg. I imagine it to be an old breeding place of the dragons."
"You were correct." Andean sighed deeply. "Long ago, dragons must have come here, and then later, a dragon Rider. That egg was left here on purpose, although to what purpose, I can't imagine. You'd think that the Rider would want it to stay with the eggs, where it would be safe. Not out here, on the edge of the wild. I imagine we'll never know." His voice dropped again, and he returned to staring moodily out on the landscape.
Hesitantly, cautiously, Hanna walked up to her friend and mentor. She placed a slender hand on Andean's arm and said, "Andean. It's time."
Startled, Andean looked down into Hanna's emerald eyes and replied, "Time for what?"
"It's time for you to make a decision. We leave this place tomorrow, and must return to Ilirea. Have you made a decision? Do you know who you will choose? I don't ask you to share with me your thoughts if you don't wish to, but my friendship with you compels me to offer my support."
Andean observed Hanna wryly. "So you know about that whole mess then. I wondered. Who told you? Silme?"
"Yes, eventually. But I learned of it from another before that. Please, Andean," Hanna begged. "I want to help you. I may be friends with Silme, but I also know that you have huge pressure on you."
Andean ran a distracted hand through his hair. "Oh, Hanna….I don't know what to do! Aelwyn I promised my hand years ago….but to Silme I have promised my heart. I can never offer it to Aelwyn, for it is no longer mine. Everything I am belongs to Silme…except my word. That Aelwyn holds. I must be an honorable man, and to break my vow to her would bring her intense suffering, if not shame."
Hanna was quiet for a minute. "I cannot pretend to understand elven politics, Andean. I can barely understand your tongue," she said dryly, not even realizing that the ancient language was pouring out of her mouth as fluidly as her own mother tongue. "But…can you bear to bring the suffering of a broken heart to Silme? Can you bring that kind of pain to Endellion, he who shares you fully? Anything that you will suffer, he suffers with you.
"Aelwyn made her choice when she was very young. It could be that she would eventually regret her choice, and then you would be trapped forever. Oh, Andean!" she said passionately. "Take it from one who has had experience in the matter. Even dishonor is better than a marriage where love does not dwell. Do not put yourself into that living death, or you will kill both yourself and thy dragon."
She took a deep breath, and continued in a slightly stern voice. "If you think you can love Aelwyn, then you should honor your vow to her. But if you believe that Silme is the mate of your lifetime, then your old vow to Aelwyn has already been broken anyway, whether you meant it or not. It's time to make the choice."
Andean was silent for a long time. Indeed, the stars were coming out by the time he spoke to Hanna, who was standing, silent and resolute, by his side. "You are right, Hanna Svit-Kona. I have already broken my vow to Aelwyn. She must understand…that I cannot give what I have not. Silme has my heart, and to offer that to Aelwyn in marriage would be stealing. I choose…." Andean swallowed. "I choose Silme, the starlight who has entered my life and has made it all the clearer." Without another word, he turned and left the mountainside, still too emotional to say anything else.
Caedmon flew up a little later and found Hanna, curled up and asleep beneath her old tree. He hummed, and gently wrapped his body around her without waking her up. I am proud of you, little one, Caedmon said in his deep, growling voice. Even though his Rider slept, she smiled in her sleep.
Early the next morning, the morning they were due to leave, Hanna woke up. Her heart was heavy even before she could realize why. Little one, you will miss your mother. But do you not think that she must learn to live on her own? Caedmon asked gently.
I don't know, Caedmon. I fear what she will do if loneliness strikes. She was dying when we came, surely you realize that. If I lose her…I will have lost everything except you. How can I leave her to her pain?
I don't have an answer. Hanna, accustomed to Caedmon always knowing what to do, sighed heavily and leapt on his back so that he could fly them back down to the farm.
Andean was already in the front yard, putting saddlebags on Endellion. Hanna smiled when she saw the difference in the Elf. His step was light and his eyes shone brightly. He looked as if he could hardly way to get back to Ilirea. "Eager to see a young lady, are we?" Hanna teased. Andean actually blushed, which she hadn't known elves could do, and continued with his work.
Hanna found her mother in the kitchen. Maryla was resolutely packing food into leather wraps, and it wasn't until Hanna came closer that she realized that Maryla face was wet with tears. "Oh, Mother!" Hanna flung herself into her mother's arms, even there despairing of their painful thinness. "I wouldn't leave unless I had to. You know that, right?"
Maryla brushed a kiss across her daughter's forehead. "Of course, my Hanna. I know that. I wish that I could be stronger and let you leave with a light heart, knowing that I was all right. Don't worry about me, love. I'll make it just fine. It's just a matter of learning how to live again…"
Hanna sobbed, and clutched her mother tighter. Her mind whirled and swirled, and suddenly a thought came to mind. Casting herself out of her mother's arms, she ran back outside to Andean. "Andean!" She called, but then came close enough to whisper. "Were we not told that if we had need, we could contact our masters?"
Andean looked startled. "You told me that your master said that all you would have to do was reach out with your mind, Hanna. You do not need to scry-just ask for him and he will answer." He turned away to give Hanna some privacy.
Her face blanked and she said hesitantly, Master?
Vrael's voice came into her head at once. I am here, Hanna. Is everything well?
Yes, Ebrithil. Andean and I are making our preparations to return to Ilirea. I am sorry to disturb you…
Do not be sorry. I am glad you did. What can I help you with?
My mother…she is sad. She looks much better than she did, but I fear what she shall do when she is alone again. Please, master, I need your advice.
There was a long silence, and Hanna feared that she had somehow angered her master. I do not know if this is the answer, Hanna…but there is room enough in Ilirea for one human mother.
Hanna caught her breath in her throat, and Andean turned, concerned. Oh, Ebrithil! Do you mean it? Can I bring my mother home with me?
Master Adon and I rather expected it would come to that. We have only one stipulation-your mother must not be able to see where she is going. That was she can never reveal the location of Ilirea.
How do we do this, Master?
Speak with Andean. He knows what to do. I will see you when you return. He severed the connection, and Hanna whirled around to face Andean, shock and joy shining in her eyes.
Andean smiled. "I take it we shall be heavy one more person on the return trip, then?"
"So you knew?"
"Of course. Master Adon provided me with an elixir that will make your mother sleep deeply until we return to Ilirea. Then she will awake, well rested and completely unaware of the location of our city."
"I must go and ask her if she wishes to come…thank you, Andean!" Hanna darted into the house, screeching "Mother! Mother! Such wonderful news!"
Maryla came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. "Slow down, Hanna! Whatever is it?"
"Mother," said Hanna solemnly, even though she could barely restrain her enthusiasm, "do you want to come back with me? Leave Tudessa and go live with the elves?"
Maryla staggered for a moment, and clutched at a table for support. Hanna rushed over to her mother and helped her into a chair. "Mother? Are you all right?" she asked fearfully.
"Yes….yes, of course. I'm fine. I'm just so shocked…and happy. Oh, Hanna! Is it true, that I can escape this life and begin anew with my daughter?"
Hanna nodded vigorously, her chocolate hair bouncing on her shoulders. "Yes, Mother! My master only had one stipulation-that you be kept from seeing the way back to Ilirea. We have a potion that will make you sleep until we get back, and then you'll wake up, fully yourself again. Will you agree to that, Mother?"
Maryla looked doubtful, but then shook herself and stood up strong. "I don't like the idea of being put to sleep, but I'll face it in order to leave this place and be with you. But…" she faltered, "how shall I ever be ready in time? The house…the fields…my things. You and Andean are leaving any minute!"
"What do you really need from here, Mother? Just get your most essential things, the elves will provide the rest. As for the house…Andean and I can close it up. It shouldn't take that long. Please, Mother. Can we do it?"
"Yes," Maryla said. She turned to run back to her bedroom. "I'll be ready in a minute!"
With Andean's capable help, the two apprentices soon had the furniture covered, valuables locked away, and the shutters all closed securely. No thief would break into that stone house that had stood for so long. Andean even gathered all of the food in the kitchen and flew with it to the village, where he gave it to Kenly to distribute to the poor. He also left instructions for the fields to be tended, and the profits of the harvest to be given to the poor of Tudessa. In a little over three hours, everything was attended to.
Maryla came proudly out of the house where she had been imprisoned for so very long, clutching a few parcels and dressed in dark traveling clothes, her white hair hidden under a blue scarf. "I'm ready," she said breathlessly. "I'm sure I've never done anything like this before in my life, acting so rashly."
"Believe me, Mother," said Hanna happily, "You won't be sorry." Taking the key to the house from her mother's hand, she turned to the door, and with a firm twist of her wrist, locked it securely. She hung Maryla's packages carefully from Caedmon's saddle while Andean pulled a small flask from Endellion's.
"Please, madam," he said gently, "just drink a small drought from this, and you'll wake up in no time at our home."
Maryla took the flask in trembling hands and lifted it to her lips. Seconds later, she was sinking to the ground, already in a deep sleep. Andean caught her easily in his arms, and carefully bound her to Endellion's saddle. "Endellion is older and better able to carry the extra weight," he told Hanna. "Do not fear. I will not allow your mother to come to harm."
"I know it," Hanna replied. She climbed onto Caedmon's back and said to her green friend, Let us leave this place behind us, Caedmon. All of it. I'm ready to move on.
I'm glad, Hanna. It's time. With a great leap, the two dragons jumped into the sky, moving joyfully through the air.