Side Story Three
Two Years Ago
The next morning, Hannah sat with Matthias and Sarah in a large room at the Storm Palace while the Life Warrior examined the Key and the strange bond it seemed to have formed with Hannah.
Valeria hadnâ€™t been there to greet them when they got back but Matthias had told her about the terrible events at Esen Peak so she wasnâ€™t surprised.
â€œThis thing is really extraordinary!â€ Sarah said after a long moment. â€œOur ancestors had some remarkable skills.â€
â€œI suppose thatâ€™s one way to put it,â€ Hannah said sourly.
Sarah nodded understandingly. â€œYes, I can see why you would think it was evil, but I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s quite right. Itâ€™s just a tool; it has no volition of its own. The stuff youâ€™re picking up is just embedded in it. Its maker, on the other hand…â€
â€œWhatever.â€ Hannah sighed. â€œItâ€™s still not comfortable. I want to get rid of it. Itâ€™s dangerous and as long as I have it, Iâ€™m a target for that dragon and his human servants. It makes me feel like I have a gigantic target pinned to my head.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true, Sal, and while having bait for the enemy has its advantages, itâ€™s far too risky,â€ Matthias said. â€œI took it back to Earth last night in order to protect it, but it vanished overnight and reappeared under her pillow. From what I can tell, itâ€™s resonating with her aura.â€
â€œSo I can see.â€ Sarah pursed her lips thoughtfully. â€œItâ€™s interesting. Let me try something.â€ A moment later, Hannah felt a gentle tug on her aura, followed by an equally soft push â€“ both of which came from the key. Sarah tutted quietly. â€œHow in the world did it tangle itself up like that? And why? I might be able to separate you from it, but it would be the work of weeks if not months.â€
â€œBut-â€œ Hannah began.
â€œI know.â€ Sarah patted her shoulder. â€œWe donâ€™t have time. If we canâ€™t separate you yet, weâ€™ll have to hide the fact you have it.â€
â€œCan we do that?â€ Matthias asked.
Sarah tutted again and nodded. â€œI think so. Iâ€™ve been playing around and trying to work out how our ancestors did this sort of thing. I couldnâ€™t make something like this, but I think I can make a container to mask it and possibly even something that feels the same to act as a deco–â€ She broke off as there was a knock at the door. and
â€œCan I come in?â€ A storm sprite poked her head in. Her yellow eyes were rimmed red from weeping and there was a greyish tinge to her golden skin.
â€œOf course, Val,â€ Matthias said. â€œBut are you sure you should be up? Did you sleep at all?â€
She shook her head. â€œThereâ€™s too much to be done. The dragons might attack here next. I have to be ready to activate the throne. And the fu-funeral must be arra-â€ She broke off with a sob and sank to her knees. Matthias got up and strode over to her.
â€œCome and sit down, Val.â€ He helped her to a seat. â€œYou need to take time to grieve. Isnâ€™t there someone who can hold the fort while you get yourself together?â€
She wiped at her eyes and looked at him. â€œI suppose…â€ She glanced at Hannah and straightened slightly. â€œAnd you must be the new Earth Warrior?â€
â€œI am,â€ Hannah said. â€œI was sorry to hear about your husband, your majesty.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Valeria gave a wan smile. â€œItâ€™s you Iâ€™m here for. Your heart friend has just arrived from Caerdu, so I came fetch you. Come on, Iâ€™ll take you to her.â€