In her dream the bird in her hand had been chirping until it started to cough, and then hack. When Hannah opened her eyes, the noise sounded in her ears as a solid “Clack! Clack! Clack!” She rose from the bed, rubbing sleep from her eyes and let her feet get used to the cool carpet before she moved toward her vanity, a present from her new husband.
Hannah sat in front of the mirror and pulled a ribbon out of the top drawer, tying it up in her hair. Her chestnut red hair was a bit messy, but she was still tired. She thanked the Maker that she had as few gray hairs as she did. Even though the friends of her husband remarked how young she was to have been widowed, she felt every one of her 47 years. She thanked the Maker again for her new husband, that he didn’t seem to notice the gray hairs, lines and dark circles that seemed to grow every year.
She yawned and stretched, blew out the candle on her vanity that her husband, Johann had doubtless turned on for her. She opened another drawer and pulled a globe from it, cupping it in her hand. It glowed softly with her touch until she slipped it into a pocket. She looked again at the mirror and then away, not at all happy with what she saw. She said another prayer of thanks that the Maker had put some sort of spell on Yohann that made him think she was incredibly attractive.
She took a deep breath and wandered out of their room, down the hall and stopped at the first door on the right. She pushed it open, the handle and lock having been removed months ago by its occupant. The hinges protested loudly and the door scraped against the stones that made up the floor.
Hannah thought again how the home wasn’t designed to be used for people to live in. It was a wizards tower. Selig’s tower.
Her late husband had been a wizard. He had been going blind when he built the tower and it was full of oddities that Hannah and her children had lived with far too long to find them anything but routine.
She knocked loudly on the door and a “clack! Clack!” echoed strangely back. “Wake up, Culain!” she called into the darkness of the room.
Trying not to breathe too deeply, she took a step in.
The room always smelled odd. Selig had kept his chemicals in the room before they came along, and having a sweaty, smelly teenager living in it did not make it small any better, even after a thorough cleaning with lemon and vinegar.
She pushed the door a little further open until she could see her son curled up with the quilt over his head. She picked up the book that was being pushed by the door. It had probably been some construct of Culains to keep adults out or an alarm to give him time to hid whatever it was that he didn’t want them to see.
Hannah turned the book over in her hand and read the title. Encyclopedia of Faye Lore. Something struck her in the chest and she looked down. There was nothing. She realized nothing hit her, her heart simply jumped in her chest. She looked at the lump on the bed.
“Where did you find this book?” she asked. “I haven’t seen it in ages.”
Culain pushed the quilt off his head, his short dark brown hair sticking up in every direction. He squinted in her direction with his brownish green eyes. “I got it out of the pile,” he said in a voice that was still in transition from boy to man and scratchy with hours of no use and teenaged quality sleep.
“What pile?” Hannah tucked the book under her arm.
“The pile Yohann made in the library.”
“We don’t have a library,” Hannah stood a little straighter, her head cocked to the side.
“Yohann is making a library.”
“He is?” Hannah dropped the book and it hit her toe, but she didn’t react, simply bent back down to retrieve it. She forced herself to relax as her teeth ground together. “Where?”
“In Selig’s quiet room.” Culain pulled the quilt back over his head and rolled until it was wrapped tight around him.
Hannah frowned. “Get up!” she barked. “Start your chores.”
Culain huffed as he threw the quilt off while hannah closed the door enough for him to have some privacy. She put the book against her chest and tried to ignore the pounding of her heart.
“Mom!” a familiar feminine voice called to her.
Hannah turned to see her daughter Brigid approaching. She had the same round face that Hannah did, the same nose and green eyes, but where Hannah was now chubby and gray, Brigid was perky and young with dark brown hair like her brother. She had the potential for beauty that Hannah once had thirty years ago.
Hannah put her hand up. “Hold your thought,” she told her daughter. “I will be right back.” She looked up at the ceiling when another clacking noise sounded. Two minutes later she was in the room everyone had called Selig’s quiet room until Yohann came and saying Selig’s name aloud became awkward and naming rooms and things that had been special to him had become taboo through no fault of any person in the house, but simply due to awkwardness of the situation.
Yohann had a miners headgear on, the silver mirrored circle reflecting the candle light in front of it. He had a visible sheen of sweat on his nose as he knelt between a pile of books and a pile of wooden planks.
“What are you doing?” Hannah asked, digging into a pocket to find the globe. She pulled it out and squeezed softly until it glowed as bright as she wanted it, enough to light up the room.
“This place is a disaster!” Yohann declared, trying not to react to the sudden light, and Hannah’s presence beyond his over pronounced declaration. He was tall and well built for a scribner. His white hair was short cut close to his neck. He looked older than he was because of it’s whiteness, but younger because of the style, the same style used by His Majesty’s army, which was not only in fashion, but required by those still in his service, as Yohann was – at His Majesty’s call.
“Disa-” Hannah began.
“We need more natural light,” he interrupted without seeming to notice. “I’ll get to that next and then you won’t need those globes all the time. They may be convenient, but you never know when the magic will peter out and then you’ll all be in the dark.”
“We know how to walk around in the dark,” she replied without thinking. Hannah looked around at the shelves that had already been put in place. She saw a familiar hand made box and walked toward it. “My recipe box!”
“It was cluttering up the counter in the kitchen,” Yohann said. “Plus the paper was getting full of flour and oil.”
“It’s a recipe box,” she said as if that should explain the facts presented to her.
Yohann picked up a plank and rose to his feet with it in his arms. “You can get the card you need here and take it to the kitchen.”
“That’s three storeys,” she replied.
“I’ve never seen you use the cards.”
“Because you are never in the kitchen when I’m cooking…”
“It just takes a bit of planning in advance. We need a menu for the week.”
Hannah felt a cold dark hole form in the pit of her chest.
“You can plan a menu for a week,” he said. “And each day just take out the single card needed. IF you need it.” He held up the plank against the wall and pulled out a hand level. “After I put all these books up, I’ll see if I can’t find a mason who can open up a space in here for a window.”
“You can’t call a mason for a magic tower,” Hannah said. “You need a wizard.”
He shook his head at her. “Stones are stones.”
Hannah held up the glowing orb. “Like this?”
He shook his head. “You don’t need those.”
“That’s not the point. It’s stone. And it’s magic, like the tower.”
“Magic is not reliable,” he said. “Like this tower, it’s full of problems.”
Hannah pressed her lips together and bit her tongue.
“Culain keeps losing his ‘stone’ anyway.”
“That’s because he knows the spell to make another glow,” Hannah explain. “It’s just not that important to him when he can make one just as easily.”
“Finding glowing stones all over the house is bloody annoying.”
Hannah bit her tongue again, but only because her reply would have contained Selig’s name, and she didn’t want Yohann to think she was comparing him to Selig… even if she was, inadvertently. “What are you doing with those books?” she asked.
“Most of these books I can’t even ready,” Yohann said. “It’s in a different language.”
“Shorthand,” she replied.
“Never heard of it…” He shrugged. “You’ll have to teach me one day, but first we should get them up off the floor.”
Hannah licked her lips and bit the inside of her cheek. “Oh…. kay….”
“It’s better to rely on non magic items,” he said nodding at the globe in her hand.
She squeezed it unintentionally and it glowed brighter.
“All these spells here and there doing Maker knows what,” he said, shading his eyes. “No one knows how to use them properly. Certainly not Culain. Little magic booby traps everywhere…”
“It’s a wizards tower,” Hannah reminded him. “Selig was a wizard.”
Yohann nodded toward the pile of books. “-With an impressive book collection you three let sit around gathering dust and silverfish.” He shook his head at her. “In complete disorder.”
“We know what order they are in,” she replied softly.
“What was that?”
Hannah pressed her lips together, shook her head and took a deep breath. “Nevermind.”
Yohann pulled a book from one of the shelves. “This says it’s by Hannah of Calinor.”
Hannah looked at the book and smiled broadly. “That’s mine. It’s a book of the History of the Faye. I started-”
Yohann put one hand up while holding the book out to her. “Why don’t you tell me about it later, when I’m done here?”
Hannah took the book from him, the little hole in her chest opening up wider, convinced there would be no time later. There never was. Not for her to read to him, or tell him about when she lived with magic. He didn’t like magic and magic had been her life. She wasn’t sure it wasn’t still her life…
“I’m getting a little hot as it is,” he said, pointing to the miners gear on his forehead.
Hannah looked down and in that glance toward her feet she noticed the globe still in her hand, glowing softly. She held it up and out to Yohann. “You can use it… if you want. It’s the simplest of things, you just -”
He held up his hand and shook his head with an artificial smile. She could always tell his fake smiles because his real smiles were so, so beautiful. “Magic is unreliable,” he said simply.
She let her hand drop to her side as she laughed sadly. “Yeah..”
“Love you,” he said, the offer of treaty clear in his tone. He looked at her with a longing in his eyes she could feel down to her toes, but he didn’t step toward her and she didn’t move toward him.
“Love you too,” she replied softly, her tone clearly defeated. She slipped the globe in her pocket and turned away as the light extinguished.