Hannah heard the pounding at the door and her eyes flew open. That was the same moment she noticed something warm and wet running down her cheek. She rose to sit in her bed, wiping at her face with the back of her hand. She pulled back and looked at it.
Her hand was stained with something wet and deep red. She felt the same sensation dripping onto her lip and she wiped under her nose. The back of her hand came away red. She could smell the iron on her lips and realized what was happening.
Her nose was bleeding.
There was another quick successions of raps at the door. She looked at the other side of the bed. Yohann was gone, his side of the bed empty. She looked at her own pillow and saw a hand sized stain of bright red blood.
“Momma!” a familiar voice called from the other side of the door. The knocking was harder and even more rapid. There was a metal on metal sound as the door handle was tried.
“Just a minute, Brigid,” Hannah said calmly as she could manage in her dream/sleep fogged state. She climbed out of bed, realizing she was still naked. She smelled of sex, blood and sweat. She pulled the sheet off the bed and wrapped it around her body, holding it firmly in place at her chest.
“Momma!” Brigid knocked again. “It’s important!”
“Wait, Brig.” Hannah looked about for her slippers.
“Yohann is cutting your tree!” Brigid cried.
Hannah’s blood turned to ice – all but the bit dripping out of her nose. She only stalled for a moment before she rushed to the door and pulled it open. “What did you say?”
Her daughter was a shorter (though only by an inch at best), younger mirror image of Hannah, but the expressions on her face were all uniquely Brigid’s. She looked surprised at the sight of her mother, but recovered quickly, grabbed Hannah’s hand and pulled her all the way outside.
“I told him, Momma. I told him not to do anything to your tree!”
When Hannah saw Yohann with the pole saw, she rushed forward, ignoring her bleeding nose, her nearness to being disrobed and anything else but Yohann. “What are you doing?” she was as near shrieking as any person could approach without actually achieving it.
Yohann turned and took a smal step back upon seeing his wife in such a state and obviously directing her ire at him. He frowned, his white eyebrows dipping deep over his nose. “What happened to you?” he asked.
“You’re chopping up my tree!” She waved one arm at him wildly while her other hand held her sheet in place above her breasts.
“You were complaining about it yesterday,” he said, “You said it was growing up wild and unruly.”
Hannah wiped at her nose, rubbing more blood on her hand. “It’s supposed to grow wild and unruly if I am too. It’s MY tree.” She stumbled past him and Yohann reached out to catch her, but she brushed past and wrapped her free arm around the trunk of the tree. “You haven’t listened to a thing I’ve said about magic, let alone Faye magic.” She was almost growling, her voice deep, soft and angry. “And suddenly you know how to prune MY tree?” She laid her cheek against the rough whitish grey-brown bark of the tree.
“It’s just an ash tree,” he said, motioning toward her and up at the crown of leaves. “I looked up” he emphasized the next words, “in one of Seligs enclyclopedias on trees,” returning to his angry cadence, “on the proper care and trimming of ash trees.”
Tears warmed Hannah’s eyes as he mentioned her late husband, the wizard Selig. She closed her eyes and spoke through gritted teeth. “He understood magic but he couldn’t see well enough to even identify an oak from an ash.” More warm water squeezed from between her closed eyes as her nose continued to bleed. “You’re reading Selig’s books, but *I* gave you a book on the History of the Fae to read.” She pressed her fingertips into the bark of the tree as her tears fell on the bark. She opened her eyes and looked at her new husband. “Have you read it?”
He shrugged and shook his head. “I haven’t had the time,” he said, looking unreasonably nonchalant.
She released the tree to spin and confront him, face to face. “But yet you have time to read up on ash trees and start to chop mine up!”
“I told him, Momma!” Brigid said.
Hannah turned toward her. She hadn’t noticed her daughter was still there. She frowned slightly, her voice a little more calm when she spoke again. “Brigid, will you go in and check on your brother, Cuhlain?”
Brigid’s head bobbed up and down, her shoulders straightening. She nodded again, dutifully and skittered away as quickly as she could without making it look as if she were relieved to leave.
Yohanns eyes narrowed at Hannah when she turned back to him. He held the pole saw in one hand and put a closed fist on his hip, looking down his nose at her as she took a step closer.
“Yohann,” she said, trying to be calm as he raised his brow skeptically, “you don’t understand how magic works–”
“I seriously don’t have time for this,” Yohann said, rolling his eyes and starting to turn away.
“Don’t you turn away from me while I’m talking to you!” she snapped in a curt tone she usually reserved for recalcitrant teenagers related to her by blood.
Yohann’s eyes widened a bit, but he obeyed.
“How did that job with the mason go in the new library?” she asked, her voice disingenuously sweet.
“You know how it went,” he said in a low voice, his face lowering to inches from hers. “He said he couldn’t do anything or the wall would fall apart.” He pulled back again, his arms akimbo, the pool in the loop of his arm. “He said he couldn’t do anything in this tower or it would fall apart. He doesn’t know how it stays together, and I completely agree with him. This place is a death-trap and we have no idea when it will spring on us.”
“It’s a magic tower,” Hannah said, enunciating each syllable as if it might help him understand.
“It’s a disaster,” he said, the disdain in his tone only matched by the expression on his face.
“It’s not a disaster!” She spat back. “It’s a wizards tower. Every wizards tower is made specifically for his needs. You are NOT the wizard who made this tower and it doesn’t suit you. Fine, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disaster or should be changed.”
“Hannah, it’s a complete disaster. The windows aren’t even straight! There’s this massive waste of space all over the place. Hidden doors. Special closets. The ceilings are set too low, like all the shelves–”
“No!” she clipped him off, her finger coming up to wag at him, and inch from his face. “You are too tall!”
Yohann said something that Hannah didn’t’t hear. Her vision started to blur. “You can’t change anything here in Calinor without telling or asking me,” she said, her voice sounding distant and soft in her own ears.
She thought she heard Yohann say her name, but her vision went black and her world became suddenly warm, quiet and dark.