Chapter 1: Hanna's Checkup
The mutated woman Hanna, formerly the man Hannibal Smith before the Emperor transformed him into his female counterpart in a diabolical plot to destroy him, looked at the Lynxian Nathanael Milineus as he sat beside her on the bed. They sat in a makeshift infirmary room set up by Joshua and Nicodemus when the people of Arionath were forced to flee to Acheron because of a massive attack launched by the Emperor, which had the goal of annihilating every living thing in Arionath. Sixteen days earlier, Hanna miraculously escaped the Emperor’s Arena with the help of the prototype Xenians Magnus and Nemesis, though she’d been grievously wounded in the Arena while fighting for her survival. Ironically, the people of Arionath escaped the Emperor’s savage assault at the same time, going to Acheron using the ancient portal technology from the 1st Age found in the fortress of Kaal Bek.
Princess Amelia and her recon team found Hanna and Magnus outside the City of the Damned in the western Blister Fields with Hanna slowly dying of her wounds. Both Amelia and the recon team quickly discovered the horrifying truth of Hannibal’s mutation into Hanna and that Selina remained prisoner inside the Emperor’s Harem. They also found the Xenian prototype Magnus had turned against the Emperor and become an ally in their fight against the demoniac tyrant. Though many of the recon team remained suspicious of Magnus, Hanna vouched for him. When Magnus proved his turn of heart by voluntarily handing Hanna over to Amelia, the recon team begrudgingly accepted Magnus. Flying back to Acheron on the backs of the mysterious giant birds of prey known as caronadons, Amelia used her unique gift as a telepathic healer to stabilize Hanna’s deteriorating condition to keep her from dying.
Once in Acheron beyond the Emperor’s reach, Amelia, Harry, Arabella, Magnus, and Nathanael dressed Hanna’s wounds, the worst of which being a severe cauterized burn to the chest inflicted by the late Lord Hades’ infernal fire. Nathanael and Harry used the portable first-aid/healing kit they’d brought from the Temple of Tiamat to assist in healing Hanna’s mortal wounds. Hanna remained in a coma for two weeks after having her wounds treated. The only times she came around was when she woke screaming from the horrid heinous nightmares plaguing her. Even then, she only remained awake for a few minutes and wasn’t totally cognitive of her surroundings. Fourteen days later, Hanna finally came out of her strange coma after having a strange dream of the mythic Red Tower where a mysterious figure named Enoch Caverias resided with a Lynxian-like wife named Kida. Her cries of fright brought Harry, Nathanael, Princess Amelia, Nicodemus, and Joshua running into her room. After relating the dream to everyone and reporting she was hungry, Hanna asked Nathanael to stay when everyone left to get her something to eat.
Once alone, Hanna and Nathanael talked about the dream and Selina. Nathanael shared his greatest tragedy with Hanna: the disappearance of his wife Electra and daughter...Selina’s twin sister Kida. With Nathanael’s description of Kida, Hanna’s dream of Enoch and Kida Caverias took on new meaning. In the dream, Kida Caverias mirrored Nathanael’s description of Selina’s sister exactly with the only difference being Kida Caverias was full-grown and Nathanael’s remembrance of Selina’s twin sister was of her as a little girl. Furthermore, in the dream, Enoch bid Hanna to come to the Red Tower physically so he could help Hanna and all those who resisted the Emperor. When Nathanael heard Hanna’s description of Kida Caverias, hope rekindled in his heart. He and Hanna made a pact to go together to the Red Tower in search of Enoch and Kida Caverias.
Immediately after Nathanael and Hanna made the pact, Harry, Nicodemus, and several others brought in some food and drink for Hanna. Nathanael saw Harry carrying a small bed tray and said, “Give me the tray, Harry. I need to help Hanna because of her weakened condition.”
“Sure thing, Nathanael,” Harry replied, surrendering the tray.
Nathanael quickly set up the tray on the bed in Hanna’s lap and then set a bowl of what appeared to be a soup with finely chopped vegetables and meat in it on the tray. He then took a small plate of bread and a glass of water, sitting them around the bowl. “Good call, Nicodemus,” Nathanael stated as he set the spoon down for Hanna, “In her condition, this soup will most likely not disturb her system too much.”
“That’s what I figured,” Nicodemus replied. “After such devastating wounds, a light meal of soup is always a good idea; start light and then work up to the regular foods.”
“Indeed,” Nathanael stated.
“Thank you, Nicodemus,” Hanna said softly, picking up the spoon with some effort. “I really appreciate this.”
“You’re welcome,” Nicodemus answered in a grandfatherly tone, “Now eat and drink your fill, sister, and regain your strength. When you are done, I’ll send Arabella and Magus in to check your wounds and bandages.”
Hanna nodded and everyone left except for Nathanael, who continued to sit beside her. When Hanna felt comfortable holding the spoon, she scooped up a spoonful of soup and started to lift it to her lips. But her hand and arm began trembling so much the soup spilled back into the bowl before she could get it anywhere near her mouth. “Damn it!” she cursed. “I can’t get my hands to stop shaking. I won’t get anything to eat at this rate.”
Nathanael smiled warmly, saying, “It’s okay, Hanna. Let me help you.”
Hanna handed the spoon to him with a scowl. “I hate this!” she complained. “I can’t even feed myself anymore because of that prick! I hate being such a burden on you like this.”
“It’s no burden at all, Hanna,” Nathanael stated pleasantly. “It’s what families do for one another when one of them has been serious injured like you were. Just relax and let me do the work for you. You’ll be handling this spoon before you know it.” Nathanael picked up the bowl and held it close to Hanna’s mouth. He then took the spoon and began to feed her.
“I feel like such a baby,” Hanna moaned after swallowing a spoonful of soup. “I’m literally no stronger than an infant.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Nathanael replied with a smile. “You saved Selina and me from our doomed starship. This is the least I can do for you saving our lives. Besides, we’re family.”
A smile crossed Hanna’s lips as it finally dawned on her how much Nathanael really cared for her. “Thank you, Nathanael,” she said softly. “I’m so sorry I’m being such a pain complaining and all about my condition. I should know better. Forgive me?”
“Of course,” Nathanael replied, noticing Hanna’s complexion getting better as she ate the soup. “It’s what friends and family do: they forgive each other.” After fifteen minutes, Hanna finished the bowl of soup. Nathanael helped her handle the glass of water so she could wash it down. “It looks like you’re getting your appetite back,” he commented. “That’s a very good sign. And your complexion is getting better too.”
“Thanks for the help,” Hanna murmured. “That was some really good soup. I must have been hungrier than I thought.”
“Well, you have been out for a good two weeks,” Nathanael replied as he removed the tray, sitting it on the dresser so it wouldn’t be knocked over. “It’s been difficult to get you to eat or drink anything during that time. About the only time we could get you to drink anything was when you would wake up in a fit of screaming.”
Hanna looked Nathanael in the eye asking, “Was I that difficult? I’m so sorry if I was. I barely remember anything of that period. The last thing I clearly remember is passing out while in the passage under the moat of the Black Fortress. It was like a blast furnace in there. Just as I went out, I remember Magnus racing along carrying me, and then nothing until just a few minutes ago. All I have from that time are fragments and horrid nightmares of my captivity and torture.”
“It’s quite all right,” Nathanael replied. “It’s completely understandable. Do you want me to tell you what has happened in since your rescue?” Hanna nodded and Nathanael said, “Well, apparently after you passed out in the furnace you spoke of, Magnus managed to get you out of the city and into the Blister Fields near the eastern border of Tartarus without anyone seeing. Amelia and her team found you and Magnus there with Magnus carrying you. They were going to kill Magnus, but you stopped them. Let’s see, Amelia used her healing gift on you to stabilize your condition so they could fly you back here where you have been ever since.”
“You say fly; how?” Hanna asked in a puzzled manner.
“The giant birds that brought the couriers to Arionath are how,” Nathanael answered. “They helped transport Amelia’s team to the Blister Fields, and then back here with you and Magnus. Twice you saved Magnus’ life: once in the Blister Fields and the second time when you arrived here. Most of the people here still fear and are suspicious of him, but they have seemed to accept his presence here now. You put on quite a show to save his life when you landed outside the city.”
Hanna leaned back on her pillows and thought hard. Her memory of that time was a blank. Just then, the first-aid/healing kit, which lay tumbled to one side of the bed shut off. Nathanael noticed the crystal go quiet and the disks let go of Hanna. She felt the disk move and reached under her nightgown, removing one of the disks as it slid into her lap. Only in at that moment did Hanna realize how seriously injured she was. She handed the disk to Nathanael and asked, “How long has this thing been working on me?”
“Since you were brought here nearly two weeks ago,” Nathanael answered. “I brought it in and set it up right after you were brought in here and your wounds were treated. Since the kit seems to be done with you, let me get those disks. I need to get your nightgown off, if that’s okay with you.”
“Sure,” Hanna replied, “Besides, I have no idea how I got this on anyway.”
“Simple; Arabella had the nightgown modified,” Nathanael said as he untied the shoulder straps on the nightgown. He then gently lifted Hanna’s left arm, sitting it in her lap. “I need to untie the side here and then we can remove the gown without you having to lift your arms.”
“Oh, okay,” Hanna murmured, holding her left arm with the right.
Nathanael saw the seam on the nightgown running down her side with five ties holding it together. He quickly untied them and then carefully pulled on the nightgown from the back so it slid around her until it came off completely.
“What a brilliant idea,” Hanna chimed, starting to feel a bit more cheerful. “Someone was really on the ball. I don’t think I could have raised my arms to get that off.”
“Like I said, that was Arabella’s idea,” Nathanael said, tossing the nightgown aside. He then removed the blankets and started picking up the disks that lay scattered on the bed.
Only when Hanna saw that the whole compliment of disks in the kit had been used on her did she comprehend how desperate her condition had been. “Uh, Nathanael; did you have to use all the disks on me?” she asked.
“We had to,” Nathanael replied. “You were dying of your wounds. Nearly every part of you had moderate to severe damage.”
Hanna’s face paled. “Then I should be dead,” she whispered. “I must have been dead. Was I?”
Nathanael picked up the kit, and opened it, putting the disks back in the box. After closing it, he sighed and looked at Hanna, saying, “No, but you should have been. You have been dancing with the Reaper ever since you came here, but he just couldn’t seem to take you. It’s a miracle for which I have no explanation. When you were brought in here, you were cut to ribbons, your chest and belly were seared and cauterized, and the wounds were severely infected. You also had multiple broken bones, a bad touch of pneumonia brought on by the wounds, and you ran a temperature of a hundred and five for most of that time. Magnus’ medicine fortunately managed to keep the fever from going any higher than that. It also helped you deal with the pneumonia, but it wasn’t until you woke three days ago that the fever truly began to break.
“Amelia, Rebecca, Naomi, Arabella, Magnus, and many of the team members along with Nicodemus and the Elders have watched over you constantly, trying to cool your fever by keeping you wet with washcloths and towels. We have all been praying for your recovery, but feared that if you did somehow manage to beat it you’d be an invalid with severe brain damage. I swear by all that is holy, you should have died over a week ago. However, something just wouldn’t let you die. It’s a miracle the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I’m telling you, the Almighty has His hand on you like no other man or woman in history save Jesus. He has literally plucked you from the jaws of the Black Prince and save your life.”
“I realize that now,” Hanna replied softly. “I’m truly thankful for His Mercy, mutation and all, and for all of your help during this dark time.”
A knock came to the door and Nathanael called out, “Come in.”
Arabella, Naomi, Rebecca, Magnus, and Harry came in carrying the supplies to change Hanna’s bandages. Seeing Hanna already out of her nightgown, Arabella chimed, “Oh, good; you’ve taken the nightgown off. Did the kit finish its work, Nathanael?”
“Yes,” Nathanael replied. “It finished just a few minutes ago. I had to take the gown off so I could pick up the disks. However, Hanna still doesn’t have any good control over her arms or legs right now. I had to feed her because her hands and arms were so weak.”
“That’s not unexpected for how long she was out,” Arabella stated. Turning to Hanna as she stopped beside the bed, she asked in a professional manner, “How are you feeling, Hanna?”
“Much better than I was,” Hanna replied as Nathanael moved out of the way for Arabella. Arabella sat on the edge of the bed with a stethoscope hanging around her neck. “I’m still very fatigued though and I have no strength or control over my arms or legs. My back is aching some and my arms are trembling so much I couldn’t even eat the soup without Nathanael’s help; See,” Hanna added, extending her right arm. It trembled visibly, twitching involuntarily. “It’s aggravating not to be able to use my arms or legs.”
“I know it’s frustrating,” Arabella stated as Rebecca, Naomi, and Magnus gathered around the opposite side of the bed. “But you don’t seem to understand how badly hurt you really were. It’s a miracle you’re even alive.”
“I’m well aware of that,” Hanna stated, noticing Naomi sitting down on the bed next to her. “How are you, Naomi?” Hanna asked as Arabella felt her pulse.
“I’m very happy that you’re awake. For a while there, we didn’t believe you would recover,” Naomi replied.
Satisfied with Hanna’s pulse, Arabella put the stethoscope in her ears, and then placed the end on Hanna’s bandaged chest, saying “Breathe deep has you can.”
Hanna drew a breath until it hurt, and let it out, groaning as she did. “Still hurts?” Arabella asked as she placed it on another spot on her bandaged chest.
“Yes, it does. That’s as deep as it gets right now,” Hanna replied as the pain slowly subsided.
“Again,” Arabella ordered. Hanna repeated the procedure drawing a shallower breath this time. When she exhaled, Arabella moved the stethoscope again and said, “Breathe normally.” Hanna did as Arabella listened to her lungs. After a few moments, she put the stethoscope over Hanna’s heart and listened to the beat to be sure that it was all right. It was a little high, but strong and steady. After a few moments, she backed off and put the stethoscope on Hanna’s back, listening to her lungs again. After a few more moments, she pulled the stethoscope out of her ears and said, “You have got to be the luckiest woman on the face of the Earth. Your pulse is still a little high and you still have some tightness and a rattle in your lungs from the damage the infection did, but it’s greatly improved since yesterday. The Lord has wrought a miracle with you. By all medical purposes, you should have succumbed to the wounds over a week ago. Harry, hand me the light.” Harry handed her a small light and Arabella scooted in close, taking her hand and gently holding Hanna’s eyes open as she examined them with the light. The light hurt Hanna’s eyes and she tried to shut them. “Does it hurt?” Arabella asked, noticing Hanna’s reaction to the light in her eyes.
“Yes, some,” Hanna replied as Arabella removed the light.
Arabella adjusted the light, softening it, and shined it back in Hanna’s eyes. “Better?” she asked as she paid close attention to the eyes, checking to see if there was any infection or problems with the eyes.
“Yes. A little,” Hanna replied as she continued trying to close her eyes reflexively.
“Just a moment more,” Arabella said calmly. No sooner than she’d spoke, she finished with Hanna’s eyes and removed the light, backing off. “All done; your eyes seem to be okay; now for the ears. Harry, hand me that one,” she ordered, pointing to the little tool that she used to look in the ears of her patients. Harry took the light and handed Arabella the strange little tool. She took the tool and examined Hanna’s ears carefully. After examining her ears, Arabella said, “Your ears look all right. Now for the main reason we’re here: the bandages. But before we do it, Magnus, could you use that marvelous eye of yours and scan her so we can know how much she’s healed internally?”
“My pleasure,” Magnus stated as Naomi moved to one side while Magnus leaned down to examine Hanna. His eye whirred and opened wide, scanning Hanna from head to foot. “Hmmm,” he murmured, “...this is very interesting. Nearly all of the damage to Hanna’s internal organs has healed. However, the broken bones are not completely healed yet. They’re still knitting together. Still, the progress on even the bones healing is impressive. They’re 80 percent healed. The minor fractures have healed completely, but the major breaks are still not 100 percent. You should not try to walk yet, Hanna. Your left femur and right tibia are still mending so you may not want to put any pressure on them. How does your left arm feel?”
“It’s not much use,” Hanna admitted. “I have no strength in it, and it’s throbbing and tingling.”
“What about your right forearm?” Magnus queried.
“Same complaint,” Hanna answered, “...with the added thing that I cannot hold anything and it trembles violently. See what I mean?” She held out her arm, showing it and her hands trembling and twitching constantly. “It’s very irritating.”
“I see,” Magnus stated. “The reason your arms aren’t working properly is that they are still mending. You broke your left humerus and right ulna in the Arena when you killed Lord Hades. The impact of his fireball threw you twenty feet and you broke both arms and your left leg when you landed. In addition, there’s still a bit of nerve damage that is healing in those arms. That’s why your arms are shaking so.”
“Is that a fact?” Hanna asked, genuinely surprised at the news. “Just how bad did I get hit in the Arena?”
“You’re literally a dead woman walking,” Magnus replied severely. “When we treated your wounds after arriving here, I scanned you at Miss Bishop’s request so we’d know how to proceed in treating you.” Magnus then rattled off the injuries Hanna had when she came to Acheron. When he finished, he added, “You should not try to move too much, Hanna. Those vertebrae that were broke are still mending too, so they’re also still weak. Excessive movement will cause the fractures to re-break before they can completely heal, possibly causing a shift in your spine that may paralyze you.”
Hanna stared at Magnus with a stunned look. When she found her tongue, Hanna breathed, “My god...I should have died.”
“That you should have,” Magnus admitted, “...but you didn’t. Some force within you kept your heart pumping and your brain active and intact, in spite of the high fever you had. It just wouldn’t let you die. I never really believed in any god until now. Whoever your god is, he or she must be more powerful than the Emperor and must really love you to keep you alive after that punishment.”
“I’d say that’s an understatement,” Hanna murmured. “By the way, did my head heal properly? You said I had a fractured skull and a severe concussion.”
“Amazingly, it has,” Magnus reported. “Your skull has healed completely. The cerebral swelling didn’t do any damage and has gone down. Your brain is okay considering it has the largest pineal gland I’ve ever seen in anyone or anything. I’d like to hear about how you ended up with such a large pineal gland when you’re up to it.”
“I think that can be arranged,” Hanna murmured, “But I don’t remember much about it other than it was something that happened in my childhood.”
“It’s okay,” Magnus stated. “It can wait. But now we need to get those bandages on your chest changed; right Dr. Bishop?”
“Yes, Magnus,” Arabella stated, “We do now that we know the internal injuries are healing very well. Hold your arms up as high as you can, Hanna.”
Hanna began to raise her arms up, but could only lift them about six inches. “Sorry, doc; that’s all I can do,” she apologized. “I just don’t have the strength to lift them.”
“It’s okay,” Arabella cooed. “We’ll help you. Nathanael, Naomi; please help Hanna hold her arms up and be gentle. We don’t want to damage those healing bones by being too rough.” They came forward and gently supported Hanna’s arms as Arabella looked at Rebecca, saying, “All right...just like the last time, Rebecca.” After removing the elastic chest wrap and back brace, Arabella took the scalpel and began to cut the main bandage loose from Hanna’s chest. In moments, the bandage was cut loose and they began to carefully remove it. The bandage came off without any problems, revealing Hanna’s wounded chest was ninety percent healed. All of the gashes and cuts on her chest and back were knitted together and ceased to ooze but still hadn’t completely healed. The burn on the other hand was a different story. The terrible charred and oozing burn that covered her chest, breasts, and belly had healed to the point that new skin was beginning to cover the wound. Everyone stopped and gawked.
“My God,” Harry exclaimed. “Look at your chest, Hanna! It’s almost completely healed!” Hanna looked down at her chest and marveled.
Rebecca looked on in reverent wonder. “It’s a miracle,” she breathed.
Arabella nodded, saying, “That it is. Burns like that take months to heal and usually scores of surgeries to repair. It’s beyond my comprehension that a burn of such a devastating nature has healed like this. Can you feel anything there?” She began to prick and poke the burn area that was nearly totally healed.
Hanna felt every prick and said, “Yes I can; every poke you make.”
Arabella pressed on the ribs lightly with her hands to check them and Magnus warned, “Careful, Miss Bishop; her ribs aren’t totally healed yet, same as the other major breaks.”
Hanna verified Magnus’ warning with a groan when Arabella pressed on the ribs. “Agh; I definitely felt that,” Hanna reported instantly.
“Hmmm,” Arabella mused as she carefully pressed on the ribs, trying to determine what was going on. “I haven’t been able to check these ribs physically now because of the wounds.” she commented. Every time she pressed, Hanna groaned. She moved around to Hanna’s back and pressed there too, but didn’t get as rigorous a response. “Okay, you can let her arms down now,” Arabella ordered as she moved around in front of Hanna. Nathanael and Naomi gently let Hanna’s arms down as Arabella knelt to the right of her on the bed, saying, “I will say it again, you are the luckiest woman I know. Whatever burned you, must have also hit you with such force that it broke several of your ribs, and maybe even those vertebrae. They seemed to be healing, but are not completely healed yet. I’m going to have to wrap those ribs to help keep them immobilized. I don’t want you to do anything for at least a week. No fighting, lifting, or exploring; your ribs and vertebrae need more time to heal.”
Hanna couldn’t help but smile at the way Arabella put restrictions on her activities. “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, Doctor, but can I at least get someone to help me move around? I want to be able to see what’s beyond this room,” she asked, a bit amused at Arabella’s orders.
Arabella smiled, saying, “Yes, dummy. We can get someone to help you move around. In fact, moving around will help with that muscle atrophy you have, but don’t overdo it. Just don’t pick any fights with the Emperor right now.”
“Yes ma’am.” Hanna replied with a smile.
Arabella then stepped out of her role as a doctor and gave Hanna a gentle hug, saying, “I’m really glad you’re all right.” Her joy shined in her face and voice as she hugged Hanna.
Hanna gently returned the embrace, saying, “So am I. I really appreciate what you all have done. You’re a true friend who has helped me in my darkest hour. Thank you.”
Arabella let go of Hanna and said, “You’re most welcome. Now, let’s see about those ribs.”
“Uh, before you wrap me up again, is there some place I could take a bath?” Hanna asked. “I’m feeling really icky right now.”
Nathanael smiled, saying, “There’s a bathroom just through the door there.” He pointed to a small door on the wall opposite the main entrance. “We’ll get everything ready.” Nathanael rose and went into the room and prepared the bath.
“Give me a little while, and then you can wrap the ribs and put the brace back on,” Hanna said softly.
Arabella looked him in the eye and nodded. “All right; just be careful how you move. I want Nathanael to stay and assist you. You don’t mind him helping with your bath, do you?”
Hanna smiled wryly, saying, “Not at all. I see Nathanael as a father anyway and we’re family. I trust him. Besides, I had planned to ask him to stay anyway. We still have much to talk about.”
Arabella briefly grasped Hanna’s hand, squeezing it gently as she looked into Hanna’s eyes. She suddenly noticed that there was something different about them, something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Hanna smiled and Arabella said, “All right. Rebecca, Naomi, Harry, Magnus; let’s go. I’ll be back in an hour or so, if that is all right.”
“That will be fine, Arabella,” Hanna answered. Naomi and Rebecca lingered a moment as Hanna reached out and touched them on their arms, saying, “Peace, sisters. Be at peace. I have returned just as I said I would, though I would have much rather have returned in my original form.”
Tears welled up in Naomi’s eyes as she kissed Hanna’s hand. She looked deep in Hanna’s eyes and Hanna nodded slightly, saying, “Go on, Naomi. I’ll be all right.” Naomi rose and stood by Harry and Arabella as Rebecca sat there with a puzzled look. Hanna took her hand and asked, “What troubles you, sister?”
Rebecca shook her head, replying, “I’m not sure. I....”
Hanna looked Rebecca in the eye and said with authority, “Don’t be afraid, Rebecca. Feel my chest. It is flesh and bone just like yours. I’m not a goddess or a devil, just a woman. Feel it and believe in the power of the Almighty Ancient of Days for it’s His mighty hand that does this; not Arabella’s skills, nor Amelia’s healing touch, nor the healing properties of the kit we brought with us. I’m not a ghost or a goddess. I live by the grace and mercy of the Ancient of Days. Feel it and believe in the god that delivered me from the hand of the Emperor.” Rebecca lifted her hand to touch Hanna’s breast, and then hesitated. “It’s okay, sister,” Hanna encouraged, “Go ahead and feel my healing chest and believe. It’s only flesh and I don’t feel embarrassed to let you touch me there if it helps you overcome your doubt.”
Arabella, Harry, and Naomi watched as Rebecca gently touched Hanna’s breasts, ribs, and belly, careful not to press too hard. Hanna smiled, enjoying the combination of Rebecca’s gentle touch and the satisfaction of watching her come to terms with the miracle that lay before her. For Hanna, the thrill of watching Rebecca overcome her own doubt made all the pain she’d endured worth it. Rebecca felt Hanna’s wounds, marveling at the miracle of her survival. When she was satisfied that Hanna was not a supernatural being, Rebecca began to weep softly, throwing her arms around Hanna’s neck as she was overcome with emotion.
“Shhh; It’s all right, sister,” Hanna cooed in Rebecca’s ear as she managed to wrap her arms around Rebecca as if she were a sibling. “It’s okay. I’m going to be all right and so will you.” After a moment, Hanna pushed Rebecca back and looked her in the eyes. “Now be at peace, sister. No more tears for me,” she ordered gently.
Rebecca wiped her eyes with her hand and replied, still choked with emotion, “I can’t help it. You’re so much like my mother. I weep for joy that you survived.”
Hanna reached out and touched Rebecca’s cheek with the palm of her hand with some difficulty. Rebecca instantly latched on to it with hers and held it to her cheek. Hanna looked at her with a mildly concerned look because of the way she was acting. “Rebecca,” Hanna said plainly. “I’m not a goddess to be worshipped. It’s the Almighty God that you should be giving the adoration. Besides, I’m no longer the man who saved you from those thugs in Arionath, thanks to the Emperor. Even if I were, Jacob is still a much finer man than I could ever be for you. The Lord put you two together. Don’t let that precious match be torn asunder by a passing fancy. I’m your friend and always will be, but that’s where we must leave it. As your friend, I’ll put my head on the block for you. However, I’ll not allow myself to come between you and Jacob.” Hanna withdrew her hand and looked Rebecca in the eye, asking, “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Rebecca felt just a bit rejected at Hanna’s reproof, but the words managed to strike her heart and bring about repentance. She suddenly blushed with embarrassment, saying humbly, “Oh, goodness, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to act like that. You’re so right. Jacob is my whole world. I....”
“Hush. It’s all right since my words found their way into your heart,” Hanna replied, smiling. “Think no more of it. Now go to Jacob and render the affection you wanted to give to me to him. Friends?”
Hanna held out her hand and Rebecca grasped it, shaking it firmly. “Friends forever,” Rebecca replied with a smile. At that, she followed Arabella, Naomi, and Magnus out of the room.