A hurried goodbye

"Get up, " Elma shouted as she burst into the room. "Right now!"

Anna bolted upright from her bed. She blinked as she stared at the figure in the doorway, her brain trying to play catchup as it shook the cobwebs of sleep from her mind. "Wha... what's going on?"

"The fairies have tracked you down. You have to leave NOW!" 

This was all Anna's brain needed to kick her body into high gear. She could feel her heart start to pound as she swung her legs out of the bed and began to get dressed. 

From the day she started training, Elma insisted that Anna keep a bundle of fresh traveling clothes on the table next to the bed. Shireen and Anna were of a similar size, so the clothing all belong to the sea-girl. Anna still hadn't gotten a proper name from whatever race of creatures she belong too, so in her mind, she had started calling them sea-people. 

As Anna dressed, Elma began rummaging through drawers. Every now and then she would grab an item, examine it for a quick moment, before tossing it in a bag she carried, or discarding the item on the floor. 

Anna's hands shook from anxiety as she tied up her boots, her fingers fumbling with the final knot. Since she started training with Shireen, she had gotten used to the idea of wearing rugged clothing. Like other girls in her village, she had spent most of her life wearing dresses or skirts. Switching to pants, boots and shirt seemed absolutely outrageous at first, but after a few day training with the spear, she couldn't imagine trying to swing the weapon while wearing such restrictive clothing. 

The moment Anna finished dressing, Elma thrust the bag into her hand. 

"You'll have to make do with this, " Elma said. "I actually intended to pack a proper bag for your sendoff, but the fairies sent their...... minions sooner than I expected."

It was the most agitated that Anna had ever seen Elma. Her seaweed hair, which was normally very well styled, was wet and stuck to her face and neck haphazardly. It was also the first time Anna had ever seen her wear combat gear. It was a similar style to what the girls had worn while training, only this looked more functional had had less padding. 

Her eyes darted about the room and anxiously at the door to the hallway. This was not the cool and collected woman that had helped her and instructed her over the past several days. 

"Shireen is waiting for you in the kitchen. Do you remember how to get there?"

Anna nodded. Elma started shooing her out of the room, practically pushing her. Anna glanced at the room one final time as she stepped over the threshold. The dress, her Sunday best that she had been wearing when she arrived, hung forlorn from a hook on a wall. She made a motion to step back into the room to get it, but Elma blocked her path.

"What are you doing? You have to go now!"

"Please, it's the only thing I have of home."

As Anna felt herself say those words she felt very foolish, like a child asking to bring along a favourite stuffed animal to a sleepover. 

Surprising, this brought some lucidity to Elma. Her eyes softened and she looked Anna up and down for a moment. She turned and went back into the room, retrieving the garment and gently folding it. She returned to the doorway and placed it softly into Anna's hands. 

"Anna, when you see your mother again, tell her how much you love her. From what you told me over the past few days, she's an amazing women. And when you see Shireen.... tell her that I love her very much." 

"Your not coming with us?" Anna asked as she tucked the folded dress into the bag. 

Elma smiled sadly. "No, it's Shireen's time to leave the nest. She has to go on her own. I'll buy you some time. Now go! Quickly now!"

Anna began jogging down the tunnel towards the kitchen area. The maze of caverns much more familiar to her now. As she sprinted, she wondered if she would ever see Elma or these caverns again. If everything went right and Teak sent her home, she knew she wouldn't ever walk these corridors again.

A part of her soul, a very small part, was very saddened by that.

She jogged on.

The End

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