My wooden stick bashes off the tree trunk. Except the stick isn’t a stick at all – it’s a big, shiny sword. Made by an elf warrior. It could slice through anything. And the tree trunk is really a monster sent by the evil Lord Hart.
Lord Hart… you will fail your quest to destroy the thing I love. My name is Hannah the Brave and you will never win!
‘Take that!!’ I shout as the sword clashes with the hart monster’s helmet. ‘You leave my father alone! He’s resting, and you shall not pass!’
Daddy's been sick for a little while. Now he’s in a new, beautiful house but I haven’t been inside it yet. I’m playing in the giant garden outside. I can’t wait to see him and tell him how many harts I’ve killed. It was him who had helped me to be such a good warrior in the first place. Two months ago my daddy showed me the best film ever made...
Granny wasn’t pleased about it. I remember the funny look on her face when she found out we had watched some of it.
‘She’s far too young for The Lord of the Rings!’
I think Granny maybe thought I’d be scared of it. Or maybe she was just annoyed that Daddy was still living with her. He’d moved into her spare room about three weeks before and he hadn’t even unpacked all his stuff from the boxes. They were all scattered around the room and Granny said it made the place look messy.
I hadn’t seen Daddy for a little while before we watched the film. He fell out with Mummy and there was some shouting. I didn’t understand why. All I knew was that Daddy said that Mummy had cheated, but Mummy just said she’d made a mistake. I didn’t even know they played games. But I thought that if Mummy had just made a mistake, maybe didn’t understand the rules, then they should have just made up. Next thing I knew, Mummy said that Daddy didn’t want to live there anymore. It made me a little sad, but more confused than anything else.
When I finally got to go and see Daddy and have a sleepover with him at my Granny’s house, we watched the film. Daddy was so excited about it.
‘It’s a little bit grown-up,’ he said. ‘And it’s very long. So if you want to put it off and go to sleep that’s okay.’
But when he put the film on, there was no chance I was going to bed until I saw how it was going to end.
The film was about this bad magic ring. A horrible man in a scary costume was after it because if he got it he would make all the lands dark. And he had these monsters too, and they would be in charge if he won. A little person who wasn’t a warrior had the ring, and a wizard promised to help him destroy it. But he had to go on a big adventure to a volcano and throw the ring away inside it. Along the way there were elves and dwarves and a huge, fiery monster with wings. I didn’t tell Daddy, but my heart was beating so fast when the wizard fought that fire monster. And I didn’t tell him that I nearly cried at the end when the little man decided to go away on the adventure by himself so that the ring wouldn’t turn his friends bad. I thought that was when he became a warrior. Because warriors were brave, and that was one of the bravest things I’d ever seen.
But then the film ended without them getting to the volcano!
My dad laughed and said: ‘there are actually three films. They all tell one big story. If you liked it we can watch the other ones.’
It was late by the time the film finished. I was tired. Daddy switched off the TV and I fell asleep in his bed and I dreamed the best dreams I’d ever had.
The next day, I started training to become a warrior. I climbed the highest hill that I could find in the playground at school. I watched below for any signs of orcs. After a few minutes I finally spotted them. Advancing towards my school! What were they going to do to my friends? My teacher? I wouldn’t let them get away with it. I took an invisible arrow and placed it into my see-through bow.
It sailed though the air and took out two orcs at once. I let another one go, and another and another. Finally, my enemies were vanquished. The school was safe. My first day as a warrior was a great success.
I had to wait a whole week before we watched the next Lord of the Rings film. I was staying at Mummy’s. I thought she’d be sad about the fight with Daddy but she didn’t seem that way. A new friend was round at the house, a man called Steve. Mummy seemed to really think that he was someone special but I was a bit shy to speak to him. One night, I got to phone Daddy and I told him I’d been wanting to play with Mummy but she’d been too busy talking to Steve. Daddy seemed a bit angry at this and asked to speak to Mummy. The shouting started again.
When I was back at Daddy’s he was as sad as I thought he’d be. But I thought I knew how to cheer him up.
‘Can we watch the next film?’
And just as I hoped, his eyes went softer. He smiled. We watched the next one.
It was even better than the first one!
And for the next week, I was in full warrior mode. My dad even helped me on a few quests. Once, we went into the countryside to look for orcs. We brought our swords, and Daddy even made two big shields out of cardboard from the unpacked boxes (really, it was made by the strongest metal that the dwarves had). I said thank you to Daddy, but I didn’t even need a shield. No orc would get the chance to even come close to me.
We found the orcs and we battled them. My sword sang a song as I whooshed it through the air and defeated enemy after enemy. None of them could stop me. Daddy was the same. He must have beat a hundred of those monsters that day. But I saw eventually that he was slowing down. His breathing got heavier. He stopped talking to me as much. I wondered what might have been wrong but then Daddy fell to the floor. He’d been shot by an orc!
‘Father!’ I ran to him. ‘Are you okay?’
‘You cannot save me, Hannah!’ he gasped. ‘Go! Flee! Defeat the orcs and then save the world from the evil that’s coming!’
‘Wait! Dad! I’ve got elf magic!’
I threw my sword to the ground and put my hands to the part of Daddy’s chest where the arrow had landed. My hands produced a brilliant, white light and suddenly the wound healed. I saved my dad.
He sat up. ‘Hannah! My Hannah the Brave! You saved me with elf magic!’
After that we defeated the orcs and saved the world. All in a day’s work.
I thought then that I would ask my dad a question that had been on my mind for a long time.
‘Daddy? Why did you and Mummy fall out?’
Something in the air changed then. Before, I thought we were in a forest that was made by the same elf magic that had saved my dad a moment before. Beautiful, enchanted, glowing with spellbinding incantation. But after I asked my question, it all faded and became an ordinary, dull place. I even noticed that it had started to rain.
‘Your mum did a nasty thing to me,’ Daddy said. But he wouldn’t speak about it any more.
The next time I was at Daddy’s house, he was quieter. I found him upstairs trying to clear away some of the things from his boxes and he was talking funny.
‘Hannah… sweetie… go downstairs with your granny… I’ll be there in a minute…’
He was breathing really heavily. He sounded like he’d just been running or fighting enemies.
‘Are you okay, Daddy?’
‘I’m fine…’ he panted. ‘Just a little… out of breath from the unpacking…’
‘Can we watch the last film tonight?’
We did. And it changed my life forever. My gosh, there were big battles and giant monsters. There were bits where everything looked hopeless and I was sure that the film would have a sad ending. And when that brave little warrior finally got to the volcano he could hardly find the energy to crawl up it. It reminded me of the way Daddy had been that day. The energy was leaving him just as it was leaving the little man with the ring.
But the thing was, that little man had a friend with him. A friend who was so determined to stay by his side that it made me cry. I watched as he tried to make him remember his home. I watched the friend’s heart break in half when he discovered that the little man didn’t even remember what strawberries tasted like. I wiped away the tears at my cheek and looked up to see if Daddy had caught a glimpse of them.
Tears were streaming down his own cheeks.
I told Granny all about it. She just seemed like she was still a bit annoyed at Daddy for letting me watch it. But Granny had never seen The Lord of the Rings! If only she would watch it, then she would understand! How beautiful it was and how exciting! But she only frowned and said she wanted to speak to my dad by himself, and told me to go upstairs to play.
I listened to what she had to say to Daddy, obviously. She didn’t talk about the film at all. All she said was something like:
‘What were you thinking telling Hannah that her mum is nasty?’
Uh-oh. My fault. I shouldn’t have told Granny that.
It sparked an argument between the two of them.
‘I didn’t say her mum was nasty! Just that she was nasty to me! And that’s the truth, isn’t it? I’m not going to lie to her!’
‘You could be a lot more diplomatic about it! She’s only seven, she doesn’t understand!’
‘She’ll know one day. No point in pretending I like her scumbag of a mother.’
The tears that came out of my eyes then were worse than the ones that came out when the little man’s friend carried him up the volcano. Because that was the worst thing I’d ever heard. How could my daddy say such mean things about my mummy? He caught me crying when he came upstairs.
‘Hannah! Sweetie, what’s wrong?’
He came over to me and cuddled me. He was warm. He smelled nice. He was still my daddy.
‘Why don’t you and Mummy like each other anymore?’ I asked. ‘I want us all to live in the same house again.’
‘We can’t do that, Hannah,’ Daddy said. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘But why?’ I managed through my tears.
Daddy looked me right in the eyes then. He looked so sad. He said, ‘Your mum did something to me that I can’t forgive her for.’
I couldn’t understand it. How could they not love each other anymore? I’d always thought theirs was a special kind of love that they both shared with the other and with me. That was how it worked; the love flowed through the air of our house and visited each of our hearts, collected a tiny bit of warmth and happiness and floated on to the next family member to share it. But now it was gone.
And I knew then that I’d give up everything – being a warrior, fighting orcs, even my elf magic – I’d give it all up if Daddy could just forgive Mummy.
I’m outside that new house that Daddy got. He’s inside and I have to protect him from those awful harts. More of them are coming now but it’s okay. I’ve got my sword. I’ve got my bow.
‘Oh no! More are coming!’
I jump from the hill where I had been battling and I face off against five harts at once. Their weapons are all jagged and ugly looking. It would hurt to be killed by one of those. I knock the sword out of the first hart’s hand and I send my own beautiful elf sword through its body. It goes down. The next hart tries to come at me but I’m too quick for it. I spin out of its way faster than a rabbit and I cut off its head. The last three all go for me at the same time. This time I forward-roll out of the danger and I get the last three of my arrows out.
Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!!
The harts are defeated.
‘Hannah, darling…’ my granny says. ‘Come with me, dear. Your mum and I think its time for you to see your father.’
Inside Daddy’s house, there are loads of people. All of them have grim looks on their faces. They’re wearing black, like the wraiths that the bad man sent out to find the little people.
Just wait until Daddy hears there are servants of the enemy inside his own home! We’ll vanquish them together.
Granny finds Mummy. It looks like she’s been crying. My heart sinks. Has she been fighting with Daddy again? She doesn’t say anything to me at first; she just takes me in her arms and cuddles me tightly. Then, with a shaky voice, she speaks.
‘Listen, honey. I need you to be a really brave warrior. Your daddy… your daddy had a heart attack and…’
The harts have attacked my daddy!?
Mummy continues to say words that don’t really make sense to me. But then she and Granny take me through to a quiet room where Daddy is lying in a strange bed surrounded by flowers. A little stool has been placed next to him so that I can stand on it and see him.
Daddy doesn’t move. He looks so different. So relaxed.
‘When will he wake up?’ I ask. And when I look at Mummy and Granny I see that they are crying. Granny tries to compose herself. She comes to me and puts her arms around me.
‘Sweetheart,’ she says. ‘I’m so sorry. Maybe we shouldn’t have taken you to see him. I just thought… this is your last chance to say bye-bye. Your daddy has died.’
Died? What? But…
There’s no time to lose. I wriggle out of my gran’s grip and I put my two hands over Daddy’s heart. I close my eyes and concentrate hard.
‘Hannah, sweetheart,’ Mummy says. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I’ve got elf magic, Mummy. I can bring him back. It worked before.’
But he doesn’t wake up, and now I realise that all the elf magic in the world will never be enough to heal my own shattered heart.
A few days later, my granny comes to visit me at Mummy’s house.
‘I found this,’ she says to me. She holds a letter out. Your daddy left it for you. He knew you were getting good at your reading so I think he wanted you to read it yourself.’
I take the letter from my gran and I run upstairs to my bedroom. Whatever message my dad wants to give me, I know it’s for my eyes only. I lie on my tummy on my bed, unfold the letter and read it.
I’m so sorry I’ve been so sad and angry. But even more than this, I’m sorry about what I said about your mum. Sometimes grown-ups fall out and sometimes they do things to hurt each other. But I never should have let that make you sad.
Your mum and I loved each other very much when you were born. And even though we don’t love each other now, I love you more than a wizard loves magic, and your mum loves you just as much. Even though I’ve been angry at her she’s a good mum and I’m glad you have her.
Ever since we watched The Lord of the Rings, I’ve watched you grow into the bravest warrior in the world. And I know you think I’m just as brave but I’m not. Sometimes, the bravest thing a person can do is to forgive someone. And I think I need the best I know to do that for me.
Will you do that, Hannah? Will you tell your mum I forgive her? It doesn’t mean we’ll all live together again, but at least we can all be a happy family, even if we’re apart.
I know this would mean so much to you. And it’s the least I can do for someone who means the world – and worlds beyond – to me.
I will always love you,
I read the letter another five times. And I realise two things: I had the best dad in the world, and his magic was more powerful than any elf’s.