"Ah, Papa and Mama Longneck. You are rather looking well. Then again the pair of you are getting on in years."
Grandma and Grandpa just looked at each other in dismay, with the latter only mustering a polite, "Moire, it is good to see you again as well. I trust you had a pleasant journey."
Moire spat out, "Pleasant? Traveling through that awful swamp then the high canyons was not all that pleasant. At least I had Angus to see to my needs. Nearly tangled with a nasty bellydragger whilst going through the swamp..."
She stopped herself as she saw Dvora and Pat coming into view. To the side, from the direction of the high bluff, Moire could see several children approaching. One she assumed was Littlefoot, her great-great nephew. He seemed, from a distance, charming enough, obviously well brought up, too. But Moire had yet to meet the child and, from the tales that filtered back from the Great Valley to her forest home, she presumed Littlefoot had to inherit his mother's disposition which was an asset. However, the boy's paternal grandparents did rear him, so no telling what nonsense he picked up. And that Bron, being absent for so long, at the worst possible time. She heard of Bron's search for a safe place to raise his and Thora's yet to be born child. If he wanted a safe place, he could have looked no further than the dense forest Moire called home. At least she could oversee the child's rearing, make sure he is a well-balanced youngling. Manners, a sense of duty, honor, and a high regard for the way things should be. All those qualities Moire held dear. Oh well, perhaps the boy is, at least, polite and friendly despite the relaxed rearing used by his grandparents.
"Ah," she said loftily, "this must Thora's child coming. I trust he is much like his mother. Now that was a lady..." She cleared her throat since Bron was standing just a few feet from her; she added, "No doubt Littlefoot is happy and healthy despite the absence of–"
Bron tried to keep his cool. How dare Moire come here just to insult and berate. It was not his fault Thora died before he returned. The old lady didn't know how long Bron looked all over for his son, finally finding him only months ago. Moire never quite approved of Thora's choice of mate, but she relented once Thora put her foot down and convinced her dear auntie that Bron was Mr. Right. "You never change, Moire," was all Bron said, his eyes darkening with anger. No, he didn't want to lose his temper, but Moire had a way of making anyone want to scream.
She just looked at him then turned her attentions to the little ones. How much like both parents did Littlefoot seem; at least in appearance he had Bron's coloring and Thora's eyes. Deep down she could sense the child had much courage within, a good trait if it is nurtured correctly. Moire had yet to learn exactly how brave her great-great nephew was; those tales of traveling to the Great Valley and the many adventures in the Mysterious Beyond had yet to be told to her.
Remembering his manners, Littlefoot slowed his gait; he didn't dare run up to Aunt Moire at full speed. He even cautioned his friends to keep quiet. Aunt Moire is old-fashioned and may not like outspoken kids (He hoped Cera would hold her tongue).
"Ah," said Bron at once, "here's Littlefoot, Moire. You know, his mother told him about you, but since he was so young, and I..."
Moire quelled Bron with a glower. "I am aware of that, Bron. Nevertheless, I am sure the boy and I will get along famously."
Littlefoot at last approached his great-aunt, politely introducing himself. "How do you do, Aunt Moire. I'm Littlefoot."
Moire smiled. "Oh, Littlefoot. At last we meet. I say, you do have your mother's eyes." Still smiling, she added approvingly, "And I can see your father and grandparents have reared you well." To this Bron and Grandpa and Grandma breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness Moire had sense not to say anything negative about the boy. Still in her pleasant mood, Moire saw Littlefoot's friends, asking, "And who are these lovely children?"
Before Littlefoot could introduce his friends, Dvora and Pat finally made their presence. At first, Dvora regarded her great-aunt with a wariness Pat couldn't help noticing. All she could say was, "Aunt Moire, how good to see you again."
Moire just looked at her niece, replying, "Dvora, you look well despite your wanderings. Oh yes, news of your travels reached even my faraway home. Well, at least you finally came to your senses and settled down with your family, where you belong." She cast her eyes to Pat then became quite perturbed. Moire swore she and Pat met before, and even then she harbored a strong dislike for the gentleman longneck.
"Auntie," continued Dvora, undaunted by Moire's imperiousness, "may I introduce Pat, my fiance. Like me, he was a wanderer, but he settled here, in the Great Valley, at Littlefoot's friends' invitation. If I hadn't stumbled upon Bron and the Old One, I would have never come here, thus I would have never met Pat. We are happy, Aunt Moire, and we're to be married day after tomorrow." Then, after pausing a bit just to gauge Auntie's reaction, she added, "And I suppose you're here to give us your blessing."
Moire was quite taken aback by this newly assertive, empowered Dvora. This lady longneck is no longer the meek, quiet child Moire remembered. Indeed, she has grown into quite the formidable young woman. much like, if truth be known, her great-aunt.
The elderly lady gazed coolly and steadily at her niece then looked at Pat. Now it all came back to her! Wasn't Pat his uncle? Yes, Pat, upon his brother's death, took on rearing the boy. Alas, the mother, after a long absence finally reunited with her child, and the pair left together. Pat remained behind but struck out on his own shortly after Bron and Thora married, leaving Dvora behind.
Humph! He could have stayed, owning up to his so-called love for Dvora, otherwise he could have simply left with his sister-in-law and nephew. No, he merely lit out on his own, wandering here and there. Abandoning his own flesh and blood, leaving my niece to pine for him, and he had no idea it was I who, after the boy's mother died, took the child in and kept him with me. All these years, and neither knows each other, even now as they stand face to face...
There is no way Pat will marry my niece. He'll surely break her heart. He is a bounder, given to abandoning his family at the worse possible time. If I know him, he'll up and leave her as soon as...Oh dear! What if they decide to start a family of their own? No, I must stop this.
She said gently yet firmly, "Dvora, my dear. It is clear you love this gentleman, but he is not your sort. There are some things you do not know about your intended. Therefore, I refuse to give my blessing. Now, before you say anything, and I know you will, I came a long way just to see you again. It is regrettable that there will be no wedding, but I have my reasons why you and Pat are not meant for each other. I shall stay a few days, just to rest, then I'll be on my way home."
Moire looked about the shocked and saddened faces, her gaze resting longest on the engaged couple. Well, the shock will wear off in time, and once Dvora comes around, she will learn that her beloved Pat is no gentleman. To her attendant, she said sharply, "Come, Angus. I am in need of a cool drink and nice nap. Find a quiet, shady spot for me."
Angus, himself sad that the visit had already worn out its welcome, just looked at Bron then at Pat. He said nothing, but his eyes conveyed much sympathy. As always, like the obedient servant, he said to his mistress, "Very good, madam."
[TO BE CONTINUED...Go to Part 4]
Copyright©2006 by PRP.