Chapter Four- Hannah Learns the History

In the next week, I got to spend more than enough time with Hannah, because she was almost constantly with Hypoleta. I ate dinner, trained, and talked with Matthias almost all the time, so I was near her often. Her constant babbling made it very hard to talk to anyone while she was in the room. We all were learning to deal with it and ignore it though. One cool day I was tending my mother’s old garden, planted under Matthias’s hut, when I heard Hannah and Hypoleta talking.

“I don’t understand something. Why does everyone treat me with so much hostility? What did I ever do to them?” Hannah asked. I could practically see her expression.  

“It’s not exactly what you did to them, it’s what your father did to them.” There was a pause as she waited for him to answer. “I’m assuming Joeté never told you?” I could just imagine her looking confused that Hannah didn’t know. I was confused as to why Joeté hadn’t told her, so I understood. “Well, about a year ago, the Antiochs were attacked. The English slaughtered them mercilessly. A lot of people died that day. There were more dead than there were survivors. What was once a thriving, fierce warrior tribe, became a fearful and cautious community. Thankfully, Sahara and I weren’t here for it. I moved from my small village to here shortly after it happened. Joeté was taken to England by the general who attacked us, and his father was killed. We aren’t sure where his mother is. His last wish was for Antepi to take care of Catania. So she ran, taking Catania with her. She fled for her life and for her best friend’s life. It was pure survival. They were gone for a long time and then about a week or two ago, the two of them came back. The only reason we have started training again is because Antepi has pushed so hard for it. She has pushed Respato very hard to train our young ones. She personally trains Senepha, and Matthias trains Sahara.” She paused, probably thinking of what to say next. 

Her speech was probably having more of an impact on me than it was on Hannah. Her words filled my head, and my imagination ran wild with images relating to what she was saying. Memories filled some blanks, and others- things I hadn’t been there for- were left for my head to fill in and paint pictures in my head. “To me, when I first came here at least, this culture was not something that I cared about. It seemed silly to me. To see these people train so hard when there was no threat, to be practically forced into training myself, and to be made to go all the time to this Fire Dance.”

“Fire Dance?” Hannah interrupted. 

“No one told you?” I could picture the wheels turning in Hypoleta’s head. 

“They mentioned something about a dance tonight, but they didn’t really tell me what it was about.” 

“Well then I will get to that as part of my story, because I thought the same thing at first too.” There was a pause. “Anyway… It seemed ridiculous and irrational! I grew up where you only did things if it served a very specific purpose. These things didn’t look like they did that. And I made sure my husband knew that- which was completely wrong of me- and almost refused to do anything that was asked of me as a wife of an Antioch man.” She paused, no doubt a little out of breath from her long speech. “But then one day, one of the older Antioch woman that survived the attack gave me a stern talking to. She told me how important their culture was to them. She told me that, as the last of the eight ancient tribes, preserving their culture and their history was even more important than it would be if all eight tribes remained. I finally realized how amazing and intricate these people’s history was, and is. All their traditions have a purpose! The Fire Dance is something started long ago in the dead of winter when they were cold, they started a fire and danced. They danced to keep warm and after that, the people kept doing it, almost as a thanks to God for giving them something to keep them warm. They dance until their feet are numb- not from cold- but from stomping and dancing. I still never really got it though.” I heard a sigh. 

“Then Antepi came back, and I finally got what it was about! Her drive to train harder and get the young people trained was truly inspiring! Her desire to stick to traditions, make new ones, and preserve her culture is simply amazing! She tries so hard to make things the way they were. Deep down, she knows that that won’t ever happen completely, but she keeps trying. Because part of her can’t give up. And that is something we can all learn from.” 

I laughed to myself at her flattering words. She used such big words to describe something that was so simple in my mind.

“My main point is that your father was that General. He is the one that took everything from these people. He slaughtered them, and they will never forgive him fully for it. They have tried to put it behind them, but when you have lost as much as they have, it is a long process. Teps is especially cold because she lost so much. She lost both her parents, which crushed her. She thought she lost all three of her brothers-” 

Hannah interrupted her: “Three? I only knew of your husband. There are the others?” 

“Yes, there are more.” Hypoleta laughed a little. “Currently one- Renaglo is down in a cell in the caves beneath your feet. The other- Titro- is somewhere out there. He is about nine years older than Antepi. We know he is alive, but he left with his wife Gracia and son Pasha right before I arrived. They became a sort of peddler family, picking up more people as they traveled through France. Last we heard from him, they were up North. That was a while ago, so we don’t exactly know where they are right now. As far as they know, there are only a couple families left, so Matt and Tepi are both hoping that they’ll come by for a visit, and be so surprised that they will decide to stay. I think it would be really nice, having all our family back together. Not as much as the two troublemakers I call husband and sister do, but I want them to come back. Having our family together is something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Over six years, at least in my book. Maybe in the other’s mind it is different, but I haven’t been here for over six years, so the whole family has never actually been together.”

“Do you like them? Are they kind?” Hannah interrupted her.

I laughed to myself. Of course they were kind. They were kind, they were strong, and… they were gone. I had no idea where they were, and they probably weren’t coming back. But how would Hannah know that?

“I have never met them before but Matt would always tell me things about them when he came to visit. He wanted so badly for me to meet them before I moved here. I don’t know if you know, but for a long time, I lived with just Sahara in my parent’s home. Matthias didn’t want to subject Sahara and I to the harshness of living here any sooner than he had to. That made things hard on both of us. And it made things hard on Antepi when she came back. I wish that we had made a different decision. That we had been honest with his family from the start. But he didn’t feel like that was the best option, especially after the attack.

“Life will never be easy here, Hannah. You have to learn that now and make the most of it. If you are going to marry Joeté, you have to get used to living here.”

“Why? As soon as possible, we are moving back. We have to go back for the wedding. My mother and I were even hoping that as the daughter of the most successful general in England, the King would attend.”

I heard Hypoleta sigh. “Hannah, that is not how it works here. Joeté won’t go back. This is his home, and if you want to be with him, you have to make it yours too.”

“He will go back to England if I want to.” The innocent manipulativeness in her voice made my skin crawl. I could just picture the smug look on her face as she said it. 

She thought that she had complete control over him, and that he would do her every bidding. I almost gagged.

“He loves me and would do anything to make me happy. I won’t get married in the middle of nowhere. If people don’t see my wedding, then it really is barely official. That would be vile and…” She trailed off, realizing her mistake. “And that’s exactly what you did when you married Matthias.”

I heard a small laugh. “Yes, I did. The only people who saw Matthias and I get married were my parents. My older sister wasn’t even there.”

“That is all good and well for you, I mean, you are a common person. I am used to a higher life. With parties and teas and…”

“Hannah,” there was correction in her voice, “if you are marrying the person you love, it won’t matter if someone is there to see it. It is not where you are. It is who you are with.”

“Still, we will be going back to England to get married. My mother must be there or she would have a fit.”

“What about Joeté’s family? What about his sister and everyone else?”

“Well they could just come with us.” Hannah’s voice sounded sickeningly unaware, as if she had no idea how the world around us worked. I rolled my eyes at how naive she sounded.

“I don’t think you understand Hannah. In England, everyone in this valley is a wanted criminal.”

“Well I can pull some strings for them.”

“Hannah, you are only thinking about you right now is my main point. You are thinking about how to accommodate you in this. Not Joeté, not anyone else. You. But sweetie, Joeté should be one of the most important things in your life. Even above you.”

“I am thinking about how to accommodate Joeté. And both of us want my mother to be at the ceremony, so we are going back to England.”

“Have you asked him about that?”

“No… but we agree on everything.”

“I thought that too. You aren’t always going to agree on everything. And that is okay, but you have to expect that if you don’t agree on it, then you might have to do what he wants, rather than what you want. It is just the way life is. It humbles you a bit.” I heard the floorboards squeak as she stood.

“Anyway, I have to go and tell Antepi to stop gardening.” I looked up quickly. She had known this whole time that I was there. I heard her walk to the door and start coming down the steps. As she came down the steps and walked toward me, she was smiling and laughing quietly. I put a finger to my lips and motioned towards my house. She nodded and the two of us walked to my house and ran up the steps. Once we were inside I turned to her.

“Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you tell her that I was there? It could have made that conversation a lot longer and you could impart more of your amazing wisdom upon both of us.”

“I didn’t think it was relevant or important, and what I had to say, you needed to hear just as much as she did. And I think that it was long enough as it was. I already have. I didn’t need another half hour to say something that- when put honestly and to the point- only takes five minutes to say.” She smiled at me and I acknowledged the truth. “Look, tonight is the fire dance. Show these people- and Hannah- what it means to be an Antioch. That we should be proud of our heritage. They have been afraid for so long, and they have given up on being an Antioch. Show them that we are still Antioch, first and foremost.” She put her hands on my shoulders. “Show them we don’t need to be afraid to show our true selves.” With that she turned and walked out.

 I sat down in a chair and thought. Showing my true self? I didn’t even know what that was, much less how to show it. It was so easy for all of them, when they had their life planned out. They had their wives, husbands, children. They didn’t need to think about who could be coming in and out of their lives. They had their families set. No one was changing that. But me- I had no idea who I would marry, if I would marry, where I would be in the next few years. But Hypoleta was right about at least one thing. Because one thing in my future was sure. I was Antioch, through and through- and no one, not Hannah not anyone, could change that. And I would never try to.