Chapter Eleven- The Roof

After we had finished eating, Joeté and I went to our rooms and I prepared to leave. I hadn’t eaten anything because of the big breakfast that Wanepi had served earlier, but Joeté and Philippe ate enough for Wanepi and I. 

Someone had come and put out a stand and some food for Stella and she sat perched on a stick. I sighed in relief. I hadn’t even thought about taking care of her after I had read Hannah’s message. I would send her back to Antioch when I left so that I could ensure that she made it safely. I had never been so thankful that we had trained her to fly from the palace to Antioch- if we hadn’t, she could have gotten hurt. Especially if she had returned to Antioch like she had been trained to do, and Hannah had learned that her message hadn’t made it to me. For now, I could just be glad she was safe. 

I went onto my balcony and looked out over the countryside. 

I sighed. It was beautiful. I hadn’t seen enough beauty the past few years. They had been marked by blood and pain. I didn’t want them to be like that anymore.

I sighed again and walked back into my room. I needed to tell Joeté what Hannah had said before I left. 

I went out and knocked on his door. He opened it and leaned against the door frame, knowing from my expression that he was in for a long talk.

“We need to talk.” I pursed my lips. “Stella came and landed on my balcony today. She had a note, and the only person who should have access to her and the babies is Matthias or one of his  family. But the note wasn’t from Matthias.” He raised his eyebrows. 

“Who was it from?” He asked dryly. 

“It was from Hannah.” His mouth fell open a little. 

“Hannah?” 

I nodded, and looked around. “Can we talk on the roof? I don’t want anyone to hear this.” 

I turned and strode down the hall toward the stairs without waiting for an answer. 

When we reached them I ran up them quickly and pushed open the trap door to the roof. I stepped out and took a deep breath. The cool, fresh air hit my face as the wind blew. Joeté stepped out behind me and took a deep breath. 

I walked to the small pavilion at the end of the walkway. It was a circle that was surrounded by pillars. It looked out over the front of the palace and you could see for miles. I handed Joeté the note. I watched his face as he read it, and I could see his eyes return to the top and reread it. 

“Are you sure this is from her?” He looked at me quizzically.

“You would know better than I would. Is it her handwriting?” I asked. He studied it again and nodded reluctantly. 

“It is. I just don’t understand why she would do this.” 

“What? That she would write that note? That she would steal my hawk? Or that she would break into my family’s property?” I listed them on my fingers. “For some reason I can believe that she would do all of it. She is probably still upset from the church incident. And one other thing: she sent Stella out by herself early this morning. Stella could have gotten seriously hurt, not to mention the babies. They can’t last very long without their mother and she has no idea what she is doing  around hawks. She could have hurt them.” 

I scowled. I could stay calm through most things, but threatening my animals and almost hurting them pushed me over the edge. Animals were something that were very important in Antioch, especially the babies. 

“I’m sorry Antepi.” He said quietly. “She shouldn’t have done this. It crossed a line, and I know that. I don’t think she understands how important they are to you, or your nieces. I’ll talk to her when I return. I promise she will never touch the hawks again. And I’m sorry she said those things,” he looked down, then glanced up at me sheepishly, “but were they true?” 

I looked up at him sharply. “Of course not. I’ve made it clear that you can be engaged to whomever you wish and it doesn’t concern me. You know as well as I do that the disagreement in the supply room wasn’t staged. It hurt when you came back, but I would hope that you know me well enough not to think that I would be so spiteful that I would try to ‘steal’ you back.” I glared at him. 

It did hurt that he would actually believe what she said. I leaned against a pillar and looked out over the countryside. My attention was drawn to a rider heading for the palace. I stood straight up and squinted, trying to see who was coming. The horse and rider looked familiar. That was Matthias on his horse Marska. Why was he here? I turned and motioned to Joeté. He walked forward from where he had been standing and thinking. 

“It’s Matthias. Something is wrong. I can tell. I don’t know what, but whatever it is, it is urgent. If we jump we can meet him as he is coming into the courtyard.”

“I’m sorry, jump? Are you crazy?” His voice cracked a little. 

“Absolutely.” I smiled and backed up. I ran and jumped off the roof and I was falling. There was a pine tree just next to the roof and I landed on a thick branch. I jumped down to another branch. “Are you coming?” I called up to Joeté.

“Not a chance!” He yelled back. “I’ll meet you down there!” I shook my head and kept climbing and jumping down. I jumped the last few feet to the ground and landed just before Matthias came thundering into the courtyard. I ran over and grabbed Marska’s bridal, trying to calm her down. 

“What’s wrong Matthias? You look as if you’ve just seen a ghost.” He slid off his horse and came to hug me. I was confused but hugged him back. “You’re scaring me, Matthias. What is wrong?” 

“For starters, did Stella make it to you?” He dismounted, his expression troubled. “I’m so sorry Antepi. I didn’t find out till after it happened that she was missing.” 

I nodded. “She made it to me.” 

He sighed in relief. “Good.” He took a deep breath. “Secondly, last night after you left, Hannah ate dinner with us. Sahara and Senepha started talking about how good your story was. They said that they were going to try to learn as much about it as possible. They told Hypoleta that you were their new model. Hannah got upset and told them that you weren’t a good person and that you were a horrible person. She went so far as to hit Senepha when Senepha stood up for you.” I felt my face harden and I grabbed his arm tightly. “She’s alright. It was painful in the moment, but she’s fine now. Hannah was just angry. She’s already apologized, but I’ve told her that she is not allowed into our house or near Senepha until I talk with you. But Respato was furious and told her that unless she changes her attitude, she will be forced out of the valley, and he is going to take care of Senepha. He says that if you would just abandon her like that when you leave, you shouldn’t be taking care of her.” 

“He was the one that made me leave so urgently. And he shouldn’t be taking care of anyone after all he’s done.” I clenched my jaw. 

I could feel Joeté standing behind me and knew he had heard all of it. 

“We assumed that everything would be fine, but then she broke into the hawk house. None of the hawks were hurt, but she sent Stella to find you.” I could feel the tears gathering in my eyes, but I forced them back and took a few deep breaths. 

I took a deep breath. “I’m going home. If she thinks she can hit my niece and get away with it, she has a big surprise coming. Stay here with Joeté. Go wherever he goes and come home when he does. I will take care of Hannah and Respato.”

I left him there and called for a servant to take Marska and get Chaga for me. Matthias and Joeté walked behind me, one on each side. I turned to Joeté. 

“Tell Wanepi and Philippe all that has happened, and fill Matthias in on the different developments. I will see you tomorrow, if all goes as planned.” 

Joeté motioned for Matthias to follow him, and they turned down one corridor while I turned down another. 

Once I got to my room, I picked up Stella, and changed back into my regular clothes. I decided I would take the back roads and not go through the town this time. I couldn’t risk another hold up. I hurried out of my room and down to Chaga. I mounted and let Stella off her chain.

“Go home, Stella. Home.” She flew up and went in the direction of Antioch. I knew she would get home before I would and hoped that everyone would figure out I was coming. I took off at a canter out of the courtyard. I hoped to be in Antioch before noon, but it was already eleven o’clock. The church bells had just chimed. I would be able to make it on time if I didn’t stop at all. I cut off the road onto a forest path that was less winding, thus faster. I pushed Chaga harder  than usual, hoping she wouldn’t tire easily. She obeyed quickly and went at a swift, smooth pace.