Chapter Thirteen- Prepare for War

The next morning I woke up before dawn and went to the caves. I found Hannah lying near the front of the cave on one of the cots. I attempted to slip past her but she woke up as I walked by. 

“What time is it?” She whispered.

“I’m not exactly sure. Sometime before six o’clock. The sun hasn’t risen yet.” She nodded and leaned against the wall of the cave, then sat forward quickly from the coldness of the wall. She rubbed her face and looked at all the kids. She looked back at me, regret written on her face. I sucked in a breath and stared straight at her.

“Antepi, I’m sorry for what I did. It wasn’t right.” She said quietly. 

“Which part? The one where you slapped my niece, where you broke into my hawk house and stole my hawk, where you insulted our entire society in church, or where you sent my hawk into the wild to find me?” I took a deep breath and sighed, taking control of myself. “I’m sorry too. I did not mean for it to come out like that.” 

She laughed a little. “I deserved it.” 

“Hannah, I have never in anyway threatened your relationship with Joeté intentionally.” I looked into her eyes, hoping she could see the hurt coming from them and feel the pain in my voice. “That fight in the storage house was never supposed to happen. I tried to stick up for you Hannah. I tried; I told him that he should never treat someone that way. And I know that you realize that I did not stage that. I am sorry that what he said was true. I wish it weren’t.” She nodded and smiled sadly.

“I know that. I know that none of this is your fault. I suppose it is more my fault than anything.” She said quietly.

 “Regardless of my past relationship with him, he is still going to be one of my best friends, and I am not- for any reason- going to change the way I treat him as a friend because of how things ended between us.”

“I know.” She said quietly.

“You have to realize how important our history is to us. How important it is to us that our children know what happened to us and that they don’t make the same mistakes.” I sighed. “I understand that you feel threatened by me, and I would feel threatened by you if the roles were reversed, but you do not have to be.” I laughed a little. “I am not here to take back Joeté. I know that I am the one that he has known his whole life but that does not mean that I will be his first choice. You do not have to change yourself to be more like me. You can change to be more like an Antioch, because the moment you two are married, you are and forever will be an Antioch. But you are amazing as a person Hannah. That is what you need to understand. You are not me, you are not Hypoleta, you are Hannah. These people can still care about you if you let them. You have continually pushed back from these people. You have convinced yourself that they do not want to be around you, but it is because you will not let them.” I took a deep breath and gave her a small smile. “Be you, Hannah. I promise that you- and only the you that God has made you- are good enough for Joeté.” I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. She smiled and nodded. 

“Thank you, Antepi.” She said quietly. 

“Now. It’s time to wake up the children.” I stood up, and Hannah stood up with me, confused. 

“But you said it was not even six o’clock yet?” 

“Right, but they still need to be up. Even in the caves they can be helping. They can be sewing and taking care of the other children and practicing their skills.” I smiled, coating my voice with sugar. “Good luck watching them!” 

I crouched down and felt around the floor. When I felt a hollow spot, I stood up and stomped my foot on the spot. The cave shook and a loud echoing noise resounded throughout the caves. Children started sitting up, rubbing their eyes sleepily. 

“Everybody needs to get up.” I started walking through the caves, touching kid’s shoulders, picking babies up out of makeshift cribs, and rubbing the tousled heads of groggy boys. I finally reached Sahara and Senepha who were sharing a larger bed with Chari, another little girl. I picked Senepha up and looked at her. “How are you this morning? I know yesterday was a little sad for you and I wanted to make sure you were okay?” 

She nodded and giggled a little. “Last night, Chari and Sahara and I all slept together and Sahara started rolling around and rolled right over on top of Chari and I. It was so funny! We woke up and I pushed Rara back to her spot and then she woke up. She looked around and said ‘what time is it? Where am I? Where’s Pasha and Meisha?’. Then we all started laughing, but quietly, so we didn’t wake anybody up.” I laughed and smiled at her.  

“That sounds pretty funny.” Then I looked at her more seriously, “Senie, I want you to help Hannah today. I know you are a little scared of her, but she will not hurt you, I promise. What is happening above ground is very serious, and under no circumstances do you let anyone- including Hannah- go up there until I or Uncle Joeté come to get you all. Do you understand?” She nodded solemnly and hugged me tightly around my neck, her golden hair flowing over her shoulders. I set her down and smiled at her. “Be strong bebia. I know you can be.” She smiled up at me bravely, her bright green eyes filled with tears, and started getting other kids up. For only being six years old, she was so strong. I only hoped I would be there to keep her strong for the rest of her life. 

I went back to my hut and changed into my sleeveless deerskin dress. I pulled my leather shirt over it for extra protection and grabbed my sword. I needed to sharpen it before they arrived and there was not much time. I also grabbed my bow and arrows as I walked out the door so that I could sharpen the tips of the arrows. When I got to the sharpening wheels, I found many other men and women already there. Joeté was sharpening his axes, Matthias his spears, and Hypoleta her swords. Hypoleta’s swords were only her backup. She was best at whips. She could fight anyone, with any weapon, and walk out triumphant. She always had a sword with her, in case something happened to her whip though. 

I sat at a sharpening wheel next to Joeté and started sharpening my swords. He glanced at me and then back at his axe that he was sharpening. The only sound was the grinding and sharpening of metal. 

“I talked to Hannah this morning.” I said it without looking up, but he looked up sharply, then tried to act nonchalant. He lowered his head slowly, but I could see that he was still looking up at me.

“What about, and is she still all in one piece?” 

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, she is still in one piece, what do you take me for? I took an oath not to kill and I’m not going to break it because some English girl was rude to me. Tempting as it seems.” I took a deep breath. “It started out rough, but it ended up alright. We talked everything through and we are alright now. She- and I- understand each other better.” 

He let out a loud breath in relief. I rolled my eyes again. I had finished my sword and had just started sharpening my arrows when Catania came thundering up. We all stood up and crowded around. She was panting and out of breath but managed to gasp out:

“They’re coming. The English- they’re- they’re coming. They are about an hour from here. We need to hurry.” I nodded and raised my voice above the rest. 

“We are strong. We can do this. They will never, ever take us. They can not conquer us, they can not stop us. We will protect our people, whatever the cost. We will stop the English, or die trying.” I turned back to Cat. “Go back to Honah. When the English are five minutes away, both of you return and help fight.” She nodded and rode back to Honah. I faced the people that had gathered. “Failure…” my parents faces flashed before my eyes, “failure is not an option.” 

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