Samara stirred a little, feeling herself being carried. What just happened? Did I actually fall over? I should say something, but who is holding me? I don’t want to jeopardize anything…
“What were you thinking?”
That’s a new voice. How long have I been out? Maybe I should figure out what’s going on before I say something.
“Asa, please. Don’t look at me like that.”
That’s the man who interceded in the temple. So who is Asa?
“I don’t know how you expect me to look at you. You knew to be careful and you let her fall in the stable of all places? She’s covered in mud. First thing she needs is a bath.”
“I thought she could at least walk, Asa.”
“I certainly don’t want her getting mud all over this bed. Let’s clean her up and see what happened. Take her to the hot spring. I’ll find some suitable clothes and meet you there, Ethan.”
Hmm, so his name is Ethan? He’s stronger than he looked in the temple for holding me this long. And I can smell the barn on me – I must be getting mud all over his uniform. Samara started to stir and moaned slightly while Ethan continued walking. I am not going to find out how they plan on washing me unconscious.
Suddenly Ethan placed her down on a smooth stone. “Samara, are you all right? You took a nasty tumble out there.” Samara opened her eyes and looked up. She inhaled sharply at the sight of his blue eyes again. It was as if they were made of glass, piercing her.
“I’m sorry, but who are you? And where a-am I?” Samara stammered.
“My apologies, Samara. I intended to introduce myself at the temple, but things got a little… out of hand. They should not have disrespected you as they did. And, you are at a hot springs on the grounds of the Sun Palace. You did not have a very -cough- clean fall, and I assumed you would like as few people as possible to have their first impression of you sullied with manure.”
Samara looked down. Now with her eyes open, she saw that she was literally covered, head to foot in manure. She sighed. “I suppose I should regret that yours has been. And that I have soiled your shirt.”
Ethan looked at her, as if he could see straight through her. “Do you need assistance getting clean, or do you think you can handle it yourself right now?”
“I’ll be fine thank you, but shouldn’t I locate clean clothes and a towel first?” I’m not sure I want this stranger to see me bathing.
“I think I need to clean up and take a bath myself. Towels and clothes will be ready by the time we are clean, don’t worry about it.” Samara blushed uncomfortably, not sure what to make of the situation, and sat in silence. Ethan chuckled suddenly. “Don’t you worry, there’s a curtain here, attached to the seats. You can have some privacy.”
Could he not have said that sooner? He’s being kind but I think he’s making fun of me.
Samara drew the curtain closest to her, and it separated the stone bench she had been lying on, from the rest of the hot springs. She reached up and unlaced the strings holding her robe in place and let it fall to the ground. Gingerly she tried to stand up. It was a bad choice. She felt her hips giving way under her as she sploshed unceremoniously into the hot spring.
“Are you really all right by yourself, Samara?” Ethan sounded genuinely concerned.
“J-just f-fine,” stammered Samara as she felt the heat hitting her muscles.
“Just so long as you’re sure. I’m going to get in on the other side, so don’t move your curtain unless you want company.”
He is making fun of me now. Unless I want company. What does he think I am? He’s a stranger. I shouldn’t even be letting myself get this way around a stranger, but he’s right. I do not want anyone else seeing me caked in manure.