The water rippled as Samara heard him slide in on the other side. He too, let out a moan. “The hot water will help relieve your riding muscles, Samara. If you have never ridden that much in a day, riding alone would anger many of your muscles.”
“Yes.” Samara replied cautiously. “Why did we need to ride so fast? And why such urgency?”
“Well,” Ethan began. “How much do you know about my Queen?”
“I know that the Sun King died when I was a small child, and that his daughter was too young. The council has served as Regent for her and she will become fully Queen next Summer.”
“That’s correct. You were chosen for the Queen’s Guard, because our Queen needs to be surrounded by the strongest, and best, when she takes her place.”
Strongest and best? I just fell getting off a horse. “I think you must have chosen the wrong girl. Were you there the whole time? Nadia was chosen first just as you scolded the Mother of Mercy and she –” Ethan cut her off.
“Samara. You were chosen. Nadia was a fine candidate but she will do much better where she was placed, in the merchant guild.”
Samara started to stammer out something else when she heard footsteps approaching. “Ethan, how’s our girl doing? Is she clean and ready to see me now?” It was Asa’s voice, and the footsteps didn’t stop while asking the question until they were on her side of the curtain. “Oh, S-Samara, I didn’t know you were awake!” A young man with shining silver hair and a very delicate build was looking at her, blushing.
“What would you have done if I wasn’t awake?” growled Samara roughly.
“Figured out how badly you were injured I suppose,” said Asa calmly. “I’m sorry I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you personally. My name is Asa, and I am the palace healer. I have brought you some clothing, and a towel. I will lay them here, and give you some space to dry off before we meet again.”
Samara blushed. First time I’m upset enough to be rude, and it wasn’t really deserved. Keep yourself in line Samara. A good Daughter of Mercy is quiet and would never raise her voice at a man. She painfully pulled herself out of the hot spring when he walked away, and dried herself off.
“Ethan? Are you dressed?” Samara was not about to get embarrassed again.
“Just waiting on you, Samara.” Samara pulled back the curtain and stared at Ethan again. Now that he was clean, she realized how muscled he was in a less restrictive uniform.
“S-so Ethan, your uniform.” Samara stammered and stopped. “It’s different than it was this morning, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Samara. That was a different uniform, one for impressing those who need to be impressed for a moment. This is what we wear the rest of the time, when we are training or unlikely to see others. It’s more comfortable, for one.”
We. He said we. Samara looked down and realized that they matched. She hadn’t even looked at what she was wearing as she clothed herself hurrying to be sure she wasn’t seen uncovered. “So are you also in the Queen’s Guard?”
“Not quite. But, we will be seeing a lot of each other. What are your fighting skills like? What is your favorite weapon? I will be one of your trainers for physical defense, soon enough.”
Samara stared at him. Those blue eyes. Is he teasing me? Or does he think I will actually be a solid fighter? “I don’t think you will want to train my physical defense. See, I thought you meant to choose someone else.”
Ethan’s eyes narrowed. “I told you, Samara of the Wood, that you are the one I chose. Whatever it takes, I will make you a fighter. Now, Samara, Asa is waiting for you back in his rooms across this field. Please trust him to heal you so that you are ready tomorrow. He can show you to your room.”
Ethan abruptly turned and strode off. Why is he so upset when I tell him he’s wrong? He’s only going to find out soon that I can’t be the fighter he wants me to be.