Asa reached over and gently touched her hands. “I’m sorry, Samara. I wish I could fix this, but it’s going to take an awful lot of practice.” He was still holding her hands.
I just don’t want him to stop holding my hands. “Is Ethan mad at me, Asa? I don’t understand him. I don’t know how to please him.”
Asa chuckled softly. “Maybe he is. But don’t you worry, you don’t need to please him. If he’s mad at you it’s only because his job is to be sure that you get stronger than him and can defend yourself or others.” Asa slid his arm around her. “Let’s get you up, and let’s see how much I can help.” He gently hauled her to her feet with a strength surprising for his slender, almost dainty frame.
I keep expecting him to be weaker too. His strength should remind me that I need to be wary of him as well. Samara walked back across the grass to Asa’s rooms. He helped her inside and she could smell his soup again. His eyes twinkled and he slipped to the back to bring her a bowl.
“Maybe you just need some more food, Samara.”
Samara began to eat the soup, and paused. “Asa, why me? Why am I here? You seem to know so much, but I don’t understand why I am here.”
Asa’s smile faded slightly. “You were chosen for the Queen’s Guard, Samara. That is an elite life choice and will give you a great chance to serve our Queen, and then even step back and raise a family later. It is a good assignment.”
“But why me? My class had trained fighters. I was never even educated in these fighting ways because the Mother of Mercy thought me too weak.”
Asa’s eyes narrowed. “She what? Every child in that home was supposed to be trained in each skill. How will they ever know who the most skilled child is for each skill if they do not get basic training in each discipline?”
“I was trained to read and write, but even then my hands were too weak to become a scribe or practice illumination. I wasn’t good enough for any other training, I –"
Asa cut her off. “EVERY child deserves training. You are now a woman, no longer a child and I am sorry that you have lost this opportunity. It explains how hard it has been for Ethan to push you, however. I will discuss it with him and we will assess how to rectify the situation for other children. In the meantime, however, Ethan and Liron observed you and chose you for this position. They were the arbiters and they chose you. You cannot be unchosen. They are the only ones that know why they chose you. All I can do is try to help with your … condition.”
“H-how much do you know about my condition? What do you mean?” Samara panicked. Asa stood behind her and put hands on each shoulder.
“I saw the first night. Your joints are very unstable, aren’t they. All I can do is help you learn to keep them in place, and help you realign the joints you cannot fix yourself.” Anger was rising in Asa’s voice. “Ethan’s certainly not a help when he has you ride a horse by yourself back to the palace grounds. And today, wearing you down until you can’t pick up a weapon.”
I can’t tell Asa what Ethan said about my chastity. I want to know what he meant but I don’t know how to ask.
“I have an idea for your hands. Let me make a model of your hands and we will see tomorrow if they help. For now, finish your soup and let me check your spine and hips again.”
Samara drank the rest of her soup and blushed. She remembered yesterday and how unclothed she had been. Maybe this was the way to ask. “Ethan… said that my chastity was the most important thing that I needed to protect. Yet, yesterday, you touched my bare skin…” Samara trailed off. No Samara, this was NOT the way to bring it up.
Asa was silent. Samara turned around to look into his eyes. He looked almost sad.
“Asa? Is everything all right?”