“Sit straight, then lower your head ninety degrees” Katerina says to me.
“Exactly! That is the correct bow and not that sorry excuse of one you do.” Katerina glares at Paula when she tries to sit after standing In one posture after a long time.
“You are a servant, you are supposed to wait on your lady that way, not just gallivant around like someone without direction. Don’t slouch!” She scolds Paula who looks at me like she’s at her wits end.
If I don’t stop this now, Paula really might break something and that might be Katerina.
“Look, we have been at this since morning, I am sure you have better things to do than lecture us, we can’t learn it all in a day. I heard you cancel going to a wedding because of us… You know what, Just go for the wedding, we’ll cover for you. Besides, the Queen said train us, she didn’t say all day.” I drink a cup of water and pass some to Paula.
“This is what I’m talking about, she is supposed to serve you and not the other way around, you spoil her and that’s why she has all this air around her and that condescending smirk of hers.” Katerina puffs and groans frustrated.
“Don’t take it personal, she looks down on everyone, not just you, I think that’s just how her eyes are made. See… She doesn’t talk a lot.” I patronise Katerina.
“I guess that’s something to be grateful about. My friend Adrienne is getting married today and I had to give that up to be here with you. Please put some effort because if by the next time you meet the Queen and you haven’t improved your manners, she will have my head.” She sighs.
“Okay, okay… I get it, we get it, relax, the day is not yet over, you can still make it to your friend’s wedding, we’ll stay away right here and practice.” I try to persuade her.
“Really??? You can’t go into the main palace because the Queen will know! I won’t be long just don’t go anywhere.” She pleads or commands, well something in between.
“Just go already!” Paula speaks with gritted teeth and for the first time.
“Okay!!!” She looks back at us as if not sure.
“I wish your friend the best in life, now get out of here!” I say to her as she leaves.
Paula and I breathe a sigh of relief as we collapse on the ground.
“This is worse that being tortured with water, Why do these things matter?” I complain out loud.
“Princess Salem…” Paula calls me as I feel my blood turn to Ice.
“You called me … Princess?” I stand and move away from her.
She stands, and calmly picks up her sword from where she hides it, she picks up a knife and throws at me.
“Paula….. Relax… Breathe slowly please.” I slowly speak to her.
“Oh… I’m not mad or anything, pick up the knife, let’s spar. Just like old times.” She grins sweetly which makes my heart pound.
“Yeah… Right! Look, it could be worse, we could be dead.” I pick up the knife.
“Sure but I will kill you first, I have had to stand up straight for four hours, why? Tell me why I had to do that?” She asks me.
“For the good of humanity??? If we are going to spar, at least give me a better weapon. You have a good sword, give me mine; I know you sneaked it in.” Sh grins at me again.
“No no no, we can’t fight on equal grounds, you will win and you have to work on your right hook anyway, it has gotten weak.” She comes at me and we begin to spar.
We use the courtyard as a sparring ground, she is skillful but I am faster, I always have been. I know she hates and loves that about me and I can’t resist teasing her.
“My right hook? You have gotten slower Paula! What is it? Too much food? I told you to cut down on that.” I dodge and flick her on the forehead.
She goes red “keep talking Princess” she reinforces her attack and I know I have to fight back or she might hurt me.
“So, homesick? Is that why you have been quiet all through?” She nearly slits my neck as I gasp.
“I hate it, I hate seeing you bow to anyone for whatever reason. I don’t care about anyone else or anything else!” She throws her sword away.
“When I decided to follow you, I was eight and I was a new slave. There you were looking so proud despite the fact that we wore the same kind of clothes, I had no idea you were a princess because of how you were treated. You never let it bother you. You did what you wanted and lived how you wanted. I admired that.” She sits.
“Seeing you compromise on behalf of the Prince, I know it’s for him; I hate it, I understand it but I hate it. Because if you bow, then I have to bow, and I don’t like to do that. Back pains and what not.” She rearranges her hair.
I sit beside her. “That was Roelum, there I knew that no matter what I did, no one would be hurt on my behalf. Whether I or you like it or not, I am married now, I have another person to worry about no matter how complicated that may be. Sometimes we have to bow a little to gain perspective. I know the world Is either black or white to you. I love that about you, I need you to trust me Paula, just bow for a little while, who knows… You might like what you’d find looking at the floor sometimes. I’m sorry, just give me time Paula.”
“I’m sorry too, I wish I knew more than just fighting to help you.” She pats my head.
I stand in awe as I watch Salem and her maid spar, Paula… It is the finest fighting I’ve ever seen. It was like art, I glance at Victor who seems also taken aback.
“That is more than just self defense, I could barely see them move.” He whispers to me.
“Who are you loyal to? My father? The Queen or me?” I ask him.
“I am loyal to the crown.” He replies.
“So, the King. That means I don’t owe you any loyalty. Victor, what do you think just happened?” I ask.
“I don’t understand but I do know I do not want to make an enemy of them.” He takes a look at Paula.
“Good, me neither. Don’t tell anyone what you saw here today, it will create questions with answers I can’t give.” I stare at him blankly.
“What if the King asks?” He shifts uncomfortably.
“Well… Answer his questions but I doubt the King would straight up ask if his daughter in law is vast in the art of war. Make your answers simple.” I open my eyes in shock at the chair coming at me, Victor takes the hit and covers me.