Even after years away from his service it was ingrained in her. She stepped back with her foot even before he was in the room, hands clasping behind her, and she sank to the floor in one fluid motion. Balanced on one knee she crossed her other leg over the first and bowed, turning her head only just above the stone, exposing her pulse, and waited with closed eyes. She was perfectly still in the strained position—this slave’s dip. Moments passed until he entered the room and walked towards her, his steps the only sound announcing his presence, and then there was silence as he stood before her to judge her and decide her worth. Finally, the tips of his fingers brushed her hair and he placed his hand in hers to pull her up. She unwound, knowing that if he desired, with a twist of his wrist her arm would be broken, but with his gentle leading she would rise like a dance.
For the first time in years she saw her king. Golden eyes stared at her, matched by his jewelry and circlet-crown. His black hair was tied up in a horse’s tail and the end rested over his shoulder. He wore no shirt, the heat that radiated off of him speaking of a day spent out in the desert sun, and she saw the scars from many battles across his chest. Some were new, and a few even fresh.
“What do you desire of me?” she whispered.
Another woman entered the room before her king could reply. She was clothed in purple robes and jewelry herself, and Tivela again made a move to curtsy, but Asar’s hand cupped her chin and forced her to remain standing.
“Tivela, my dear, you are free by my command. Bow to me if you desire it, but to no one else.”
A woman came to stand by his side, and she glared at the former slave, but said nothing. Her king finally let her go and wrapped that arm around the woman.
“Tivela, this is my betrothed,” he said. “She is the daughter of a rival, and I wish her to be taught my ways. You know me better than any other living soul. Teach her, and you will be rewarded.”
She knew better than to protest, though she wished to do just that. It was unheard of for a slave, even a former slave, to teach the queen anything.
“I am yours to command,” she said instead.