Chapter 36 Part I

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It would have been easier for Sam to forget about her father if she were able to train as she normally did. She was under strict doctor’s orders not to touch any weapons—not just her new scimitar—until the end of the week. Still, Sam threw herself into what she could do: she used bell clappers and lifted stones to strengthen her upper body and arms. She rode her horse down the sloping hillsides to Luca’s westernmost gate and then climbed back up on foot. In the mornings, she ran, until short distances no longer winded her.

For the first few days, the Uriel men looked at Sam askance, but no one said anything to her or tried to prevent her from using the training grounds, though they kept their distance. She wished she were in top fighting form so she could really give them something to look at. She wanted to prove that she belonged out there with them. She would, eventually.

Tristan ran a few calisthenics drills with her and they dined together—the Uriel treated him as much like a leper as they did her—but Sam caught only flashes of Braeden: a flicker of silver hair or a blur of black robes, and then he was gone as if he’d never been. He was like a phantom, and every stolen glimpse of him was like rubbing salt in a wound. She missed him so much it hurt.

Sam didn’t see any of Sander that week, either, and found herself disappointed. When he had been their captive, Sander had teased her with the possibility of joining the Uriel as a woman, but perhaps that was all it was—a tease. Even if Sam had not been a woman, there was no place for her with the Paladins anymore. If the Uriel wouldn’t take her, there would be no place for Sam anywhere. Her father would restore her as his heir—it would save him the trouble of producing a new one—but the Sam of Haywood she’d become would shrivel up and die if she returned to her former life. She knew nothing of the Uriel, and yet they were the only hope she had.

Finally, the day came for Addie to remove her stitches, although in truth Sam was far more excited about reclaiming her scimitar. “Where is it?” she asked as soon as she spotted Addie in the infirmary.

Addie ushered her to the nearest empty bed. “How did I know that would be your first question? Not ‘will this hurt?’ or ‘how long will this take?’ like a normal person.”

Sam shrugged. “The pain can’t be worse than getting the wound in the first place. I just want my sword.”

“And you’ll get it,” said Addie. “But first, remove your tunic and lie back.”

Sam obliged and settled back onto the bed. Addie unwrapped her bandages and gently examined her wound with her fingertips. “Very nice,” she murmured. “You’ll have a nasty scar, but only your lover ever need see it.”

“Addie!”

The doctor laughed. “You’re a prude, Sam of Haywood,” she said. “And I’m only teasing you. Now, this will pinch.” She pulled out thin forceps and scissors from her work apron. Using the forceps to lift up the topmost suture, Addie cut off the black string just below the knot, and Sam felt a minor twinge as the doctor tugged the thread out through her skin.

Twenty stitches later, Addie said, “There. That’s the last one.” She cleaned the skin again and rewrapped Sam’s chest with bandages. “You’re to leave this on for five days and then carefully unwind it.”

“My sword?”

 “So impatient,” said Addie, but she smiled as she said it. She slipped out through the opening in the curtain surrounding Sam’s bed and returned with the bronze plated scabbard and sword. “It’s yours, to keep this time.”

Sam reached for it, but Addie held it close to her body. “Ah, before you go running off to the training grounds, I’m supposed to pass along a message from my father.”

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