What is your self worth?
“You set me up.”
Korr opened his eyes at the sound of Shylai’s voice when. She stood in the courtyard where they had sparred just the day before, leaning slightly to one hip. Korr squinted. She was silhouetted by the mid-morning sun shining directly into Korr’s eyes. He couldn’t see the expression on her face, but from the tone of her words, the angle of her head and shoulders, and the way her shadowed arms looked to be folded across her chest, he guessed she wasn’t happy.
He broke his meditation posture, stood, and bowed formally. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure that I understand.”
“You set me up,” she repeated, “so you could throw me down.”
His eyes narrowed, saddened. “I assure you, I didn’t intend…”
“You didn’t want to ‘practice against a sword’ or ‘learn from my training’ at all.” She shifted to her other hip. “You already think you know how to handle a sword. I don’t know if you wanted to stroke your prime dog dominance or whatever, but I don’t have to take it from you.”
What is she saying? He opened his hands, confused. He studied her eyes. Why such anger? I must have upset her.
She took a few steps back and drew her sword. “Well, then, let’s go again! I’m not afraid of you! Not afraid of any man!”
Korr hesitated. When she dropped into a combat stance, he withdrew and said, “I assure you, I had no intention of hurting you. I still don’t.”
“Are you afraid of me? Of a little girl?” She jerked forward in a feint, making him dodge back and set a defense. She asserted, “I can take you. I can’t promise I won’t hurt you, though.” She lunged and Korr stepped away in a dodge. She pressed him with a slash and he jumped with his hands up to avoid the blade.
I’m not ready for this! Korr swept his arms and reached back with his left foot to settle into stone stance. His heel hit up against the wall of the house. No room! Don’t look. Eyes on hers. Her dark eyes. Her narrow, angry, dark and deep eyes.
She smirked and turned away, stepping to one side of the courtyard before pointing to a place in front of her with her sword. “Go ahead, if you’re ready.”
What is she wanting? Is she trying to duel me? To kill me? He cautiously slipped to the point on the stone tiles where she had pointed and faced her. He crossed his right palm over his left hand and bowed deeply in salute. Then he stomped his feet deep into the stone. He bent his knees into a squat and felt his weight, his core, drop into the earth before him. His arms, muscles, and fists like stone, were ready at his side.
No. Not stone stance. I’ll need to be quicker, but still strong. He shifted his feet and his weight slightly forward and reached his consciousness outward. His arms raised slightly, his wrists turned down, with a little less tension. Thunder stance.
He nodded a bow to Shylai’a.
She brought up her sword, drawing tiny loops in the air with the tip as she started to circle him. His eyes never left hers, but his vision expanded to see the whole scene. What is she hiding?
She jumped forward with a downward slash. He shifted his hips and stepped aside. She swung back with a horizontal cut and he slid away, out of its path. She returned with a fast low swipe, flashing in the sun. He raised then turned his knee and her sword swept where his leg had been.
Shylai’a smiled as she eased back. Korr’s focus remained on her eyes. Shifting her sword in her grip, she began circling the other direction. Korr’s feet followed. He consciously slowed his breathing. Why is my pulse pounding?
She lunged with a sword thrust again. Korr swept it aside with his forearm against the flat of the blade, but she turned her wrist and the blade’s angle changed. Korr felt the sting of the slice cutting his arm. He aimed a strike at her arm with his other hand, knocking the sharp edge aside.
A trickle of blood began to flow down his arm. It wasn’t a deep cut. It could have been much worse if she had been trying harder. As they both continued circling, Korr studied her face, a harsh and crusted mask. He sensed there were many scars underneath it.
She attacked again with a series of quick slashes. Korr dodged and blocked, this time shifting inside to stop her strikes at her arms and wrist instead of blocking the blade. Again, she withdrew for a moment.
As he looked at her eyes, he saw they were less furrowed, not so narrow. “What are you afraid of?”
“What?” Her head drew back, the mask firm again.
Korr feigned to the left, then punched. She jumped back but held her defenses. Korr asked again, “You’re not afraid of me, not afraid to fight, so, what are you afraid of?”
Her chin jutted out with a grimace of irritated confusion. “Afraid?” She laughed. “Afraid? You and that old man both!” She swung her arms out wide in a shrug. “Why is everyone so worried about what I’m afraid of?”
Korr relaxed his stance, bowed, and turned to walk away. He picked up a rag and wiped his neck, then faced her again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry into your personal thoughts. I didn’t mean to belittle you, or lift myself up above you.” He wiped the blood from his arm, then added, “You are indeed an excellent fighter, and I have learned much. Thank you for your help.”
He bowed again, more deeply, then moved to the entrance to the home.
He paused as he stepped into the doorway. What did she say?
“I’m afraid… that this doesn’t matter. That I won’t matter.”
Korr frowned in surprise. This, I hadn’t considered. He crossed his arms and turned to her again.
She dropped her head, and her sword arm slacked at her side. “Things are getting strange and tense in this city. Everyone’s fighting. I don’t know who’s right or wrong. I’m afraid that someday I’ll die… I’ll get killed, or sick, or starve, or whatever, and that none of this…” She gestured around her, then to herself, “none of this will have mattered.”
Korr smiled. “Not too long ago, when we met in the battle on the street, you helped save many lives and families. I wonder if they think that any of this…,” he gestured to her, “matters.”
He stepped into the house.
Author’s Note: “What is your self worth?”
Shylai’a is a lot like me. Maybe I should say: I’m a lot like Shylai’a. We both go through times when we question our self worth. I wonder what my “self” is worth? The real problem is how to measure that. A lot of our society will equate your self worth with your “net worth”, or how much money you have access to.
Shylai’a wants to be important. She says here that she wants to matter. That’s another way of measuring self worth.
Both of these ring a bit false to me. I think that it matters much more what I think I am worth, and that’s tied to believing in what God thinks I’m worth.
To see how that all plays out for Shylai’a, you’ll have to stick around for book 4!