Kalaya groaned and slowly opened her eyes. It took her a few moments to remember where she was. As she did, her mood slumped. The Temple. As she turned her head she saw the priestess standing in the doorway, looking at her impatiently.
„Get up! Now!“, she bellowed. Kalaya grumpily sat up on the edge of her bed.
The priestess turned and left Kalaya who was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She would never get used to being awakened like this. She had been at the temple for a couple of weeks now, but her fate still angered her every day. She realized that she deserved it, somewhere inside of her. But she would never admit it. She hadn’t even looked her mother in the eye as she had stood up after the fight. She had just silently left for the sleeping quarters. She knew what awaited her: a year at the temple to „find inner peace“. She huffed. Sure.
She heard the priestess rummaging on the upper floor and quickly got up. She knew that the priestess didn’t like to wait. She had experienced punishment when she had refused to follow her orders the first few days. She was still reluctant to carry out the dumb tasks the priestess bestowed on her but she knew better than to resist. It wasn’t worth starving, anyway. After changing, she shuffled upstairs and, still yawning, met the priestess in the corner of contemplation. The older woman looked at her disapprovingly.
„I can see that you are missing the necessary respect for the godess. That’s why you will sharpen your mind today with meditation and chess. Maybe then you’ll be able to see your foolish ways. Go!“
Kalaya rolled her eyes. Sharpen your mind, seeee the spirit, bla bla bla. What a great bunch of baboosh. But meditating and playing chess sounded a lot better than cleaning the kitchen, so she turned and walked up to rooftop quickly before the priestess could change her mind. She had to admit, the view from the Temple was quite breathtaking. She sat down on one of the meditation stools, taking in the sun rays warming her skin.
She breathed deeply and let her mind roam… Wait, what am I doing? This is stupid. She frowned. She wouldn’t be doing any actual mediating, would she? She was determined to not let the priestess get her down. She simply wanted to fight again as soon as possible. None of this was necessary. She wasn’t even allowed to train! How was she supposed to win this way? But maybe she could train… She smirked. She would train in her chamber, away from the priestesses nosy eyes. Then she would soon be strong enough, they would all see. The prospect of her upcoming triumph let her smile, but just as she was settling into a state of peace, the priestess came up the steps. Kalaya frowned and stood up. Couldn’t this woman leave her alone for once?
„It’s time for a round of chess to train your logical skills, come with me“, she announced and went off to the skill room, expecting Kalaya to follow her. As if she had a choice. Grumpily, she slowly made her way to the skill room. She would not jump after this woman like a dog. She still had her pride.
The priestess gestured her to sit down and they started their game, silently. What a waste of time. It’s not logic I need, it’s strength, Kalaya thought as she angrily slammed down a pawn.
As if the older woman had read her mind, she started to speak.
„Do you know, what it takes to win a fight?“
Her tone was friendly and not as demanding as before. Kalaya was so surprised that she momentarily forgot her anger.
„Strength“, she answered simply. Easy question. But the priestess shook her head.
„Strength is a part of it, but, what is more important, is discipline and cunning. You must concentrate, find your opponents weaknesses. Pure strength without skill will lead you nowhere.“
Since this was about the first time the priestess hadn’t yelled at her, Kalaya actually thought about her words. They seemed to make sense, too.
„But what use is cunning when you simply aren’t strong enough to overthrow your enemy?“, she wanted to know. The priestess smiled.
„Oh, there are ways, even without huge strength, with the right techniques you will be able to overthrow someone much larger than you.“
„But how, if you won’t let me train?“, Kalaya wanted to know, her anger slowly rising again. But the priestess only smiled.
„First, we train the mind, then the body. You lost because you had trained neither. It brought great shame to your mother and to your tribe. We will make sure it will not happen again.“
There was no accusation in the woman’s voice, just a neutral matter-of-fact tone. But it was worse than being yelled at. She was used to being yelled at, she was able to yell back and concentrate on that instead of the words. But when the priestess spoke in this quiet and neutral tone, she was forced to listen. And she realised that the priestess was right.