I was chosen. I didn't understand why. I was a woman–a girl to some– I had no business protecting the General from assassins. Yet, there I stood, somewhat nervously, in the greeting hall, waiting for the General himself to finish his dinner.
He walked slowly down the stairs that led to the upper level o his home. I was astonished to find him so young, so entrancing. Power radiated from his stance, from his gaze, even the way he spoke. Quickly I straightened myself up and saluted him. "General." I managed to say. My throat was dry.
He nodded curtly. "Your name?"
Hadn't anyone told him my name? I wondered, slightly shocked. "Liv, Sir."
"General Ander, but I suppose you already know that."
I nodded and fidgeted slightly. Would I stand there all evening? I watched as the General turned and walked back up the marble staircase. "Come!" he said sharply.
I followed him up the stairs and into a long hallway. We had gone only a few paces when another long hall intersected the main one, leading to the left and right wings of the building. The General then entered a set of double doors. His office. I had heard many rumors about this room. Men had died here, some even killed by the General himself. Secret passages were said to lead wel past the lake and deep into the heart of the mountains.
Ander sat behind a dark mahogany desk and clasped his hands together. "Would you like to see your file?" he questioned. I could not tell if he was trying to humiliate me, or if he was simply being sincere. He reached for a leather-bound notebook and opened it, his eyes scanning the contents nonchalantly. "Aren't you curious as to why you were appointed to me when your training hasn't been completed yet?"
My eyes darted wildly around the room. Was I being sentenced? Had I been discovered? Why had Ioreck done this? "General, I–"
He held up one hand and I froze. "Ioreck spoke to me. He said that he was too old to finish your training, that your skills had moved past his level. Yet he assures me that you still have more to learn. He wishes for me to finish it."
My mouth must have fallen open because the General began to laugh. "You shouldn't be so surprised, Liv. It would be my pleasure to train 'the best young woman bodyguard seen in fifty years'. Ioreck could not stop complimenting you. "
I bowed my head and let my red hair slide forward to conceal the blush that came to my cheeks at the praise. This man, of all men, could not know my secret. He would turn me in and I would be hung for lying to a superior officer, if he did not kill me himself. "Thank you, Sir. It is an honor to be your student.
The General smiled. "Good. You will sleep in a room that is adjoined to mine. Every morning you will sweep the entire house for intruders. Then you will got to the cook and get my breakfast. It will be brought directly to my office. Then it is up to you to find your own breakfast and report back to me. After that I will begin to test your weaknesses. We will break for lunch and then continue. Dinner follows that. I will then retire here and u will make another sweep of the house. Then, if I have nothing else for you to do, you may do whatever you would like, within reason."
"Yes, Sir." I murmured.
"When I have guests, not only will you watch me, but you will watch them as well. When I go to a public function, rare, but known to happen, you once again, will not leave my side for anything – even if I tell you."
"Yes, Sir." I said, wondering why the General was so concerned about his guests. It showed that he didn't trust them.
"While working for me, you will wear a uniform, which I will provide: black pants, black shirt, black boots. Understood? I will have you fit within the week."
"You will be paid at the end of every month. No sooner, and no later, although I don't know why you would want to delay your pay."
The General then turned his attention back to his desk. It seemed for the moment I was forgotten. "Sir?" I asked quietly, and when he didn't look up, a little louder.
"Yes." he answered, looking up. His green eyes were bright and they seemed to hold mine for too long.
I looked down. "Will I be able to visit Kest to buy some clothing . . . and such?" I was not about to tell this man that I needed to see an herbalist in a few weeks.
He pondered it for a moment. "We will see. It depends on your behavior. Please, sit. I just must sign these papers and then I will show you to your room." His pen flickered across one page and then another. "I do not have many who live with me, as im gone most of the year, training recruits. Speaking of which . . . I must go to Alesandra in a month. There I will be training again."
Crestfallen I looked at my lap. I knew no one here and would know no one in Fort Alesandra. I was a stranger among friends. And did the General even intend for me to accompany him?
"There!" The Generl said after a few moments of silence. "Come, Liv." I followed him out of his office and shut the door behind us. He took an immediate left at the intersection and then stopped at the first door. "This room will be yours. It is connected to the rest of my suit through that ivory door." He pointed at the white door and then let his hand drop. He took a seat in one of the plush chairs that the room hosted. "As a precaution, more for your safety than anything else, the door to this room will be locked each night."
I frowned at this. "You don't trust me, Sir?"
He cleared his throat. "As I said, its more for your protection. And you're right– I don't trust you. I hardly know you and you're a woman. Its rare enough to see one of you in the military, but a Bodyguard?"
I let my eyes flicker away from him. "It isn't my fault that my parents could not conceive you a son. I'm sorry to be such a bother." My voice was so bitter that I almost didn't recognize it. Many times I had been insulted and taunted because of my gender, but almost never by a high ranking officer. They knew my skill and talent and respected me for it. And, Ioreck didn't tolerate it.
"Liv, I meant no disrespect." the General murmured. "I was only voicing my surprise."
"Forgive me then, Sir."
"For what? Defending yourself? Don't be daft. Just because I am an officer does not mean that I cannot be wrong."
I nodded, masking my surprise. My heart was hammering away in my chest, a result of the adrenaline that had coursed through me when I had defended myself. Finally I allowed myself to relax enough to look around at my new lodgings. They were plain, as I expected, but all that mattered was a bed. I dreaded sleeping on the ground, not only because it was painful, but because the pain it caused me could easily give me away.
"Are you happy here, Liv?" the General asked.
"I–I've only been here an hour, or so, Sir." I responded, confused by his question? How was I to know when all I knew about him was what I had heard from others?
"Allow me to rephrase. How do you find your life as a Bodyguard?" He was watching me closely now, waiting for anything that would give me away.
I stammered under his gaze. "I–I– I have known nothing else, Sir, so I have no comparison, but I do nor find myself listless or bored." That was the truth. Ioreck's training had kept me on my feet for the six years I had spent with him.
"Good. I would hate to find that abhorred your duty. How old are you, Liv?"
I resisted the urge to flush, this time with anger at Ioreck. "While in training I was not allowed to be courted, so of course not."
"You didn't like that." he commented. I wondered if he was analyzing my mind, asking all of these pointless questions.
I shook my head. "Even though I cannot love the way a normal person can, I am still attracted to men. I still want the things that other women want. I thought that there were enough restrictions in my life, but when I presented that idea to Ioreck, he disagreed."
The General let out a short laugh. "Liv, there are no restrictions on that here, so long as I am informed an agree to your suitor."
I breathed a sigh of relief, although I doubted that I would be able to find a single man even remotely interested in me, I knew that I was lucky to have escaped further questioning.
Finally he stood and went to the door locking it and tucking the key into his shirt. "Good night, Liv. Sleep well."