“You’re still too tense,” Maelys said. “I told you, you need to loosen up.”
“I am loose,” Varra replied, teeth clenched. This was getting ridiculous.
“You’re even worse than I was,” he sighed. He put his hands on her shoulders and pressed against them, gentle but firm. “Drop your shoulders. Stop carrying your arms. Let them fall.”
With a deep breath, she realized what he was talking about and let the muscles relax. Her posture eased, and she wondered how long she had held herself stiff like that, oblivious.
“Good start,” he nodded in approval. He sat across from her, legs crossed. He mimicked her actions so that she could see how his own body changed with her movements, though in the dim light it was difficult to make out subtleties and slight changes. “Now relax your hands.”
She looked down to see her fists balled up in her lap. They weren’t tight, but her muscles still kept them shut. She opened them.
“No, no, that doesn’t count,” he chided. “Just because your hands are open doesn’t mean they’re loose.” He took one of her hands in both of his, but she pulled it away.
“I’m not a child, Maelys.”
He looked up to meet her eyes. “Neither am I.” There was no malice in that response. With his eyes he gestured back down, and she followed his gaze to see that his hand was still extended. Not a command. A simple suggestion. She placed her hand in his.
He cupped her wrist in one hand, holding her palm up, and with two fingers he trailed up and down her skin. She felt a chill at the sensation and her breath caught. The two were silent as he trailed her palm, and she could feel the muscles in her hand relax. She stole a glance at him, to try to glance a little bit of what she thought she had seen before, when he was meditating. A soft serenity, his hair seemed to be lighter, as if underwater, and she thought she saw a faint… glow?
But she couldn’t be sure of that. Maelys had used magic before, that much she was certain of, but the light was dim here, and she wasn’t even positive that he had been doing anything magical at all. He certainly didn’t seem to think so. ‘Mind projection’ he had called it. No magic. You weren’t seeing anything that was there, necessarily. It was just a thought experiment, according to Maelys.
In any case, she saw none of that glow now. He looked up to see her staring, and she turned away. Was she… blushing? That was absurd. He was a child. Plus she had Eathe. And yet…
“You don’t have to think about your breathing, you know. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”
“I… what?” At that moment she realized she hadn’t exhaled for some time, and she let it out all at once. What was getting into her? “Right.”
He took her other hand, and repeated whatever he was doing before. This wasn’t magic, she decided. The magic she knew about wasn’t as subtle as this. But she did like it. She had had massages before, of course, but this felt different somehow. Maelys was personally helping her relax and forget the world around them. Or above them, as the case may be. That was his first lesson—there would be no talk about plans or worries. Meditation was all about focusing on the present self and forgetting everything else.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
He shook his head. “No, that’s not what I meant. How do you feel? Describe it. Close your eyes, if that helps.”
She did close her eyes. “I feel… cold. And my body aches. I’m not used to sitting on cobblestone.”
“Do you feel any tenseness anywhere? Focus on every body part. Do a scan. Loosen your jaw, check to make sure your shoulders and arms are relaxed. That sort of thing. But also keep your back straight.”
She concentrated for about a minute. “Okay. Now what?”
“Now we get to the fun stuff,” Maelys said. Even with her eyes closed she could hear the smile in his voice. “Just don’t get frustrated if you can’t get it to work the first time you try it. It took me weeks to get it right.”