Armando trudges down the dirty street, barely able to lift his feet. His exhaustion makes every dark corner of Firenze seem like an inviting place to curl up and sleep. Only the thought of lying in his own bed, with his wife, keeps the man moving forward.
It had been bad enough distributing food and cleaning up the damage in Fort Drelev, or Freeport, or whatever the hell they were going to call the place. But after the elf had brought them back to Tuskany, the general had expected him to clean his gear and complete his chores before he was allowed to return home.
Lousy outlander… Why does it matter if this new breastplate sparkles in the middle of the night? I should’ve smashed it over his head. At least he can’t make me polish that armor amulet thing he wears…
The soldier continues his endless journey home, his pack threatening to drop and drag in the mud. His debt to the Qadiran warrior was only weeks old and he already regretted not asking to return to the slave market and take his chances with another buyer. One thousand days of service hadn’t seemed so bad at first…
Reaching the front door of his home, Armando notices candlelight dancing in the bedroom window.
Jemeen is up late. Maybe she knows I’ve returned.
Energized by the thought of seeing his wife, the soldier pushes open the portal and calls out, “Sweetheart! I’m back!”
An exclamation of surprise is punctuated by a heavy thud as something hits the floor in the other room. Jemeen’s voice calls back, “Armando! You’re back! I… hadn’t expected you home for days… um… I’ll be out in a second!”
Too tired to think, Armando nearly collapses into the kitchen chair, grateful for the leftover mutton still on the dinner plates. One of the goblets still has some wine, and the soldier savors the taste of luxury as if it were his last.
Several more thumps from the bedroom announce Jemeen’s appearance, hastily wrapping a housecoat over her naked body. Although her hair is in disarray, she appears as lovely as the day they were wed, lips rouged, eyes darkened, and cheeks flushed with excitement at his return. Breathing quickly, she stammers like a nervous bride on her wedding night.
“You’re back!”, she repeats. “Oh… you found the leftovers from dinner. I… I invited Patrina over to keep me company… ah… I didn’t have time to clean up.”
Jemeen jumps in response to a loud thump and curse from outside the house. Armando stands quickly, ready to investigate, but his wife laughs loudly, waving him back to his seat.
“Oh, it’s probably just the boys from down the street. They’ve been out late the past few nights. No doubt getting in to mischief. I found one of their toys in the garden just yesterday.”
Armando frowns in confusion, unsure why the kids would be out this late, or how a ten-year-old boy learned how to curse like a seasoned soldier. But he shrugs and sits down, taking another bite of the meat. “I’ll go tomorrow and set them straight.”
“Oh… No! No”, replies his wife, offering pour him more wine. “I’ll speak with their mother myself. You’ve had enough to deal with, what with being gone from home for weeks at a time, and having that pompous outlander ordering you around…”
Armando mumbles an incoherent reply around a mouthful of food, nodding in agreement. He rises, swaying a little with the effects of exhaustion and wine, and reaches toward Jemeen with a hungry smile on his face. The woman steps aside, wrapping the garment tighter around her body.
“You’re so tired you can barely stand, dear. Why don’t you get ready for bed while I clean up a little?”
Armando is too exhausted to argue, and stumbles into the bedroom, nearly tripping over Jemeen’s dress lying near the door. Having only enough energy to strip off his boots, he collapses into the rumpled bed.
She even perfumed the pillows to help get me in the mood…zzzzzzz…