Armando stretches as he stands, feeling tired joints crackle in protest. It had been a long day, and the soldier was looking forward to a warm meal, a warm bed, and a warm wife. Reaching for the barracks door, the man’s wistful thoughts are interrupted by a loud, grating voice.
Armando manages to step back from the portal before it bursts open. Faisal storms into the room, carrying a pair of wooden practice swords.
“Ah”, grunts the General, tossing one of the two-handed blades at the soldier. “I am in need of an opponent. Now.”
Now? What in the bloody Gods’ names?
Shrugging, Armando follows obediently, grabbing his breastplate and helm as he walks out to the sparring pitch. The dark-skinned man stands in the middle of the space, a brooding look on his face.
What is he mad about now? Did someone’s goat not perform the proper prayers on the fifteen minute of the third day of who-the-hell-cares?
Slapping on his helmet, the soldier stands before the holy warrior, contemplating his first move. During his training sessions, Faisal never attacks first, always allowing his servant to set the pace of the battle.
Armando barely raises his wooden blade in time to parry the General’s first swing, the force behind the heavy weapon enough to send the smaller man back several steps.
What the hell is he doing!?!
The soldier regains his footing, returning the initial attack with only limited force, mindful that his erstwhile master has apparently forgotten to activate his armored medallion. His hesitancy is met with another ferocious attack, the General’s heavy blade clipping Armando’s leg and sending a jolt of pain up his right side.
Owww! God’s damn it! We’ll do it your way then!
Pain and anger rise up, and Armando counters with a feint to the lower left, spinning around for a strong overhand swing from the right. Faisal’s aggressive stance places the dark-skinned warrior off balance, and he is unable to adjust his defense in time to block the attack. Several soldiers gathering to watch the match groan sympathetically as the heavy wooden spar catches the General across the jaw, spraying blood in a wide arc.
Armando steps back, concerned about the damage, but Faisal merely spits out more blood and wipes the sleeve of his robe across his mouth before renewing his uncharacteristically aggressive attacks.
The battle rages for nearly a minute, Faisal’s furious assault often leaving openings for Armando to land punishing blows on the unarmored man. Summoning his own resentment and anger, the soldier begins to relish the feeling of punishing the irritating fool who has been the source of so much frustration in the past year.
A large crowd has gathered around the sparring pitch to witness the battle, but they are little more than a distant awareness as Armando lands yet another heavy blow on Faisal’s unprotected frame. The larger man flexes his shoulder and everyone winces at the sinewy crack of the joint popping back in place.
Uttering an unintelligible roar, the General launches himself at Armando, his practice blade arcing in a massive overhead swing. The heavy wooden sword smashes into Armando’s weapon, shattering the hardwood beam and continuing on. The soldier can feel the sharp pain of a shattered collarbone as the ferocious swing nearly crumples his breastplate. The smaller man is driven to his knees, the remains of his shattered blade dropping from numbed fingers.
Faisal stands over him, breathing heavily and staring down at his servant. The holy warrior reaches out and places a bloodied hand on Armando’s shoulder. The soldier can feel warmth emanating from the point of contact, infusing his shoulder with a pleasant sensation as the broken bone is restored.
“A thousand thanks, al-khadem”, says Faisal, exhaustion apparent in his voice. “You are dismissed.”
The Qadiran warrior drops his wooden blade and limps from the sparring pitch, blood still dripping from multiple injuries. Armando stares after him in bewilderment.
What the hell was that? Was he punishing me? Or himself?