And so came his last visit to the storied city. Weary from a hundred battles, he traded his sword for an instructor’s baton, or used his contacts in the eastern provinces to set up as an importer in the Trade Quarter. Perhaps he found religion and tended in the orphans’ garden as a penitent: he employed his skill at fortifications in repair crews for the turrets of the New Wall, or turned his keen eyes to the stars. He became a tavern braggart, trading stories for pitchers of ale, or, perhaps, merely a beggar, without even a veteran’s freedom to pitch camp by Soldier’s Gate, since he had always been a mercenary.
Were he lucky, he might have risen to a sufficient rank to be able to court and marry she of the chrysoprase eyes, and they would have been happy enough. She would even have excused his habit, in later years, of talking to an empty room, as one might talk to a pet or a recalcitrant child.
He drank mulled wine by the hearth, ate coddled eggs with roe, and warmed himself, looking up at his sword on the mantel. Like so many other old warriors, he dreamt in readiness for his final farewell to Louchébem.