Slamming the empty goblet down onto the table, I wiped my lips against the sleeve of my tunic as I searched for my beloved Julay. She was nowhere in sight, but that was to be expected. She was the mistress of Galadria Inn, after all, and this place required more of her attention than I did.
I confess there are times I detest the fact that the running of this place takes up so much of her time. I rarely get to see her as it is, but I know this is the main source of her livelihood and I cannot begrudge her that. In truth, I’m truly amazed at how far she’s come with this venture.
She’d grown up on the streets of Arrogane, orphaned and alone, scavenging for food every chance she had. Stealing what she needed at every opportunity had kept her alive, but it had also gotten her into trouble. Sent off to the slave markets after being caught filching silverware from a noble’s home, her freedom had been purchased for a very steep price. If you could even call it freedom, mind you, for she’d been sent to Gossah’s Pleasure Emporium, a brothel found in the heart of Arrogane’s slums.
It was there that she learned the art of pleasing a man, while also devising a plan that would give her the ultimate freedom. While things never seemed to work out in her favor, she was able to leave that sordid life behind and make something of herself. Galadria Inn is her testament that all things are possible, even when it may not seem that way.
While ours was not an easy love, I treasured every possible moment that I spent with her. I’d come to her rescue one night when one of her customers had tried to rape her after she’d refused to service him. Standing at a mere five feet and six inches tall, the man had thought I was fair game. Never once had he given thought to being bested by one such as me.
Having lived in the palace all my life, I’d been raised as a soldier. Battles were my fort and it was because of this I’d been able to take down the ogre of a man that had tried to harm the object of my affections. I can safely say he no longer walks amongst the living. Nor would I want him to. Yet in a way, I owe him for having brought Julay and I together as we’ve been inseparable ever since.
“Hi there, handsome,” Julay replied as she sat down before me, breaking my reverie.
She pushed a brass stein towards me, the tan liquid within it sloshing onto the table. I grinned broadly and wrapped my hands around the cup. Gulping down its contents in one drink, I burped loudly as the warmth of the Solam Dinae spread within me.
This wonderful drink is known as ‘The Haze’ throughout Arrogane, for it’ll mess you up so royally you’ll never remember what you’ve done the night before. It’s that strong! I’ve drunk enough of this cat’s piss, though, that I’m practically immune to it. For the most part, anyway.
Mind you, this drink isn’t that sour. It’s actually quite sweet. Made from the finest hops and the sweetest of mangoes, its aged to perfection before the concoction is combined with a very strong honey wine. It is then aged for another year or so.
“Thank ya, Love,” I replied, tossing a second goblet down beside its mate. “Where ya been?”
Julay shrugged, her platinum-colored hair falling across her brow. Tucking a loose curl behind her ear, she smiled. “In the kitchens. Rajah has fallen ill, so it is up to me to do the cooking today.”
“It’s not the plague, is it?”
“No! Food poisoning, I think. His wife didna cook their meal properly last night. He’s been ensconced in the latrines for the better part of the day. I sent him home not too long ago. My customers were starting to get rowdy due to the lack of food and that, dearest, I canna allow.”
I returned her smile, reaching across the table to wrap my hand about her cheek. “You’re such a good woman, Jules. Whatever would I do without ya?”
“Die?” she chided, winking playfully at me as she pushed back her chair.
“That may be, Love. That may be!”
Curling a finger about the handles of each stein, she grasped them tightly within her hand and walked around the table to lock her lips with mine. I savored the kiss, sliding my tongue against hers. Several catcalls sounded throughout the room as I slid a hand across the curve of her hips and drew her downwards. She caught my wrist with her free hand and pulled it away before I was able to go any further.
“Not here. And certainly not now.”
Fighting the wave of desire that had begun to grow within me, I nodded. “When?”
“I don’t think I can wait that long.”
Releasing her hold upon my wrist, she drew the tip of a finger along the edge of my lips. “I’ll make it worthwhile,” she said, her voice husky with hunger.
I nodded. “Very well, then.”
She bent down to hastily press her mouth against my own and hurried away before I could pull her close once more. I kept my eyes trained on the curve of her backside as she stopped every now and then to address one of her customers. She soon disappeared into the kitchen without a backward glance. It was just as well, for I was sorely tempted to follow and have my way with her.
Tossing several coins onto the table, I pushed myself to my feet and strode out of the inn. Spending time with Julay could wait, I decided. There were more pressing matters that needed tending to. Untying my horse, I slid into the saddle and rode towards the palace in search of my lieutenant.