Haymich

“So,” Iver said, intently studying his wife’s alluring curvature. She glided over the narrow forest path; reins of the village horse named Daisy in hand. While her slender but muscular physique drew in his attention, the seductive saunter kept it. “What are we going to do?”

“Get your eyes off my ass for long enough to finish the mission and we will have the entirety of the evening to discuss the possibilities.”

“I refuse to avert my gaze from the glorious beauty that is your rear.”

Nadia snorted a laugh.

“May I touch it?”

“No.”

“Grasp it?”

“Iver!”

“Pinch it?”

“I hate you.”

He laughed.

Partially out of boredom, mostly out of curiosity Nadia allowed for her husband to catch up. Since the announcement that they were to be wed, he was very forward with his desires and intentions. While she questioned and analyzed her urges, he succumbed to them. Strong hands wrapped around her waist and his warm breath sent shivers down her body, something that did not go unnoticed. With one forceful jerk, Iver turned his wife to face him and leaned in for a kiss. Nadia moved her head to the side and gifted him a peck on the cheek instead.

“I’m a lucky man,” a broad smile bloomed on his face.

“Lucky man,” Nadia placed her fist under his nose. “Focus on the job. I’d like to finish this quickly so that we have more time later.”

“Ahem! Yes. Of course. We have a unique opportunity of escorting the slowest animal in existence to get the most boring food in the land. Nothing could be more…” he faked a yawn, “exciting than this.”

“Think of this as a buildup for the climax,” Nadia winked. “Besides, we don’t want to rush, do we?”

“We do,” he said. “We do, very much, want to rush.”

“And ruin the agonizingly prolonged ecstasy?”

Iver frowned. He took issue with two out of the three words she used.

Her lips touched his. “There,” she murmured. “Now be a good boy and behave.”

“You know, by feeding my overactive imagination you are really torturing me.”

Nadia grinned wickedly, broke free of his embrace and patted Daisy’s flanks. The old animal brayed and begrudgingly resumed her trudge.

“How many kids do you want?” Iver asked as his eyes involuntarily resuming the study of his wife’s anatomy.

“One.”

“Seriously? That’s it?”

“Yes. I want to give my child all the attention he or she will desire of me.”

“And when they stop needing your attention?”

“That’s when they will need yours.”

“I want at least one per year.”

“Uh-huh.”

“For thirty-seven years.”

“You don’t say.”

“Yep.”

“Are you planning on raising these children?”

“Yes, of course. You bring them into this world, I will raise them.”

“First, that’s not how it works. Second, will you raise them well?”

“I…”

Nadia stopped abruptly and faced her husband. “Jokes aside,” she said. “I think I will grow to love you, Iver. I believe that you are a good man. That said, I know what it’s like to be the youngest of seven children. I am not sure you know what it is like to so desperately want the love of your parents who can only communicate that affection via verbal confirmations. I do not want that for my child.”

Iver did not laugh at the sudden change in tone or mood. He looked Nadia into her light grey eyes and said: “my wife, I would never force you into a situation that you do not want to be in.”

Tension in her shoulders melted away and Nadia felt like she could breathe again. “Thank you.”

He took her hand, kissed it and tugged her forward. The slow horse continued its trek down the road while Iver enjoyed the feel of his wife’s head on his shoulder. Her thumb drew circles on the inside of his hand and made his heartbeat just a little faster. They walked in silence for almost an hour, neither wanting to ruin the moment with something stupid or out of place.

The disturbance of the peace came without warning. Bushes rustled; Nadia drew her short sword while Iver opted for the bow. A naked old man emerged just as Iver’s arrow pierced the ground at the intruder’s feet.

“Haymich?” Nadia gasped. Before her stood the same farmer whom they were going to visit.

The man did not reply. He would have looked drunk if not for the pale white eyes and ash grey skin. Covered in scratches and dirt, Haymich wheezed, took a wobbly step forward and sprayed the road with blue tinted vomit. Muscles in his neck looked like they were about to burst. Blood poured out of open wounds and his eyes rolled into his head.

Nadia turned away. The scene was disgusting, but more importantly concerning. She sheathed her weapon and, when Haymich finished, approached. The old man straightened and moaned. He did not as much as flinch at Nadia’s touch. She pulled him gently towards Daisy and, like an obedient dog, he followed.

“Haymich? How are you? It’s Nadia and Iver. We’ve come to pick up the grain. Are you all right?”

The farmer moaned, his expression not changing in the slightest.

“What is wrong with him?” Iver growled.

“I don’t know.”

“Doesn’t look right. We should get a move on.”

“How? He can barely…”

“Strap him to the horse.”

“N-no…”

“Nadia, please strap him to the horse and let’s go.”

The urgency in Iver’s voice, left little room for argument. When Haymich came within an arm’s reach of Daisy, she backed off warily and snorted a warning. Iver tried to force the issue by holding onto the ainimal, but Daisy wanted nothing to do with the farmer.

“Forget it,” Nadia said. “You take him, I’ll take her.”

Iver freed a rope from his pack and tied it around Haymich’s waist and wrists. While the old man did not resist, Nadia had to swallow her discomfort with the situation. With weapons at the ready, the procession kicked off at an accelerated pace. Keeping the deranged farmer close to the horse motivated Daisy to move faster. This made Iver concerned. He tightened his grip on the rope, clenched his jaw and prepared for the worst.