Shrugging off the prayer shawl and throwing the blanket on the bed, he stepped out of his tunic. His body was compact, narrow in frame. There was no fat on him, though the skin sagged and wrinkled in the way of old people. A mat of gray hair covered his arms and chest, and he stood on strong, well-formed legs. Once, he'd been quite vain about his legs.
Taking up a chamber pot, the old man relieved himself and set down the pot by the door. He moved to the table and dipped his hands into a basin, rinsing his face in the frigid water. Letting the water run down his forearms (in the manner of his countrymen), he dried himself and hurriedly dressed.
It was time to get on with his day.
The adjoining room was larger and lighter than his own, serving as kitchen, meeting area, and bedroom for the rotation of soldiers assigned to guard him. The old man smiled at the snoring figure stretched upon the bed. This particular guard liked his drink in the evening and often slept later than was strictly permitted.
Quietly pouring the wastes from the soldier's chamber pot into his own, the prisoner eased out of the apartment and descended three flights of stairs to the ground floor. Opening the gate leading from the courtyard, he emptied the contents of his pot into the street.
The city was awakening. He paused to drink in the sounds of the morning—the clanking of pots, the strident hawkings of optimistic vendors, the sizzle of cooking fires, the grunts and curses of men carrying burdens, the clip-clop of horses' hooves. Upstairs in the apartment building, he could hear children crying and spouses taking up afresh the arguments of the night before. He felt the rumble of a heavy wagon carrying its load to market.
The old man loved mornings. He loved these sounds.
With a sigh, he turned and went back upstairs to his apartment. The soldier was sitting up in bed, his head held gingerly in his hands.
"It's early for you, isn't it, Rufus? God be with you!" he called softly.
"And the Devil take you," growled the soldier. His head pounded and his mouth tasted stale and dry. He sat very still, hoping a lack of motion would calm his aching temples. Through half-closed eyes, he watched as the old man rebuilt the fire in the stove and set a pot of water to heat. Running a calloused hand over his face and eyes, Rufus swung his feet to the floor and waited for the room to stop moving.
As he did every morning, when his turn to guard this prisoner came up in the rotation, the grizzled soldier told himself how fortunate he was. This was not bad duty. The bed was warm and dry. He could sleep through the night. There was nothing dangerous about the prisoner. Not the worst duty Rufus had ever drawn.