Jonas landed hard on the stones of the parade ground, blood seeping from the deep gash in his leg. He retied the crude bandage, and forced himself to stand.
The rain fell.
The church was hours ago. It felt like weeks ago.
He had passed through the wet night, the sudden slide of cobblestone and slate roofs. A brace of once-men has surprised him in a narrow alleyway. His sword had prevailed, but one of the dark things had left the bleeding wound on his leg.
Now, at last he had pulled himself over the stone walls of the castle. An abandoned hay cart had provided a suitable ladder.
The windows of the castle blazed with green light. The same green light that filled the empty eye sockets of the dead of Gilead.
Jonas laid one chilled hand on the hilt of his sword. He pulled the good steel free, and stepped carefully through the open gates of the castle.
The subway stank. Yellow plastic, scrubbed by rot and ignorant crustaceans.
Clack. Ka-chunk. Clack. Ka-chunk.
George looked out the window, the stone walls and blips of color a gray river.
His suit had been nice once, the red tie brighter and well pressed. Now the shirt was stained at the cuffs, the elbows of the jacket patched with the wrong shade of black thread. His hair was thin, and his face lined.
The subway emerged onto a wide trestle, and he could see it.
The stadium. Four spotlights waved, yellow, white, green and blue.
He pressed his forehead against the glass, and closed his eyes for a moment. He could smell the grass.
George sighed, and leaned back. He brought a hand to his collar, and ran a finger around the silver collar at his neck.
He had been Shackled for years — but he never forgot that he was wearing it. Not once. Not even for a moment.
George dug into the white cup of boiled peanuts, and fished around for a large one. He pulled out one that suited, and popped it into his mouth. He looked at the stadium again.
Placing the cup between his legs, George stared at his right hand – at his fingers. He covered it with his left, like a lighter in the wind. He pushed his eyes close to the little cave of his fingers.
George snapped. The barest wisp of green sparks popped to life at the end of his fingers.
He leaned back against the seat. He closed his eyes, and smelled the grass of the stadium.
“Something there is to a task done well, a true task, a right task. The door-knob turns, and knows that is is doing exactly what it was made for.”
“Are you drunk?” Simon asked, waggling his empty wooden tankard.
Merridew glared across the table, bushy white eyebrows standing at attention. The elderly Yad-Elf
gripped a silver gravy-boat, clearly intended to sail the seas of a king’s banquet table. It was mostly empty, Merridew corrected this – refilling from a dark brown keg that kept the third chair occupied. He took a quick swallow from the business end of the container, all while continuing to glare at the gray-coated rogue sitting across from him.
“Cause you sound drunk. You’re talking about doorknobs. Knobs on doors – the little turny things.” Simon continued.
“That is not my point at all, you besotted simpleton. This is why I despise drinking with humans.” the elf said.
“I’m drunk. See? I said it. Feels good to say it. It is totally fine for you to admit that you’re drunk.” the rogue held his tankard to the keg, hand wavering.
Merridew sat the gravy-boat down, and massaged his temples with long, knobby fingers.
“I’m just saying that doorknobs have a clear purpose. A design suited for one action — and I was musing –”
“– MUSING that it has to be a nice feeling. Knowing that what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.” Merridew pointed across the table accusingly
The rogue chuckled, and sipped from his newly filled tankard. He managed to look contrite, and nodded seriously at the elf’s expression.
The old wood elf sighed, and spread his fingers across the top of the gravy-boat. He stared down through the spaces between, watching the foam settle on the dark amber liquid.
“There’s been a few times, I’ve felt it myself. The door-knob turn in my heart.”
Simon continued to nod seriously, and made a twisting gesture with his free hand. His serious expression was marred by the slurping noise as he gulped down ale.
“Door-knob. Got it.” Simon slammed the empty tankard down.
“I hate you.” Merridew said.
The old elf stood, and walked over to the closest door. He poured a generous serving of ale onto the pitted brass doorknob. Then he kept pouring until the gravy-boat was empty. He solemnly hung the empty silver bowl on the knob.
Simon rubbed his face and snorted.
“I’ll get a mop, old man. Unless you want to baptize the lamps?”
Merridew did not reply. He wrapped his long fingers around the brass knob and turned it swiftly.
Once. Twice. A third time.
The old elf smiled, his fingertips resting on the brass.