The Cost III

The wide hall was silent.

Each door that the squire passed was flung open, green corpse light gleaming.

A group of dead children and their governess, chests and lips covered with yellow vomit. They were laid out in a perfect circle, feet to the center.  A basket of apples placed at the center.

By Rudrik.

Three men dressed as nobles slumped around a silver table.  One man’s arm had been cruelly spiked to the table,  the flesh and bone laid bare. Golden forks and knives were still clutched in all three’s hands – gibbets of meat hung from all three’s lips.

The green doorways opened their arms, as Jonas began to move faster.

A fat man that brained himself against a stone ledge.

A room stacked high with furniture, dressers and bureaus pulled in close. A thick stench rose from the center of the barricade.

Two skeletons huddled in the ashes of a massive marble fireplace, hands still clasped.

Jonas found broad stairs, and climbed.

He kept his eyes on the steps ahead, and forced his wounded leg to move faster.

The final step caught him unawares, and he stumbled forward. His shoulder screamed as he crashed into a stone pillar. He leaned against it for a moment and caught his breath.

He heard laughter, and jerked his head up.

The wide doors were twenty feet high and enameled with steel and silver. They were slightly open, and the sound of brittle glass-laughter came from within. The green light was brighter here, forcing him to squint as he stared at the crack between the doors.

Jonas took a step towards the door, then stopped. He passed his sword from hand to hand for a moment, wiping the sweat of his palms on his sodden trousers.

Glass-laughter, knife-laughter – the laughter of breaking. It sounded again, and the squire found himself backing up slowly from the door.

He leaned his head forward, shaggy hair fallling forward. He gripped the hilt of his sword , each knuckle a sickly yellow-white.

Too far. Too far to turn back now. I must know what happened here, I must.

Jonas of Gilead stepped through the silver doors.

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The Cost II

Jonas closed the door behind him, the sound of rain hushed.

The grand entryway was covered with mushrooms. Sickly, purple and pulsing slightly – as if each bulb was taking a slow breath.

The green light bloomed from a pair of corpses sprawled on the marble stair. A pair of guards. The squire moved towards them, but then stopped. He didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to find the faces of old friends rotting on the steps. The light seemed to pour out of the vicious wounds on their neck and back, like an echo of blood, burning green and merry.

Jonas kicked the mushrooms aside in disgust and made his way up the steps.

At the top of the stair, a hand print had been charred into the wooden door. The squire placed his own hand next to it, to compare. The other hand  was thinner, long fingers splayed.

Is this the devil? Luthen’s devil?

The squire wiped the water out of his face, and entered the hall.

Door-knob.

“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

Artist Unknown

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 –”

Simon burped.

“– 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.