The Wager

- jan-u-wine

It is grey Spring in the city of the Sun's Tower.
 
Quiet keeps the ramparts where of late
 
blood ran
and men surrendered
 
naught
but their lives,
 
chill'd light playing
like the current
of a summer-slowed river
 
from high-flung turret
to common courtyard.
 
The Street of the Lampwrights lies within that courtyard;
the Old Guesthouse
 
keeps such Men which remain
of the Guard of the First Level.
 
I have wandered each circle of the White City this day.
 
Even the ghost-grey Pelennor has known the touch of my foot.
 
As the day dies, I find myself within the near-cheerless haven of the Guard.
 
The fire is all but spent inside the grate,
bitter remnants of more bitter wine sluggish within an age-stained skin.       
 
The Men of Gondor would instruct the Halfling Prince in card-play.
 
Like other games I have known of late,
I am proved inexperienced at deception.
 
Not so the Men of the Guard.
 
The knowing eye of one of them is not an arm's length behind me.
 
A whisper of advice dies upon his tongue.
 
He sees what there is to see, indeed,
that which I see: :
 
A Villain.  A Fool.  And two others, bearing the device of a heart, but of no royal bearing. .
 
He laughs, this man. 
 
His fellow sweeps up the gold-glint
laid ready upon the table between us.
 
The wine-roughed voice at my ear
insists
 
I have lost my hand.
 
I look again upon the wax-stiffened squares of parchment I hold,
(grease-stained edges chaffing  a certain bone-edged space)
 
a Villain......
 
a Fool.....
 
two loyal hearts......
 
Beneath renewed pain,
I am laughing,
 
The loss of a hand,
sir,
 
is naught
compared
 
to the loss of a finger;
 
a finger,
 
and that with which I wagered it.