It is grey Spring in the city of the Sun's Tower.
Quiet keeps the ramparts where of late
and men surrendered
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
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)
two loyal hearts......
Beneath renewed pain,
I am laughing,
The loss of a hand,
to the loss of a finger;
and that with which I wagered it.