The Knight and the Fool
Note: I saw a picture of a clockwork like this once, except the first figure was Death, not the Knight
The tower clock in Hargrove Hall tolled the hour. Two doors opened below the clock face and two little figures, mounted on a rail, came out of the clock and met in the middle. The proud knight on his war-horse and the laughing fool in his domino. The figures bowed stiffly to each other; first the fool and then the knight.
He'd been sitting at the carrel for so long that his ass had gone numb. And he'd spent a lot of time in libraries, many of them less comfortable than this one, developing an impressive tolerance for the ass-numbing qualities of uncomfortable chairs. He was just shifting his weight again, trying to get comfortable, when the tower clock tolled.
He slammed the book he was reading shut. He was going to be late for his meeting with Jim. He started to shovel his notebooks back into his backpack, and then stopped to watch the clock figures. He was up on the fifth floor, the perfect height to see them. He watched as the knight bowed to the fool. The bow was stiff, as though the knight, with his iron spine, was having trouble submitting to the fool.
He grinned. Who could that possibly remind him of? Jim made the perfect knight, all the way down to the iron spine. Except that Jim's spine was probably not quite so literally iron. And if Jim was the knight, then he was...
He had no problem accepting his role as the Fool. The Fool was a misunderstood figure in modern cultures, relegated to the equivalent of stand-up comedian. But in medieval times, the Fool was the Magician, the Balladeer, the Storyteller, the Healer, the Trickster. And he knew he was all of those things. The Magician who came up with that strange new trick that helped the Knight focus his senses in a useful way; the Balladeer whose voice soothed an overwhelmed Knight's senses; the Storyteller who spun a story to cover the Knight's abilities or to help the Knight uncover wrong and deliver justice; the Healer who looked after the Knight's physical well-being and the Trickster who coaxed the reluctant Knight into exploring new sensory abilities, or into meditation, or even into eating something that was good for him that the Knight thought smelled funny.
He crossed his arms and bowed low to the departing metal figures. He was the Fool and proud of it.
The tower clock in Hargrove Hall tolled the hour. Two doors opened below the clock face and two little figures, mounted on a rail, came out of the clock and met in the middle. The proud knight on his war-horse and the fool in his domino. The figures bowed stiffly to each other; first the fool and then the knight.
Jim looked up at the clock. Sandburg had given him the complete tour of Rainier before, and the clock tower was a high point. It had come from a European castle, the gift of some wealthy castle-looting alumnus. Jim watched the figures as they bowed. The Knight and the Fool. He grinned. Sentinel and neo-hippy witchdoctor punk.
After, he could not have said what it was that alerted him, but he looked across the commons to the library and looked up. There, on an upper floor, was Sandburg, looking out the window at the figures on the clock tower, bowing to them. He was smiling that odd quirky smile that meant he was deeply amused.
Jim looked back at the clock figures. What did Sandburg see, with his slightly myopic eyes, when he looked at the old and worn figures, with the chipped black and white paint and warped railing? Jim knew the difference in their vision went beyond simple acuity; he saw things as they were, in great detail, and Sandburg sometimes saw things as they could be or should be instead of as they were.
The fool was skipping his way back to his home, looking like he had not a care in the world. The knight on his horse moved at the same speed, but his movements were jerky, as though he was heavily burdened. Jim knew the odd movements were caused by the warping of the railings the figures moved on, but they felt somehow appropriate.
It wasn't hard to feel like that knight, his back slightly bent. It wasn't hard to slip into self-pity and feel that the weight of the world, or at least Cascade, rested on his shoulders. But it was a weight he had chosen to take up, a duty he had agreed to perform. A Sentinel will always be a Sentinel, if he chooses to be.
And he didn't really carry the weight alone, just like the knight wasn't really alone. Twice a day, the knight came out to meet the fool. Twice a day they bowed to each other, giving and receiving respect, allegiance, even friendship.
His eyes shifted to the library door as Blair pushed it open and walked toward him. Though he carried his backpack, which Jim knew weighed close to thirty pounds when fully loaded, his step was light, as though he had not a care in the world.
Jim grinned and bowed, his smile widening as Blair laughed delightedly and bowed back
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