The Wind and the Rain
Charlie is glad that singing helps time to pass. He's done a lot of it over the years, chanting and muttering and occasionally breaking into full-fledged show tunes. Lullabies his mother used to sing; incantations he vaguely remembers hearing from someone tall and dark and bone-thin; arias that he's learned from the black birds that haunt the Tulgey Wood, though he can never quite hit those notes. His favorite kind of song, when he's feeling sprightly, is a sort of reel that is only possible to dance with three feet and a bellyfull of drink. The kind he sings most often is the kind that curls out of him while he's asleep, not so much words as smoky notes wafting, lofting, flying slowly away from him, leaving only memories caught in his mind and at the edges of his mustache.
He's especially glad for having been given a voice at a time like this.
"You dug that hole yourself?" the harbinger had asked him, in that skeptical tone. Charlie harrumphs violently at the thought. As though he can't do what he wants, when he wants it! As though he's too old for this sort of thing! Why, a knight never grows too old, not even when they are dead— and he's about to prove it.
Too old. Another snort, one which melds gently, turns softly, keens upwards and becomes the next stanza, the next wordless verse, of the ongoing melody.
The sound surrounds him, and though he knows there's always the possibility that the Jabberwocks may hear and approach, he fears neither beast nor man. He toils at a work that calls for unusual talents; and, if Charlie does say so himself, his talents, such as they are, are most unusual indeed. He has a cunning plan. He is going to save the girl, the day, the world. Really not bad, without even a cup of tea for support.
He's possessed of a talent for the black arts, it is true; but today, this day of all days, Charlie is using a shovel.
The graves are shallow and ill-built; he slices into them, grinning haphazardly, his teeth clenched, and all the while the song spilling out of him. The black birds are gathering over his head; they're beginning to find the rhythm, the note, the ominous silence that is lack of lyric.
The wind and the rain, Charlie thinks. Slicing rivers, carving hills like a turkey breast. Like time itself.
He hasn't much time; but what is time? Something that tells you when you should stop for a tea break. Can't be much use for it, then, can there? And this is a delicate operation. He opens the earth, spreading the rocky ribs carefully, reaching for the beating heart. Scalpel. Forceps. Bones beneath his hands. A backwards birth.
This one is old, impossibly old— and Charlie ought to know, for he buried them. He smiles at the bones as though at an old friend; exactly as though at an old friend. Charlie was a friendly child, after all.
The black birds have found their voices, and step side to side, heads bobbing. So Charlie takes up where he left off, sings about his cunning plan, about his bravery, his nobility, his steadfastness and loyalty. The legend of the girl, shining. The way the boy bit his lip and turned away.
The wind and the rain
The wind and the rain
Today will bring madness
Tomorrow bring pain
Ah well, thinks Charlie. Save their lives first, save their happiness afterwards. There was only so much a knight could do at a time. Wasn't there?
The rain and the wind,
The rain and the wind
Those who lie down
Shall stand up again
He arranges the brittle bones just so. It's going to be a job, carting the skeletons to the battlefield; but he is a knight, after all. He is eminently capable of doing "a job." Charlie chuffs to himself gently, smiling at his own foolishness. In the service of Alice, no job was too great. Or too small, though there seemed little likelihood that smallness will be asked of him. And if it is, well! There is always that mushroom he's gone past so many times. One side to help him grow bigger, one side to help him grow smaller. He can never remember which one was which, but there is a time for everything and everything in its time.
He admires his handiwork, head nodding gently, chainmail chinking.
Approximately nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine to go.