Gunpowder residue is no substitute for kohl, Jack realises as the monks fall back from him like toppled dominoes wrapped in wheaty linens.
There are fine lines of black dust around River Song’s face, trailing from the hole in her forehead like soggy mascara. Her white Flesh face is already dissolving, much as a sugar cube in boiling water.
Black and white. That’s all there is, really.
But then a hand from the bed raises, uses the edge of the litter to press the rose on that gold, gold ring and slips steely, squarish fingers around Jack’s wrist, just as the two Flesh copies of the Doctor in Chinese brocade fall to the floor like rag dolls, their fingers wrapping around three other wrists, a small child’s, a woman’s, and the wrist of the man on the litter, whose eyes are alternating quickly between darkness and light. His face is a thick blind, burning and hidden.
But the light, fleeing its former husk, flows away in a stream of desperate splendour from the man, away from his eyes, away from his reach, through the ring and down Jack’s arm. Jack looks up, startled- but everything is peeling away, like the turn of a page. The light strains toward River, bursting through her. It then courses through Borusa before landing back on the ring, like a little fly, before winking out under the bedridden man’s gaze.
The semi-conscious man’s wakening face ignores the little light; he begins to smile. His eyes open on the room of people like black bead lenses, focusing dark suns on every naked face. He grins pearl teeth at the crowd and says one word.
To be continued in:
Master of the Two Worlds