The Game

Photo by Keenan Constance on Unsplash

You can read the story from the beginning here. This episode is inspired by Writing Prompt Number 24

Noah inched a little closer to Martin. “Why are we in this pit?” he asked.

Martin sighed. “That’s a reasonable question. Unfortunately we are not dealing with reasonable people.” He caught Noah’s anxious glance over at Lady Freydis. “It’s okay. Layd Freydis would be appalled and offended to be described as reasonable.” He shook his head. “This is apparently neutral ground as far as the fairy domain goes and Lord Richard has configured it to look like a gambling hell.” He caught Noah’s confusing. “They used to call them gambling hells, the clubs where gentlemen came to gamble, back when men wore powdered wigs, long before casinos. Gossip says that Lord Cerdig lost a fortune then and has been scrabbling to recoup it since.”

“So why isn’t he playing?” Noah asked.

“Gambling is like strong drink,” Martin said. “It can take over a being. He’s not going to risk slipping back there. Instead he set up this game between Lord Devlin and Sir Thomas. I suspect that neither of them has spent much time playing poker.”

Noah looked around. The room was dimly lit and smoky. The brightest light hovered above the players who were expressionless as they checked their cards. Brownies circulated with trays of wine and finger food, winding through the gathered courts of Lord Cerdig and Lady Freydis. In a dim corner, Noah could make out Dave was talking urgently to Steve who was looking concerned. Mia was whispering with Cyan and Kadogan and Miss Marianne were in earnest, whispered conversation conversation with two of the deadly strangers that had followed Lord Cerdig into the room. Sir Thomas laid down his hand and impassively gathered up the chips in the centre of the table. “What’s going on?”

“Damned if I know,” Martin said. “I think that it’s mostly elfen being elfen. I love my wife dearly but this seems to be one of those moments when you have to ride the currents because you have no hope of steering.” He caught up a glass of deep red wine from the tray of a passing brownie. “I don’t think that the game is actually anything to do with it. They’re playing for chicken stakes. Each chip is worth a penny.”

Noah looked around. “It’s like Casino Royale,” he said. “They should be playing for millions.”

Martin took a long drink of wine. “I think that the game is meant to distract us. The court watches the game while Lady Freydis and Lord Cerdig sort out some negotiation.” He frowned. “Lord Cerdig has been angling to marry Lady Freydis for a while, but that’s not going to happen.”

Noah felt the brief flicker of darkness that Martin allowed to show on the surface before regaining control and fought back a shudder. “Lady Freydis is devoted to you,” he said. “But perhaps it’s business. You know, like the White Hart. You said that Lord Cerdig was broke.”

Martin looked at Noah thoughtfully. “You may be onto something there. Steve Adderson has been looking to expand recently but he hasn’t found any suitable sites. The last few attempts have been duds.”

“Lady Freydis doesn’t own the White Hart,” Noah said. “She works there, and she interferes there, but she’s not an owner.”

Martin looked at the two princes in the corner, then at the players, and then back at Noah. “You may have a very unnerving point.”

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