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Monday, September 22, 2014
There are those who are happy to be depicted in games and there are those who are not. Alasdair falls in the latter category:
“Well, I’m glad to see your game is undisturbed,” said Alasdair, approaching the table. “Rautu is trundling about the keep, taking every pair of dice he can find and giving them to Khaasta to playwith.”
The commander glanced over the table, perlustrating every hand, every resource, every deck. “My mate has been here,” said she, laughing.
Alasdair’s gaze narrowed, and he studied the table again. “Did he take your dice?”
“It’s alright, Uncle Alasdair,” said Vyrbryn. “We’re playing a game without them.”
“And doing admirably at that,” said Brigdan, his eyes crinkling with smile lines.
Alasdair glared at Boudicca with conscious agitation. “Please talk to him.”
“Talking will do nothing, I assure you, Alasdair. He will argue with me until he’s argued himself a hole in the ground. This is primarily a farming game, and though there is an element of chance in it, he will claim that it is not an inaccurate representation of farming and that the girls are eroding their minds by playing such a shameless travesty rather than going out to the field and learning to farm as it should be done. He would rather have them turning a breastplough than sitting nicely around a table, planning out their next year’s harvest. You should ask Vyrdin to talk to him. I’m certain their sentiments on the subject would be the same, being the most practical and correct men in the whole kingdom. My mate only does what your good breeding tells you not to do. Should you dare to go against your cultivated sense of propriety, dice would have been banished years ago and Rosse should have been forced to walk the length of the gallery in a breech cloth.”
Alasdair frowned, divided between misery of self-assurance and the concession of knowing her to be right, the temptation for denial too great and the reward for silence too precious to surrender; he would only fold his arms, pretend to be mildly disinterested, and turn toward the table, where sat the girls in a reverential equanimity, taking and passing cards, planting their fields, building their settlements, and frowning in profound meditation.
“What are these little plaques you all have next to you?” said he, looming over the table. “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen these before.”
“They’re player pieces, Your Majesty,” said Blinne. “For this edition, they’re all supposed to be modeled after Frewyn’s famous kings.”
“Oh yes, I see,” said Alasdair, picking up one of the plaques from the box. “Here is Allun with his great pelt, here is Breian with his full traditional sash, here is my grandfather with his robe and crown—though he only wore it for ceremonies, I don’t know that he would like being depicting in it as though it were a more permanent fixture on his head—and who is this?” looking with confusion at the player character laid before Maggie.
The character was painted in recognizable dress: the character was wearing Alasdair’s wedding jerkin, the one modeled after the jerkin his father had left to him, with its white embossed brocade, golden tassels, and family embroidery, but the rest of the image was so unfamiliar to him that he could hardly guess at who the character was meant to be. It could not be Allande, for though he had been king, he was generally thought as one of the most destructive and hated kings in Frewyn’s recent history. Was it meant to be his great grandfather, the Grand Duke? No, he had never been king, it could not be him. Perhaps his father? But Draeden too had never taken the throne, and the aspect was so far from being Draeden’s—the hair was too light, and the eyes were the wrong colour—that it was impossible for the image to be one Frewyn’s beloved Prince. And yet, how could it be? It could not be himself: its misconstrued features, its disastrous tuft, its pretentious air bore no semblance to anyone in his family, and yet the attire was so familiar. He turned the plaque every which way, desperately trying to decipher who it could be, when Ouryn cried out, in a giggling voice, “That’s you, Uncle Alasdair.”
Alasdair was instantly aghast. “Me?” holding the plaque away from his face and grimacing at it. “No, this cannot be me.”
The girls glanced at one another.
“But it has your jerkin,” said Vyrbryn.
“It might, but this looks nothing at all like me. That’s not my face, and that’s certainly not my hair.” He glowered at the plaque, disdaining it for its misshapen expression and shameless want of fashion. “How can you say this is me?”
“Because it looks like you,” said Maggie.
“How does this at all look like me? Look, the cheekbones aren’t the same, and jaw is too wide, and the nose is much too long to be mine. Besides that, how can I be in this edition if this has to do with the historical kings of Frewyn? I’m the current king.”
“But you’re one of Frewyn’s greatest kings, Uncle Alasdair. The box says so.”
Alasdair’s brows contracted and his features grew stern. “Let me see that box.”
The box was given over, and Alasdair read the description of the edition with speaking concern. “Breian’s reign edition,” he read aloud, “now featuring the great kings of Frewyn’s various golden ages: First King Allun, Brave King Breian, UiNeill the Bastard, Good King Dorrin, and King Alasdair.” His shoulders withered. “Well, they might have given me some sort of title. As it is, I sound tacked on.” He looked at the picture of the kings depicted on the box and then again at the plague. “I refuse to believe that this is meant to be me. There must be another character plaque in the box somewhere that is me.”
“But there are only five characters, Your Majesty,” said Peigi, “and all five are on the table. That one is the only one dressed like you.”
Alasdair examined the plaque of himself and flurned in grave displeasure. “That isn’t me,” he insisted. “Look, the eyes are too far apart, and the teeth aren’t right, and the face is far too wide—my face is never that fat—“ and realizing he said the forbidden word in Martje’s kitchen, he crouched, looked charily about, hoping the cook was not anywhere near, and whispered, “My face isn’t that fat.” And then, in his usual hue, he continued, “that’s not even my eye colour. I have green eyes, and here they are brown, you see? That’s not even the colour of my hair, let alone the style. This looks as though the character has plastered a mop on his head. My hair is much lighter than this, ” holding the plaque beside him for comparison. “There, you see? How can you say this looks like me?”
“It does look like you, Your Majesty,” Blinne kindly asserted.
The commander looked coy. “You ask me to negate the opinions of five women, Alasdair, and while we women are trifling creatures most of the time, our powers of observation when it comes to recognizing attractive men are infallible.”
“This does not look like me,” said Alasdair, growing distressed.
“And why not? I daresay it’s just as handsome as you, and it is as well dressed. You can have no complaints there.”
“Carrigh will settle this,” Alasdair demanded. “Where is she?” looking about the kitchen. “I saw her pass by not long ago-- Carrigh,” calling to his wife and summoning her as she rustled along the hallway. She stopped at the threshold, but before she could say her usual yes sires, Alasdair held the plaque beside his face, and said, “Is this me?”
Carrigh came farther into the room, inspecting the plaque with a tapered gaze. She stopped, looked bemused, and after witnesses her husband in his state of subdued panic, she laughed behind a raise hand, her eyes twinkling in high glee, and said, “Well…”
“Well, what? This isn’t me. Right? No, it’s not me. It’s some other king whom they’ve botched for the first printing of this game. See? It cannot be me. Your expression tells me so, and you’re not saying anything because you like to see me in a passion about these things. No, this isn’t me. It’s not. There,” turning to the girls, “Carrigh agrees with me.”
“I didn’t hear Aunt Carrigh say anything, Uncle Alasdair,” said Maggie.
“She said it by not saying anything. Look,” pointing to Carrigh’s blithesome expression. “There, you see? She is trying not to laugh at how ridiculous this plaque that is pretending to be me but is not me is.” He held it away from his face and looked at it, frowning and mumbling to himself, “This isn’t me at all,” when a voice from the doorway shouted, “Have they made a picture of you? How very adorable that is!”
Alasdair turned, and there was a familiar face hastening toward him, bustling toward the table in an exuberant hue, and even pushing Alasdair aside to take up the plaque he had just put down.
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Monday, September 15, 2014
They turned toward the table, where Danaco stood amongst the children, mantling over the
“There is your Galleisian fluyt,” Danaco pronounced, holding the ship to the light. “So much for your complaints that the Galleisians were egregiously underrepresented. Well, now we have our ship, but she must have a name and a berth. What shall we call her?”
“How about the Marghilesse?” said Dorrin.
“Aye,” Little Jaicobh chimed. “My ma’d like bein’ a ship.”
“Named after your mother, is it?” said Danaco, with the fondest smile.
“I am very sure she thanks you. It is not every day that a woman has the chance of being named after a such a glorious vessel. Come,” holding the paper ship to the children’s level, “where shall we put her? She has no use of a name if she has no place to put her moorings.”
“In Erieanneann,” said Soledhan, stabbing his finger at board.
“But does your annex have a port? Well, there is an estuary there, I perceive, and as we have built a ship, why should not we build a port? Go on, take it and place it there, and then we shall take her out for her maiden voyage.”
“Mr Captain Danaco sir?” said Little Jaicobh.
“By Myrellenos, so many tender appellations! How they do grow every time you address me. Do call me captain, if you must call me anything that is not Unpalo.”
Soledhan’s nose scrunched. “The Lucentian word for uncle?”
“Well, you are relations, are not you? Houghleidh is rather a son to me, and Cabhrin by association a grandson. I am old enough to be your grandfather twice over, though I do not look it by Frewyn or Marridon standards—and why should not you call me Unpalo? You see me often enough to be familiar with me, and you have other Lucentian and Marridonian cousins, though they are not by blood-- which means just nothing at all—and why should I not be considered an uncle?”
“Aye, Captain Unpalo sir,” said Little Jaicobh, with a hearty salute.
Danaco’s heart warmed at such eagerness. “Captain Unpalo, you say?”
“Well, you have to be a captain if you got a ship and all.”
“Quite so. Very well, Captain Unpalo it is-- but no sirs, I entreat, my darling. Sirs should be reserved for those whom we do not like and are to be used when we wish to pretend that we do. Civility at length does go a long way, especially when apologizing for having to take the toes of one who has wronged you.”
“Can we take a few toes?” Soledhan beamed.
“I daresay your mother would object to my teaching you any such thing, and were she not listening, which she most assuredly ought to be, as mothers can hear the secrets of their children through walls, I should teach you all I know about dismemberment and its many uses if your mother and tutors not disclaim.”
“Disappointment excites passion, my child,” the captain crooned, “and where you are disappointed now, you shall be rewarded a hundred times by the zeal your frustration rouses. Be ardent as you ought, and you shall never be disappointed long.”
“Does that mean you’ll teach us how to take toes eventually, captain?” asked Dorrin.
“Well, we all do grow older,” was Danaco’s sagacious answer, “and you need not wait long to accomplish that.” He exchanged a smile with Hathanta and Baronous, who were smiling to themselves and standing close by, and then placed the paper ship onto the board. “Now, who should like to give the Marghilesse her due? Jaicobh, as His Highness has incurred the honour of naming her, I believe the honour of releasing her to sea is yours.”
The children clamoured about him, ready to move their ships and follow wherever the HRH Marghilesse should take them, and the adults in the library looked on, observing the continuance of the game with devoted aspects.
“It always astounds me that children have no idea of fame and legend,” said Alasdair quietly. “There is the greatest literary marvel of our time, standing and playing games with them, and they only see a man who wants to befriend them and blow their ship out of the water with pirates.”
“I think they understand his majesty, Alasdair,” said Boudicca, “merely due to your infatuation about him or even Vyrdin and Brigdan’s reverence of him, but I think their innocence keeps delightfully unaware of his grandeur. He is a lord, he is the servant of Lamir, he has reconquered his country from false kings and saved it from tyranny, he vanquished countless pirates, marauded ships of their greatest treasures, he has become captain of the Lucentian royal guard, was a guildlord before Ladrei was—his accomplishments alone should garner anyone’s veneration, but he is so revoltingly dashing, especially for his age, with that mane of his and his excellent taste in dress, that he will make even the most distinguished of kings welter in disdain for him.”
Alasdair spied the captain’s silken hair and embroidered waistcoat, and made as slight a hum as he could.
“And he is so wretchedly good with the children.”
“Yes, he is very good with them.”
“And he is such a gentleman every lady that passes his way, treating every one of them as if they were a queen.”
Alasdair could not but know that he was being provoked, but he turned to the commander anyway, to scowl and glare and catch her subrisive aspect before averted his eyes and flouting to himself.
“Danaco Divelima might be many things,” the commander continued, “but he does not look half so handsome as you do when you pout.”
“I’m not pouting,” Alasdair asserted, trying not to flout and look sullen.
“What? Is that all your defense? Alasdair, you can contend far better than that.”
There was a pause, Boudicca smirking to herself and Alasdair glowering at the corner of the room, and then Alasdair, unable to help himself, amended with, “It isn’t fair to compare me with one of the greatest men in the world. Anyone would look inferior by comparison. It’s like trying to compare me with my grandfather.”
“You do His Late Majesty immense credit.”
It was Danaco who had attested to Alasdair’s merits, and it was said with such unanswerable dignity that for a few moments there was no other sound in the room beyond the quiet murmurations of the children. The severe stares, the dignified expression, the defiant manner recommended the captain’s decidedness; he was not to be gainsaid, and so artless and ingenuous was his character that Alasdair turned away, divided between embarrassment and happy humility.
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014
While Alasdair loves playing games with his children, he loathes playing anything with dice. And there I must agree with him.
“I admit that I’m surprised that you would play this game,” said Alasdair. “Having lived through some of the greatest sea adventures, I would have thought that something like this would be unexciting for you.”
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“It never could be that, I’m sure,” said Danaco, with unanswerable dignity. “Everything about this game is pleasant, from the felth of the painted ships to the stories written on the captain’s cards. It is not an exact likeness to life I led during my time in glorious exile, but it is rather a close representation than not. All that going about and requisitioning— it was a life of perpetual motion, not knowing where one shall venture next, going from port to port in quest of any employment, running into pirates, hunting slave galleys, watching the sun rise over endless waters-- how I loved it of all things!” in a fond hue, and then recovering, “—of course I should play this game! It reminds me everything I loved so well during my formative years, and I must have a something to do at my family estate besides, when there are no more villains in my Prince’s realm to extinguish. I am not a serious player, but I do a tolerable job upon the whole. Bartleby was the avid philopolemicist of us and loved arguing about the regulations more than he did playing the game. He would argue a hole in the ground that a man of war should not be allowed in shallow waters due to hull length, that able seamen should never willingly take passage aboard a sloop, and a long et cetera, but his arguments and debates were always what entertained me most. We played many a capital set at Mercenaries and Marinas when he could but be torn away from his book, and Rannig was an excellent player, when he could but be encouraged to use his broadside. He was much to kindhearted to shoot a fellow mercenary, but he would often win by his ingenuity alone, staying away from the larger more preponderating ships and attacking sloops or frigates that could be captured rather than destroyed. Oftentimes he would merely wait for Bartleby to die-- Bartleby thinking himself equal to attack anything that was no less than twenty-two guns—and then sail around his remains to snatch up all the cargo drifting about. It is as enjoyable a game as you can desire, and as it can be played in many different styles, there is something for everyone to admire. With the chief of the actions to be taken written on the cards, and all one need do is follow them and use his moves to advantage, choosing to attack or not to attack, to sink or to capture as he would. It is really the raillery that sets this game apart from its friends: the battles at sea and where one is to go next and what enhancements one is to buy and what cargo is to be taken where leaves room for enormous disagreement-- when playing with more than one another person, what enormous alliances might be made, rendering others miserably wretched. Any game that makes otherwise civil men act as a raging brood when they lose simply must be played and that is all. There is a gambling element which was added to the newest edition of the game, but it can be omitted. It involves rolling a die, and I despise dice. They will roll against me and my hand will assist them.”
“There! You see?” cried Alasdair, in a rage of ecstasy. “I am not the only one who thinks dice do not belong in a game that is not a game of chance.”
Alasdair folded his arms and looked pleased with himself, and Boudicca laughed and shook her head.
“You act as though they are your worst enemy,” said she laughingly. “Perhaps we should have you exchange the dice for Count Rosse. I daresay you should prefer rolling dice to taking a chance on whether His Fashionable Grace is wearing something that will not make you instantly want to burn his estate and every one of his outfits along with it. At least with dice, Alasdair, you have a certain probability of success, but with Rosse’s choice in tight pantaloons, you have no chance of ever overcoming them.”
“At least I know my chances are nearly nothing,” said Alasdair. “Dice give the illusion of possible success. They give false hope when whatever the thing is that needs to be solved might be resolved with deduction and planning. Dice do not belong in games of strategy, and I don’t care what you say.”
He pouted and humphed and effected to look proud and unconcerned.
“Bartleby absolutely abominated dice and refused to play anything where rolling was involved,” the captain added, “declaring the whole thing a vulgar business to be avoided, making claims that dice originated amongst the lower ranks of life as a something to do when work was to be missed, a game for beggars and vandals, and so forth, not to be played by prestigious librarians and scientists such as himself. And,” with a sly look, “not to be played by kings, to be sure.”Alasdair only smiled and said nothing, gratified to appear acquiescent and satisfied to know that there were many other wiser heads than his that disapproved dice so entirely. In this, the infamous Bartleby Crulge, renowned antiquarian and cantankerous curmudgeon, was his ally, and gladly would Alasdair have schemed in vain if only to be assailed with the legendary librarian’s equal dissent.
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