Story for the Day: Frewyn Games P2

Alasdair would rather play Frewyn's Brandubh

The board was placed, the seats round the table taken up, the pieces representing weapons and health were duly allotted, and the characters were claimed as Alasdair took his place at the head of the table. While the children began their negotiations as to which pair of them should play as which of the three hero characters, Alasdair took up the rule book in the box and began to read the regulations. He had played the game only a few times in his youth, and as he had played only with his grandfather, he was desirous of knowing if there were any differences in the rules whether playing with two people or with four. They were seven people together: Fionnora and Ennan as the cleric, Soledhan and Dorrin as the barbarian, who looked remarkably like Rautu, and the commander and Little Jaicobh as the ranger; but the rules seemed the same whether the game should be played with two people or with ten. Each character was to take a turn, the dice were to be rolled for movement and attack, the characters trotted about the board in quest of treasure with the object of defeating the dark druid: there could be nothing plainer. The only person whose of office that Alasdair could be curious of was his own. The monsters themselves seemed to require little management; they all came with their own statistics, and the only character who was in want of a player was the dark druid, who was not allowed to go beyond the protective barrier of his own chamber. Here was no challenge for him; there was hardly even a promise of consideration involved in such a game. The game, he knew, was intended for children, but their children were so intelligent and mature, this should only bore them. It was evening, and the somnolence that the gloaming could recommend with the added insipidity of such a game might make them grow tired and convince them to have done. Something that presented no challenge for such excellent children could not last long. They should play once and then they should move on to a more suitable game, or succumb to the fatigues of the day and prepare themselves for sleep. Here was comfort for Alasdair, and as the children were conferring as to who should begin the first round, Alasdair began to read the lore accompanying the game in the perfect happiness of knowing that they should be playing for only a few minutes.
                All was well until Alasdair’s first turn was arrived. The children had rolled the dice, had moved their heroes, had picked up a few gold pieces from the board along the way, had discovered a few treasure chests, and at the end of the round, their characters were met with one of Alasdair’s giant spiders, come down from its high boughs of the surrounding trees to keep the heroes from advancing into the woods behind. The heroes prepared their requisite weapons and took aim, and the die was placed before Alasdair with a “Roll, Your Majesty.”   
                Alasdair glared at the die. “I'm the antagonist,” Alasdair warily reminded them. “If I'm attacking you and I have base statistics for my pieces, why should I roll?”
                “Your web of minions requires management, Alasdair,” the commander said, smiling. “We cannot have the evil and terrible dark druid of Faullallaphon simply wave his hands about and command his creatures.”
                “But I brought these werewolves to life.” Alasdair pointed to the four werewolf figures, snarling and creeping about his keep. "Or at least the lore says so." He took up the guide and read aloud, "Experimenting in his woodland home, the evil druid succeeded in creating werewolves from escaped prisoners and dying men from the battlefield. There. I control them, and therefore I shouldn't have to roll for them.”
                The commander simpered and shook her head. "It is a game, Alasdair."
                “I know, but if the regulations do not match the lore, and someone has to point it out.”
                His seriousness must be laughed at, for he was so decided in his manner that she must allow him to believe himself in the right. “Very well,” she laughed, “you don't have to roll for the werewolves.”
                “Thank you.”
                “The spiders, however, there I think you must roll.”
                Alasdair began feverishly flipping the pages of the rulebook, scouring the lore for any passage that would acquit him of his duties, but the only passage on the spiders dictated that they were merely inhabitants of the forest, looking for food and angry that the heroes decided to traipse through their homes. “I didn't create those,” he said, with a pining sigh.
                “Which is why you must roll for them. If you take the monsters, you take all the monsters.”
                Alasdair huffed and grumbled, “Rautu should roll for the spiders.”
                “Only four players allowed, Alasdair, and though we are seven, we are controlling four characters.”
                He would have protested to his having more, as his only responsibility really should be the dark druid, but he scoffed and let it pass. “Very well, but having all the spiders die does not mean that I lose.”
                With eyes smiling, the commander agreed to his proposal, and the game was recommenced.
                Alasdair took up the die, prayed to the Gods for a high roll, and as he flung the die onto the table, he had the horror of seeing his first spider killed in one move. He had rolled to disoblige all his aspirations, and had done so on every successive roll as to make every one of his spiders be killed and removed from the board.
                “That was my last spider,” he woefully exclaimed.
                The commander fleered and gave him a wry look. “You were rather detached from them ten minutes ago.”
Frewyn's Fidchell (fitchneall) setup
                “Well…” but Alasdair had not another word to say in opposition; his werewolves were being attacked, and he must act to save them. He took up the die from the table, he blew on it, he kissed it, he raised it to the skies in tribute to the Gods, but no fortunate rolls were given him. He managed to incapacitate the ranger and attack the barbarian, but the cleric slipped by and used the powers of its magic staff to destroy all of his minions. He bargained for some defense on account of the werewolves being made by magic and not by bite as was tradition, but even there he was thwarted when Fionnora and Ennan made an alliance with Dorrin and Soledhan: one pair was to release the magic seal on the doors to Alasdair’s room, and the other was to attack and distract the dark druid, leaving the first pair to slip by and grab the druid’s treasure. It was a formidable plan, and Alasdair had almost hindered it by wounding the barbarian and pushing the cleric out of the room, but the commander and Little Jaicobh were too precipitant by one roll, leapt around the commotion, and grabbed the treasure for themselves.
                The game, however, was not over; the rules stipulated that every enemy must be vanquished for the travesty to be done, giving Alasdair more time to reclaim his honour and his prize, but the alliance of the barbarian and cleric soon answered: the dark druid was killed, and the heroes had only to slay one more werewolf to declare themselves the victors of the match. Alasdair observed the board with vehement loathing. Atrocious game, he conceived, why ask me to roll at all when the dark druid cannot do anything dark but raise werewolves who have almost no defense? He sat in begrudging silence, with features simmering, arms folded, and lips in a pout. His look declared that he despised all games of this sort and should not play again, even if asked by the children.
                “We’re attacking your last werewolf, Your Majesty,” said Ennan happily. “You have to roll.”
                Alasdair glowered and humphed as he took up the die, and dropped it without caring to look at the result. The strident cheer of the children was enough to know that he had miserably lost. “I refuse to play any longer,” he muttered in a wounded tone.
                “Well, you shall have no worries there, Alasdair,” said the commander. “We've killed all your monsters.”
                The good humour with which he had when entering into the game had all but done. Though Alasdair was the most modest of winners, he was the very worst loser in the world with regard to games of chance. He could not be blamed for his loss; the dice were at fault: poor rolls and other hands touching and defiling the pieces, tainting them with their ambitions, was what did the mischief. He had been almost certain of his safety by playing the monsters, for there he may not win but her had been assured of not losing with such odds in his favour. All his horrors, however, assailed him when the game was called, a tie between the barbarian and the ranger was declared, and the dark druid defeated forever. The children cheered in exultation, giving their congratulations to one another, and Alasdair was left to wallow in the grief of having lost to six children whose cries of mirth offended his pride.
                “You cannot expect more by playing the enemy, Alasdair,” the commander smiled.
                “No,” he rejoined coolly, “but I can expect to have some consistent rules. This game is rife with lore errors. I should summon the manufacturer and have him hanged for making this game for twenty-five years without improving the regulations in the least.”
                The commander tried not to laugh and was soon assisted by Teague, who came to join them at the table. He had seen the whole from the kitchen entrance, and though he too found the king’s loss amusing, Alasdair had not lost fairly. There was a round unaccounted for and a few rolls amiss. Somewhere between the players’ attacking of the druid and claiming of the treasure, the commander and Little Jaicobh had forgotten to heal their wounds. They had taken one too many wounds from the werewolves and would have been forced to miss a turn to heal, but they had overlooked the necessity. Instead, they had gone steadily on, claiming the treasure and assisting in the murder of Alasdair’s character. He had delighted in watching the children play together so well, his mind rapt with notions of how Cairn was to be included in their circle ere long, that he had forgotten to mention the mistake when it happened. He would mention it now, however, regardless of how deplorable Alasdair looked or of how outraged he should be.
                “It's not as though I were trying to lose,” Alasdair demanded as Teague neared the table. “Next time, I'm stealing the gold pieces and not allowing the heroes to exchange them for more weapons. As king, it is my right to manage affairs, and players who run toward gold only to use it to kill my forces hardly deserve my mercy.”
                The playful invective ceased when Teague bowed, said “Your Majesty, may I speak to you for a moment?” and took him quietly aside. A few moments of quiet conversation passed, and at the end of which Alasdair’s eyes were flaring in frothing outrage. He would have expressed his disapprobation of such an injustice, but as it had been done after the chief of his monsters had been killed, his remonstrances were of little consequence. He was silent for a time, his lips pursed in contrived indignation. He could not truly be angry, but he could wish that the last few rounds be replayed, if not to exonerate his unforgivably horrid luck then to make his loss not quite so humiliating.
                “I could have won, you know,” said Alasdair in an injured accent, after some minutes spent in silent detestation.
                “I daresay you would have done,” the commander laughed, “but as Fionnora and Ennan were the ones to lay the defeating blow on the dark druid and we the ones to claim the treasure, the only fault there was mine. I had forgotten that we lost all our health, but it is irrelevant. The children are the victors.”
                With complacent countenances, the commander and Teague observed the children as they flocked toward the adjacent table, recanting their exploits to Maggie and Ouryn with the most abundant jubilation. They had enjoyed their time immensely, and though the commander and Teague were obliged to think the game a success, Alasdair could not share their sentiments.
                “Nonsense game. How is anything to be won fairly by chance? Horrendous dice. This game would be better if played with merely turns and assigned movements and abilities. Then at least a plan could be put together. Ridiculous to play with dice. Anyone can win that way.”  He scowled at the commander’s mirthful expression. “Next time, we’re playing Brandubh.”
                “As we used to do in Tyfferim Company when everyone else was content to spend their evenings at the Seadh Maith?”
                Alasdair looked askance. “They were pleasant evenings,” he said with some misgiving.
                The commander half-smiled. “Indeed, they were. Dobhin was forever peering over your shoulder to discover your mistakes and Vyrdin was inclined to think that anything involving pain or mental distress good for us.”
                “And Brandubh is good for you,” Alasdair firmly declared. “Teague, do you know how to play Brandubh?”
                 “If you mean the Old Frewyn variation, then I do, Your Majesty,” Teague replied with a curt bow.
                “Excellent. Sit there. We are playing this moment. I will not have my pride taken from me over a game involving dice. I can win very well without them. If I am to lose, I will lose because I have made an error in judgment, not because the die decided not to land in my favour.”
                Though well-versed in games of chance and strategy, Teague would say nothing to check the king’s assertions; he would brook his misconceptions for the pleasure and honour of being His Majesty’s opponent. He was sorry that Alasdair had lost, but the moment they sat down and began to direct their kings and ravens, all the king’s happiness soon returned. Something should be done to restore the king’s faith in games of chance. He would on no account allow the king to win against him, but something else might be done to aid his poor skill at rolling the dice. Teague he had never cheated in his life, as he had never need to do so, but his father made him sensible of how to reverse misfortune and how to teach others who were particularly in want of luck with dice and cards. A player was only as fortunate as he appeared to the others playing: cards might be switched, roll may be forged, but as Alasdair’s nature of fairness and equality should never allow him to cheat, Teague must resign his goodwill and admit to the king’s being a sore loser.


  1. Oh, I know the feeling of the dice being against you, Alasdair. I've lost to my nieces and nephews often enough.


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