Story for the Day: Frewyn Games Pt1
Frewyn has many games, and though Alasdair loves playing games with his friends and subjects, he absolutely abominates dice.
The game of letters won, Alasdair was well inclined to sample another of the games found at the fair. He was all sanguine good humour as he perused the selection laid out upon the table, humming to himself and twiddling his fingers about in high glee. He was young again, it was evening, his grandfather was coming from his afternoon spent at court to pass an agreeable evening with him, full of games and gaieties, music and animation. Every game he had been used to see hidden under his bed or laid out in his grandfather’s from the time he was five years old was before him. Though he may have traded the playing of games for the practicing of reels and reading books, he never outgrew his enjoyment of games. Ailimentau, Estates and Hovels, he loved them all and generally enjoyed those that required machination and tactical prowess. He would chose a Frewyn game therefore, as any game from Lucentia or Sesterna was certain to have dice. Galleisian games, though challenging, were not those that forced him to think with any alacrity; they required a slow and methodical sort of planning which, though amusing in itself, was a trial to Alasdair’s quick mind. He wanted to be exacting without being languid. The chief of Galleisian pursuits in Frewyn were claimed by old nobles, who had little to do when out of court other than drink, grow fat, and die when they were no longer required to carry on their seat. They might revel in such slow and tedious pursuits, but Alasdair must have a game of a less sobering hue. The remembrances of his early youth, of his evenings spent in complete felicity with his grandfather, rushed on him: their sitting before the fire with a game laid about before them, a canter of steaming apple cider between them, the raillery of grandson and grandfather to be talked out in happy mirth, spiced biscuits from the buffet on the plate beside, and the true hearty comfort of family connections to enjoy. There were happy regales, and Alasdair had only to choose a game, garner a partner, and revive his former years with all the zeal that his pleasant reverie could excite.
He had almost decided upon a game and was about to request Teague as a partner when the children suddenly attacked him with entreaties to play one of their games with him instead. He smiled at their beaming countenances, and leaning down to greet them warmly asked, “Which game do you want to play?”
“Magic and Monsters,” was the resounding exclamation.
Alasdair’s smiles blithesomeness diminished here. He was sensible of how this travesty of a game was played and disliked it for its promotion of gambling and depreciation of intellectual skill. He hesitated, said a chary “That game involves rolling dice,” and moved as if to choose something better, but the bemused and glances the children were according one another conveyed their apprehensions at playing anything else.
“You don’t want to play with us?” said Dorrin, his eyes wide and glinting.
Alasdair’s heart wrenched, and he averted his eyes that he might endeavour to convince them without being defeated by their pleading looks. “Of course I want to play with you,” he decidedly began, but the pouting lips, the beseeching eyes, the expressions of hopelessness made their way to Alasdair’s heart. He grimaced and groaned to himself. He knew at last that they must have their way, but he ought to dissuade them before he should be compelled to play so unchallenging a game. “Why don’t we play Brandubh?” he said with affected cheer. “That way we can all play together.” He smiled and nodded and encouraging them to agree, but the children were silent and merely stared at him in grim confusion. “I’ll be the Ancient Brennin. Dorrin, Soledhan, Jaicobh and Ennan can be my kings, and Fionnora, Ouryn, Maggie, and Boudicca can be the ravens.”
“I don’t know Brandubh,” said Ennan.
“Me neither,” Fionnora chimed.
All of the children shook their heads, and Alasdair’s cause was in peril.
“I can teach you to play,” he said, with renewed animation. “Then we would be learning, and I’m sure that Brother Baronous and Hathanta would much prefer that.”
Hathanta and Baronous, who were sitting at the table with Maggie, Martje, and Ouryn, and who were teaching the girls how to play at fidchell, smiled first toward the king and then sagaciously at one another. Alasdair might have succeeded, but that he had mentioned they should be learning was all his failure. The two teachers pined for the king, for had he made his intention more discreetly, they might have conceded to play one of Frewyn oldest games. Now, however, the children around him were shaking their heads, they were making their tiny pleases, and all hope of success in that quarter must be forgotten. Alasdair must be acquitted his error on account of his kindness, and the two teachers gave one another conscious looks and continued with their tutelage, making certain never to mention that the girls were improving their understanding and ability to manipulate their opponents by playing a game.
“Well, what about Boghans then?” Alasdair continued.
Little Jaicobh looked demure and smilingly said, “I know how to play. My Da taught me, and I can already beat my uncles.”
“Then you can teach everyone else how to play, and I can be your opponent.”
But neither Boghans, nor fidchell, nor Brandubh would do. They must have Magic and Monsters, they must play with His Majesty, and they should not stir from his sight until he would acquiesce to their demanding expressions.
The suggestion of playing High Kings came to Alasdair’s mind when the commander and Teague appeared in the entranceway, and the commander’s cry of “What have you got there? Magic and Monsters? Excellent. I should love to play a game. I haven’t played since I was five. I daresay the rules haven’t changed, though when I was young the monsters were granted all the importance in the business. Set the board down there. We can play a few rounds,” was an overthrow of all his connivances. Alasdair had now only to submit and accept his place at the head of the table, and though his willingness to play with the children was unpretending, his enthusiasm for such a game was hardly as artless. He disliked games of chance, or any game involving dice: all his appreciation for games was for the strategical proficiency required to win them. Schemes must be made, alliances should be formed, plans must be carried out, and intellect and machination should conquer where fortune must fail. He fancied himself rather wretched at dice and a poor card player, unlike Teague who was in possession of all the high luck that his brilliant mind could safely warrant, but as the children had been so solicitous for his company, Alasdair would try his hand at a round of Magic and Monsters.