Story for the Day: The Game of Red Crabs PT2
Although akaaphu was a celebrated Haanta diversion for children, Rautu could not like it. Too many remembrances had he of Otenohi’s schemes and connivances, of his cheating and deceptive machinations, of his false triumphs, of his gloating and dancing about, that he must sneer at the very sight of the board. So odious and horrid a game, a ridiculous article that had ruined all the peace of his younger years and had forced him to seek a partner in Unghaahi and Leraa for games, though this never kept Otenohi from devastating this brother’s equanimity. His decipherable and vehement loathing for akaaphu was apparent and soon inquired after. “When we were Mivaari, Otenohi and I played this game in the garden around the temple,” the giant said, his voice growing fond as he spoke. “He always found ways to defeat me unfairly. He used the mazdafa,” motioning to the blackwood sticks, “to cheat. He placed sap from the trees on his hands so the mazdafa would land downward.” He humphed at the remembrance. “He would have three turns where I would have one. He removed all of my pieces from the board before I could place one of them in the centre. I refused to play with him until he would play correctly.”
“And your pride wouldn’t allow you to abstain for more than a day, I’m certain,” said the commander, entering from the main hall, and coming toward the table added, “Had you ignored Otenohi as Unghaahi had done, he should have found someone else to distress, but all his happiness was in your vexation.”
Rautu said nothing and averted his eyes.
“You discovered your love of this game again when you had been used to play with Leraa,” the commander simpered. “You should tell the children of how horridly he beat you the first time you played with him.”
“I was teaching him how to play, woman,” the giant demanded, ignoring Martje’s strident cackles.
“And you lost miserably. I daresay Leraa doesn’t cheat as Otenohi does. You cannot deny Leraa’s exceptional skill at games just as you cannot deny how well you enjoy Otenohi’s little perturbations.”
Though not untrue, Rautu would not submit to his mates conjectures. He only grumbled a half hearted refutation and declared that the children should learn nothing from a game that promoted chance over strategy. All his remonstrances were soon quieted by the resounding cheers of the children as they finished their first game. They should be learning Otsbhaala or at least Yunoraas, but no, they would play the game of red and blue crabs again, and they should not stop until everyone in the keep had seen them play.
Soon everyone was to join them: the recession in the courts was called, a break in the daily training was to be had, a changing of the guard was to be done, and everyone was all to convene in the kitchen to marvel as to simple and yet so stunning a game as to make Rautu resign himself to the pleasanter notions of having played the game with Leraa. The remembrances of him and Otenohi may be trying to his sense of irrefutable forbearance, but Leraa’s happy manners and sweet aspect could reconcile him to anything. He remembered the day he first played with him: he had wondered at Leraa’s never having played it before, had been pleased to teach him something he did not know, had reveled in seeing him succeed to quickly, and had been appalled by Leraa’s effortless triumph. Rautu’s defeat would have been a secret had not Leraa run to Otenohi directly and told him of his glorious victory. There had been Rautu’s abashed indignation and Otenohi’s complacency. Rautu knew that he should be ridiculed forever for his losing to a novice, but as Leraa was only eager to play again, he should only regret his loss where Otenohi’s jibes were concerned. Unghaahi soon checked Otenohi’s remarks with a few matches at Hophsaas, and though his hardly silenced their brother, it did force him to recall that there is never any shame in losing to a proficient.