Story for the Day: Mercenaries and Marinas - Part 1

Games in general are a very important part of Frewyn's culture. Every year in Farriage, there is an inventor's exhibition, and every year new toys and games are marketed and shown about the great inventor's pier. While some of what is showcased never makes it into public hands, there are many games which become instant classics. Though games like Ardri and Boghans are classics by Frewyn design, there are many games from Marridon that make the rounds of the continents for many years to come.   

Mercenaries and Marinas
                They came to the library, and where they had expected to find the children quietly going
through all the particulars of so prodigious a game, they discovered Captain Danaco Divelima explaining all the minutiae of the business for them. The captain, with his scintillating locks,
exquisite dress, and usual air of grandeur and easy indifference, stood at the head of the long table, with the board and pieces strewn about before him, the cards all stacked to one side, the painted ships evenly placed, the country tokens and the gradations of their ransoms beside their appropriate regions, the storms and sea battles marked, the ports labeled, the cargo slats supplied in heaps, and with a flourish, Danaco began announcing the meaning of every piece on the board and what actions they might take.
                “Now that everyone has got his ship—and more importantly, now that everyone has got his gold and a bit of cargo—a player must do three things on his turn,” the captain declared. “He must gain a request from the guild and accept his half pay—but there is to be no spending it on frivolities—he must travel away from his current port,” moving a ship away from its space along the northern continent and taking it out to sea, “he must make his way whither the mission which he accepted from the guild advises him, he must duel other passing ships, he must claim his prize—if he win, of course—he must then find his berth at the origin of the quest, proclaim his success, take the other half of his pay, and then, once those events are over, the true game begins.”
                “What’d ye mean, Captain Danaco sir?” said Little Jaicobh, his brow furrowing. “Aren’t winnin’ the battles part o’ the game and all?”
                “They are,” said Danaco, “but that is all easily done with simple arithmetic, calculating victory based on armour and guns and preparedness, and so forth. All my delight in this game is everything that happens once all the encounters at sea are finished. Enhancing my ship with my earnings, making little improvements to the hold, increasing the numbers of my crew—there is my true delight in the game. I am a champion outfitter, and while I will add a gun or a cannon to my broadside, I must have a new bronze wheel and a better figurehead if they do nothing but look well. A ship which looks best is best, you know, for she will be the envy of every other ship on the seas. If she be newly painted, with all the barnacles on her hull scraped off and with a new layer of varnish on her deck, she will feel all the better and be on her best behaviour. Myrellenos always favours a well-bred ship.”
                The children had been used to think that a ship which was properly attired with better sails, larger guns, and more able crewmen would increase the efficiency of a naval vessel, but as Danaco had been captain of the most prominent ship in the world, he must know best. They gave one another confused looks, glanced back at their teachers doubtingly, and then returned their attention to the board, setting about to study it and judge which ports were best for which improvements.
                “Your Majesty,” said Danaco, turning and bowing to the king, and then bowing to Boudicca, “Commander. Do join us. I am showing the children one of my very favourites.”
                Alasdair, half astonished to find Danaco lecturing the children, looked all the sanguine confusion he felt and would have asked the captain how he had returned to the capital without his knowing and without sending any forewarning, but Alasdair checked himself and let it pass; the most celebrated and experienced Captain in the world was standing at the head of the table, and Alasdair would sit down and listen to his dissertation. “Your favourites?” said he, moving to where Hathanta and Baronous were sitting.
                “Yes. Well, you are in a rage for games now, are not you, with all this business going on in Farriage? I was just come down to wish Captain Cabhrin Donnegal well on his marriage and took Farriage port in my way. I stopped to let my crew ashore, that they might see whether there were anything good giving away at the faire, when visiting with the docksmaster I saw someone walking around with Mercenaries and Marinas under his arm.”
                “Did you simply take his game or did you take the arm attached to it as well?”
                Here was a sly grin. “My dear Commander,” said Danaco, with answerable dignity, “I never take limbs unwarranted. I did tell him I would gut him and use his innards for a keelhauling line, but I never dismember where I may threaten. I am not a pirate after all.”
                Alasdair glanced at the commander, who was simpering to herself, and the two sat and looked over the board laid out on the table before them, its painted seas ornamented with ships, its paper ports rife with cardboard cargo.
“Have you ever played this game before, Your Majesty?” said Danaco.
                Alasdair shook his head. “I have heard of it, of course—everyone who lives on the Continents must know it somehow—but I’ve never played it before. It wasn’t a game that I had grown up with, but I know the premise and a little of how the game works. It’s very hard, as I understand it. I remember Brigdan once talking to Vyrdin about it, telling him that he should like it because of the historical value the game has, but drawing any sort of cards for a game, or anything which involved an element of luck, something that Vyrdin was never fond of.”
                “Alasdair and all his family has a great horror of anything that involves chance or a promise of loss based on it,” said Boudicca, smiling.
Crab Asaan takes all the treasure and all the ships he wants
                “He is justified there, I think,” said Danaco. “Bartleby held the very same suspicion when he was cozened into playing this game for the first time. He was sitting in his hove, tucked away in his little corner of the ship, trying to make up a new star chart of some kind, when we tricked him into playing with us. It began to rain that day as evening came on. The deck being absolutely sodden and the crew being sopping, we retired to the galley and everyone chose a game, just by way of amusing ourselves, and someone, probably Riggyls or Mowatt, brought this game aboard. We gave it a few turns and came to like it, but Bartleby would refuse to play and so I had to taunt him. I told him it was something he should not like and should not do well at, and instantly he demanded to be given command of the board. He was master of the rules in ten minutes and was determined to win. This was his ship,” taking one of the models from the board, “the Marridonian man of war. I was the Lucentian merchant, and Rannig, having no Frewyn faction to play with, enjoyed being the Livanese traders. He absolutely refused to play as the Sesternese slavers given his history with them, and he always liked to take his ship to the Frewyn coast to make his repairs and do trade with whatever trader might be standing a shore. “ A small smile wreathed the captain’s lips, his mind returning to a time of nautical gaeties and joyous camaraderie, and when the moment’s reverie was over with him, he recollected himself and began lecturing the party on the combat progression. “ Now,” taking a clipper ship from the board and moving it beside one of the larger vessels, “Combat has many stages, all of them exciting, but the beheading at the end of it the most exhilarating, if your ship is on the winning end, of course.”
                He brought them through all the finer points of attacking another vessel, of how to engage other ships with broadsides, of how to instruct a crew to fire, of how to maintain resources and moral during a fight, of how to disable an enemy ship, how to attacked the mast and how not to damage the hull if the ship was to be boarded and captured, and how to detect traps and deception before raiding the cargo in the hold. He went through the rules of sailing, of docking, of trading, of returning missions and speaking to docksmasters and negotiating with shipbuilders and carpenters, and with all the regulations fairly gone through, Danaco encouraged the children to choose their ships and take their first turns. Hathanta and Baronous instantly got up and mantled over the table, to study the board and scrutinize the children’s movements and be the sentries of sea law, while Danaco stood with the king and the commander, watching the children bargain with one another over who was to get the Lucentian frigate—and why was there no Frewyn ship to take?—and admired their eager consultation.