Story for the Day: A Sore Loser
Prince Draeden, Alasdair's father, is hailed to be the best gamester on the Southern Continent. His winning at Ardri, Fidchell, and Brandubh is legendary, so much so that the one time he visited the Ardent Tench, he was banned for life for winning too much. He is also known for being talking incessantly without much provocation.
Tea was waiting in the servants quarters. They passed the tailory in their way and stopped in to ask Pastaddams whether he would regale them with stories of Alasdair’s losses, and as it was that Pastaddams’ scandal collection was in desperate want of an airing, he would sit to tea with them, to take out all the stories he had been saving in his rookery of rumour and deliciate over them with a cup in one hand and a biscuit in the other. After just stopping in to the Craulidh apartments, to see whether Ros or her fathers would join them, Pastaddams, Aghatha, and Ebhlin all sat down in the servants hall, to talk over Alasdair’s current vexation, Vyrdin’s longstanding triumph in the realm of games and gambling, and glory in all the succour that tales of success and sore losing could provide.
“We mustn’t laugh too hard, ladies,” said Pastaddams, taking up his cup. “Vyrdin might hear us. He and Master Teague have ears that penetrate walls. And if His Highness or Commander Bryeison are by, they will barrel in here to tell us of all the times they defeated Vyrdin at games.”
“Mibbeh we should call ‘em then,” said Aghatha, with a giggle. “Ay luv hearin’ His Hyness talk about the aul’ days. He’s a good bletherer. Yeh don’t need teh seh much teh have him goin’ on for a whyle. One mention of his battle at Ardi with his fatheh the Late Majesteh and—“
“Oh, hello, Ebhlin!” cried a voice from the doorway.
They all turned and immediately stood when Prince Draeden marched into the room.
“How are you, Ebhlin? Glad to see you is such good looks—sit down, sit down. Do not stand on my account. I’ve just come in to see how you all were. I came in from the field, to see how Alasdair and Vyrdin were getting on, only to find Vyrdin brooding over his board with all his cards laid out and everyone else gone to town.”
Draeden, being always famished and exhilarated when there was anything like food about, glanced down at the sideboard, cooed in exultation, and took up four biscuits for himself, one in each hand and two thrust into his mouth.
“Have yeh done tying up the cerns for the morning?” said Aghatha, holding a plate under Draeden’s chin as he began chimbling his biscuits all over the floor.
Draeden shoved the two other biscuits into his mouth and took up two more from the board. “Oh, yes—well, Bryeison and Brigdan did that mostly,” he slottered, his chin curtained in crumbs. “And Gaumhin too, but he did it more to the Elites, who in turn did it to the Brigadiers, but Bryeison absolutely tormented the cerns—some of them wept, one even threatened to steep himself in his own stews if we did not let him down to the latrine—it was nothing very bad, what Bryeison planned, only a few trip traps laid about the far field. No one was hurt, but Bryeison did take a few of them to Bilar, for minor cuts and scrapes and fainting fits. Brigdan and Gaumhin plagued Connors’ cousins for a while—are Dirrald and Bhaunber coming? Do you know? I should love to see them tormenting recruits. I know Cleansnamierta is not popular in the west, much less in the mountains, but can you imagine if we were to set up traps in the woods and have Dirrald and Bhaunbher frighten the men while in their bear forms? Oh, that would be brilliant—perhaps we can ask Ros to do it? I cannot think she would disagree. Aldus and Searle might think it somewhat indecorous, but I think they would see the hilarity in it— are there anymore biscuits? Oh, here are some under the cloth—ooh, ginger and walnut. Ruta used to make the best little butter ginger biscuits—these taste very much like them, only Ruta left out the nuts to keep Cneighsea from complaining-- Bryeison will be along in a moment, provided the cern who fainted does not have any trauma. He did not fall, of course, but he did have a panic when he was flung upside down and had too much blood rush to his head. Bryeison cut him down quickly, but he wilted when he came to his feet and was rather limp when Bryeison dragged him off. I wish Alasdair had not gone. If the had meant to go out, he might have told me, and I should have gone with him, to get whatever food is going around the square. I hope he will bring something back for me—not that I am not enamoured with Martje’s cooking, because of course I am, and I do love how she always prepares more than enough for a meal knowing how hungry I will be, but there are sure to be vendors in town with new things from the north. Sheamas and Beryn are always good to bring a few things to the keep when they convey their shipments here—and Breigh should be sending the cheeses up from Glaoustre soon. I cannot wait for those. Warm Glaoustre soft is my very favourite. I absolutely love when Martje bakes one of the rounds and I get to put a fresh bread crust in it. Is Breigh likely to come himself? I hope he brings a whole dray full of cheese, if he does. Nowhere in the kingdom has better-- but if we are expecting visitors, why has my son left the keep again?”
Aghatha waited for a pause in Draeden’s speech to answer, and as his mind had already passed over the pleasantries of japes and dairy-laden drays, she replied only to his last question and said, “To escape Masteh Vyrdin and his cards.”
“Oh, he has lost again, has he?” said Draeden, in a rather desponding voice.
“Apparently his loss was so great, he fled the table in fear of being sat there all day,” said Pastaddams. “You know how His Majesty will insist upon winning before eating his next meal.”
“Yes, but that is only natural when one has such a competitive spirit. Vyrdin and Brigdan can be like that when they want, and so can I daresay Bryeison, whenever he is in a pet and wants to get the better of a game.”
“Excuse meh, Hyghness,” said Ebhlin, her cheeks blushing, “but has His Majesteh realleh got it that bad, the competitiveness? Ay thought he was a patient man at court.”
“Oh, he is, Ebhlin,” said Draeden plaintively, “certainly more than I ever could have been, had I bothered with the throne.”
“But he’s such a well-known arbitrateh. Does losing a game reallae discompose him so much?”
Draeden leaned close and said in a half-whisper, “He really is a very poor loser, I’m afraid.”
“And does he get that from you, Hyghness?”
“No, because I do not lose.”
It was said with such decidedness and confidence that Pastaddams almost laughed, and a sly wink passed between Aghatha and Ebhlin, one suggesting that while Prince Draeden boasted of being Frewyn’s greatest gamester, his losing at a game of anything would be worse than anybody’s.