King Coltzan's Solitaire
Now, it's not that I have anything against the rain,
but things do start getting pretty miserable when it's been pouring down for
five days without stopping. I was looking out of the living room window, my
ears deaf by now to the steady dripping of water outside. Gazing past my reflection
(I'm a Desert Aisha, by the way), I scanned the dark sky in hope of seeing just
a singly ray of sun peek through a small gap in the clouds. Lost in my own thoughts,
I nearly jumped out of my skin when the front door suddenly slammed shut.
As we couldn't afford an entrance hall, you walk
straight into the lounge when you come into our house. I turned around, although
I knew full well what I was going to see. Shasta, a Blue Acara, was standing
in front of the door, her wet fur dripping onto the previously immaculate carpet.
Her eyes were a blazing red, and she plonked her sodden bags of shopping rather
unceremoniously onto the floor. "Blast this stupid rain, I'm soaked right through
to my bones! Next time, you can go out!" she snapped.
"Okay, okay. Keep your fur on!" By the look she
then gave me, I figured it would be an idea to keep my mouth shut for a while.
Thankfully, Shasta's moods don't last very long.
A warm blanket wrapped around her, she was soon sorting out her purchases, calling
out the name of each item as she picked it out of the bag and placed it neatly
on the coffee table. "Sausages...some sort of Cybunny Cake...aha!" A blue projectile
came my way rather unexpectedly, and I fumbled a bit when trying to catch it.
"There's the deck of playing cards you wanted," Shasta continued. I looked at
the object I was holding in my paws and, sure enough, it was a small box of
"You're welcome. Do you know any games? I've
never been much of a card person myself."
"What is it with you Sakhmet lot and solitaires
I shrugged. I couldn't expect Shasta to understand,
she never grew up in the Lost Desert. "It's a sort of tradition I guess. Solitaires
were the first card games ever played in Sakhmet."
"Believe it or not, playing solitaires actually
saved the life of King Coltzan I." Shasta raised an eyebrow, and I got the feeling
she though I was pulling her leg. I continued anyway, rattling off a legend
I'd had to memorise years ago. "It was a time of conflict between the desert
kingdoms. The people of Sakhmet didn't want war, so King Coltzan I travelled
to every neighbouring land in hope of securing their neutrality. He brought
with him ten of his bravest and most loyal nobles. The journey was a dangerous
one, and they all knew that their lives were at stake.
"This did not hinder Coltzan. His confidence
inspired his men, and they negotiated successfully with the enemy warlords.
Sakhmet was to be a peaceful state and would benefit from trade routes through
the kingdoms of its new allies. Satisfied, they embarked on the return journey.
"One night, the party was only two days' journey
from Sakhmet. As the sun set, Coltzan entertained himself with a card game he
had devised himself. It was only for one player - a solitaire, the first of
its kind. He was so deeply engrossed in his game that he played all through
the night. When the nobles were ready to continue on their way, Coltzan was
still buried in his solitaire. Opinions were divided. Six of the nobles decided
to stay with Coltzan, who would not leave, and the remaining four set off that
"Coltzan and the men who had stayed with him
continued the next day. Less than twenty miles from their previous camp, they
found those four nobles dead and half-buried in the sand. A sand storm had taken
them by surprise and they had perished. The ones who had stayed behind were
not hit by it, and hence survived thanks to Coltzan's solitaire. Since then,
citizens of Sakhmet have become avid players of solitaires."
"That's what the legend says anyway. The solitaire
Coltzan played was named after him, King Coltzan's Solitaire. But there aren't
many who know how to play it nowadays."
The eyebrow went up again. "And I suppose you
I nodded, grinning slyly. "I can teach you if
Seating myself comfortably at a table, I laid out the solitaire. I hadn't played
it in ages, but it came back to me quickly as I laid out the familiar pyramid
of fifteen cards. Five in the bottom row, four in the next, three, two, one...no
overlaps, all face-up. I was aware of Shasta looking over my shoulder, and pulled
out another chair for her. If there's one thing I hate, it's having someone
looking over my shoulder.
Holding the remainder of the cards face-down
in my paw, I gestured towards the top of the pyramid. "The Aces go up there,
above the other cards, when we find them. What we want to do is get the cards
from each suit piled on top of their corresponding Aces, sequenced from Ace
to King. Just like in your ordinary game of Sakhmet Solitaire really. Here we
have the Ace of Hearts in the pyramid, that can go up to the top for a start."
"Right, there's nothing more we can do for now,
so I can start drawing cards from the deck. If I get an Ace or a card I can
put on an Ace pile, I move it up there immediately. The ones I can't use I leave
face-up in a discard pile. If then a card from the pyramid can be placed on
top of an Ace pile it must be replaced with the top card from the discard pile.
Since we've got a gap now where the Ace was, we have to fill it, but we haven't
got any cards in the discard pile. In cases like this, we just take a card directly
from the deck and put it in the pyramid. Just a little word of warning: you
can only take cards from the pyramid or the deck to put on the Ace piles. That
means that if you reveal a card on the discard pile that you could use, but
there aren't any open spaces in the pyramid, you can't move it onto the Ace
pile. Got it so far?"
Shasta nodded, and I started playing the deck
cards. I wasn't making much progress, and had exhausted the deck without even
having sequenced Ace to five in all four suits, let alone Ace to King. I picked
up the discard pile, straightened it so it was more manageable, and turned it
over without shuffling. "As you can see, it's not very willing to let us complete
the sequences when we've only been through the deck once. So we just turn over
the discarded cards and continue as before. However, we're only allowed to do
that this one time. If we haven't got all the cards stacked on the Aces by the
time we've gone through the deck twice, we've lost the game."
I didn't expect to win this game, but it was
still disappointing to lose. Shasta gathered the cards and started to shuffle,
then arranged the fifteen cards on the table as I had done. I watched her play
a couple of times, and was surprised at how quickly she'd got the hang of it.
She grumbled a few times when cards appeared in just the wrong order for her
to be able to use them, but was otherwise silent and seemed to be as engrossed
in the game as Coltzan had been. I decided to leave her to it, so I went back
to the window and looked out, seeing in my reflection that I was smiling in
spite of the rain.
Author's Note: The solitaire described in this story is actually King Tutankhamen's
Solitaire (I just renamed it), and the legend is based on a Bedouin story about
that solitaire. Both were taken from an old newspaper cut-out I found. I've played
the solitaire myself and it's actually quite entertaining, I hope you enjoy playing
it if you decide to give it a try. If you have any questions or comments, feel
free to Neomail