Games of Chance
If the first roll of the day was any indication for how Hazel’s attempt at winning the Dice-a-Roo jackpot would turn out, it predicted that her day would be awful.
Lucky for Hazel, predictions don’t always come true.
Hazel was a withdrawn purple Zafara, still short for her age but as patient as could be. Everything she did had an exact purpose and a direct, no-nonsense approach, except for Hazel’s favorite hobby: playing Dice-a-Roo. Much to the dismay of her family, Hazel played Dice-a-Roo constantly, often blowing through entire week’s worth of grocery money on nothing. The few milkshakes and fruits she came home with hardly kept her siblings nourished and her mother was always out earning to cover Hazel’s expenses.
The whole household was in disarray until further notice, and that notice would only come if Hazel won the jackpot.
That morning Hazel had dressed in her very most comfortable clothes, fully prepared for her long sit at the Dice-a-Roo tables. Her brother and sisters had wished her the best of luck, knowing full well that a bad day for Hazel meant a bad day for the all of them. She had set her gambling limit at 700 neopoints, a long day’s worth of beating various plushies with sticks. With a deep breath, she had started out for the ferry to Roo Island.
The ferry ride wasn’t unpleasant, but Hazel’s nervousness made it impossible for her to relax. She considered what she would do if she won the jackpot. Most likely after the Tax Beast finished with her, she’d be lucky to get 6,000 neopoints for her troubles, but just to feel that adrenaline would be enough.
Hazel had seen somebody win the jackpot once, and it had made her jealous and ecstatic all at the same time. The winner had been a tiny baby Aisha, clearly bored with the game and probably only playing because her babysitter was too busy elsewhere to entertain her. When the Aisha had lazily tossed the silver die and landed on that unmistakable symbol, she had whooped and hollered and generally alarmed the other patrons, while Hazel longed to be the one who had won. She had looked back at her own roll: lose. Hazel had bitten her lip and stalked out of the game room.
It had been a long time since she’d felt she could face the Dice-a-Roo tables again since that incident, but now she felt that she had just as much of a chance as anybody to win big. The ferry made a slight bump against the Roo Island dock and Hazel almost fell out of her seat in surprise. It was now or never: she timidly stepped off the rickety boat and onto dry land. With a deep breath, Hazel brushed aside all doubts and marched to the Dice-a-Roo den on the far side of the island.
The clattering of dice and grumbling of gamblers greeted her as she entered the game den. Searching the room quickly, she spotted a seat far from the door, away from idle chatterers and non-serious players, where she could focus. She plopped down and made herself comfortable. With a painfully slow hand, she plucked the red die off of the far counter and shook it gently onto the table.
She squinted hard at the first symbol, hoping it would change if she looked at it long enough. No such luck: her very first roll of the day was the skull and crossbones. Any dice player worth their salt recognized such a classic bad omen.
Flabbergasted, Hazel considered turning around and catching the next ferry back to Neopia Central. She considered it, but steeled herself: she was here on a mission and she wasn’t going home without that jackpot. Hazel shuddered as she considered just how long it could take for her to win big like that...
Two hours of mind-numbing dice rolling later, Hazel was still after that jackpot. She’d hit the green die once or twice but had never even touched the yellow die. She kept her mind busy by imagining that each die had a different personality--the red die was irritable and grumpy, the blue die was dull and unimaginative, the green die was jolly and generous. She hadn’t had enough experience with the other two dice to determine their personalities, but by seeing other players’ faces, she decided that the yellow die was prone to huge mood swings and that the silver die was lonesome.
Hazel found that the most annoying part of trying to play Dice-a-Roo was the advertising Blumaroos that bounced from table to table offering unwanted advice and generally causing mayhem. Hazel wasn’t sure how many times they’d alerted her that Blumaroos love Nachos, or how many complaints of aching tails and growling tummies she’d endured, but she estimated that it was somewhere in the hundreds. If she managed to roll the dice more than twice without an interruption, it was a miracle.
Time drug past at a snail’s pace as other pets became bored to tears and wandered off to ride the carousel, but Hazel did not budge. Every time the skull and crossbones hit the table, she held her breath. Sometimes she could weasel her way out of losing the round, but usually that grumpy red die required more cash to roll. She would grumble and slam a coin onto the table while the toll collector, a shadow Mynci, smirked and pocketed the money.
By the time lunch had rolled around, Hazel had burnt away 400 Neopoints and accumulated a breakfast croissant, vegetarian cheeseburger and a raspberry milkshake. With only 300 more Neopoints left to play with, she decided to eat what she’d won rather than try to find something not gummy-flavored to eat on the Island. Not wasting any time, Hazel attacked the dice again, belly full and energy recharged.
The sun was setting over Roo Island and Hazel’s luck still hadn’t changed. The Dice-a-Roo parlor had all but been emptied, save for one elderly Tonu across the room from Hazel. She bowed her head and saw a particularly taunting skull and crossbones staring up at her.
“Too bad,” the Mynci toll collector said with a smirk. “Game over. You lose all the Neopoints in your pot. 5 NP for another round.” With this last sentence, he extended his open hand to her, waiting for her next investment.
Hazel glared up at the toll collector and said slowly and firmly, “No, thank you.”
The shadow Mynci was visibly surprised, but said nothing more to Hazel. He sauntered over to the elderly Tonu as Hazel slumped out of the game room. She looked sadly at the two 5 Neopoint coins in her hand: they would barely cover her trip home. The stars had just begun to twinkle above Neopia and, feeling exhausted, Hazel plunked herself down on a long log with a echoing thump.
This log sounds hollow... Hazel thought to herself in confusion. She was then promptly heaved off of the log from underneath. Hazel fell backwards over the log onto the hard ground, trying to be quiet so whoever had pushed her might leave her alone. Much to her surprise, she heard a loud yawn from the other side of the log!
“Another restful day,” Count Von Roo said to himself as he stretched his arms over his head.
Hazel watched in awe as he produced a pair of dice from inside his cloak and rattled them on the log’s top, which in reality was not a log at all--it was a coffin. This was incredible! Hazel had just stumbled onto one of the most elusive citizens of Neopia, and he was ready to play dice with her! She scrambled around to the front of the coffin and said rather meekly, “May I play this round with you?”
Count Von Roo smiled crookedly and explained the rules to Hazel.
“Roll the dice. If you win, you gain one level. Tie me, we’ll roll again until one of us wins. You lose, and you lose levels.” Count Von Roo extended a die to Hazel, which she took with enthusiasm. What a find! She could win levels at this game, meaning her Neopoints supply wouldn’t be going down and she might get a little stronger in the process. She rolled the die and Count Von Roo rolled his.
Almost a half hour later, Hazel was still rolling her die. She’d tied the Count 15 consecutive times and she was getting really worried. Each roll placed the stakes higher and she wasn’t sure how long her streak would hold out. If she could win just one roll, she could leave and go home. Her family was probably worried sick about her, wondering just how long the ferry ride back could take. Hazel chucked her die one more time and almost moaned in agony when the Count’s came up exactly the same.
“If I win this roll, you’ll lose 16 levels,” Count Von Roo said maliciously. Hazel gulped. 16 levels was her maximum bet. This was her last roll, and she needed just one win, maybe so for once her family would appreciate her efforts! She tipped her paw ever so slightly and thought lucky thoughts as the dice came up as 6. The Count’s eyes bulged as his die hit: 5.
Hazel shrieked and whooped and hollered and woke half of the citizens of Roo Island in her excitement. She immediately felt like she could fly to the moon with her newfound levels and couldn’t wait to tell her family the entire story. Count Von Roo quietly slid back into his coffin in defeat.
Hazel caught the late ferry back to her home in Neopia Central, happy and light hearted for the whole trip. She felt a strange sensation in her heart, like something had been replaced by another, better object of interest. Hazel knew that she’d probably never roll a Dice-a-Roo die again in her life, and that most of her time would now be spent either training in the Battledome or waiting for a certain Blumaroo Count to wake up and play with her.