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Of Bilge Dice and Buccaneers: Part One


by extreme_fj0rd

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"Awright, awright. Ye folks need t' be quiet so's I can introduce the players proper-like." When the Pirate Krawk announcer determined that the pirates packed into the Golden Dubloon were as quiet as they would ever be, he spoke again. "This is bein' the semifinal match o' a dozen or so in the annual Bilge Dice Tournament 'ere on Krawk Island. For those o' you wit' short term mem'ry loss, the players will need t' get two qualifiers, a one an' a four, to, erm... qualify." He paused for a short moment. "We'll play three matches, one t'night, one t'morrow, and one the evenin' after. Whoever wins the most will go on to the finals.

      "As fer the players, we have Monty the Mad"--a pirate Meerca grinned at the audience, and a few pirates applauded--"the self-proclaimed Bilge Dice champion. Over 'ere we've got Garin, who's also the self-proclaimed Champ'n of Bilge Dice."

      Some of the pirates laughed appreciatively, and about half clapped and cheered.

      "Here we 'ave a new one t' our books, Mr. Scarblade from o'er Scurvy Island way."

      No one clapped for Scarblade; a few booed. One went so far as to yell, "Get off the stage!" The pirate captain turned to glare at the offender, but couldn't spot him in the crowd.

      "And lastly but cer'inly not leastly, we've got a wench from right 'ere at the Golden Dubloon, miss Hannah." Hannah smiled at the Pirate Krawk announcer, and then turned her smile on the audience. Some of the pirates swooned; most of them, however, simply clapped and cheered more loudly than they had for anyone else.

      The Pirate Krawk took a small leather bag out of his pocket. "Now 'ere we have the legend'ry golden dice of Bilge Dice," he informed the audience. "There are six for each player, that bein' how many they need." He reached into the bag to take out a set to show the audience. "'Ey!" He rounded on the players. "Which one of you--"

      With a sheepish expression, Hannah opened her paw to reveal six shining golden dice. Monty dropped six more on the table in front of him, and Garin, across the table from Hannah, sighed and dug twelve out of his pockets.

      The pirates laughed appreciatively. "Give 'em back!" someone called. "Take 'em!" someone else yelled. "Ye be pirates, don't ye?"

      Garin slid a set of dice over to Scarblade with an apologetic grin. Scarblade glared at the Usul.

      The announcer yelled for attention, and got it. The audience quieted. "Now that the players 'ave got their dice," he said, glancing over at the table, "we can begin. Ready--go!"

      Four pairs of paws snatched up the solid gold dice, and four times six is twenty four dice rattled around. Hannah, Garin, and Monty let theirs drop to the tabletop; Scarblade shook his for nearly half a minute, possibly because he wanted the attention of the room. Some of the pirates growled at him to hurry up, but the pirate captain simply smirked at such interruptions. Eventually he let his dice drop, too, and began the process of selecting which to keep.

      Monty had chosen quickly, taking out a four, a one, a six and a five. He glanced around at the others, who were taking their time. Hannah had just a one, but two sixes; Garin had a four and two fives. Scarblade, for all his rattling, had gotten an array of twos, threes, and ones. He took a one out for his qualifier and left the rest.

      "Cast 'em again, gen'lemen and lady," the Pirate Krawk said. He took a seat off to the side as the competitors shook the remaining dice.

           The game went on for another ten minutes; to everyone's surprise, the dice favored Monty sufficiently to win, giving him another two sixes for a total score of twenty-three. The pirates filed out, slightly dismayed that neither Garin nor Hannah had won, though pleased with the fact that Scarblade hadn't. The captain of The Revenge was from Scurvy Island, making him an unknown quantity, but even among other pirates he had somewhat of a bad reputation.

      Monty strode down the streets of Krawk Island, enjoying the whispers that followed him. "Yarr, 'e was the one t' win the game t'night down at the Gold'n Dubloon," was the gist of most of them.

      A hand grasped the Meerca's shoulder, spinning him around. A cloaked figure stood behind him. "You. Monty."

      All the onlookers prudently retreated from their doorsteps and windows.

      "Aye," Monty replied. "Who're you?"

      "How did you win tonight? I saw the sparkle of magic." The voice held a hint of a smile. "What was that?"

      Monty darted a swift glance around, saw that no one was within hearing range. "Faerie dust," he admitted.

      "From whom?"

      The Meerca shrugged. "A Faerie," he said. "Do ye need more than that?"

      "No," the cloaked figure said. "That will do."

      Monty turned; after a few steps, he turned back. The figure had vanished, as completely as if it were never there. The Meerca, however, thought nothing of it. He--or she, though the voice had sounded rather masculine--had probably just ducked into one of the buildings. As for the cloak, well, was there any pirate among them who didn't want a bit of anonymity at times? Probably not. The Meerca continued on his way, whistling a sea shanty under his breath. He'd use the Faerie dust to clean up the next two matches; if anyone caught on, at least he'd have gotten this far. It'd been long years since Monty had even gotten to the semifinals of the Annual Bilge Dice Tournament, and the Meerca was tired of losing.

           "I don't see how that dreadful Meerca won!" Hannah exclaimed. "I mean, after all this planning--all those wrist exercises to get just the right numbers, and he won!" The Usul paced her room, fuming. "How? How did he do it?"

      A cloaked figure appeared in the center of the room. Hannah nearly bumped into the figure on her next lap.

      "What? Who are you? How dare you enter my rooms." The Usul bristled.

      "Peace, Hannah. I mean no ill." The cloaked figure paused. "I will help you," it said abruptly. "In the tournament."

      "How?" Hannah's face lit up. "You can help me beat that awful Meerca?"

      The hood inclined. Yes.

      The Usul grinned. "Tell me," she said.

      A shrug, rippling the fabric of the cloak. "How will you repay me?"

      Hannah paused, the grin slipping off her face. "I have gold--jewels," she said. "From the Pirate Caves."

      "No."

      "You don't want gold?"

      "I will give you aid if you promise to do a favor for me in future."

      The tales warning of promising such things to an unknown stranger rose in Hannah's mind, but she pushed them back. No one was free of greed--were they? Once she'd won, she could use her winnings to pay off this mysterious cloaked figure and she'd be free of the favor. Or she could ask what they wanted first, and pay them off if it was too outrageous.

      Hannah nodded. "I will do a favor for you. Now," she said impatiently, "how can I beat him?"

      Garin whistled as he left, cheerful in spite of losing. He'd won a bet that Scarblade wouldn't come out on top, and the gold coins had a pleasant jingle in his pocket. Well, of course the dreaded pirate captain had lost. Garin had stolen two sets of the dice, placing six of them in one pocket, six in the other.

      His friend Jacques had stolen a spell from a well-to-do magician in Neopia Central, and together they'd woven half into each pocket lining. One they altered slightly, using notes the Kyrii had also stolen, to make the probability of getting ones, fours, fives and sixes higher; the other they altered to make the probability of getting ones, twos, and threes higher.

      The Usul grinned at the memory, putting a paw in his pocket to quiet the coins. Though the noise was as music to his ears, it was also music to any other pirate's ears, including some that might not be afraid of the self-proclaimed Bilge Dice Champion of Krawk Island--namely, Garin.

      Scarblade sulked, stalking through the streets of Krawk Island to the harbor, where his ship The Revenge was anchored. First he'd gotten the news that Maraqua was rebuilding; now it looked like he might lose the Bilge Dice tournament as well. The pirate captain had practiced for hours with his crew members; the crew used coins as ante, but Scarblade used little wooden buttons instead. He was the captain, after all, and no one would deny him the right to weight the game as much as he could--in fact, many of the crew simply lost, by choice. It was never a good idea to get on Scarblade's bad side. That is, if the pirate even had a good side to contrast the bad, which popular opinion said was improbable, if not impossible.

      The power of Scurvy Island could be denied no longer--particularly in the Annual Krawk Island Bilge Dice Tournament. Whatever it took, Scarblade would do it, as long as he was assured to win. He locked himself in his rooms for the rest of the evening, pondering how he could cheat. It would've been far easier to simply spend the evening practicing Bilge Dice with his crew, but then again evil has always taken more thought than good, especially when it comes to Bilge Dice.

To be continued...

 
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