Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 98,096,637 Issue: 194 | 10th day of Relaxing, Y7
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Of Bilge Dice and Buccaneers: Part Three


by extreme_fj0rd

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"As ye all ken the rules a'ready, I'll just step aside fer the competit'rs," the Pirate Krawk said. He was fully recovered, save for a reddish bump on his forehead. "Shake 'em, ye landlubbers."

      As one, the four turned to glare.

      "Sorry." The Krawk sulked off to a table near the side, where he sat, rubbing his head. It still hurt from the fight the night before.

      With nods of satisfaction, the players turned back to their table. All-new sets of golden dice had had to be acquired; even if Hannah, Garin, and Scarblade had given back the ones they took (which in and of itself was unlikely) there still would've been seven missing, with no way to tell who stole them.

      The first throw went well; then the Krawk stood up again. "Nearly fergot," he said. "Monty, three o' yer dice, if ye please. And 'Annah, three o' yers." The two traded odd looks; then Monty and Hannah held out the dice. The announcer swapped the three, giving Monty's dice to Hannah and Hannah's to Monty.

      "Garin, Scarblade, ye two switch," the Krawk said. He watched the Usul and Lupe trade dice, then nodded. "A'right, cast ag'n fer the first throw."

      Sighs from the competitors and the audience; the Krawk was delaying the game with this ritual, whatever it was meant to accomplish. Nevertheless, the four gathered up their dice and began to shake them in cupped paws.

      The Krawk returned to his seat to watch; as it turned out, it was good that he'd moved away. Soft explosions sounded from two points in the room: Hannah and Monty. The Usul opened her paws gingerly; the fur was singed black, and the remnants of three golden dice rested on top. The other three were perfectly fine.

      Monty peered at the remains of three dice that sat on his own paws. Like Hannah's, his other three looked good as new.

      "What--" The Krawk hurried over.

      Hannah glanced at Monty; at the same moment, Monty glanced at her. The Usul paused for a moment, then looked away.

      "Nothing, sir," she said hastily, dropping the three good dice on the table and brushing her paws off. She took three more dice from her pocket and put them beside the ones on the tabletop. The three came from the nine she'd stolen the night before, while the fight distracted most of the audience.

      When the Krawk couldn't find anything wrong with the table or the competitors, he huffed and folded his arms. "Ye scurvy deckswabb'rs can' do nothin' right."

      Hannah passed three more dice to Monty under the table. The Meerca muttered his thanks, and added, "Faerie dust?" The Usul gave a slight, nearly imperceptible nod, and Monty smiled faintly.

      "Aye," Garin said. "An' yer point bein'--"

      "That I'm goin' ta stand 'ere an' watch ye t' make sure ye don't cheat!" the Krawk shouted, thumping the table. "Now, cast the dice!"

      Hannah raised her brows and began to shake her dice; Monty did the same. Either the Faerie dust had rubbed off in Hannah's pocket, or Hannah had taken dice from Garin and Scarblade, but none of the dice imploded.

      When the game ended, it was determined that Garin had won, through pure skill, it seemed. Hannah was vaguely annoyed by that point and stomped up to her rooms in a huff. "Faerie!" she shouted, slamming the door behind her. "I know you're here somewhere."

      The cloaked figure appeared in the middle of her room. "Yes?" the voice inquired.

      "I used the Faerie dust tonight, just as you told me, and Garin still won!" the Usul exclaimed.

      "Faerie dust cannot do anything about decreasing the skills of others; it only enhances probability to be on your side."

      "And you said it was more powerful than that Meerca's Faerie dust."

      "The dust I gave you is more powerful than any in Faerieland--save one kind, and that is rare enough that I feel just in exempting that fact."

      Hannah glared. "Still. When the announcer had us switch half our dice, the ones we'd switched exploded."

      "A splode," said the figure lightly, a hint of laughter in its voice, and vanished.

      Hannah's paws curled into fists, and she glowered at the spot where the Faerie had been. "I'm getting annoyed with you," she muttered. "Just wait. Just you wait. You'll see--I'll get you."

           "Six, five, four, six," said Monty the next evening, "and the two qualifiers."

      The Pirate Krawk leaned over, then nodded. "Twenty-one," he announced to the audience.

      Hannah pushed her dice forward.

      "Three, six, six, six," the Krawk muttered. "Eighteen an' three--carry t' one, add t' two--'er score's twen'y-one too! Scarblade, it's yer turn."

      The pirate captain, who'd been nodding off to sleep, jerked awake. "Aye," he said without knowing exactly what he was agreeing too.

      "Your dice?" the announcer asked politely.

      "Aye." The Lupe pushed them across the table.

      "Five, five, five, and six." A quick math calculation. "Twenty-one! Garin--"

      The Usul shook his head. "Twenty-one."

      The Krawk examined Garin's dice; he gaped. "A four-way tie! This hasn't happened since Monty, Grimtooth, Deadeye, and Garin played three years ago--an' that were a practice match!"

      Garin smiled slightly; Scarblade glowered. Hannah looked annoyed that her Faerie dust hadn't won the game for her, and Monty just looked amused.

      "So--rematch," the Krawk said. "T'morrow, not now. Come back t'morrow, ye scurvy deckswabbers!" he called to the crowd.

      "Aye!" some called back, and some, "Ye're a scurvy landlubber." The Krawk glared at the ones who'd said that.

      "Yer face is a scurvy landlubber," he shouted at their retreating backs. He turned back to the players, but they'd slipped past him while he was distracted and none of the four was anywhere to be seen.

           Hannah paced her rooms. "Skill! Pure skill, they say. Well, at least now I'm tied with him."

      "All of you are tied with Garin," the soft voice of the Faerie said. She was standing next to the door, covered, as she always was, in a cloak.

      "So we are. But this time--tomorrow--I'm going to beat him. And I'm going to win!"

      "That would require a rematch."

      "What?"

      "Monty won once; you all tied the second time. If you win, you will have to prove your skills again."

      "What do you know about Bilge Dice? I grew up on this island, watched my family play it on weekends and after dinner. You live in Faerieland with servants and not a pirate in sight." Hannah let her annoyance show in her voice.

      "Perhaps you are right," the Faerie said.

      "Perhaps? I am right, Faerie lady, whether you like it or not." The Usul was just passing the cloaked figure; with a swift motion, she grabbed the cloakpin and undid it. The dark cloak fell to the floor. "Oh my Weewoo," Hannah said in a small voice. "What have I done?"

      "Perhaps I had better ask you to perform that favor now," said Jhudora, her wings unfurling from where they'd been pressed tightly against her back to keep them concealed. "I believe I will." She turned from studying the Usul to glance up at the ceiling. "But what to ask of you--hmm. I cannot ask you to forget who I am, for no one would believe you even if you told. Nor do I want gold or jewels from these... Pirate Caves." She paused for a moment. "Perhaps..."

      "I will do anything you ask," Hannah gasped, stepping backward. "I did not know--"

      "That it was me? Of course you did not." A small smile flitted across Jhudora's features. "Let me see. Oh, yes--here we go. This is what I would like you to do for me, in exchange for giving you that Faerie dust..."

      "And 'opefully, this'll be the las' Bilge Dice game fer this year's tournament," the Krawk said. "All righ', go ahead an' cast 'em..."

      Hannah picked up her dice and began to shake them. The real Hannah sat out in the audience, swathed in a large cloak. The Hannah who sat at the table was Jhudora in disguise; Hannah had been surprised and annoyed when the Dark Faerie said that her favor was to let Jhudora play the last game, but eventually she'd come to realize that the Faerie had a hold on her though the Faerie dust and Hannah owed her a debt. There was no way out.

      Hannah just hoped that no one would recognize her.

      Jhudora dropped the dice, clumsy in Usul-form and clumsier with the dice. Hannah had given the Faerie a quick summary of the rules the night before, but Jhudora was still uncertain of some points. What qualifiers were, she didn't know; the concept of having to take one die before she rolled again was totally unknown to her.

      Hannah fidgeted out in the audience; she was short enough to not be able to see over the heads of the pirates in front of her, and she didn't dare stand for fear someone would see her face. She had no idea what was going on at the Bilge Dice table.

      The game, thankfully, passed quickly. Jhudora's score was twelve, pitiful in comparison to Garin's twenty-three and Scarblade's twenty-two. Even Monty had gotten better than the Faerie with his score of eighteen.

      The Faerie muttered something about Krawk announcers as Garin received his trophy and prize money; then she stood up, shedding the form of a Usul. Her wings unfolded as purple sparks shot from her fingers towards Garin.

      "Hey--" The pirates stood as one; Hannah jumped up on the bench to see what was going on, not caring if anyone saw her. "That's not Hannah!" "Get her!" they cried, and surged forward. Hannah winced and slipped away quickly just as Jhudora turned to see several hundred pirates running at her.

      Which just goes to show that Faeries are sore losers, and that pirates can take over Faerieland any time they want.

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Of Bilge Dice and Buccaneers: Part One
» Of Bilge Dice and Buccaneers: Part Two



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