I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch

 

listen to my words

Posts Tagged ‘Dink’

S.N.E.A.K.S. — The Man of Cards

Frost grinned. “Trust me,” he said. He pushed open the door.

The air, even before entering was warm and sticky. The room was well lit with candles and torches and a large fire in the hearth on one wall. Yet even so it was difficult to see. Smoke and haze also filled the air. It was difficult to distinguish features on anyone they saw.

It was easy, however, to distinguish the mood. The entrance of a Struct and a furleen, even with two humans, was clearly neither common nor particularly welcome. Nearly everyone near the door turned to look and glared. Not a single one was friendly. But neither did anyone move to threaten or stop them

Frost was the only one of the group that could conceivably fit in. Vrash was human, true, but he bore himself erect. His shoulders were perpetually broad, like a soldier. Dink noted the irony of a slave being so proud, but he also marked the similarities between thralls and uniformed militia. With great effort he filed the combination of ideas for future consideration. He sensed that he might be needed to fight.

The people in the alehouse, however, were unilaterally shabby. Slumped. Closed postured. Possibly dirty, certainly not meticulous. There was an air of weariness. Dink was uncomfortable – almost everything about the team was contrary to the regulars.

Frost, apparently, wasn’t bothered by the ill-fit of his companions. He interlinked his fingers and popped his knuckles. He weaved his way through the common area to a particularly shady corner at the back. There at a small table sat a grizzled man. Stubble covered his craggy, weather-beaten face. One eye was half open. His hair was largely gone, and the sparse, dark hair that remained was unkept, but flat against his head. His body was shapeless, somewhat drooped. He was more of a mound of humanity poured onto a chair than he was an actual person. His spindly but dexterous fingers shuffled a deck of playing cards over and over as he sat there.

The man didn’t look up at them or seem to respond as the team arrived at his table.

“Gentlemen and lady,” Frost said, almost reverently. “This is the Man of Cards.”

There was a short pause. It was another moment in his life when Dink wondered if he would have blinked if he had eyelids. This man did not seem like the sage he had expected. He was neither a dignified prophet nor the crone-like gypsy. He was just a broken man. He looked to the others for a reaction. Vrash, as expected, betrayed no expectations or surprise. Linella, on the other hand, was apparently of the same mindset.

“They’re not Tarot,” she said. It sounded like a complaint.

The Man of Cards coughed loudly. Dink wasn’t sure if it was an expression of contempt or a symptom of illness. When the cough finally calmed he spoke with palpable scorn, “The Tarot is just slight of hand. It’s utilized by cons and fools. It’s simple lies about an interested god. A clever fiction clothed in mysticism to make it seem like it has meaning.”

He coughed again. “Cards of chance. The holy mathematic. Only through the random can the pattern of a random universe come forth. We play a game to learn the answers that we want.”

His hands suddenly tapped the cards into a solid stack and he started dealing five hands.

“I wasn’t…” Dink hadn’t planned on playing. He knew the rules, but he didn’t play.

“We will all play. All involved folk.” The Man of Cards used a tone that broached no argument. The others sat, and Dink, resigned to his fate, lowered himself to the floor by the table as the Man of Cards finished dealing and distributed five equal piles of dull wooden tokens.

S.N.E.A.K.S. iii

Master stared at Vrash for several long moments before speaking. “I made a bet today,” he said as he began pacing before the gladiator. This was no surprise to Vrash. That was how owners made money off gladiator matches. “I’m not sure whether I’m pleased or not.” He paced some more before saying anything else. “Well, I suppose that’s it then. You’re a free man now.”

Vrash blinked. For the first time in his life, he was truly surprised. “Free?”

Master frowned and grunted. “You win too much. The other owners were forcing me out. They set up what they thought would be an impossible match. Their four best, armed, against you, unarmed. If you lost, the were to pay me what they thought was several times your worth. If you won they would force me out of the arena. No one would ever agree to a match with any of my fighters. Unless You no longer competed.”

He resumed pacing. “I confess I considered simply retiring you. You’ve been a great asset. But I can’t use you among my guards and you can’t tutor my children. The expected thing was to kill you. But I’d sooner put down a prize horse. You have provided me with a great deal of wealth. I can give you a small amount of coins, but you’re not allowed at the arena, on pain of death.” He stopped pacing, his back to Vrash. “Good luck in your new life, wherever it may be.”

Vrash was still standing in position to be inspected as he watched his former master walk away for the last time.

CHAPTER 2

Dink tromped into the small, semicircle auditorium through doorway, which he noted was double wide. Exactly for persons of his description. His gigantic metal body took special considerations in architecture. And since Structs — living beings made from metal or wood or what-have-you by magic wielding engineers — had only been recognized as “alive” in the traditional sense for a decade, there wasn’t a lot they could expect out of society. This organization, however, seemed not just willing, but interested in accomodating his special needs.

Dink himself was made of iron and steel. And copper, and a few alloys. His creator hadn’t had a lot of one material, apparently. Dink didn’t mind his unusual composition, however, and often spent time simply contemplating the appearance fo the mash of materials.

His creator also hadn’t been exceptionally creative when designing him. He was, essentially, a giant metal ball with two huge legs and two arms that ended in hands with opposable thumbs and three other digits, and a domed head he could swivel. There was a human approximation of a face thereon, but other than that, he didn’t look much like a person.

Dink tried to be careful as he stepped into the room, but it was nigh impossible to do it without making a loud sound. And as his first step into the room revealed, he had startled someone.

Perched on the large desk at the front of the room was a girl. She had thick hair, pink, that covered her head and tumbled off her shoulders. She also had a long, pink, cat tail that twitched nervously in the air. And sticking out of the mass of unbridled hair were two cat ears — also pink. Dink lastly noted that in place of feet and hands she had pink cat paws. There was no hair on the rest of her. Or at least Dink assumed so. She was wearing a loose shirt and shorts. Her legs and arms were bare skin. Her large round eyes were a deep green.

She hissed.

Dink paused. He supposed if he were capable of it, he would have blinked. Instead his impassive looking oval eyes remained still. He spoke carefully. “You are a Furleen?” he asked. “I have not met one of your kind before. I am Dink.”

The catgirl came forward, but crouched defensively as she approached with a slow and careful gait up the incline. She walked all around Dink and finally stopped at his side. She jumped up on a chair next to him and crouched on her hands and feet as she looked at him. “You’re a dink? What does that mean?” she asked suspiciously. Dink noted that she had more canine teeth than other humans.

“I’m not a dink,” he corrected. “I am a Struct. My name is Dink.”

The catgirl nodded slowly. “I see. Are you here to tell me to leave?”

“Why would I tell you to leave?”

“People don’t like… my kind.” She said, squinting. The suspicion in her voice was still heavy.

That sentiment was something Dink could appreciate. He turned and lifted a chair slightly, stacking it on another. There was no way it would support him. He sat down on the floor and looked at her. He wanted to appear less threatening. “I’m only here because the elf-woman at the front directed me here. I am to wait for a representative. I would guess that’s not you.” He hoped that would come across as a joke.

The Furleen’s muscles relaxed, and a small grin appeared briefly. “Nope.” She sat down on the floor and looked at him. “My name is Linella.”