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A Meeting of Chance


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It was nearly dusk when Jace Maren entered Cairhein. It was the first time he entered a city since leaving his farm outside of Whitebridge. He worked his way to Cairhein doing odd jobs - mostly farmwork - for people who needed an extra hand for a bit. He was able to earn some money and even a cloak and hat from a man who couldn't pay him in coin. He found the hat extremely useful since most people found the sight of his golden yellow eyes unsettling. He would keep the hat tilted down to cover most of his eyes, but he could still see.


As he entered town, he lowered his hat and kept an eye out for a tavern. Jace was proud of himself for having kept away from the dice tables for so long and felt he had earned a brew. He hoped that the gambling addiction that had forced him to leave his mother and brother was finally dissapating. He spotted a tavern on the right, and it looked decent enough, so he headed that way and entered.


Inside the tavern he could see a few patrons at the bar and several playing dice in a corner. Immediately, the sound of the dice echoed in his head - calling to him.


"Just one drink and then I'm gone," thought Jace.


He shook his head and headed to the bar. The clinking of the coins in his coinpurse seemed a little louder than usual, even with his highly attuned hearing. He pulled out a coin and ordered a stein of ale from the barkeep.


Jace took some time to survey the crowd as he drank his ale, but his attention kept going to a pair sitting at the gambling tables. They had one seat open. Jace tried to look away, but the dice kept rolling louder and louder, and his eyes kept going back to the pair. His fists clenched in frustration as he rose and headed to the table. The pair looked up as he approached.


"Playing crowns?" asked Jace.

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"Oh, bugger it all," Clare growled under her breath as the dice came tumbling out of her cup. They landed on a pair of rods, a rose, a sword and a cup. The man she was dicing with, Jayel, gave her an apologetic grin as he raked her coins across the table to his pile. HE had rolled three roses and two cups.


Clare shook her head and dug in her coin purse, grumbling as she came up with a silver. She placed the coin face-up on the table between them, then ran her hands through her short-cropped blonde hair in frustration. That smug grin Jayel flashed her again as he scooped his dice into his cup only increased her anger.


I never should have gotten into this dice game, or have come to this Light-forsaken city, she thought. It was a stupid idea, and this is a stupid city.


She disliked being in Cairhien at all. As a Caemlyner, she had little but derision for the Cairhienin and their silly Game of Houses. The Lords and Ladies here were always moving in the shadows, trying to increase their position. At least in Andor, you always knew where you stood. Not so in Cairhien. Even the man she was dicing with was a Lord of some sort, if the barkeep had told her true-- though he didn't act like any Lord she'd ever met. Nor look like one in that coat, she thought.


Truth be told, she would rather be almost anywhere else in the world than where she was right now, but she was here on business. The group she ran with had heard of a possible shipment of coin about to ride from Cairhien to Aringill, and they wanted to take it before it crossed into Andor. Once it was on Andoran soil, the Queen's guards would keep the coin safe-- but in Cairhien, times were much more tumultuous. The King could barely keep hold of his writ in the city, let alone spare many guards on a cross-country trip. No, the place to take it would definitely be in Cairhien, if the coin existed at all. That's why she was here: to suss out if the rumors were true. Chaser had practically begged her to come here. He wasn't suited to chatting with Lords, he had said, and besides, Clare would have more success getting information with her pretty eyes and nicely cut figure than an old grizzled man like him would. The compliments fell flat with Clare, especially when they came from Chaser. She wasn't dumb enough to be taken by his pretty words, but she knew they were true. Chaser was old, Jowdry was a drunk, and she was young and pretty enough. And so she had reluctantly made her way to Cairhien, and had spent the last three days here dicing in taverns and drinking with soldiers-- trying to find out any word of the shipment.


The sound of the dice rattling across the table brought her out of her sour reflections. Jayel's dice slowed their roll and then stopped, this time on three roses, a rod, and a star. Clare muttered as she scooped up her own dice, and shook them for all she was worth before letting them spill across the heavy wooden table, which was polished to a dull gleam by years of beeswax and spilled ale. The dice came up showing three crowns and two swords, and she let out an exultant shout as she pulled the kitty across the table into her own small pile. Jayel's smile didn't change as he gave her a nod for her good luck. They both were about to ante up again when they noticed a man had approached their table. Clare paused in the act of setting down a silver on the table top and peered up at the newcomer.


"Playing crowns?" the man asked, and Clare could see a gleam in his eyes as he appraised the table. The man adjusted his hat slightly higher on his head, and Clare realized with a start that it wasn't just the gleam of eagerness she saw there-- his eyes glowed golden in the lamplight. She had seen many odd things in her years, but this was the first golden-eyed man. And it probably won't be the oddest thing I see before I'm in my grave, either, she thought ruefully, as she stood and smoothed her red coat over her tight tan breeches.


Clare extended a hand to the newcomer. "Clare is the name, stranger. I detect the accent of Andor on your tongue-- I'm from Caemlyn, myself. Another Andoran would be welcome at this table, if you have the coin to help me beat Lord Aledrid here."

Edited by claireducky
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Jayel had spent most of the afternoon in one of his favourite taverns, trying to gather a bit of coin. A pretty young woman had entered at some point and joined in the game, Jayel cursed himself that he hadn't taken the time to notice much about her when she entered. Not because he was interested- although she wasn't bad looking, and wore breeches which fit very nicely...but because he was beginning to see that she was a slightly different class of personage to the usual roughs that frequented these kinds of taverns, and he was a little worried how to handle her. She didn't seem to happy at his winning streaks, although he kept them fairly moderate, and her eyes looked sharp and intelligent. She won a hand and was quite pleased about it, he gave her a courteous smile which didn't seem to improve her mood at all. He quickly calculated- he was ahead, but hadnt hit his target for the night to pay for the room he was renting AND a warm meal, not yet, so he had to keep playing. He wondered if he could let her win a few rolls, but she was upping the ante all the time. He supressed a grimace as he tried to come up with another stratagem.


Opportunity sometimes presents itself.


"Playing crowns?" A man voice. Jayel turned to look at him. Decent size, looked strong enough, ale in hand and eagerness in his eyes. This time, Jayel supressed a smile, the barest traces of which were quickly wiped off the corners of his mouth as he heard the woman introduce herself and place just the right amount of emphasis on the title "lord" to show her disdain for himself and his house. "Burn it all." He thought to himself silently. "You just sealed your own fate, woman." Walking away from a table with all the coin in your own pocket was a tricky proposition, it tended to end up with a knife held to your gut. The difficulty became proportionally less the more of the pot you were willing to share with others, which was why Jayel always set himself a target winnings and stuck to it. Emptying someone elses purse, however...that was easy, if you were willing to share it. And here was a young fellow that looked willing enough.


"Yes! Of course...please, do join us." Jayel said warmly, pulling the stool next to himself out and clapping the newcomer on the shoulder as he sat down. It was only one he got closer that Jayel noticed the colour of his eyes. His hand dropped straight from the man's- Jace?- Jace's shoulder and reflexively fell toward the miniature crossbow on his thigh, but he averted it midway and instead scratched his leg and put his hand carefully on the table, his warm smile never wavering. What matter the colour of a man's eyes, anyway? "You can use my dice, too." Jayel proffered, handing the over. "We'll share."


And so Jayel set about his evenings work, his loaded die coming up with three roses for Jace, which he converted into a full house, his eyes bulging with delight at the win. "Perfect." Jayel thought. He was even the type to get excited by a winning. "Well done!" Jayel said. "Barkeep! Ale for the newcomer for winning his first hand of the night, may there be many to come, and one for the pretty lady as well.." He said with an inoffensive smile Clare's way. He wanted to keep the woman in the game, make her want to win.


Over the next few hands, Jayel switched out his loaded and unloaded dice between himself and the newcomer to control fairly well the flow of winnings. He allowed Clare a fair chance at some of the smaller pots and split the bigger ones between himself and Jace fairly evenly. This was a good cover, as it wouldn't be obvious something was amiss, but he would easily make her quota, and the insulting foreign woman would go home empty handed. It was a foolproof plan...

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The woman was the first to greet Jace as he approached. She was polite enough and he felt as if he would be welcome in this game. He took her proffered hand and introduced himself - the scent of her filling his nostrils. It was something else that he had noticed since he had left the farm. He was able to smell what people were feeling. It was the only way to explain it. The woman's scent was filled with cheerfulness that was masking the scent of frustration. It was clear she was happy to welcome a newcomer to the table and she apparantly wasn't winning against her current opponent.


The man was just as welcoming. He pulled out a stool next to him and clapped him on the shoulder as he sat down. It was at that time that Jace got a good look at the man. First thing he notice was his stature. The man was incredibly short. The man had a welcoming smile and his scent was one of amusement; however, as the man caught Jace's eyes, his hand dropped to his leg and his scent changed. Jace recognized that one - apprehension. It was the scent most people had when they saw his eyes. It only lasted a breif moment before changing back to amusement. Whoever this Lord Aledrid was, he seemed to have a decent amount of control over his emotions.


Jace placed his bet in the pot and rolled. A look of dumbfoundedness came onto his face as he saw what he had rolled. Three roses and two crowns. He had certainly seen that roll before, but had never rolled it himself. His look quickly changed to one of excitement as he claimed his prize. It certainly felt good to win.


"Well done," Aledrid said. "Barkeep! Ale for the newcomer for winning his first hand of the night, may there be many to come, and one for the pretty lady as well."


The barkeep brought the ale and Jace took a drink before continuing to roll. He continued to win hands as did the man. The lady, Clare also took a few of the smaller pots, but most of the bigger ones went to the two men. It was then that Jace began to detect a slight change in Aledrid's scent. The amusement was still there, but there was something different about it. It was unfamiliar, and Jace couldn't quite put his finger on what it meant.

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