What happens when an illusionist tries her hand at cards? In an effort to raise some much-needed coin, Saraneth uses a combination of disguise, deceit, and a bit of good fortune to fill her purse.
Saraneth resisted the urge to check her moustache. A necessary part of the disguise, and the most fragile. The costumer from whom she’d bought the glue insisted that even the notoriously sweaty Althus Manutius, one of the Copper Show’s most noted players, hadn’t sweated through it during his latest role as Captain Dark in “Dark Dangers Abound”. Not that Saraneth had coin to spare at the Copper Show. Nor the patience to listen to Althus Manutius, whoever he was. The costumer had dropped names like a sower dropped seeds. Saraneth had nodded, and smiled, as if the penny dramas of Irongate were the most fascinating thing on earth. The costumes were pretty to look at though. But none were so fine as d’Garlim’s coat. Or rather, her coat now.
The costumer had marveled at it. Even offered her gold for it. He recognized that it was not a prop, but the real thing. That was a problem. Too many people were recognizing it of late. If word got back to the d’Garlim family, there might be questions asked. Pointed questions.
In the end, she decided to risk it again. Tonight she was Tarique, a young noble of the guard spending a few hours throwing coin and caution to the wind at Pox Motley’s public house, known to the locals as “The Jester” for the bad caricature of Motley that served as a signboard.
Of the players still at the table, only Rankin was left to bet before the reveal of three. The greasy merchant fingered a stack of copper coins briefly, and then he nonchalantly shoved the whole stack forward to raise, going all-in. Benedict promptly folded. Elliott the Sharp had six coppers and a silver piece in front of him. He looked at his cards again, a squire and sword, both crowns. Promising enough to lure the silver piece out as he matched the merchant’s bet. Maricius, to the left of the Sharp, folded and it was Saraneth’s option. The few gold coins that had been wagered that evening were in front of her, as well as much of the silver.
“At least give the man a chance to win his money back, Tarique,” Benedict said to Saraneth, using the nom de guerre she had adopted for the evening, apparently none the wiser. “You’ll hardly note the loss of ten coppers, sir!”
Saraneth gave him the stink eye, and dropped a stack of coppers into the pot. “I will pay to see what Rankin holds. If he’s trusting in chance, he’ll be sadly forsaken.”
The attention of the table turned to Janus, who had gotten a bit deep into the Jester’s ale and opted to play the hand blind. Janus smirked, belched, and matched the bet as well. “I’m innit.”
It was time for the reveal of three. Benedict tapped the stack of cards and turned over the king of crowns, three of shields, and the five of cups.
Janus hiccupped and tapped the table, satisfied to leave the pot as it was. Rankin waved his hand over the table with a theatrical sigh, all his remaining coins already in the pot. The Sharp echoed Janus’s tap with his own. Saraneth raised a silver piece.
Elliott the Sharp coughed explosively into his hand.
Janus seemed to sober a bit and scowled at the disguised Saraneth before sliding a silver piece of his own into the pot, leaving himself only four coppers, and still no clue as to his own cards. The Sharp pondered a moment, eyed Saraneth in her Tarique disguise and advanced his last six coppers, all-in. A tangled web of finance and fabrication bound the players tightly to the table, as they anticipated the returning.
Benedict turned over the six of shields.
Janus chuckled to himself and tapped the table again. Saraneth added four more coppers to the pot, forcing Janus to relinquish the last of his funds if he wanted to play on. Frowning, Janus did just that and lowered his head to whisper slurred prayers to the hidden cards on the table in front of him.
Four players remained, the pot in three portions according to the priorities of those who had chosen to wager their all. Over 80 coppers on the table.
Benedict turned over the last card, known to some as the reward. It was the queen of cups.
Only the victor’s revelation remained. Rankin snapped his cards decisively on the table. A king and queen giving him a strong two pair with the royal couple already revealed. The merchant chuckled confidently. Elliott the Sharp tossed his cards out in disgust, nothing having materialized despite the tantalizing possibilities. Janus took a last swig of ale and muttered a plea into his empty tankard as he flipped the mystery cards before him, but found nothing of merit.
Saraneth managed to restrain her grin as she placed her two and four on the table, completing a straight with what Benedict had dealt.
Rankin gasped. “You had nothing when you called me, you young fool!” The merchant’s face was bright red. Benedict laughed into his sleeve. “Heh. You bet silver before you saw that six you needed! Who was it trusting in chance, eh?” The dealer shook his head. Saraneth collected the coins with a good-natured laugh.
“Well played, gentlemen! I trust we can do this again sometime?”
"A two and a four!" Rankin rose abruptly, and waved his hand, "Bah! Who plays with such common cards? It's madness!"
As the merchant stalked out, Saraneth spoke as if to herself, "O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! ... The common curse of mankind, folly and ignorance," She tapped her winning cards. "Not my line, Rankin. Some poet. You might find you're as cursed as the rest of us despite the noble cards you hold."