Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dice

It was a sound Morg was unfamiliar with and it startled him from sleep, leading his body to jolt upright well before his mind could begin to guess the cause.  He looked around, straining his neck against the metal breast plate and cursing the armor he felt too vulnerable to take off while sleeping.

All around him the world gave an idyllic picture of serenity.  The birds chirping and singing, the mist on the early morning grass threatening to turn wet and warm as the sunlight began to creep, slowly, over the hill.  The pumping motion of some animal in a tree branch as it dug for insects or perhaps syrup.  Morg turned and turned, looking for the sound that had awoken him and found it nowhere.  He also found no other soldiers in camp.

At this he jumped up, grabbed his helmet and sheath, and ran to load his horse.  The other animals were still there, tied to the same tree they had been we he slept, and there was no sign of the others having packed anything to depart.  Morg scanned the scattered belongings for signs of struggle or a fight when he heard the sound again- a light clacking or something with a smoother surface hitting, bouncing and landing.

Morg ran toward it, drawing his sword as he did so, leaving the blade until he could find a stance to defend.  Down the hill he clattered, his armor rumbling like a topple of pots and pans in some poorly organized kitchen.  He jumped a large bounder and landed hard in a stone courtyard he hadn't seen and been aware of only a moment before.

"What in the gods anthems are you doing?" Lox yelled at him.

Morg straightened and looked up at the familiar forms of his fellows, sitting or kneeling or in Lox's case decidedly sprawling on the stone.  Between them was a circle in the stone, a large flat space where the grass and moss hadn't overgrown the ruins, and in that circle were cubes of bone carved with patterns on the faces.

"Oh, ignore him- you're rolling or I'm slitting your throat and taking the coins the old fashioned way," Berks said, pushing Lox with his boot.

Lox, clearly having already tasted the wine that morning, grabbed up the cubes and cradled them in his hands, blowing and then seemingly talking to the small objects.

Morg observed this with puzzlement, his brain unable to define it and sorting through a list of options.  Were these sacred objects being used to cast some circle of protection?  No, certainly not with Lox wielding them, despite his ritualistic treatment of them at the moment.

"Get on with it!" Berks called, and lifted his foot for another push.

Lox drew his dagger from it's hidden sheath in the arm hole of his armor and held it Berks' shoe- the tip pressing into the bottom and threatening to penetrate if he pushed any further forward.  He shot him the death stare, the one he swore he'd used to turn a man to stone once when the gods had still blessed him, and Berks withdrew.

Then, as if tossing aside a bone he'd cleared of me, he let the cubes fall from his hand.  Morg heard the familiar clacking sound as they landed on the stone, and then a yell from Lox as he cheered the symbols appearing on the upturned faces of the cubes, and then an angry growl from Berks and an amused chuckle from Kindl who before now had sat quietly grinning at the whole thing.

"Yes, that's what happens when you test the gods will!" Lox cried, pointing a finger at Berks whose face was rapidly reddening.

"What are you doing?" Morg demanded, finally unable to ignore the obvious question any longer.

"Following the laws of the land," Lox said dismissively and grabbed up the cubes again.

Morg looked at him puzzled.

"What, hasn't anyone told you?" Berks asked, "Always gamble near a holy site in the morning."

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