A dark summer’s night…
The outside of a small riverside home…
From the window of the highest floor…
Voices can be heard…
“BUT FATHER, I LOVE HIM!”
A story is being told…
In a candlelit room, toys and all manner of game boxes are everywhere.
The voice continues, “…SAID THE JACK OF SAURDIAMONDS! OR, AS WE KNOW HER, THE PRINCESS OF SAURDIAMONDS! She reveals to a stunned crowd a beautiful onyx ring in the shape of a CLOVER!”
The storyteller raises their own hand into the air. No ring on this finger, though. The hand lowers, whoever is speaking is sitting at a game table, and across from them is a young boy gripped in this story. He sneezes into a handkerchief. We must have just missed a tearful buildup to the romantic tale of lovers who were not meant to be. The boy enthralled asks, “A-a-and then what happened???”
Our storyteller, a young woman, continues, “HERESY!!! NO DAUGHTER OF MINE! NEIGH! NO ROYAL MEMBER OF THE SAURDIAMONDS KINGDOM SHALL EVER BE TAINTED BY THE JUNGLECLOVERS! HAND OVER THAT RING AT ONCE!”
The boy leans forward! The drama! He cannot take it!
The storyteller stands high. Her chair even wobbles! Then, while attempting to speak in a deep voice, “THE PRINCE HIMSELF, The JACK OF JUNGLECLOVERS bursts into the room! He professes that to hand over that ring…is to…HAND OVER HIS LIFE! THE JACK OF JUNGLECLOVERS PREPARES TO FACE THE KING AND…”
She is getting really into it! She has had practice! Only to stop and look at a small clock in the room. Then, immediately turning her attention away, “We still have a game to play! We can finish the story later!”
“Right…the game…” the boy replies with little interest.
She asks, “Nervous Dee?”
The young boy’s full name is Deacon, but he would like it a lot better if you called him Dee. He was hoping the story would go on a bit longer.
Dee sheepishly wants to know, “If I have any questions…promise you won’t get mad…again…?”
She smiles and replies, “You will always love me no matter what? Say yes.”
Dee begins to sweat; his original question was dodged! Excitedly, the woman runs over to a shelf, pulls out a game box, and steadies the still teetering chair. Sitting back down.
“I’ll set it all up!” while putting up her hair with her favorite red ribbon. Dee gave it to her as a past birthday present. She returned the favor by giving him what is now his favorite hat.
She opens a small game box, there is a title written on it, Royal Four-Ces by Faith Roos
The very creator of that game is opening the box right now. Dee’s older sister, Faith! For a homemade game, the effort put into it does not feel lazy. A fully illustrated logo and fantasy-style drawings. Wizards, witches, dragons, the stereotypical fantasy characters but all drawn in Faith’s unique art style. She is a designer both on an artistic and technical level. Every spec of this game was made on her own.
After removing the lid from the box, she pulls out poker cards and reveals four dice. Two are six-sided dice numbered 1-6. Faith put the actual numbers on there instead of the dots found on other dice. Kids seem to like the big numbers for some reason. The other two are ten-sided, numbered 0-9. She quickly lays down some hexagon-shaped wood tiles on her side of the table but then stops.
“I want to see if you remember how to set up the rest! Here ya go!” Faith shoves the box towards Dee. He is usually in the rotation as an unwitting “game tester”.
Dee starts sniffing…
One at a time, he starts pulling out more hexagon-shaped wood tiles. Dee reminds his sister, “This game makes me hate the smell of wood!” Faith whistles to herself and shuffles the cards. Dee is known to be a “slow shuffler” and is skipped over for that. He lines up the hexagonal pieces on his side a little bit faster than the other times he played. A “game tester” of his level has experience setting this up.
Dee thinks to himself, ‘Let’s see, twelve across all the way…and three rows of four Symbol Tiles here…plenty of pawns too…’
“I want you to be SPADES again if that’s ok!” Faith chiming in.
“…well, you already gave me the Spade tiles…” says Dee while holding up a tile with a Spade poker symbol. Faith shows him one of hers, a tile with a Heart poker symbol, and laughs.
Dee finishes up! Right on time, as Faith has already dealt out cards for both (twelve each) right as he puts down the last tile.
Dee quickly asks, “You forgot the deck-”
He got cut off…
“…never mind…” he replies as Faith slams a deck of cards down with force on his side of the table. He barely could see the motion.
“Hm. Hm. Hm. Take your time. Hm. Hm. Hm.” Faith singing and bopping her head left and right.
Dee starts to arrange his twelve cards and props them up with smallholders. When the cards are stood up like this, it reminds him of Chess or that other popular game he and Faith play sometimes. What was that other game called? Struh-Tee-something? He can ask later, but if he is not cautious in comparing Faith’s game to other ones, she historically has not liked that one bit.
His twelve cards are on top of the Spade symbol tiles. He has three rows of these. The fourth row above has roman numerals for I, II, III, and IV. Faith’s is nearly identical but with Heart symbols. Some other blank hexagons connect the two sides together. It now resembles a game board minus the “board” from above.
During the game setup, Dee looks disappointed, and Faith takes notice.
Dee asks, “How come we are not using the special poker cards you drew?”
Faith teases him, “Shh. I’m saving those for the special day!” she replies with a wink.
They are both now ready to go, Faith more so than Dee! They both draw four cards.
Faith announces, “You go first!”
Dee draws another card from his deck.
“I roll the Field Dice!” as he takes the six-sided dice and rolls it. It lands on a 1.
“I move this card forward!” Dee moves a playing card up ahead one hexagon tile.
Silence, then preparation. Here it comes!
“Ok…I’m ready for a Royal Rank Ranged Attack!”
Faith dismisses this with, “Ya sure about that? I will be ready to counter whatever you can dish out! CHUMP!”
“…chump?” Dee with a slight wheeze and voice crack…
“It wasn’t that hurtful, was it? I’ve heard way worse…” Faith wishing he’d have more of a spine.
“I’ll show you! Can a chump do this?” Dee smirks while studying the cards in his hand. He is ready to unleash a fierce attack!
A moment passes.
Several more, actually.
A few more.
This is taking a while…‘What is going on?’
Dee asks, “What’s a King card worth again?”
Faith gently replies, “…thirteen…”
Dee remembers now, “Ooooooooooooohhhhh….”
Dee asks, “What’s ten plus three?”
Faith gently replies, “…thirteen…”
Dee remembers now, “Ooooooooooooohhhhh….”
Dee shouts, “I’m ready!” Faith snaps awake! Finally! She thought the questions would never end! He had a lot to ask, but a little less overall this time compared to the past.
He places two cards down on the table, “I give up a 10 and a 3 card from my hand to call a King’s Attack! THE KING OF-”
“Don’t spoil it!” Faith cuts him off again and giggles.
Dee snatches the ten-sided dice and rolls it.
“Fine! The time is now! GO RANGE DICE!”
He charges himself with power. Dee puts every fiber of his being into this roll! His very soul burns bright like a flame! The die is cast across the table with a…*Tap* *Tap* *Tap*
THE RANGE DICE ANSWERED THE CALL OF DEE’S SPIRIT WITH? IT LANDED ON…A ZERO!
“OF COURSE! A ZERO!” Dee says while snapping his fingers.
“…Faith…what does a Zero mean again?”
“IT MEANS YOU ARE A CHUMP AND THE RANGE ATTACK FAILED!.....AND YOU’RE STUPID! SHOULD I WRITE THAT DOWN IN THE RULE BOOK TOO?” Faith explodes with a storm that fizzles out Dee’s moral flames to toast.
“MY TURN! YOU’RE DONE!” she shouts.
When she looks at Dee, his eyes look so big and sad, like a little kitty. She cannot help but feel a little bad and apologizes. He cannot help it if he is not the best with numbers or forgets.
Faith tells him, “Sorry…I’m nervous about tomorrow…”
Dee understands, “It’s ok! I know all about it! If I were smart enough to make the best game I could, I would feel the pressure too.”
Faith asks him further, “Are you ok with playing just a little bit longer.” This question includes her own variation of sad kitty eyes. Ah, she is the master of this look!
Dee assures her, “Of course! We will see this through! TOGETHER!”
Faith is moved, “That means so much to me. I shouldn’t yell at you. You really are the best brother!”
Dee, a little smug, says, “Yeah, I guess that’s just the kind of guy I am! I can play all night if needed.”
He might not be the brightest bulb in a warehouse full of other working light bulbs, but Dee is reliable in his own way.
Faith wonders, “Y’know, come to think of it, how long have we been…”
She looks again at the clock in the room. It is 11:59pm…they “officially” started playing at 8:00pm. Apparently, Dee’s questions at the beginning of the game ate up a lot more time than expected…
Faith thinks to herself that if, in this very moment, if she took a hammer and hit Dee on his dumb head, would it leak out all the time it stole? That moment of sibling love from before has now deflated like air from a balloon.
Dee can sense raw vengeance from his sister and is ready for a way out. He fakes, “Ah, my back! A hard day’s work with Pops! Chopping that wood! I know I said all night, but you understand and appreciate how hard I work. Could use a cold shower! Good for the muscles!”
“…don’t slip and fall in there…” Faith gives an even colder reply.
Dee squeaks, “OH! YOU! NIGHT! NIGHT!”
He had already bolted out of the room, and those were the words left behind. Faith sighs, smiles to herself, and begins cleaning up the table.
‘Well…he’s been here for me since day one. Even when he struggles to learn, struggles to count, he still plays with me,’ thinking to herself.
‘She wouldn’t like it if I was too hard on him…’ stopping.
Faith breathes out and tries to perk up.
“Tomorrow is a big day…I better get to bed.”
She blows out the candles. The game room goes dark, and she walks out, closing the door.
A cool night wind blows around a newspaper on the town streets below. It gets caught on a lamppost. A few words can be made out of it, hard to read, but the excerpt contains part of a title…
…Annual Preview! Game Theatre 18XX…
A burning HEART of passion ready to take on what tomorrow brings!
Will we see you there too?
Maybe not tomorrow, but soon!
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