(121-04-23) High Stakes
High Stakes
Summary: A simple game of cups leads to a chance meeting and a playful bet with risky consequences…
Date: 23/04/121
Related: None

Amidst the rundown buildings of Oldtown, an inconsiderable crowd of smallfolk have gathered to make a humble din about the cross-legged form of a dark-haired woman with flashing eyes. Placed on a sturdy plank before this grinning stranger are three decorated wooden cups; one with a sun, one the moon and the third an eight-point star. Calloused fingers shift dexterously between them, rapidly switching the sun with the moon, the moon with the star…

When she stops, she spreads her hands, and the peasant woman at the fore of the crowd scrunches up her grizzled face in thought. Eventually she points at the 'moon' cup, prompting the dark-haired mistress of games to lift it with a flourish. Beneath: nothing.

A groan goes up from the spectators, and another pushes their way to the front, angrily throwing down their bet. The trickster has been here perhaps three hours, and not a soul has prevailed yet. The crowd are getting fractious, impatient; a bearded man at the back is even fingering the stout club at his hip. Might be time to move on, soon.

"Bloody hell if I know where we are going." comes a booming shout from the crowd, as a small train of men, baggage, and squires (some no older than boys) have been trailing through the crowded streets of the city. Their colours are grey and black of Corbray, and indeed from one slagging banner, the stag could easily be noted. The knight in the lead-however seems more confused as to his exact placement in the massive city, save they've found the High Tower…

Several times now.

A grimace sitting easily on the Ser Knight's face- one of the Squires a young lad makes note: that perhaps paying a smallfolk here to lead them would not be out of order. "Oh hellsteeth and whoreskirts, m' lad." booms the Vale Knight who turns in the saddle. "Because we've been strolling up and down wynds..and..things.." a brief pause there. 'Right. Find someone give them some silver and get there..I prefer to ramble." And with that a coin purse is produced, a few glittering coins extracted and tossed along their merry.

Hat is removed, before gloved hands muss through his briar black hair, before he is looking up to the nearby spectacle. And thus, Ser Vardis Corbray is hooked-and unaware of his train's departure.

In any town, old or new, the gleam of silver and gold conjures the attentions of many. It's testament to the skill of the Laughing Fox that her little game maintains an audience even in the face of Valeman splendour. The woman's audience remains rapt upon her rushing digits, following the gentle swirl and release of each cup as it's placed and re-placed. At one tantalizing point the hidden ball can be glimpsed, peeking from under what one's eye may swear is a star…

But another eye will attest is sun or moon. Perceptions are for altering. For deluding.

"Now. Find my treasure," comes the dangerously seductive drawl from the crookedly grinning brigand as she comes to a halt, green eyes alighting briefly beyond the crowd - upon the tall, scarred knight - before flashing back to her current challenger. "And take my purse." A floppy-brimmed hat between her crossed legs holds said prize; all small change, but certainly amounting to more Stags than these smallfolk typically see. If less Stag than the man now surveying them from nearby.

"Ah! Bad luck, again!" The Fox's laughter rattles off the shaken buildings, and the crowd's outrage reaches a new height as several men try to take the fore at once - including the violent, bearded fellow with the cosh. "One at a time, please! Fate pauses only for the patient man! You, ser!" Those green eyes find Vardis again, her voice raising over the din and posture showing utter lack of concern for the brewing storm, "Show the common man how games are won at court?"

Her gaze is a dare, but far more so is her broad, toothy grin.

When called upon the Crow does raise his head-which is oft folly when it comes to hunting them. It can either lead to the Stag getting away with the prize-or an arrow in it's heart. Something Vardis, is well aware of. Though when bolded women call you out and then accentuate it with toothy dares, how does one answer. Wide brimmed hat remains in gloved hands, before he is dismounting the black horse and finding post to tie him to. Hands to hitch at belt as swagger brings him closer to the small platform. "I admit, I don't care a fuck, for Courtly games-or these traps." he adds-which gets jeers of laughter from the crowd. "but consider me, in a humoring mood, lass." and there eyebrows hitch up. "How's it played?"

"A trap's only a trap to the man who is caught," counters the grinning Fox with a twisting gesture of her raised left hand, digits unfurling only to curl inward again as they descend upon the leftmost of the cups. Her right is already primed at the opposite end, and the closing of her grip prompts a rapid rearrangement that sets the sun to the centre, flanked by moon and star. A wild flicker of index and middle fingers sets the sun to a rapid back-and-forth tilt, each tip to the left and right revealing a flash of the small red ball beneath. "You strike me, Ser, as a man who knows where he keeps his balls."

Her grin spreads again, and the woman leans back, setting her palms on the ground behind her as the cup comes to a standstill. The ball is no longer visible, and the crowd seethes with another rush of impatience, the large, bearded brute of a peasant throwing himself to the front with a snarl. He fires a rebellious glance to the Corbray, and then looks to Serrena.

"You'd fix the game for this peacock, girl? Reckon by now it's /my/ turn."

She utters a mild snort in return, eyes rolling before they settle upon Vardis.

"I move the cups, you choose a cup. Your new friend here," she tips a sidelong nod to the angry bear, "Can do the same, if he chooses. The winner takes the full pot on a two-star stake. If there's three places that ball might show up…" She gestures in swift turn to each of the three cups, "With three in play, that makes each of us as likely as the other to win. Rather dull, I think!" Her grin spreads anew, and she tips a curious, ever-more-daring glance to the knight. "Care to make it more interesting? A man like you can afford to up the ante, that's what /I/ reckon."

"A trap is a trap, regardless if it catches quarry or not. Could be sprung an left empty-or the wee rabbit or fox, left rightly fucked." Vardis intones before he is taking time to peel off the leather gauntlet over his hand, and there, thick fingers and knuckles are flexed, before the glove is tucked back into thick belt. Now hat is swept off again and held in the crook of his arm, as violet flecked eyes peer over the cups-before dancing back up but briefly to Rena as a smile shows through black beard. "Aye, I do-far away from teeth." he adds with a faint chuckle, before he is looking back down.

However as what have you concentration on the cup-there a look as the rather brutish fellow pushes himself forward, and there his hand moves, quick-if anything to shove the lout back. "Shut your arse-let her play me. You'll have your time to lose money soon enough."

And there he looks back as the offering or asking of alms in order to play is given. "Make it interesting, to you or me, once you've done fleeced me?" though he's the funds for it, Vardis in this sense could be considered conservative. Still three's a faint smirk before he is reaching for his pouch, and there, he extracts a coin. Gold and with scales on it. A Fine dragon to have in Oldtown.

"I hope this suffices." Which for the poor could feed for how long if done right. That's tipped over before the pouch is hidden on himself again. "There." intones Vardis before he is moving to get a better look and angle on the table. "How about you lass? Where do you prefer your balls?" and there after cheeky enough grin a poke is given to the cups.

Common bullies on the street are no match for the martial prowess of a knight; the man's big, for sure, but lacks the discipline to prepare himself for such a curt, propulsive motion. He stumbles and is caught at the front of the small crowd, cutting short the curses of his peers with an explosion of his own, elbows smashing into a mouth and a gut on their respective sides. He recovers his composure after a fashion, then, but he's flushed and clearly cowed.

A new tension falls on the crowd, greatly heightened by the production of that single Dragon. Few present have fingered such a coin, and the thought that it might be added to the Fox's growing purse seems almost too much to drink in. Silence falls.

Serrena for her part is unfazed, eyes remaining just as bright with keen composure, her hands alighting gently upon her cups as she bows her head in recognition of this generous prize. She's quick to proceed with the dance, shifting the cups to and fro without so much as a glance in their direction. The ball is revealed once, twice and thrice before she deigns respond to the Vale knight with a sly smirk, one freckle-smattered cheek gaining a pronounced dimple.

"In my hands," she states with salacious confidence, "Where I can control them."

Her gaze remains steady on Vardis as she moves the cups twice more, bringing them to rest with a gentle scrape.

"To make this interesting for you," she adds, leaning back upon her hands once more, perfectly relaxed in the face of the small crowd's simmering tension - and the scrutiny of her social superior. "I'll throw in my name alongside your Dragon. Find my treasure, and you find truth…" She grins, gesturing to the stilled cups, "I won't fleece anyone without my sheepskin."

"A name eh?" Ser Vardis says, though his words don't echo out to the crowd now. "Aye then, I'd like to know what name to call out." He adds with his own wicked look, and there bold scrape of eyes of a man clearly in the hunt. Perhaps it is egged on about the notion of cupped hands-or control. Either way the Corbray doesn't blush-but smirk in an almost superior way. "Aw'right then!" comes his booming call. "I call it fair-and we'll see what I have earned." Either a proper fleecing and fucking-or a bigger pot than what he cares for. A hand up, and crowd cheers-though focus is solely on the cups and not the fox with her wagging tongue.

Scrape of cup, and one hand is back up to tussle through messed curls, as clearly the sign given is confusion-though where one quick to eye and good to notice, his eyes are sharp and in clear control of the moving cups.

"Good for blood in the game." he adds. "Shall we then, you ready?"

"Always ready. For games, for blood… to hear them cry my name," Rena finishes with a fiercely eager baring of teeth, green eyes flashing the signal that sets her hands a blur one more time. The crowd pushes forward, leaning avidly.

It's as much a game of wits as acuity, the motion of the cups naturally hiding a sleight in their progression… but then, a man of any wisdom or learning likely knows this far ahead of time. The gamblers of the street, like the magicians and the merchants, do not play fair; to play thus is to lose the game, and yields no profit. Each revelation of the ball's location further begs a misdirection of thought, a misplacement of the judgement that stands to topple the game's champion.

Following the last, Serrena has placed the ball precisely where she wants it.

Her raised eyebrow prompts a further rumble through the crowd, and she signals each frozen cup in turn.

"Sun, moon, star?" She pauses, as if considering, and then smiles, "Or somewhere else entirely?"

It seems in the mixture and in the sleight of hand, that there is something lost. Some disconnect, and the knight knows it. It shows on his face, before he is kneeling down to be on the same level as the girl and eye the cups. His hand moves-though it is to her wrist, if he is able to get it. A grip there and he holds frozen for a moment. "I Would say, somewhere else." his words not rising as his grip remains hard if he was able to snatch said little wrist. But then he would be releasing soon enough. "But whether for myself, and my sanity-or because I think a dragon's less precious than a throat.." a sniff and he leans back before he is standing up and there finger moves. A simple tap. tap.

"There." he booms loudly to the crowd, before looking back- brows raised in challenge.

"The Star!" Vardis calls out. "Tell me if I am true, or bloody thick." And that itself gets a few laughs-though the tension is clearly there and mounting as they are wondering if the treasure has been found.

It's clear that Serrena sees the hand going for her own; though whether she chooses not to react, or is merely unable to master the speed of reaction is rather less so. The knight's tight grasp finds her flesh, the bones and tendons below possessing no small strength of their own in spite of their relative scale, but prompts no gasp or blink. Merely a twitch of the lips, a downward cant of the gaze as if in cruel mummery of a maiden's bashful shame. Then, a restoration of the Fox's grin.

She looks up with a proud lift of the chin, and observes the vulture-like faces of the crowd as they live in the moment of loss or triumph, each of them weighing the balance of what might follow - more than a few considering the worth of their own judgement, and how to proceed if they might have the right of it. One or two considering far worse things.

The Fox barks a laugh, cheeks dimpling as she swats at the cup, the vigor of the motion setting the decorative, wooden thing to a deer-like bound across the filthy cobbles. Beneath it, the little red ball vibrates in place, bouncing lightly.

There's a moment like a vast intake of breath, and then the taut crowd explodes.

"A fix! A fix!" "She dropped it, I saw her!" "'e put it there hisself, 'e did!" "I told you she cheated me!!"

Accusations fly, and the blustering, bearded man huffs and puffs before surging forward at the head of what's swiftly become a lynch mob. With gold glinting at the other end of the rainbow, they're intent on plowing through any obstacle. Green eyes observe them swiftly, then dart to Ser Vardis as the dark-haired woman flows to her feet with urgent grace.

"…and so the trap closes!" She grins in the wake of the charge, "Snow is my name - Serrena Snow…"

And then she's darting to the crowd's flank, still grinning back over her shoulder. "The Laughing Fox, to some!"

A deal's a deal, and as the copious victor's purse jingles and jangles across the floor, she's paid her price.

It is moment like these where prey and predator meet on valiant field, or broken brook and decide how it'll play. It's rare that Crow is a predator, rarer still in these cases. However as the ball is left there and he is now left with a crowd full of small folk-Vardis droops to pick up left coinpurse, before eyes trail after the darting fox. A smirk riding on the Wounded Stag's face. "Serrena.." murmured to himself as he checks the winnings Even as men in the crowd seem to be edging. And there the knight turns with one hand to sword-before live steel rings out. "QUIET!" comes the thunder of voice that only a storm could possess, before he is setting the winnings on her small table. Eyes rake in the prize as gold dragon, and a few other rich coins are nabbed-though for the most part the Victor's purse is tossed free out towards the crowd-if anything this might earn more like of the smallfolk here in the Reach than incur a riot left to him, by one laughing fox.

It is indeed some predicament She left him in. If the money fails to distract-then running and riding may be in order.

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