(I know that so far my writing has not been very polished, I hope to edit all of these installments when I’m done. They’re just first drafts as is. Anyway if you’re still reading these thank you) (Also I enjoyed writing this one, felt good to get what has been in my head regarding the mechanics of this and having that done I hope it all makes at least a bit of sense!) (Extra also, above is just a working title, it definitely will change as I’m not satisfied with it. It doesn’t reflect the story in my mind well enough)
Kings Over Queens
“Would you like to return any cards?” Paul asked of Abel.
“No. I’m fine with what I’ve got.”
Paul had just moments before explained what would happen. They would play a game of Texas Hold ’em whilst Paul explained what was going on to Abel. Instead of playing with chips the winner of any given hand would be able to ask a question to the loser to which they must answer truthfully.
Abel had a full house, kings over threes. He watched as Paul returned two cards and received two new ones from Alex who was acting as a permanent dealer.
“So Abel I’ll tell you what I do know about these cards. They give those who are in possession of them an unworldly power like the one you saw Bastien use.”
He threw his cards down on the table revealing a single pair. Abel turned his over revealing the superior hand.
“It seems you’ve won yourself a question young man” Paul said in response.
“What’s your power then Mr.Taylor?”
“Take a look around you, what do you see?”
Abel took in his surroundings once more. The books that adorned the room’s bookshelves seemed to be of a unique strain, leather bound but not very worn. The type a collector would pay a ransom for.
“A lot of books.”
“Exactly. And what do books contain at a very basic level?” Paul replied whilst he beckoned to Alex to deal the next hand.
“Paper.” Abel said this in as serious a tone as he could muster.
This elicited a smirk from Alex but she quickly wiped it from her face.
“Quick wit might get you somewhere with Alex but I’m afraid it won’t make me swoon.”
Abel took another glance at Alex. He had expected that this remark may have caused her some embarrassment but if it was she wasn’t showing it.
“Fine then. Information.”
“Oh good, you’re not as thick as you look.” Paul flashed a satisfied smile before continuing.
“You see the cards manifest a power from an individuals desires. In my case my thirst for knowledge granted me the ability of insight into this game.”
Finally picking up his cards that had been dealt a while before by Alex Paul elaborated.
“I know of any “hand” currently in play with a few exceptions.. For instance I know where Alex is at all times and what her power is. Before I met her she was identified by her card in my mind. Isn’t that right Miss Queen of Diamonds.”
Paul flashed a smile at Alex who sent back a disinterested expression in his direction. The sort of look one might give when their father makes a terrible pun.
Abel took this opportunity to look at his cards. Junk. He decided to forgo the opportunity to return any cards. He wanted to see what Paul would ask him given the opportunity.
“And they’re called hands for a reason. Any given player is not limited to one card.”
This peaked Abel’s interest. Paul seemed to notice this and took his time returning his cards so he could explain.
“It’s a bit like poker, anyone can have up to 5 cards at a time. Adding cards to make a pair or a three or four of a kind will amplify the power originally had. But adding a new pair into the equation will give you a second power.”
“So you’d have to sacrifice fulfilling one power’s full potential for the sake of some diversity.”
“That’s exactly right, now show me exactly how little you had.”
Abel was taken aback a little. Was that just a bluff on Paul’s part or was he really that perceptive? He turned over his cards.
“You know you should try returning some cards if you want to win.” Paul said as he reviled his single pair of threes. “So tell me, what was your father’s full name?
Paul just nodded not giving anything away about what he was thinking.
“Let me ask you this Abel, do you think poker is a game of chance or skill?”
“Well it’s a combination of both. Chance will deal you the right cards but you have to be skilled enough to take the opportunity given.”
“That’s a good answer. You see in regards to the powers, the higher your card is the greater your power as a general rule of thumb.”
Paul looked at the cards that had just been dealt to him by Alex and put them back on the table without the slightest change in expression.
“But what good is a King in the hands of a moron? Powers will depend on your desire and the strength of your cards. A fool with a full house can be bested by a man with a good bluff.”
Abel looked at his cards. Three 5’s. He returned the other two cards he had but got nothing useful in return. They both turned over their hands. Paul had a pair of aces.
“So if this power system is based on poker’s rule set, what about my power? The joker shouldn’t even be in play in that case.”
“Remember when I said there were exceptions? Well I think this might be one of them.”
“You think? I thought your power was to know.”
Paul flinched at that remark. It must have gotten to him at some level.
“You saw the tattoo on my hand earlier. It’s just a single 6, my power is at it’s base level so I’m not privy to exceptions by default. I’m sure you must know what obtaining the other 6’s would entail, my power isn’t very suited to that type of play-style.”
“Yeah, I don’t think people would hand them over willingly.”
“Why don’t we leave it here for now? Alex set up a mattress for him in your room.”
“If he wanted to kill us he already would have, you saw his power first hand so you should know.” Paul cut Alex off mid sentence. She seemed to begrudgingly accept this as she plodded off into the depths of the mansion to grab a spare mattress
“Alex will fill you in on any details I may have left out. You woke up before I had had time to fully grasp what she had relayed to me about your…….incident. I’ll let you know tomorrow if I come to any conclusions about your current state.”
Paul then retired to a deeper part of the mansion before Abel could come up with a sufficiently witty response. He supposed sleeping here would be OK at any rate. They hadn’t harmed him when he was unconscious and he didn’t have any other way of finding out about the card his father had left him.
“Are you just going to stand there?”
The now familiar voice of Alex startled Abel from behind.
“No, I was just waiting for you to escort me.” Abel said mockingly.
Alex led him up an absurdly long set of stairs to an upper floor of the mansion. They arrived at her room which was just beside the stairs.
Entering it Abel could see a mattress placed across from a fancy looking bed. Both the mattress and bed were huge, far more than a King size.
“She must’ve teleported it up here.”
For a girl’s room it was decidedly plain. There was make up on the dresser and a poster or two adorned the walls but other than that it seemed nothing had been altered from the room’s base design. A plain beige wall paper with a fancy coveing did not align with Abel’s idea of what a girl’s room should be.
“Here.” Alex, who had been rummaging in her closet just a second earlier, threw a pillow and duvet in Abel’s direction.
Abel picked them off the floor and began making up his mattress.
“Don’t you just love sleepovers?” He asked of Alex playfully.
“You’re a funny guy aren’t you?.” She offered this response without a hint of sarcasm. Her arms were crossed and her expression was neutral. It was difficult to tell if the response was positive or negative in nature.
Alex sighed and sat herself on the edge of her bed facing Abel.
“So what else did you want to know?”
“Is Alex shorthand for Alexandra or Alexis?”
“I meant about the cards but Alexandra.” She said somewhat cheerfully.
“Maybe she just needed some time to warm up to me.”
“OK well I didn’t want to waste a question on it before but I assume you don’t know why or how the cards give us these powers right?”
“Well Paul has his theories but no, we don’t know much about how or why the cards do what they do.”
Abel had figured as much and hadn’t wanted to use one of his questions on the topic in case his hosts hadn’t been so forthcoming with the answers to his other questions.
“So how long have you been living here with Paul?”
“Isn’t that a little off topic?”
“Come on, I need time to process all that information. I have to make sense of it before I can even begin to question it.”
“Fine then, I’m going to get something to drink. Want anything?”
“A coke would be grand if you have one.”
“Grand?” She asked somewhat bemused.
“A coke would be great.”
“OK I’ll see if we have any.” Alex then vanished into thin air.
“She must not be from Britain or Ireland if she didn’t recognize grand in that context.”
She returned as soon as she had left with a both a coke and a diet coke in hand.
“Here.” She again tossed the coke to him like she had the duvet.
“You could just hand it to me.”
“I don’t like wasting time like that.” She opened her diet coke. “Just look at my power.”
He thought about it for a second. A desire to not waste time manifested itself as the ability to teleport. Or at least that’s what she was saying.
“How cynical can you be?”
“So I’ve been living with Paul for about 2 years now.” She took up the conversation again without prompt.
“He took me in after Bastien killed my parents too.”
Not knowing how he should respond to this revelation he decided to just listen on in earnest. She hadn’t seemed to be bothered by saying it so Abel thought not making a big deal out of it would be best.
“You see Bastien was a part of a group of people who kill other players to take their cards. I’m sure Paul will tell you about them in depth tomorrow but you should know that Bastien was very good at his job. So good that he’s the only one of that group we know by name, they’ve never had to send out anyone else to get the cards they wanted.”
Abel was lost for words. He had killed a man that powerful so how powerful did that make him?
“Just knowing he’s dead is a relief and satisfying as well. So thank you for that.”
“I’d murder anyone for a girl as pretty as yourself.”
It was only half a lie. She was indeed very pretty, not Abel’s type really but he could see how attractive she would be in the eyes of many.
“I take it back, I wish he’d killed you.” Alex retorted in a deadpan manner.
The memory of that fight with Bastien flashed through his mind at that remark. Specifically the moment his eye had been stabbed by the knife. But recalling that memory something was wrong with it. In his memory he say things from Bastien’s perspective. He could recall stabbing himself in the eye as if he was remembering through Bastien’s eyes.
“Are you OK?”
Abel did not know how long he’d been spacing out for.
“Yeah I’m fine, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
“Well then maybe we should try and get to sleep. Teleporting for the first time really takes it out of you.”
“Yeah maybe you’re right, it’s been a long day and I haven’t really gotten any rest unless I count when you knocked me unconscious.”
“Your crocodile tears won’t get you anywhere with me.”
“Oh yeah, I just have to make you laugh according to Paul and I’ll have you eating right out of my hands.”
The two were going back and forth with a natural flow, their outwardly playful natures complimenting each other. Alex went to turn off the light leaving a bedside lamp as the only source of illumination.
“Wait, before we call it quits, I have one question about Bastien.”
“What happened to Bastien’s cards, why amen’t I in possession of them? How does that work.”
Alex paused for a moment and covered her tattooed hand absentmindedly before giving Abel an answer.
“Well normally when a player is killed the cards they were in possession of get transferred to their killer. The only time that doesn’t happen is when the killer has a full hand of 5 cards. Then the cards would be randomly redistributed amongst the populace.”
“I only have one card so why didn’t I get his cards?”
“I’m not sure, it might be due to the fact that the joker is an exception though. You can’t form any sort of hand with it in poker so maybe that’s why…..we’ll have to ask Paul tomorrow. He’ll be able to tell us if Bastien’s 3 Jacks have been redistrubuted or not.”
A yawn then escaped Abel’s mouth just as Alex finished her train of thought.
“Was my explanation really that boring?”
“I want to say no but I cannot bring myself to lie so blatantly, it goes against my moral code.”
Alex reached behing herself to turn off the bedside lamp. In the moment before she did so Abel caught a proper glimpse of her tatoo. The word Queen was written on the back of her hand with two symbols just below it. A red diamond and a black spade.
“I wonder how she got the second one.”
He then thought back to when he brought up Bastien’s death and the obtaining of new cards.
“She hid her hand. Was I just imagining that?”
“Night.” By this stage Alex had crawled under her sheets and gave Abel her parting words for the evening.
“It’s not worth worrying about right now.”
And with that thought he drifted into an uneasy sleep.
END OF CHAPTER 3