Chess

In which there are moves and countermoves.  Featuring Megren and Dar

Off-duty Mess

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-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= This is the place where off duty soldiers and sailors can relax and eat. There is a small cookfire and hearth and a few tables set up nearby. On one wall is a dart board, and on a small table in the corner there is a chess set. Someone has left a pile of parchment with sketches of his fellow knights on another table. This is a comfortable, casual room. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

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You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>

Contents: A daughter of eve with short, copper hair (Megren).

Haft sits near the fire.

Megren saunters into the mess, looking in search of entertainment. Seeing Haft, she scampers over and leans on his chair. “Aren’t we looking stoic this evening.”

Haft glances up, a little uncertainly.  “Ah…are we?”

Megren tilts her head to consider the question. “To be fair, not more than usual.”

Dar enters the room, deep in conversation with one of the captains. He nods his head at some remark the other man says, responding in a low tone.

“Well…” Haft shrugs, “it’s been an interesting week.  But I wouldn’t want to put you out of your reckoning being…uh…otherwise.”

Megren asks, “Something I can do to cheer you?”

Haft smiles faintly.  “Just being willing to is good enough.  I…talked rather a lot the other night, and, well…”  He shrugs.

Dar parts amiably from the man, his solemn glance turning to take in the rest of the room while the captain returns to his duties.

Megren raises her brows. “Does talking a lot make people solemn? No wonder I’m bored!”

Dar’s eyebrow jerks up at this remark as it reaches his ear.

Haft says quietly, “I’m just glad to see you’re still here Meg.  But bored?  Well, we can’t have that.”

Megren says, “We most certainly can not.”

Dar’s mouth twitches faintly. “And how, might I ask, is that undesirable state to be prevented?”, he asks as he ambles toward them.

Haft rises, bowing to Dar, “My lord.”

Megren glances up at the approaching noble with surprise, and bows hastily. “Um, any number of ways, I suppose, my lord. Did you mean to make a suggestion?”

Dar waves away the formality. “As you were. I am not here in any official capacity. I simply found myself at lose ends this evening. As for suggestions–well, if you wish my personal opinion, you shall have it. I find a game which requires mental acuity, such as chess, for instance, to be most diverting.”

Haft glances toward the corner table.  “Board’s free.  Did you wish to challenge Megren my lord?”

Dar considers a moment. “Unfortunately, I ought not. I am due to attend a meeting shortly, and I would hate to see the game end early on that account.”

Megren looks just a little relieved.

Haft says, “You play, Megren?  I’ll have a try, if you like.”

Dar finds a seat near the fire where his lanky frame can be comfortably accommodated.

Megren glances at Lord Dar. “Oh, well, I suppose I’m game. I’ll have to tell you, I’m not very good. I was soundly trounced my last try.”

Haft fetches the chess board and pieces and brings them closer to the fire, then sits down and begins to set his side of the board.

Haft says, “No matter.  I haven’t played in years anyway.  I’ll be lucky if I can remember how the pieces move.”

Dar hehs. “Then it seems an even match. I have often found a friendly game an excellent indicator of a person’s strategic capabilities. I often tell my brother as much, though he has not taken to the game as I did.”

Megren scrapes a chair over and sits in it with one leg tucked under her. She quips, “I must really be rubbish at strategy.”

Haft mutters something under his breath.

Haft mumbles “No pressure at all.”, to Haft.

Haft mumbles “… … … …”, to Haft.

Haft says, “Well, your move.”

Dar’s eyebrow raises slightly higher. “That is one tactic”, he remarks.

Megren wrinkles her nose.

Haft places a knight in danger, then reconsiders.

Haft scowls after a few moves.  “You’re better than you let on.”

Haft manages to rally for a moment after misjudging his opponent, long enough to take her queen.

Megren makes a poor move endangering her queen almost immediately thereafter. The realization of her mistake a moment later is written all over her face, making it an even easier steal in the case that he hadn’t noticed.

Dar remains perfectly stoic as he watches the action on the board progress.

“Check,” says Haft quietly.

Megren starts losing pieces quickly once her queen is gone.

Dar turns slightly in his chair so he can observe the game more closely. He does not make a sound, either pleased or otherwise.

Haft frowns at a misstep.

Haft prepares to move his queen and almost loses it, but doesn’t quite set it down before reconsidering.

Haft finally moves his queen into position.  “Checkmate.”

Megren moves her king to spare her knight, creating opportunity for the last checkmate move. Her brows peak as Haft moves his queen to the fatal square. “Oh,” she says, slapping the table lightly.

Haft leans back.  “A fine game.  And a most excellent knight on the field, for your king’s last defense.”

Megren picks up the knight and examines him. “Rather beat up, I’d say. Look, he’s missing an eye.”

Dar’s mouth twitches very faintly at this.

Haft says, “Well, many’s the man who’s got battle scars.”

Megren replaces the knight. “I always seem to lose my queens,” she mourns.

Dar remarks to Haft, “Indeed, some consider them a mark of bravery.”

Haft says, “Do you?” he asks, frowning slightly.  He pushes whatever it is away.  “Well, as you demonstrated, a noble knight can make for a formidable defense.”

Haft glances at Dar.  “Aye, I could name a few good men injured in the recent battle.  I believe you and I came through unscathed, my lord, and have no scars to boast of.  Alas!”

Megren squints an eye, glancing between them. “Are we doing metaphors now?”

Dar’s eyebrow lifts in response. He does not volunteer an answer, but neither does he seem offended by the question. Megren’s remark coaxes a vague expression of amusement onto his face. “Ah, yes. It is true that we have no marks to bear witness to our actions. Fortunately, the tale has been told often enough by now to make up for the lack.”

Haft says, “Not metaphorical, no.”

Megren begins resetting the other pieces. “You will have to demonstrate your own skills to us one of these days, Lord Dar.” She gives him a cheeky, if apprehensive, grin.

Dar replies dryly, tilting his head to look at her, “Haven’t Sir Tyren or Sir Darrin warned you already?”

Megren says, “Oh, not against us. Please.”

Haft says, “I’m afraid they have not, my lord.  But then I have not had the pleasure of matching either of them on the board…though as you just saw, my skills are rusty and I would give a pretty poor showing.”

Dar replies, showing his appreciation of her wit with a slight upturn at the corners of his mouth, “And here I thought I might finally have found someone they hadn’t already cautioned–ah, well. I will simply take it out on my brother when next he plays me.”

Megren grins again. “Exactly the sort of demonstration I was hoping for, my lord.”

Dar coughs to cover what might almost be a chuckle. “I have been meaning to see whether Sir Tyren has discovered a way around my bridge and bottle gambit.”

Haft looks doubtful.  “I don’t know…Sir Darrin is a worthy opponent as well.  I still remember our last darts game.”

Dar replies with grave approval of his brother’s talents. “Ah. Yes, he would be.”

Megren asks, “What’s bridge and bottle?”

Dar says with good humor, “For that, you will have to wait for the match. You don’t expect me to give away all of my advantages in advance. You might provide him with a defense inadvertently. I will merely say that it involves trading a pawn for a knight at the opportune moment.”

Megren hmms. “I’ll watch for it.”

Haft says, “I only know the little strategy I do from matching against an old player who tried the same move on me again and again, a knight forking the rook and queen…must’ve gotten me twenty times with that move before I cottoned on and learned to prevent it.”

Megren asks, “What does that mean, forking them?”

Dar demonstrates for her with the pieces on the board. “Fairly effective, I admit.”

“Yes,” Haft observes, looking at the pieces Dar has arrange.  “A choice between two pieces.  You position your piece so that you will either be able to take one of your opponent’s pieces or the other.  He must then choose which to part with, but he can’t protect both.  Knights are expecially good for a fork.

Dar nods in confirmation. “If you know your opponent well enough, you can often anticipate which will hold more value based on logic and move to counter.”

Megren pushes her mouth to one side, taking the knight and moving it to a few spots in an attempt to visualize. “They’re good because… they can turn corners?”

Haft says, “Well, see what happens if you position your knight in front of the king’s side bishop?  If you’ve got your piece properly protected, say with your own bishop, the king can’t move to take your knight.  And your knight is free to take either queen or king side rook.”

Dar adds, “Allowing for far more flexibility of movement, you might say. I am convinced that you know more than you credit yourself with.”

Megren’s brows raise with understanding. “They aren’t easy to catch.”

Dar nods at this. “Well put.”

Haft looks a little embarrassed.  “Ah, thanks.  That fellow who taught me knew all the fancy terms.  I forget where he said he learned them.  Didn’t teach me much strategy beyond that though.”

Megren tilts her head, narrowing her eyes at the board with interest.

Dar replies, “I simply meant that you have been provided with a solid foundation for the game. There is no shame in that.”

Haft looks even more embarrassed now.  “Ah, no.  Thank you.”

Megren looks up at them, seeming heartily pleased by both the praise and embarrassment Haft is receiving. “Haft just doesn’t care to think people suppose well of him is all.”

Dar rises when a servant enters and seeks him out. “Milord, it is time, and your presence is requested.” Dar inclines his head. “Very well. I will not delay them.”

Haft’s embarrassment shifts to something else and he looks slightly relieved as they are interrupted.

Megren ohs, and rises to bow. “Thanks for the lesson, Sir.”

Dar follows after the servant, pausing only at the doorway to remark to Megren, “I will let you know when next I coax my cousin or my brother into a match.”

Dar walks into the eastern stairwell.

Haft bows also as Dar departs.

Haft turns to Megren with a small frown.  “Was that comment necessary?  To the Lord Steward?”

Megren hms?, her brows rising.

Haft lets out a long breath through his mouth.  He keeps his voice low, mindful of others in the room.  “What you said, about me not thinking people suppose well of me.  It’s not…It sounds like…I don’t know.  That’s the man I had to surrender my sword to, and receive it back from, and who’s responsible for law and order in the castle, and you made it sound like I sit around feeling sorry for myself the livelong day.”

Megren hangs her legs over one arm of the chair, crossing them and leaning her back and one forearm against the other. “Did not. If you were looking peevish it might’ve sounded that way, but you weren’t.”

Haft narrows his eyes.  “Am I looking peevish now?”

Megren snorts, “Yeah, a little. Look, I’m sorry if I said something you didn’t care for, but I don’t think him or me saw the conversation that way.”

Haft eyes her a moment longer.  “Right.  Well, I’ll take your word on that and hope it’s true.”  He retakes his seat.  “It was a good game.  I underestimated you at first.  Might have gone badly if I hadn’t got the queen.”

Megren screws up her mouth and says again, “I always lose the queen.”

Haft strums his fingers on the table.  “Do you?  Why do you suppose that is?”

Megren lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know. I guess I know it’s strong, so I don’t worry about it as much as the others.”

Haft picks up the white queen thoughtfully.  “Yes, I suppose it is strong.  But still susceptible to loss.”

Megren tilts her head. “Play me again? I want to try that thing about the knights.”

Haft looks up from the queen.  “What?  Oh.  Very well then.”  He begins arranging pieces on the board.

Megren sits back upright, only to tuck her legs under her once again and give the board a determined sort of look.

Haft goes first this time, moving a pawn.

Haft maneuvers his pieces into place.  “And there’s the fork,” he smiles.

Megren taps her finger on her lip, nodding concentratively.

Haft takes her rook.

Haft winces at a threat from Megren’s queen before forcing her into check elsewhere on the board.

Megren presses her lips together as, having been invested in the pieces her queen was about to take, she finds her neglected king in checkmate again.

Haft says, “Well, on the bright side…you didn’t lose your queen.”

Megren wrinkles her nose. “How is it I’m not comforted?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Haft says innocently.  “Do you want another match, or shall we call it an evening?”

Megren looks likes she would very much like to say yes, but she shakes her head. “No, I’ve got morning watch.” She sighs. “I shall have to resign myself to my poor… what was it? Strategic capabilities.”

Haft tilts his head.  “Well, you’ve got time yet to develop them.  I’ll see you on our next shift then.”

Megren nods, rising. “Have a good night.”

Haft gets up and returns to his original place by the fire.

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