A Strategic Retreat

In which there are happy–and unhappy–accidents


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 Bowl of Pottage; A Bowl of Pottage; and Hearth <LIT>.
Haft sits at a table watching a pair of younger guardsmen engaged in a chess match.  After a moment’s thought, one of them negotiates his knight into a winning positions and the two leave the table.

Megren troops into the mess, hands behind her as she takes in the scene.

Haft brightens on seeing Megren, and waves her over, claiming the recently vacated chessboard.

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Megren takes the suggestion without protest, sitting in one of the chairs. “Evening, Haft,” she says brightly.

Haft asks, “Evening.  Good shifts today?”

Megren pulls her leg up under her. “Pretty good. Easy. You?”

Haft says, “Yeah, nothing too rough.  Spot of bother with a stubborn mule who wouldn’t get out of the way of the weaver’s stall.” He smirks. “His animal was belligerent too.”

Megren rolls her eyes good-naturedly. “I bet.”

Haft indicates the board.  “You fancy a game?”

Megren nods. “Sure. You want white or black?”

Haft says, “Black.  I won last time.”

After a few moves, Haft observes, “Your opening forays are becoming more interesting.  Practicing with someone?”

Megren says, “A little with Sir Darrin, only he’s been rather busy lately. Perth and Owin play me, too, though.”

Haft’s brows shoot up as he attempts a fork and loses his knight.  “They’re good teachers.”

Megren grins audaciously at him.

Megren says, “You’ve just got a bit unwary of me.”

Haft says, “Aye, and it’s far too easy to become overconfident.  One of the first things you learn in swordfighting as well as chess.”

Megren’s unconscious frown of concentration grows more obvious as the game gets closer to the end.

Haft winces as he realizes too late that he’s sent his rather aggressive queen into danger.

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Megren gives a small nod when Haft makes the same move she would.

Haft blinks in surprised as a desperate stalling attempt actually places Megren’s king in checkmate.  He coughs.  “And…uh…that’s how it’s done,” he says with unconvincing self-assurance.

Megren glances up at him. “You did that by accident!”

Haft tries to keep a straight face, but fails.  “Entirely by accident.  Just meant to annoy you by putting you in check again before ya got me.”

Megren wrinkles her nose. “Should have gave you my bishop.”

Haft shrugs.  “You were welcome to mine.  I don’t play so well on diagonals…too easy to slip through, but not as versatile as knights, for all they’re ranked higher.”

Megren sighs. “Well. Next time.”

Haft asks, “Yeah.  Did you say it was your father taught you?”

Megren shakes her head. “I learned here.”

Haft says, “Then you really are a quick study.”

Megren shrugs. “Can’t seem to win much one way or another.”

Haft says, “Well two years ain’t that long to master something, and you’ve beaten me once already, and raised my blood pressure more’n once, so I’d say you’re doin’ all right.”

Megren laughs. “There’s little doesn’t rush the blood to your head, I figure.”

Haft scrunches his face up.  “Nice.”

Megren grins at him. “Well?”

Haft asks, “Well?  Are you suggesting that I am uptight?”

Megren says, “Not a word I would use to describe you.”

Haft says, “I liked your description following our cooking lesson well enough.”

Megren nods. “How dare you mistrust any other of my assessments of you, then?”

Haft says slowly, “Well you aren’t being particularly clear on what this latest assessment is.  You think the blood goes to my head quick, but I’m not uptight?  What’s that then?”

Megren says, “Uptight’s got nothing to do with blood. Uptight’s more Lord Dar.” She passes a hand over her face, which becomes expressionless. “No emotion,” she says, a giggle in her voice betraying how likely she is to break the serious countenance. “Though not really him either, since he’ll have a jest with you and you not even knowing it, if you’re not quick enough to see past his face.”

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Haft says, “Right…”

Megren gives him a small, innocent smile that seems to imply she feels she has fully answered his question. “So I’m not suggesting you’re uptight.”

Haft says, “Uh…” He seems to considering letting it drop, then continues doggedly.  “So what /are/ you suggesting, Megpie?””

Megren shakes her head. “I’m not suggesting. I’m saying if blood rushes to your face when you see bells or, for instance, when someone says the blood rushes to your face easy, then it doesn’t mean much about my skills at chess to say it happens when you play.” She tilts her head blithely.

Haft says, “Pretty sure it ain’t my /face/ it’s rushing to.  Gearn now…”

Megren makes a sort of “mmm”ing sound.

Haft says, “Anyway the bells were different from chess.  That was just me being an idiot because I’d had too much practice being one.”

Megren giggles. “I’m only trying to rile you, Haft. You needn’t defend yourself from me.”

Haft says, “Well, you’re smiling now, so it’s well.”

Megren lifts her brows. “Had I not been? My apologies.”

Haft squints.  “It’s real hard to tell with you.  Your face is pretty much frozen that way.”

Megren grins big, her tongue behind her front teeth. “Thank you.”

Haft says, “Not sure it’s a compliment.  You said they kept you with the archers during the battle right?  Musta thought it’d be bad form to let you loose on the battlefield with a manic grin.  I’d almost feel sorry for the Calormenes.”

Megren screws up her mouth at him harshly. “Please.”

Haft looks innocent.  “What?”

Megren says, “I can read a serious situation, thanks.”

Haft says, “Oh yes?  Show me your serious face.”

Megren does, in fact, look fairly serious, and, to one who knows her expressions, a little offended. “Come on, Haft.”

Haft frowns a little, as though he thinks he’s crossed a line but isn’t sure how.

Megren rubs her hairline, and sets to resetting the chess pieces for the next players.

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Haft murmurs.

Megren extends him the grace of an “I know”.

Haft opens his mouth, but decides not to press.  He rises.  “This is gonna look like a strategic retreat,” he says quietly, but I’ve got duty in a quarter hour.”

Megren glances up, nodding. “Meant to go to bed soon anyway. Have a good shift.”

Haft says, “Thanks.  Night Megren.”

Megren says, “Good night.”

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