A Game of Deceit by Elfin Maiden
At the inn, there was a lull for once. The night was winding down and all the occupants left were either so intoxicated they could barely stand, or still draining the last drops from their shot glasses and tankards of ale. Smoke still hung like a thick almost opaque curtain, veil-like even. Over in their secluded corner, the nobles were having their weekly game of cards. It always started out a frivolous and gay affair, then wound down until only the serious and determined remained.
The players had dwindled down to three gamblers and their purses were either depleted or swollen. The fair Lady Marissa, resplendent in silks, feathers and dripping in pearls. A challenging opponent with an excellent poker face, very conscious of the rules. She was not married or involved with anyone in any way, shape or form, very independent. Marissa ran her estate by herself, believed a woman could do anything a man could, and ten times better at that.
Then, the ever gallant Sir Felon, striking in a suit of mustard colored suede and black ribbons. A very suspicious player, but none of his opponents ever catch him cheating. Very shady past, accused of theft numerous times, but never could be found guilty. In and out of several marriages, barely holding his place in court. No one really knew where he had come from, no family history was known to others.
And lastly, but not leastly, the vain and imperious young Duke Nigel, wearing a ludicrous outfit that would be befitting to a peacock. Rather poor at cards, but has a very full purse, so the others put up with his naiveness. Heir to his father’s estate, but new to social life. So not all that much is known about him. Except that he was engaged to a lovely young woman who was perhaps as stupid as he.
The night crept on, cards were dealt, money was bet and strong liquor was sipped. Marissa was winning, she seemed to have every hand needed. Always just barely trumped the other two. Felon, growing frustrated began to make some mistakes, much to the other twos’ joy. Such as betting too much, or pulling an easily called bluff.
After his third lost hand, Sir Felon threw down his cards frustrated.
“Giving up?” inquired the Lady in her husky voice.
“I s-s-say Fffffff-elon, th-that’s p-poor form,” stuttered the Duke, attempting to arrange his cards.
Rolling his eyes, Felon replied, “Of course not. A gentleman never walks out on a challenge. I’m merely going to get a drink.” And with that, he got up and strode off to the bar.
“A gentleman he calls himself,” remarked Marissa disdainfully. “More like a common peasant.”
“Q-quite, your ladysh-ship,” brought out Nigel painfully.
But true to his word, Sir Felon was back in a few minutes, drink in hand and a faintly smug expression on his face.
“Oh get over. I knew you’d come back,” the Lady muttered and rolled her eyes.
“Another game?” he suggested, seating himself again.
“Excellent idea,” agreed Marissa, shuffling the deck.
“S-sounds like a p-plan,” consented Nigel, picking out more money.
So, another game commenced, the cards were dealt and bets were placed. Night slipped on even more, and Felon was still losing. Even to the young Duke, who was ecstatic with the turn of events. Unlike before however, he was not acting sore about it in the slightest. He merely smiled and shuffled the deck for a new game.
Just as Marissa was about to raise her bet, a serving girl came up with a drink and flask, curtsying to her. “For you m’am,” she explained and held out a glass with a dark red wine.
“But I didnt-” Marissa began, then saw the small smile on Felon’s face. “Thank you kind Sir,” she finished gratefully, hiding a smile and taking the drink and raising her glass to him.
“My pleasure fair Lady,” he replied while she sipped at it, smiling beguilingly. But as she drank, and when Nigel was absorbed in his own weak hand, the man slipped an ace out of his sash into his hand. Now the Duke may be too dim to catch such things, but even with a slight distraction, Lady Marissa was as sharp as ever.
“Sir Felon,” she said sternly. “That was very unsportsmanlike.”
“What was my dear?” he asked.
“You know very well-” but as she spoke her face paled, the blood draining from it.
Smiling slyly, Felon said offhandedly, “Do I now?”
Marissa was in no state to respond as she toppled from her chair.
“M-Milady?” asked Nigel slightly panicked as he rushed to her side.
Sir Felon made no move to help her. He simply finished his drink, picked up his winnings and the pot, throwing down four aces and a king.
“Good game Nigel, we must do it again,” he said as he walked away from the table, slipping a vial into his pocket and listening to the discord of anxious voices behind him.
When he reached the street, he heard a girl scream, “Oh Gods she’s dead!” Smiling to himself, he walked away down the street, whistling a satisfied tune and listening to the jangle of his ill-gotten gains in his freshly replenished purse.
They wouldn’t suspect him until he was long gone.