Synergy - June 1998
Dulci et Decorum Est - karne
Lady's Favour - karne
(page 11/15)

Dulci et Decorum Est

'I regret that I have only one life to give to my country.' - Capt W. Hale

'Check,' - the shadow knight slides forward - wood on wood - to land on an ebon field. I frown and narrow my eyes. A dangerous situation and the future's looking dire - I'm a rook down and three pawns, to boot. Worse of all - there's my king, all out on his lonesome - I should have kept a better eye on him.

I sigh and with foreboding, shift his highness, a square to the right. With no hesitation, a bishop swoops forward - swift justice for the church and a fork as well. I whimper - situation even worse now - looks like my other rook's going tails up - and then? With a sinking heart, I trace through the sequence - one, two, three - mate... drat! I let my monarch fall - deposed by the darkling rabble. A final gesture of defiance and a soft growl in my throat.

'Good game, you're getting much better.'

'Not good enough though - lost again.' My mock-sour tone makes him grin - then reach over to tickle my nose - jerking his fingers hurriedly, as I snap at them.

'Nearly, nearly...' He laughs, 'need more practice that's all. You are getting much better. Another game? Three of five?'

'So you can beat me again - I think not!'

'Sour puss - come one, one more game,' he bend forward to replace the pieces - twin ranks that glare face to face across a checkered plane. I watch for a few seconds, then duck under his hand and start undoing his work. I get a startled glance for that - then a grin and he moves faster - trying to complete the lines before I can demolish them. He nearly succeeds to, 'till I stretch myself out on the board - making it rather difficult to get at the rest of the pieces.

'Get off! Hey!' He fumbles frantically.

'No.' Curling round - I manage to make life even more difficult for him - eventually he salvages about half the pieces - the rest I can feel under my belly - hard, rather uncomfortable lumps. Finally I shove them out - figuring they're not much use to him, if he hasn't got anything to put them on!

'Right pain you are - going to get off the board?'

'Maybe - someday..' I smile smugly at him, 'can't win now!'

'Can't I? All right - then I'll have to improvise..'

*

Attempting to play chess on my scales proves rather 'interesting'. As he point out, in theory they make a fairly good checker board. Unfortunately, only the scales on my back are large enough for the pieces, which makes reaching them rather difficult - for me at least! Furthermore, I'm curved and chess pieces aren't - which does means he spends most of his time chasing them round in small circles. My constant laughter, doesn't exactly help either...

*

Eventually, he gives up - throwing his arms in the air - before flopping down beside me. I grin up at him.

'Give up then?'

'Huh! Still two - one, though. I still win.'

'Rubbish - mine was the last game - heart's blood counts.' He chuckles softly.

'In war perhaps, lady lizardess but not in chess. Anyway you cheated.'

'Cheated! You calling me a cheat? Horrible little man! Last time I patch you up.' He chuckles again. 'Yes well - can't help what I am.' He flexes his arm and winces, 'thanks for that, by the way. I don't trust the healers back at camp. They're rather too keen at chopping things off.'

'Indeed. How, erm..'

'What?'

'I was wondering how you got it anyway? Didn't looks like a blade cut.' my voice is hesitant - delicate ground there but I have to know.

'It wasn't,' he hesitates, then glares at me and sighs deeply. 'Yes, one of your compatriots as it happens - he attacked the Long Cliff batteries a couple of nights ago.' His voice is short, clipped and uncomfortable. I shifted slightly, before asking;

'A big male - red gold?'

'Yes.. you, erm.. know him?'

'Reputation - Igniarch E'tina.'

'Igniarch - that's the equivalent of our battlemage isn't it?' I nod. 'Figures,' He hesitates again, 'if it helps, I didn't actually fight him - just got in the way and didn't get out fast enough.' He sighs, then after a moment - 'Did he make it back?'

'Not alive.'

'Shit. I'm sorry - I... well... if it helps, he took out the entire battery, trashed the place. I probably shouldn't tell you that but...'

'No defenses?'

'No.. well, yes but not yet - scuttlebutt says there's a trimarch of magi being drafted in to fill the breach,' he shrugs, 'better warn your people not to try anything, I suppose.'

'Too late.'

'What!!'

'Too late.' I echo his shrugs, 'The Blue wings left several hours ago, they have spell casters too.' I hiss, 'this could be a mess..'

'Perhaps, but I doubt it, our magi won't be there yet - aren't expected for a day or two yet..' he trails off, I can see the sudden pain in his eyes, 'It was a trap wasn't it?'

Lady's Favour, by karne

'E'tina gave his life for it. Blue will take the Cliffs - I'm sorry.' I lean over to touch him and he silently strokes my muzzle - rubbing the scale of my face. Eventually he asks.

'The Wall Fort too? The magi were to come from there.' I nod, ' Arrgh - hell. How many?'

'Two wings - plus the Order of the Eternal and others.'

'Shit, shit! They'll take the wall with that number - easily. With the recent sickness... you knew about that as well didn't you?'

'Yes.' My eyes - sympathetic - prove to much for him.

'How?'

'Spies - informants.. you know.'

'Like me I suppose?' his voice is very bitter but I shake my head and gently touch his hand.

'No. I don't speak about you - or what you have told me.'

'Why not?'

'Have you, about me?'

'No... but?'

'It wouldn't have been honorable and anyway - you trust me.' I sigh softly, 'I did know though - I'm sorry.'

'Is that why you asked me here, so I wouldn't get killed as well?' I nod and he squeezes my shoulder. There is a long period of silence as we watch the sky - the church roof is full of holes. I wonder if I looked carefully I might be able to see the smoke. I don't.

'So what happens now?'

'You come back with me - my people will, take you in - you're not the first.' I smile hopefully.

'Indeed. Become a traitor then.'

'Your command will assume you died at Long Cliff, they couldn't care less anyway. I do. There are many of you who have joined us - refugees, slaves and those who prefers our way of doing things. Who's to know?'

'I'll know.' He sighs, 'Bloody stupid.'

'Who?'

'Everyone who let the war get this far, that's who.' he shakes his head - ironic - 'I suppose I'll have to cough up any information I know.'

'You're just a soldier - you don't know anything.' He raises an eyebrow and I shrug. 'That's what I'll tell them - you'll be my ward.'

'Indeed. Well, OK - if I don't have to fight anymore - I won't kill my own people. Enough death as it is.'

'Then help us prevent it.' Our eyes meet and he nods slowly. Then he glances about and picks up a chess piece - the black king. He holds it between us for a moment, then he gently puts it down. On its side.

karne

"Furthermore, I'm curved and chess pieces aren't..."