Chapter 15 (A drunken opportunity)
Kkaj took another sip of the sweet red wine, feeling the warmth return to his cheeks. How long has it been since I’ve drank to get drunk? With his free hand, he picked up the six dice.
The three men across from him wrung their hands. Had they rehearsed that fake gesture of nervousness? The bulky man with a purple eye-patch held the high number through three rounds. Forty-seven. He held up one finger and placed three black bills on the table. The highest domination. The other two men groaned before matching his bet. The slender man held up three fingers. The fat one held up his fist, betting Kkaj wouldn’t lose a single dice on his first roll.
“Too bad this isn’t a Taker game.” A grin tugged at the edges of Kkaj’s mouth.
“You’re-only saying-that-now,” the bulky man said, slurring his words. “Last-game-we-all had it wrong-and you-made-a-shilelelel-on.”
Kkaj arched an eyebrow. “A shilelelel on?”
“Ah. A killing. I see.” Kkaj rolled.
Two-sixes. Two-ones. Four dice removed from the pile. His remaining two dice read five and four. All three men cursed and threw down two more black bills. Each held up one finger. A grin climbed up the bulky man’s face, and his eyes narrowed.
Need to get at least forty-seven more, or I won’t make anything with the two-to-one odds I started with. Kkaj marked nine on the scrap of paper then picked up his remaining dice.
Six without losing one. Seven. Ten. Four. Four. Eight. Seven. Five. Five. Five. Seven.
Kkaj met the eyes of the men he gambled with and smirked. “Looks like luck is with me.” He tossed the dice.
Double six. He was out.
“Moonshine! I was —”
Something smacked him in the back of the head. A second slap took him in the ear. “Language,” Roffor and Saffer said from behind.
“Sorry.” His head hung forward. Was he ashamed? Or was he so drunk that his mind had reverted back to a child?
The bulky man paid Kkaj a black bill since the two-to-one bet was based in blue bills. The fat man forked out sixty green bills. Why did he have so many small bills? The skinny forked out fifteen blue bills.
“What’s the stakes this time?” Kkaj stuffed his winnings into one of his Drunkzard vest pockets.
The bulky man looked at his companions before returning his glare to Kkaj. “How about —”
The bar door swung open. Crack. It crashed against the wall, and four guards stumbled into the bar, mumbling something about troublesome monarchs. Should guards — royal guards — really be this drunk this early in the evening?
Saffer wrapped her arms around Kkaj’s neck and pressed her hips against his left ear. “Why don’t we go to the palace?”
He blinked, the wine warping her words then replying them. He grinned, his cheeks folding as his lips rose. “If we can figure out which gates these guards were from, we could sneak into the palace. We could get the king’s map.”
Saffer kissed him on the neck. “That’s not what I mean, shots.”
The pet name sent a jolt of rage down to his toes, and he gritted his teeth. I’ll make that bastard Koi-Jankorest pay. “I.” He shook his head. “You don’t have to join me.” His words snapped, though he didn’t mean for them to.
Roffor peeled Saffer off him and tapped one of the dice on the table. “I can —”
The royal guards strode up to Kkaj’s table and dismissed the group of three who were gambling with him. The captain, the highest ranking of the four, pounded on the table before taking a seat. “That last fight … . Wow.” He waved, and his three companions sat.
“Midz-builder or Midz-taker?” Kkaj gathered the six dice and placed them in the center of the table. I have to figure out which gate is unguarded. “Get —” He glanced to Roffor and Saffer. “— us a few more jugs of the sweet red.”
“Taker,” the captain said.
Roffor and Saffer sat four large jugs on the table. A moment later, they sat a cup in front of each of the four guards before filling all five cups.
“Since you’re buying the drinks,” the captain said, “and you have such beauties filling our cups —” A wide grin split his face. “— we’ll set the bets at one-to-one.”
“Guess I should get some more drinks.” Kkaj lifted his cup. “Let’s have a few before we start.” He brought the cup to his lips but didn’t drink.
The four royal guards downed their wine. Roffor and Saffer filled their glasses then the four men drank again.
Drink. Kkaj slid the dice to the guard with blond hair and bowed his head. “You can go first.”
The blond-haired guard downed his wine then picked up the dice. Four tosses later, he was out of dice. “Moonshine!”
Kkaj arched an eyebrow.
“Sorry, Master Kkaj. Just thought I’d break forty this time.”
“More the reason to drink.”
A smile split the blond-haired man’s place. “Ain’t that the truth.” He drained his cup and then again when Roffor filled his cup.
Kkaj grinned at the other guards and lifted his cup. “To our fortune.”
The three other guards chuckled then drained their cups. The captain wobbled a bit in his seat before patting the blond-haired man on the back. A sigh contracted his chest, but he placed his cup to his lips and gulped down the wine.
“Busy evening?” Kkaj asked.
The captain snorted. “Busy? For the servants, maybe. We were told to just guard the west entrance along with the six other groups.”
“Six?” Kkaj glanced at Roffor who nodded. The west entrance of the palace is near the warehouse. He peered at Saffer who shook her head. It’s generally so busy no one can get in without being seen. He licked his lips. “Why six?”
The captain shrugged. “Don’t know. King probably didn’t want beggars coming to get scraps from the feast.”
“And everyone was just standing around?”
“No.” The captain hiccuped. Then, a laugh burst from his mouth, and he patted the blond-haired guard on the back. “If they were,” his words began to slur together, “we wouldn’t have been able to sneak out.”
“Boring as always. I mean, who in their right mind would beg for food from someone as greedy a King Koi-Jankorest?”
As I learned the hard way. Kkaj gritted his teeth. “Only fools ask him for anything. The beggars would be better off stealing it.”
“With the amount of guards centered around the feast hall, I doubt a beggar could get in there to get the smallest nibble.” The captain picked up the dice. “I’ll go.”
Kkaj made gagging noises, and he wobbled in his chair. “I’m not feeling so good.”
The guards laughed, and the captain said, “I’m surprised your doctor let you out of bed after that spectacular fight two days ago.”
“Sorry to cut our game short.” Kkaj stood and waved his hand.
Roffor and Saffer sat two new pictures of wine on the table.
“Drinks on me.” He pretended to swoon, and Roffor grabbed him by the arm. “Thanks.” He smiled as Saffer took his other arm, and the three of the stumbled to the door.
Next: Chapter 16