Welcome to another serial short story! This time I, Justine Alley Dowsett, am back with a prequel to my novel, Uncharted. This short story was previously featured in an anthology called War Torn, but that anthology is no longer available, so I thought I would share the story with you here. If you want to know more about me, click here. If you’d like to learn more about the novel Uncharted, click here. Otherwise, read on!
“Times go by turns, and chances change by course, From foul to fair, from better hap to worse.” —Robert Southwell
RED IN THE FACE, RENAUD Laurent stood in Turrellin’s only inn and slammed his cup down, splashing ale on the table’s checkered cloth. “I’ll bet any one of you here,” he slurred in his thick French accent, “that I’m the luckiest man ever to have crossed the Ismeran Channel!”
“Aww, sit down and put your money where your mouth is, Renaud!” His dicing companion, a red-headed Haldoram man, nudged the dicing cup toward him, taking a swig from his own ale cup and wiping his scruffy chin with the back of his hand. “All you do is talk.”
“Ginny, another round please,” Renaud called out after dribbling ale all over his thick curly beard, “I’m about to win all of Dagan’s coin.”
“If you lose this hand, I’ll buy the round,” Dagan countered, “and you can call me the luckiest man ever to have come to Turrellin!”
“No one’s luckier than our Lord and Lady Turrell!” One of the locals shouted, liquor bringing out their patriotism.
“I dare say!” Renaud agreed with a grin, scooping the dice up into his calloused hands. “Either way, Dagan, I’ll take that bet.”
He blew on the dice in his hands for emphasis, his blue eyes under his thick, brown brows, twinkling with more than just drink, before he let them fly onto the checkered cloth below and waited, holding his breath.
“Ha!” Dagan jeered. “That’s a win for me.”
Renaud studied the results of the dice closely, feigning shock. “Why, I believe you’re right, Dagan.” He lifted his head. “Ginny, I’ll have that ale now.”
“You’ve had more than your share,” Ginny called back, but that didn’t stop her from delivering another cup at Dagan’s expense, sashaying her ample bottom as she did so. Renaud grinned appreciatively.
Dagan scowled, seeming to realize he’d been played, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself. Seeing that he’d possibly overstayed his welcome, Renaud downed his first cup and started in on his second as he looked about for another dicing partner.
“Ah, well, I guess I better call it a night.” He wobbled slightly as he reached for his winnings. Not bad, he noted, mentally tallying them, my luck held out, though I should’ve bet less on that last round.
He turned around, ready to depart, only to find a lithe, dark-haired man staring intently at him. Renaud squinted at the newcomer. By his appearance, he was not a sailor like most of the patrons at The Crow’s Nest. His hair was greasy and pulled back into a loose tail at the nape of his neck, and his clothes were well-tailored and expensive looking, though they had clearly seen better days.
“Excuse me,” Renaud belched. “I was just leaving.”
“Luckiest man ever to have sailed across the Ismeran Channel, huh?” the man eyed the dice on the table. “Ever thought of playing a game with a bit more skill involved? Poker, by chance?”
Renaud looked down into his mostly full cup. “Well, it seems I’ve still got some left in me after all,” he drawled. “Why not?”
To be continued next week… (subscribe!)