Date Turn 2761
10th Pass, 6th Turn, 6th Month
Senior Weyrwoman Talera of Gold Aerroth (Interim)
Junior Weyrwomen Melana of Gold Sularenth
Srunae of Gold Danovelith
Aleni of Gold Riyobith
Weyrleader A'zael of Bronze Fath
Weyrsecond B'rax of Bronze Gamath
Master Dragonhealer Zenelle of Green Verdath Weyrlingmaster K'ton of Bronze Sorth Assistant Weyrlingmasters Zi'lor of Brown Asriath
D'rew of Blue Sabanth Amaril of Green Jondalath Candidate Master S'bol of Blue Nesporth Assistant Candidate Master Haella of Green Tsulocanth
Those marked in italics are NPCs and are available for replacement by PC characters.
News While Mavros awaits the next gold to rise and take Karredy's place as Senior after her abdication, the Lord of Jask Hold celebrates his wedding with a grand gather and the Weyr attends for some much needed fun and relaxation, as well as to perform in dragon races as part of the wedding celebration.
It was nearing curfew, but Darnell didn't feel like going to sleep. He had a long a day, doing menial chores in the lower caverns, but he was a night owl by nature. High stakes gambling didn't usually happen by the light of day, after all. So he was wandering the barracks, determined to stay up as long as he could before the Candidate Master sent him to bed. It was ridiculous, really, having to keep a curfew like a child.
Sighing, he stepped into the common room. Ah, a cozy scene. Comfortable couches and chairs, and a fire lit in in the hearth. A furry head poked out of his pocket, sniffing around. Strider apparently liked this room. The little furflitt jumped down from his owner's pocket and scurried over to the fire, promptly curling up for a nap.
Darnell was more interested in something else. He wasn't alone. Another candidate was sprawled out on one of the couches. Darnell had seen him around before, and had taken to calling him Pretty Boy to himself. A sight for sore eyes, although from what he had observed he wasn't very talkative, and perhaps not overly smart either.
He couldn't be sure about that, but there was a way to find out. Darnell settled himself into a nearby chair, pulling out his trusty deck of cards. He pulled the deck out of the box and ran his thumb over the familiar paper. "Fancy a game of dragon poker?"
The reddish-haired candidate was curled up in a delicate, and perfectly calculated, manner on the couch. It wasn't as if he was particularly expecting much... in the way of company. It was simply that old habits died hard, and he'd been doing that more than half his life now. Vah knew what he looked like, how he acted like. It was all part of a perfectly calculated game... as long as he kept his temper under wraps.
Vahguel glanced up, tilting his head forward just a bit and side-eying the stranger. He'd seen him around a bit. Handsome enough, clever too, if his observations were correct.
But even clever people could be played.
"Mmm," he said, sleepily, and then yawned. He covered that with one and and then shook his head, letting a slightly sheepish laugh escape. "If you don't mind going easy on someone so tired," he said with a trusting smile. Vahguel the candidate was all gentle and polite.
Internally, he smirked. This stranger had no idea what he was getting himself into.
Vahguel uncoiled himself from the couch, and stretched so that his shirt hiked up just a little, exposing a smooth skin beneath. He wasn't sure what this candidate's preferences were but any help distracting him or otherwise throwing off his game, Vah would go for. Flirting with someone uncomfortable with that idea would also work...
"I'm afraid I'm not terribly familiar with the game," Vah said, dipping his head sheepishly and staring up through his eyelashes. "If you could simply explain the rules to me...?"
As he sat down, he placed a fat looking pouch by his side. It really was full of marks... marks Vah had no intention of losing.
Darnell smiled, a gesture that was meant to be friendly and reassuring, but in reality he was rather amused at the other candidate. This boy seemed fresh out of the nearest cothold. Poor kid didn't know what he was getting into. "It's a game of luck. I don't need to go easy on you; you have just as much chance of winning as I do." His eyes flickered briefly to the stretch of bare skin Vahluel revealed as he stretched. His heart picked up a beat, the beginnings of attraction stirring. Annoying, at the start of a game, unless...hmm, maybe some strip poker was in order.
Then Vahguel sat down and dropped his pouch of marks on the table between them. Nevermind. Darnell would much rather make a real profit, and then maybe he could still get the other candidate's clothes off for free.
His own pouch was around his neck, hidden under his tunic. He only carried a small amount of marks around, with other portions hidden around his room in the barracks. It was stupid to put everything in one place, like Vah seemed to have done. Darnell pulled the small pouch out and laid it on the table as well, his smile turning wry. "We'll start with small bets. Since you're inexperienced, of course."
He shuffled while he spoke. That way the boy would likely focus on his words, not his hands. Darnell could do the special overhand shuffle in his sleep, so it was no problem to explain the game while he did so. "Poker uses a five card hand. You have to get the better hand to win the money in the pot. In order, there's a pair, two pair, three of a kind, five consecutive. Then the flush, which is five cards of the same suit. Get it?" He stopped shuffling and looked up, waiting to see Vah's response.
Darnell seemed friendly, willing enough to fall into Vah's lap--metaphorically, of course, though Vah didn't miss the slight dart of the eyes when he exposed flesh. Good. That would make this easier, then.
There was no real goal in mind, the motive halfway caught between a curiosity about figuring this stranger out when it seemed he had more sense in him than say, Lie or Farnath forbid, Carmortin and Belizor. Vahguel had no idea why those three were even Searched, frankly. Perhaps the Holds put too much stock on dragonkind and their ability to sniff out the right kind of candidate.
Perhaps he was proof enough for that.
Not that it mattered, Vahguel still wasn't certain he wished to stay or not. But until he figured things out he might has well have a little bit of fun.
Darnell was definitely underestimating him now. Vah tried to keep the smirk off his face as the other candidate looked at the pouch, with something that Vah would have said was determination, or a snap-focus. Kind of like a dragon gets when spotting a bleeting prey, all soft and ready to be devoured.
And Vah-the-candidate was the softest of prey.
"We'll start with small bets. Since you're inexperienced, of course."
"Oh, thank you, that makes me feel much better" Vah said demurely.
He attempted not to make it obvious that he was keeping the cards in his vision and not paying attention to Darnell at all--after all, why should he? Dragonpoker was an old, familiar game, even if it wasn't what he would consider his 'forte' (this went to much more pleasurable things).
Vah narrowed his eyes. An overhand shuffle... hmm. There were too many ways to create slight of hand tricks with that, to place certain cards where the player might want them. He wasn't so much a fool as to trust that. However... Vah-the-candidate was. That placed him in a difficult situation.
Thinking on his feet, he held out his hand. "Oh, might I do that? I've always wanted to shuffle cards before. I've never had the chance! It will be exciting." He said, tacking on a nervous giggle at the end, just for effect.
Now, now, boy. Don't test me. But really, Vah was pleased. He hoped his suspicion was right, really, and that he wasn't just being paranoid. He always enjoyed the clever ones the most...
Despite the initial attraction, Darnell was quickly beginning to dislike Vahguel. That kind of simpering idiocy could get tiresome quickly, even if it was convenient for picking up a few marks. If he wasn't so busy being contemptuous, he might have stood a better chance of seeing through Vah's veneer.
When Vah held out his hand, Darnell kind of stared at it for a second, struggling to keep his face impassive. In a real game, no one would try to usurp the established dealer. But this was hardly a Bitran Gather, and he already knew that Vah was inexperienced at this game.
He looked down at the cards, considering it for a moment. He had a few other tricks up his sleeve, and he could probably even win fair and square, but this was a casual game and he was feeling lazy, so he wasn't ready to give up the deck yet. Besides, it has taken a while to line them up right. "I don't really like letting other people handle the deck. It's special to me...a gift from my father." There, maybe sentimentality would work. The second part was even true. The deck had been a gift from his father, but he'd learned to put it to much better use than the old man.
Vahgeul ignored the flash of anger at being denied anything, though it was hard to say if he'd managed to keep it from his eyes. His body language tensed visibly at the very least, before he had the sense to relax himself.
His temper had always been his greatest downfall.
Ugh--seriously? Gift from his father? Vah could barf. His estimation of the boy dipped down by quite a fair margin. Perhaps he had observed wrong... well, that should at least make his job easier.
He somehow managed not to roll his eyes. He smiled instead, activating plan b. Vahguel was betting that the attention he'd spotted earlier would be enough to let him play, that the other man wouldn't shrug him off or punch him in the face.
Slinking over, he hung himself about the other candidate, his mouth right by his ear. "Awww, but I really wanted to try my hand at it," he purred, "I promise I wont..." he let his hand move down, to rest a little above Darnell's crotch. "... hurt anything..." he breathed.
Shard it if he was going to lose because of stupid sentimentality.
Plan c, of course, was tiring the other candidate out for a few hours and slipping his marks as well as whatever he gained from Vah off, into the night. If he got lucky, he might be able to find the marks that the other man didn't carry with him--surely that small amount was simply a precaution. The idea of gaining even more sent a surge of lust through Vahguel's body, and he breathed a little heavily.
But he didn't want to go there. Not unless he had to risk it.
Darnell was used enough to reading people's faces in the middle of the game, and he could tell that Vahguel was not happy about being denied something. Spoiled little brat, perhaps. But Darnell liked the irritation in the other boy's eyes better than all the simpering eyelash-fluttering, and he was almost disappointed when the smile returned.
Before he could say anything, Vah was out of his seat and slinking towards him. So the boy wasn't so innocent, was he? This close, Darnell knew that the other candidate could feel his heartbeat kick up a notch. He started to lean into the touch, but then the warning bells sounded, his Bitran's instinct just a second behind his libido.
"Persistent, aren't we?" He grabbed Vah's wrist, his grip not enough to do any real damage, but enough to send a message. "This isn't flirting. This is you trying to get something from me. I'm not stupid..." Pushing his chair back, maybe sending Vah off balance in the process, he stood up and turned around. They were about the same height, and he was able to look the other candidate right in the eye. "Are you?" He smiled pleasantly, the expression just short of mocking.
Everything was going well. Vahguel could feel from where his chin rested how the other candidate's heart had sped up. About to call it a win, he was shocked as the tables flipped.
"Persistent, aren't we?"
Vah glanced down as his wrist was grabbed. Message received. Still, he thought, emotionless, I've certainly been given rougher 'messages'.
Though the slightly pressured grip did excite him, in more ways than one, in turn it made the anger rise even faster. He hated that kind of treatment excited him, as much as he loved it. The revulsion and self loathing it created paradoxically only made his heart speed up the faster.
Darnell pushed his chair back, and Vahguel, caught off guard, stumbled back. He clutched his wrist protectively to his chest and curled slightly in on himself, but it would be a mistake to view his body language as submissive. There was a dangerous air about him, like a wild animal being cornered.
This quickly spun out of control.
Vahguel narrowed his eyes. "You would try and cheat me, and then call me stupid?" he hissed, the serpent sliding out before he could remember to pretend to simper or whine his way out. His temper had sparked, burning up all common sense and sending Vah into pure fight-or-flee mode.
"Watch your tongue, or I'll cut it from you," he promised, reaching back with his other hand for the knife he had hidden on him.
He wasn't a great fighter, did not have enough muscle mass, but he was pretty quick and had grown used to pain in his turns. If Darnell pushed him... Vahguel fought back the way his body responded to the idea of violence... if Darnell rushed at him, he would find Vah had claws.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Vah was pleased. So he hadn't been wrong about the candidate's intelligence after all...