The Phoenix of Llael

Pascal: The Gambler

Pascal hasn’t been to the Gob’ Hole in awhile, so one evening he makes his way there to have a couple drinks and make some easy coin. However, when Pascal first arrives, he sees its mainly the regulars. Pascal doesn’t care to play against the good ones, and the poor gamblers already know him well enough to avoid losing any more money to him. So Pascal settles in for a lukewarm ale at a table in the back and awaits some fresh faces and fat purses.

Pascal is about halfway into his second ale, and maybe it’s the rain, but the prospects aren’t looking so good. He has just about decided to leave after this ale, when a Rynnish man of medium build, dark brown hair and youngish features enters the door. He is dripping wet, but carries a fat purse and nice clothes, and a dagger that speaks to at least modest wealth. Pascal notes a brand new leather pouch on his hip, with the images of two dice etched into the bag – just the sort of thing the Gaming Guild sells to rookie gamblers who don’t know any better.

He walks to the barkeeper and orders an ale, then seems to look around as if not knowing what to do next. He fondles the dice bag self-consciously, and glances around from table to table, while he waits on his beer.

Knowing the advantage of being an easy mark’s first “friend”, Pascal makes his way over to the bar and sits next to the man. “Hi there pal, haven’t seen you around before. What brings such a distinguished gentleman to a dive like this? Barkeep, put his drink on my tab.” Pascal tries to size up the man and see, first, what kind of money he could hopefully make, but second, if this man was hiding anything. Men without scars or torn clothes almost never turned up here, and when they did, they were usually looking for help with some sort of “unsavory” job. Since this guy obviously wasn’t meeting anybody specific, Pascal couldn’t even think of how the man could have known the bar was here.

The man looks grateful, but nervous, and looks Pascal up and down. “T-thank you,” he mutters. “My name is Eduardo,” he extends his hand to meet Pascal’s. “I… I understood this to be a gambling establishment.” He pats his dice bag, and glances around. “But… I don’t see any gaming going on?”

Pascal sips his ale and lets the silence sit.

Eduardo takes this as an opportunity to elaborate. “M-my friends and I, see, we have been playing Traitor’s Dice, but while I love to put money on it… they don’t see the appeal of real risk.” Seeing that Pascal is at least listening, he opens his purse and pulls out a small handful of gold crowns. “I come to play,” he says with a grin. Pascal can clearly see many more glittering coins in that fat purse of his.

He seems genuine, but Pascal has never heard of Traitor’s Dice. Maybe it’s a home ruled version of Liar’s Dice? Or is he really so green as to not even know the name of the game?

Pascal tries to find out more without embarrassing the man. “Well, I’m sure we could find a table for some Liar’s Dice… it’s probably the same game, maybe just the name differs by region. Where do you hail from?”

“My family was in Merywyn before the fall,” he says somberly, as if that should be explanation enough. “My friend, Mylo, taught us… maybe it’s the same thing? Does everyone roll five dice and you hide them, then bid how many of a number you think there are?”

That sounds like Liar’s Dice to Pascal, although he knows there are a number of house rules.

Pascal replies: “Tell you what, I’ll rustle up a couple of guys, and we’ll play a few rounds, cash free, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Then we can get some real wagers in! How’s that sound?” Before Eduardo can decide whether to respond, Pascal nods to some of the rookie hustlers who were listening nearby. They spread chairs around a table and scrounge around in their bags for their dice. Eduardo grabs his purse tightly, but Pascal relaxes him. “Don’t worry, pal, you’re with me. These two-bits may smell worse than a troll in the summer, but they’ll give you a fair game. Isn’t that right boys?”

Eduardo, Pascal, and three young men all group up and lay their dice on the table, eyeing each other while doing their best to give a believable poker face. “Now, gentlemen, Eduardo here has called the game, and it’s Traitor’s Dice. He tells me it’s a lot like Liar’s Dice, so we’re going to play some dry hands so you don’t get upset when you break the rules and Eduardo gets your lunch money.” Pascal smiles and turns to Eduardo, encouraging him to begin explaining.

Eduardo explains the rules, and the five gamblers get busy playing. Pascal gently chimes in with a few customs that are known to reduce the risk of a fight over cheating in the gambling dens, and after a few rounds, Eduardo seems to loosen up and start playing freely with his coin. Pascal actually thinks Eduardo is pretty good – not quite as good as Pascal believes he is, but Eduardo and Pascal split the small pile of crowns of one of the men, who slinks out to the streets to find easier pickings.

Eduardo seems to have a good grasp on the odds of the dice, and Pascal and he continue to win the majority of the hands. After another 30 minutes, Pascal cleans out the second man, who declines to empty more of his purse onto the table, and instead goes to the bar for a drink.

Now it’s just the three men. Eduardo is making calls that Pascal wouldn’t – until Pascal thinks through the math and realizes that Eduardo did actually make an optimal choice. Pascal is actually quite certain that Eduardo is better than he is. But yet, Pascal keeps winning hands, even as Eduardo drives off the third man, who bows out when it’s clear that he’s about to lose all his crowns. Despite some really lousy rolls on Pascal’s part, Eduardo seems to make some really risky bets, and loses several rounds to Pascal. Pascal starts to wonder if maybe Eduardo just got lucky earlier? Because he’s really not making smart choices anymore. How many ales had he had? Maybe he was just drunk.

In the final hand, Eduardo makes an insane gamble, and tosses up his hands when he loses. “Ah! I can’t believe that,” he says with a grin as he shoves all his remaining money into Pascal’s pile. “I guess I should stick to my buddies.” He stands up and extends his hand to shake Pascal’s. “Well, thanks for the game, friend,” he laughs, “and for teaching me a lesson!” He walks toward the door, and leaves Pascal sitting in front of a large pile of gold crowns.

Pascal lets the cool feel of honestly-earned cash wash over him as he sweeps the coins into his own purse. Eduardo will be just fine… he’s clearly got a head for the rules, if not the temperament to go with it, and he’d even make a passable hustler if he set his mind to it. He’d soon learn the difference between people who play for fun, and people who play so they can keep eating.

As Pascal collects the coins into his purse, he finds a piece of parchment sealed with wax hidden in the pile of winnings. And, because he’s counting, Pascal finds he won 88 gold crowns.

Pascal walks up to the bar and slides his customary 15 crowns over to the bartender, who smiles and kneels down under the bar to the cabinet where he keeps the truly decent drinks that were usually wasted on the drunks who frequented the Gob’ Hole. He pours Pascal a brandy that had been “forgotten” by a wealthy merchant who had stumbled in. Pascal drinks it slowly, savoring the flavor, but also glancing around the bar to see if anybody was taking an unnatural interest in his winnings.

Pascal had gotten some strange requests before, but this was the first time they’d come with such a fun cash advance. Pascal turns his glass upside down and nods to the barkeep, who lets Pascal walk out the back exit.

Out in the street, Pascal walks briskly back towards his new room. The parchment was intriguing, but it wasn’t safe to stop and read for too long in this part of town, especially with a full purse. Pascal pulls up his coat and glances over his shoulder, then ducks into an alley and makes his way back home.

After stashing his winnings in a loose floorboard, he sits on his cot and breaks the sealed wax.

Pascal unfolds the parchment, and finds the following inside.

I hope you will consider this a starting bonus. I could use a man with your skills.
Come to the Red Bearded Dwarf on the 2nd of the month. 1 hour past sunrise – sharp.

Pascal knows that is in 3 days time.

Pascal chuckles to himself. Whoever Eduardo really was, anybody who paid cash up front was alright in Pascal’s book. He decides to see exactly what sort of thing this man needed done. The rest of the group was used to his irregular hours, so when the morning came he got up quietly and made his way to the Red Bearded Dwarf.

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