Tower’s Quest Part 3
Part 42 of Quest
Part 4 of Irene’s solo Quest: A Game of Death
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Death fondles the dice,
shuffles cards and waits for choice–
cards or dice for life?
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Dice or cards for a bunch of foolish lives
and one soul–a butterfly caught and jarred
by smokey glass made by Death’s hands, while lives
caught in his spell stay frozen by the stairs.
Death’s star-filled eyes settled on her waiting.
Which to choose? A roll of the dice or cards
who’re just as fickle, their fortune fleeting,
and offering no reprieve should the cards
turn ‘gainst her and the lives she meant to save.
What other games could they play and she win?
The frozen miens of students who waved
sanity goodbye and conjured this sin
stared from their fixed positions, anxious ’bout
forfeiting life at the end of the bout.
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“Make your choice. I grew weary of waiting and you don’t want me to be bored.” The menace in his voice made it clear that boredom for him caused bad things for the living.
Irene swallowed and then made her choice. Let this work, please. It would be a tough match but it would give her time to think. “Do you play chess?”
A smile spread across his bone-white lips. “I was hoping you’d choose a board game.”
Her stomach dropped. She’d just played into his hands and the game hadn’t even begun. with a wave of his hand, the tableau by the trap door rearranged itself until the students stood on one side of the tower roof, all eleven of them. Their souls stepped forward, goose stepping to the opposite side of the board to face their bodies. He released the dead girl’s soul so both her spirit and body could join their respective sides.
Irene’s jaw dropped. She should have expected that. Still there were eleven pieces to a side now out of the sixteen needed to play the game. Oh no, he couldn’t mean to grab five more students from the classes in session below…
Death’s smile widened and he touched his hood as if it were a hat’s brim and he meant to tip it to her. “We’ll be playing a modified game of my own devising. One I think you’ll enjoy.” He lowered his hand and wiggled fingers that resembled maggots. “Come my dear, the game awaits!”
The pieces reshuffled on the make-shift board as lines chalked themselves onto the flagstones creating a checkerboard pattern that spread out from Death’s skipping feet. Catching Irene around the waist, he spun her around. Manic glee made some of the stars that filled his eyes go nova as he pulled her close. Ash filled her nose making her cough. Let him not produce a black rose or any other such token of affection, please!
On the heels of that thought came another.
Can you read my mind?
Do you know I’m in Death’s arms?
Wishing they were yours?
Irene pictured Istan as she’d seen him last, battered but not broken as he slipped through a magic doorway on a quest of his own. A quest she couldn’t join until she’d traced the Undeem Queen’s origins and found a way to put whatever mistake had created her right. Don’t read my mind now, Istan. Given the distance and the fact that she’d been thrown back in time all because she’d listened to a goddess of fate’s suggestion, he couldn’t hear her. Oh and there might have been a power circle she hadn’t noticed involved in magnifying her spell. Who looks under rubble for such pesky things anyway?
Death ended his dance number. Time to set the board and begin the game. His eager smile made it clear he’d play to win. With a bow and a kiss planted on her knuckles, he jigged his way to his side of the board humming a jaunty tune.
Smile, Oh happy death,
at the games you play…
Had she already lost the game? The thought pounded in her head as she faced death next to a line of standing corpses. Their blank eyes met the frightened stares of their souls. That answered that quest at least; mind and soul traveled together into death’s embrace or at least onto his gameboard. Okay so her pieces would not be offering any advice. Great, she was on her own.
Rolling up her sleeves, she prepared. “What are the rules?”
“Rules? A hairless eyebrow rose widening his already creepy eyes. Really, he took starry-eyed to a whole new level and not a good one.
“Yeah those pesky things that keep the game moving in the proper direction.”
Death made a sound like glass breaking and then repeated it, throwing back his head. He was laughing at her. Great.
Laugh, oh funny Death,
Laugh, you’re not the punchline yet–
Laugh now while you can.
“Then how do we play if there are no rules?”
“Oh there are rules.” Stars exploded in his eyes again and his smile grew. If it got any larger, it would split his head in half. Let him not indulge in that. He was disturbing enough as is.
The corpses shuddered changing until they resembled the actual playing pieces–two rooks with conical hats, two bishops with red caps, two knights astride leaping horses and five pawns. Their souls underwent a similar change on the white side of the board.
Death’s transformative magic flowed over Irene changing her costume into a Queen’s gown and a tiara of course. Both in black to match her side of the board, same as her game pieces–students. Death wore a matching crown in white since he’d chosen that color. His robes lightened to gray.
All business now, Death called out his first move.
Four moves on, two pawns met in the center.
Death’s smile amped up its wattage as soul shoved
body fighting for the square, tormentor
won as the corpse crumpled, its moves too stiff
to fend off its soul–a soul that belonged
to Death, king of the board, and she’s now miffed.
If she lost a square, did she lose the the throng?
Had she just remanded eleven souls
to Death’s custody–would the game still go?
Death looked at her, his eyes smug, now one soul’s
gone from the board; she’d let no more go.
“Your move,” Death said, his hand sweeping the board.
“The game continues until I am bored.”
~ ~ ~
Death smiled and waited.
Ten lives still played on the board–
he would win them all.
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Irene’s Quest continues in Tower’s Quest 4.
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