The Many Tales of Blackjack: Jokers Wild

The Many Tales of Blackjack: Jokers Wild


"“You’ll see that, since our fate is ruled by chance,
Each man, unknowing, great,
Should frame life so that at some future hour
Fact and his dreamings meet.”

Victor Hugo


December 2nd, 2006

The hour was late, and though no hospital such as Guy's ever fully slept, it was as quiet as it was ever likely to be. The visitors had gone home, the non-essential staff as well. And in that strange and alien room where the windows were covered over in frost, this meant it was time to relax. This was the room where the Unseelie of London could gather to hang out, talk to one another, and generally enjoy life between their various missions or jobs.

Heinzelmaul had been here earlier, but she was a nurse here at Guy's Hospital, and on call, and thus the muttering kobold had been forced to go and tend to her work for a time. This left five changelings, three of the Unseelie, and two Seelie courtiers who were considered honorary Unseelie. The crow-faced woman Rook worked at Guy's Hospital as well, but given that her job involved cutting up dead people in the pathology department, it wasn't quite as pressing for her to go there just this instant. Her friend and roommate was here as well, the buxom and Amazonian Cheshire keeping her company in between dead people. Squick had shown up, the boneless-looking Tunnelgrub here for no real reason, though he occasionally helped fix computers around Guy's Hospital in his off-time, as favors to his fellow Courtiers. And there was Scare-Bones Hammond, who came here for the company of his own kind. It had been the metal-fingered Wizened's idea to play cards.

"I'll see your three, and raise you two." Rook said, her face grim and expressionless, pushing a five-pound note across the table. Cheshire loomed over her shoulder and peered at her cards, an expression of puzzlement flitting across her face as she narrowed her eyes at a card.

"Fold." Squick said, putting his cards down and abandoning the six pounds he had on the table. The lanky tunnelgrub looked at Rook and shook his head. "You are scary, you know that?"

Rook sniffed and deigned to smile in answer. There had been some vigorous discussion earlier about whether to play bridge (as Hammond preferred) or poker (as Rook preferred). The deciding factor had been that Squick had no idea how to play Bridge, something that drove Hammond to deep despair.

"Thank you." Rook said, allowing herself a smile as she scooped up the pot. It was becoming apparent just why Rook had preferred poker.

"Is it too late to say I told you so?" Hammond said, taking the cards and shuffling them with a vengeance.

"Maybe we could try Hearts instead of Bridge?" Erin asked, slightly desperate. It was more Hammond's mood than the money, which Erin apparently had plenty of - though she still wasn't used to that. Erin herself had pretty much folded every hand she had in the first round. Plenty of money she might have had, but she'd have preferred to stuff it all in Rook's pocket and just avoid the humiliation of being taken to the cleaners. It didn't help that she thought of the card game reaming as a failure, and failure triggered bad memories and fears in her mind.

Erin supposed this was why she was no fun at parties. You never knew when some off comment might trigger something and wreck everyone's fun. None of the other changelings seemed to have this problem. She sighed, picking up her cards from Hammond and neurotically arranging them.

At least the company seemed alright. Erin had been slightly intimidated by them, and slightly intimidated by the Hospital, and slightly relieved to duck into the back room so as not to try and heal everyone in the ICU. She was still a bit dubious. They all seemed... human. She wondered what they thought of her. The first time she'd tried to go to "her people" she'd been a loyalist at heart and neatly ostracized, the second time she'd tossed a pair of privateers out of the royal wedding. Now she was playing cards. Badly. What must they think of her...

Dice Roll: 7d10s8e
d10 Results: 7, 6, 8, 7, 9, 6, 10, 5 (Total Successes = 3)
I'm a gambling moth, a rambling moth

"I like Hearts!" Cheshire said, surprisingly everyone at the table most likely. Rook looked up at her roommate and seemed to wonder whether or not Cheshire was quite clear as to what sort of hearts was being played. Ultimately, however, the crow-woman decided that some things were best left unasked.

"I don't mind." Squick said, trying very hard not to show too much enthusiasm. "How do you play?"

"Here, I will demonstrate." Hammond said, pleased at least to be playing something a little closer to Bridge. It was not perfect, but it would have to do. He smiled at Erin as he doled out the cards and led Squick and the attentive Rook through an introductory hand.

"Looks fun!" Cheshire said, looking at Erin. "That was a good idea."

"You can play Hearts with five people, so it's better- uh, so Ms. Cheshire can also play," Erin quickly amended, attempting to avoid Hammond's wrath. She started plucking cards from her hand and rearranging them, separating them into suits and then lining them up by number.

"How's the theatre season going, Mr. Hammond?" she asked, mostly since Hammond was the only person she felt comfortable speaking to. She liked Squick, but had only really met him the one time, and talking about 'that time you thought Aurora was dead but she really wasn't and was a secret lesbian who ran off because her mom was a horrible person' just didn't seem like polite conversation. Especially since poor Squick had nearly melted down. And she wasn't sure how not-secret the 'secret lesbian' thing was these days. "Do you know what the next play is going to be?"

"It's going very well! We're doing a production of Blithe Spirit at the moment, by Noel Coward." Hammond said, grinning broadly. Talk of theater always brought out the enthusiastic artist from beneath his melancholy exterior. "I'll be playing the hapless Charles Condomine, who's late wife comes back by accident when he invites a medium to a dinner party, and who's late wife has plans to get rid of his current wife, so he can join her in the afterlife. Hilarity, as the saying goes, ensues."

"It's a comedy about murderous ghosts?" Rook said, looking interested in this. These were Autumn Courtiers, after all. And Rook had a Rakesh-like focus on dead things. "Can we get tickets?"

"I'll see what I can do. We're also rehearsing for the spring production. You'll love this one." Hammond said, smiling even more broadly. "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"You're joking." Squick said, grinning broadly, as Rook buried her face in her hands to avoid snickering.

"What's that?" Cheshire said, a little confused by the sudden hilarity.

"Oh, Sir Noel Coward," Erin grinned. "Uncle Harry's not a mission-ary now~" she sang softly, and then giggled a bit.

"Are the still selling tickets, Mr. Hammond?" Erin asked, yanking out the seven of diamonds and playing it on the trick. "I think I would like to see it too. It could be a fun outing." Perhaps not on the same date as when Rook went, however. Erin still wasn't sure if she liked the thought of anyone knowing about her human friends. Hammond knew, but she trusted him... she pondered a solution a she pondered her cards, an idea turning over in her mind.

"Shakespeare," Erin explained, taking pity on Cheshire's confusion. "You've never seen it? Oh, we should take you to see it!" She gave her pixie grin, to match Squick's razor sharp one. "And who shall have the honor of playing Lord Oberon, Mr. Hammond?" Erin asked.

"They are indeed still selling tickets. West End we are not, we aren't sold out for the rest of the season." Robert said, smiling mechanically. That meant nothing, all of Hammond's smiles looked mechanical. "Tell Amanda at the box office that you're friends of mine, she'll set you up with good seats."

"A friend of mine's playing Lord Oberon, Will Derranis. I get the honor of playing Philostrate." Hammond said. "I look very much the part of a master of revels."

"None better." Squick said, grinning. Unlike Hammond, his grins usually were very broad, taking up most of his face, and showing some not entirely pleasant-to-look-on teeth. He wasn't as bad as Cheshire, but still. "Funnest person in the room."

"I saw some Shakespeare once, Rook took me to see it." Cheshire said, glancing at the crow-woman to remind her of the name.

"Hamlet." Rook said, peering at her cards and trying to remember the rules of the game.

"I liked it. Especially the prince. Hands and hawksaws." Cheshire said, grinning.

"That's knowing a hawk from a handsaw." Rook corrected. She put a ten of diamonds down.

"None better indeed. No one else would have the good taste to play the part. Who else would they ask to recommend the play?" Erin smiled, still fidgeting with her cards. She was fanning her wings and her cards out in alternating, clockwork intervals - one of the few times her second pair of wings was clearly visible. Funny, but had she always had those?

Not to mention Philostrate's advice was completely ignored, much to his despair
, she thought to herself, but she didn't mention it aloud. No need to encourage Hammond in that regard. Besides, all's well that ends well, as someone once wrote.

"And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest," she murmured quietly. "Mr. Hammond and I could probably make a hawksaw, but I don't think the feathers would cut very well."

"Perhaps if we used a Stymphalion?" Hammond said, considering this as he put down a card and won the trick. "If we used brass feathers and polished them up, it'd make a very good saw."

"Are those things actually real?" Squick said, blowing away a lock of hair to see a little better just what his cards were. Long bangs were adorable, but occasionally inconvenient.

"Aww, I saw one at the Goblin Market." Cheshire said, smiling proudly and putting down a card. It was anyone's guess as to what the logic behind that specific card choice was. "It didn't look much like a hawk though. More like a stork."

"You could make a stork-saw." Rook suggested. Her voice was quiet, and with her long nose she looked a little storklike herself. "We could make a present of it to Todd."

"Why?" Squick asked. He had to hear the logic behind this.

"To confuse him." Rook said with perfect aplomb.

"It'll be like the Jack-of-Crow's birthday presents on Childermass. Only unscheduled and with really confusing presents," Erin agreed, putting down a card in between the metronome-like wing fanning. "Does anyone know when King Todd's birthday actually is? We could surprise him with... random and nonsensical presents." Erin had no idea if Todd already did this, only without the insane bits.

"Does King Jack still throw his birthday parties?" Erin also asked, thumbing her cards pensively. The Jack would be having a party, but she was curious to the perceptions in the freehold.


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