Swamped Chapter 18 Page 5

It suddenly strikes you.

You haven’t had a decent card game in years. Too many Marshguards don’t want the reminder of their gambling debts.

But Stinger’s from a far-off land. Starling was an orphan. Rivers… well, you don’t know the full story, but based on how she was found, and the way she acts, you’ve always guessed her family abandoned her.

“Anyone for cards?” you ask, pulling a long-unused deck out of your pouch.

Unsurprisingly, Starling’s the first to speak up.

“Oh, I’d like that! What are we playing?”

“Bah. Not much else to do, is there,” Rivers grumbles.

“What are cards?” Stinger asks. You suppose they must not have them, or at least not in the same form, back where he comes from.

“These are cards,” you explain, holding one up. “They’ve got numbers and symbols on them. There’s a lot of games where you give people some cards and follow some rules based on the numbers and symbols. You have any more questions?”

“Easier to watch, I think,” he says. “Maybe then I understand.”

“Fair enough. So there’s this game called Swamprats. Goes back a ways; years back, some Bogknights and their Marshguard prisoner came up with the basic rules while they were stuck waiting out the rain, or so the story goes. They were just making it up, so they didn’t think too hard about how well the rules worked…”

“I know basic Swamprats already,” Rivers grumbles. “And it’s boring.”

“Right, advanced rules then,” you say. “Hopefully Stinger won’t have too much trouble following. Starling, do you know the advanced rules?”

“Um, I only played that one time with you and Sp… Scratch. Haven’t had a chance since.”

Oof, that’s right. While waiting out the rain. It wasn’t a good game at all; you were missing about eight cards, which made the whole thing awkward even on the basics. And she wouldn’t have had a lot of chances to play.

Which makes you wonder where Rivers learned it. Not that you’re likely to get an answer.

“Okay, well. Quick review of the basics first. We each get seven cards and we pick one, and the goal is to guess what your opponent’s chosen card is. Or, when there’s more than two, as we’ve got now, your goal is to be the last one in the game. Anyhow, each turn you draw a card, and then try to guess if it matches the suit or rank of one of your opponents. Guess wrong, you have to give a card to your opponent; guess right, they have to give you a card.”

Rivers is rolling her eyes. You deal out the cards and continue.

“Now, you’ll note that it doesn’t really matter what cards you have in hand that way. That’s where the advanced rules come in. First off, you’re not allowed to have more than seven cards at once, including the one you’re hiding.”

You tap the middle of the floor, next to the remaining deck.

“If you’ve got more than seven, you toss the extras here. Face-up and spread out, so everyone can see them. That’s the discard pile. It’s also important for the other main new rule, so I’m pointing it out now.”

“And what’s the other rule?” Starling asks.

“It’s a different kind of move. Instead of making a bet, or passing, you can play one of the cards in your hand. That’s called a challenge. The other players have to answer your challenge by playing a card with a higher value. Whoever plays the highest card gets all the cards in the challenge. Not only that, but the losers have to throw away one other card. Not only does this mean a bigger risk of losing cards, it gives everyone more information about what cards aren’t in play. Oh, and if you don’t have enough cards to answer a challenge, you have to give up your hidden card and you lose. That clear enough?”

“I think so,” Starling says, nodding. You glance at Stinger.

“Are you following this? Not that you need to, but, you know, I can explain anything if you’re having trouble with it.”

“Not needed,” he says, with no further explanation. Either he got it or he’s not interested, you suppose.

Time to look at your hand, then. You’ve got a Nine of Blades, Six of Leaves, Ten of Leaves, Two of Stones, Seven of Blades, Ace of Leaves, Ace of Stones.

What are you going to put face down?

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ten of leaves

Author’s Note:

As usual, new rule is improvised and the cards are based on random drawing.