122 A Game with the Captain*
The five day trip to Rouke Island went relatively smoothly. Though it was originally meant to be four days, they had been delayed slightly by a combination of less than desirable weather and Eb's learning abilities. He'd made a few minor mistakes, but it had been cause for course corrections and he'd been punished accordingly for it. Still, considering his clear fear of heights, he was picking up the job relatively quickly, and Jeremiah was once again impressed by Midas's sense for his crew. His First Mate had always been good at sensing these things about his crew members. Jeremiah had never been let down by it.
In addition to Eb, the other two new crew members were also working surprisingly well. They seemed to slot into their roles seamlessly, picking up the work quickly and performing no less diligently than the rest of the crew. After three days, there was no need to have Jorl supervise them, they simply received their work for the day and did it. It was on the fourth day that Jeremiah visited the Galley to eat with his crew. He did this occasionally in order to ensure that the crew were as happy as they could be and that work wasn't too hard for them. What he found was Rassa in the middle of a card game with several crew members, and stoic as a statue, he was winning.
"How many games has he won?" asked Jeremiah, turning slightly to look at Jorl who watched over the group.
"This is the first night he's played," Jorl said, "The first few nights he insisted he didn't know how and simply watched with his friends, tonight he said he'd be willing to give it a go. He's won four games so far, and his ability seems unmatched".
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Jeremiah's eyebrows rose in interest and he turned to watch the game. In fact, the card game that was played was quite simple. They piled four decks of cards together with the values of cards being 3 as the lowest and 2 as the highest. At the beginning of the game, the winner of the previous game (playing the role of the King) would receive the highest value card dealt to the loser of the previous game (playing the role of the Slave), and would give his lowest value card back in return. Following this, play would proceed to the left with the first player determining what cards were placed out on the table. For instance, starting with a pair of threes. The next player would have to place cards of higher value, but still in a pair. The player to place the highest value on the pile would win the right to begin the next round. Play continued until players were able to discard all of their cards, the winner being the one to empty their hand first. The Joker cards were used as wild cards to represent any number of cards at any value.
Bets were placed on who they thought would win a game. The winner of the previous game was usually seen as most likely, but the game all came down to strategy. When to use your highest value cards and when to use your lowest.
As Jeremiah watched, it seemed that Rassa had not only grasped this concept, but had also seemed to have grasped the tendencies of the other players and could predict the moves they would make. The game had in turn become almost easy to the boy. He won the fifth game without any problems.
Jeremiah gave a side glance at Midas who stood by his side. Midas shrugged in response to the unanswered question. Jeremiah smiled as he turned back to the table.
"Deal me in".
The crew seemed surprised at first, but then grinned shuffling to make room for the Captain at the table, "Aye, Captain!"
As per the rules, new players entered the game as Commoners, those that had no advantage nor disadvantage. Hadolf, who'd lost the previous game, handed his highest card face down to Rassa who gave back his lowest card. Rassa then placed out 3 threes and play proceeded around the table.
Rassa passed his second turn, indicating he didn't have 2 cards of a value higher than 3 aces. A short frown that was quickly gone from Hadolf indicated that the man thought it was unlikely. Jeremiah ascertained that Hadolf had likely handed over a joker card.
With eight jokers swimming amongst the five players, it was unlikely that Rassa didn't even have 1. It was not against the rules to pass a turn despite having appropriate cards to play however. It entirely depended on one's strategy.
Tank grinned as he won the first round with his three aces, placing the dead cards aside and starting a new round with a pair of threes.
Hadolf won the second round with a pair of twos.
Jeremiah took the third with a joker.
While he was very good at hiding it, the slight tick of his jaw allowed Jeremiah to see that he'd made a move Rassa hadn't expected. If the first two rounds were any indication of Jeremiah's play style, Rassa would have assumed that Jeremiah liked to save his high value cards until towards the end of the game, the stance that most experienced players took. But now...
Jeremiah waited in anticipation to see how Rassa would proceed.
But contrary to Jeremiah's expectation, Rassa seemed to do nothing for the next four rounds. By that stage, Rassa was left with the most cards out of anyone on the table. 10 cards, whereas the average of the rest of the table was 6. Tank, who'd won the previous round but now seemed to sweat with his lack of high value cards, placed down 3 fours.
It was now that Rassa made his move. He slapped down a joker on top of the fours.
Everyone looked at him with a frown. Was he that desperate? Slapping down the highest value card when the round had barely begun. But his face remained stoic. He tossed the cards onto the dead pile then brought out his next hand, five sixs.
Everyone paused. In an instant, Rassa only have four cards left, and had played five of a kind, something that none of them currently possessed. Unless someone chose to play a joker, of which there were three left in play, Rassa would win this round immediately.
After a moment of hesitation, Yates played a joker and began another round with a pair of eights.
Jeremiah played a pair of queens, Tank passed. Rassa played a joker.
This was ruthless! How many jokers did he have? There was only one left in play. Jeremiah didn't have. By Tank's expression, he didn't have it. That left Hadolf, who had already given a joker to Rassa at the beginning, and Yates, who had just played a joker himself.
The ruthlessness didn't stop there, Rassa played a pair of twos, leaving him with a single card. Jeremiah knew immediately that that card must have been the final joker.
The table paused before all passed.
Rassa started the next play...with a single five.
Jeremiah, who'd initially been stunned as he had expected a joker, looked at the tiny flicker of a self-satisfied smirk on Rassa's face. The smirk of someone who'd gambled and won. Of someone who knew he'd be able to do it again. Jeremiah's expression relaxed to a smile.
"Well played," Jeremiah praised, going out with a pair of aces in the following round, the third to finish after Yates played his joker then started the round Jeremiah won with a pair of sevens, "You banked on Yates wanting to use the joker as a final trump card and the rest of us assumed you had the final joker after your previous ruthless displays".
Rassa said gave nothing away at the praise, replying simply, "The Captain is too kind".
Jeremiah stood, placing a hand on Rassa's shoulder, "It was a good game".
Jeremiah's words appeared as praise to the less versed, but to Rassa, Midas and some of the more experienced crew it spoke volumes. Rassa had done well in a game, but when it came to gambling with more life-altering values, did he still dare?
Rassa said nothing in reply.