Tale: Card Games

“So where HAVE you been lately?” Retvik asked as he peered over his cards.

Phovos tutted, reorganized her cards then tutted again. “Long story. Got any sixes, Gath?”

“Go fish,” Gath smiled. “We have plenty of time to listen. Got any sevens, Lokmah?”

Lokmah squirmed a little, feeling very uncomfortable as he handed over a lone Seven of Blades. “I have like no cards left. But yes, Phovos, you should tell them.”

Opposite Lokmah, a small voice squeaked. “Yes, you SHOULD tell us!” Kalsa Warrior Kalok exclaimed. “General Retvik was good as the vok in charge but General Gath not so much. No offense.”

Lokmah nodded, then asked Retvik if he had any twos. “It is somewhat interesting. Almost as interesting as why we’re not playing Twenty One or Hold Them.”

Retvik and Gath both glanced at one another, an awkward look on their faces. “Um, Gath is a really bad cheater at those two. We both, um, count cards…” Retvik explained, as Phovos reached over to shuffle the ‘pond’. “Fishing though is too random for us to count. So, about your story!” The Rethan quickly changed subject.

“You have any twos?” Lokmah repeated.

“Oh. No. Go fish.”

Phovos sighed. “Fine. Could do with taking a break from playing cards with cheats.”

“I am NOT using my telepathy!” Kalok protested.

“I think a quarter of the cards are missing anyway…” Gath tutted as he shuffled the ‘pond’ and scanned as many cards as he could. “My Kshan of Axes is MIA and none of you have it.”

Phovos smiled slightly, happy she’d beaten the cheating Rethan, then got up to get herself a drink. “Anyone else want anything?”

A drunken voice behind them gurgled. “Yush pleasssse…”

“Think you’ve had enough, Tavish…” Phovos sighed. Everyone else politely shook their heads and Phovos poured herself a glass of carbonated fruit wine, before sitting back down.

“So, you gonna tell us?” Kalok asked.

“I guess…” Phovos slumped in her chair. “Reason I left was because we found a signal on Thanatia 2, a homing beacon. One of the Sixteen found it after the residents of a small Kshan village nearly went insane.”

“What sort of homing beacon?” Gath asked.

“A Thanatian one. Kinda. Turns out, those Temthans? They are Thanatians. Mavri wanted me to look into all of this, and it turns out… Well, us Thanatians aren’t natives.”

The guests blinked a few times.

“You mean, not natives the way us Vohra are?” Kalok suggested. “As in you came from elsewhere in the universe?”

“What do you mean by that?” Lokmah seemed confused. “You were planted here by others too?”

Kalok nodded. “The Vohra have a huge ’empire’, it’s just a lot quieter than the Temthans, we generally take over what are normally uninhabitable planets.”

Phovos sighed. “The Temthans kinda do the same. Drop down a bunch of wild Thanatians, get them to kill the local wildlife, leave them to slowly become sentient, claim their territories as Temthan worlds.”

“What does this beacon have to do with all this?” Retvik asked, slightly confused. “And why did they want to conqueor us Rethans?”

Phovos shrugged. “No idea about you lot, but the beacon was there for us to decipher, to test whether we were ready to be picked up or not.”

“So what happened?”

“We debated a lot,” Lokmah added. “All the Thanatians. The beacon explained what Temthan life was like, and when the Raptor population realised all their females would end up as sex slaves, we called the whole thing off.”

“Fucking destroyed that fucking beacon!” Phovos growled. “I pride myself on being strong, not on my beauty. If the Temthans came to pick us up, I would have to give up my lack of a religion and work as a sex slave, because of their sick beliefs in a stupid deity. They would FORCE us!”

“That’s what they wanted to do to us…” Gath sighed. “Vice General ordered for Retvik to go back to Threa, I had to go back to Hertany.”

“They are gone now!” Kalok smiled, trying to inject some optimism into the room. “And with your beacon gone, they will probably not return for a long, long time!”

Phovos sat up in her chair. “You’re right, Kalok. We should be happy!” The Raptor got up and grabbed some glasses and fine wine. She poured everyone a drink, grinning.