The Hollow Crown
A Quiet Game of Chess
“So you think we’ll be seeing Concord again”, a slight smile graces the lips as they set up the board again “Or do you think we’ve terrified them with the horros of the abysmal depths of chess?”
“I have the nasty suspicion they are going to be like the neighbour that is always borrowing coffee.” he grumbles good naturedly. He has set the board up in the quieter back room, he tells himself it is only to ensure she is away from sudden noises and sensations, a risk of one skilled in the scrying arts, and not because it is more poorly lit, and will hide his appearance a little better if she can see through his borrow aspect.
“Yes, they are annoying enough when your human, when you are only buying coffee just for them.” she smiles ruefully, and he tries to avoid laughing.
“This is a new set?” he smiles, waiting for their ritual to continue, he’d stopped buying new sets, now he does it to see her eyes light up as she appraises them “Irish, Kilarney, 19th Century, hand carved.” her hands run across the board, he can see her taking sensation from the tactile feel of the wood, and spiritual imprint of the past owners. “It was owned by an Irish parson, who played weekly games against the village schoolmaster over a glass of Whisky. It was loved.”
He is never sure if these are just stories she makes up to amuse him, or if the wood does leave an implant on the wood. They continue to set up the board, picking up the knight, he rolls the piece in his hand, enjoying the feel of the wood “In here is a perfect celibacy/knights without favours, castles bare of maidens” even as he says it he curses himself mentally, the downside to living for so long was your mind became full of unimportant quotes and you forgot what they might be read as.
“Hoi, how do you know I’m not a maiden?”, chin in hand she fixes him with an aggrieved glance, momentarily flummouxed he tries to think of a response. mouth slightly flapping open, before he realises she isn’t annoyed “400 years and that is the best response you can come up with? No wonder your clan hides in the shadows, I give you Silas, Primogen and social wallflower… speaking of which, I think one of Winthrop’s men walked in.”
Silas looked up at the tall streak of piss that had entered the bar. The little turd picked his way through the bar as if worried the smell of the tavern would catch onto his clothes, he suppressed a growl, Winthrop had sent this one as a calculated insult. Silas couldn’t help being irked by him, the little turd looked like the Baron Faulconburg who had got himself a peerage at Towton and got Silas killed by an arrow to the throat. He barely looks up from setting his pieces on the board, making him wait.
Irked at the discourtesy, the ghoul clears his throat, “I bear the response to your message from Praetor Winthrop.” he hands across an embossed letter closed with Winthrops seal. Without waiting for a response he turns on his heel and exits the building.
“You know fine well what is in the letter, don’t read it.” she looks at him “Id rather you didn’t have an excuse to blame losing the game on.” she smiles at him.
“You mean apart from your poetry?” her pleading is of little use, he tears open the seal “Bastard, arrogant bastard.” he throws the letter back across the table, knocking over his king and queen in the process. She checks he is irritated rather than in true fury, she gives a weary smile, "I wish to God that once or twice Id studied, learnt the pitfalls thrice Known to the Greek Pythagoras, Id have played the better at chess Guarded my queen better thereby. " She resets his pieces and looks scans over the letter. “A charming refusal to your request, shame he never had the courtesy to tell me he was rejecting my request to establish a haven in Weston. Moreover, he insists I close my holding in Quincy, nor will he support my request to take up the vassalage of Medfield or permit me to take control of Medfield State Hospital. Not for any personal defect in my character, but the unfortunate fact that I am of no clan.”
The first move is made in the game, both are irked and the opening is jerky, but at last the familiarity and companionship restores some balance. "What’s past is prologue, and I see we are playing the French opening again. " he pauses and castles, shifting his King to the corner – leaving his knights to attack the centre.
“I’ll be fine, my library is dukedom enough.” the game progresses to mid-game quickly enough, the board stays open, with neither side appearing to have a benefit. “Sometimes I wish I had never left York.”
“The Star Tavern was always my favourite haunt. Also no one should try and leave York, only time I ever did I got an arrow in the knee, ended my adventuring career” He moves his kingside knight to threaten a fork on her bishop and knight.
“You crack a pop culture reference! And I thought it was the throat” she quickly moves a bishop out to open a line on his king, sacrificing a piece in the process. taking the bishop, she takes his knight back. The rapid flow of movements to be expected.
“To be fair, I was pretty much turned into a pin cushion, and I’m down with the kids.” he makes another move, shifting his bishop out to meet its brother. “Speaking of which we have visitors. The Arab and Johannes get.”
Looking down at the board he notes her response Kings Rook to F8. “Hmm, hell must be empty for all the devil’s are here tonight. Wonder where Gwendolyn is?”
a short while later
“I don’t care about their age, they should know better than that”
“Come on, they meant no offence by it, I think they were more worried about offending you. Besides why should they know better?”
“Because they associate with a Ventrue thrown from her clan, they must know how others treat her.” increasingly irked, he looks at the board trying to recall where hes seen this position before.
They have moved through a bout of shadow boxing, their queens stalking across the board. After another exchange of pieces, “Oh, so all people that associate with Kindred are meant to instantly learn ettiquette? It strikes me they’ve been dealt a bad hand. Of the three of them, only Johannes pays any attention to his childe, and that is because he worries hes made her a target.” She advance her queen, leaving it on the third rank. “They’ve apologised, I think they need guidance and help, don’t put down to malice what inexperience can easily explain.”
“Damn.” he mutters as he lifts his hand away from the Rook, that he had moved to attack her queen.
“Ah you’ve seen it,” smiling, she moves her queen across the board to G3, “The Breslau game.”
“I was there. The gold coins was because the Malkavian Anatole dropped his coin bag onto the table when he was meant to be settling my wager.”
“Another game?” they reset the board “Two camps face each one the other, And the Kings stand by for battle, And ’twixt these two is the fighting. Bent on war the face of each is, Ever moving or encamping, Yet no swords are drawn in warfare, For a war of thoughts their war is.”
“Is that from the Rubaiyat?”
“No, from a Jewish poet from Muslim Grenada. Before he can make the first move, he spies Gwendolyn entering the bar, dog in tow. Whilst she makes small talk with Alison, Silas pats the dog on the head, and gestures for a bone to be brought across from the kitchen.
Mentally, he feels out for the creatures thoughts. The rapid fire thoughts of a dog, so obsessed by smells and distractions fill his mind. Ach hate water, water smelled, smell like flowers before they’ve been properly marked now. Least its warm. Hey there’s a bone around here. bone and meat in one night. This is good. Shame about the Harry." his nose twitches as Silas strokes his head, “Wonder who this Lestrade is. Suppose I should hang about with the Gwendolyn. She smells like this flower stuff too. Its different from the Harry, he smelt like proper street.”
“If I may interrupt. Lestrade is the name the Gwendolyn intends to know you by. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Ah – smelly human talking to me. How you doing that?”
“A gift, like your sense of smell. I am called the Silas”
“Silas give bone, the Gwendolyn give meat and a warm place to sleep. things are looking up. The Gwendolyn can call me Lestrade if she likes. Thanks for the bone”
Silas lifts his hand from the dogs head, content that Gwendolyn isn’t mistreating the character and interested to know where she acquired a dog from the streets from. Its only then he wonders at Alison’s use of the term Breslau, the city had long since been known as Wroclaw for almost half a century.
He dismisses such thoughts, realising that the game is referred to as the Breslau match in the literature.