The party at the Chevalier estate was in full swing. It was the event of the season, every noble house of worth had members in attendance and countless other people of means were present. Nearly every person of importance outside the Capatian royal family was there.
They were all dressed in their finest, the men in the well tailored suits that were currently in fashion for their sex. The suits were all well made and pleasant to behold but none were flashy. In Capatia it was the women that were in charge of society and every man knew it was not his place to outshine the better sex. Because of this the men were all dressed in similar fashion, non standing out much from others.
But the women, their outfits were as varied as they were eye catching. Capatians (at least the highborn ones) all had bright red hair thus red had always been the dominant color in Capatian society. Nearly every woman present was dressed in red, the lunge of the mansion a sea of red clad women.
Their varied dresses and gowns all had one other thing in common: all of the women’s cleavage was prominently displayed. Capatian women all had breasts so large they put any other race of Human’s to shame, so over large and heavy that to most eyes they looked unnaturally big. Capatian women carried their heavy breasts with pride, displaying ample cleavage whenever they could. They viewed their breasts as a sign of their natural feminine might, an emblem of how they sat atop their society with the flat-chested men on the bottom.
The High Captians with their red hair and large breasts were not the only natives to this land. There were Low Capatians, although none were of noble standing and even the women of these low born people tended to fill jobs the High Capatians viewed as below their standing.
The few Low Capatians in the room were easy to spot, their average body shape the opposite of the High Capatians. Whereas the high born were tall with thick curvy feminine bodies or bulky muscular male builds the low born tended to be short with small, narrow frames regardless of their sex. Instead of bright red hair they all had jet black locks. But most shameful (at least to the High Captains) was the fact that the Low Capatian women were all small breasted, most totally flat. They mockingly said Low Capatian women’s small breasts were so inferior they were equal to men.
Emilee Notleigh was low born, unmistakably a Low Capatian. She had a narrow, twig thin body and stood nearly a foot lower than the nobles filling the elegantly decorated lounge. She had the well muscled body of a dancer, with small breasts barely big enough to notice. Still, she tried. She lived in a society where one’s standing could be judged instantly by breast size. So the dark haired woman wore a tight leather outfit that hugged her small breasts and pushed them up as much as possible.
Growing up she had hated her small frame, yearning to have the thick curves all the highborns seemed to be blessed with. But as she had grown into full womanhood she had embraced her lithe body and now dressed in clothing that left much of it revealed. Her top barely covered her breasts, ending just below them to leave her midriff fully exposed. The top had padded leather sleeves built into it, heavy bracers wrapped around her forearms. She was, after all, a hired guard. She could show her body off but she’d need some protection should blades be drawn. And she was fast, able to block incoming blows with her reinforced bracers.
Her narrow hips were wrapped in leather belts, two long blades that were somewhere between daggers and swords on each hip. Between the four blades she’d always be armed, even if she should need to throw one or even two of them as part of an attack. Below the belts was a small red skirt that barely covered her privates. If not for the red and black striped leggings she wore underneath bending over would have given everyone a free show.
As Emilee stalked the edge of the room she kept her hands on the handles of two of the larger blades, ready to leap into action. It wasn’t often that an attack happened during a party such as this but it wasn’t unheard of. The Chevalier family was a noble house on the rise. Their influence seemed to grow with every week. The eldest daughter of the family had even been recently dispatched out into the untamed frontier at the empire’s border to help spread the borders of Capatia.
Such growth of power and influence always brought jealousy and frequently came at the cost of some other noble family’s established power. An assassination wasn’t out of the question, although some plot to ruin the party and cause the family embarrassment was far more likely.
Eyes looked her way as she walked the edge of the room. Large breasted High Capatian women whose eyes immediately darted to Emilee’s small breasts. The reaction was always the same: instant dismissal and disinterest. With breasts so small she couldn’t be of any importance and thus wasn’t worth acknowledging. They’d look away, the armed woman soon forgotten.
The looks from the men were different. Many looked away when they saw how small her breasts were, but not all of them. Emilee was in her early 30’s and wore her age well. She had grown into her beauty and was far more pleasing to the eye now then she had been ten years ago. She had pretty, narrow, pointed facial features that went well with her thin well muscled body. Her neck was long and she wore a black leather choker around it that she knew added to her appeal. Her jet black hair was long, hanging down past her shoulders as it framed her face and she wore dark eye makeup to help add to her dark beauty.
Yes, many of the noblemen’s eyes lingered longer on her and she knew why. It wasn’t just that she was pretty, no, it was because as a Low Capatian she’d be more likely to spread her legs for them. The thought made her chuckle. She disdained the High Capatians and had vowed to never let one of their men get between her legs. She knew as the party dragged on and the noblemen got more drunk they’d begin to do more than just look but that didn’t concern her. She’d dealt with it before and her blades would put a quick end to any wandering hands that might try to reach up her very short skirt.
Emilee tensed, her hands tightening on the handles of her blades. There was a sudden commotion from the doorway into the lounge and she turned to see what was causing it, ready to dash across the room. As soon as she saw the figure stumbling into the room she eased up. Many were laughing at the comically dressed man that had just bumbled in and she couldn’t help but joined in with them.
The man was tall and thin and moved as if he had never adjusted to his lanky limbs. He was dressed in a reddish-brown outfit that had a blue vest that extended all the way down to the floor. It was a strange article of clothing that was made to imitate a wizard’s robes while technically fitting in with the current fashions. The thing led to many giggles and its owner tended to get tabled in the long robe like cloth and frequently tripped over it.
Garin Chevalier had stumbled into the lounge, falling flat on the ground. Everyone laughed as the awkward young man tumbled to the floor, the large floppy wide brimmed wizard’s hat he wore falling of his head. He had been carrying a large tome in one hand and his gnarled wizard’s staff in the other. Both objects fell with him, making more noise as they landed and drawing even more eyes to him. He also wore a number of satchels and many of them fell open, spell and potion components falling out all around him. He scrambled up onto his knees, apologizing to the laughing crowd around him as he tried to shove things back into his bags.
“Can you believe they allow that buffoon to not just live in the estate but to show his face at parties like this?” one of the nobles near Emilee said.
“Oh, I believe it. The Chevaliers know how pathetic young Garin is. The most awkward, useless wizard in all of Capatia. I hear that they encourage him to come to these parties knowing he’s too dumb to understand they all hate him as much as we do. They like seeing him mocked, it’s how he earns his keep as a member of the family.”
Emilee rolled her eyes. Nobles could be so cruel, she thought and suddenly felt guilty for laughing at the boy. She quickly pushed her way across the room and knelt down beside the awkward wizard. “Here, let me help you,” she said, picking up some of the contents that had spilled from his bags and handing them back.
“Thank you,” he said, averting his eyes and blushing.
Emilee knew the foolish young man wasn’t used to people being nice to him. He was comically awkward and well known to be an incompetent wizard, yet it always surprised her that so few bothered talking to him unless it was to mock him.
He was incredibly thin for a High Capatian, lacking any sign of muscle on his long limbs, but he was far from unattractive. His face had an innocent sweetness to it and she liked his well groomed red beard. Surely other noble women could see he was pleasing to look at? And even if he was a joke he belongs to an influential family. Surely some lesser house would think to gain influence by marrying a daughter to him. Yet no highborn woman seemed to want him.
She handed him a few bundles of dried herbs then reached for an ornate stone box with a glowing red gem set into the lid. Garin’s hand shot out and he grabbed the box before she could touch it. “Don’t!” he barked, pulling the box back.
Emilee shot him an angry look. “I was just trying to help,” she said, starting to stand up and feeling angry he’d talk so rudely to the only woman in the room willing to come to his aid. Wrongly she assumed it was because she was a Low Capatian.
He reached up and grabbed her wrist, stopping her from pulling away. “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, blushing ever more intensely. “It’s just… I’m not used to people being nice to me. And this,” he added, tapping the stone box before pushing into one of his satchels, “is a powerful magical artifact I just bought at the bazaar from a travelling merchant. I’m the only one that’s supposed to touch it till it’s activated.”
Emilee helped him gather up the rest of his possessions then helped the awkward wizard up onto his feet. “What’s it do?” she asked, pointing to the bag that held the stone box.
“Ah,” he said, holding the large tome to his chest and gripping his staff tightly as if requiring comfort to keep the courage to keep speaking to her. “Actually, it’s a game. From before The Great Collapse, a card game of chance and skill.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What’s so magical about it?”
“Well… I’m not actually sure,” he said with an embarrassed smile. “They are very rare and the magic is very powerful but I don’t know much about it past that. I haven’t actually convinced anyone to try playing with me.” He looked around, seeing his family and their peers all looking at him and chuckling derisively. “You know how it is.” He shrugged, a sign of resigned acceptance of his life.
Garin Chevalier looked so pathetic. Like a wet, lost dog out in the rain. Emilee was filled with pity in that moment and wanted to help brightened this young man’s day.
She quickly looked around the room. There was no sign of trouble and there were other guards patrolling the edge of the party. Impulsively she reached out and tucked her arm through his elbow, pulling him to walk with her. “I’ll play the game with you,” she said, giving him a kind smile.
“Really?” he asked, sounding skeptical. “Here? Where people can see you?”
“Here,” she said firmly. “I don’t care who sees me. I work for your family, remember? I’m just doing my job, sticking close to guard your body.”
He flashed a surprisingly charming but awkward grin at her. “Wow… okay, thanks! Look, there’s a table over there no one is sitting at.”
The two moved towards the table, some watching and muttering as they passed. Garin bent his head down, hiding in the shadow of his hat’s oversized brim. “They are already gossiping about us.”
“I don’t care,” Emilee replied, her head held high. “They all think you’re a joke and I’m a Low Capatian so they think I’m trash. Who cares if they gossip about us walking and talking together? None of them could care any less about us even should we strip and fornicate right here in the middle of the room.”
He turned and looked at her, blinking. “You ARE a Low Capatian! I hadn’t even noticed.” Then his brows furrowed and he seemed to process the rest of what she said, blushing and looking away. “I’d never…” he muttered.
She smiled. He might be an awkward fool but he was the first High Capatian who had seen her as a Human first and not just a Low Capatian. It made her feel momentary affection for him even though he was a noble.
Once they got to the table he placed his staff, tome, and most of his satchels in a pile on the floor beside him. As they each sat on opposite sides of the table he pulled the stone box out and sat it on the table between them. “Alright,” he said, “like I said, I’ve haven’t gotten to play it yet.” He opened the box to reveal a deck of cards with two clear crystals on either side.
Taking the deck out he put it in the center of the table and flipped one over, showing her that the face of the card was blank. “The text doesn’t show up till the game starts and a card is drawn. When we start these crystals will fill with energy. We get to play one card a turn and the point is to drain the energy from your opponent’s crystal. I guess the cards will help us do that?”
She nodded. “Okay, sounds… uh, fun.” The fact was she didn’t really have any interest in the playing the game. She just felt sorry for Garin and wanted to give him a little joy before the party goers mocked him more. She’d seen him running out of parties like this in tears to many times to count and wanted to give the young man one nice evening.
“Right,” he said, pulling the crystals out and placing one in front of each of them. “To get the game to start we have to touch the crystals and state we are entering the game willingly. Once the game starts we will be magically compelled to finish it. Like I said, it’s REALLY old and REALLY powerful. I will bind us here till we complete the game.”
“Alright,” Emilee said, wondering why the ancients had put so much power into a simple card game. She reached out and put a finger on the transparent crystal and could feel the power held in the item. For just a moment she felt apprehension and wanted to pull her hand back. But it was just a game, what could possible go wrong? “I, Emilee Notleigh, enter into this game knowingly and of my own free will,” she declared
“Yes! Just like that,” Garin said, touching his crystal and saying something similar.
There was a flash of light that temporarily blinded both of them and made many of the party goers gasp in surprise. When Emilee’s vision returned to her she saw that the crystals were no longer resting on the table. Each floated beside her and Garin, their insides full of bubbling, glowing red energy.
“Cool,” she muttered and shifted in her seat to look more closely at the floating crystal. She yelped in alarm and looked down. There was an ethereal chain made of red energy connecting her ankle to the table. She leaned down and looked under the table and saw another one connected to Garin’s ankle. “Damn… we really are bound to the game,” she muttered, looking up at her opponent with concern on her face.
“I told you we couldn’t stop once we began,” he said, shaking his chain with his foot. “Although I didn’t think we’d be so literally bound to the table.”
“Alright,” Emilee said, a little nervous. “But now what?”
Before Garin could answer her the cards in the deck in the center of the table started shuffle themselves then some float up, five cards being dealt to each player. They both picked their cards up and looked amazed as text started appearing on the cards.
“Who goes first?” Emilee asked. In response a card floated up from the deck and into her hand. “Oh,” she replied with an amused laugh. “I suppose I do.” The magic of the deck seemed playful and she started to calm down, thinking she might even enjoy this.
She read her cards, smiling. Their text was all easy to read and self explanatory. She chose one out and put it face up on the table. “Take that!” she said with a playful laugh. The card glowed and some of the red energy in Garin’s crystal was siphoned out. A moment later the text on the card disappeared and the blank card floated over next to the deck, beginning a discard pile. “Your turn,” she said with a smile and an eager look, happy to be playing something so magical and yet simple and fun.
A card floated up from the deck into Garin’s hand. He started reading his cards and his eyes got bigger and bigger. “Oh my,” he said, looking at his cards in shock. He put his cards face down on the table and stood, grabbing his chained leg and pulling on it. The chain around his ankle tightened and he was slammed back down into his seat. There were some people standing nearby and they laughed at the gangly young man being magically pulled back into his chair.
“What are you doing?” Emilee asked, confused. “Don’t you want to play anymore?”
He looked from her to his cards and back again with a frantic, afraid look on his face. He began to babble nervously. “Well, um… You see— The cards! But I can’t. You’ll— And people are watching!”
Emilee shook her head. “Just take your turn, Garin.” She was starting to regret her choice once more. The boy was just so awkward, even playing a simple card game seemed to be beyond him.
Garin finally picked his cards back up and read over them again. He looked nervous and sweat was pouring down his brow. He glanced up but not to Emilee, instead he looked at the stone box the game had been stored in. “I have to play one of these cards, don’t I? And they are all going to be like this?”
Emilee watched, her head cocked to the side. Was he mad as well as awkward? He seemed to be listening to the box as if it was answering him. “What are you listening to?”
“What?” he said, startled. “Oh. Right, you’re not a magic user. You can’t hear it, can you? Hear the magic in the artifact speaking to me?”
“No,” she said, looking concerned. Her first instinct was to think that he really was crazy but then she thought back on what she knew about magic. It was everywhere in Alaria and the different magic users were able to tap into, control, and see the various kinds of magic. Perhaps Garin really could hear what the magic item was saying.
He looked at her, his cheeks burning red. “I’m really sorry,” he said, starting to pull a card from his hand. “This is the least bad card I have. I’m afraid… Well, maybe this game isn’t what I thought it was.”
“I don’t understand,” Emilee said.
“You will,” Garin said, looking at her with pity on his face as he placed the card down on the table. “I really am sorry.”
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