Quinn gave one last swipe across his brow, and turned toward the rough trestle table set up in the stable yard. It was already cleared of the horse blankets spread out to dry. Somehow a large chair had been found for Elymas and he sat, waiting, drumming his fingers on the wood.
Quinn approached, eyeing the Earth Skyll warily. Elymas had already played rulla with the others. It was a tradition that the Earth Skyll, the Anchor for all journeys into the Deep, would test each acolyte but Quinn had been ostracized from the start. He’d had no hope he’d be included in the Earth Skyll’s rolls.
His expression was one of murder.
And now here he sat, waiting. Hatred in his eyes, but something more. Quinn decided to describe the expression to Euli when he returned. He’d never had anyone look at him in such a way. The closest he could come was murder.
But why? He was nothing, as Elymas had so clearly demonstrated.
Hair dripping but with most of the stable stink gone, Quinn walked to the trestle table. Elymas nodded for him to sit and he straddled the bench. Quinn took out his rulla pouch. The dice and pouch he’d brought with him was hidden in the straw of his pallet. The pouch that now lay beside the Earth Skyll’s red silk one was the one given to him along with the two woolen tunics and breeches. The Sacred Servants had given all the acolytes new dice and pouches when they’d handed out the rough clothes. It was Strout, he now knew, who’d shoved everything at him. Not a man to cross, either.
The game of rulla meant everything and nothing, but when played with Elymas, the word “game” took on a different meaning. Everyone was a skilled player in Casoria, but no one who’d ever rolled against Elymas had won.
Quinn prepared himself for another humiliation. Had he his own dice, his might have stood a slight chance, but slight was being generous. Now he didn’t have a hope. These dice were new, crudely cut, and didn’t roll smoothly. When tossed, they sounded like breaking glass.
Quinn let out a deep breath.
“Well?” asked Elymas and by that Quinn had known to roll first.
He’d closed his eyes while doing it. Another clumsy roll, a clatter.
He’d opened his eyes to find he’d rolled an eleven.
Elymas rolled an eight.
All movement around them ceased, even Ara stopped his continual sweating.
“Second roll,” announced Elymas, again nodding at him.
Quinn’s heart was in his throat. He tossed the dice blindly. When the clacking stopped, he slowly lifted his head.
He’d rolled a four! His heart, one beat away from bursting, dropped from his throat. He could breathe again. The first roll had been a fluke; someting everyone would forget in about two hundred years.