Ascension – The beginning of a story

Corley glanced at the cards he was holding before placing them face down on the table. He leaned back in his chair and looked up at his father. Forna smiled at Corley, his face revealing nothing about which cards he held. Forna placed the cards on the table and moved three chips into the middle of the table. Corley immediately matched him. Forna’s gazed flicked momentarily around the courtroom and Corley tried to hide his grin. His father only looked around when he had a good hand, good enough for him to relax. The dealer placed two more cards onto the table. Forna picked up two chips but did not place them in the middle of the table.

“I have heard that your riding school has doubled the profits of your brother’s farm,” Forna said, playing with the chips.

“Yes, Father. Things are going well,” Corley lowered his eyes so not as to get distracted by his father’s chatter.

“I have heard that you are looking for an investor so that you can hire an apprentice.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Your brother does not have the money?”

“He is already an investor. The riding school is mine, not my brother’s.”

Forna nodded.

“How much are you looking for?”

“One thousand Farzas. I would prefer it as a loan but Dilben says it would be best for me to take an investor until I can build up the reputation of the school.”

“Your brother is wise. A bank would charge you high interest rates whereas an investor could offer more help than just money. Unless, of course, you would prefer to change what we are betting for?”

Corley glanced up at his father.

“What do you mean, Father?”

“Every month, you come here to the palace, you visit your mothers, you play this game with me. If you win, I allow you to speak to Astley, if you lose you go home without mentioning his name. This month, if you win I will give you the money.”

“As a loan?”

“As your winnings.” Forna placed the chips down on the table. “So who are you playing for? You or Astley?”



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