Chapter 175:

The Casino 3

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Cards on Resh were something brought initially by the Netzians. The allure of a new multitude of games attracted the many species of Resh, and soon standard decks of playing cards were brought into production. Each species on the planet modified the cards for their own nations, making four styles collectors sought in addition to the original Netzian printings. Over time, the desire for peace brought a standard deck into the mainstream, with each of the four native species taking up one of the suits. Aqueenians for diamonds, Bentulousians for hearts, Hobusians for clubs, and Zenototes for spades. Netzians were relegated to take up the jokers.

As Tancred quickly explained the game's rules to Odell, Lucchi shuffled his deck of the Resh playing cards. He waved for one of his subordinates to join in, and they were quickly seated at a round table with Odell and Tancred facing each other from across. The division kept the players on the same ‘team’ from potentially seeing each other’s hands, but that didn’t stop Lucchi from stacking the deck with his shuffling.

“Since it’s the young Hobusian's first time, we will skip round one. Is that okay?” the crime boss said.

“Fair enough,” Tancred replied.

“Oh, and break off with your Needaimus,” Lucchi added as he glared at Odell. The mechanical creatures were excellent at counting cards. The green Needaimus, Cal, quickly separated. It slumped over Odell’s shoulder. Before separating, the Needaimus had warned Odell that Lucchi was controlling the cards in his shuffle and the prince watched closely as two were dealt to him face down.

He picked up his cards and looked at his hand. A two of hearts and an ace of spades. The deck was placed in the center, and the top flipped up to show a king of diamonds with a blue Aqueenian king—marking which suit would be the trump for the round.

Odell cautiously looked around the table at the other players. It had quickly been explained to him that they would play a series of ‘tricks’ that was the number of cards for the round. Before that, they had to bet how many tricks they would take. Then they would put cards out, and the highest nontrump would win unless a trump was thrown out instead.

Under normal circumstances in the casino, the bets would be with cash in sets of a hundred for each number of tricks. Due to the deal the detective and crime boss made, the bets were made with dice instead.

“Zero,” Tancred, who was to the left of Lucchi, said. The crime boss's subordinate also bet zero. Odell looked at his cards.

“One!” the prince shouted before playing the die in front of him with the one showing.

Lucchi smiled and put his die out with the two showing.

Tancred played a spade, and the subordinate of Lucchi followed suit. Odell grunted and played his Ace of the same suit. Lucchi finished with a two of diamonds. After taking the cards, he quickly threw out a three of diamonds. No other player had a higher card in the trump, and Lucchi took the round.

Tancred was next to shuffle and deal, and soon three cards were tossed to Odell.

“Stacking the deck, I see,” Lucchi said with a laugh as he eyed his cards.

“You’re one to talk,” the Bentulousian said with a grunt.

Each made their bets, with Tancred taking all three. Odell began picking up on the pattern as the subordinate dealt four for the next round.

Lucchi had picked a subordinate that could also deal the cards they needed to win. He planed to take two rounds for everyone that Tancred could take and win more points over the long game. The crime boss smiled as he considered his reputation as a patient man, a reputation that only existed in his mind.

Odell gritted his teeth as the crime boss won the next round. Even knowing what his opponent was doing, he couldn’t do anything to fight against it. The prince silently wished someone else was in his seat. Harlan likely could outplay their game, Hal had enough of a poker face to confuse them, Rheba might flip the table and call out the cheaters, and even Gwyn or Fiona could cause enough of a scene to secretly switch a card. As he debated what his companions might do, the prince was handed the deck to shuffle.

He knew no fancy card techniques or sleight of hand to give Tancred a favor, and he was too new to the game to possibly find a way out of their dilemma within the game rules. Odell’s head hung as he dealt out the cards randomly and fairly.

He was a burden in this game, and it frustrated him. He was happier being a clown in the Hobusian capitol while working on different machines and vehakuls. Mechanical things didn’t require special tricks, just a turn of a nut and bolt here and there. All his time to ponder led the young prince to consider what happened in Horizon as cards were being set on the table and trick won.

In the small mining village, Odell had quickly become caught. He was hardly helpful in the escape and had to run and hide from opponents without his Needaimus. His victory against Icarus was a combination of luck on his part and arrogance on the part of his opponent, and he was only helpful in supporting Gwyn by becoming a punching bag. The grey prince shuddered as the thoughts ran through his head. He had agreed to the trip partly from a whim and partly from frustration, but as he sat at the card table, Odell could only think of how he was a hindrance.

Tancred managed to pull out a close win for the round, and Lucchi began to deal the next. The crime boss detected the wavering in Odell’s spirit and took the opportunity to speak up.

“Where did you pull this boy from? He would be better suited for grunt work in my organization than at the table for an important bet!”

Odell slumped.

“Don’t underestimate the boy, or you will be surprised!” Tancred replied as he eyed his next hand. “And boy, keep your head up; we’re playing a game here!”

Odell snapped back up and looked at his cards. The hand had again been dealt to keep him from winning. He shook his head and stared at the cards. Tancred seemed to have some faith in him, so he had to do his best to live up to that. The prince closed his eyes as others made their bets. He tried to imagine the game as a machine, like the Ali-442 the group had traveled in. He thought there had to be a way that he could make things work.

They were at another loss as the round ended, but he felt he was starting to pick up the rules better. Odell nodded as Tancred began to deal.

‘I can do this; we can win!’ he thought to himself.