Behold this dumpster fire of a first chapter I put into the thing.
Jayden stared at the board with too much intensity. He could feel it. He was just looking at it too hard, and he could feel Bailey’s judgement radiating onto him from across the table.
“Just move already, Jay. You’ve lost the game, let’s just get it over with,” Bailey said. He smirked, resting his hands on the back of his chair, which he had intentionally spun around backward.
Jaydon growled slightly. “Only because you cheated.” He rested his finger beside one of the dice, then lifted it back up.
“It’s not cheating,” Bailey said so casually Jayden wanted to punch him. “It’s the way the game is played.”
He looked at the board again and shook his head. He picked up a die and rolled it. A one, finally. He glanced up at Bailey with the faintest smirk on his face. “Oh… I’ve lost the game, have I?”
“Damnit that completed your set, didn’t it?”
“About time, huh?” Jayden marked something on his slip of paper and glanced over the board again. He glanced at the pieces lines up just to Bailey’s part of the board, then back at the board. The issue wasn’t that he was out of pieces, it was that he was out of good pieces for the numbers he’d been rolling. Ones were practically useless on their own, but the more of them you had, the better off they put you. He had all of them now. That was a good place to be, as long as you were smart with how you used them.
Codalesct gave a high trill from his shoulder and drifted down to the board. The blue dragon studied one of Bailey’s pieces and began to push it forward onto the next space.
Jayden chuckled and lifted the dragon off the board as tenderly as he could. “We can do a lot more than that.” He pushed Bailey’s piece back where it belonged. The dragon looked confused as he returned to Jayden’s shoulder.
“You know,” Bailey said absently, watching Jayden stare at the board, “You talk to that thing like it’s a cat, but it just suggested you make not only a legal move for your roll, but the single best move you could have made with that roll if it weren’t for the set.”
“I know,” Jayden shot back, reaching up to scratch Codalesct’s shoulder. “Little guy’s learning how to play, isn’t he?”
Bailey shook his head, but couldn’t surpress a smile.
Finally, Jayden picked up a piece and moved it all the way to his side of the board, then moved a few of his back towards himself. Codalesct’s eyes looked like they were ready to hop out of his head. He made a shrill sound and hopped down onto the board to try and push pieces back where they had been. He looked mad, and kept glaring at Jayden as he kept putting the pieces back where he’d set them.
Bailey and Jayden were both laughing. Bailey lifted Codalesct off the board after a moment. “Hey, it’s okay, he’s allowed to do that,” he said, struggling to keep the dragon back.
Jayden nodded, passing the dice to Bailey. “Yep, there’s this thing called a set,” he said, showing Codalesct the paper that had the six ones marked in a vertical column, “and it lets you get away with things you otherwise couldn’t do.”
Bailey nodded, rolling a die. It fell off the table and he bent over to pic it up.
Codalesct gave a trill sound and shot toward the ground before Bailey could reach it. He picked up the die and brought it back to the table, setting down so it showed a four. Bailey nodded, and started to scribble something on his paper slip, but Codalesct batted away the pencil before he could and shoved the die back at him, flaring his nostrils.
“I think he wants you to reroll,” Jayden said with a smirk. “He’s right, too. It fell on the floor.”
Bailey grumbled but took the die and rerolled it. “I know,” he said as the die landed on a five. “But I needed that four.”
Jayden gave a smirk as Bailey was forced to move one of his most useful pieces back toward himself, right into the line of fire of one of Jayden’s, instead of the one to its left which had space for safe passage. Bailey collected his pencil and marked down his five before passing the dice back to Jayden. Jayden looked down at the colorful cubes and then studied his sheet. White and black, red and blue, green and orange. They were pairs. They did opposites. He was sitting pretty well right now, and he could roll a whole pair if he wanted to, but… He glanced at the board, the dice, and his slip, and picked up the black die.
“You’re mad, Jay,” Bailey said. “That one hates you and you know it.”
Jayden shrugged and rolled the die. He’d already touched it, too late to change his mind anyways. It landed on two. Jayden blinked a few times. Bailey snickered. “Shut up,” Jayden said eventually. He scribbled the two down on his paper slip and passed the dice back, sitting back in his chair.
Bailey growled slightly, but made no objection. Codalesct curled around himself on the edge of the table and watched carefully. Bailey spread the dice out before him and whistled slightly. “I can’t believe you actually decided to keep that…” He huffed and looked at the board for half a second before he grabbed the orange die and rolled it.
“Damn it when did the dice gods decide you were their favorite?” Bailey asked, glaring at Jayden.
“Oh, I don’t think they have,” Jayden shot back. “Simply, they have decided to hate you as much as they hate me in recent… Moments.”
Bailey chuckled and grabbed the same piece he had moved on his last turn and moved it one to the right. He marked down the three and passed the dice back. “Sure, sure.”
“Gee,” Jayden said as he accepted the dice. “Making my job easy, aren’t you?” He spread the dice out and picked up the black one again.
“Sure are one for risks this afternoon, aren’t you, Jayden?” a third voice asked from across the room.
Jayden dropped the die and turned quickly. Almost too slowly to see the little smirk on the woman’s face. “Uh- Hey, Dianne… How long have you been standing there?”
She shrugged. “Long enough to see you pick black twice in a row. You two gonna wrap it up soon are is the [boss] gonna come down here and wrap it up for you?”
Bailey’s eyes narrowed. “What do you…”
Dianne sighed. “We just got a call from one of the locals. They say they’ve got a new book that’s specifically on the Sword of the Fallen. Master Seymond wants the two of you to check it out.”
Jayden sighed and looked at the board, biting his lip. Bailey had just moved his King into a tight spot. If he could just get his Rook out and corner him… He picked up the black die from where he’d dropped it and rolled. He’d need a three for this to work.
Six. It was a six.
Jayden felt the disappointment rising in his gut, but didn’t have time to let it sink in. Bailey let his head drop to the table. And that’s when it clicked. “Don’t worry, Di. We can wrap this up in no time.” He marked the six on his slip and made the mark to show he was using it with his black 2 from earlier. This way, he could swap the places of his King and Bailey’s King, completely surrounding it in his pieces. He passed the white die to Bailey. “Roll defense, but I don’t think you have the support to get out of that one…”
Bailey mocked Jayden’s words but took the die and rolled it. “I don’t but…” He grunted. “It wouldn’t have mattered anyway.” He put the die back with the rest. “It’s a one. And for a moment there I thought I could have finally beaten you…”
They put away the game.
“So where’s the Master, eh?” Bailey asked as he put the box up on the shelf. “Or does he just expect us to prowl around the city until we find something?”
Dianne leaned against the wall and looked the two of them over. “He was in his quarters. Probably best if you… proceed with caution, eh?” There was an element of mockery to her tone, but she didn’t stay long enough for either of them to really pick up on it.
Jayden sighed and let himself sink against the wall. “We’re doomed if we keep this up, aren’t we?”
“Most likely,” Bailey answered, pulling him back to his feet. “Come along, shouldn’t keep him waiting any longer than we have to, eh?”
Jayden nodded and sulked to the door, following his friend. “You know, she still gets under my skin like there ain’t no tomorrow.”
Bailey huffed and nodded. “I can see that. I mean… You two were close, I understand why it’s like that, but there’s gotta be a day when you just decide to live your own life, you know? She can only dictate so much. Stop letting her treat you like a doll, and eventually she’ll stop thinking of you like one.”
Jayden shook his head. “Not that simple, Bay. I’ve tried… I’m trying, but she’s just… So…”
Bailey put his hand on Jayden’s shoulder and twisted him, slamming him into the wall. “Stop I don’t want to hear that again. Jayden, I know where you come from. I came from there too, remember? You gotta stop letting that control you, too. Actually- The really kind of are one and the same, huh?”
Jayden took a breath and nodded.
Bailey returned the gesture and released him, but kept a careful eye on him. Jayden shook his head aggressively, but not because he was disagreeing. It was more like… More like he was trying to shake something out of that messy flop of hair he had.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, looking away,
Bailey blinked. “What for, Jay? Why-” Bailey shook his head, just absently at first, but then more forcefully. “No. You- Jay, you didn’t do anything, buddy. You hear me?” Bailey grabbed his shoulder and shook him. “You did nothing wrong, okay?”
Jayden took a deep breath and nodded.
Bailey sighed. “Nervous?” he asked.
Bailey closed his eyes and looked at the floor. “It’s okay. I am too. I can go in first if you want?”
Jayden looked at Bailey for a long moment. “I…” He huffed. “Thank you,” he said, swallowing. “But I have to do it…” The determination in his voice sort of tapered off as he finished the sentence.
“No you don’t,” Bailey said. “Not yet, not if you don’t want to.”
Jayden shook his head. “If I don’t…” He sighed and looked at the ground. “If I don’t, then she’ll get at me again. Every time I…”
Bailey put his arm over his friends shoulders and continued down the corridor. “It’s okay. You’re doing fine, okay? You’re doing great! It’s gonna be rough, changing how your mind works is never… Easy, but gosh darn it, Jayden- You’re doing great, okay?”
Jayden nodded, something almost like a smile on his face. “Thank, Bay. I… I think I needed that.”
“Don’t mention it,” Bailey said with a smile, pulling them both around a corner and up a flight of steps. At the top was a door, and behind it… Behind it, Master Seymond waited what was most likely impatiently.
Jayden gulped. He could feel his hands shaking as he stared at the door. Nothing about the door was designed to be particularly calming. From the fact that it was built immediately at the top of the stairs, without even a landing to make it accessible, to its size, to the carvings in its frame… It was just all around built to be intimidating. And it did a good job of it.
Codalesct curled his tail around Jayden’s neck and put one of his front claws on his jaw. Even reaching that far was a stretch for the dragon, but it was comforting to feel him so close. Jayden smiled slightly and reached up and scratched the dragon’s neck. “We’ll be okay, Coda,” he whispered. “We’ll be okay.” He only hoped that was true, but the dragon didn’t need to know that… Right?
Bailey knocked on the door. It made a loud sound. Too loud, it seemed at times.
The door creaked open, slowly. Eventually it was all the way open, and the two of them were staring into Master Seymond’s quarters. Sure enough, the Master looked pissed. Dianne sat on the arm of his chair, like she usually did, and he had his arm around her waist, and it was obvious he was quite pleased with her, but it was also painfully obvious that he was equally as displeased with the men standing just outside his door.
“Well,” he said after a moment, staring dead into their eyes… Somehow both at once. “I see you’ve finally seen fit to show yourselves.”
Jayden swallowed hard, biting the inside of his lip to keep his jaw from shaking. He clasped his hands behind his back for the same reason. It was hard to keep his breathing under control, though. His heart was racing and his lungs were desperately trying to keep up. Hell- He was probably on the verge of a panic attack or something.
Master Seymond sighed and beckoned with h is free hand for them to come inside.
Jayden froze. He couldn’t move. Fortunately, Bailey seemed to realize this and stepped into the room. Jayden shook himself and followed. He was shaking, everywhere, and nothing was really abundantly clear to him at the moment. Just that he was likely in trouble.
“Master Seymond, Sir,” Bailey said, bowing slightly. “We came as soon as we could.”
Jayden nodded, though it was a bit hard to tell that he wasn’t just quivering like a leaf on a tree.
“I didn’t ask, child,” Seymond snapped, looking at Jayden. He sighed after a moment and beckoned for them both to leave. “Go. You’ll find the information on your assignment with the gate keepers.”
They both nodded, bowed and withdrew. The door closed behind them.
Jayden sat down on the stairs immediately, breathing heavy. “I- I-”
Bailey hushed him and sat down beside him. “Don’t say anything yet. Just breathe. You’re okay, right?”
Jayden nodded, closing his eyes.
“Yeah, and we’re getting out of here for awhile, right?”
Jayden nodded some more, his breathing slowly regulating as his heart began to slow down.
“Right,” Bailey continued, “So there’s nothing to worry about.” He put his arm across his friend’s back for a few moments before he stood up. “Come on, we better get going.”
I… Actually haven’t heard that name before.