November 2011 Featured RP: Marbles

Coghill Square
Coghill Square is a quaint and charming village thoroughfare. The tree-lined lanes are well kept, and show signs of moderate traffic. Two large stone buildings with carved wood doors sit at the southern corners of the square,angled toward the center. Another tall structure lies at the end of a narrow lane to the east.

The road turns here, one leg headed north out of town and the other running westward, along the foothills of the mountains toward the local manor.
You can go: The Old Inn Road , Seamstress , Out of Town , General Goods and Exchange , Coghill Manor Road

Cantil sits perched on the fence bordering the crossroads, eating an apple, swinging his legs, and people-watching.

Lorcan follows the Manor Road from the west. Partially over one shoulder is a smallish stone bench, looking newly completed. His left arm is wrapped around it and he steadies it with his right, heading for the General Goods and Exchange.

Cantil picks Lorcan out of the general traffic, mostly because of his unusual burden. His head tilts a little bit to one side with vague interest, and he kicks one leg absently, taking another bite of his apple.

Lorcan pauses in front of the propped-open door of the general goods store and hollers inside. He is greeted momentarily by one of the clerks, whose words are mostly shrouded by the bustle of the crowd. You make out, “finished already?” as Lorcan gives a sharp nod and swings the bench off his shoulder and onto the ground near him. The clerk mumbles something about someone being pleased and disappears back into the store.

Cantil watches, working his way through his apple. After a moment, he flings the core away and hops down off the fence, ambling toward Lorcan and the bench.

Lorcan is greeted by the storekeeper himself a moment later. He clasps Lorcan’s hand in greeting and admires the bench loudly. Lorcan gives a sort of noncommital shrug at the praise, and the other man, catching this, moves on into more businesslike talk. The two haggle prices for a few moments.

Cantil stays at a distance, watching the process of haggling with deep interest. He finds a better perch across the road, in front of the seamstress’s shop, and eavesdrops shamelessly.

Lorcan says, “We had agreed on 25,” and the shopkeeper waves his hands dismissively. “Yes, yes, but you’ve finished it earlier than you said you would, for which I’m certain she’ll be pleased. And it is /such/ fine work, as always. I simply cannot pay you any less than 40.” Lorcan frowns slightly. “You know you don’t have to do that,” he says, calling the shopkeeper by name. “It’s not large enough for me to take any more than 30 on it.” The shopkeeper sighs a bit dramatically and says firmly, “Fine. I’ll give you 33, no more, no less.” This sort of haggling seems a bit backwards at best, but both seem rather familiar with it.

Cantil can hear enough of the conversation to be bewildered, and he frowns and swings his legs in a concentration-fidgety sort of way.

Lorcan shakes hands with the other man, and the shopkeeper pulls a few coins from some sort of pouch at his waist to count them into Lorcan’s hand. Lorcan pockets them and stoops to retrieve the bench. He follows the shopkeep inside and comes out a moment later empty-handed.

Cantil is by this time meandering back to his original perch on the crossroads fence.

Lorcan having conducted his business at the General Goods, Lorcan wanders into the seamstress’s shop. He comes out with fewer coins jingling in his pocket and several different types of fabrics in a carefully covered bundle. He then heads down the path to the tavern. Ten minutes later, he reappears from the tavern’s path with a jug of some alcholic substance swinging from one hand.

Cantil is still sitting on the fence, idly scanning the faces of people passing. It might appear that he’s watching for somebody in particular, though since he seems to be paying equal attention to all the passers-by, this looks unlikely.

Lorcan appears a bit more cheery than usual. Judging from the amount of sloshing in his jug, he has clearly already imbibed some of it. He catches sight of Cantil on the fence and sort of meanders over to lean casually on the fence beside him. “Evenin’.”

Cantil looks slightly startled by the shift from Lorcan’s usual demeanor. “Hi,” he replies.

Lorcan doesn’t appear to notice. “What’cha doing?” he asks.

Cantil shrugs a little bit. “Nothin’.”

Lorcan ahs, taking a swig. He slides onto a fence rail beside him and remarks, “Must be interestin’.”

Cantil’s eyes follow the jug, but he doesn’t comment. He shrugs again, and watches a 30-something man come up the road out of town, leading a fat pony.

Lorcan falls silent, not intoxicated to the point of being really talkative. At least, not yet.

Cantil watches the man until he and his pony disappear into the inn’s courtyard, then turns back to the general traffic. “Did you make that bench?” he asks abruptly.

Lorcan nods his head up and down more than is perhaps necessary. “Uh-huh.”

Cantil huhs. He’s quiet for another moment. “How come’d he want to give you more money for it?”

Lorcan shrugs. “That’s the way he is.” He drinks. “I s’pose I do charge less than I should, usually.”

Cantil frowns, watching another man pass. “That ain’t how that works,” he states.

Lorcan chuckles. “Generally, no.”

Cantil’s face is pinched with frustrated confusion. He glances at Lorcan, waiting a little impatiently for him to explain.

Lorcan glances at him. “He’s overly generous, and so am I. I don’t want to charge him too much, and he doesn’t want to pay me too little. It’s…something of a joke between us, I suppose. Started back in the day when I used to underestimate my own skill.”

Cantil considers this, and the questions fade from his face. The confusion does not, however, and he returns to people-watching as if observation of passers-by will provide all the answers.

Lorcan chuckles again and lapses into silence.

Cantil sighs and bends down, picking up a handful of gravel and sifting it idly in his hands. He looks bored, and dissatisfied, and lonely, and also bored.

Lorcan, who appears to be simply enjoying the evening rays of sun and not working, glances at the boy, his face inscrutable. He takes a long drink and looks thoughtful. “Ever played marbles?” he asks, rather suddenly.

Cantil looks up, and his face briefly takes on a shrewd look. “No,” he answers, interest bright in his voice.

Lorcan hops off the fence. “Wanna?”

Cantil bites his lip a little, his face uncertain. He sizes Lorcan up, considers, then shrugs. “Sure.”

Lorcan holds out a hand. “C’mere.”

Cantil doesn’t take his hand, but he hops off the fence, ready to follow.

Lorcan heads back to the settlement.

Streamwood Settlement

Nestled in a sheltered clearing of the deep woods of Coghill is the Streamwood settlement, named for the small stream running through the middle of the settlement. A stone retaining wall has been constructed along the stream’s course for safety. Babbling quietly, the stream trips merrily over the stone bed as it winds further south. Every so often a glimmer of light reflects off a passing fish. Over the water in several locations are low, wide bridges, perfect for passage or fishing. Water lilies as well as wildflowers growing along the streambed perfume the air with their aroma.

Small wooden cottages peek out from the tree line, constructed from the sturdy lumber the woods provide. Some cottages have small flower or vegetable gardens out front. Others have small wooden or stone figures decorating the yard, a nod to their resident’s occupation. There are two fire pits, one on either side of the stream for communal use. The atmosphere is serene and welcoming, perfect for raising a small family or starting a new career.

Lorcan makes a beeline for his cottage. He pulls some sort of small bag from a forgotten corner and drops the package of fabrics, eyeing it and then his jug momentarily. He shakes his head and steps back outside, plunks himself down in a small patch of dirt beside the side of his cottage.

Cantil waits at the door, though he peers into the cottage with unabashed interest.

Lorcan’s cottage is quintessential bachelor – not particularly tidy, but definitely utilitarian. When he has settled back outside, he motions to Cantil to join him on the ground, and pulls out a long piece of thin string from the small bag. He then dumps the rest of its contents out on the ground before him. They’re not actually marbles in that they aren’t made of glass, but there are dozens of stone balls of varying sizes and varieties, some quite colorful, and all nearly perfectly impossibly round.

Cantil joins him on the ground, watching the stone marbles tumble out of the bag. He picks up one that seems to be some sort of agate, looking at it with bright eyes. “These’re really–” he starts with open fascination, then remembers himself and glances at Lorcan.

Lorcan grins, and picks out one of his favorites, some sort of gray veined with deep blue-green. “Nice, aren’t they?” He rubs it between his finger and thumb.

Cantil asks, “Did you make them?”

Lorcan shakes his head, his eyes going sad, dark, and fond all at once. “My father.”

Cantil isn’t well-trained enough in the art of tact to pretend not to notice Lorcan’s grief. He watches the carpenter’s face with open curiosity and asks without asking.

Lorcan reaches for the jug he has set beside his knee. “He was a magnificent stonemason, my father. I was probably only about a little younger than you when he made these for us.”

Cantil rolls one in his palm, staring in silent fascination down at the perfect shape and sheen of it.

Lorcan clears his throat and drinks deeply before he says more on the subject than he wants to (although ironically, drinking more will probably have that effect on him anyways). He pushes the rest of the marbles towards each other and sets the string in a rough circle about them. “Playing marbles is pretty simple. First, just pick your striking marble.” He replaces his favorite and plucks out a larger black one that is tinted with red.

Cantil surveys the selection with a cool eye, then chooses a simple silver-gray aggie.

Lorcan continues, “Taking turns, you just roll your striking marble at the rest, starting outside the circle.” He skims his marble along the ground towards the rest of them, scattering them and resulting in six rolling over and outside the small string. These he gathers and holds up. “Any marbles that roll outside the circle on your strike you keep,” he sets them beside himself, “And then it’s the other person’s turn. When all the marbles are no longer in the circle, the person with the most wins.”

Cantil nods, watching intently.

Lorcan says, “You try.”

Cantil nods again and settles on his knees outside the circle. He considers the field judiciously, then leans down to make his shot. His form is excellent, but the marble goes wildly awry, and it only clinks against one of the smaller marbles close to the string in what looks like an accident. The shooter crosses the string, but nothing else does. Cantil leans back, nose crinkling in a little grimace.

Lorcan scoops up Cantil’s shooter and hands it back to him. “It’s okay,” he says. “Try again. We’re just practicing right now anyways.”

Damala enters the settlement from Damala’s cottage.

Cantil takes the shooter and nods, leaning down to make another shot. This time he drops the marble without enough force, a plausible overcorrection to his last shot. Though his shooter hits a smaller marble dead-on, there’s not enough momentum to carry it more than a couple inches and it stops shy of the string.

Lorcan chews on his lip momentarily as if thinking about this dilemma, and then decides to do a demonstration. “Here. Try it like this,” he moves his arm farther back from the circle than Cantil did and rolls his shooter with more force. But in his case, it seems to be too much force as well, as the shooter collides with a slight bump in the ground just before reaching any of the inner marbles and fairly bounces into the air.

Cantil watches. “Was it s’posed to do that?” he asks blandly.

Lorcan catches the stone marble in his hand and looks a little sheepish, but then he laughs. “No. Guess I’m out of practice too. Why don’t you try again?” His lips curve into wry smile.

Cantil obligingly scrambles around the circle to where there’s a clearer shot, pauses to aim, and with obvious care rolls the marble. This time, a smaller marble makes it out of the circle, and Cantil glances quickly up to Lorcan, a rare grin on his face.

Lorcan grins back. “Good.” He tries again too, making two out himself. Not nearly as many as before, but definitely better than none.

Cantil watches with a little frown on his face, as if he’s taking notes. He nods once, retrieves his shooter, and makes a shot. He misses.

Lorcan doesn’t comment this time, just reaches for his shooter to take his own turn. He rolls it and succeeds in getting three marbles outside the circle.

Damala starts in the direction of Miss Saeryn’s cottage and then turns onto the path toward Lorcan’s cottage, seeing as he’s outside his house and looking at the ground with Cantil. “G’day, Lorcan. Didja loose something?” As she approaches closer, she can see the marbles on the ground.

Cantil watches, letting out a breath with what sounds like mild frustration. He turns his attention back to his own marble, concentrates, and prepares to fire. As Damala approaches, however, he sits up and groans under his breath.

Lorcan looks up from his rather intent attention on their game. He smiles slightly, his eyes a tad brighter than they normally are. “Good evening, Damala. Nope, just playing marbles with Cantil here.”

Damala rocks back and forth from heel to toe girlishly as she asks, “Can I just watch?”

Lorcan says, “Sure.”

Cantil ignores her thoroughly, focused on his next shot.
Cantil takes it and misses.

Damala smirks at his miss, but doesn’t say anything or laugh.

Lorcan purses his lips and shoots when Cantil has picked his shooter back up. This time he scatters a lot of them, but none roll very far, and only one moves outside the circle.

Cantil makes a shot at a group of marbles. One goes flying out of the circle; another goes rolling after it more slowly. He shoots Damala a so-there look.

Damala shrugs at Cantil as though to say, “Dumb luck”.

Cantil sticks out his tongue.

Damala maturely ignores him in the presence of Lorcan and focuses on Lorcan’s toss.

Lorcan observes the boy’s technique more closely on his next shot, as if to see what advice he can offer if it goes wrong again. When he succeeds in getting two marbles, he nods in satisfaction and focuses on his own turn. This shot is a little more complicated; he rolls his shooter at one marble, slightly larger than the others, which is standing alone. They collide and the larger marble rolls away into a group of marbles, pushing four of them outside.

Cantil watches. His eyebrows shoot up, surprised or impressed. He bites his lip, glances at Damala, and asks Lorcan, “Can we play for real yet?”

Lorcan looks up at him. “You ready?”

Damala asks curiously, “You aren’t playing for real?”

Cantil shrugs in a bring-it-on sort of way.

Lorcan has to laugh. “Alright,” he says. As he gathers the 16 marbles he has knocked out from beside him and arranges them with the others in the center of the circle of string, he glances at Damala and shakes his head. “Nah, that was just practice.”

Cantil shows a little more animation now that the game is *for real*. He tosses his shooter up and down in one hand in what looks like eager overconfidence.

Damala ahs with understanding.

Lorcan raises a brow. “Care to go first?”

Cantil glances at him, grinning a grin that is trying for sly and failing. “Sure, if you think that’s a good idea.”

Lorcan shrugs nonchalantly. “Sure.”

Cantil bites his lip, still grinning, and crouches down to set up his shot. The intent predatorial energy with which he eyes his target suggests a kitten about to pounce. He shoots his marble with a whole lot of unfocused force into the cluster, sending two smaller marbles rocketing out of the mass and the rest just knocking about idly. Cantil looks a little crestfallen, but the expression disappears quickly.

Damala shakes her head sympathetically and then smirks.

Cantil glares.

Lorcan attempts to refrain from looking /too/ amused at Cantil’s expressions. He rolls his shooter between his fingers and then skims it towards a larger mass of the scattered marbles, gaining four. These he collects and sets beside him.

Cantil lines his two in front of himself, looking anxiously at Lorcan’s pile, then takes careful aim at a more isolated cluster. This shot results in one more marble for him.

Damala asks Lorcan, “So, how do you keep score?”

Lorcan looks at her, and pauses before taking his next shot. “Whichever marbles that you know out of the circle on your turn, you keep, and when all the marbles are gone, you count up how many you have.”

Damala ahs, her eyes bright with understanding. “My brothers don’t let me play with them. They’re rather serious about this game.”

Lorcan chuckles a little. “It can involve some skill.”

Damala wrinkles her nose, “It seems rather silly to me, but I suppose boys think dolls are silly too.”

Lorcan purses his lips and reaches for the jug of ale set near his knee. “With boys,” he explains thoughtfully, “And men, everything is a competition.” He takes a long swig and then seems to come to himself. He looks down at the jug in his hand, then looks first at Cantil and then Damala. His expression darkens noticeably, and instead of lifting the jug to drink again, he sets it nearly as far away from himself as he can reach, up against the wall of his cottage. He mutters something under his breath.

Lorcan mumbles “What were you thinking, man? Drinking around kids. Should know better than to do that.”, to Lorcan.
Lorcan mumbles “What … … … man? Drinking … kids. Should … … than … do …”, to Lorcan.

Damala tilts her head to the side, “Are you alright, Lorcan? Do you need me to fetch a healer?”

Lorcan looks a little surprised at the question, and also fair bit peeved at himself. “No, I’m fine, Damala. Thank you.”

Cantil glances at Lorcan, frowning slightly and trying to make out the rest of the mumbled words. He glances at the jug.

Lorcan turns back to the game and takes his next shot. He gets 3, same as Cantil now has altogether.

Damala nods amiably and turns back to the game.

Cantil misses this shot completely, and the shooter bumps up and over the boundary string unimpeded.

Damala smirks again at Cantil.

Lorcan looks a little bit sympathetic. He aims his shot with less finesse, only garnering one marble.

Cantil heaves a sigh and continues to lose, only scoring about two in three times.

Lorcan makes an effort (which is perhaps more noticeable than he’d like) to not beat the kid quite /so/ soundly. Though he doesn’t entirely stop trying.

Cantil looks more and more glum as the game progresses, his pile of marbles growing slowly.
Cantil scowls.

Damala claps encouragingly for Lorcan when he manages to get several marbles in a row.

Lorcan shoots with an expression that is both growing in consternation and also towards the “eh, let him lose. He’ll get better eventually,” side.

Cantil, as the game nears its finish, lets loose a completely uncoordinated and sloppy-looking shot. It looks more like he’s just throwing the marble out of frustration than any actual intent to aim and score. As luck would have it, however, it hits two marbles sitting close together and sends them each in different directions to plow into the last two marbles, knocking all four soundly out of the ring. His own shooter rolls lazily in the center.

Lorcan raises one eyebrow and looks the boy up and down. “Nice,” he murmurs appreciatively. He starts to count his own marbles.

Cantil looks wholly shocked at the success of his last shot. “Did you see that??”

Lorcan’s mouth curves upwards on one side. “Yeah, I saw it. That was brilliant.”

Cantil says exultantly, “I got /all/ of them!”

Lorcan nods, his smile widening a tad.

Cantil seems oblivious to the fact that his collection of marbles is roughly half the size of Lorcan’s.

Damala humphs appreciatively at Cantil’s shot.

Cantil looks at her challengingly. “Bet you couldn’t do that!”

Lorcan glances between his stack and Cantil’s momentarily, and then stops his counting.

Damala shrugs, “And I bet you couldn’t repeat that. Even a blind calf can find an udder from time to time.” She sticks her tongue out at him.

Cantil doesn’t seem to have any reply to this, so he just snorts loudly. “Bet you couldn’t even hit /one/,” he mutters.

Lorcan attempts to diffuse the situation by asking, “That the first time you’ve played marbles, Cantil?”

Cantil shrugs a little bit. “Some of the boys at home play a lot,” he answers. “I watch ‘em sometimes.”

Lorcan nods. He pushes the stack he has collected back into the circle, pausing to pick up a pair of glittering granite ones. He rolls them around his palm and asks, “Want to play again?”

Damala picks up a marble, herself, admiring the shiny sheen on it.

Cantil says, “Dunno. Is /she/ gonna play?”

Damala sticks her tongue out at him. “Who says I wanted to?”

Lorcan looks at Cantil a tad exasperatedly and then addresses Damala directly, “If you like.”

Cantil sulks a little bit.

Damala cattily hands Lorcan back the marble, declaring loftily, “I’d rather sit this once out again. I’d hate to see him lose to a girl.”

Cantil snorts loudly.

Lorcan’s mature adult shell cracks at that, and he chuckles heartily. “We wouldn’t want that, now would we.” He winks at her.

Cantil looks ruffled and glares between them.

Damala makes a stink eye at Cantil.

Lorcan replaces the three stone marbles in his hand in the circle and picks up his shooter.

Cantil collects his pile of marbles and puts them carefully back in their bag. “Thanks for teaching me,” he addresses Lorcan.

Lorcan’s brow creases. “You’re welcome…”

Damala raises an eyebrow at Cantil. “Are you chicken he’s gonna beatcha again?

Cantil sticks his tongue out at her.

Lorcan reprimands her quietly, “He doesn’t have to play if he doesn’t want to, Damala.” He looks at Cantil scrutinizingly and with some confusion, as if to really confirm that he /doesn’t/ want to play.

Damala mumbles “… if he’s … …”, to Damala.

Cantil mutters, “/You’re/ a chicken.”

Damala scowls at him, “No, /you’re/ the chicken.” She sticks her tongue out at him and flaps her arms to accent her words.

Lorcan sighs at them both and pulls the bag towards him. He starts to slowly put the marbles that were his back, fingering each one with a distant look in his eye.

Cantil sits in stony aloof silence and ignores her magnificently.

Damala continues annoyingly, circling him, flaping her “wings” and then “pecking” his shoulder with her index finger.

Damala says, “Chicken. Chicken. Chicken…”

Lorcan scowls, his reverie broken as this becomes too much for him to responsibly ignore. Or is it? He snaps, “Both of you, STOP IT,” but there is a kind of dark memory in his eye as he says it that speaks of some buried pain this display, and indeed, his marbles, seems to have awoke in him.

Damala stops, blinking in surprise at Lorcan’s sudden outburst. She takes a step back.

Cantil jumps, equally startled, and looks at Lorcan warily with round eyes.

Damala mumbles softly, “Sorry”.

Cantil doesn’t say anything at all.

Lorcan rubs at his face, and eyes the jug of ale with something akin to regret at having placed it so far away from himself. He says quietly, “I realize you don’t get along, but please, at least try to respect each other. These are the kinds of things,” his voice gravels up and stops for a moment. “That you’ll regret doing in the future. Trust me.”

Damala looks down at her feet.

Cantil glances sideways to Damala.

Lorcan sighs and deflates. “Sorry,” he mutters. “Don’t mean to snap at you.”

Cantil stays quiet, chewing on his lip and looking at the ground.

Damala’s eyes look moist. She nods silently in farewell and runs toward the path that leads to her family’s farm.

Cantil doesn’t watch her go.

Lorcan looks up at the reaction and his face softens for a moment, before returning to a self-incriminating dark scowl.

Damala enters Damala’s cottage.

Cantil glances at the bag of marbles, then up to Lorcan’s face cautiously.

Lorcan doesn’t look at the boy. He sighs, the bag and a handful of marbles clutched in each hand loosely.

Cantil chews his lip for another moment, then quietly steals away.

Lorcan goes back to stuffing the marbles, and finally the string, in the bag, this time without care.