I tracked Kantele down to a parlor — we have too many parlors, they should all get names sometime, but not today — where …
Grinwipey:“Yeah, boss, just showin’ your innocent-’n-pure secretary a thing or two about th’laws of luck.”
Me:“I think you’re showing her a bit more than that.”
Grinwipey, as one might expect from a world-class couturier, generally wears several garments: belt, hat, garters, kilt, and so on. Beneath them there are undergarments, which in Grinwipey’s case — as I was unaware of before this moment — are embroidered with skulls and oboes. Kantele, as one might expect, wears the elaborate gowns of a dignified high-class matron. She favors undergarments of bleached white linen: which I did know, but was not expecting to see folded neatly on top of the back of a chair, along with her skirts, while Kantele herself was bare from the waist down.
Kantele:“I am finding the occasion quite educational.”
Grinwipey:“Yeah, boss. Can you believe she’s never played drumbers before?”
Drumbers is a simple (I would call it “dull”) game played with three six-sided dice and a deck of six cards. It is a good game for moderate-sized gambling. It is particularly good for gambling while drinking, or, even better, gambling while one is drinking less than one’s companions. This is because a certain simple form of cheating gives one a moderate advantage, about 8% in a two-person game — enough to win a tidy sum over an evening, but not so much as to be obviously cheaty. There is a modicum of skill involved as well, in keeping track of the cards mostly.
Kantele often supplemented her stipend when she was in school in Daukrhame with careful manipulation of drumbers games. In drumbers, as in fornication, it is sometimes advantageous to have more than one first time.
Me:“Well, it would be a shame to have never played drumbers with a half-naked Khtsoyis, I suppose.”
Grinwipey:“Aww, Kantele didn’t want to play for money on her virgin game. Too much like getting your yanabloonie deflowered by a five-lozen Zi Ri lurvle or something. So we’re playing for forfeits instead.”
Kantele:“Besides, there are only a few people on the ship I haven’t gotten to inspect in the nude yet, or vice versa. And, in my old age, I may be approaching one of your mythical truly transaffectionate people, so it seemed a good approach.”
Grinwipey:“Hey! I’m am not gonna dradger my melts with a Rassy, shipsho? You wanna get boddled by a shoggy, you go hire some kinda noobler-lapping shoggy-for-rent!”
Kantele:“A pity. I was on a roll, too. I was hoping that you’d lose all your clothes, and then we could roll double-or-nothing for a nice cuddle.”
Grinwipey:“Hah, just beginner’s luck!”
Me:“Grinwipey, were you giving her a bit of extra beginner’s luck?”
Grinwipey:“Me, boss? I don’t know anything about giving no munger-banging luck. I’ll be curdled with my smurdles if I do those kinds of tricks. No, no, no-flasky-brasky-no! Breck my turbles if I have any sneakret dice with two sixes on ‘em tucked up my snood! Y’can look yourself!”
(Actually, the way you cheat is by swapping your face-down second card with your third card from your hand, when doing so helps you. No special dice are necessary.)
Me:“Well, you’ll probably lose the snood in a few minutes anyhow, once the game gets going. May I get some advice?”
Kantele and Grinwipey:“Sure, if you really can’t wait ’til we finish the game.”
Me:“I’d like it now. And I’d like the whole thing kept quiet, just like I might keep someone’s attempt to cheat another crewmember quiet.”
Kantele:“Oh, Sythyry! How can you think that Grinwipey might be trying to cheat me? He’s losing!” She has never, ever been that naive.
Me:“I’m sure the two of you can sort it out. Here’s my current problem.” And I explained what Rehit and Thenel had told me. “So, what should I do about Thenel? Phaniet is advising me to break up with him, on the grounds that that affair has gotten entirely too sleazy, and I’m having terrible cramps in my conscience ’cause I am getting the benefit of seeming to behave honorably while I’m doing it.”
Grinwipey:“Now, isn’t that a fine little stink-arrangement for poor dunkyboy Thenel? One day you’re saying all ‘It’s choons with glorzy jelly for us to be up the fine hat all secret-like, iffen you pay me.’ and the next it’s ‘Sorry, you gave me a spacky nice present, so I’m dumping your sorry little musp for it.’ How’s that spelting his sporridge?”
Kantele:“I do not generally agree with Grinwipey’s moral sensibilities. But this time, he might be right. Thenel has been a good friend and good ally to you: he and his fiance have given you some very important information. Breaking up with him because he did you a substantial favor is hardly fair.”
Me:“Um .. I hadn’t thought of that. “
Kantele:“Or think of it as a shipmaster. There is precisely one person in Eigrach who is making some attempt to get Strayway repaired, and that is Thenel. A good part of his motivation is that he loves you.”
Me:“The eep! How do you know that?”
Kantele:“Well, that he enjoys your body and spellcraft, anyhow. I suppose that’s not technically love. Anyhow, if you break up with him, who will advocate for you in the shipwright’s halls?”
Me:“I suppose that’s true.”
Kantele:“Now, if I were you — and if I had somehow managed to get my head wedged in a situation like this, which I doubt I would –”
Grinwipey:“‘cept getting your twoozy tail kicked out of your parents’ house for backways love!”
Kantele:“– I would attempt to induce Thenel to break up with you, in a way that makes it look like his own idea and his own failing.”
Me:“… how? … I’m usually not trying to get people to break up with me. Usually they do it without any help from me at all.”
Grinwipey:“Raise your frimpin’ prices. Supply and demand is your friend!”
And now I have not the slightest idea what to do about it. Or anything else in Eigrach.