There was a knocking at the door to my Elfhome.
Cautiously, I answered it, smiling when I realized it was the Captain.
"Welcome, Captain. Would you like to come in?"
"No, my Lady," he replied. "The King and Queen request your presence at Tea this evening. I am to escort you to the Palace."
"And are you invited as well?"
"Actually, yes, but I'm thinking it's because the King likes to play games at his Tea, and rather enjoys beating me."
He smiled a little at this.
"Then, I shall be more than happy to accompany you, sir."
And we walked quietly over to the Palace. As we entered the small room reserved for Teas and audiences, I noticed that both Ferrin and Kyriel were there as well.
"Welcome, Elcyrr," Tatiana said. "I'm glad we could meet under more peaceful circumstances. Sit where you'd like, and we'll all have tea, first."
It was very wonderful to sit amongst friends and just sip tea and make light conversation. We spoke amiably for over an hour on various subjects. I felt so good inside, that I sighed deeply.
"Well, well, we don't want anyone dozing off, now, do we... especially before a rousing game of Jinjems," the Oberon said in a rare voice of happy enthusiasm. "Watch for a while, Elcyrr, then join in so I might beat you as well."
I smiled at him, and indeed -at this point- I knew nothing and would be easy game for him, and everyone else at the table. But I did remind him that there is a thing called "Beginner's Luck", and perhaps he may be surprised.
It seemed the game involved stones that looked like marbles, which were in reality gems: emeralds, sapphires, rubies, and such. Fascinating. The goal seemed to be to accumulate the most in any given hand. Everyone reached into soft woven bag, full of these gems, pulling out ten, kept hidden in his or her hand. The starting player alternated clockwise around the table. The first person would declare what I would call "trump", which seemed to indicate the gem he or she had the most of. Then, that person would lay down all that particular color gem, and collect from the others that many of that gem (or others, if they ran out of the "trump" gem). Then the person would put out the next choice color gem, collecting as many as he had of that from the circle. However, if someone happened to have more of the "trump" gem, he could take the "lead" from the first person by trumping the second set of gems.
It continued on in that way until all the gems had been played (or 10 rounds). Tatiana kept score, just to keep the "boys" honest, so to speak. The rivalry between the Captain, Ferrin and the Oberon was quite fierce, and strategy was very important. Kyriel brought out a good tasting drink and munchies, of some sort, and I joined in after a few hands.
It was an incredibly wonderful experience. The Oberon declared he was going to do this once a week, just to enjoy the friendly comraderie of the game. And so, it became a good diversion to the Changes happening in the Lands.