The Last Stand

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The Last Stand

Hallo Sir R-----! Come take a seat and slake your thirst this warm evening with a draught of cider!
Might I presume that you also thirst for a wager?

Then I have just the thing in mind sir!

I recently attended a banquet at castle Gormenghast, the familial seat of the Groans, a noble family, if perhaps a little overly obsessed with tradition and ritual. It having been the occasion of a Saturnal syzygy of Mercury and Venus, and a Thursday at that, before the feast could commence the Lord and Lady of the house, together with their son and heir, insisted upon following the tradition dictated for just such circumstances by performing the Last Stand, a ritual dance in which each took turn to stand in their place whilst the others exchanged theirs and which would cease upon their each having stood in place once, and only once, at each station.
Unfortunately, the Master of Ritual had quite forgotten the steps of the dance, it having been some years since such an event had last occurred. Being more than a little acquainted with the courtly arts, I set to choreographing the affair myself and, to the relief of all concerned, had the matter settled some five minutes later.

By way of a wager, I challenge you to do the same!

Here, let me deal for you the Jack, Queen and King of hearts and for myself a row of the remaining Jacks, another of the remaining Queens and a third of the remaining Kings. At each turn you may choose which of your three shall stand, excepting any that have stood in the same place before, and then must exchange the places of the other two. I shall turn over the matching card in my nine that lays in the same place as yours and if, by your wits, you can compel me to turn over each any every one of them then you shall have a coin from my purse. If not, I shall have one from yours!

Upon my return I chanced upon that wretched student whose presence I must seemingly eternally endure and, just as soon as I had finished describing the intricacies of the dance to him, he set to asserting, at unnecessarily great length I must say, just how problematic it is to cleanly traverse oily bridges. Quite what bearing he imagined that the state of his footwear might have had upon the nature of the ritual I cannot say, but I suppose that I should no longer be surprised by the complete inanity of his utterances!

But enough of that wretch! Come take another draught and think upon how you might master the dance!

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