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Empire on Ice #18: Afiach’s Album, Part 1

[Afiach Bard walks into the ATH The Movie cast breakroom. Gregor, Grieve, Virn, and DeLatia are there playing poker, and the game is pretty heated. She holds out a CD.]

Grieve: Raise you to 40.

DeLatia: Yer nothing but hot air. Call.

Grieve: If I were hot air, why don't you re-raise?

DeLatia: Only a fool lets her enemies tell her how to play cards. Virn?

Virn: Call.

Gregor: I'll go along for this ride. Call. Let's see what you've got, Resistance Lord.

Afiach: Um…I made a new album. Do any of you want to hear it?

Grieve: Two pair, sevens and eights.

DeLatia: Hah! You raised to 40 on two pair?

Grieve: I've won houses on two pair. What do you have?

DeLatia: Alllllll red.

Virn: That joke's been done.

Gregor: Wait a minute. Lilit, that's a straight flush.

DeLatia: And it's all red.

Virn: How do you do that?!

Grieve: You had a straight flush and you didn't raise me?!

DeLatia: Exactly. Now you'll never know, Grieve Black. You'll be doubting forever. You'll never know the sweet taste of certainty again, not at the poker table, not anywhere. If I'll turn down a raise on a straight flush…you'll be guessing what's in my hand from here to forever. You'll wake up at nights in a cold sweat, cards flashing in your mind, probabilities washing over you like the wave of the sea. And you'll wonder who you even are.

Virn: Well played, DeLatia.

Afiach: Um…it's not a big, splashy album, but it's important to me…

DeLatia: What does that bring my stack to? Gregor, you're the bean counter. So count it.

Gregor: I think that puts you close to 1,000. Assuming you've actually won.

DeLatia: Oh, come now. Have you got a straight flush, hon?

Gregor: I have two pair, sevens and eights. I'd have beat you on suit, Grieve.

Grieve: Grrr…

Afiach: It's not a very long album.

DeLatia: Virn?

Virn: Three kings don't go as far as they used to.

DeLatia: Is that supposed to be some kind of clever allusion? "Field and fountain, moor and mountain," and all that? Because it rings of desperation.

Virn: I'll get you yet. I'm certainly doing better than Gregor.

Gregor: Fair swipe. I'm more of a chess mate, myself, you know. But it is fun to sit here for three hours and insult one each other. It sure beats working. What are they doing today, anyway?

DeLatia: Galavar is having another one of those blue screen sessions.

Virn: Oh, I hate those.

DeLatia: And he's all by himself. It's just him talking to a bunch of interns.

Grieve: That's a fate worse than death. Especially with the kinds of interns we get around here.

Gregor: Aye. You'd think Josh would be better about that.

Afiach: Um…hello?

Grieve: Deal the cards. I want revenge.

Gregor: It's always revenge with you.

Virn: Your bet, Grieve.

Grieve: I bet 5.

DeLatia: Raise you to 200.

Grieve: Do you really think I'm going to fall for that?

Virn: Well, I sure will. Fold.

Gregor: Fold.

DeLatia: It's the moment of truth, Grieve. Your revenge hangs before you, suspended like a luscious piece of fruit on a low-hanging branch. You can have it, right now. All you have to do is put some money on the line.

Gregor: You're vicious.

DeLatia: Thank you. I have the body of an indolent American office worker, but the spark of a viper!!

Virn: Grieve?

Grieve: Uh…

DeLatia: Far be it from me to tell you how to play cards, but I do think this is the part where you fold or bet.

Grieve: Call. I'll call. … Four cards, dealer.

Virn: Four?! Boy, you're about to get your ass whupped the likes as such we haven't seen this side of Creation.

Gregor: Lilit?

DeLatia: Zero.

Gregor: Your bet, Grieve.

Grieve: I'll bet 5.

DeLatia: Raise you to 300.

Grieve: I don't have 300.

DeLatia: Then you'll have to go all in.

Afiach: Um…music here. I don't mean to interrupt your game, but I worked really hard on this and—

Virn: She's bluffing, you know.

DeLatia: That's right, darling. I'm bluffing. That money is yours.

Gregor: You are bluffing, aren't you? You're pushing this pretty hard.

DeLatia: I'm just playing a friendly game of poker. Isn't that right, Grieveypoo?

Grieve: Oh, fine. All in. I've got two aces.

Virn: DeLatia?

DeLatia: Alllllll red.

[Grieve looks at her cards.]

Grieve: Lilit DeLatia that's a goddamn straight flush!!! How the fracking bick do you even…rippin…darn-naggle…th..zz…rkg…grrrrrr…aaaargh!!!

Virn: You've reduced him to the primal lexicon.

Gregor: Well done.

Afiach: So, now would you like to hear my—

DeLatia: Oh, this is beautiful. What an exhibition! This is almost as good as that time I beat Silence's two aces with my own three aces.

Virn: How did you have three aces?

DeLatia: Jokers were wild, and I had the big ace.

Afiach: Uh…okay. I'll just be going, then. Thanks anyway.

[Afiach leaves.]

Virn: Did you hear someone?

Gregor: Nope.

DeLatia: All I heard was the sound of a mountain of dignity being crushed beneath the unstoppable collapse of a single, flapping thread of unraveled sanity.

[Grieve takes a deep breath.]


[Windows shatter. A car alarm goes off. Dogs are barking.]

Virn: Jesus Christ, Grieve.

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!