Colby stopped before an empty seat and noticed the old man who sat opposite the free chair. Colby looked at the man and immediately saw his bright blue eyes behind the sagging lips and wrinkled temples.
The man's skin covered his face and neck like a blanket of gathered and puckered leather. His thin and wispy hair layered upon his head and reminded Colby of the first snows of winter that drifted and blew in the wind. His clothing was unremarkable Colby noticed, but he looked back at the man's eyes. They stood against the passage of time and shone bright and clear such as those of a man many decades younger than this old man appeared.
"Please, sit young man," he said. "Do an old man the honor of some company and a game or two of Runes."
The man extended his bony arm and pointed at the empty seat. As Colby sat, the old man's crow's feet bunched into many folds as his jowls pulled up, and thin lips curved into a toothy grin.
Colby thought it strange how an old man with such young eyes and all his teeth looking so healthy would have such an outward look of agedness. Perhaps they are implanted he thought. As he looked the man over, he felt a sense about the man. An energy. Something seemed oddly familiar about the old man.
"The name is Jenkins," he said and smiled, showing more of his teeth. "Brush well and often and you can keep ‘em for a lifetime."
Colby sat back, looking at the man and wondering if he was that obvious in his stare. He must have because otherwise the man would have been reading Colby's mind, and that was not possible. Shaking off the odd behavior, Colby smiled and began setting up his tiles.
"I'm Colby. It's a pleasure to meet you, Jenkins."
With little left to say, the two began the process of ordering their tiles and preparing the first construct to play after they picked a tile to determine who went first.
They each drew a tile and compared them. Colby put his tile on the table, the Earth rune symbol for silver worth a respectable value. Then he watched the old man reveal his rune, molten rock a more advanced rune as it combines fire and earth element of rock on a single tile. Jenkins won the right of the first construct.
"You may be red my boy," the man said to Colby's surprise. He rarely had the opportunity to take first construct and for an inexperienced player it was not the advantage it should present.
"Are you certain? Your tile is worth much more than mine. I'm happy being blue."
"Nonsense my boy. You may find being red has just as much to win…or lose as being blue." Jenkins smiled and nodded for Colby to continue and take the first turn.
Not certain what Jenkins meant, Colby thanked him and began preparing by drawing the remainder of his tiles and selecting ten from his new bag of personal runes. These he chose by selecting the ones he liked the most. He didn't know what they were but thought they looked nice.
Jenkins nodded at Colby's selections and proceeded to choose his own, and they were ready to play.
Colby started out slowly. He placed a few assembled combinations like; fire and sand to make glass, and iron, water, and fire to make steel, and then he placed his first construct. Lift, stone, assemble, water, dirt, repeat, all to create a wall to deflect a possible attack move from his opponent.
Jenkins raised one eyebrow and looked over what Colby had done for his first moves. With little time spent thinking, the old man constructed stone, with crush and wind as well as the same fire, iron, and water combination. His first assembled cast would mean rocks hurtling at the glass Colby created depending on how or if he used it. The second could mean Jenkins would build a shield or other defense.
The construct Jenkins built, however, confused Colby. It was a line of runes that when combined would result in something akin to quicksand. Colby wondered why the man would do such a thing. His confusion must have spread to his face.
"I've just weakened the ground beneath your wall, my young friend." Jenkins smiled at Colby. "You'll have to think ahead in this game as you would chess or any other situation where you may not know what's coming."
Colby sank in his chair thinking this was going to be a slaughter. He was out of the old man's league and totally inept at the game to begin with. What made him think he was going to do well when he sat down? Colby was ready to resign the game when an itching overtook his fingers.
He looked at his hands and scratched at them. The itching turned to a tingle when he touched his runes thinking to put them away. An idea began to form as he touched several runes. Colby reshuffled his tiles and rethought his previous decision to quit. As he moved the tiles around, they began to make a pattern to him he could notice. Before he understood what overcame him, Colby decided on what to play.
Colby laid down a new construct, this time fortifying the ground beneath his wall and lifting it up using seven runes. He gained a bonus and refreshed his used tiles. The game renewed with more feeling for him. He wanted to win.
Back and forth the two players went, attacking and defending. Neither player seemed to see the crowd gathering around them as they each slapped down their runes trying to best one another.
The further along the rounds went, the more aggressive each player became using more tiles and improving upon their constructs or negating their opponent's previous plays.
Colby was gaining points and fast. Then he watched as Jenkins put a move intersecting three others that blocked both of the future places he was prepared to use a construct. He puckered his face and glared at the board.
Colby rested his fingers over the tray that held his personal runes, the ones he made earlier in the day. The tingle returned to his fingertips as he hovered his hand. He looked down at the tiles and focused on one that looked promising. Without more thought, Colby lifted the alabaster stone and put it in a spot that connected three constructs.
He wasn't certain why it felt like the right place to use it, but he laid it down with slow deliberation and looked up at Jenkins.
A smile slowly crept across the old man's face. "That is some move, my young friend. You have bested me by unraveling my spells and taking the points for yourself. I retire."
The crowd applauded and cheered.
Colby looked at Jenkins bewildered but said nothing; nor did he take notice to the noisy spectators around them. He didn't know that is what the tile's rune would do, but Jenkins knew what it meant. "There is still more rounds to play."
Jenkins laughed and held his hand out toward the latest tile played. "My boy, if you have more tiles the likes of this one, I'm afraid I'd lose rather badly."
Colby smiled at the man though he knew somehow the old man let him win. He likes Jenkins.
"Until next time?" Jenkins gathered his things and held out his hand.
Colby shook the man's hand and watched as he strode off. Only then did he notice the cheers and clapping from those gathered around his table. Colby shrank back and pushed his tiles into his bag before shrugging off everyone's congratulations and pulling Gary along with him.
"That was awesome CJ," Gary said as they walked out of the park.
"I suppose." Colby looked at the ground while they walked. "I'm not really sure what I did."
Gary stopped and grabbed Colby's arm. "You won, that's what you did. When did you figure out the runes so well?"
"I didn't, I just sort of went on autopilot. Then I used one of the new runes I made from the kit you gave me."
Colby showed Gary the runes and Gary whistled.
"Those are some pretty fancy and obscure runes. I'm not even sure what they all are, but my dad would know." Gary dug through the bag and pulled a few more tiles out. "Why don't you let me take these to show my dad? Maybe he can tell us what they all mean."
"How? Using the family secret you mentioned?"
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