My Lovely Moonlight Bride: Episode 6
Morglay’s gaming house was crowded with people. Aldrich stepped out of the carriage with a cloak that shielded his face. No one could recognize him here, except some noble men who also came to play.
“You may leave now, come back in an hour.” He whispered in a harsh voice to the carriage driver.
Aldrich strolled into the gaming house. His eyes ran over the thick crowd. The scent of ale and tobacco wafted in the air. His head spun from too much noise and heat. But he didn’t mind. The Baron of Wesley had issued him a challenge, and he had come to accept it.
“Over here!” A short man in a hat called out to him. That was Elan, and he had showed up for the game. The round table where he sat was graced by other men whose faces were cloaked by a hood or hats. They had come to bear witness to the challenge.
Aldrich made his way through the crowd until he reached the table.
“Good evening gentle men.” He acknowledged the others by the table.
“Welcome,” they chorused.
“You are late. I thought you were a coward. I almost issued Sir Frederick a challenge,” Elan’s chubby face beamed with smiles and the other men laughed at his joke.
“You know how skilled I am with the cards. I would have beaten you and taken what is left of your inheritance.” Sir Frederick replied, and the other men sneered.
Aldrich remained quiet. He knew that Elan was broke. Maybe this was Elan’s challenge was a way of raising money for himself. Whatever it was, Aldrich made up his mind, not to be used.
“What would you like to drink?” Elan elbowed him.
“I am fine. Let us get this over with.” Aldrich mumbled. He was smarter than what Elan thought. The first rule of playing a game was never taking any drink before it, not even water; as your opponent could have your drink spiked with a sedative. And you will wake up the next day, realizing that all your fortune is gone.
“You’re in a great hurry, are you afraid I will take half your inheritance?” Elan chuckled.
“I fear nothing. I fear no one.” Aldrich drummed his hands against the table. He was growing impatient and nervous.
“I have something to tell you. You should come. Defeating you here, doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends…”
Elan dipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper. He had shared one to the other men at the table. He had reserved this one for the Duke of Wandsworth, whose presence he would love to have at the show.
“What is this?” Aldrich muttered under his breath.
“You have forgotten that Elan has other talents than gambling,” Lord Bolton said. This amused the other men, even Aldrich himself couldn’t resist laughing at the joke.
“Ignore them, they are just jealous that nature chose to bestow upon me many talents.” Elan’s shoulder’s fell. He didn’t take the teasing of the men to heart. He was a free spirited man; an attitude that his younger sister despised.
Aldrich’s eyes fed on the paper, and he soon realized that Elan was having a poetry show.
“I will not miss this for anything.” Aldrich promised to attend.
“You shouldn’t. The finest ladies from all parts of our lovely country will show. You should get yourself a bride!” Elan sneered.
“You sound like my mother, the Duchess.”
“She is right; you need your own Duchess.”
Soon, the waiter arrived with a tray filled with mugs. Aldrich declined the ale. He had come solely for the game, which would start soon.
The cards were laid out on the table, and the men picked them. Without hesitation or reluctance, they picked a card each and began to play. The more Aldrich presented his cards, the more he lost. The other men kept cheering for Elan. They clamped their thick fists on the table and yelled in drunkenness.
Elan could see his fortune changing for the good. He was certain that he would win the game.
However, in a sudden twist, Aldrich played his last cards. They weren’t in favour of Elan’s. Aldrich had outsmarted the Baron.
“You’ll give me half of your inheritance.” Aldrich wore a smug on his face, he was satisfied with today’s outcome.
She’d returned to an empty home. Elan was nowhere to be found, and the night had travelled far. Lucy tucked herself in her bed and got ready for sleep. Her day had been fruitful; she had met with her friend, and they had a wonderful time. Lucy wasn’t happy that the Beldons were having financial troubles, but she didn’t see things Ariana’s way. Maybe it wasn’t right for the Marquees to suggest a man for her; but getting married to the most powerful Duke wasn’t a bad idea at all. Lucy hoped that things got better for her friend. In two days time, her brother’s poetry show would hold at the heart of London. They would meet up at Ox-Dale, this time around. They will go for the show from her house.
Lucy closed her eyes, and was about drifting to sleep, when she heard a loud rap on her door. There was only one servant in the castle; the rest had left after months of not being paid by the Baron. The castle was dusty and scanty. It was a shadow of its old self. It existed in its old glory. Sadly, her brother saw nothing wrong in that.
“What do you want Elizabeth?” Lucy frowned.
There wasn’t any response. The tapping only grew louder.
Angry, that her sleep had been interrupted, Lucy rolled out of the bed and moved towards the door. She pulled the knob back and was shocked. It wasn’t Elizabeth that had been knocking on her door. It was Elan. And he looked terribly dishevelled. His hair was scattered, and his face was white. He looked very pale, and it made her wonder if he had seen a ghost.
“Elan?” Lucy swallowed the ball of anxiety that clogged her throat. Definitely, he wasn’t drunk. His eyes carried despair and confusion. Something had gone wrong. He needed to confide her in her.
“Is everything alright?” Lucy’s voice quavered in uncertainty.
“Not quite,” he forced a smile, but Lucy could see through it. Whatever had happened to Elan was grave. She remembered the night he’d come into the castle in high spirits. He was unusually happy and talkative; little did she know that he had gambled all the horses they had away. That night, his debtors collected twenty horses from the house.
Lucy hated to think that Elan had lost something to his gambling ways.
“I pray that you disappoint me brother for my thoughts have gone far.” Lucy held her breath and waited for his response.
Elan sighed. He had underestimated the Duke. Aldrich was a smart gamer; he was ruthless and cruel as a serpent which lay in the dark for its prey. He had lost half of his inheritance to the Duke and it was due for a fortnight. The problem was that, he had no inheritance left. If he failed to redeem his debt, he would be a subject of gossip among all the noble men that had witness the challenge. Elan’s pride wouldn’t let him cower. He had to find a way to settle the Duke. He had no inheritance left; the Barony only survived by the mercy of his name and his sister’s fortune. He couldn’t give that away. He had hurt Lucy enough.
“I am in trouble sister,” the words spiralled softly out of his lips.
“Trouble?” She crossed her arms against her chest.
“Tonight I had a challenge at Morglay Street.” He stuttered.
Lucy knew that nothing good came out of that street. It was the den of women of low virtue; there were taverns sprawled across the street and there was a famous gaming house. It wasn’t a place befitting of a Baron or anyone of nobility.
“What on earth were you doing down there?”
“I was issued a challenge by someone. I couldn’t refuse it.” The Baron knew that his sister would be upset with what he wanted to ask; but he had no one to turn to.
Before he could utter any more word, Lucy figured out that her brother had gamed and lost.