So far the night seemed to turn out rather well. He had already won something around 400 bucks and if he managed to pull this game off he'd have enough to lose a little bit in the course of the evening and go away with a serious profit. If these pesky losers of the Seattle Seahawks had just managed to score once more he wouldn't have lost his bet and would be able to just enjoy a game among friends. But as things were, he now had to do some work, fun as it might be. And these idiots made it so damn easy for him He almost felt sorry for Mickey, a guy with whom he played on something akin to a regular base. But the fact that the Japanese was said to be in good standing with the Yakuza Kenran Kai dulled the sense of guilt just enough that it didn't actually pose a problem. You can't look out for everyone after all, he remembered his father's words.

But back to the game, it rarely paid off to be carried away by his own thoughts. The black-haired man in his early twenties looked again at the pair of nines, clubs and diamonds, he held in his hand and then studied the public cards. A seven of hearts, a ten, queen and king of spades and a queen of clubs, nothing to be excited about, at least for him. He closed his eyes for a moment as if considering his next move and then picked up a third chip to the two he had been turning around in his hand and announced: "Well, since I have no intention of liberating you of all your money yet, I'll play it easy and only raise by a mere sixty." The bald, heavily muscled guy sitting face to face with him tilted his head left and right in thought. The muscles in his arms bulged as he tensed an relaxed them involuntarily. His hand caressed the butt of his pistol, that he had laid on the table just like the other four participants sitting around the table, for a second before closing around the neck of a bottle containing a light brown liquid. He raised the bottle and took a big swig from it. "So you wanna play the cocky game, don't you? But you can't be that lucky. Let's raise this another hundred, what do you think?", he proclaimed and tossed the chips into the middle of the table.

Drek! This just couldn't happen. The bastard should be doubting the meaning of his existence by now. How could he possibly have the balls to go on further, he had to have something really good. But as chance would have it, the slender man wearing a black shirt, black jeans and black boots had still some tricks up his sleeves. Luckily the other guys had thrown away their cards face up in frustration, even though that was technically against the rules. But what are rules in a game among friends anyway? "So ka chummer, if this is what you want, then show me what you got.", he said in a jovial tone. His opponent flipped over a king and queen of hearts for a nice full house and grinned madly: "Let's see you beating this, boy." He pushed his two nines forward face down with his right hand and raised his left hand to his face in a theatrical gesture to distract from the gritting of his teeth and his toying with the silver pentagram dangling from his right wrist and sighed: "Oh what a cruel fate!" Then he just flipped over the jack and ace of spades he needed for a royal flush to win the game.

The massive man, who had just lost a big deal of money, snarled in barely suppressed rage, which was rather impressive, considering he was an orc with steel-tipped tusks and nearly double the weight of the black-clad, who was already busying himself with gathering the chips and shuffling up the cards. When he noticed the snarl, the shuffler locked his clear blue eyes with the dirty yellowish ones of his opponent and showed a grin revealing a row of perfectly smooth white teeth and chuckled: "I told you right at the beginning that the spades favour me and there you have it. Your own fault, omae." This caused the orc's snarl to grow even grimmer and he drained the rest of his liquor in one big swoop.

Careful now. A big, drunk and pissed off orc was capable of everything. Now it was even more important to play the rest of the game smooth and actually start losing again to ease the ire. While dealing the cards, the man in black opened his mind to the flow of mana all around him and scaled his control over the other players' feelings down to the point where he could drop the spell without anyone getting suspicious. He would just play it straight for another half hour and then get himself utterly wasted. That sounded like a good plan. Especially because his bet on Bloodgorger in the pitfight later this evening was a sure thing, of that he was certain. When he looked at his cards and saw the two aces smiling at him he let slip the first genuine sigh of the evening. So much for losing.

Half an hour later the black haired man with the blue eyes strolled through the dimly lit room heading straight for the bar. He took a stool, ordered two shots of the piss they served as alcohol in this hole, produced a pack of cigarettes from his jacket and lit one up. "Here's your split Jack. Not bad for one evening, I'd say.", he whispered as he passed the pack to the dark skinned man wearing a red leather coat next to him. Jack took out the credstick and was about to reply when the black-clad was violently turned around and raised off his feet. He looked straight into a pair of yellow eyes and smelled the noxious breath of someone drinking too much booze. "You cheated me! I don't know how, but you cheated me! I won't lose my money to a soft-skinned drekhead like you! Hand it back!", the orc shouted with his dark threatening voice."Now, now, now! There's no need for these accusations. It was a fair game, I assure you." The man dangling a few inches above the ground barely managed to keep a relaxed tone to his voice. "Your lies won't help you this time! I'll have my money and if I need to carve it from your rips, bastard!"

This wasn't turning out well at all. He needed to act and he needed to act quickly. The game had exhausted him, but he thought he still was capable of pulling off one more trick. He gripped the pentagram in his right hand, reached out for the swirling floods of mystical force permeating every inch of existence and gathered them into a small bolt of pure destructive energy. With a flicker of his mind he hurled the bolt right at the orc, while at the same time pulling himself forward so that his forehead bounced into the orc's face, who dropped his adversary, staggered half a step back and raised his hands to his bleeding nose. That was all the sorcerer needed. The orc's face showed surprise when he reached for his hips and grasped thin air instead of the butt of his pistol. Surprise then turned into shock as he felt the cold steel of its barrel pressing against his chin. "You need to get a lot faster chummer, both in action and thought. I'd hate hate to spread your brain all over this place, even though I suspect it won't make that much of a mess." The orc's eyes expressed nothing but hate, but before he could do anything stupid he already got grabbed, punched in the groin and hurled out the room by the two bouncers. He didn't even have time to scream for vengeance or something equally dramatic, just quick, clean business and then it was over, everybody put their attention back to their own drinks. There hadn't even been any significant amount of blood, so the whole episode didn't have exactly entertaining value for the local customers.

The black-clad man put away his newly acquired gun and ran a hand through his short hair. "You should check better next time who you invite to a game among friends, I tell you.", he turned to Jack. "Remind me Spades, but wasn't it you who said once, that there wasn't any fun, if you didn't risk anything.", the bookie replied. "I definitely won't argue against myself.", the man called Spades exclaimed and reached for the bar to pick up his drink. "So, you know anyone who might want to buy a gun?"