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FFVI: "The Moment's Gamble: A Fateful Spin"

Posted: 7th June 2014 00:26
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Joined: 7/6/2014


A romance story with Setzer Gabbiani as the main character.

You can go to http://www.writers-underground.com/?p=688 for the original post, or read the story below.

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At certain late hours of the evening there is a well-known establishment in the summits of the Northern Climes where men and women of all ages and walks of life assemble together for one common pursuit. Past the large gilded doors of its magnificent entryway, the bustle and clamor of the gambling house resound loudly into the night.

It was especially busy on one particularly darksome night.

Throughout its extravagant halls the tables of the gambling house were filled everywhere with the glitter of expectation and chance. The wishful eyes of the players roamed eagerly around the room, seeing everywhere in it riches of the brightest colors: ruby and jasmine and azure tokens arranged together in tall stacks—lying at some distance from where they were, but not seeming entirely out of reach—and curving in sleek, slender shapes that seduced their glance. Some gentlemen thought themselves lucky, having made a winning hand or rolled a winning pair of dice, and their sureness at this moment of standing in Fortune’s favor radiated unquestionably from their faces; and when they stopped their betting for a round or two to give themselves a chance to reflect upon this happy fact, looking away from the action at the table and around at the other sights in the room, they sometimes thought that they were being visited by another unexpected stroke of luck… some enchanting lady with eyes like daggers would suddenly look at them—and then she would look away. Sitting quietly at their tables, dressed in beautiful silk garments that draped lightly over their skin, the ladies minded their interests, searching the room for only that which they found exceptional, yet never bothering themselves with any one thing for too long. Between the men, the money, and the women, there were the tables, and it was here—atop their rich, tantalizing surfaces—that all the action of that enormous hall came to pass. And between the tables, there were the games.

Amid the lively commotion of the hall the gambler walked. His long white hair trailed behind him, gleaming over his shoulders like a stream of pearls, the dark black coat running long and swaying beneath it, reaching down to the curve of his ankles. He walked ahead slowly, knowing exactly what he wanted at that moment, and paid no attention to the amusements taking place elsewhere. Ahead, at the far corner of the gambling hall, stood the Royal Circle.

Marble floor turned to red carpet, and in its center, ringed by the card and dice tables, where ladies and gentlemen of all varieties of elegance and stature were playing, was the roulette table. At this table sat the men of impulse and decision, illustrious gentlemen of society who in their more conventional hours refused traffic with the common world. Finely polished, dark-suited, grim-faced, they solemnly surrounded the table, occasionally exchanging remarks about some minor point or occurrence, never at any considerable length and always with an air of indifference, their manners dignified and imposing, mindful not to waste any opportunity of demonstrating before others the magnitude of their distinction… and among them, inexplicably present, and gleaming in a luxurious red gown, one fair maiden quietly sat, like a lone rose.

The little roulette ball suddenly skipped, then bounced, then rattled into its pocket. The croupier paid out the few amounts to the winners, and then pulled in the rest. Next to the woman in the red gown a dark gentleman rose, the space before him empty on the table. He turned, making his way towards the entrance of the hall, his seat still drawn back from the table. No one stirred. The croupier finished clearing the table and began the next round, spinning the wheel and calling for bets from the players. The gambler walked over to the table.

The players debated a little, deciding on where to place their bets, hands flitting back and forth across the table’s surface, the roulette wheel quietly spinning round, as the gambler, watching, approached, turning the corner, catching the woman’s sudden, fleeting glance as he passed behind her towards the empty seat at her side, and sat down.

“Thank you, gentlemen. No more bets,” the croupier announced.

The little white ball whirred inside the wheel. All the men at the table quietly watched. The gambler, observing the assembled party, tilted his head lazily to one side, spread his pale lips open, and said: “The winning number will be red.”

The ball skipped, then bounced, then rattled into its pocket.

“The winner is twenty-seven, red. Thank you, gentlemen.”

The croupier paid out the winners, and then gathered up the remaining money. The woman did not stir, sitting up stiffly. The gambler turned his head, raising his eyes towards her.

Long strands of soft, fine hair trailed down her shoulders, like rays of sunshine glimmering in the morning air. Beneath it, the gambler could see the long slender lines of her neck. The gambler spoke up.

“Pardon me for saying, Mademoiselle, but at a roulette table it is customary for the players to wager some amount on the croupier’s spins, otherwise there would seem to be little reason in one’s having entered into the game.”

“I’m sorry, Monsieur,” the woman, turning to the gambler with a cold, measured look of disdain, replied, “but it wasn’t my understanding that we had entered into any prior acquaintance with each other, and it is not a habit of mine of engaging in idle conversations with strangers whom I’ve never met before. You may have foolishly mistaken me for a lady of a different sort.”

The woman looked at the gambler, and her bright blue eyes did not waver. The gambler sat in the chair and looked at her back. Then he broke a smile.

“You may be right about that, Mademoiselle. I have the bad habit of carelessly involving myself in matters that provoke my fancy, and I have been known to be wrong in my judgment more than once in the past. But let me ask you, Mademoiselle: Am I not right to suspect that you may perhaps not be enjoying your present time at the roulette table as you would in truth prefer? Come, Mademoiselle. You can confide in me this one minor detail.”

“Really, how presumptuous you are, Monsieur, to speak to a lady you have never met in such a manner… Ha, ha, ha! My, what a sight you are. Everything about you screams it invites scandal. Ha, ha, ha!… And the Baron, Monsieur? And what will you do when he returns? Don’t you think a person in your position should be a little more wise than to risk causing a scene in the most privileged area of the hall? For after being responsible for a thing like that, I am afraid that the management may never let a poor dicer like you play in an establishment like this again.”

“Well, my dear lady—if you don’t object to my calling you ‘dear’—you must forgive an old romantic for dreaming. For I am of a mind that one should not turn away from chance opportunities that present themselves. After all, who knows… maybe one day one might even find love.”

“Love? Ha, ha, ha! The brigand, he talks to me of love! Ha, ha, ha!… Really, Monsieur, you are an occasion inviting scandal; such audacious things I’ve never heard before! Ha, ha, ha!… —But really, Monsieur, let us be honest. You talk of lofty ideals as ‘love’ but I know your kind already. You are nothing but a clever rogue.”

“And what’s the matter, Chère, don’t you believe in love?”

“Ha, ha, ha! Love? And still the rogue persists. Really, Monsieur, you may be a bit too clever for your own good. But enough. I can see you will not be satisfied until you have had your fun, so I will answer you. No, Monsieur. I do not believe in love.”

“That is a pity, my dear lady.”

“Really? Do you think so, Monsieur? And why, I pray, is that?”

“Why, my dear lady?… Well, that is not exactly a simple thing to explain.”

“‘Not a simple thing to explain,’ he says. Well, Monsieur, that is not a very interesting answer to my question. Perhaps I paid you too much credit earlier when I spoke of you as I did.”

“Oh, no, it’s not that, my lady. It’s just that… Well, how can I put it? We know each other so little, and I wouldn’t want to offend your sense of propriety with any of my fanciful ideas.”

“Oh, really? And what, I pray, Monsieur, are these ‘ideas’ of yours? Come. Don’t be shy now. Speak up.”

“Well, my lady, for instance, that a gentleman who was truly in love shouldn’t take the object of his fancy to an establishment of the present sort, where there are so many different amusements and temptations waiting to distract one. I should think that a gentleman of this kind were really after something else…”

“Ah! What cheek you have, Monsieur, to speak to a lady so shamelessly!”

“Forgive me, my lady. I meant to cause you no offense. It would have been better if I had just kept such thoughts to myself.”

“Enough, Monsieur, enough! Don’t flatter yourself so much into thinking that you could be the author of such an effect. That I was shocked for a moment at your impertinence is nothing to make a fuss about. But now answer me seriously, Monsieur, since it is you who we are in fact speaking about: If the beloved object of one’s fancy should already happen to be taken by another, what, pray, Monsieur, should the hopeless romantic do?”

“He should not care about the obstacles that lie before him, but should only pay mind to what the truth of the matter will reveal. That is what love demands.”

“And if this most beloved object of our hero’s fancy should categorically express her lack of interest in him, what then, Monsieur, should he do?”

“But feelings, my dear lady, are capricious things, and what one feels strongly about today one may feel differently towards at another time.”

“And if this most prized of objects should keep our beloved hero waiting on her indefinitely, having intimated some slight interest in him, yet being all the same unwilling to entrust her deepest feeling with, what then, O, Monsieur, should our hero do?”

“It’s not a question of time, my dear lady, that is the essential one. In one’s heart one’s feelings grow, like flowers in a garden, and if two souls truly belong to each other that is where they will first meet. He need only be mindful of this truth.”

“And if this fairest of maidens should finally give our hero an opportunity to win her heart, but he, in his want of luck, should have all the circumstances of his life conspiring against him at that moment, so that that most cherished of opportunities which he had so long been waiting for had just as quickly slipped between his fingers, what then, Monsieur, is our beloved hero to do?”

“No one can know what the future will bring, my lady, but neither is that a reason for anyone to shy away from an opportunity of finding happiness.”

“grrr… And if she, Monsieur, if she, the most cherished object of our hero’s heart, were to finally surrender herself to him, showering his face with tender kisses and betraying to him feelings of the deepest passion, so that, for the time, they truly believe they are in love, believe it and moreover live as though nothing could come between them, as though their happiness would always be the same, today, tomorrow, and the day after, smiling joyfully during the good moments and doing their best to ignore the bad, getting on habitually with their days and never being mindful of where things are headed, losing a little more of their youth and freedom every year to some vague idea of what their life is, until one day, without even realizing it, they find themselves trapped in a life they never wanted, powerless and not knowing what to do to free themselves from its grip… —Because it’s a gamble, Monsieur! I don’t believe in love because love is a gamble!”

“But, my lady… can anything one does in life be anything but a gamble?…”

“What? Whatever do you mean by that? Here. Look at me now, sitting idly in this chair, doing nothing but watching others as they throw money foolishly around at some meaningless game. How, Monsieur, could you call that gambling?”

“Well, no, my lady, that’s not what I mean.”

“Really, Monsieur? Then what do you mean?”

“Well, maybe I can explain it to you in this way: In life one must always make decisions. Would you not say that this is true?”

“Yes, Monsieur, that is plainly true.”

“Well, then, if this is so, must we not then also acknowledge that a life is really just a product of one’s decisions?”

“Please, Monsieur. I am clearly in agreement with all these points.”

“Well, my lady, then it seems to me that one should look at things in this way: That in life one must make decisions, decisions that will determine who one will ultimately become. Once they have been made they cannot be changed, and one will then be forever nothing more than the sum total of these decisions. They will make up one’s story. And once this story has been written, my lady, it will all be over.”

“Perhaps that is right, Monsieur, when one is speaking about certain momentous decisions in one’s life. But that is not what I am speaking about. I am speaking about the lesser ones. How, would you say, are these decisions a gamble?”

“Every decision one makes in life, my lady, changes one. True, perhaps not every little decision—we need not waste any time arguing over this point—but certainly all those of consequence. And consequence, my lady, extends far. In fact, even inaction is a decision of a kind, for here one must surrender a part of one’s life forever to the void of mystery, never knowing how differently one’s life would have turned out were one to have taken a risk in one’s actions instead.”

“And what if what one must risk is too much, Monsieur? Tell me, what then?”

“Would one not be risking more, my lady, by not following one’s heart?”

“I should think not."

“But, my lady, you should. Life is but a fleeting occasion for its creatures to partake in. Everything in it appears to us only once, never to repeat itself again. Even you, sitting idly in that chair before me now.”

“Everything, Monsieur?”

“Everything.”

“And what about that little white ball spinning in the wheel just now? Has it not just landed on number 19 in exactly the same way as it has done in the past and will continue to do in the future?”

“No. It has never, and will never again.”

“Never? Really, what a peculiar view you have. But even so, even you must know that you can’t always win.”

“Yes. I have learned that lesson very well.”

“You have? Well, then does it really make sense for one to go and risk so much on just one spin of the wheel?”

“Yes. If the reward is worth it.”

“And what if you had to risk everything—your freedom, your safety, your happiness—what if you had to risk your life? Would you then make the wager?”

“But, my lady… You should know that I have already answered that question…”

“What do you mean?…”

“Why, how is it that you find me here before you now, having risen from my former position in obscurity, having acquired the means to be seen in this public, communicating to you these words that are only for us to hear, if I had not had to risk everything at one time to have made it to where I am today?”

“Well, I hadn’t thought of that…”

“Yes, my lady… At times it may seem to be nothing more than a game we’re playing—life, that is—but we must always remember to hold the meaning of this game with the greatest respect… Come. Look there.”

“Where? At the roulette wheel?”

“Yes, my lady. Do you see how the ball is spinning so swiftly now upon its axis.”

“Yes, I see it.”

“In a minute, the ball will slow down, losing the momentum it had started out with at the beginning of its course, tottering for a second or two as it tries vainly to hold onto its position, but in the end it will fall from its path.”

“So it will…”

“It will jump up and down erratically once it reaches this new level, searching fretfully, uncertainly, for the place where it will lay itself thenceforth down to rest.”

“That seems so…”

“It will not give in easily, unsure of where it truly belongs, afraid to surrender itself to some fate that doesn’t belong to it, but in the end it must choose.”

“Yes, it must…”

“And when it finally does, finished jumping back and forth between the open spaces lying at its feet, one of which will be the place where it must make its final home, where, my lady, will it stop?

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This post has been edited by R_3OOO on 16th June 2014 23:14
Post #207035
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