Thursday, January 7, 2010

Royal Rulers, Winters, and Otherwise Un-Important Ramblings

"How about a brick for a wheat?"
I raised an eyebrow. That was a good deal, but I was going to need my wheat very soon now. It was either the knights, or the city walls.
I made my choice quickly, while someone rambled in the background and my opponent waited patiently for my answer. "I'm afraid not." I said at last, sitting back quietly and cancelling my end of the deal. My little white empire was in more need of food than bricks at the time.
The trade window closed, revealing the gameplay board underneath, the board for "Cities and Knights of Catan" on the computer screen. Four or five random persons of the usual Collegeplus! Skype network had that night, after several setbacks, been variously asked, invited, or dragged into playing the fantastic game with us. Naturally, however, by the time it got going well, it was nearly 11:30 PM. Time to seriously start worrying about calling it quits for the night, for a broke, humble CP! student who would have double school, college, and some off-brand work tomorrow.
As Hannah's turn finished and Chase's came up, I studied my hand more carefully. Either something would have to happen on this coming turn, or I was finished, win or lose, for the night. Hannah, who was also on Eastern Standard Time like me, was also seriously needing to finish up, as she commented several times quietly.
"Ore? Ore anyone?" Chase's voice came across the open Skype call, "Anyone at all for taking?"
It was a good deal, and again I could use what he had to offer, but I couldn't give up the highly valuable resource without a high price. Ore was var too valuable, on that particular ore-less gameboard, needed for building both cities AND the all-important knights.
"Nope." I said again, preparing my own hand. The clock hit 11:50. Time for a finish.
My turn rolled around, in spite of Chase' un-productivity and Hannah's gaining lead. With a sigh, I decided I was going to be disciplined tonight. Now or never.
"Here Hannah, I'm throwing in for the night." I said aloud, throwing her all my cards in the end, in spite of my talk of furiously stubborn Amaras refusal of defeat to all of them at some point or another. "Take it, good game."
It took her no time at all to reclaim her Longest Road card and build another city. Her score jumped from ten to thirteen. Game over.
The lively and laughing conversation earlier that chill winter's evening had died down over the hours of play to a quiet, comfortable group, and as we all good-naturedly finished with a little more late congratulations and talk, we let off for the night. As India, Hannah and myself said goodbye and headed off, I guessed that Chase would be up for awhile yet. But then, he had told chilling tales of late day and night roofing work before...perhaps not. With a shrug I turned off the computer and headed for bed, forgetting entirely to my disgust the next morning to read a passage of Scripture.
Bed at 1 AM. That wasn't good news.

I felt it in the morning alright, as the alarm blasted off at 8:30 AM and declaring yet another painfully cold winter's day. As I dragged myself grumbling out of bed and turned the wretched thing off, I yawned and cast a look out the window at the dead, frozen, brown landscape outside in the dead of winter in the far western edge of North Carolina.
"'All dead, All rotten.'" I couldn't help quoting Gollum as I headed out.
Indeed, the winters in North Carolina, and particularly in our part of the state, weren't very pretty or agreeable. It was interesting at least to hear from the other Collegeplus students across the map who complained of sixty degree weather on Christmas eve, or the far northern ones who felt the below zero temperatures even colder than I did, buried in snow and ice up north. The Carolinas sat somewhere in the middle, a deadly cold place in the sluggish winter but not quite wet or frozen enough to snow or ice. More freezing rain could be found here than snow, and in fact in our part of the state snow was considered a rare, every other year appearance.
Winter was grinding its way on, and sluggishly plowing its way over all of us in its own ways. The cold, and worse still, the deadness of the earth took its toll as it did every year, slowing down not only nature's cycle itself but the very mind and activities of the people in it. For example, even the chickens that huddled in the pens outside had more brains than to poke a goggling eye out of their homes, in the freezing, dry cold. Much less any human person who could even remotely feel cold.
So, as always, people lock themselves almost entirely way in their houses, their half-warm homes and under their roofs to wait out the chill breath of the cold.
I sighed as I glared outside at the blasted cold. It was no secret that I, of all people, had no use whatsoever for the winter or cold, end of story. But I still, as did everyone else hiding in their homes and dens, to wait at least two more months.
I turned my glare over at the clock. 9 AM already.
"Blast." I muttered, and strode out.

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