A Constable Calls.

Postby Cinnabar » Tue Apr 24, 2007 7:27 am

Heh. He can't help but note how she has answered his question without giving any hint as to why this Renne person, or even Bromn, might be needful of a Governor's pardon. And that's really the rub of it. That said, he's not really asked the right question, as he's fairly certain he won't get an answer for it - "So why do you need a pardon?" "Well you see, High Constable, it's actually because I was a horrible murderer for a while, but want to put all that stuff behind me now, only people will insist on holding grudges about such things." "Oh really, Miss Emory? In that case perhaps you'll accompany me to the office." - no, it's not likely at all. So instead:

"A debt of gratitude, then. Fair enough." He grins, apparently happy to leave it at that. He notes the difficulty with which she returns across the room and considers offering assistance. Would it offend her, that she might think he believes her weak? Or would it be appreciated? So hard to tell. In the eventuality good manners prevail, and he rises to offer a hand - either to take the mug from her while she returns to the window seat, or to support her as she walks there herself. Her choice.
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:27 am

Oh, not entirely without hints -- this matter of innocence, she'd mentioned; this matter of perception, for in a very real sense, Altias Bromn is guilty only of vulnerability. Renne is of course another problem completely, for there is no explaining his wrongdoings, no explaining her demand that they be pardoned -- if only in an official capacity -- without several isolated hours for the arguing over it, and perhaps a bottle of very fine wine to share.

Which is to say that the moment is perfect for exactly this. And that a Constable's mark is the perfect obstacle to impede it.

But it certainly doesn't prevent the man from setting himself a good deed to perform, and he does not completely flounder in its execution. Oh, there's a moment's hostility in Ariane as she realises his approach, a heartbeat's cold edge to her eyes as she suspects. But he will find himself the recipient of the mug, instead of her elbow, and the woman's evidently content enough with this arrangement; in any case, it certainly hastens her return, and in time she is sinking carefully into her seat once more, lips unevenly pursed.

"Of a sort," comes the reply to that in time, for it rankles to be thought in debt to the likes of Michael Renne; that the doctor himself would surely delight in the notion only irritates further. But what is one to say? His name is the answer to so many terrible questions...

"Thank you." That, apparently. "It is uh... mne piz'dyulina, a ... a thing which should not matter. There is no more harm done to it, it should not pain, and still it does. I confess to finding it ... strange, that the flesh behaves so, that it makes war upon itself in this way." He is watched then, as she retrieves her cup; over the rim of it, watched very closely.
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:51 am

"Healing is not always comfortable. Or rather, not often comfortable. But it is good that you are healing, nonetheless." So saying he hands over the mug and resumes his seat, helping himself to the drink as invited - a few moments taken to cast around for another cup, before it is located on a shelf and half-filled with wine. He sips lightly, then nods with appreciation. A man of fine tastes, this Altias.

"Less war than warning, perhaps? A message to stop doing whatever it is that hurts, be it breaking bones or moving around excessively after breaking bones, because it does you no good." A shrug, then a grin. "Maybe a lesson not to do it again." Not so much making light of Ariane's healing injuries as pondering out loud. Talking merely for the pleasure of conversing on something else, something that isn't to do with the duties of the Constabulary. Her scrutiny, though, has him tilting his head slightly, eyes bright and keen. Hm.
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:27 am

"I do not expect comfort. This arm, mn? Torn about the shoulders, and three fingers splinted; I expect that it will hurt like Kerrak's Hèl, for that there is so much to heal." The tiny flinch in the midst of this is not due at all to this hurt, but then of Kerrak al'Nerun, Cinnabar had known little but madness...

"It is reasonable. I understand it. But this leg is healed. It is not broken, they explained this to me, you see? A fall, a bad landing at the end of it, so that the bone came free of its place very suddenly. It was set back into it, and now -- now I can walk very well again, except that it pains if I do that. So: this pizdoi nakryt'sji limp."

It is quite a speech, and of length enough to leave the woman slightly breathless at the end of it. This is remedied with another sip from the mug, and a very wry grimace at its bitterness.

"I think on this, for as you see, I have so much time for thought, yes?" There is some dry amusement in that, and a scowl lurking behind the half-smile. "I think on your chess too, and of what men say, that perhaps there are not black pieces nor white, but just so many, many sorts of grey. And I think... I think that I hope it is not so. For my leg is like this, mn? It cannot tell hurt from whole, because there is this grey: this, and the next, and the one after, and they are all seem so very alike.

"Like a man who cannot tell Thessilane from Traitor, mn? Like a woman who reckons all white-cloaked men to be cultists."

That quirk of humour lights her eyes again, at that last, and the mug is raised in a toast to the notion -- except that it pauses there, as Cinnabar speaks of wars and warnings. There is a dubious glance for the man, an accusing one for her leg, and with a shake of the head:

"Oh, as if I mean to fall! Ah, but it is what I deserve, in snow so thick, mn? Oho, my leg! I have learned my folly! Vy'ebnulsya i tut zhe poluchil pizdy -- now you must forgive me!"

With a hand cupped around the edge of her mouth, and lips that have collapsed in laughter the moment next, so that one might imagine that wine and confinement have conspired to teach her hilarity.
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Postby Cinnabar » Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:11 am

"Just because you can walk upon it so soon is not to say that you should. Like..." He pauses, searching for a suitable analogy. "like trying to use a blade before it has been allowed to cool from the forge. It is still sword-shaped, and will serve as such for a time. But it is not at its best, and there is the likelihood that it will break or bend beyond repair."

Her following words, however, have him smiling broadly and leaning forward to retrieve his satchel from the floor. "Aha! Yes! Thank you for reminding me!" He rummages in his satchel to extract a flat box, slightly more than a handspan long, half as wide, and an inch or so deep. The top and bottom bear a pattern of alternating squares of light and dark wood cleverly inlaid, and a pleasingly sinuous design ornaments the front (it must be the front, from the small hook-and-eye catch that fastens the box closed) and the other sides save that which bears the hinge. The box rattles slightly as he places it on the table before Ariane and sits back, watching her reaction.

"A simple set for now - easy to carry about, and good enough for learning with." Her words have him tilting his head curiously for a moment, an intriguing point raised. "There are shades of grey, yes. But that does not mean it is impossible to tell the light from the dark, any more than it is impossible to tell morning from noon from dusk by the shade of the sky. You just have to look closer."
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Apr 25, 2007 2:37 am

A sword-shaped blade.
Oh, Cinnabar, you do not imagine how phrases like this reverberate through the woman's mind -- which is itself re-forged, and which is quite, quite aware of that fact. Which has often imagined its body more weapon than flesh, so that this phrase will be kept and stored, will be mulled over at particular length; it is added to the list of questions for Syl Duquesne, the list that daily grows. It is no wonder at all that this explanation is met by a slow and silent nod, and by a very avid gaze indeed. Later there will be more of this, Cinnabar, be assured of that, but for now --

For now, it seems, there will be chess. The producing of that playing board has been answered with very wide eyes indeed, and it's not wholly itself to blame for this: there have been such visitors lately, and they have brought such very unexpected gifts, so that there is this eyepiece at the windowsill, these lavish books by the bed, this very fine wine for their cups. And now there is this, so that a woman is quite frankly startled -- and delighted, immediately after it.

"You have found one! It ... is one, yes? So that I must thank you: it is -- it -- " Very well-pleased, and haltingly expressed, and now even that must lapse into silence, in favour of examining the lovely construction more closely. Fingertips have examined the texture of dark-grained wood, and now move on to this matter of ornaments and hinges, and -- ah. The tiny latch is lifted, the thing unfolds...

And that is as fascinating as any of this, for he has placed a tangible analogy into the woman's hands, and each moment sparks strange, new avenues of thought for her re-forged mind.

"And how does one train the eyes to see a thing so well?" Slow, this reply; not quite sluggish, but certainly distracted. "That, there," and here she nods almost absently towards the brass beauty upon the windowsill, "I place to my eye, and see so far as the Marketplace, if the sky is clear. Would that this were so simple a matter..."
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:14 am

An undisguised grin as the box that is also a board is opened, revealing small chessmen held within - cleverly carved from light and dark wood to match the board, blocky and stylised. Tiny characters all, with discernable personalities - haughty and arrogant kings and queens, grim-faced footsoldiers for the pawns, portly bishops perhaps recognisable for their girth. Small dragons rather than horses rear up as the knight pieces, and the rooks are stout fortress towers. Treadwell's work is most assuredly worth the coin, Cinnabar will happily concede.

"You're quite welcome."

Strangely there are thirty-three pieces in the set; two full sides of light and dark, and one extra, indeterminate in shade - almost exactly between the two, such that it cannot be determined to which side it belongs - lighter than the dark pieces, darker than the light pieces; the same height as the pawns, but different in form, more slender, clad in armoured plate traced out by fine chisel-marks and bearing a narrow blade.

"Not so much a matter of the eyes as the heart, I think."
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Apr 25, 2007 3:40 am

Two fine little rows of the things, so that at last Calomel's descriptions are given real life. Oh, there's not even a pretense at speech now, not even an attempt at it, for this has the whole of her attention: these tiny pieces, upon which very gentle fingertips have begun to trace. They discover broad-gutted shapes, disdain draconic contours, linger for a time on the sharp corners of towers and crowns --

And when they happen upon the thin-bladed piece set at the center of these rows, it's with a hiss of breath sucked back between her teeth. The spine straightens, fingertips sliding the whole thing smoothly, sharply away from her as she jerks her head back up again to eye Calomel. It accuses, this stare. And it questions, and it suspects, and it pierces, and it is very quickly back and forth between the two, between grey-eyed man and startling chessboard, before those fingers creep out towards the set again.

Slowly, this time. Uncertain. The world has unfolded to reveal armies at its heart, armies and ... her, and this is very nearly too much. Ahh, eyes. Eyes and hearts, and very quietly now, this question, as she lifts her gaze back to Cinnabar's.

"How does it begin?"
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Apr 25, 2007 5:58 am

Her gaze is met evenly, with a small smile - not mocking, no, but delighting in her rapt exploration of the chessmen, her almost tangible fascination with them. Accusing, questioning, suspicious eyes prompt a slight shrug, no explanation offered as he's sure the meaning is clear enough: here, analogy given form, given shape and weight and texture.

At her question he is leaning forward to reach for the box, slender fingers retrieving the pieces and standing them up on the table in loose groups according to colour. Dark pieces clustered here, light pieces clumped there, and... the extra piece somewhere in between for now. The box is turned over and a slip of paper shaken out from beneath where the chessmen lay, filled with neat writing and tidy sketches of chequered squares and symbols and arrows. That's set to one side for the moment, and the box opened out fully to form the board, and placed between the young man and the swordswoman.

"Same way as most battles. First, the field. The board starts with a white square in the rightmost corner for each player. Then, array your forces. the two sides mirror each other, you can set out the black side."

He picks up the light-coloured pieces one at a time, placing them slowly so Ariane can follow. "Courtiers on the back row, like so. King and queen in the middle. The white king stands to the right of his lady, the black king to the left. They are flanked by their bishops, who like to whisper in their masters' ears, so they start close to the throne." The portly pieces in their robes of office and tall hats are set out neatly. "Next the bold knights, brave and fierce." Dragon-shaped chessmen placed on the board, looking like the more traditional equine pieces on casual inspection. "Then the rooks - the castle-shaped pieces - stand in the corners. Finally, the pawns in a row before their lords." A grin at that, such lowly pieces having featured so heavily in their discussions.

"All very neat and tidy, with everyone lined up in their place. Doesn't last that way for long."
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Apr 25, 2007 6:47 am

No explanation offered, and certainly none required: the meaning of this had been clear enough, and her response nothing but the flinch of a mind so new to such things as these. So utterly unprepared. But the remedy to this is time and quiet, and affording the woman an ample supply of both. It is enough simply to observe, as Cinnabar sets the playing pieces into order, and to turn a glance towards a slip of paper upon which sketched diagrams seem almost arcane, to untrained eyes.

Still...

"They ought to set the courtiers before the pawns," she is interjecting quietly, at some point during this; with some helpless quirk at the corner of her mouth, some half-hidden pleasure. "What other use have they, but to blunt that knight's blade? That is how I would begin. With courtiers to the fore, and let them be done with swiftly."

Why, a fingertip even demonstrates this, draws a neat line before the squares which the pawns soon come to occupy -- and perhaps there's a grin of her own, at sight of those.

"But this king should be wary, mn? To stand so near his bishop: it is not wise. I fear I see a pointy awakening in his future, and then so many of these squares will be red..."

But she is obedient to the young man's teaching, and in time commences work on her portion of the board. Here are courtiers and kings, and hers set carefully left of his queen -- which seems particularly strange, unless one reckons a king not likely to draw in defense of her. And knights as well, and the great towers to flank the lot of them, except that it's with some small reluctance that she lines up pawns before them. A moment's hesitation follows it, a moment's pause in which her fingers hover a fraction above the array of wooden pieces, and then ... the sole extra is set to the board's side, and at a small remove.

"To watch," she explains, quite solemnly. "For now."
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:30 am

"Very wise. Best to gather information before choosing, hm?" He adjusts a couple of pieces such that they face in the proper direction, or are more neatly aligned within their squares.

"Now, the moves. First: No two pieces may share a square. If a piece moves into a square already occupied by the foe, that foe is slain - or captured, if you prefer. It cannot move into a square occupied by a friend - it is not permitted. Second: Each piece moves in a particular way. The courtiers are simple, as they always move the same way."

He picks up the white king and sets him in the middle of the board. "The king may move one square, in any direction - forward, back, left, right, slantwise like so." The piece is moved to indicate permitted moves. "However! If the king falls, all is lost, so it is not permitted to make a move which places your own king in jeopardy - he may not move to any square where he will be immediately slain by the foe. This includes moving into the square directly next to the opposing king, who will surely leap upon his twin and strike him down." The black king is placed two squares away from the white, and the described sequence of events played out - one king moves next to the other, which immediately moves to take it. "Urk, death, the king is slain, we are defeated." A suitably woeful expression at such abject defeat. "If the king is ever in such a situation where he might be slain on the foe's next turn, he is said to be in check, and you must move to remove him from harm's way at all costs. If you cannot make such a move - if he is beset from every side, and there are no squares which are safe for him, it is checkmate, and you have lost. The king is trapped, and dies like a dog. Such a situation is the ultimate aim for both players - to maneuvre your foe such that his king cannot escape your wrath."

Then the kings are returned to their respective places, and the white queen takes the centre of the board. "Her majesty is more mobile than the king - she may move in a similar manner to her husband, but any number of spaces as long as there is no other piece in the way. This makes her very powerful, and worthy of fear and respect. If she is taken, you lose a valuable piece, but the game continues - only when the king falls is it over."

And so it goes - the pieces' moves explained, with colourful imagery to ensure it sticks in her mind. The bishops with their cunning and slantwise sidling across the board, confined to a single colour each. The knights, the only pieces permitted to bound over intervening chessmen, two squares one way and then one to the side. The rooks, who can charge in a straight line across or along the battlefield, supporting other pieces from across the board. And finally, the pawns.

"The pawn" he explains "is... complicated. Whereas the courtiers move only in one fashion, the pawn has a variety of options depending on his situation. In a normal move, he advances one square, straight ahead. A steady march across the field, directly towards the enemy. There are two exceptions to this: First, if he has not yet moved forward from his starting place, he may dash two squares forward, to draw nearer to the foe. Second, if an enemy piece is in a square on either of his front corners, he may move slantwise to slay them." Pieces laid out to demonstrate such a situation - pawns against pawns for now.

"Imagine he has a broad shield." No need to imagine, for the carven pawns have such things already. "He holds it before him, and can only attack to either side of it, not directly ahead. The best use of this is to set up rows of pawns that protect one another - like so." A diagonal line of pawns in the middle of the board. "This man at the front is protect by his fellow behind him on his left - should he fall, he will certainly be avenged. Likewise, his guardian is protected by the fellow at his left-rear. A nice strong wall, you see? This impedes the foe's advance, and allows the courtiers room to move. Additionally - " he raises a finger to forestall any protest and the complexity of the pawn's allowed moves. "- if a pawn which has not moved tries to cheat death and dash two squares past an enemy pawn, he can be slain for his carelessness - as the pawn moves past, charging across the battlefield, his foe steps into the square behind him and stabs him in the back in passing. Like so."

Another little drama of pieces dancing around one another with a horrible death at the end, then a grin as he sets the board back to its starting layout.

"Clear enough?"
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:28 am

"No."

A considerable pause.

"Yes."

Another.

"But..."

Her hand lifts to request a period of patience, and then becomes very busied indeed.

A moment's testing is given to this notion of walls and pawns and vengeance, for hers is a mind that tackles a strategy far better when it is seen. So that she must play that little drama over again, and then again after it, and then with some tiny, purposeless variation -- ah! The lone attacker does not escape his fate, which dismal fact provokes a very grim smile indeed. The game imitates its world very well so far. A sweep of the bandaged hand slides the pieces from their battlefield, the splinted fingers being good for that much, at least, and the other's swift work begins again. Pieces glide smoothly from their starting points; pawns fall here and there, under the most rudimentary of circumstances; at some point a bishop becomes surrounded by a flock of the small things.

"Ah! You see now how this will be? He thinks that he is so cunning, this Bishop; he moves sideways through things as befits his twisty mind, and today his colour is dark, and tomorrow it is not, you see? But he strikes out at an angle from his brothers, and they are legion -- and two friends may not occupy the same space -- and... ty'otmudohat!" So it goes: the cluster of pawns converge upon the bishop, who is swiftly knocked toppling, victim of a shove from his left. "A terrible death, richly deserved."

But the satisfaction of this is short-lived, and the draw of the game itself too potent, so that for a time this toying with pieces, this tinkering with one maneuver and another, will continue. At what point does a pattern begin to emerge from it all? For eventually, one does; something does, in tune with features that grow solemn, a brow that becomes wrinkled with her slow frown. There is a scattering of pawns that might actually be as random as it seems; however, it thickens in the direction of a dark bishop, and of a white king as well. That one's queen proves far more isolated, for her knights are with the king as well, and as for their towers -- ah! A gentle fingertip has set them onto their sides. The bishop moves... slowly, and at unpredictable angles, which his pawns are quick to echo; far behind, the dark king lurks in wait. Ariane's head lifts, now.

"Do you see? Except that we will have no queens; no queen holds such power, mn? So they will all be kings of one sort or another."

Slowly, the approach of this bishop. At unpredictable angles.

"This king, he commands so much, you see? But he does not believe it: he cannot tell black from white. He cannot even see grey, it is all black to him, he reckons himself already lost, so -- " A sweep of the clawed hand slides the white pawns from the piece they'd flocked to. "He gives them nothing but swords, and so they will fight amongst themselves, and he is left as alone as he'd feared to begin with."

Slowly. At angles. It is a bishop's pawn which moves to attack: the white queen is also alone, and now in immediate peril.

"He must be removed from this ... harm's way, mn? At all costs.

Do you see?"
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Apr 25, 2007 9:08 am

"Removed from threat, yes; or the threat removed." He regards the board thoughtfully for a moment, then grins. He reaches forward to move one of the white pieces, a knight, to hop over the shielding line of bishop's pawns, and abruptly the balance changes - where the pawns had shielded the bishop they now hem him in, bracketing him. What was armour becomes a cage such that he can either sidle into the waiting embrace of white pawns, whose movement away from their lord forms them into a broad net; or he can remain where he is, and fall to the knight; or he can move into the only square free of the knight's depredations... but which lies within reach of a long and slanting move from the beleagured white queen, saving her and dooming him at one stroke.

"A well-placed knight, and the bishop's plan crumbles. Should he persist and take the white queen, he will be taken by the knight. The queen may fall, yes, but so will the bishop, and while the white king has other courtiers and pawns, the black king has only his bishop. Should the bishop attempt to move out of the knight's reach, he will fall to the white king's pawns, scattered though they may be. Once the bishop falls, his pawns are bereft of his support and may be picked off at leisure. Once they are gone, the king is surely doomed."

He grins broadly, watching this sink in. "Threat, counter-threat. The white king does nothing, locked in fear of imaginary enemies on all sides. But his knight, still loyal, takes the initiative and moves to threaten the true enemy. The bishop is caught in a trap, and falls. The tide is turned."
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Postby Carnath-Emory » Wed Apr 25, 2007 9:47 am

Ariane watches this, and very closely, and Cinnabar will recognise this expression, by now: she wears the face of a woman before whom great corridors open, vast worlds waiting behind their every half-sealed door... Intent upon this queen's peril, she does not recognise the knight's gambit until it's played, and then it is a very sharp stare indeed, which fixes upon that board. A lifted hand demands patience, the lips are sucked back beneath her teeth in a moment's furious thought, and for the first time she sets her touch upon the solitary, extra pawn.

"But it may not fall. Or I do not care what happens after."

This is not entirely true, and adept that he's shown himself at gleaning thought from expression, Cinnabar may well realise this. But the woman is already preoccupied, for while her attention is for the plight of this queen and its daring knight, she has also set her own piece in motion. It has been sat in a pawn's lowly square; as the others fight out their battles upon the board's heart, it begins its gradual approach into the black king's territory.

"I do not sacrifice this piece to ensure another's end. But another might. I see that. In that other's place, I might do the same."

It is a careful progress, for this piece moves only one square at a time, and in the single direction that Cinnabar had described: in this matter, at least, she abides by the rules that he has detailed for them. But it does advance, and in time has drawn so close that two further steps will take it to the board's far edge.

"And this piece now, it is no use to its king, yes? It has gone so far, that king might reckon of it. So far that I do not recognise it, for those are black places, and now it is no different from they.

It has gone too far."

Her head lifts, then, as the piece moves a square closer to its end.

"But what other choice remains? The knight must serve his allegiences; he must accept that sacrifice. And this pawn, it is insufficient, unless...." A fingertip taps upon that last, waiting square. "It becomes a thing it was never meant to be.

Do you see?"
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Postby Cinnabar » Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:45 am

He notes the pawn's progress, disregarded as irrelevant by the pieces that scuffle and battle around the white king and black bishop; creeping ever closer to the far side of the board, towards its sudden transcendence. He shakes his head at her words, smiling slightly. Idly hopping the knight across the board, a series of dog-leg jumps that finally place it in position as the ambiguous pawn reaches the far side of the board. One last move, near to the black king; not threatening directly, but constraining its options. And then there it is, the last move - the lone pawn a mere space away from the far edge of the board.

"Any pawn which survives the width of the board can become a courtier. It is... uncommon. But if achieved, it is what the pawn was meant to be. It achieves... heh." He grins, watching her face. "I will not patronise you with talk of fate or destiny or such; I do not hold with it. We make our own. But call it potential. Just as a soldier who is quick and clever and lucky enough might become a general, so a pawn might become... well. Whatever it needs to be, to take down the black king."

He looks down to the board again.

"Think forward from that last square: once it is achieved, the pawn's options expand. What can it do with those new options?"

Inspect the square; consider it, the lines of attack that spread from it like paths from a crossroads. One of them leads to endgame, to victory. Hemmed in, trapped between the edge of the board and the knight's threats, the king can only wait for that last move, the new-crowned queen now empowered to race towards him, to stand face-to-face with the black king, upon one of the knight's guarded squares. And for the king? No chance at all.

"Do you see?"
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