Of course the inner temple was a giant chessboard. Having left the priestess behind some ways back, Alison took her place on the starting setup like a dutiful Harry Potter character. She recognized the stone pieces, not as pieces from normal chess or from the game Nancy had just been playing, but as statues of people she knew—her mom and dad and brother and sister each had their own square in the front row, and there was Carnea and John Smith and Nancy. The Nancy piece, strangely enough, shared a square with an angelic-looking woman covered rather provocatively by a handful of four-leaf clovers and a top hat.
Those were the Grey pieces. On the Green side, the pieces were, to say the least, abstract. One of them moved.
Alison didn’t really know how to respond to that. “Wait,” she said. “I’m green?” A grey piece moved.
MY GAMBIT WAS TO BRING FORTUNE’S HERALD ONTO MY BOARD
YOUR SIDE SACRIFICED A PAWN TO EVADE THIS
Alison stepped forward two squares. “I’m not a pawn,” she insisted.
I DON’T MEAN ANY INSULT, CHILD
THE SMALLEST OF PIECES OFTEN PLAYS THE GREATEST OF ROLES
AND YOUR ACTIONS FORCE ME TO RECONSIDER MY ENTIRE STRATEGY
Alison dove towards the wall as the pieces began to move faster and faster, dancing around the temple. Not understanding the rules—or else recognizing that there were no rules—she kept tally of events: Carnea’s piece took out grey and green pieces indiscriminately; the robot moved quickly into the center and held sway over a large piece of territory; the other robot, the one with the die for a head, was taken off the board early, as was John Smith, although he seemed to reappear later on the other end of the board; the members of Alison’s family took a multitude of short, jerky movements towards the corners before being taken out one by one; Nancy remained immobile, yet safe. Finally everything stood still.
YOU’LL HAVE TO FORGIVE ME FOR THE SHOW, I WAS MERELY THINKING KINETICALLY
YES, MY MOVE IS CLEAR NOW
YOUR FRIEND NANCY IS THE CHOSEN OF FORTUNE, A POWERFUL AND CAPRICIOUS GODDESS
WITH THE POWER BESTOWED UPON HER, SHE COULD DO WHATEVER SHE DESIRES, AND YET HER FEAR AND WEAKNESS PREVENT HER FROM MAKING USE OF HER GIFTS
IT WOULD BE TO THE BENEFIT OF BOTH OF US WERE FAVOR’S FORTUNE TO BE TRANSFERRED TO YOU, LITTLE PAWN
Alison took a look at the woman keeping watch over Nancy’s statue. She didn’t look entirely trustworthy. “I already have my own Goddess friend,” she explained. “Carnea. We’re going to become better gods than you are and take all your worshippers away.”
THAT IS ONE PLAY AVAILABLE TO YOU, YES
BUT DOORKNOBS AND LOCKS WILL NOT PROVE SUFFICIENT TO SAVE YOUR FAMILY
THOUGH LUCK AND CHANCE ARE THE NATURAL ENEMIES OF STRATEGY—AND CHESS, PLAYED RIGHTLY, IS A GAME OF ABSOLUTES—IT DOES NOT SUIT US THAT SHE SHOULD REMAIN A PASSIVE PRESENCE IN NANCY’S HANDS
Alison considered this. She had always thought of herself as very unlikely and the world as terribly unfair, and understood that there was an opportunity here. “So if I want to just talk to this luck goddess, should I just talk to Nancy? That seems like it’d probably be rude.”
A FRONTAL ATTACK WOULD FORCE AN UNFAVORABLE ENDGAME
A PIECE ON YOUR SIDE KNOWN AS “ENVOY” IS SOON TO BE CONTACTED BY OUR PANTHEON’S EQUIVALENT PIECE, “MESSENGER”
THROUGH ONE OR BOTH OF THEM YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PETITION FORTUNE
“Yeah, I know Envoy. He’s a robot. I think he helped us out a little while ago. Alright, I don’t trust you or anything, but if I’m looking for Envoy at least it’ll get me out of your creepy nudist temple.”
EXIT THROUGH THE DOOR BEHIND GREEN, THEREBY BYPASSING NANCY
SHE WILL BE SAFEST IN MY TEMPLE... AND I AM LEARNING MUCH FROM HER UNCONVENTIONAL STRATEGIES, SO I WOULD PREFER IF YOU DID NOT TAKE HER FROM ME
“Alright. Thanks. She was just slowing me down anyway.” Alison left the back way, realizing almost immediately that she had no idea where to start looking for Envoy. She didn’t have Nancy’s luck with her anymore, so she’d need to think like a chess player. The streets and canals made up the board, and Envoy was... a knight? That sounded about right.
Back in Chess’s temple, Fortune’s piece disengaged from Nancy’s and backed off a square. The statue of Nancy, lacking the goddess’s support, fell over, and shattered.