Mythical Board Games
Vices & Vixens shows new parts of Riona's upbringing by her mother, one of which is lessons in courtly traditions. An important part of royal politics is small talk and diplomacy, and what best to do those verbal duels over but a literal representation of the struggle between the two sides? Enter fidchell, an ancient Irish board game that's been compared to modern day chess. Though the specifics of the game have been lost to time, the stories and similar other games of the time period have led to a theorized recreation. Riona's journey will make knowing this game key to her survival at one point.
The rules as we understand them today have a defending and attacking player. The defending player has a high king piece surrounded by troops in the center. To win, the high king must reach one of the four corners of the board, representing one of the four main regions of Ireland (historically its had five regions as well, but that's not as neat of a number for a square board). The attacking player has more troops, and must capture the high king by surrounding him before he reaches any of his destinations.
Fidchell was a strategic game of kings that's featured in the myth Midir and Etain from the Exiles of Eire series are based on. The story goes that once Midir found his Aos Si wife reborn into a human, he sought her out and reawoke her old life's memories. But the problem was Etain was already married to the human high king of Ireland. Wily Midir played Etain's human husband in three matches of fidchell where they bet on the outcome.
The Aos Si king lost the first two matches on purpose and performed two magical favors to help the high king. The third match, Midir cleverly worded his stakes. If he won he would be granted a kiss from the fair queen Etain--but his vague phrasing allowed for that to let him lay claim to take Etain as own bride as well. He let the high king see his true mastery of the game and soundly defeated him in the final match. Then when he went to kiss Etain, he transformed the two of them into swans and the couple flew off to his home in Tir Na Nog.
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