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[[{{SUBST:The Hidden Playground}}|   ]]
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The Women of Vana'diel:
#18 The Hidden Playground
[[{{SUBST:The Hidden Playground}}|   ]]
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It hadn't been three days since I crossed the Tahrongi Canyon.

Quite some ways from the road, I came across the entrance to a cave. Of course, I had to enter.

It's not on any maps, so I figured it would be quite small. Hey, even I'm wrong once in a while.

Within the space of a few hours, I managed to get myself lost in the labyrinthine caverns.

I remembered my brother's warning from my childhood: "At times like this, aimless wandering is a bad idea." When I stood still, I could hear a faint voice coming out of the darkness.

"Ah... A customer, huh? You got a reference or anything?"

If I strained my eyes, I could just make out the outline of a goblin resting against the wall. What would a goblin be doing here? It wasn't like he had anything to sell.

He slowly stood up and began to amble towards me. All I could think to do was toss him a beastcoin.

The goblin lunged for the beastcoin, and bit it to ensure it was real.

"Well, isn't this purty."

Once he was satisfied that it was, in fact, a real beastcoin, he let out a little laugh, stuffed the coin in his pocket, and began to push the wall behind him with both hands.

Very slowly, the wall opened up--it was a secret door!

"They'se waitin' in the room back there. They been expectin' you."

A long torch-lit hallway extended into the distance beyond the door. As I entered the hall, the door slammed shut behind me, the sound echoing all along the corridor.

I mustered my courage and set out in search of the room-or whatever lay beyond.

A little ways down the corridor, I heard the raucous laughter of many people echoing off the rock walls from the distance.

I summoned my courage and strode into the room at the end of the corridor.

It was a cavern that had been converted into a room. There were people everywhere, cheering and shouting. Luckily, no one noticed me. I relaxed and approached the crowd near the entrance.

I slipped into the ring of observers, looking over the shoulder of a tall Elvaan. There were four people around a simple table, listlessly rolling dice. About what I expected.

"Hey! What's that? The Mithra won again! Something's fishy here," shouted a Hume man standing next to the tall Elvaan.

I glanced back at the table in time to see a small Mithra gather a whole stack of "chips," or copper ingots, from the other players.

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"She did come all the way from Jeuno. She's a professional. It is not as if she could make a good living by relying on luck or skill, after all."

Clearly, the Hume did not like this response.

Of course, there were people like that all over Jeuno. Especially in that one little tavern... I had to suppress a smile. The Mithra looked up, her eyes meeting mine as I stared out past her.

We continued to stare for a few seconds, stunned.

When I regained my composure, I tried to speak to her. But, for some reason, she suddenly threw her die at me.

It hit me square in the chest and dropped to the floor.

When I looked up again, her face showed no indication of what she had done. She was back to the game.

"Well done, buddy-wuddy! You oughtaru get a medal-wedal just for getting a reaction," said a Tarutaru with a hat covering his eyes.

I decided it would not be a good idea for me to draw any more attention to myself. I grabbed the die off the floor and moved away from the table.

It was then that I heard another voice from a different table:

"'Scuse me, but I'm guessing this is your firrrst time here."

"How about a game with us thrrree?"

"Come on, sit down!"

A chorus of similar voices rose up. At a table way in the back, I could see three Mithra waving at me. Just as I began to think something was up, a goblin standing next to me said,

"Those three get first shot at newcomers. That's the way it is here. Turn them down and you're meat."

It would be a pity to be filleted over a game of dice, so I headed over to their table and took the empty seat they offered me.

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The more I looked, the more the three Mithra seemed to resemble each other, right down to hairstyle and posture. I decided that they were sisters--or maybe triplets.

"Heehee. Go easy on us," purred the one on the left, as she passed out copper ingots in place of chips. We each selected a die. I chose a black one.

"Why don't you starrrt?" asked the Mithra across from me as she fiddled with her die.

Even though I was only half into it, my heart leapt as I grabbed the die.

I took the black die in my right hand and gave it a good throw.

[[{{SUBST:The Hidden Playground}}|   ]]
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Taken from: Vana'diel Tribune Issue No. 18



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Women of Vana'diel
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