The Cost

The ace up his sleeve itched a little. “I raise… all I have.”

Steel-gray eyes stared back at him unflinching. They squinted. A tongue darted out to quench dry lips. “I… I don’t think you have it. You’re bluffing. I call with… all I have.”

The smell of brimstone was fierce. But at least his arm had stopped itching. “You lose,” he said as he turned over a royal flush. Spades.

The gray eyes went cold. “But I… I was sure… I knew—”

“Enough!” To be completely honest, he hated winning this way – and he preferred the clean death of the blade, but the cost of losing was too great to leave it to chance. He turned to the fire in the darkness. “I won. Take it from him.”

The screams echoed throughout the dark marble halls around them. Then there was silence.

He glanced at his finger, he always tried to resist, and always failed. It seemed the ruby was brighter than before. It was heavier too – a weight that could never be given away or discarded – only asked for.

Asked for only by those who did not know: the cost.

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