Tryffin's Rules to Cyffle

Cyffle ("Chance") is a simple card game, popular among the squires and pages at Caer Cadwy. It is usually played for money, though (unlike poker) gambling is not an intrinsic part of the game.



The Rules

Two or more players
Object: to gain points by taking high cards in tricks

The deck is shuffled and cut, and the top card is turned over to determine the trump suit. The cards are reshuffled, cut, and dealt as follows:

If there are only two players, each receives five cards.
If there are three players, each receives four cards.
If there are four or more players, each receives three cards.

After each player has examined his cards, wagers are placed (frequently a sum agreed upon in advance) and play begins.

The player to the dealer's left leads any card to the first trick. Play contines to the left with all players following suit, if possible; otherwise, they may play any card in their hands. High card of the suit led wins, unless someone plays a trump, in which case high card of the trump suit takes the trick.

The winner of each trick leads to the next, until all hands are exhausted. Then everyone counts up the cards they have won, scoring as follows:

2-9 = 0 points
10, Knave (except Knave of Trumps), Queen, King = 1 point
Ace = 3 points
Knave of Trumps = 5 points

If wagers have been placed, player with the highest point score takes the pot, unless there is a tie, in which case the pot is split equally among tieing players. If the game is not being played for money, a running tally of hands won is kept, and the first player to reach seven hands wins the game.

Note: for each hand, a new trump suit is established. For purposes of play, cards rank Ace high, Deuce low.



Excerpt from The Child of Saturn:

She came amidst a flurry of excitement, a flutter of curiosity, a buzz of speculation—all of which was exactly as she had planned it. The weather obligingly cleared, allowing her to arrive in style, and the Princess Diaspad came with gay satin banners and fluttering harlequin ribbons, acrobats in spangled blue and gold, jugglers, wild beasts, dwarf guardsmen in scarlet trappings and glittering silver mail, and a grinning yellow-haired giant, at least ten feet tall.

The Princess was nowhere to be seen, concealed inside the great gaudy palanquin that twelve laboring dwarfs carried up the hill; but word of her arrival spread quickly. By the time that the entire procession had passed through the outer gate, a noisy crowd had gathered in the lower courtyard, ogling her shaggy woodwoses and her lame giant, straining to catch a glimpse of the Princess herself.

A breathless page brought the news to a group of squires playing a friendly game of "Cyffle" in a circle by the kitchen fire. "She's here . . . in the lower courtyard, with an enormous party of the oddest people!"

Several boys, not directly involved in the game, excused themselves and headed for the door, but Fflergant fab Maelgwyn of Gwyngelli went on dealing the cards, just as though the interruption had never occurred.

"Aren't you the least bit curious?" asked another boy, Kilraen by name, glancing from blond, broad-shouldered Fflergant to Fflergant's younger brother, Tryffin, who appeared to be dozing in the golden firelight. "I would think that the pair of you, of all people..."

Fflergant picked up and examined his cards, tossed a small silver coin down on the sooty flagstones. "The question," he replied, with unaccustomed hauteur, "is whether or not we choose to dignify the occasion by attending. It happens that we don't."

"Well, that, at least, is refreshing," snickered Daire Ruadh mac Forgoll. "And honest, too—for a change!"

"I'm glad that you approve, Derry." Fflergant tossed a card after the silver coin.

Daire and the other boys followed suit. "Oh, I do," enthused Daire, perversely pretending to misunderstand.

"Yes, I really do," he repeated, raising his voice the better to be heard above the clatter and the racket of the scullions and kitchen boys cleaning up after the afternoon meal. "It's so encouraging to learn that you consider someone beneath your attention, even if it is the King's step-sister—my kinswoman—and her son."

The squires and pages—sons and grandsons of King Cynwas's vassal lords—worked in the kitchen, the Hall, and the stables, and at a variety of menial tasks elsewhere, as part of their early training, but they were spared the dirtier and more demeaning tasks and did not, as a rule, mix socially with the kitchen staff or the grooms. In a few years' time, these noble youths would all be knighted and leave the kitchen behind, but the turnspits and the scullions would still be there. Yet it was not strictly true that squires never socialized with the lower servants, for Fflergant and Tryffin, whose birth placed them almost as far beyond the other squires as those boys were removed from the kitchen and stableboys, were perfectly willing to strike up a friendly conversation with practically anyone.

"Though they do say," Daire drawled (finding that he had failed to get a rise out of Fflergant), "that your Uncle Manogan thought the Princess quite good enough for him, once upon a time."

"That he did. But there is never any accounting for another man's tastes," Fflergant replied with a shrug, which came as close as anyone had ever heard him come to disparaging a lady. Fflergant had been born under a geas (that supernatural prohibition that the Gwyngellach took as seriously as their interminable feuds) forbidding him to insult any woman, be she princess or peasant, and he carefully avoided doing so—though Daire had been trying to goad him into it for years.

Fflergant led with a King, Kilraen followed with a deuce, the boy next to him played an Ace, and Daire trumped with another to win the hand. Kilraen and the other lad dropped out of the game, but Fflergant and Daire continued.

Daire smiled sunnily, gathered up the parchment cards and a handful of small coins, and tried another shot. "I quite agree with you. Your uncle was once betrothed to a goat-girl, was he not?"

But if he had intended to annoy Fflergant, his shaft went wide. Fflergant looked amused, as if considering some private joke. "A goatherder's daughter—I believe that is how the story goes. A lovely girl with a voice like a lark. My uncle used to have quite a weakness for women with beautiful voices, so they say."

"So I have heard. And your mother has a charming voice—I believe I've heard that, too," smirked Daire.

Fflergant flushed and started to reply, but Tryffin opened his eyes and said, quite evenly, "She has at that. Our mother could charm the birds from the trees. But really, Derry, you can't deal those cards until Fflergant has cut them."

"He did cut them," said Daire sweetly. "It happens you didn't notice, dozing there by the fire."

"It happens that I did notice," said Tryffin, equally dulcet. Like his mother, he had a soft voice which, combined with the musical Gwyngellach lilt he had never abandoned, made every word he spoke alight on the ear like a blessing. "And I also saw you add a little something extra once you had them back."

"He didn't," protested Fflergant. He knew Daire for a cheat, but honestly believed he had been watching him carefully the whole time.

"If I am not mistaken," said Tryffin, "the top four cards include both Aces from the last hand—those for himself—and two low cards for you." He flipped over the cards in question: a deuce, an Ace, a four, and another Ace. "Transparent, Derry. Even if I'd not seen you hide those cards in your handkerchief..."

Daire gifted him with his very best smile. "You can't blame me for trying."

"Oh aye, I think that I might," Tryffin replied, brown eyes perfectly expressionless. Certain nefarious practices of Daire's, his cheating among them, had so far been overlooked by the other lads, because challenges were not yet permitted them, brawling was strictly forbidden, and reporting one of their own to the Master of Squires violated their code of honor. Yet even Tryffin's monumental tolerance had its limits.

Daire glanced from Tryffin to Fflergant and back again, wondering, as he so often did, which of the two he hated more: Fflergant, who usually responded to his baiting in kind, or his brother, who never gave Daire the satisfaction of an angry response.

Whichever it was, Daire hated them both with his entire writhing little soul.