Lilja stood. Sif stacked their dishes—she saw no reason to make the servants’ lives harder—and followed suit.
Einar was playing the besieging side, the one which started at the outside of the board and had to keep the king from escaping. Sif considered it the harder task, although she was the wrong person to ask. She aspired to be merely bad someday.
Einar lifted his hand, shifting a piece backward while leaving another to be captured. It made no sense to Sif, which was, in her experience, the sign of a good move. Einar rested his chin on his hand and studied the board intently. His opponent looked between him and the board, frowned, and said, “If I am not mistaken, Einar Goransson, that is that.”
“I believe it is. Thank you for the game, Herre Rolfsson.”
“You play it well.”
Einar inclined his head and stood, yielding the table to another player, and finally caught sight of Sif and Lilja. A smile broke out across his face. “Hello.”
“Hi,” said Lilja. “Was it a good game?”
Einar nodded. “It was neck and neck most of the way,” he said. “Herre Rolfsson made a little mistake toward the end—moved his king too far from the rest of his pieces. If it wasn’t for that, he probably would have won in another ten or fifteen moves.”
Sif glanced at the board. Rolfsson and his new opponent were busily returning the pieces to their starting spaces. “Someday, you’ll have to show me how to play,” she said.
“The rules are pretty easy…”
“Someday, you’ll have to show me how to win,” Sif clarified, looking back up and grinning.
Einar laughed. “My father always told me that your first hundred games are your hundred most instructive losses.”
Sif thought that through. “So I have to lose a hundred games before I start to get better?”
“You might pick up a win here and there,” said Einar, lifting a shoulder. “It’s hard to play well, though. If it were easy, would it be as satisfying?”
“Maybe not,” Sif admitted. “Do you still have the poster from yesterday?”
Einar took a moment to register the change in subject. “It’s in my room. Why?”
“Ansgar Leifsson wants to see it. He said there used to be a—” Sif stopped. She could feel someone watching her. She looked over her shoulder. Nobody was looking in their direction. “Let’s go get it.”