This poem came out of the December 4, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from siliconshaman and kelkyag. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. This poem belongs to the series Path of the Paladins; you can find the other poems in that by visiting the Serial Poetry page.
It's a game meant for four players,
but there are only three of them --
Gailah and Barzay and Talaton --
because few want to play with
a deposed goddess.
The pieces are jewels that shine like stars
in a quartet of colors scattered about,
which is Gailah's work;
the board is wrought of malleable metal
that bends a bit beneath the pieces,
which is Barzay's work;
the base is raised into a narrow tower
with a point to balance the board atop it,
which is Talaton's work;
and the rules --
They do not mention the rules
or the one who made them,
although the play remains the same
and they miss him.
It is so much harder
to play quarterboard this way,
with only three players.
For the fourth side, they must either
share the pieces and the plays,
which makes a mess of the strategy;
or they must leave out those pieces entirely,
which makes whole categories of move impossible.
The goal is to reach
the gilded pin in the center.
When they were little ones
playing at the hem of their parents' robes,
they could do this three times out of four.
Now, two times out of five,
the board tilts wildly off balance,
pouring the pieces onto the polished floor
and everyone loses.
and heaves herself up
to hunt for the lost pieces
that have rolled under Talaton's altar.
Perhaps in time
their fourth will return to them,
or they will find a replacement for him
although for her the thought of that
hurts more than her history.
Barzay gives her a soft cluck of encouragement
as if trying to settle a restless horse,
and begins to place the pieces
back on the board.