In response to a prompt from livejournal’s tuftears. 400 words. No previously-published characters.

“Step right up!” the human called, in Trade Kintaran. “Old human game– put away the sensors, please– called Find the Pea! Who’ll wager their eyes against my human hands?”

The Kintarans crowded around, some rearing up with a balancing forepaw on a neighbor’s shoulder (lower or upper). The human lifted one half-sphere, revealing a bright green fluff-ball that begged to be swatted. He hid it again and swiveled three identical “shells” about, reversing their positions, lifting again– “there’s the pea!” –covering again, swapping them about… “Who’ll wager? Five marks a try! Win fifteen!”

A brown-and-black splotched female slapped down a five-mark slip and pointed. “There!”

The human lifted the half-sphere. “So sorry!” He used one hand to lift the other two– the fluff was in the adjacent shell. “Try again?”

“Again!” she agreed, slapping down another five-mark and watching intently as he shuffled the shells about. When he stopped, she pointed again. “That one!”

Again… nothing. “My apologies!”

The female snarled and twisted, rearing up on her hind legs to find a clear spot to jump to. Her tail narrowly missed smacking the five-mark slips off the table, but the human grabbed them in time.

“Who’ll wager? Your eyes against my hands!”

A solid gray male did– and lost. His companion, amber-gold, gave a try; there was a cheer when the shell revealed green and the man ruefully paid out fifteen marks.

He continued his call as the pair made their way out, satisfied, and other Kints came to try their hand. (And if he won five times out of six, no one stayed long enough to notice.)

“Last wager of the day!” he called, then blinked as he saw the Kintarans around him weren’t watching him, but instead…

A pair of small, scarlet-tipped gray ears appeared at the table’s edge, followed by scarlet tabby markings on a gray forehead, followed by golden eyes.

“A wager, little one?”

The small child watched him, not the moving shells. She pointed, still watching him. “Tha’.”

His smile gone fixed, he lifted the shell. “Quite right,” he said.

“Fif’n maks,” the child lisped, holding out a hand.

He paid, while the other Kintarans murmured quietly, not crowding the youngling. One, an old male, asked, “Do you need help finding your mother, shaman?”

The child looked up and nodded sadly, its nose starting to run with tears as it clutched the money-slips. “Uh-huh!”