Poker Night

by SvenFoxx

First published

What's a game of high stakes poker held in the spaces between dimensions? Well... not boring, at least.

Twilight Sparkle receives an invitation to a night of high stakes poker at the mysterious The Inventory. Obviously, she is both curious and slightly mistrusting, so what does she do?

She goes All-In.

Let's place our bets.

1. Night One

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The day had started normally for Twilight. Well, normal for Ponyville.

Actually, scratch that. The day had actually been fairly abnormal in how utterly mundane it was. She woke up, did her business in the bathroom, came downstairs for some of Spike’s delicious cooking, and enjoyed the morning newspaper. Ten o’clock rolled around and she opened the library, just in time to intercept Derpy delivering her mail.

“Morning Twilight!” the ever bubbly Pegasus chirped happily.

“Good morning Derpy. Anything interesting today?” Twilight asked, mentally going through a variety of lists that detailed both what needed to be done today, and, time willing, what she could possibly do on the side.

This is when Twilight’s day became far more normal.

“Just your bills and an interdimensional first class delivery,” Derpy dutifully handed over the mail, and then promptly left, waving goodbye.

Twilight was already flipping through her mail. Her mind was on a few different things, and the coffee had yet to fully wake her up, so it took her a moment to register Derpy’s response.

She was inside the library and heading towards the desk she usually sat at when she froze. “Waitaminute…” She played Derpy’s words through her mind. “Inter… dimensional… first class delivery?”

Normally a line like that would have at least earned a scoff from a regular pony, but this particular Unicorn had been through two ancient evils returning and an invasion of what amounted to be near-perfect spies. Interdimensional mail really didn’t register on her bucks-to-give meter, at least not in any meaningful way.

Flipping through her mail again, this time with a purpose, she found the envelope she was looking for. Holding up in her magic, she examined it.

“Twilight Sparkle, the Golden Oak Library, Ponyville, Equestria, Equus.” Twilight blinked. “Since when did mail make the country and planet part of the mailing address?” She thought about that for a moment. “Well, it is supposedly from another world and/or reality, so I guess making sure it arrived on the right planet is important.”

She checked for a return address, only to find none. Twilight was beginning to think this was either a prank, or she was about to find herself in over her head with whatever this is.

As one final precaution before opening the envelope, Twilight scanned it for any kind of magic.

“Hrk!”

Twilight’s was flooded by the return signal she got, making her both woozy and suddenly very awake. That was a lot of magic. She also didn’t recognize the formation it was in, though she saw a few parts that resembled the runic method of teleportation.

“Definitely in over my head,” she muttered.

The magic didn’t feel aggressive, nor did it have the sensitive feel of a trap, so she decided it was safe to at the very least open.

A quick application of paper thin solidified magic, and Twilight was soon holding a folded letter and what looked to be an embossed invitation. She read the letter first.

“Dear Recipient,

“Through both careful consideration and a small amount of random lottery, you have been selected to participate in a night of high stakes Texas Hold ‘Em poker at The Inventory!

“I imagine you do not know of The Inventory, which is understandable considering we exist in a pocket dimension separate from most of the rest of the multiverse. Rest assured that we are a professional establishment. We will assure both your safety and mental and emotional well being from the employees and associates of The Inventory, as well as from the other players invited.

“If you choose to attend the game, please make sure to remain in physical contact with the provided invitation at exactly 9:00 PM in your world. The invitation will bring you to The Inventory as well as be your method of returning when the game is over.

“You are also afforded a Plus One to accompany you, however they will be your responsibility. As we serve alcohol and tobacco products, your Plus One must be an adult by the laws of your current residence to be accepted. To bring them with you, simply have them hold your invitation as well at 9:00 PM and they will be brought along with you.

“As this is your first night with us, we are willing to waive your buy-in fee. However, please take note that such a thing will not be repeated except in extenuating circumstances. Please also take note that we are not paying for whatever amenities you decide to partake in (i:e; drinks, tobacco, and food.).

“While your buy-in has been taken care of for tonight, we feel you must still be informed that the standard buy-in is currently twenty thousand dollars, or 2,000 bits in your world’s currency. You will be informed if plans arise to change this.”

Twilight whistled. That was not a small amount of money.

“We hope to see you tonight, Miss Sparkle, but understand if you have a prior engagement or do not trust the, admittedly, suspicious nature of the invitation.

“Regardless, please enjoy the rest of your day.

“Your Host
“Commodore Reginald Van Winslow (Retired)”

Twilight looked up, eyes furrowed in thought. For a moment, she considered whether or not she would attend, but then nearly smacked herself. First thing’s first.

“Spike! Come here please! I need you to take down a letter to the Princess.”

---

Bzwap!

Celestia blinked the spots from her eyes. That had certainly been the smoothest teleport she had ever been in, or at least for a teleport that was conducted by an inanimate object. She glanced over at her student, and suddenly had to fight down a giggle. “Are you alright, my student?” she asked.

Twilight grumbled as she tried to use her magic to smooth out her suddenly much floofier fur. “Why does this keep happening?” she asked to herself.

Celestia tilted her head. “You’ve teleported many times before and never been affected like that,” she noted.

“It’s only when I’m not the one doing the spell. I get caught in anyone else’s teleport and this happens.” Twilight frowned. “Princess, most of my magic is suppressed.”

Celestia frowned and reached into her own not inconsiderate well of power. Like Twilight, her own access to her magic was suppressed, though not removed entirely.

“My apologies, madams. That is a general safety feature of the world you are now in.”

The two mares turned to find a human male wearing an admirals cap and a red coat standing behind them. He had a genial smile. “Welcome to the Inventory.” He bowed slightly. Then he reached down and plucked Twilight’s invitation from the ground where it had fallen. “Miss Twilight Sparkle?” he asked, looking between them.

Twilight raised a hoof. “That’s me. Princess Celestia is my Plus One,” she said, gesturing to the Alicorn.

“Ah, very good,” the human said. He looked at Celestia. “While you will be afforded respect, please understand that your position holds no authority here,” he said.

Twilight sputtered at that, but was halted from saying anything by Celestia raising a hoof in her direction. “I understand. I assume you are mister Winslow then?” she asked.

The man frowned. “Oh where are my manners?” he asked himself before bowing. “Commodore Reginald Van Winslow, retired, at your service. I shall be your host and dealer tonight.” He straightened before leading the two mares towards a nearby building. “The other guests are already within. Please, follow me.

“May I ask some questions on the way?” Twilight asked.

---

The group came to a door that was a couple levels below the first floor of the building.

“This world naturally suppresses most talents that you would not otherwise find in this world.” Reginald said, answering Twilight’s question regarding their suppressed magic. “There is magic here, but it is a subtle magic, the kind that not many even believe exists. As such, only most of your power was suppressed, leaving you with enough to do minor things only, I imagine. One moment,” he said, before grabbing the handle of the door and turning it oddly. Then he let go and shoved against the wall around the door, making it and the door both slide back.

“Interesting method of hiding a room,” Celestia noted as they stepped onto the second floor balcony of the room. “Any particular reason for such an entranceway?” she asked.

“The Inventory began its life as an illegal club during a time when the local government was considering banning all video games,” Reginald explained, leading the two down the stairs. “It has since fallen into the hands of the Owner, and he decided to turn it into an invitation only club. Gambling is only a small part of this establishment. Normally we would take an elevator down to here, but it is currently out of order.”

“I’m still iffy on that, by the way. This can’t be legal.”

All three of them looked up at that and saw a human dressed in a blue and red spandex suit that seemed to be themed after spiders. He was somehow clinging to the ceiling with his hands and feet.

Reginald frowned. “Mr. Parker! You were asked to remain off the walls and ceiling during your time here. Come down here at once.”

The man cringed and dropped down to the floor, landing almost easily despite the almost three story drop. “Yeesh, talk about a buzz kill,” he said, taking his mask off to reveal a white skinned man with messy brown hair. He started walking towards the circular table in the center of the room.

“I thought you said…” Twilight said slowly.

“That it suppresses most powers. Clearly, Mister Parker is an exception. However, he is well practiced at controlling both himself and his powers so the Owner has graciously allowed him to continue visiting,” Reginald explained.

“Of course, powers don’t define a person.”

Once again the group looked up, and this time found themselves staring at a bipedal raccoon wearing a blue long sleeved shirt and cap and carrying a hooked cane. He was staring at them from the railing on the floor above them.

“Mr. Cooper.” Reginald smiled. “A pleasure to see you again.”

“Hey, you know me. Always up for a little excitement,” the raccoon said, before he vaulted over the railing and landed near the table. “Who else are we waiting on?” he asked, taking a seat and leaning his cane against the table.

Reginald led Twilight to the table. “Only two others. Miss Sparkle, there is no room at the table for your Plus One, I’m afraid. She will have to entertain herself while the game goes on. You are, of course, allowed to speak to her and ask her for advice, but she cannot observe the other players.”

Celestia nodded. “Again, I understand. I came here more as support for Twilight than anything else. If you don’t mind, I’d be interested in discussing the history of this building with you while they play.”

Reginald smiled. “Ah, I’d be delighted. But first, we must wait for the other two players.”

“Look no further,” came a male voice. Everyone turned to find a somewhat tall human with brown hair and dressed in a blue toga standing by the stairs. His eyes, oddly enough, glowed. “You know I always try to make time for one of these, Reginald.”

Reginald nodded. “ Indeed. I can imagine dealing with the Olympians is quite stressful.”

“Yo. Looks like I’m fashionably late, as usual.” This time the group looked up at the second floor, where they found a man with silver hair leaning against the railing and reading an orange book. His face was covered by a mask and headband both, leaving only his right eye exposed.

Reginald clapped his hands together. “Excellent! Everyone is here. If you’ll take your seats, please.”

A few moments of movement, and everyone was seated. Reginald came to stand next to Twilight. “Before we begin tonight’s game, I would like to introduce you to our newest player, Twilight Sparkle. In her home world she is a powerful magical Unicorn that is the personal student of their ruler. Everyone, please introduce yourselves.”

The raccoon tilted his hat. “Sly Cooper, at your service. I’m the latest in a long line of Master Thieves. Rest assured, I only steal from other thieves. Makes for an interesting challenge.”

The brown haired man wearing the red and blue spandex suit nodded at Twilight. “Peter Parker. I spend most days in my world as a hero in New York city. I’m your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!” He struck what he believed to be a dramatic pose only for most at the table to snicker at him. He grumbled and crossed his arms. “Well I think I’m cool,”

The man wearing the blue toga stood and bowed to Twilight. “I am Arkantos, and I am essentially a human that ascended to divinity through hardship and perseverance in the face of adversity. I managed to save the people of my home from a calamity, though not the home itself.”

Celestia, who had seated herself at the bar and ordered a drink, looked up at that.

The silver haired man put his book down. “Kakashi Hatake. Ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village. I like my friends and watching my students grow, and dislike those who abandon their friends and comrades. My dream has already come true, so now I am content with helping my students fight to make our world a better place.”

Celestia, who was already paying attention due to Arkantos’ introduction, adopted a thoughtful look at Kakashi’s introduction. ‘It sounds like he may fit in well at Ponyville…’ she mused.

Reginald pulled out a deck of cards and began expertly shuffling them. “As your invitations stated, tonight the game will be Texas Hold’Em Poker. Before we begin, does anyone need the rules explained?”

Silence.

“Excellent!” With a flourish, Reginald began dealing out cards. Once everyone had two, he placed the deck on the table in the center. “I will be the dealer this round, gentleman. Afterwards, however, Kakashi will be dealer, and each round it will go to whoever is on the left of the current dealer. The Blinds are currently two hundred and four hundred. I will inform you when they change.”

Twilight looked around. Kakashi was on her right, with Arkantos on her left, then Sly on his left, then Peter, and then back to Kakashi, meaning she would be dealer in two rounds. She also realized she was the only female player at the table.

Using her magic, she lifted her cards so she could see them.

‘It’s been a while since I played Poker, but even I know there’s not much I can do with this,’ she thought, throwing in her blind. A king of spades and a two of clubs.

“Call,” Sly said, throwing in his chips.

“Call,” Peter also joined the round.

“Hmm… No, not this time. Fold,” Kakashi slid his two cards forward and leaned back, pulling his orange book out and reading it once more.

Twilight shook her head. “I’m with Mr. Hatake. No thanks.” She slid her cards forward.

Kakashi chuckled. “Been a long time since anyone’s called me mister anything,” he said. “Go ahead and call me Kakashi, Ms. Sparkle. Kakashi-san if you must be formal.”

“Check” Arkantos said, tapping his cards with a knuckle. As Reginald pulled three cards from the deck, he said, “It’s been a long time since you deserved the title.”

Twilight blinked at the insult, and at how the table chuckled at the insult. Sly folded just in time to notice. “Not one of the types to poke fun at friends, are you?” he asked.

Peter also folded at the sight of the three cards on the table. Twilight shook her head. “No. Where I’m from friends are important, and we generally don’t do things that could endanger that. Friendship is one of the greatest sources of magic in my world.”

Arkantos pulled the pile of chips towards him, as he was the last player standing. “Not a great haul, but the night’s still young,” He commented.

Kakashi gathered all the cards together and began shuffling as Reginald made his way over to Celestia to begin their conversation. Arkantos glanced at Twilight. “Don’t worry about it. We’re not actually trying to insult each other… usually,” he added as an afterthought. “It’s just good-natured fun to us. We don’t expect you to insult us to fit in, but if you think you got a good stinger, by all means, let loose. The only time we’ll take offense is if you deliberately hit a sore spot.”

“My father and best friend,” Kakashi said. “I’m mostly over the loss, but I still don’t like people poking at them.”

“MJ… She died because of me, and I don’t want to be reminded about the woman I loved dying due to my actions. But by all means, pick fun at my taste in women, just… not her specifically,” Peter said.

“Haven’t found a subject yet that can really insult me, except maybe saying my friends are incompetent,” Sly added.

“Atlantis. While not particularly a sore subject for me, it is still uncomfortable to be reminded that I failed to save my homeland,” Arkantos said, before dealing out cards.

Twilight glanced at her cards, thoughtful. King of diamonds and ace of hearts. Royal Flush was out, but maybe she could pull a Flush?

Once Arkantos and Sly paid their blinds, Peter sighed and folded. “Nope. Not confident here.”

Kakashi also folded. “I guess this isn’t my round.”

Twilight threw in some chips. “Call.”

Arkantos threw in some chips and called as well. Sly looked at Kakashi. “So… ninja?” he asked.

Kakashi nodded, turning a page in his book. “Granted, we’re not the kind of ninja you would expect, but yes. Ninja, Shinobi, and Kunoichi. Trained in stealth, assassination, subterfuge, and hunting.” His eyes glanced at Sly. “Why? Looking for a Sensei?”

Sly Checked and shook his head. “No, just curious if your stealth training is anything like mine. Some of the techniques I learned were designed by my shinobi ancestor, so I’m curious.”

Kakashi picked up the deck and flipped out three cards. Twilight focused on them. Eight of spades, Jack of hearts, and a jack of diamonds.

She Checked. Nothing really worthwhile yet, but it didn’t cost anything to Check.

Another round of checks went by. Kakashi threw out another card. Eight of hearts. She checked again.

Arkantos smirked. “Let’s see some money. Raise,” he threw in some more chips.

Sly shrugged. “Alright, I’m in.” He grinned. “No, better yet, I Raise!”

Kakashi blinked. “Isn’t this supposed to be a friendly game of high stakes poker?” he asked.

That was enough for Twilight. “Neeeeeope!” she said, pushing her cards away. “Maybe if I had jack or eight, but I’m not stupid.”

Celestia at the bar snorted. “No, far from it. You regularly outstrip most scholars back home,” she commented, to a round of chuckles.

Arkantos sighed. “There went that bluff,” he mumbled tossing his hand on the table in a Fold.

Sly used his cane to pull the slightly impressive pile towards himself. “Tongue of silver, gentleman… and lady. Tongue of silver.”

“Wonder how Carmelita feels about that,” Sly’s cane whacked Peter in the back of the head in the blink of an eye, but he was still grinning at the guffaws that his comment had stirred up.

Twilight felt herself beginning to relax. She had her reservations of course, but to be perfectly honest? She was beginning to see that these people were friendly, if not exactly friends.

So far she didn't regret coming.

2. Night One Part Two

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A few more hands into the game, with no one really gaining any leads, Twilight's mood had dropped slightly.

She wasn't sure what it was. Something about the situation just... bothered her. These ponies... no, people...were affable enough, and she could tell that for the most part she was left alone when it came to the barbs they traded back and forth.

She was also hearing a few interesting stories regarding them. Sly had apparently gone on a few adventures himself, though it mostly centered around his family legacy. Arkantos had been a General in the Atlantean army, and had led his loyal soldiers on a mission of both revenge and duty to save the world from some kind of group called the Titans. Kakashi's world was war torn and not used to friendship, at least not between the different Countries, and his students were at the forefront of the wave of change spreading through it. And Peter led a fairly sad life, in Twilight's eyes, one where he was perhaps the greatest hero of his world, and yet was scorned by that world for seemingly no reason other than because this James Jonah Jameson character spread lies about him on a daily basis. She wasn't sure she could do that, go on being a hero knowing that the world hated you despite it.

Arkantos suddenly stood up, garnering their attention. "Gentleman, I propose we restart the game. I can tell some of you are not taking Miss Twilight seriously, and I would rather we played the game seeing each other as equals, rather than looking down on each other for the circumstances of our birth," his glowing eyes seemed to flare at this.

Twilight frowned. Was that why she felt tense? They didn't acknowledge her? Now that she thought about it, Kakashi and Peter didn't seem to actually speak to her at all, only really conversing with Sly and Arkantos. They answered questions, but... didn't really seem to be into doing so.

Kakashi and Peter lowered their heads. "Sorry," Peter mumbled. "I just... find it difficult to believe a Unicorn of all things is supposed to be impressive."

Celestia frowned. "And what is that supposed to mean?" she asked, a dangerous glint in her eyes. For a moment she had begun to think prejudice wasn't a problem in this place. Clearly she was wrong.

Reginald waved a hand to deflect her anger. "It is nothing personal, Madam, just that in most human worlds Unicorns, and Alicorns such as you, do not exist. They are parts of fairy tales and children stories, played up for little girls. In their minds they are having a hard time seeing Miss Twilight as anything other than that. It is not their fault, merely a product of the society they grew up in."

Peter sighed. "Honestly, after dealing with Spider-Pig, I shouldn't be letting this bother me." He looked at Twilight and stood, and then bowed at the waist. "Please forgive me, Twilight."

Twilight felt a little uncomfortable, but waved a hoof. "It's okay, honest. It's not like you're going out of your way to demean me." She glanced at her hand. "Though I have no problem starting over. My hand is crap."

With a round of chuckles and a broken tension, the game was restarted with everyone starting with twenty thousand chips again.

Reginald stood and made his way over. "Would you like me to determine who deals first, gentleman?" he asked.

Everyone glanced at each other, before Peter shrugged and raised a hand. "I'll do it," he said, grabbing the deck and shuffling. He dealt out the cards and set the deck back down.

Twilight looked at her cards. Five of hearts and six of diamonds. 'Could be worse. I could get a few different things with this. Let's see the flop before I do anything though.'

Kakashi and Twilight threw in their Blinds, 400 and 800 respectively. "What's your world like, Twilight? Besides friendship being a great source of magic I mean," Sly asked as Arkantos Folded. Sly frowned before Folding as well with a sigh.

Twilight hummed in thought. "Well... I guess the best way to describe it is 'peaceful'." She chuckled. "That's not to say there are no problems or war, but it's been a fairly long time since something like that happened. The Dragons had tried to invade and Princess Celestia convinced them to surrender after a short time."

Sly and Peter blinked. Sly frowned as he worked that explanation through his mind, but Peter gaped. "Dragon? You have Dragons in your world?" He grinned so widely that Twilight feared his head would split in two. "That is so cool!" he gushed. He also Called after a moment.

Kakashi also Called, chuckling. "Careful Peter, you're inner nerd is showing." He leaned back. "Though, to be fair, Dragons do sound interesting. The only thing close to that in our world would probably be the Legend of the Dragon Summons."

'Just three of us now. Not sure if that's a good sign or not.' Twilight thought, Checking.

Peter picked up the deck and put out three cards. seven of spades, king of spades, and four of clubs.

Twilight just stopped herself from grinning. 'I can work with that,' she thought. Kakashi Checked, and she did the same. "My assistant is a Dragon," she said with a fond smile. "He's a baby Dragon, granted, but still."

Peter looked at the pile of chips and smirked. "You know what? I see an awful lot of checks, but no actual money. Let's fix that. I Bet eight hundred."

'Uh oh. Does he have something? Or is he bluffing?'

"Making things interesting? Alright, I'll bite. I Call," Kakashi said, throwing chips into the pot.

Twilight hesitated, but decided another 800 wouldn't hurt too much if she lost. "I Call." She tossed her own chips in.

Peter flipped out another card. Eight of hearts. Twilight very nearly crowed in success.

Kakashi Checked.

Grinning, Twilight grabbed her chips. "I'm up for a little upheaval. I Bet 1,000," she said, throwing said chips out. She hoped it wasn't enough to scare them into Folding. She knew she could win this, but she wanted them to bet as much at they could first.

Arkantos whistled. "Gonna step up, Twilight? Let's see how you do," he said, grabbing his drink.

Peter threw in his chips. "I'll meet it."

Kakashi shrugged and threw in some chips as well. "Sure, let's see where this goes. Call."

Peter threw out one last card. Eight of clubs.

Kakashi's eye glinted. "I bet five thousand eight hundred," he said, shoving a pile of chips forward.

Arkantos, in the middle of drinking his water, choked and nearly spit it up. Twilight didn't blame him, she wasn't so confident anymore. Still, a Straight was hard to beat. "Call," she eventually said, levitating her pile forward.

Peter looked uncertain for a moment, but he visibly rallied himself and shoved all of his chips into the center of the table. "All-In!" he crowed. That was seventeen thousand and four hundred chips. Twilight gulped. She couldn't meet that. She only had two choices. Go All-In or backpedal hard with a Fold.

Kakashi leaned back. "Well... can't say I'm sure I'll win, but... I don't mind if I lose. All-In," he said, pushing the chips forward.

Twilight actually shivered, and looked up to Celestia. As per the rules, since Celestia was sitting at the bar, which was on the other side of the table, she was not looking towards them. "Princess? I..."

Celestia smiled. "There is no shame in admitting defeat, Twilight. If you are not confident you'll win, it is a common tactic to retreat so you may rearm and prepare for the next encounter," she said without looking.

Reginald nodded from next to her. "Princess Celestia is quite correct. The point of the game is to have fun first, and win second. No one will think less of you for backing down."

Hearing the words of comfort from her mentor, Twilight made her decision. "I'm All-In," she said, magically pushing all of her chips forward.

Sly whistled. "Would you look at that pot..." he mused. "I almost wish I stayed in."

Arkantos nodded. "Yes, though it's not often the beginning rounds see a pot like that," he commented.

Reginald walked over. "Alright, flip your cards over everyone."

Everyone flipped over their cards. Reginald took a moment to deliberate, then nodded. "Peter has two pairs. Kakashi has two pairs, and Twilight has a Straight." He smiled at Twilight while Peter groaned and Kakashi nodded to himself. "Twilight Sparkle wins, and wins quite a bit at that. Well done Miss Twilight, but do not get overconfident. It does not do to forget to be cautious in this game."

Twilight, grinning like a loon, nodded as she raked in her winning with her magic. All added up, she now had... wow... sixty thousand in chips. If she understood the conversion rate correctly based on her invitation... that was six thousand bits. A good amount of money indeed.

Peter sulkily stood up. "Well tonight went to crap fast," he grumbled, walking away. He waved as he did. "See you guys whenever."

Kakashi also stood up and pulled his orange book out. "Oh well. I don't bet what I'm not prepared to lose, so I'm okay with this." he faced Twilight and smiled, his eye doing weird thing where it looked like and upside down U. "Congratulation, Twilight. I hope to play against you again some day. Maybe I'll get my money back then."

Twilight almost returned with a kind gesture, but paused. Then, with a growing smirk, she said, "Nah, I think I'll just walk away twenty thousand chips richer."

Sly snorted and Arkantos laughed. "Excellent recovery, Twilight!" Arkantos praised, patting her on the back. "We'll make a sailor out of you yet!"

Kakashi walked away chuckling. "Perhaps. Perhaps."

Reginald walked up. "Well, I must say that this doesn't happen often. The first hand of a game is usually very calm. This one became very intense very fast. Before the next hand, would anyone like refreshments?"

"No," was the general response.

Reginald nodded. "Then carry on, gentleman."

3. Night One Part Three

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Twilight gathered the cards in her magic and began shuffling them. Sly spoke up as she did. "You mentioned it had been a long time since you guys were invaded by the Dragons... right? How long?" he asked curiously.

Twilight paused. "The invasion happened about four hundred years ago. It was the key event that led to the Skyland Concord, a peace treaty between Ponies and Dragons. Why?" she asked, dealing out cards. She looked at her own once everyone had a hand. 'Hmm... A king of and jack of spades. Here's hoping for lucky Royal Flush.

"You said Princess Celestia stopped the invasion?" Sly asked as he and Ark threw in their Blinds.

Twilight nodded. "I Call. And yeah," she said, throwing her chips in. "She was given the name The Final Flame when she did it. Again, why?"

"Call." Ark threw in his chips.

"How? That must make Celestia over four hundred years old." Sly Checked after saying this.

Twilight dealt out three cards. Ace of hearts, seven of hearts, and queen of diamonds. 'I may just get a Straight again,' she realized. She frowned, what Sly said registering. "Oh. I see what you're asking."

"I am ageless, Mister Cooper," Celestia said from the bar. "All Alicorns are ageless once we reach our prime. Not immortal, we can still be struck down or get sick, but age ceases to affect us after a certain point."

Sly frowned. "I've dealt with powers that make you ageless. So help me God if you say hate is involved in your agelessness..."

Celestia blinked. "What? No! It's nothing more than a natural biological function of the Alicorn body. Our magic is so potent that it revitalizes our cells. I suppose we are not truly ageless, so much as we are extremely long lived, but when you can count your lifetime in the centuries it stops mattering to you."

Sly noticed both Arkantos and Twilight were tense, staring at him, and realized he was gripping his cane rather tightly. He slowly forced himself to relax and let out a breath. "Sorry... Sorry, I'm just... I guess there is something that bothers me," he chuckled.

Arkantos nodded. "Just remember that we are not allowed to harm each other in any significant way, Sly. This is truly neutral territory. You couldn't even attack Clockwerk if he were standing next to you without serious repercussions."

Sly pulled off his cap and ran a hand through his hair. "I know, I know. I just..."

"Sly... why are you bothered by my age?" Celestia asked kindly.

Sly leaned back and stared at the ceiling. He sighed again. "I can't believe I let myself get that tense. I came here to relax, not get worried over ghosts from my past." He turned in his chair to look at Celestia. "Remember my story about Clockwerk? Remember the Hate Chip from the second encounter?"

Celestia nodded, before a hoof came to her mouth. "Oh..." she muttered. "No wonder my age would cause such a reaction." She suddenly turned to Reginald. "Commodore, would it be possible to make use of your abilities to have Mr. Cooper transferred with us back to our world? I wish to ease his mind regarding the age of my species."

Reginald sighed into his drink. "I'm afraid that is quite impossible madam. The Inventory is absolute in its neutrality. I cannot render aid in any form if it involves matters outside the business of The Inventory. It is how we maintain our legality with inter-dimensional authorities." He glanced at Celestia meaningfully here. "Please do pay attention to what I just said."

Celestia frowned. "...I see."

Arkantos clapped his hands. "So! I vote we move on with the game. All in favor?" Suffice to say his motion was carried unanimously. "I Check."

"Check." Sly said, somewhat subdued.

"Check." Twilight also said, considering in her mind if there was a way to help the raccoon.

She drew a card and laid it on the table. Three of hearts.

Arkantos smirked. "Let's see if there's a spine in you guys." He said, throwing two thousand and two hundred into a bet.

Sly sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Sorry, I'm not feeling it right now. Fold."

Twilight frowned. 'I may be able to pull this off if the last card is a ten, but do I want to risk it?' she glanced at her chips, then blinked. She face hoofed. 'I have enough chips that I cane call this without worry.' She Called.

The last card was a nine of diamonds. Twilight groaned. "Well that didn't work," she grunted.

Arkantos chuckled. "It's a mind game just as much as it is a game of luck and skill. Sometimes you have to fight your own fear to make the risky bets. Sometimes it pays off... and sometimes it doesn't." He Checked.

Twilight Folded with a huff. Arkantos pulled his winning to him. Three thousand and eight hundred chips. Not impressive, but still something. He also gather up the cards and started shuffling. He paused though, seeing Sly looking a little down still. "Reginald, how much are drinks tonight?" he asked.

Reginald looked away from his conversation with Celestia. "Ten tokens a drink. Have you changed your mind?" he asked, standing.

Arkantos shrugged. "Sort of? Go ahead and get Sly a drink, on me. Maybe some alcohol will help." He pulled a pouch from his belt and poured some gold coins on the counter, garnering Twilight's attention. He counted out ten and handed them to Reginald when he came by with the drink.

Reginald put a wooden mug in front of Sly. "Alcoholic root-beer," he said. "Your favorite, I recall."

Sly managed a smile and grabbed the handle. "Thanks Regi, Arkantos," he said, saluting his mug towards the Atlantean.

"Wait, you guys use Bits here?" Twilight asked.

Arkantos paused. "Bits?" he asked.

Twilight pulled one from her nearby saddlebags with her magic and presented it to Arkantos. He took it and examined it. "Huh. Look at that. Hey, Reginald! Did you know about this?" he asked, waving the host over.

"The token? What about it?" he asked, seeing the coin in Arkantos' hand.

"It's not a token. Twilight called it a Bit, the currency of her world I think." Arkantos handed it to Reginald. Reginald examined it.

"I see..." he mused. "I will have to speak with the Owner about this."

"But... wait, I don't understand?" Twilight said, confused.

Reginald looked at Twilight. "The gamblers of The Inventory are held to a specific currency, that of the Inventory Tokens, to purchase amenities. Tokens can be earned through placing second or first in our tournaments, or bought using other recognized currencies. However, it seems your world's Bit is a very near exact copy of the Inventory Tokens."

"Is that a problem?" Twilight asked.

"Yes. You could theoretically ruin the economy of The Inventory by using Bits as Tokens, or your own economy by using Tokens as Bits." Reginald flipped the coin. "May I keep this, Miss Sparkle? I wish to show it to the Owner so as to convince him of the issue."

"Uh... sure. I guess. I mean, I don't want to cause an issue."

Reginald nodded and pocketed the coin. "Thank you, Miss Sparkle. You may resume your game at your leisure," he said, walking off.

4. Night One Part Four

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A few more hands in, and Twilight had found herself breaking even with Arkantos for the most part, with Sly forced to play All-In most of the time just to stay in. Twilight had bet big on the hope of another Straight, but it had flopped and Arkantos had taken that pot. But then another big bet had come in and Sly had bet most of his chips. He lost to Arkantos, but he seemed to be enjoy himself more now, which made Twilight happy. Twilight had also noticed that Peter and Kakashi were still in the club, Peter playing a game machine over by the stage and Kakashi sitting on Celestia’s other side at the bar. He was involved in the discussion between her and Reginald.

Now it was Arkantos’ turn to deal again, but before he could Reginald approached the table.

“Gentlemen, I will now be raising the Blinds from four hundred and eight hundred to six hundred and twelve hundred,” he stated.

The group nodded and Arkantos dealt out the cards. Sly and Twilight paid their Blinds, then examined their cards.

‘Six of hearts and nine of hearts.’

Arkantos threw fourteen hundred chips in. “Raise. I feel good about this.”

Sly tipped his hat up with his cane. “No messing around this round? Alright. I Call,” he said, throwing most of chips in.

Twilight Called as well.

“Hey, Twilight?” Peter walked over and stood near the table. “You said Pegasi control the weather of your world?”

Arkantos threw out three cards. Five of spades, queen of clubs, and five of clubs.

Twilight frowned at the cards. “Yeah. Pegasi are born with the instinctual ability to use their magic to manipulate clouds, walk on them, and even stir up tornadoes and hurricanes if enough work together.”

Said frown became an O of surprise when Sly grunted and shoved all of his chips into the pot. “All-In,” he declared, his eyes daring anyone to challenge him.

Twilight decided to be daring. “I’m in!” she said, throwing in the required chips. Not like she was losing all that much if she lost anyways.

Arkantos looked thought, before shaking his head and pushing his hand away. “No, not this time,” he said softly. He looked around. “Alright, hands up everybody,” he instructed.

Twilight flippd her cards over, and Sly did the same. Sly’s smirk turned into a grin. “Ha! My ten beats your nine.” He had an eight of hearts and ten of spades.

Twilight let her head hit the table. “Crap,” she muttered.

Arkantos threw out a card. King of clubs. Twilight continued muttering to herself while Sly started twirling his cane smugly. He put down the final card. Twilight looked at it. King of diamonds.

Sly crowed to himself. “Yes! I am back in the game!” he said, reaching for the pot.

“Wait,” Arkantos said, stopping Sly. “You didn’t win.”

Sly stopped and looked at Arkantos in confusion. “What? But the only difference is our hands, and mine is higher with the ten kicker!”

Twilight shook her head. “No, that last king changed everything. The best hand both of us can use is two pairs with the queen as a kicker. Neither of our hands are actually involved, just what the dealer put out.” Twilight smiled. “It’s a tie.”

Sly looked at the cards again, and realized she was right. The best hand for them both came purely from the five cards on the table, and not their hands. If he tried to change the queen for his ten Twilight would win with the queen as a kicker. “Well crap. Didn’t see that coming.” He shrugged and looked at Twilight. “Equal split?”

Twilight nodded. “Sure.”

Arkantos divided the money and they took their winnings. Seventy-two hundred chips for the both of them.

Twilight did some fast mental math in her head. She had 42500, Arkantos had 45300, and Sly now had 7200.

As Sly began shuffling the cards Twilight looked at Peter. “You were asking about Pegasi?”

Peter nodded. He had also been drawn in by the finale when Sly had gone All-In. “It was more curiosity than anything. There’s a few people back in my world that can control weather too. Ororo for one is kinda considered a Goddess of storms by her people.”

“Is she actually a Goddess?” Celestia asked from the bar curiously.

Peter shrugged. “Once I would have said that was impossible, since I didn’t believe in Gods and Goddesses, but I’ve reconsidered my stance on that after meeting Thor. I don’t actually know if she is a Goddess, but she holds herself as one.” He waved his hand. “Not in that she thinks she’s above all, but that she takes the responsibility of caring for those who worship her seriously. That’s why I’m not really bothered by her claiming as such. She is probably one of the few people I don’t mind calling themselves Gods, because they actually treat it as a duty and responsibility, rather than a right.”

“Interesting,” Twilight and Celestia both said to themselves.

Sly dealt out the hands. Twilight and Arkantos paid their Blinds and looked at their cards.

‘Queen of diamonds and four spades. Two pairs is probably the best I could do with this. Maybe three of a kind if I get really lucky.’

“Call,” Sly said, throwing in twelve hundred.

“Call,” Twilight parroted, throwing in six hundred.

Arkantos Checked.

Sly dealt out three cards. King of hearts, five of hearts, and ten of clubs. Twilight cringed, but Checked. Might as well see how it goes.

“So the other people that can control weather in your world, is it all the same power, or are they different?” Twilight asked.

“Oh, they’re different powers that control different aspects of weather, though some have control over weather period instead of parts of it. “Thor, the guy I mentions, is actually the Norse Gods of Thunder, and let me tell you, getting hit by him hurts.”

Sly grinned and pushed his remaining six thousand chips in. “All-In!” he declared.

Twilight pushed her hand away. “No thanks,” she said, Folding.

Arkantos shrugged. “Sure, let’s do it.” He threw in six thousand.

Twilight turned in her seat to continue her discussion with Peter. “How many gods are in your world?” she asked curiously.

Peters scratched the back of his head. “Technically only a few. Most Gods live in their own worlds away from our own, though Thor is a regular visitor. Let’s see…” Peter started counting with his fingers. “There’s Ororo, then there’s T’Chala, her husband, though he’s more an Avatar than an actual God. There’s Bruce, who some have been calling the God of Wrath, though whether he’s actually a physical God or not is up for debate. I guess Captain Marvel, but again I’m not entirely sure if she counts.”

“Fascinating,” Twilight said. “Our rulers, Celestia and Luna, are considered by many to be Goddesses of the Day and the Night. I grew up around Princess Celestia, and befriended Luna, so I don’t really see them as that, but still. I suppose there’s also Discord,” she said with obvious distaste.

Peter recognized that look and tone. “Bad guy?”

Twilight huffed. “He’s the physical embodiment, a God in all but name I suppose, of Chaos and Disharmony. He escaped his stone prison a while ago and turn our world inside out.”

“Inside out? What is his power?” Peter asked, almost afraid to ask.

“He…” Twilight paused, considering. “Well, I guess his power is the ability manipulate reality on a whim, though I imagine there are limits and restrictions, as he can be contained when we use the Elements of Harmony on him.”

Peter’s heart dropped. “Please tell me you didn’t turn a freakin’ Reality Warper into stone twice…”

Twilight looked at Peter. “Er… we did? Why?”

Peter sighed explosively. “Lovely. Just.... Amazing.” He looked at Twilight. “You need to release him.” He held up a hand to stop Twilight from protesting. “I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished, but he’s not actually contained, especially if this is the second time being turned to stone. If he has the power to effectively do whatever he wants, don’t you think he would prepare for the eventuality of him being turned to stone again? In my experience Reality Warpers will always find a way to influence things from their prison, either through astral projection, empathetic manipulation, or even straight up possessing someone else. Or maybe some other way I can’t think of right now.”

Celestia frowned, having overheard the conversation. “Discord was never one for subtle manipulation… but then again he spent one thousand years in stone with his awareness preserved. I can’t say how that would have affected him.”

Peter winced. “Ouch. That sounds… cruel.”

“Sly Cooper wins the pot,” Reginald declared from where he observed the back and forth betting of Arkantos and Sly.

Sly pulled the pile of chips in with nod. “Pleasure cheating you out of your hard earned money.” Fifteen thousand and six hundred chips firmly put him back in the game.

Arkantos grumbled good-naturedly.

Twilight turned back around in her seat while Celestia grew thoughtful. She began shuffling the cards. “That may sound cruel, but his antics were literally driving ponies insane. He had to be stopped,” Twilight said firmly. “He had this power that let him invert our personalities. My best friends became terrible shadows of themselves when he got a hold of them, and it was not easy to remind myself and them of who we truly were. If not for Princess Celestia’s quick thinking, we’d still be stuck under his chaotic rule.”

She dealt out the cards. “I guess, thinking about it now, I regret that we chose to stone him again… but I do not regret stopping him.” She looked at Celestia, and their eyes met. They nodded to each other. “I can promise to look into a different punishment, but that’s it.”

5. Night One Part Five

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Five of diamonds and ace of hearts. Twilight put her cards down thoughtfully as Arkantos and Sly paid their Blinds.

‘When in doubt, go along with the first round,’ she decided, Calling.

“What kind of things did your family develop for that book of yours?” Arkantos asked Sly, Calling.

Sly glanced at him. “Now I know you aren’t trying to learn family secrets… right?” he asked, then smirked. “I Raise,” he said, pushing six thousand and eight hundred forward.

Arkantos waved a hand as Twilight blinked. “Not details. I’m merely curious if there’s anything in there similar to the kind of training I received while in the Atlantean army. You know, standard guerrilla warfare tactics, battlefield wisdom, that kind of thing.”

Twilight eventually decided to Call, matching Sly’s bet. Arkantos Folded.

Sly tapped his cane on the floor in thought as Twilight dealt out three cards. Ten of hearts, jack of hearts, and five of hearts. “I guess there is a sort of wisdom test all Cooper children are given. We get taken aside, stood before a door, doesn’t matter what door, and told, “This test ends when you open the door.”” He threw some more chips into the pot. “I bet four thousand,” he said.

Twilight knew she had a pair at least, and whatever else may come up from the next two cards. She had also realized by now that Sly usually bluffed when it came to big bets, so she was confident he either had nothing, or only a pair. ‘Here’s hoping for another ace,’ she thought, Calling his bet.

She pulled out a four of hearts. Twilight suddenly realized that if Sly had any hearts, he had her with a Flush.

Arkantos meanwhile was puzzling out the sentence Sly had said was a test. “Is the door barred somehow?” he asked.

Sly grinned and shoved all of his chips into the pot. “All-In!” he exclaimed. He looked at Twilight. “Afraid of a little thirty six hundred bet like that?” he asked with a smirk.

Twilight glared. “Call,” she said, shoving some of her own chips in to match it.

Celestia sighed. “My student will lose if she let’s Mister Cooper continue to goad her like this,” she noted to Reginald and Kakashi.

Kakashi shrugged. “She’ll learn, even if it’s the hard way. Besides, her buy in was waived tonight, remember?”

“Indeed. Still, best not to let bad habits develop, no?” Reginald added.

Sly and Twilight stared at the seven of hearts she drew from the deck. “Huh.” they mirrored in bemusement.

Arkantos snorted, then laughed. “Ha! You two have tied more than beaten each other in this game!”

They both had a Flush straight from the five cards on the table, and nothing that could top it.

Wordlessly, Twilight split the thirty two thousand and four hundred chip pot with Sly, leaving them both with a sixteen thousand and two hundred gain.

“This is not a good sign,” Twilight sighed. She did some math in her head. She had 46,900, Arkantos had 36,900, and Sly had the 16,200 he had just won. She wasn’t doing badly, but she wasn’t really doing well either. She was free-floating in the forty thousand area.

“Anyways, what’d you say Ark?” Sly asked.

Arkantos frowned at the nickname, before deciding he didn’t really mind it. “Is the door in the test barred somehow?”

Sly tilted his head to the side. “Well, the door that was used for my test was just the door to the kitchen. Dad said all that was in the kitchen was the normal stuff when I asked. It wasn’t locked or barred either. I could open the door at any time I wanted.”

“The test ends when you open the door. It’s not locked, and nothing of note is behind it,” Twilight murmured to herself in thought. She frowned. “Wait. The test ends when you open the door? You don’t pass the test when you open it?”

Sly nodded at her. “Yep. The door opening was nothing more than the end of the test. In order to pass you had to do something not many people who are smart think to do. Something my father always told there was no shame in, and something most thieves rarely think to do.”

“And what would that be?” Arkantos asked.

Sly shrugged with a smirk. “Ask,” he said bluntly, making the two blink. “In particular, ask for help. By admitting you don’t understand the test and asking for help, you pass by proving your pride as a thief doesn’t rule you.” He twirled his cane. “The success of the Coopers in our thieving ways doesn’t come from skill, but from our willingness to work together towards a common end with friends and or foes alike.”

“Wise words,” Arkantos and Celestia both said at the same time. “Truly, my struggle before my ascension would have been impossible if not for the friends I made during my travels and the loyalty they gave me. I owe then an incredible debt. If not for them, the people of Atlantis would have perished alongside our home,” Arkantos continued. He began shuffling the momentarily forgotten cards.

Sly nodded. “I would have died in that first fight against Clockwerk if not for my friends,” he said softly.

Twilight also nodded. “The friendship I share with my friends is what powers the Elements of Harmony, Equestria’s greatest force of Harmony and Light. Even then, they pulled me off of a road I had no idea I was travelling. I would have been successful as a powerful mage, yes… but I would also have been so very lonely.” She hugged herself. “I have nightmares about what would have happened had I not accepted their friendship.”

Arkantos dealt out cards, and Sly and Twilight paid their Blinds. Twilight peeked at her cards. ‘Eights. A spade and diamond.’

“Call,” Arkantos threw in his chips.

“Call,” Sly mimicked him.

‘I could bet. They probably don’t have a pair like I do… No, let’s just move the game along for now.’ “Check,” she said.

Arkantos dealt out three cards. Queen of clubs, nine of clubs, and seven of clubs.

Twilight smiled. ‘I just need a ten. Come on ten!’ she crowed mentally.

Sly pushed a pile of chips forward. “I bet fifty six hundred,” he said calmly.

Twilight immediately Called, matching his bet.

Arkantos shook his head though, leaning away from the table. “I Fold.” was all he said.

He dealt out a fourth card. Two of spades.

Sly pushed the rest of his chips into the pot. “All-In,” he said. That was ninety four hundred chips.

Twilight stared at the cards on the table, and considered. Was she willing to give up nearly ten thousand more chips on a low possibility of a ten? She slowly shook her head. No, but it grated on her slightly that she was backing down like that. “I Fold.”

“Thanks for your business,” Sly grinned, pulling the chips in. He had won twenty four thousand and two hundred that time.

Twilight simmered to herself, before firmly deciding she would try her hand at bluffing next round.

6. Night One End, Daytime Event One

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The game continued on from there, with only some minimal betting happening between games. Twilight had in fact been presented with a challenge against Sly again, and though she wasn't entirely confident in her hand, she let herself get goaded into losing most of her chips. After that she had become a bit subdued in her playing, being far more careful.

Idle chat and conversation peppered the rest of the game, and before long Arkantos found himself making one risk too many, and Sly ended up kicking him out of the game. Next thing Twilight knew she was in a showdown against Sly.

"I come from a world eerily similar to this one, you know?" Sly said as he shuffled the cards.

"How so?"

"The countries, nations, and basic geology were all the same, even most of the history, but instead of humans it was occupied by animals like me."

"Like you?" Twilight asked.

Sly shrugged. "You know, upright on two legs, speaks English,, but animals... and chock full of all our own cultural assholes." He sighed. "The less said about our government the better." Seeing Twilight's curiosity, he decided to humor her. "Most lawyers are sharks, most police officers are canines, though there are felines as well intermingled, and most politicians are weasels. The cherry on that lovely cake is the orangutan of a President." He puts the deck of cards down to rub his face with his hand. "I'm not one for racial stereotyping, unless it's in good clean fun, but our government makes it far too easy at times..."

Twilight could only wince in sympathy.

The hands went back and forth for a while after that, and Twilight made a bit more small talk with Sly while Arkantis amused himself with what sounded like a fairly in depth conversation about leadership qualities between him, Celestia, and Kakashi. However, as the night drew into the morning hours, Twilight decided to just call it a night and concede defeat to Sly.

Twilight shook Sly's hand with her hoof, barely managing to hold in a yawn, and began gathering her saddlebags. "I hope I get the chance to play against you guys again," she said as the rest of the group, including Celestia and Reginald, gathered around the table.

Reginald held up a bag that jingled and tossed it to Sly. "As the winner of tonight's tournament, you get one hundred Inventory Tokens. Congratulations." He turned to Twilight and held up a slip of paper towards her. Curious, Twilight took it in her magic and looked at it. "As you have a currency that almost exactly mirrors the Tokens, the Owner has agreed that, until this situation is resolved, you will have to make use of a different means to track your Tokens. As such, that slip of paper is worth the fifty Tokens you earned tonight by placing second in the tournament," he explained.

True enough, the paper had a written 50 on it, alongside two signatures, Reginalds signature and one that simply says The Owner. Twilight slipped it into one of her bags and shook Reginald's hand. "Thank you for the fun night," she said to him, before looking at the others. "All of you. Thanks."

Celestia approached. "Are you ready, Twilight?" she asked, holding the invitation that had brought them to the Inventory in her magic. "Mr. Winslow says this will take us home once we're both touching it," she explained.

Twilight gave a tired smile and placed her hoof against it. She looked back at her new friends and waved. "Bye everypony!"

Then Celestia also touched it, and they were gone.

---

The next morning, Celestia awoke after maybe four hours of sleep to raise the sun. After a quick bath she made her way to the dining room her and Luna usually meet at for breakfast.

Luna had by now already closed Night Court and was already devastating her way through a vegetable burger with mashed potatoes and gravy. Celestia, in contrast, had a simple bowl of cereal. This was Celestia's morning, but for Luna she would soon be going to bed.

"How did the game go?" Luna asked once Celestia was settled in her chair.

Celestia swallowed her first bite of cereal. "Twilight is a very novice player, but she placed second in the tournament. She is easily goaded into being reckless with bets, but she also seemed to have a certain kind of luck that sees some of those bets return big rewards."

"And who did she play against? Players from across the world like we theorized?"

Celestia paused. "No. Actually, that was something that greatly surprised me. Twilight is the only one from this world invited to the game." She frowned as Luna blinked in surprise. "Starswirl was right, Luna. There is far more than just the human world across the mirror out there. Not only that, but apparently there is a sort of police force that enforces specific rules regarding travel between worlds."

"Yes, about that..."

Luna, having just come from time, in her perspective, where war and battle was more common, reacted first to the unfamiliar voice. In a flash of blue light she was in the air and spinning. A curved beam of pure magic arced from her horn in the direction of the voice. it exploded on contact and scattered shattered marble all over.

Celestia, though her instincts for war were dulled by centuries of peace. did not disappoint when she immediately banished the table and all of its contents towards the intruder at the same time that the beam of magic hit.

The table split down the middle and both pieces flew by the intruder without touching him. Said intruder, a human, held a hand out towards Luna, a blue shimmering barrier standing between it and her, likely having blocked her attack. His other hand gripped a simple looking sword, though one that even Celestia's limited knowledge on bladed weapons told her was well cared for.

"Parlay?" the human offered up with a hopeful grin. He sheathed his sword at his side and let the shield fade away. Then he held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Please, I come peacefully. I would have set up an appointment with you, but your world is unused to humans such as myself. I did not wish to cause a public scene."

"Who are you?" Luna demanded, landing next to her sister while conjuring a sword of magic. "And why are you here?"

The man held his right fist over his heart and bowed his head. "Captain Michael Andrews, of the S.S. Joseph. I am here in regards to your adventure through worlds."

Celestia frowned, before motioning to her sister to stand down. Luna did so hesitantly, but did not dispel her sword. "Am I in trouble?" she asked, addressing what she believed to be his reason for such a visit.

Michael shook his head. "No ma'am. I represent the military force that patrols the multiverse. We call ourselves Peacekeepers, as our entire job is to prevent chaos and upheaval on an inter-dimensional level. As such, a section of us is charged with ensuring all worlds capable of inter-dimensional travel is both logged, registered, and assessed for threats."

Luna tensed again. "Threat assessment?" she asked archly.

Michael nodded. "We examine the world for things that could threaten the World Order, a set of loose rules and regulations that inter-dimensional travelers must follow when they travel between worlds. We are concerned about a few things we have discovered in your world, and hope to discuss that with you at some point in the future, but this first visit is for the purpose of explaining the World Order to you, as well as discussing the possibility of making inter-dimensional travel a publicly available privilege in your world."

Even Luna's eyebrows rose in surprise at that. "Publicly available? I would think secrecy was important to the protection of this World Order."

Michael frowned. "It was, once, but a threat got loose once that very nearly destroyed all worlds, and it was thanks to the courage of a young man and his friends that we were saved. It came at a great cost though, and to this day he still searches for the friend he lost during that adventure. Due to this the existence of the multiverse at large was exposed." He sighed. "That entire situation was a disaster. We would have helped, but we were quite literally locked into our own world by the monster that caused it. We could do nothing but watch as darkness nearly consumed everything." He straightened after a while. "So now we police the multiverse more openly, and offer newly discovered worlds a safe way to travel between the worlds."

"Surely there must be a catch. A price," Luna said. "There is no such thing as a gift without a price, even if that price is one the gift giver pays."

Michael nodded. "The price is that Equestria must sign an agreement that makes any traveler adhere to the World Order while outside their world. Equestria will not unduly attempt to expand into other worlds without proper need, and even then must do so peacefully through us. Your currency will be evaluated for exchange rates, which will allow us to levy a tax on anyone who makes use of inter-dimensional travel through our own methods." He held up his hands in a "hold" motions. "Don't worry, the tax is only one method. There are others we can negotiate, but you were correct in stating there is a price. It's either apply the tax, or make it a direct payment whenever the travel stations are used."

Celestia sighed. "Joy. More work." She drew herself up. "Very well. Let's get started on this."

---

A few days later saw Twilight reading a newspaper in disbelief.

NEW WORLDS, NEW HORIZONS

As many of you know, the Princesses announced during both of their court times that a press conference was to be held, yesterday by the time you, our readers, will be reading this. During this press conference the Princesses, Celestia and Luna, revealed quite the bombshell. We are not alone in reality. In fact, we are an infinitely small part of reality.

Now, obviously, a claim like that would require some proof. Said proof was a live human of all things, and one that claimed he not only comes from another world, but is a member of a military force dedicated to preserving what he called the World Order. Michael Andrews, the humans, explained that Princess Celestia had discovered a means to travel between dimensions, garnering the attention of the military force Michael Andrews is a part of. Afterwards he had confronted our Princess secretly and offered her the chance the put Equestria on the multiversal map.

This reporter personally asked how such an inclusion could benefit Equestria, and how the rest of the multiverse benefited from our inclusion.

"Yours is a world of magic. Not just any magic though, but potent magic. Magic is a rare force out there in the multiverse, and one wars have been fought over. I won't deny that my hope is some of you ponies choose to join the Peacekeepers. That is how we benefit from Equestria joining the multiverse. How do you benefit? Well, besides the obvious sense of adventure I can see shining in the eyes of nearly every pony here, I can guarantee you that out there is some forms of magic you likely have never even come close to discovering yet. Magic may be rare, but wherever it can be found tends to have extraordinary magics. You could all learn a great deal from information exchange alone. Another benefit is the allies you could make, an additional protection against the variety of monsters and creatures that threaten you all."

This was his response.

As Twilight continued to read a question was growing in her mind. Did this happen because we went to that game?' she wondered.

The paper continued to detail how eventually every major city in the country would have a building dedicated to housing the portal that would take anypony to another world. Each Portal Station would be manned and maintained by a member of the Peacekeepers, the military in charge of policing the multiverse, and that anypony that chose to make use of the portal would pay a fee for each use. The fee wasn't cheap, but it wasn't expensive either. Anypony could afford it with a bit of work.

For now though, only Canterlot would have a functioning Portal Station for trial purposes.

Twilight put the paper back on the kitchen table and sighed. She had no idea that going to a poker game of all things would result in such a radical change to their own world.