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We Card Hard

By: Chistery

The trouble started when the filly came in the door.

Trick Glass had spent many seasons behind the bar down at the Dancing Marmoset discotheque in Canterlot.  He’d seen the rise and fall of baggy pants, loose leggings, frosted manes and seashell necklaces.  The drinks stayed more or less the same.  The swinging lights, pounding bass, the drink orders, peals of laughter - all of it was background noise and nothing more.  He had learned to accept the din and detect any wrongness.  Whether that was a person, a too-illegal drug in the crowd, or a few unkind words about to start a fight, Trick Glass had his inklings.

This close to the posh suburbs, underage clubbing was a problem.  When a filly decided to slip out of her parent’s house and come to the club, they had a certain sheen.  They all had a look somewhere between anxious and extremely enthusiastic.  That was a world no one over 18 summers settled in.

His nose twitched.  Trick sensed that feeling.

Routing the source of trouble didn’t take long.  Sure enough, the filly tried very hard to blend in, and her dress was certainly as … “original” as the rest of the Goth Night crowd.  Trouble was this was Tuesday, not a Thursday, and Lady’s Night didn’t see much traditional Nightingale lace.

Well, there was some lace, but only during Pride …

Trick caught a glimpse of long well-coiffed mane on a head just a fraction shorter than the rest of the crowd.  (Supposing she was a Shetland that could come off as racist, but this was shorter in the wrong way.)  She wasn’t laughing or chatting up anyone on the dance floor.  Four black hooves skirted the edges, wide eager eyes peering in on fillies dancing with fillies, colts and stallions dancing with fillies, fillies dancing for the thrill of dancing.  Her eyes held a quiet yearning and an excitement, drinking in the fray.

The barkeep had eyesight keen as lemons and a clean pair of lenses.  His very fine wrinkles had formed around the gold rims, seating the frames.  His olive eyes squinted.  Through the dance of pink and blue lights, her colors were muted though that was unimportant; the shape of things was paramount.  

The filly’s mane was too well-groomed to have just come off the street, but there wasn’t nearly enough makeup on her face to be out clubbing.  The long horn was very well-waxed; there didn’t seem to be any revealing cut of dress --

Yes.  Trick was definitely getting that feeling.

There were a few drink orders, all of them complicated.  He didn’t quite manage to alert security before finishing.  He peered about over the bar only to find the regular crowd.  Maybe she’d been scared off and gone home; it happened often as not.

He spent the better part of a lull in orders peering for her, then decided to clean glasses instead.  The words plausible deniability of minors on premises rang in his mind.


“May I please have a mead, sir?” came the small young voice at his elbow.

Turning he nearly missed the dark filly.  She seemed to fit every dark shade of the night club; this was surprising given the bright lighting in the liquor racks behind him and that damn disco ball the DJ’s never turn off just at his line of sight.

His heart sank just a little, inversely proportional to his rising ire.  It was indeed his mystery guest, bits in hand.  She was every bit a small bluebird of happiness, perched at his bar.  The winsome peak in her pale blue hair deepened the impression.

“Sorry, best I can give you is a Cherilee Temple,” he huffed, eyes darting for a security guard, sliding over a cheerful No patrons under 18 summers sign, “I’m sure …”

“I think I’d like a mead,” the short unicorn breezed, face expectant and pleasant.

The barkeep harrumphed.  He hadn’t survived some thirty university spring breaks to be taken for a ride.

“I think I’d like some ID, honey,” Trick snapped, hoof tapping the bar.

“Oh,” the filly reached in her extremely voguish loose dragonscale satchel, rustling about for a bit, “I think -- I think this is it,” pulling out a brown folio with a broken wax seal.  She placed it on the bar daintily.

He chuckled unkindly.  If this was a joke, it was a good one - one worth playing along before whistling for security.  Trick dried his hooves on a bar rag and picked up the oilskin.  It felt like something from his great-grandmother’s estate.  He found hold of paper inside and eased it out.

The creases of the document were yielding, as if it’d been opened and closed many, many times.  The parchment was yellowed but without a single blot or speck of ink in the improper place; there was a very faint lemon-colored watermark his eyes couldn’t make out in the harsh lighting.

The script was curvaceous and tiny.  Even his very good eyes had to squint.

By the proclamation of this, the Eastern Shambala Ecumenical Council the 15th day of Saturnalia the year of our glorious benefactor Princess Celestia 512, the goddess-currently-classified-as-demigod-or-nightmare by several religious orders, Princess Luna, who reigns eternal in her slumber and even yet peers over our young ones in deference to her Aspect as indicated by Holy Writ, is hereby considered no less than 513 summers of age, or no less than 511 in cases of extreme orthodoxy and adherence to the lunar calendar.  From henceforth ye shall add one summer to her number on the 5th of Mayproxy -

He paused.  There was an unpleasant sensation of blood draining to his hooves.

Two relatively very young olive eyes lifted a fraction.  He noticed the helpful “no patrons born after this date” dial was set in mid-983.  Math wasn’t a strongsuit, but Trick was very, very certain this had all gone poorly.  His face went ashen white - a feat, considering his dark roan coat.

The filly of some thousand summers unfastened a hidden pull string in her dress.  Cloth portals slid away, allowing midnight-navy-blue wings to unfurl as she rolled and stretched them to comfort.  Satisfied and settling into a bar stool, she smiled warmly.

Several bits ting-tinged on the bar.

“May I please have that with a straw?”