Manehattan Moo

by hawthornbunny

Chapter 1: The Great Bovine Deity

The three Crusaders sat on their stools, looking at Babs Seed in confusion as she began dumping packs of playing cards onto the clubhouse table in front of them.

"Uh... is that what you're s'posed to do?" Apple Bloom asked, as Babs emptied a fourth pack and began spreading the cards around with her hooves, shuffling them into a messy, face down heap.

"Yup," said Babs.

"Seems disorganised," said Silver Spoon distastefully from next to Babs, where she was sitting with Diamond Tiara. "How are we supposed to know which cards are ours?"

"I haven't dealt any cards yet," said Babs. "You'll all have a hoof of cards."

"And what's the idea of the game?" Diamond asked.

Babs said nothing, but continued shuffling the heap of cards until she seemed satisfied.

"Babs! You didn't answer me," Diamond said. "Silvy and I know all kinds of card games but I never heard of this Moo game. It sounds stupid."

"It's awesome," Babs said, her eyes shining with excitement and, Diamond noted, an unexpectedly sinister glint. "You're all gonna love it. Promise you. It's the best game ever." With the heap of cards in front of her, she began dealing cards from it, delivering them with expert flicks of her hooves to herself and each of the five other players. "One of our new members at the MCMC introduced us to it, and we've been playing it every Friday ever since." After a few moments, each filly held five cards in hoof.

"MCMC?" Silver asked.

"Manehattan Cutie Mark Crusaders," supplied Apple Bloom, gathering up her cards.

"Oh, I should have figured," said Silver. "How's that going?"

"It's great," said Babs.

"Doesn't seem to be working, though," Diamond pointed out. "You're still a blank flank."

"Diamond!" Apple Bloom snapped. "You promised you wouldn't start that again!"

"What?" said Diamond earnestly. "I'm not saying it in a bad way! It's true! You all still don't have your cutie marks. And that's terrible."

"Yeah, well... could you call it somethin' else? Ah don't like that term."

"Like what?"

"Empty butt?" Silver suggested.

"Could we maybe just not talk about it at all?" Sweetie Belle said.

"In the MCMC, we just say Crusader," said Babs. "It means the same thing."

"So what, as soon as ponies get their cutie marks they can't be Crusaders any more?" Scootaloo asked. "That kinda sucks. I mean, I totally want my cutie mark, but... I still wouldn't want to give up all this. We do so much cool stuff together. We even became friends with those guys," she added, pointing across the table.

"Oh, I see. We're 'those guys'," said Diamond. "Way to make me feel included."

"Well, we don't really have a name for... non-blank-flanks either," said Scootaloo. "Wow, we really need to come up with some new words. Where's our charter?"

"We call 'em Champions," said Babs. "A Crusader is somepony who's still lookin' for their cutie mark. A Champion is someone who's found their mark, but still wants to help others find theirs."

"Wow, Babs," said Apple Bloom appreciatively. "You sure have taken this way further than we ever did. Ah'm real impressed."

"I'd never have even got started if not for you guys," said Babs, blushing a little. Sensing that the mushiness levels were beginning to climb too high inside the clubhouse, she decided to change the subject. "Okay, we're ready to play," she said.

"So what are the rules?" Diamond asked.

Babs ignored her again. "Okay girls, we're now playing five card Manehattan Moo. I can give you three rules:

One, the player to the dealer's left goes first and play continues in a clockwise direction.
Two, you can pick up a card on your turn if you don't wanna play one.
Three, the Joker is the Nine of Diamonds.

Let's go!"

Babs took a card from the pile and turning it face up. It was the Four of Hearts.

A profound silence met her, five puzzled pairs of eyes staring at Babs.

"Are those all the rules?" asked Silver.

"Nope," said Babs casually.

Silver looked down at her hoof of five cards. Ace of Clubs, Two and Five of Hearts, King of Diamonds and Queen of Spades. She looked at Diamond, to see if her friend had any suggestions, but Diamond looked just as puzzled as her. "Um..."

Babs picked up a face down card from the head and hoofed it to her. "Failure to play within ten seconds," she said, in a formal tone.

"Huh?" Silver blinked. "What am I supposed to do?"

Babs hoofed her another face down card. "Asking the rules."

"What? How am I supposed to know what to do?"

After a short pause, a third card slid over to her. "Continued failure to play within ten seconds." Babs said.


"Uh, Babs, none of us have played this game before," said Apple Bloom in concern. "Y'need to explain the rules."

Babs just smirked. "This isn't the kind of card game you're used to," she said. "Just play a card, or these will keep coming," she urged Silver, indicating the three cards that Silver had somehow earned. "They're penalty cards. They're yours."

"Can I play anything?" Silver asked.

"Asking the rules," Babs said immediately, sliding a fourth penalty card to the hapless filly.

"What!" Diamond said, outraged. "Stop that! It's not Silvy's fault if she doesn't know the rules! You haven't told us! This isn't fair!"

"It's part of the game, Tiara," said Babs. "Just play anything, Spoony. You'll soon find out if it's wrong or not."

Silver frowned. She looked at the face up card - the Four of Hearts. That didn't tell her anything about her options, but from what she knew of card games it seemed a safe bet to play a similar card on top. "I play the Five of Hearts," she said, placing her card on top of it. She looked at Babs for confirmation that this was correct, but Babs was suddenly unreadable, giving no indication of her opinion on the play. "Is that good?"

"Did you get a penalty?" Babs asked.

Silver tilted her head. "I guess I didn't! Is my turn over?"

"Could be," said Babs shrewdly.

The table went silent again as this question hung in the air. It was broken ten seconds later by Babs hoofing a penalty card over to Diamond Tiara. "Failure to play within ten seconds."

"Hey!" said Diamond. "You didn't say it was my turn! I was waiting for it!"

"It's your turn," said Babs.

"You're not explaining anything!" Diamond fumed. "How do you expect me to play this game without knowing the rules?"

Babs smiled. "Well, make a move and see what happens."

Diamond glared at her. She looked at her cards, then placed the Four of Diamonds onto the card Silver had just played.

Babs looked at the card for a moment. Then she took it, and gave it back to Diamond, along with another face down card. "Bad card."

"I don't know what a good card is!"

"Try playing a Heart," Silver whispered.

"I don't have a Heart!" Diamond growled.

Babs shrugged. She seemed to be waiting for something. A few seconds later, she gave Diamond yet another penalty card. "Continued failure to play within ten seconds."

"I did but you wouldn't let me!"

Babs leant back on her stool. "Then just pick up a card. Remember those three rules I gave a minute ago? You can always pick up a card if you don't want to play."

Diamond glared and took a card that Babs offered her from the heap. "This is stupid!"

"Ah kinda agree," said Apple Bloom. "This don't seem very fair. Ain't you gonna tell us any rules?"

"That's against the rules," said Babs.

"It's against the rules for you to tell us the rules?" Apple Bloom blinked.

"I can't tell you that," said Babs. "Failure to play within ten seconds." she said to Apple Bloom, hoofing her the penalty card.

"Ah!" said Apple Bloom. "Ah was talkin'! That ain't fair!"

"Talking is fine, but you gotta play the game," said Babs.

"Ah jus' play a card?"

"Asking the rules," Babs said immediately.

"Nyah! C'mon Babs! This ain't a very friendly game!"

Babs smiled. "Look, I just want us to get all the way around the table, okay? Then if you're still having trouble, I'll try to explain."

Apple Bloom frowned. "Ah play the Jack o' Hearts." She waited to see if Babs would allow it.

Babs looked at the card, then said one word: "Diamonds."

"Huh?" said Apple Bloom. "It's Hearts."

Babs laughed. "Never mind. Let's carry on."

"Am Ah done?"

"Maybe," said Babs.

"Oh, that means you are done," said Scootaloo fiercely. "She keeps trying to trick us. It's my turn, I bet it is."

Babs grinned. "If you're sure."

"I play the King of Hearts," said Scootaloo.

"Bad card," said Babs immediately, giving it back to Scootaloo with a penalty.


"Asking the rules."

"Aah!" said Scootaloo. "Two of Clubs?"

"Bad card."

"Ace of Spades?"

"Bad card."

"Nine of Hearts!"

"Bad card."

"Ten of Hearts!"

"Bad card."

"The Joker!" Scootaloo said desperately, slamming it down on the table.

Babs stopped, and looked at the Joker that Scootaloo had played. Then she picked up another penalty card, and gave it to Scootaloo.

"Failure to say 'That's the badger'."

"Aaaaaaagh!" screamed Scootaloo. "Okay, but it's a good card? You didn't say bad card, so it's good, isn't it?"

Babs gave her another penalty, adding it to the small pile that Scootaloo had earned. "Continued failure to say 'That's the badger'."

Scootaloo went deadly silent for a moment. "That's the badger," she said, in an emotionless voice.

"Awesome!" said Babs.

"We are never letting you choose the game again," said Diamond. "This is awful."

"Look, it's fun, honest. You'll see," said Babs. "I'll explain in a moment."

"I guess it's my turn," said Sweetie Belle. She threw a second joker on top of Scootaloo's.

Babs looked at her expectantly, her hoof making a grab at the pile -

"That's the badger," Sweetie Belle added.

"Oh, you're good," said Babs, looking impressed. She tossed a Two of Diamonds into play. "Point of order," she said, laying down her cards face down in front of her, her posture relaxing a little.

"Is it over?" asked Apple Bloom.

"Not by a long way," said Babs. "I'll be a bit more lenient now. I just wanted to show you what it's like!"

"It's pretty stupid," said Diamond irritably. "How are we supposed to play a game with no rules?"

"There are rules," said Babs. "You just don't know 'em. That's why you were getting penalties. And since I'm being lenient, I'm gonna point out to all of you that I put down my cards when I called the P of O."

"When you did what?" Diamond asked.

Sweetie Belle made a sudden choking noise, and threw her cards to the table as if they were red hot slabs of iron. "Girls, put down your cards!" she said hurriedly. Quickly, they all did so.

"Wow, I might even have some competition with Sweetie here," said Babs. "So look, here's how it goes. It's a game where you learn by doing. The whole point is to try new things and see what happens. The more you play, the more you'll figure out what's going on."

"But you know all the rules already?" asked Silver.

"Sure do," said Babs. "I've played this dozens of times."

"So how is that fair?" Diamond demanded. "You'll win easily!"

"This game isn't really about winning," said Babs. "It's about having fun! Trust me, you girls. This game gets really good once you get into it. So look, getting penalties is a good thing, okay? It means you're learning."

"But how do we win?" Diamond asked.

"Asking the rules," said Babs, placing a penalty card in front of Diamond.

"No... aaaagh!"

"Seriously, don't worry about it," said Babs casually. "I'm introducing you to the game, you're gonna make a whole bunch of mistakes at first. Consider this a trial run."

Diamond gritted her teeth. "Fine. Well, I'm going to guess that since you keep giving me cards, that the goal is to get rid of them all."

"Could be," said Babs.

"Hah! That means I'm right," said Diamond, grinning. "You're such a bad liar."

"Runs in the family," said Babs, smirking back. "Are you all ready to play again?"

They all murmured their assent. Scootaloo and Apple Bloom picked up their cards, only to be instantly met with a call of "Touching cards during a P of O" from Babs, and a penalty card each.

"Ah don't even know what you're sayin'," said Apple Bloom, putting her cards back down again. "What's a P of O?"

"It's..." Babs facehooved. "Okay, okay, listen. End of point of order," she said, picking her cards back up.

"Point of order?" Apple Bloom repeated.

Babs rolled her eyes and put her cards back down again. "Look, you know how we just stopped the game to talk? You do that by saying the words you just said."

"What, point of order?"

Babs flicked a penalty card at her. "Saying P of O in a P of O," she announced. "You're not allowed to say it."

"This is confusing," said Silver, pushing her glasses back up the bridge of her nose and frowning.

"End of point of order," Babs announced. "We're back in the game."

"So any time Ah say that, we have to stop the game?"

"Yeah, but please don't keep doing it because it's annoying. Also that was technically asking the rules, but I'll let you off."

"Is it my turn?" Silver asked.

"Asking whose turn it is."

"Aah!" said Silver.

"It's your turn, because we went all the way around the table," said Sweetie, who now had her cards floating in a mint-green telekinetic aura in front of her.

Silver tossed her King of Diamonds into play. "Diamond, I think you should play your Diamonds now. I think this might be like Crazy Eights. We're allowed to help each other aren't we?"

"Are you asking if that's a rule?" Babs asked, raising a brow crookedly at her.

"No! I just - forget I said that."

Diamond played her Four of Diamonds, staring intensely at Babs as if daring her to call her on it. The Manehattan filly kept her silence, however.

Apple Bloom played another Four of Diamonds, which got no complaint from Babs. Scootaloo frowned and threw down an Ace of Diamonds, which caused Babs to stifle a snort.

"Don't tell me. Bad card," said Scootaloo.

"I didn't say nothin'," said Babs.

"I don't like the sound of that," said Sweetie Belle. "That card just changed something, didn't it?"

Babs shrugged, so Sweetie floated her Eight of Diamonds down into play. She didn't look too surprised when Babs immediately met her with a penalty.

"Playing out of turn," said Babs.

"It is her turn," said Scootaloo.

"Lying," countered Babs, giving Scootaloo a penalty too.

"What! Are you serious?" said Scootaloo. "This game is impossible!"

"Ace of Spades," said Babs, tossing the card into play. "Sweetie is right, the Ace does do something."

"It skips the next player's turn!" said Silver. "Di, that means it's your turn now."

"You know, explaining the rules is also against the rules," said Babs. "Which means I just broke the rule too. Explaining the rules," she said, giving herself a penalty card.

Diamond blinked. "Wait, you can get penalised too?"

"Of course," said Babs. "I'm a player just like you."

"So what, can we penalise you?" Diamond asked.

"Only if I break the rules," said Babs. "Also, failure to play within ten seconds."

"Gah! Oh, we are so doing this," said Diamond, bristling with renewed energy. "I'm gonna make you take every one of those penalty cards back."

"Well, you can give me more penalty cards if I break the rules," said Babs. "You gonna play?"

Diamond shrugged and tossed a Nine of Spades into play.

"Failure to say 'Nine of Spades'," said Babs.


"You'd better say it," said Sweetie Belle.

"Nine of Spades," said Diamond hurriedly.

Apple Bloom played a Queen of Spades. "Queen of Spades?" she said uncertainly.

"King of Spades," said Scootaloo. "Hah!"

"Eight of Spades," said Sweetie, floating the card onto their play pile.

Babs clutched her cards, a shrewd expression on her face. Sweetie Belle looked at her curiously, but said nothing.

"Your turn," Diamond said to Babs. "I mean... forget I said that!"

Babs giggled. "You're learning. It's not my turn."

"Is it mine?" Silver asked.

"Asking whose turn it is," said Babs.

"Oh... archets!" Silver swore.

"Failure to play within ten seconds," Babs said, giving Scootaloo the penalty.

"It is not my turn," insisted Scootaloo.

"Lying!" Babs countered.

"How can it be my turn? I just played, then Sweetie Belle..."

"Who played an Eight of Spades," said Babs.

Scootaloo blinked. "Oh! You mean... I get it!" Scootaloo threw down a Jack of Spades.

"Hearts!" Babs said quickly. "Also, failure to say 'Jack of Spades'."

"Jack of Spades!" Scootaloo said hurriedly.

"This is so mean," said Silver. "So this is just like Crazy Eights, except you didn't tell us it was."

"It's similar," said Babs, as Apple Bloom played a Three of Spades. "That's a bad card, cous."

"Play a Heart, Apple Bloom," said Silver. "She changed the suit to Hearts. That's what the Jack does."

Apple Bloom played a Nine of Hearts, followed by a Seven of Hearts from Diamond. "Go on," said Diamond, leaning back disinterestedly. "I know the Seven has gotta do something. Bring it on."

"No fooling you," said Babs. "Failure to say 'Have a nice day'."

"That's a new one."

"Say it," urged Silver.

"Have a nice day," said Diamond. "Or, you know, not, because of this stupid game."

"Well, you're saying it to Spoony, not me," Babs smirked, as Silver played a Seven of Clubs next. "Oh, horseapples. Failure to say 'Have a VERY nice day'," she said to Silver.

"Have a very nice day," said Silver.

"Thank you VERY much," Babs announced clearly, picking up two cards. "Pay attention, you girls. I just had to pick up two cards because of what they just did."

"Oooh," said Silver, smiling.

"Good," said Diamond, sounding satisfied.

Babs played a Nine of Clubs, which was followed by a Jack of Clubs from Sweetie Belle.


"SPADES!" Diamond roared, just beating Babs to it.

"Oh. Nice," said Babs.

Scootaloo played a King of Clubs, only to receive a "Bad card" from Babs.

"Oh, ponyfeathers. It changed again," said Scootaloo. "Eight of Spades."

Sweetie Belle paused for a moment. "Nine of Spades?" she played uncertainly, unsure if it was her turn again.

"That's the badger," said Babs, tossing a Nine of Diamonds in.

"Why is that the badger?" Silver asked.

"That sounds dangerously like asking the rules, Spoony," said Babs.

"I just want to know why it's a badger and not some other animal."

Babs shrugged. "It was always the badger when I was taught this in Manehattan. If you like, we can change it later."

"Should be a cow," said Apple Bloom. "Badgers don't go moo."

Bab let out a sudden gasp, her ears shooting up rigidly as she stared across the table in horror. "Oh! Cous! Oh, I'm so sorry!"

"Huh?" Apple Bloom blinked, as Babs' hoof pulled out not one, but three penalty cards from the pile.

"Taking the name of the Great Bovine Deity in vain!" Babs declared, passing the triple penalty to her cousin.

A chorus of confused and outraged what?!s sounded around the table as Apple Bloom stared at her ballooning hoof of cards.

"What did you do?" Diamond asked Apple Bloom incredulously.

"Ah jus' said -"

"Don't say it again!" Sweetie Belle hissed. "Also it's your turn."

"She said..." Silver mouthed silently, repeating the words inaudibly to herself. "Oh, that is horrible. We can't even say that?"

"Have a nice day," Sweetie Belle said to Babs, after playing a Seven of Spades. "Oh wait. I forgot to say Seven of Spades."

"It's fine, you just said it," said Babs. "You can say things in any order as long as you say them on your turn."

"Explaining the rules," said Diamond, holding out a penalty card to Babs.

"Thank you," said Babs. "Good moves."

Play continued several more minutes after that. The fillies had gotten the basic idea of play - it was, as Silver had noted, like Crazy Eights or Uno; players could play cards of equal rank or suit to the current face-up card, and there were a few 'special' ones, like the Jack, which allowed players to change the suit by shouting it out, or the Eight, which changed the direction of play. The Jokers still caused some confusion among them, with most uncertain what they could play onto it, or what they could play it onto. Only Sweetie Belle and Silver Spoon seemed to have figured it out.

"Last card," said Babs, and she did indeed have only one card left.

"No!" cried Diamond, who had managed to get herself down to four cards. "Don't you dare win now! I'll penalise you!"

"If you make a bad call, you'll get the penalty instead," said Babs.

"Explaining the rules!" Diamond crowed.

"Oh... horseapples!" said Babs, genuinely annoyed for the first time. "Bah, I can't believe I did that!"

"Hah! Ahahahahah!" Diamond cackled, as Babs took her penalty card. "Oh, maybe this will be fun after all."

"It's about to get funner," said Babs. On her next turn, she played a card. "Last card. For real this time."

"Sweetie Belle, can you stop her?" Silver asked.

Sweetie shook her head. "No Sevens. I can slow her down, maybe."

When it got to Sweetie's turn, however, she couldn't play anything and had to pick up a card. Babs looked at the face up card - a Queen of Clubs - and played her own card, a Queen of Hearts.

"Moo," said Babs, holding up her empty hooves.

"Did you win?" Apple Bloom asked.

"Yup," said Babs.

"Well that was... still stupid, but I liked penalising you," said Diamond, laying down her cards. "But not telling us the rules is dumb and unfair!"

"What are you doing?" asked Babs. "The game hasn't finished."

"Huh? But you won!"

"I called Moo," said Babs. "Now the fun begins."

"So what, we're still playin'?" Apple Bloom asked. "Whose turn is it?"

"Since I'm outside the game now, the rules don't apply to me, so I can tell you that it's Spoon's turn, and that she's had way longer than ten seconds," said Babs. "But I can't penalise you until I re-enter the game."

"No rules? Sweet," said Scootaloo. "Play anything!"

"Try it, Scoots," said Diamond wickedly. "Go on, I dare you."

"Bah, can't you let me have some fun? I've got like fifty cards here!"

"Well, maybe I can make things more fun," said Babs, taking five cards for herself from the pile. "Re-entering the game... introducing new rule," she said sinisterly.

The table was quiet for a moment. "Oh my gosh," said Diamond, her eyes lighting up. "You know what? This game is awesome."

"New rule?" Apple Bloom asked. "Ya jus' added a new one?"

"Yup," said Babs.

"But Ah barely understand the rules as it is!"

"Jack of Spades, Hearts," said Scootaloo.

Play continued as normal for a while, eventually coming back around to Scootaloo again, who played a Queen of Spades. "Queen of Spades".

"All hail the Changeling Queen," said Babs. She looked at the others, then began hoofing out penalties to everypony except Scootaloo. "Failure to hail the Changeling Queen." she said to each of them as she gave out their penalty card.

Scootaloo blinked, then laughed madly. "What, really?"

"All hail the Changeling Queen," the others chorused discordantly.

"I like this rule," said Scootaloo.

"Heh, you say that now," said Babs mysteriously.

Scootaloo found out several turns later what Babs was implying, when Sweetie Belle played a King of Hearts. Her card met with no penalty, but Scootaloo received one instead.

"Failure to thank your drone," Babs said to Scootaloo.

Scootaloo blinked, caught by surprise as it wasn't her turn. "Huh? What?"

"Sweetie just fed the Changeling Queen. That's you," said Babs.

Scootaloo blinked. "You serious?"

"Serious enough that you'll get another penalty if you don't," Babs grinned.

Scootaloo giggled. "Thanks, Sweetie-drone."

"Oooh, I like that," said Silver.

After several turns, Diamond finally declared "Last card", with a grimly expectant look. She'd already run afoul of the rule where failing to declare the last card meant that she couldn't legitimately declare Moo. She'd thrown quite a tantrum over having then been penalised for 'taking the name of the Great Bovine Deity in vain', at the moment she thought she'd secured victory. "I swear, Babs, if you don't let me have this, I'll..."

"Hey, you got the rules down pretty good," said Babs. "I don't think I can stop you. I am, however the new Changeling Queen. Queen of Spades."

"Hail the Changeling Queen," said Diamond, as the others murmured their allegiance to their new ruler.

"Jack of Spades," said Sweetie.

"Hearts!" Diamond cried.

"You're gonna win," said Scootaloo, playing her Three of Hearts.

"She might not," grinned Apple Bloom, "if Ah play..."

"Don't you dare. Don't you dare!" said Diamond, with barely contained fury.

"King o' Hearts," said Apple Bloom smugly.

Diamond stared at it, relaxing.

"Thanks, cous," said Babs as she received her tribute.

"Moo," said Diamond quietly, dropping an Ace of Hearts on top. She waited for a bombshell, but Babs just smiled.

Diamond exhaled after a few tense seconds. "I won? Did I win?"

"You did it, yep. Congrats. Playing out of turn, Spoony."

"Ahahahahaha! Finally!" Diamond yelled in triumph.

"You're gonna make some horrible rule, aren't you?" asked Scootaloo suspiciously.

"I might," said Diamond. "I can do anything I want!"

"Weeeeeeell... thanks, Sweetie Belle -" said Babs, "you can make any rule you like, but there's two things you should consider - it's gotta be fair, so no giving yourself special treatment -"

"As if," said Diamond, with a look of mock horror.

"- and don't make it too complicated."

"That's up to me, isn't it?"

"Sure, but if it's too complicated, you won't be able to keep track of it yourself. That's a mistake I made a few times."

"I think I can handle it," said Diamond dismissively. "Okay, how do I come back into the game?"

"You got a rule already?" asked Babs.


"Just pick up five cards, and say Re-entering the game. If you're introducing your rule, add introducing new rule."

"Explaining the rules," said Scootaloo, giving Babs a penalty.

"I'd almost consider that ungentlecoltly conduct, but I'll let you have it," Babs said, with a sly smile.

"Hey, I think it's fair! You've penalised us tons of times!"

"Re-entering the game, introducing new rule," said Diamond, taking up a new hoof of cards.

"Point of order," said Sweetie Belle, floating her cards down to the table. "Sorry. I need the bathroom."

"Oh come on! I wanna try my rule!" said Diamond, exasperated.

"Sorry. Gotta go," said Sweetie Belle, getting up off her chair, although she levitated a single card out of the pile as she did so and gave it to Diamond. "Touching cards during a P of O."

"What?" Diamond blinked. "Bah! I totally forgot!" She threw down her cards.

"She's good," said Babs, while they waited. "It's kinda funny how different ponies react to this game. Some really can't stand it and just, like, flip the table and leave. And some ponies pick it up really quickly, like Sweetie."

"I like your Changeling Queen rule," said Scootaloo. "Did you just come up with that?"

"Nah, it's one I've been wanting to do for a while," said Babs. "Half the fun of this game is making rules that are fun and interesting. It's a lot harder than you might think."

"Wait..." said Silver, a thought suddenly occurring to her. "This is a treehouse. Where's Sweetie going to the bathroom?"

"Well, she calls it a bathroom, but it's more of a log," explained Scootaloo. "We were gonna try to make an outhouse, but we decided that we probably didn't want to get our cutie marks in doing that."

"I'm not even going to dignify that with an eww," said Diamond, grimacing.

"It's either that or wait ten minutes for her to go to the farmhouse," Scootaloo said, shrugging.

"You okay, cous? You're being awfully quiet," Babs noted, staring pointedly across the table at Apple Bloom. "You don't like this game, do you?"

Apple Bloom looked uncomfortable. "Well... Ah can see why y'all do like it... Ah just, Ah dunno, Ah can't really figure it out. How does everypony know when to play a Joker?"

"Asking the rules," said Diamond immediately, but Babs put out a hoof to stop her and shook her head. "Okay, I'll explain this one. Remember what I said at the start of the game?"

Apple Bloom shook her head. "Nope."

"'The Joker is the Nine of Diamonds'," Babs repeated.

"But it ain't," said Apple Bloom.

"It is. In this game, playing a Joker is the same as playing a Nine of Diamonds," Babs explained.

"And the Nine of Diamonds is the badger," added Silver. "So you can play a Joker any time you could play a Nine of Diamonds, and you have to say 'That's the badger'."

Apple Bloom thought this over for a few seconds. Then her eyes widened as it clicked. "Oh! Ah get it! Ah get it now!"

"Good," said Babs with a smile.

Sweetie Belle returned and sat down again. Diamond kept a close eye on her to see if she'd instinctively pick up her cards, but she didn't. "I'm ready. Are we ready?"

"End of point of order," said Diamond, grabbing up her cards again. "And I have no idea whose turn it is."

It turned out to be Scootaloo's, after Babs penalised her for not playing within ten seconds. The suit changed to Diamonds, and Apple Bloom laid down a Joker with some satisfaction.

"That's the badger," she announced.

Diamond slid a penalty card to Apple Bloom, shaking her head. "No it isn't. Failure to say 'That's the Cadance'."

Apple Bloom raised a brow at her. "That's the Cadance," she said dubiously. "Cadance is a badger now?"

"No badgers," said Diamond, playing an Eight of Diamonds to reverse the direction of play back to Apple Bloom. She was ready for it, however, and discarded a second Joker.

"That's the Cadance."

"Nope," said Diamond happily. "It's not. Failure to say 'That's the Twilight'."

"Huh? Y'can't just change it like that!"

"She can if there's a rule behind it," said Babs.

"Which there is," said Diamond happily. "By the way, is it also lying if Apple Bloom says that's the Cadance when it isn't?"

"I suppose... yes," said Babs.

"Lying too," said Diamond, giving Apple Bloom two penalties and making very little effort to conceal her grin.

"So you like this game now?" Apple Bloom said sourly, taking her penalty cards.

"I do now," said Diamond.

"You should pay better attention, however," said Babs, as Scootaloo played a Three of Diamonds. "You need to enforce your rule if you're the only one who knows it. Continued failure to say 'That's the Twilight'," she said to Apple Bloom.

"That's the Twilight," said Apple Bloom, a frown on her face as she scrutinized the Joker she'd played.

"Have a nice day," said Sweetie Belle, laying a Seven of Diamonds.

"Seven of Spades, have a very nice day," Babs said to Silver Spoon.

"Have a -, oh my gosh, I'm sorry, Di," said Silver, laying a Seven of Clubs. "Have a very, very nice day."

Diamond looked stunned. "Oh come on!"

"Sorry! I had a Seven, and, well..."

"Thank you very, very much," Diamond grumped sarcastically, taking her three penalty cards.

Apple Bloom played a King of Clubs, followed by a King of Spades from Scootaloo.

"King of Spades," said Scootaloo.

"Queen of Spades," said Sweetie Belle.

"All hail the Changeling Queen," they chorused.

"We actually met the Changeling Queen, you know," said Sweetie Belle. "The real one."

"No you didn't," said Diamond immediately.

"We totally did," said Apple Bloom. "We were the flowergirls at Princess Cadance's wedding."

Diamond and Silver looked stunned. "Are you serious? All three of you?"

"Yeah," said Scootaloo. "I mean - not that I care about the namby-pamby stuff - but it was really awesome to be up front -"

"Point of order," interrupted Babs. Everyone laid their cards down.

"- with Princess Celestia and all those important royal ponies," said Scootaloo, putting her cards down too.

"I can't believe it!" said Diamond jealously. "We've always wanted to meet Princess Celestia! How come you all get to and we don't?"

"Cus... well, mah sister was doin' caterin' for the wedding," said Apple Bloom. "Plus she's friends with Princess Twilight an' it was Princess Twilight's brother who was marryin' Princess Cadance. It weren't all that fun though, when Queen Chrysalis showed up. She was so scary. An' she beat Princess Celestia like it was nothin'. Ah thought we were all done for."

"Well I wasn't scared," boasted Scootaloo. "I knew somepony would stop her. Rainbow Dash would have if Princess Celestia had let her."

"What was she like?" asked Silver. "Queen Chrysalis, I mean. I've only ever seen drawings of her."

"She was uglier than a... something real ugly," said Apple Bloom. "Like a giant bug."

"I think she was a giant bug," said Sweetie Belle. "And she had all these disgusting holes in her legs."

"Ugh," said Apple Bloom. "That gave me the total creeps."

"So how'd they stop her, if like Princess Celestia couldn't?" Diamond asked.

"Well, Sweetie reckons Princess Cadance used the power of love to blast her into outer space."

"She did," said Sweetie. "I saw it. You've seen her cutie mark, haven't you? Her special talent is love. And because Shining Armor was there she had like an endless supply of love to use against Queen Chrysalis."

"Rainbow Dash would still have done it more cooler," muttered Scootaloo. "Are we still playing? Whose turn is -" she cut herself short, realising she was about to break a rule. "I mean... never mind."

"We're in a P of O," said Babs. "And I just had my turn."

"End of point of order," said Diamond. "Your turn, Silvy. Please don't give me a Seven again."

"You're lucky I don't have any," said Silver, playing a Four of Spades. "Four of Spades."

"Nine of Spades," Diamond added.

"That's the badger," said Apple Bloom, playing a Nine of Diamonds.

Diamond grinned again. "It really isn't. Lying."

"Oh, bah... that's the... Twilight?"


"Y'know, Ah don't like that it's 'lying' if Ah jus' get it wrong," Apple Bloom grumbled. "If Ah don't know the answer then how can Ah be lyin'?"

"Well, the lying rule is for when a player says something that's not true," said Babs.

"But that ain't what lying is."

"Point of order," said Sweetie Belle, sensing the beginnings of another argument.

"Lying's when you say something that y'know is false and pretend that it's true," said Apple Bloom. "Ah don't know what your rule is, so I'm jus' guessin'. That ain't lyin'. If Ah knew the right thing to say Ah'd say it."

"Oh, come on Apple Bloom, just deal with it," Diamond snorted.

"She does have a point," said Babs. "Lying is the wrong call in this situation. You need to tell her what she's supposed to say, first. Otherwise, you're failing to enforce your own rule."

"What! You were the one who agreed with me about the lying thing!"

"I changed my mind. You can penalise AB for not saying what she's supposed to, but it's not lying unless she knows she's not supposed to say it."

"I thought you weren't in charge?" Diamond said dangerously.

"I'm not. We can put it to a vote," said Babs, motioning at the rest of the table with a hoof. "Who wants to go with Tiara's interpretation?"

"Oh, bah, forget it," said Diamond, knowing fully well she was going to get outvoted. "Fine, AB, you're not a liar. But you still didn't say 'That's the Celestia'."

"End of point of order," said Babs.

"Ah didn't know it was," said Apple Bloom sullenly. "Ah don't like this rule."

"Point of order," Babs quickly said. "C'mon cous, if it's a fair rule you have to go along with it. We don't know what it is either."

"It is a fair rule," Diamond smirked. "It's not even hard."

"Ah don't wanna play any more," said Apple Bloom, pushing her cards away. "Ah can't keep track of all these rules. Ah ain't ever gonna win."

"Oh, no, come on!" said Diamond. "I'm liking this!"

"You jus' like penalisin' ponies," Apple Bloom grumbled.

"Your point being?"

Babs sighed. "Well... I don't wanna force AB to play if she doesn't want to. Maybe we should just give up for now."

"No, no, I still have my rule!" Diamond said angrily. "Come on AB, please? Just until someone else goes Moo?"

Apple Bloom raised a brow at her. "Seriously?"

"Seriously, I -" Diamond blinked, realising everypony else was staring at her with varying degrees of shock. "What?"

Apple Bloom shrugged. "Takin' the name of the Great Bovine Deity in vain."

"What... nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

"Ah remembered that one, at least."

Four hours later

"It's a bad card," said Sweetie Belle to Silver Spoon.

"I really don't think it is," said Silver. "You can play anything on a Cadance. I'm sure of it."

"But it's not a Cadance," said Sweetie.

"It is," said Diamond. "The badger on a Heart makes it a Cadance card."

"But that's isn't a Heart. Don't you remember? Hearts are the Shadow Suit right now."

"Since when?"

"Yeah, they are," said Scootaloo. "I played a Shadow Jack a few turns ago."

"Wait wait wait point of order," said Diamond, throwing down her cards. "The Shadow Jack was Shadowed. Doesn't that mean it's not actually a Shadow Jack?"

"Uh... that's a good point," said Babs. "Scoots?"

"Uh..." Scootaloo thought. "I guess... wait, let me think..."

"This is why you don't make rules too complicated," said Babs.

"I know! Well... I guess it could be, right? Because it's only not the Shadow Suit, but it could still be the other Shadow Jack."

"Yeah, but as I understand it, your rule allows anyone to decide the suit of a Shadowed card," said Babs. "So if Tiara chose to interpret it as not being a Shadow Jack, she's technically correct."

"Ah think yer all missin' something," said Apple Bloom.

"What?" Babs asked.

"It ain't Silver's turn," said Apple Bloom. "Scoots played a Leapfrog."

"That means it is Silver's turn," said Scootaloo. "I leapfrogged Sweetie and Babs, so it's Silver's turn."

"Oh, horseapples, AB's right," said Babs. "I totally missed that. It's my turn! I've still got the Lilypad."

"So... failure to play within -" Diamond began.

"Yeah, failure to play," said Babs. "But also playing out of turn for Spoony. Good spot, cous."

"End of point of order," said Sweetie.

"Have a bad night," said Babs, playing a Seven of Diamonds.

"Have a worse night," countered Silver, playing a Seven of Spades in response. "Eight of Apples."

"Failure to say 'Nine of Mangoes'," said Sweetie Belle.

"Oh, archets -"

"Swearing," added Sweetie Belle.

"Agh!" cried Silver. "Nine of Mangoes."

"Have an even worse night," said Babs, looking extremely apologetic.

"Thank you very very much," said Silver glumly.

"Oooof. Sorry!" said Babs, watching Silver pick up six cards as well as two penalties on top. "Oh wow, that was rough."

"I'll get her back for you," said Diamond. "Ace of Mangoes, Death to the Changeling Queen," said Diamond, playing an Ace of Spades. "Hail Queen Silver Spoon!"

"Hail Queen Silver Spoon," said the rest. For good measure, Diamond even took off her tiara and placed it on Silver's head.

"Oh, I should totally have made that part of the rule!" said Sweetie Belle.

"Jack of Mangoes, Mangoes," said Apple Bloom, after playing a Jack of Spades. "Yer even safer now, Silver."

"Ten of Mangoes," said Scootaloo, playing an Eight of Spades.

"That's the Luna," said Apple Bloom, playing a Joker.

"That's the Twilight," said Diamond. "Ooooh, can you do it, Silvy?"

"I can!" Silver said happily. "That's the Cadance," she said, laying down a Joker, "Crystal Heart Spell!"

Babs groaned and exchanged her modest hoof of cards with Silver's enormous collection. "Didn't expect that to turn around so quick."

They all turned toward the clubhouse door as they suddenly heard hoofsteps coming up the ramp. The top half of the door swung open, revealing Applejack. "Whoa, y'holdin' a party in here?" she asked, regarding the circle of card players. "Ah was wonderin' where you've been all day. Hey Tiara, Spoon."

"Hello, Miss Applejack," said the twosome.

"We're playing Mo- a card game," Scootaloo quickly amended. "Babs showed it to us. It's... wow, how long have we been playing this?"

"It's past moonup," said Applejack. "Was about to go lookin' for ya if ya weren't all here. Whatcha playin'?"

"We can't say the name of it," said Apple Bloom.

Applejack's brow furrowed. "Y'can't?"

"Nope. Against the rules," said Diamond.

"Sounds like a weird game," said Applejack uncertainly.

"We thought so too, at first," said Scootaloo. "It's pretty fun once you figure it out though!"

"Well, it's dark, so y'might wanna think about headin' in now," said Applejack. "Ah'll let ya finish yer game. Are y'all stayin' for dinner?"

"Not me, Miss Applejack," said Diamond. "I should go home, actually."

"Me too," said Silver.

"You two are welcome, y'know," said Applejack matter-of-factly.

"We know," said Silver. "It's just... I didn't tell my Mama and Papa I'd be out late."

"Sweetie Belle, Scoots?"

"I'm staying... oh, point of order," said Sweetie Belle. "Are we stopping the game?"

"Yeah, let's call it quits," said Babs. "Been playing this for hours. Did you all have fun?"

"Fun? Are you kidding? I can't wait to play again," said Diamond. "I've already got a ton of ideas for new rules."

"Yeah, this would be fun to play again now we've got the hang of it," said Scootaloo, leaning back on her stool and stretching, giving a few buzzes of her tensed wings. "We could even make our own version for Ponyville."

"Ah still don't feel like Ah got even half the rules," said Apple Bloom.

"Hey, it's not easy," said Babs reassuringly, as Silver helped her collect up all the cards and stack them back into decks. "I wasn't any good at this when I started either."

"But everyone else figured it out really easy," said Apple Bloom glumly.

"No way! I was just as lost as you were," said Scootaloo. "But come on, you still did well. You made some pretty cool rules!"

"We don't have to play again," said Babs. "I figured you wouldn't all like it. Not everypony does."

"Well I'm playing again even if it's not with you girls," said Diamond. "In fact, you know what? We should show them this game at school. I'd love to run a game of this. I wanna see Snails' head explode trying to figure out how to play."

"Can you see him ever playing a card in less than ten seconds?" snorted Silver.

"Hey, no badmouthin' foals in the CMC Clubhouse," said Apple Bloom. "Now that is a rule. It's in our charter."

"Fine, we'll do it outside," Diamond said facetiously, poking her tongue out. "Thanks for the game, girls! We'll see you later."


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