Old World Magic Ch. 17byrhev©
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Authors note: Please note that this is chapter 17 of a large story. It is not a stand alone chapter, and I ask you please to not judge it as such. There's over a hundred thousand words to this story before this chapter. So if you don't understand something that happens, I suggest and recommend that you go back and read from chapter 1. It's a pretty good story if I do say so myself. Also, this story is pure fiction. Names, characters, incidents and locations are the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual people or events is purely coincidental.
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In my absence two other tables had yielded a victor and now it was just down to one table left, with two players battling it out for the final spot. It seemed my timing was dead on. I flagged down a waitress and ordered a sandwich and bottled water while I watched the play from the rail. My view was partially obstructed by the cameras and computer equipment set up at the table, aimed at each player. But I wasn't watching the table, I was watching the two men dueling it out for the fifth spot at the final table.
One was the European man who 'smelled' invisible to my sixth sense, the other a confident looking man with a receding hairline. I opened my mind and let my mind magic flow outwards as I channeled mana into my telepathy. I shook my head, confused, and looked at the table as the two men played. Then I recast my spell of telepathy. Yet the same confusing result. I focused, narrowing my eyes and imagining the results of the telepathy spell working the way I wanted, but it was not to be.
I had no problems reading the mind of one of the two men at the table, but the European, the one that seemed wrong to my sixth sense, he just wasn't there. My telepathy didn't fail to work, it was as if there was no one there for the spell to work on. I tried again and again, pumping more mana, of which I now had a surplus of thanks to my bathroom encounter, into my spells. But no matter what I tried, it was like my magical abilities just didn't even recognize the strange european man at all.
I heard a groan as the europeans opponent turned his cards to reveal a weak pair, knocking him out of the tournament. The strange man was the last seat at the final table. I realized I might be in trouble if I couldn't read his mind. My earlier hope that I not be seated at the final table with the unreadable european man was unrecognized and I knew now that it went beyond discomfort. If I couldn't read his mind, see what cards he saw through his eyes, I'd have to manage to out play him on skill alone.
The waitress returned with my sandwich and set it down at the table I'd been watching from. But with the realization that I couldn't use my mental powers on that man, I no longer had an appetite.
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The tournament had drug on for hours and was down to myself, Henri the strange european that I could not read, and DiMarco the owner of the casino and host of the tournament. We'd already eliminated two of the other players, and it had been a tough battle. Earlier I had confirmed that Henri, pronounced 'on-REE', was French, and also a proud gay man. There was a soft, young, twinkish looking man that could be no older than his mid twenties standing at Henri's rail. During a break I saw Henri stretch and walk to the rail to converse with the young man. Before the conversation ended, the two shared a soft loving kiss and a few whispered words. Henri returned to the rail reinvigorated. I thought about trying to send out mental probes to the young man, but decided to reserve my mana for the game. The young man was several dozen feet away and I lacked any sort of bridge to make a mental connection with him. I could have done it, but it would have drained much more mana than I was willing to part with.
My spells worked with perfect clarity on John DiMarco and the other two men that had already been eliminated. It was useful being able to read John's thoughts about the game. He was a dyed in the wool gambler, much like Emily Whitefeld was, and his insight into Henri's hand was likely the only reason that the European man hadn't taken me down much further than I already had fallen.
DiMarco had been using his 'cheater box' the whole table as well. It was a simple black box with a single LED light. It gave no indication of what cards we had in our hand, but the sensitive cameras and computer equipment all fed into a system that told him if an opponent was bluffing or not. It had been used to devastating effect against me. I simply could not bluff DiMarco. Whatever his software and hardware setup was, it had me dead to rights. But strangely, it didn't seem to have any effect on Henri.
It was a strange three way battle between us three men as each had an advantage. I of course could see what DiMarco had any time I wanted. DiMarco could tell every time I tried to bluff, and to be honest, he was a far better player than I was. Which of course made sense, he'd been playing professionally for over two decades now. But Henri, he had almost the biggest advantage of all; he had absolutely no tells. He sat silent, motionless, like a statue, barely breathing and with no wasted movement as he played. More he was unreadable by both DiMarco and myself.
DiMarco even had the game held for several minutes a couple times so that his tech team could re-calibrate their equipment. But no matter what they did, Henri was a stone. He did allow a slight smirk and chuckle each time DiMarco showed his frustration over his equipment, but otherwise the man was as tight lipped as he was a tight player.
For hours the three of us battled, the chips sliding back and forth across the table. I finally saw my chance when I caught DiMarco yawning. It was already past ten at night and we'd been playing for the entire day. I'm sure DiMarco never expected it to go on this long. But one of the stipulations of the game was that we'd play till there was a winner. I'd be willing to bet that DiMarco had figured that stipulation would factor into his style. But I was a mage, and could easily burn off small amounts of mana to stay refreshed and energized. Henri didn't appear to be getting tired, but he didn't appear to be doing much other than quiet, calm, almost robotic play.
I looked at my cards as they were dealt to me. Ace and King of diamonds. I groaned inwardly. This was the same pocket that Bill 'tex' Bidel had when I knocked him out of the first table. My gut told me to fold. I didn't want to go out third place on an Anna Kournikova. I looked at John DiMarco and then used my powers to see what cards he'd picked up. Pocket queens. A far better pocket than mine. I glanced over at Henri, but as usual he sat there motionless, watching to see how the hand would play.
Since DiMarco was on the button, Henri had first chance to call or bet. As small blind he only needed twenty thousand to call and buy into the hand. So it wasn't surprising that he did so, tossing in the minimum to stay in.
I was big blind with forty thousand in chips tossed in, so I was already committed. I tapped the table indicating a check. DiMarco seemed to mull his pocket for a while, though I knew he was excited about his hand. After a few moments consideration he began counting out chips. He tossed in a handful of orange chips with a double white stripe into the center. He smirked and said, "Raise two hundred thousand."
The dealer collected the chips and then turned to Henri. I thought for sure he'd fold, but after a moment he moved and carefully pushed a stack of chips in, "Call" he said softly.
"Two hundred to you sir," the dealer said looking at me. I knew that DiMarco had a better hand, but I hated folding out an ace king pre flop, especially when it was suited. I resisted uttering a sigh and did something that most professionals would consider stupid; I pushed two hundred thousand in chips into the center to call the hand. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw DiMarco's box light up. He knew I was bluffing. I tried not to focus on his grin as I questioned why I did what I just did.
The flop came out and I raised a single eyebrow before letting it fall, hoping neither of my opponents had seen my tell. Queen of Spades, three of hearts, and ten of clubs. My hopes for a flush were ruined, but I had a chance at a gutshot straight if a jack came out. DiMarco on the other hand now had three of a kind, top of the board too.
Henri and I again checked, and DiMarco grinned broadly as he looked at the LED on his little 'cheater box'. It was lit, and he counted out and tossed in another stack of chips. "Raise four hundred thousand."
Henri again shocked me by pushing in the requisite number of chips and again quietly announcing a call. I looked at DiMarco's broad grinning face. I knew that at the moment it was his hand to win. I couldn't imagine what Henri might have that would beat DiMarco's triple queens. I figured he probably had three tens, but I couldn't be sure. The one thing I did know was that DiMarco was slipping. He would have never grinned like a fool like that earlier in the game.
I closed my eyes and listened for a moment. His thoughts were broadcasting loud as day and he was tired. He'd never expected this game to play out this long and saw this as his chance to try to make a significant move. He was even grinning to try to get me to throw off my own game. Since he knew I was bluffing, thanks to his cheater box, he figured he could try to get me to think he was bluffing, and over commit.
Fuck it, now was the time for boldness. I stared at the man and glared. I did my best impersonation of a person who was trying to out stare a pit bull. "You got nothing DiMarco," I said as I glared at him.
"So you say nuttin, but why don't you call and find out?" He said with a smirk.
"I'll do better," I said, then straightened in my chair I looked at the dealer and said, "I'm all in."
DiMarco seemed to be surprised by my actions. It certainly was a bold bluff. He actually debated his actions for a moment before he looked at our respective chip stacks. Mine was a fair amount higher than his, somewhere around a million more. If he won this hand he'd double up and put me so far in the hole I'd have little chance of being able to come back. He looked at the dealer and said, "Give me a count please?"
The dealer took all my chips and quickly counted them up, "Five million, two hundred, forty thousand sir."
DiMarco counted out all his chips and then pushed them all to the center, "I'll call, with the four hundred, that puts me at a total of four million one hundred even."
Everyone looked at Henri. He'd have to go all in as well. His chip stack was nearly the same as DiMarco's. I did a quick tally and guessed he was sitting in second place with a few hundred thousand more than DiMarco. He looked at the board for a long while stone faced and silent, and then suddenly, he just seemed to deflate. A smile broke his lips and for the first time of the whole day he grinned and said, "Oh what ze 'ell. 'iz only a game, no? An' eef either of you wheen, you wheel have a deesteenct advantage over me, so I wheel call thees too."
Then with a laugh he tossed his cards face over towards the dealer. A king and a jack showed, all he needed was an ace or a nine and he'd have a straight. I smiled, "You know it Henri, you're right, it is just a game." Then I tossed my ace king in.
DiMarco seemed almost scared as he tossed in his two queens. He was winning, but if an ace or a nine came out in the turn or river, Henri would win. If a jack showed, it was not only my hand, but I'd take all the chips, and end the tournament.
I stared at the deck and watched as the dealer reached to turn and burn, biting my lip so hard it started to bleed.
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"You played an excellent game Monsieur Naughton," Henri said as he held out a hand to me. I shook it gladly, and suddenly realized my sixth sense could 'smell' him. He was a human, just a normal human, but with a trace of magic about him. Maybe he was a proxy for a mage? I could detect lingering magic on him, that's all I knew. "It was, 'ow you say, an honor?" Henri continued, "Yes, an honor to come in second place to a player like you"
I shook his hand and smiled, then on a whim, pulled him in and gave him a hug. I'm not sure why, but he pat me on the back as if we were old friends and returned the hug. "Thank you Henri, I'm glad you're taking it better than our host." I nodded towards the section of the room that was roped off and filled with computer equipment where John DiMarco was throwing a rant at the techs who were manning the computers.
The young twinkish man that I'd seen earlier came running up and squealing in french. He gleefully hugged Henri as I stepped aside and the two shared a long, and very loving kiss. Henri separated and introduced the young man. "Mike Naughton this is my companion Jean De'Bouteille."
I turned to the young man and stuck out my hand to shake. But as I did my mage sense finally keyed in on the young man. I was assaulted by the overwhelming power coming from the young man. The smell of a spring day, a calm zephyr, a thunderstorm, a desert breeze, all of these things and a hundred others, relating to the air, struck me like a hammer between the eyes.
Jean shook my hand and said, "It is a pleasure to meet you Mr. Naughton," His accent was far less obvious than Henri's, "Would you care to have a late dinner with us?"
My eyes rocked back over to Henri and I opened my mind to him, trying to read his thoughts. The jumble came out at me like a tidal wave. So many emotions, elation at placing second, which came with a small prize, a bit more than he'd kicked in to join at least. A deep and abiding love for Jean, the relief that the tournament was over, and yes, a sexual attraction to me. I saw that he hoped that I'd join the two of them in their suite tonight.
But most of all, I saw the truth. I suspected it, but I needed to see it in Henri's mind to confirm it. Jean De'Bouteille was a made up name for the djinn that Henri was master too. He'd freed the genie from a bottle almost seventy five years before, and they'd been lovers ever since.
Suddenly it made sense. Henri must have wished that he would have no tells during the poker match, and that's why my mage sense couldn't pick him up till he'd already decided the match was over. The djinn's magic was stronger than my own and I couldn't read Henri because to be able to do so would have broken the wish he'd made. I somehow didn't feel bad about my magic being weaker than a djinn that had been bound to his master for the better part of a century.
I turned and grinned at the young twinkish man that I now knew to be a genie and said, "Jean De'Bouteille eh?" I grinned and cocked an eyebrow, "no one else ever puts together the clues, eh?"
The two of them shared a look and then Henri said, "Eh.... my english esss, um, is not the goodest. Maybe I mees-understand?"
I smiled and hugged Henri again, "Don't worry Henri, your secret is safe with me. You know how secrets are, they loose all their power once they are out." I couldn't resist and added, "Once the genie is out of the bottle, as they say."
I winked at them and then added, "You two go have a great dinner and a great night." I nodded at a kid standing near the rail watching us, "Maybe that guy would be interested. He's been watching you and 'Jean' for the last two hours." I opened my mental telepathy to the kid that I'd pointed out. He was a still mostly in the closet football player for one of the local colleges, and he was wildly attracted to Jean. I added in a whisper, "His name is Vince and he loves your accent."
I left the smiling couple as they went to talk to the young football player, still somewhat astounded by the fact that I'd just met an actual genie. Elder Creaklimb had told me that they existed in my world, and how to sense them. But they were so rare that I'd never expected to meet one, let alone be asked to join an all male three way with one.
I approached DiMarco who'd calmed down a bit. "Well Mr. Naughton, if you'll come with me we can get the paperwork squared away to transfer your winnings to whatever account you choose. Of course, I hope I'll see you this year at the poker world series when I host it. I'd like to try to win back some of that money from you.
I smiled and said, "Maybe tomorrow mister DiMarco. I know we're both pretty tired right now, and I had the strangest encounter in the VIP bathrooms earlier." I watched his face for a sign that showed me he'd planned out the bait in the stall to distract me while a goon attacked me, but his poker face remained solid. I continued, "Besides, I was just a proxy as you know." He nodded and I pointed to a woman who'd been wearing sunglasses and a hat near the bar. She walked over and took off both hat and glasses as she smiled broadly at DiMarco, "So I'll be back tomorrow and you can sign over the winnings, and the rights to play, to Miss Whitefeld."
Emily's grin as she approached seemed bright enough to light up the vegas strip. DiMarco on the other hand couldn't look more defeated.
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The champagne cork popped out into my palm as I turned the bottle back upwards. I held out both the bottle and cork as Emily laughed and held out her glass. "You did it Mike, you did it!" I poured champagne into the glasses without spilling any and wondered for a moment why it always fountained out on TV and movies, it never seemed to do that in real life. Emily took the bottle from me after I'd poured and put it in an ice bucket section that was built into the side wall of the limo's bar, then handed me my glass. "I was watching from the lounge on a feed. I didn't know what you had, but when you flipped the A K I thought you were totally nuts."
I grinned but raised the glass to my lips and sipped the cold bubbly as Emily continued, "Then when DiMarco flipped his queens I was ready to give up on you. Why the heck did you push all in? Didn't you know that he had you beat with his three queens?"
I nodded, drained my glass in one long swallow before reaching for the bottle to refill it. The cold bubbly drink chilled and tickled my throat and I shuddered slightly before smiling and answering her, "Would you believe me if I said I felt lucky?"
Emily laughed and sipped at her glass. Her eyes sparkled over the rim of the champagne flute. "Hmmmm I've seen the working girls that have come and gone through your suite over the last week Mike. I'm sure you'd say you were 'getting lucky,' but I'm not so sure." I cocked an eyebrow at her quizzically and she clarified, "People say 'getting lucky' when they mean getting a little ass. But if you're paying for it, if you're hiring a pro, you're taking all of the luck out of it aren't you? You're not risking anything, you're not betting that you could fail. You've got a sure thing, there's no risk, you're not getting lucky at all."
Emily had gotten progressively flirtier with me over the last week, but this was the most she'd ever spoken to me about sex. "Oh really?" I asked, "Are you suggesting that I should 'take a shot' with someone who isn't a professional?"
Emily's eyes sparkled and she shrugged her shoulders, "It just seems to me that the reward for a game is greater when there's actually a risk of losing at stake."
The Limo pulled into the garage of the Casino Royale and entered the gate leading to the VIP parking. I tried to think of a response but Emily switched thoughts as we pulled up near the underground elevator bank, "Come to my office, we need to discuss the financials." I followed her out of the limo, but decided to bring the champagne as I did so.
Up the elevator to the floor where her office was and then into her office we spoke about some of the hands she'd watched me play, alternatingly complementing and criticising my play. I took it in stride and waited, knowing she was simply waiting for the privacy of her office to speak of anything of great import.