"A man walked into a bar."

"You can stop right there, Fen," Alys Brangwin groaned.

Fenris blinked in surprise. "What? Why?"

"It's too cliched, for one thing."


"Seriously, do you have any idea how many jokes start with 'A man walked into a bar'? There must be a couple of hundred of them. And besides, look at where we are." She gestured around her with her fork. The two women were, in fact, sitting at a table at the Hunter's Guild bar, enjoying dinner out. When one was used to chasing monsters and criminals all over the Motavian wilderness, it was a nice change of pace to let someone else do the cooking for a time.

"Okay, maybe you've got a point there," Fenris admitted.

"Of course I have a point," Alys laughed. She speared her cutlet with the tip of her knife to illustrate, drawing a groan from her friend.

"And she complains about my jokes?"

"Sorry. I think Garn switched beer vendors again. This stuff must be stronger than the last batch."

"Or you're just the Eight-Stroke Wiseacre."

"Remind me again why we're friends, Fen?"

The dark-haired girl laughed.

"Because without me, you'd have to hang out with people like him."

She nodded towards the door, where Joss Howland had just stepped inside. He was the image of the classic male hunter: tall, broad-shouldered, muscular, and slightly more intelligent than the average houseplant.

"Hey, Joss!" Fenris said with a cheery wave. Joss turned his head even as he was making a beeline for the bar.

"Heya, Fen." Suddenly he caught sight of Alys and did a double-take. Her heart sank as the old, leering stare settled over his features...

Until he walked squarely into the corner of the bar. Gasping for breath as it connected with his solar plexus, he stumbled back and caught his foot on a bar stool. The back of his head striking the floor made a sound not unlike two rocks smashing together. Alys and Fenris just shook their heads in amazement.

"You have to admit, Alys, that even if it's a bit cliched as an opener, it works fine as a punchline."