"One of the usual, Garn," Alys Brangwin said, dropping wearily onto a bar stool.

"Coming right up," the owner of the Hunter's Guild bar told the Guild's most celebrated member. As he reached down a glass he added, "I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you look a little down, Alys. Is everything all right?"

"Just feeling old, I guess. I brought Fen and Jason as backup on a job today, and they immediately started making goo-goo eyes at each other. So they're off on a date and I'm stuck drinking alone. I swear, if this goes on much longer Joss Howland is going to start looking good to me."

From the door a deep, booming voice rang out.

"Hey, Alys, babe!"

All eyes turned to see the man Alys had just mentioned framed in the entrance. Joss Howland was a fellow hunter, a massive man with square-jawed, sun-bronzed good looks. The face and body made for an appealing package, but unfortunately the package was completely empty--just like Joss's head.

"Well, that cured my temporary insanity," Alys noted.

"You had me worried."

Joss strode through the bar directly towards her.

"What's up?"

"I was just moaning about how lousy my love life is, and then you showed up."

"It's an omen, Alys. The voice of fate!"

"Laughing at me."

"Hey, you can't spit in the face of good luck. Otherwise the universe will get even with you."

"I must have done that sometime before I met you."

"So, where's our first date going to be?" Joss asked, impervious to sarcasm or rejection.

"Let's just hold up, there," Alys said firmly. "You said that it's bad luck if I turn you down--so it's good luck if I don't, right?"

"Yeah, exactly!"

"Okay, then, I'll leave it up to fate." She took a pair of dice out of her belt pouch and put them on the table. "Go on, take a roll. If it comes up snake eyes, then it obviously isn't good luck and the date's off."

"Not snake eyes?" he asked. "Anything else and the date's on?"


"Okay, but no cold feet." He scooped up the dice in his huge hand, shook them up, and let them rattle out onto the bar, where two bright red dots stared up at him. Joss stared back for nearly two long minutes, but when the dice didn't magically turn to some other number his shoulders sagged and he left the bar without another word.

Garn set Alys's drink down next to the dice.

"That job you were doing today, the one where you ended up playing matchmaker for your friends...?"


"That wouldn't be the one the Aiedo Merchants' Association posted about gangsters running an illegal casino where they ran rigged games, would it?"

"Let's just say I believe in making my own luck."