Garn, bartender at the Hunters' Guild, was having a bad day. His
best fan-dancer was getting married, which, she had informed him, also
heralded the beginning of a new career for her, one in which she would
be leaving her clothes on. Then, Garn's brewer in Mile had sent
word that he'd be unable to meet the bar's beer needs due to the
drought. The bartender had, however, been able to collar the salesman
who'd suckered him into buying a new wood polish.
"I just used your stuff to put a finish on the bar, and now I find
out that it melts on contact with alcohol!"
Alys Brangwin, the Guild's most famous and accomplished hunter, was
also having a bad day down at the other end of the bar. Her trouble,
though, had begun somewhat more recently.
"C'mon, Alys. How can you say no to a stud like me?"
"A lot easier than you can get it through your skull, Joss," she
snapped. Joss Howland was a good-looking piece of prime beefcake,
which was the only attractive feature he had. He was rude, a braggart,
a loudmouth, and his brain power made Alys' apprentice look like an
academy scholar by comparison.
"Hey, I know you've gotta play hard-to-get for your reputation's
sake, but it's not like I'm some guy off the street. I'm a hunter,
too, one of the toughest in the business."
Alys sighed. She didn't like to fend off overeager men with
violence; Garn always made her pay for the furniture.
"Okay, Joss. I'll give you a chance to prove your manliness. If
you succeed, I'll go out with you."
She picked up his empty beer mug, flipped it over, and pressed her
hand down hard on the bottom.
"Bring it on! What've I got to do?"
"Something you've got plenty of experience at. Just pick up this
"Pick up this mug," Alys repeated, tapping the base in case words of
one syllable were too long for him.
"Oh, I get it. You're flirting with me!" He curled his big hand
around the mug, and pulled.
Joss stared at the mug in disbelief.
"Sorry. Guess you just aren't tough enough," Alys said with a
shrug. Predictably, Joss' eyes bulged, he gritted his teeth, and he
yanked upwards with more force, grunting with the effort. Alys got
down off her bar stool and headed for the door, but didn't move fast
enough to get out before the tinkle of breaking glass and a yelp of
pain reached her ears.
Alys winced. Stupidity could hurt.
"Hey, what's the big deal?" the salesman told Garn. "Sure, it goes
a little soft, but after a couple of seconds it hardens back up,
stronger than steel!"