“You will stand down there, boyo, and show me your papers, or you won’t like what’s coming next!”

Mercer, gritting his teeth, began weighing his options. He could take down one night watchman easily enough, but if he alerted his fellows, if they raised a hue and cry, then the game was all over. Before he could say anything else, though, the massive form of Pyfer had waddled up to the watchman and laid a gentlemanly arm on his shoulder.

“Friend,” said the Aul, “I recall a time when three students of the Lightfaith were arguing about whose teacher was superior. The first student said to the others, ‘My teacher is the best. He can go days without eating.’

“Uh-huh,” the watchman said.

Pyfer continued, smiling: “Then the second student replied, ‘My teacher is the best. He can go days without sleeping.'”

“Hm. And what did the third student say?” asked the watchman.

“The third student said, ‘My teacher is so wise, he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired.'” Pyfer grinned widely at the punchline.

At this, the watchman guffawed. “You’re all right, friend,” he said. “And clearly you too are a wise man who’s been eating when he’s hungry, eh?” He tapped his cudgel lightly on the Aul’s massive stomach. “Go on, get out of here. And tell your friend to be a bit less of an arse to people what’re just doing their jobs, eh?”

“Of course. Peace on you and yours, friend.” The Aul motioned for Mercer to follow him through the checkpoint.

Mercer quietly slid his blade back into the sheath he kept concealed in the small of his back and followed.

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