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The Joker walks into a night club with the Gambler and the Thief,
(and maybe you know this one already, so stop me if you've heard it!)
and as the three of 'em are sitting at a table in the corner of the room, the Devil moseys on over
and cops a squat in the last chair at the table.

"I say, how do you do, my fine lad and ladies, and might I buy you all a round on this most auspicious of evenings?"
The Devil, he's a sly son of a gun, voice like velvet and a fine sweet Cajun drawl slippin' off his tongue like quicksilver.

Now, ma belle Gambler there, she look him up and down, and she ne c'est sa Couillon, you know it?
She folds away her dice and cards into the bodice of her gown before she ask Ole Nick here,
"What business brings a Prince to this corner of our little haunt, and what business wants a Prince with the shadows of this place, that he offers us drinks- not that I'm turnin' them down, mind?"
She tosses her hair, wheat-blonde in the low light, and it tumbles right prettily down her back.
She has her own silver tongue, an' she know how to use it, savvy?

Miss Thief glances over at her sweet lady Gambler and catches her eye. They play this game all the time,
so why not game the king of games? She steeplechases a gold dollar across her knuckles and digs an elbow in the Joker's ribs.

The Joker gives 'em both his wickedest grin, and you know he thinks this a right fine thing, and well fittin' the atmosphere of the dive in which they all sit. He sits backward, straddling his chair, watchin' the whole room like a hawk keen to swoop. He winks his assent, and the joke is in motion, the game is on.

Mephisto throws back his head and laughs,
"You're all right." He waves the barkeep for a round, and it comes over presently.
They all sit and sip, and he offers them a bargain of sorts.
"Now, as I'm sure you lovely folk are well aware, your souls are not in any particular questionable state- like it or not, you play on my side of the field, non?
But I like myself a game as well as you all, so what say we try this: if you can steal, win, or trick
a righteous soul, one for each of you, over to my custody, then I'll let you all walk off, scott-free,
a new lease on eternity."

The Joker downs his glass and levels a dark steady gaze on Monsieur Lucifer, leaning in conspiratorially.
"As fine a bargain as that sounds, I've got one better for you." He grins his wicked grin.

"Oh, do tell; I wonder what your best offer might be, my good Joker."

"Well, I suggest first you play a round of cards with my lady friend here."
(Miss Gambler was already dealin' a hand as this was bein' said, and the Devil takes up his cards and studies them.)

"Fine, fine; what stakes do you suggest, my dear friends?"

The Thief, she been quiet this whole time, and now a jingling sound emerges from her hand,
and a sparkling metallic bloody little thing flashes back and forth between her fingers,
plucked clean from the Devil's own pocket.

"What say... you sacrifice another round of this sweetwater to us, for the key to Your Kingdom?" She grins, and damn if she ain't twice again as wicked as the Joker. She blows the Devil a little kiss, and he jumps up outta' his chair, his face red with anger-

-just in time to trip and lay himself out on the reeking floor of the dive,
his shoelaces tied together and his trousers falling around his ankles.
His beer tips off the table and spills all over his fine red velvet suit,
lookin' damn near like he's pissed himself right there in front of everybody.

The whole crowd been watchin' the proceedings, and they leap up in laughter and applause,
and the Joker takes a bow,
and the Thief threads the key to Hell onto a little string of pearls and ties it sweetly around the Gambler's pretty white throat.
It shines there like a sinister red star, surrounded by half a dozen others not unlike it.

Komos, Laverna, and Tabliope walked out of the bar, laughing and trading kisses,
leaving a humiliated Younger God to clean himself up and try to figure out what the Hell just happened.

...And that, mes amis, is how you all came to be under new management
in this fine and fiery establishment.

Now who wants to party?

Iron Noder 2013, 17/30

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