A spare rib struck me in the face, causing me to spill my mead, which in turn made me the recipient of a large number of menacing stares. Before I could even attempt to recover from this public embarrassment, all of the projectiles that had been flying haphazardly across the wooden table just moments earlier started to be hurled relentlessly in my general direction. I needed to remove myself from the fray quickly if I wanted to avoid the age-old shame that comes from being buried alive beneath a pile of gnawed-upon bones.
I remembered noticing a small passageway near the entrance to this grand hall, so I stood up and started towards it.
“Faen ta deg!”
Just as someone shouted this insult, a skillfully aimed drumstick smacked me on the side of the head. It didn’t really hurt, but a bout of laughter broke out among the assembled drunkards just the same. I grumbled and hurried along, ducking into the passageway as soon as I came to it.
Once inside, I found that it was actually a stairwell: narrow and spiraling downward farther than I could see in the poor lighting. Sure, it looked creepy, but I was curious, and I didn’t want to go back to getting pelted with bones again just yet—better to give those guys a chance to forget my unforgiveable spillage first, so I began the descent. The sounds of drunken revelry slowly faded into the background and I reached the bottom several minutes later.
The air was heavy with damp and rot and the dim lighting flickered unreliably. The splatter of dripping wetness could be heard in several places, along with some indecipherable creaking noises and phlegmy-sounding coughing. A stumpy form lying on the ground near me stirred a bit.
“Ye a banshee?” it asked in a groggy, confused voice.
“What the fuck?” I gasped, the words just sort of slipping out of me. I hadn’t expected the lump to speak.
“Hey, ye bollocksed tosser! I asked ye a feckin’ question. Are ye a banshee or aren’t ye?”
Agitation coursed through the stumpy form as its movements became more intense and it flailed itself into an upright position. It was a little man.
And suddenly I knew where I was. I had heard rumors about this place. This was the final destination for miscreant leprechauns. A despair-ridden hellhole where all dreams of retrieving that special pot o’ gold have long since disappeared. It is said to be reserved only for the worst of the worst—as defined by the Norwegians upstairs who were busy throwing bones around at one another.
“Well, what have ye got to say for yeself, ye feckin’ tosser?” he asked again, hobbling the rest of the way to his feet.
I snapped out of my daze and answered, “No, I’m not a banshee. I wasn’t even wailing.”
He sighed heavily, “Well then, I guess it was just the hangover wailin’ in me head again.” He looked at the empty bottle in his hand and a tear slid down his cheek. “Be a good lad n’ go n’ fetch me another whiskey, will ye?”
“Just a wee drop, laddy, could ye do that for me?”
“No, I think I better not.”
I tried to sound sympathetic, but as soon as the words had escaped my lips he smashed his bottle against the cold floor and started to charge towards me with his new weapon, roaring, “Blarney! Ye fetch me another feckin’ whiskey right now!”
I jumped to the side just as he slashed the air where I had been standing, the force of his effort propelling him into a disgraceful face-plant on the ground. I put my foot on the small of his back, towering above him like a goddamned giant straight out of Jotunheim and wondered why the hell this freak hadn’t been shackled down.
He struggled for a while, and then feebly tossed his glass shard away. I took a step back and allowed him to sit up. Exasperated and weary, he just sat there.
But I had had enough. This guy was a jerk, and dangerous, so I decided that it was time to take my chances with the violent bone flinging again. With any luck, the guys upstairs would have moved on to some other preferred target by now anyway. I edged backwards till I reached the stairs.
“Where ye goin’, tosser?” the miscreant asked, sniffling.
I looked at him, and though I felt some pity, it was outweighed by my residual anger. He had attempted to knife me, after all.
“I’m going to go have some whiskey,” I told him.
Well, I was actually going to go have some mead, but he didn’t need to know that.
Rowdy Geirsson unsuccessfully attempts to promote Leif Erikson awareness and barely maintains Scandinavian Aggression, a mediocre blog about Vikings. He is the editor of Norse Mythology for Bostonians and is a regular contributor to Metal Sucks, McSweeney’s, Points in Case, and Slackjaw. Follow him on Twitter @RGeirsson, or don’t.