Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I go to the bar to get a fresh round of drinks; two Riders at a nearby table catch my eye.

One is Keon, the one who played good cop to my bad cop; I don't know the other. He's a long-haired blond with a long Fu Manchu mustache, braided and beaded at the tips. He raises a stein to me as I get the drinks and head toward our table.

"Ho! Vampire! I will pay for your next round if you and your lady will come to our table and tell us of your fight with the berserkers."

I assume he means Jean-Marc's lackeys. I arch an eyebrow at Raina. She heard what he said; I think everyone in the Tavern heard him. Subtlety is not this guy's long suit.

She grins and nods, so I move toward the Riders' table and Raina follows, swinging her long legs beneath the table. I slide in next to her and set the drinks down.

I give Fu Manchu my best Jimmy Cagney impression. "So, mac, whattaya wanna know? Ask away, it's your dime."

I do a killer James Cagney.

For the next half hour, Raina and I tell the Riders about the fight with the "berserkers" without embroidering things too much. Fu Manchu, who has a Teutonic accent thick enough to skate on, asks lots of questions, mostly making us sound like heroic figures and mentioning Valhalla and Odin and Thor a lot.

Gee... who else do I know like that?

He's drinking something that smells like battery acid left too long in the sun, and I finally get up the nerve to ask him what it is.

"What's the matter, Vampire, you've never had mead?"

"Never. And from the smell of it, I'm just as glad."

A thundercloud moves over his expression and I brace myself. Then he relaxes and grins, and pounds the table hard enough to make the glasses rattle.

"Ho! I like you, Vampire. You have balls as big as Thor's."

I look to Raina a little helplessly, but she's trying - without much success - to hold back laughter. After a minute, she loses and the Riders and Raina have a laugh fest while I sit back being bewildered by it all.

Every time Raina or Fu looks at my face, they lose it again and it takes some time for things to calm down. Finally Keon smiles. "Ye dinna want to laugh at this lad too much, Guunnar. He scared the bejaysus out o' one of Jean-Marc's bugger-buddies, and I dinna think he was kidding."

And then nothing will do but that I tell that story, too. Raina is grinning damn near the whole time, especially when I do the Cheeto comparison. Now it's Guunnar's turn to look bewildered.

So now we have to try to explain Cheetos to Guunnar and things keep getting more hilarious. I notice that the Riders have put away enough booze to float a respectable rowboat and it seems to affect them about as much as water.

Finally someone has to go to the bar and buy some Cheetos so Guunnar can try them. He eyes them suspiciously, then shoves two in his mouth. His brow rises and he puffs his breath out, making his mustache move and blowing orange crumbs across the table. He looks incredulous.

"And you eat these things? Bah! The finger would have tasted better."

Now it's our turn to lose it at Guunnar's expense. He grins, not getting it.

"Wolf fingers and mead, sounds good, ja?"

We laugh - we howl - we all but roll on the floor, and the whole bar is staring at us. I realize that I haven't laughed this much since Alise was abducted, and it slowly dawns on me that things are returning to normal - whatever that is.

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