PYRAMID POWER — snippet 27

 

PYRAMID POWER – snippet 27:

 

 

            Liz realized the error of her ways about ten seconds after entering Vallhöll’s smoky and noisy halls.

 

            For starters, the place was enormous. It looked bigger than ten O’Hare’s put together, and full too. The only answer as to how dark-ages architecture stood up to these demands was by magic, because there was no other possibility. It had looked big from outside. From inside it looked, if not like a sea of people, like a reasonable sized lake.

 

            There were rows and rows and more rows of tables and bench-seats full of the butts of Norse heroes. In between them staggered thralls carrying platters of steaming hog-meat, and of course, foaming jugs of booze. The raucous bellowing and laughter was like a solid wave of sound.

 

            It appeared that Oktoberfest had had its origins here, complete with low-cut mail-shirts as an early version of the dirndl. Valkyries, accompanied by a train of thralls, poured foamy stuff into the drinking horns. Impatient yells for service added to the Munich feel of it all. The Valkyries were understaffed. By the looks of it, it would get a lot worse before midnight. Well. Jerry wasn’t going to be in this room. It was kind of a pity. She’d enjoyed Oktoberfest.

 

            Then an arm snagged her around the waist and deposited her derriere on a lap, and she realized that it was less fun for the waitresses here. For starters you might get a lot more than a tip. And, looking at the face of man who had hauled her onto his lap, you could forget some gallant gentleman stopping him from harassing the hired help. From what Thor had said, Heimdall-with-the-gold-teeth was one of the boss’s cronies. Maybe he enjoyed partying with the hoi-polloi. Or maybe this end of the hall was for the major league heroes. Most of them were big enough to have done well in any rugby team.

 

            Heimdall blinked owlishly at her. “Shwat you looked f’milar, wench. I’m better c’mpany than that slob, Thor. Drink with me.”

 

            He held the horn to her face, clumsily slopping a quarter pint of the stuff down her mailshirt. Mead was a lot nicer than she’d thought it would be, but she still didn’t want to shower in the stuff. His arm was still around her waist, and he held her so firmly that there was no escape without a major struggle. Mailshirts did have one advantage on your average dirndl, in that squeezing private property was less intrusive. His fingers were strong enough to dent the metal, though.

 

            Liz took the only option available. She drank. A lot less of the stuff than Heimdall had had in mind for her, as he attempted to pour the whole horn down her throat. It was a big horn. Silver-chased. It was the same thing he’d had for a tootle-pipe at the gates! There was a stopper in the bottom. Well, you could probably drink out of a trumpet if you didn’t mind wrecking the thing. And there were no valves on this.

 

            Liz managed pull the stopper loose. A stream of mead urinated un-noticed into Heimdall’s cloak. Liz, with the stopper firmly clasped in two fingers, used both hands to stop herself being drowned in mead. All she had to do was to keep Heimdall from tipping it too much, and pretend to drink. She still got a fair bit more down her cleavage, but doubtless this oaf thought that added to her charms.

 

            She was able to upend it and drain the last dregs so that it wasn’t too obvious. He and several of his Viking-type buddies cheered. Heimdall showed no signs of letting go, although she tried to pull free. So she snagged a jug from a passing thrall. This was what was expected of her, so she was allowed to pour it into the enormous twisted horn—and quietly push the stopper home. It took another half a two quart jug to fill the darn thing. But now it was her turn to pour it in his face. As he leaned back she saw the pyramid-pendant, under his blond beard.

 

            He drank all of his hornful. And bellowed for a refill. For Liz.

 

            Liz could see no way out of it… yet. But when the horn was full again, she leaned forward and kissed him, as she pulled the plug. She wasn’t quite as lucky this time, as some of it was dribbling down her leg. She’d take this big sot on at down-downs, and drink him under the table, but not while Jerry and Marie needed finding. She gave him some tongue as mead spilled onto the rush-strewn floor. By the looks of old gold-teeth’s face that hadn’t happened too often lately.

 

            Then she used two hands to chug the empty horn full of mead, ignoring his clumsy efforts to give her a feel up and wishing they’d issued her with chain-mail pants, with a small bear-trap strategically placed. She pushed the bung back in and “accidentally” whacked his fingers with the end of the horn.

 

            While he was still sucking his fingers she called for more mead. “Two to one,” she said, lining up jugs. “You’re bigger than me, big boy.”

 

            “By the all-father, Valkyrie, you can drink!” said a man with a plaited walrus moustache next to her.

 

            “Not as much as me,” said Heimdall, putting it away. Liz hastily refilled while he was still belching and wiping his beard. And while he was drinking she snagged two more jugs off a passing tray. Heimdall’s counting was getting a little weak. “Wasn’t that my two?” he asked, taking the horn anyway.

 

            “No, this is the second,” said Liz, pouring it down his throat. She raised her eyes to heaven. Wouldn’t this oaf pass out?

 

            Then she nearly passed out instead. There, standing on the little gallery, as bold as Beauchamp, was Jerry, looking ready to commit murder.

 

            She tried to stand up. And that was a mistake. Heimdall sat up and made a grab at her. “Time for loving,” he bellowed pushing her back onto the table and sending the bench flying along with a full load of Norse warriors as he tried to lift her dress. Liz kicked him. As hard as she could. Unfortunately, only in the belly. He did crash into the next table, via a platter of steaming boiled pork.

 

            “S’playing hard to get?” he said, sitting up and tilting his head at her, ignoring the fight that had broken out next to them. He surged forward again, grabbing her dress. He was so drunk he missed. Liz flung a leg of fatty pork at his head. And then swung that horn of his at him, as she tried to get up, and slipped on the pork-fat and spilled mead. He grabbed her with one hand, and Liz knew that, drunk or not, he was stronger than she was. And no-one around here was about to lift a finger to help, despite her scream for it.

 

            Except for Jerry Lukacs. He’d wrenched the upper rail off the little gallery and jumped the twenty feet down to the tables. The table went over, but not Jerry. He’d already gained the next one, swinging an eight-foot long piece of two-by-two rail, whacking blond heads. He brought it down, edge on, on Heimdall’s head, just as gold-teeth managed to hitch her dress up,

 

            Liz rolled frantically away.

About Eric Flint

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