Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Karaoke Night

Thanks to The Student for filling in—for what that was worth. (No offence to him, but I never quite intended for this behemoth to be as much about literature as all that. ...Granted, my M.A. is in Ranting in Literature, and I’ve talked about that quite a bit. No matter, though.)
As he mentioned, the Fiddler on the Roof rehearsals were amping up, and I was beginning to think that I’d entered into something I wasn’t quite perpared for. Not regarding the lines, or the music, or even the dancing (I was actually improving on that! Couldn’t quite understand how a person was supposed to be able to alternate what foot to lead with, but whatever). No, I was, for the first time, understanding just how out of my league these English were when it came to binge drinking.
See, The Student had warned me a bit. Since he’d been abroad to England before, he’d seen just how bad the English could be. However, my understanding was that he hung out in Coffee & Corks a lot more than chav bars, so I don’t think he quite understood. You see—and you probably already know this, but bear with me—there is a world of difference between the ways people drink in an urbane sort of place like C&C and the English equivalent to a club where the prevailing sound is the pumping of bass pouring out of speakers and raping your eardrums.
Which is, essentially, what I discovered the young people are into nowadays. You see, in terms of academic standing, I was the oldest person in the cast. (That of course doesn’t apply to time, where I was somewhere near the top, but not quite near the top, and it frankly doesn’t matter because I’m a sixty-year-old trapped in a twentysomething’s body and I’ll shut up now.) This meant that I’d been through the two and a half years of excessive killing-my-liver that was Freshman through half of Junior years of college, and was very much in the mindset that one did not have to pickle one’s brain in whiskey to have a good night.
However, this view was not particularly prevalent in Musical Theatre Society. Maybe it’s the venues they chose. It’s hard to relax and talk when the Black Eyed Peas are screeching about what a good night it’s going to be (not to mention randomly throwing in Hebrew into their songs, the schlubs), not to mention the difficulty of expressing oneself when one is being jostled every which way by people on insane and unhealthy amounts of drugs.
And thus, most times when rehearsals were done on Thursday or Friday nights, a portion of the cast would wander over to The Venue or Massive Mungo’s. (Massive Mungo’s was a, er, massive event that was the closest I’ve ever seen to a rave. I hated it. The beer was served in plastic cups—Guinness in plastic cups should be a crime—the people were whacked out of their minds, and no one could hear my awful jokes.
I did see The Drunkard around the crowd, though. He seemed to fit in quite well, but judging from the amount of times I saw him get slapped, I guess he wasn’t having a fun night.
Anyway, there was one thing that MST did that I could get behind: Karaoke nights.
(A brief digression:
When I was in high school, I had the extreme honor of being in the top ten percent of my graduating class. This meant that I did just enough homework to have a low A as my GPA. It further meant that I was able to go on a trip to Gatlinburg, paid for by the school.
Gatlinburg, and the nearby town of Pigeon Forge, for those who don’t know, is an awful place. It’s like the redneck Alps. Set rigth at the foot of the Smokey Mountains, the town is made to look like some bizarre hunting village. The illusion falls apart, though, when one sees the giant Ripley’s Believe It Or Not tourist trap right alongside the hundredth consecutive bauble vendor.
Pigeon Forge, though, is worse. There are three types of buildings in Pigeon Forge: 1) Go-Kart Tracks; 2) Fast food restaurants; 3) Big cubes that hold clothe stores and the like. They all look similar, and, after spending an hour in the town, one is tempted to rip out one’s own eyes.
Anyway, the reason I brought that up was because there happened to be a karaoke bar attached to one of the big cubes. My fellow nerds and I went to this karaoke place one afternoon. Others chose to sing songs that people knew—pop hits and the like. I, however, said “Nope,” and went with a string of Bob Dylan. I was not liked.)
The karaoke nights at the University of Kent were held in Rutherford Bar—in Rutherford College, it may surprise you to learn. A guy and his wife had a catalogue of karaoke tunes you could howl along to. Speakers were set up in one corner, and it was free to get in—which was a huge plus.
So, Tuesdays after rehearsals, the cast would go down to the bar and proceed to monopolize the whole thing. I’m fairly certain that everyone else who showed up, not expecting to see a horde of hyper glee-club types, hated the cast for filling the request queue with Elton John, Phantom of the Opera, and other musicals. And frankly, I could understand why. There were a few people who sang the same songs every week, and some weeks, twice in one night. They viewed it as their signature songs (I’m thinking of one odd guy who chose “Hallelujah” every week and, my friends, was not Leonard Cohen). Everyone else viewed the songs as the reasons why they couldn’t get up in front of their friends and sing a horrible-on-purpose rendition of “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
And this Tuesday was no different. I showed up a little later than everyone else, having to stop by the Gulb and get some post-dancing coffee and think about a few songs I’d try to sneak in between the society’s onslaught of Broadway songs. The society seemed to be already drunk—which I thought was amazing, considering rehearsals had been over for only half an hour—and I was greeted with several unintelligble shouts.
To my left was a portion of the cast, huddled around one person clutching a microphone for dear life. They all yelled lyrics to some song from some musical I’d never heard before. I looked over to my right and saw Dixie hanging around with somepeople I recognized from American Society,[1] so, not really wanting to deal with the voices of a dozen drunk English students, I walked over to his group.
“Yo man,” I said.
Dixie turned around. I could tell he was quite drunk already. “Hey!” he shouted. Then he introduced me to the group of people surrounding him.
Turned out they were all Americans. It was strange, how Dixie seemed to be a cultural attache to American students studying at Kent. The Student hadn’t mentioned such a thing when he was here a couple years ago, so I assumed that it was a new position put up by the Student Union in conjunction with the American Society. Or not.
Anyway, the three people around him were Miles—from South Carolina, he looked a bit like Rivers Cuomo if he were taller—Jeff—a man who, I assumed, had followed The Dave Matthews Band around the States—and Flynn—looked a bit like Neil Patrick Harris. We drank, and discussed the many ways we preferred England to the States.
Now, it turned out that Flynn would be one of the founding members of the Man Squad, along with a man who—I believe—was directly descended from Thor himself. The Man Squad, you see, was a loose confederation of a few people who enjoyed video games and acting like jackasses. The founders of Man Squad determined that it would stand for the Fourfold Path: Coffee, Beer, Hockey, and Internship. Further, meetings of the Man Squad went about going down in pubs and over Risk.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. At that time, I’d just met the guy and was more trying to convince Dixie that him getting up and singing “Stand By Your Man” was a good idea. It didn’t work, sadly.
I was interrupted by Lucie, who demanded that we sing a song together. I said, “Yeah!” We decided on “(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles” by The Proclaimers, I went to get a Jack Daniel’s, and she disappeared.
“Well that’s odd,” I thought. I then went back to talking shit about the South with the Americans until having to go up to the mic and sing two parts in a two-person song. The good thing about the Proclaimers, you see, is that both of the singers sound exactly the same, so it might as well be one person.

[1] You remember them? No? Well, it has been a very long time since I mentioned them. Right. American Society were a bunch of Brits who, for whatever reason, had an odd fixation on American society and culture and decided to form a club around it. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Student Fills In

Um, hello. Yes. Hello, then.
You probably realise that I’m not The Narrator. That is, if you’ve read the title above—which I hope you have, since it’s a very good... yes.
Look, sorry. I’m not used to these blog things. I’ve never started one myself, and I don’t know anyone who has. Well, except for The Narrator, who’s apparently started two of them. That’s a bit excessive, don’t you think? Having two blogs covering the same time span—one (this one) much longer than the other. Of course, not being privy to that blog, you wouldn’t know anything about it, would you? Frankly, I’m not sure who’s reading this one. The Narrator, you see, didn’t give me any instructions vis a vis posting this to any website, and all of my JSTOR and LexisNexis searches have turned up nil for most of the more unique sentences in this thing. So, point being, I’m not sure anyone is reading this.
Though, on the other hand, someone must be reading this, for if not, then why would The Narrator be asking me to “fill in” for a gap of time in posting? And, more importantly—once again—to write “like myself” as opposed to the more flowery and traditionally, shall we say, Victorian style that The Narrator has adopted elsewhere. And on that note, one must wonder why, exactly, The Narrator, a largely unVictorian sort of man when it comes to everything except romance (though, frankly, I have never spoken to the man about such topic, and have only this blog, and the other, to go on—though when considering the proposition inherent in these blogs [that is, that they have fictional elements (such as the scenes wherein The Narrator is drugged and taken to some absurd dungeon)], neither may very well be an accurate portrayal of The Narrator’s feelings)—yes, apologies—one must wonder why The Narrator has chosen to adopt said style.
I shall have to query him about that the next time we meet, and I am not in a mad rush to the library.
The one thing The Narrator did suggest is that I take this time to introduce myself to you—whoever “you” may be. So: Hello again. My name is The Student and I am studying the correlation between classical and neo-classical mentalities in the literature of Joseph Conrad.
Well, studying that at the moment. It may very well change. I despise Conrad, you see. I know, I know. There are legions of academics who would lynch me for saying that, but there is something utterly despicable about the man’s utter and overwhelming desire to be seen as British instead of his native nationality. Why, I do not know. Perhaps it was because of political turmoil, or some self-loathing instinct. But when an author such as Kafka—one of the greats, and there can be no doubt of that—willingly identifies himself with such an obscure nationality as Hungarian, then why must Conrad divorce himself from a nation that has played a large role in European affairs like Poland? Such a confusing mental state, if you were to ask me.
But you didn’t. No doubt you want to hear more about my love life or something.
It’s dead. Is that short enough for you? Dead, blasted, and buried. Fucking paratroopers. Yes, yes, yes, I know, he may not have had the anxiety that defines me to such a whole extent, and may in fact have had more people skills, but that’s all nonsense.
Also, if you are of the clever sort, you may have noticed the tense of that phrasing up there. I’m writing this well after the fact of the year in Canterbury that the five of us underwent. I’m under strict orders to not tell you what The Narrator—or anyone else—is up to (though I can assure you it is nothing amazing and is quite dull), only that I may say what I am doing. I am working on my Ph.D in Comp Lit—focusing on what I mentioned above.
I believe that there was some mention of my hatred for Conrad in this narrative before, so I shan’t dwell on it. I will only say that it is sometimes easier to talk about what you hate more than what you love.
Right, anyway.
The Narrator left off talking about the time Tuna, The Drunkard, and he broke into the Inquire offices. That much is true—and we know it is true because the next day, the new issue of Inquire had the headline of “DIE INQUIRE IST TOT, DADA UBER ALLES”, followed by bricks of text in the Wingdings font. It was, for lack of a better word, mental.
No one got the joke, it seemed, except Literature students—and even then, only the ones who really cared about what they were studying. (So, that is to say, there were about ten who got the joke. I was one, along with six other post-grads, and I think I overheard a couple of third years in Mungo’s discuss the implications of the return of Dadaism.) Regardless, The Drunkard saw this as a triumph against the forces of mediocrity on the paper—and, in a way, it was. The editor was let go soon after the issue was released, and the assistant editor, who I knew as a third year who was more focused on buying three hundred pounds’ worth of make-up along side a couple hundred pounds’ worth of accessories every month, was put in his place.
The next issue—which came out a month after the Dada issue—resembled more of a celebrity gossip tabloid than anything else. The Drunkard foamed at the mouth and tried to encourage his French flatmates to rise up and break out Madame Guillotine. (The veracity of that account of events, wherein The Stalker was almost decapitated, is still in question in my mind. If I remember correctly, it was around the time when The Drunkard first discovered mead, and shared it with The Narrator, and both were quite drunk when the former told the latter the story. I believe if there were such a thing as Madame Guillotine, The Drunkard would have used it upon The Writer by now.) As evidenced by the lack of murder, The Drunkard was not successful in his appeal, and, the month after that, another issue of Inquire came out—this time focusing on an all-Lady Gaga issue. The Drunkard disappeared for a week after that.
Anyway, I think that The Narrator intended me not to give you a full recounting of those events, but more of what he was doing after the break-in.
For whatever reason, talking about rehearsals makes him go twitchy. I don’t know why. He seemed fine and happy at the time, so why he should, a year and a half after, feel the need to overdramaticize the events—or whatever it is that he is doing by having another peron write about what happened to him—is beyond me. Here. This is what he wrote:

On October 4, 2011 at 1:23AM, wrote:


I need some help from you, buddy.

Been working on that blog, right? (No, not the one you saw when we were in Canterbury—that one’s long over since I’ve finally stopped reading fucking Coleridge. The other one that I may have mentioned to you a couple times. And if not: There’s a second blog. Layers upon layers upon layers; turtles on turtles on turles; INCEPTION.)

Anyway, I’m hitting a rut with it, and could use someone else to write a bit for me. I’m going to start with you, then, depending on how that goes, go to the others.

But yeah, I’m about that point in the spring term when Fiddler rehearsals were ratcheting up, and I don’t want to talk about them. Yes. I know it’s weird. I have my reasons. Please stop judging me.

-         Narrator

On October 4, 2011 at 8:32AM, wrote

You wrote that at 1:30 in the morning? Narrator, don’t you have a job? Are you okay? Dear Lord, man. Seek help if you have insomnia and don’t worry about your bloody blog.

Yes, I will write a guest chapter. Just, please, get some sleep.

And so, that’s why I’m here now. Talking to you about my hatred for Joseph Conrad, The Drunkard and Madame Guillotine, and The Narrator’s worrying insomnia. That’s... about it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Breaking In with The Drunkard

I walked out of Block D at 11:01 PM wearing black trousers, dress shoes, and a black button up shirt. It was chilly out again, but surprisingly not too bad. I guess there was so much pot being smoked in Woolf that night that it created a sort of warm air bubble around the college, trapping in some heat. There was a group of people in the courtyard in front of my block. Two of them wore black hoodies, one wore a black pea coat and a black fedora. The other, obviously The Student, wore a sweater, jeans, and black tennis shoes.
“Look, dude,” said The Drunkard, one of the people in the black hoodies, “I’m not saying you’re doing it wrong, but you need to rethink your outfit tonight.”
“You said ‘wear black,’” said The Student. “I’m wearing black. I fail to see what the problem is.”
“The problem is you look like normal. There’s nothing to disguise you fro—oh, fuck me, really, Narrator? Are we going to shul tonight?”
“What?” I asked. “You said ‘wear black.’ I’m wearing black. I fail to see what the problem is.”
“See?” asked The Student. “Thank you.”
“Can I ask you something?” said the other man in a black hoodie. He had what could be described as a Jew nose, and in the brief glance I got of his eyes in that dim light, I saw unpredictability and the desire to watch the world burn. “Why are all your friends idiots, man? They’ve got cameras. Everywhere.”
“Yeah, Tuna,” The Drunkard said, sipping out of a flask, “I know. They’re all pretty law-abiding people, though. Not their fault—they just haven’t had the same experiences we’ve had.”
“I’ve taken drugs derived from rhino shit,” said the man in the fedora.
I squinted. “Traveler? Is that you? Why do you look like a spy?”
“They said to dress in black. This is all I had.”
“Man,” said the guy named Tuna, “this isn’t Spy Vs. Spy.”
“Nor is it Let’s Dress Like Chavs Night, but you two seem to be under that impression.”
A silence passed over everyone. “I’d kick your ass,” said Tuna, “but you’re funny. Come on let’s go, I’m bored.”
“We got everyone?” asked The Drunkard. He looked around. “Yeah, looks like we do. Let’s head out.”
“Where are we going?” asked The Student.
“Wait,” Tuna said. “You just showed up because he told you to?”
The Student looked down at the ground and cleared his throat. “Well, my girlfriend just dumped me for some other guy, and I don’t have any essays to write at the moment, so I didn’t have any reason to not to go.”
The Traveler shrugged. “Sounded like it’d be fun.”
Tuna nodded approvingly at this. He turned to me. “You?”
“Erm,” I said, scratching the back of my head. “Well, he, uh, told me to show up.”
Tuna’s eyes narrowed. “Sheeple.”
I gently coughed out an apology.
The Drunkard moved towards Giles Lane, and we followed.
The door was unlocked. This made our job a whole lot easier, and made me think that perhaps we weren’t breaking and entering. Maybe someone was pulling an all-nighter on the paper staff and left the door open so they could go grab a shitty burger at The Kitchen.[1]
I’d never been in this building. There hadn’t ever been a reason for me to come in, honestly. Some people I knew said I should have gone in, dropped off a stack of my writing, and demanded a job—but that was absurd. I’d read Inquire. The paper was put out on a monthly basis, chock-full of typos, and had leading stories such as “Students At Kent Want More Opening Hours for The Venue.”
Put short, I don’t think they would have appreciated my style. Granted, I’d had an Op-Ed column at The Unversity of Tennessee, so one could make the case that there was precedent for me being a part of this particular student publication, but that would be omitting a very important fact: I was fired from that job after turning out a column calling governors useless and demanding that they be pitted against each other in something akin to Thunderdome. That was my style. Power outages? A lesser columnist would have called for the University’s administration to do something to upgrade all of the generators. I, however, claimed that I’d seen Gremlins mucking about in them, and that they were—obviously—readying themselves to kill everyone on campus. The worrying state of Hollywood? Well, I said, at least they’re not remaking Red Dawn. (This being several years before the announcement that they were, in fact, remaking Red Dawn. I’m a Prophet, you see.)
Anyway. The point is that I was not familiar with this place, but that The Drunkard seemed to be. He led the charge up the staircase immediately in front of the door and held Tuna back when he, in some barbarian rage, almost headbutted down a door. “Save the hatred,” The Drunkard said, “that’s the wrong door.”
Tuna grunted and clenched and unclenched a fist.
“Narrator,” asked The Student, “are we going to die?”
“Well, we will all eventually die, Student,” I said. “It is just a question of when and in what state.”
“Thanks. That helps a lot.”
“No problem.”
“I don’t think we’ll die,” said The Traveler. “There is no doubt that our new Turkish friend is built like The Goddamn Batman, but there’s no reason—” he said as Tuna screamed and kicked down a door, “—that we should be afraid. You know, just don’t stare into his eyes. That might be a sign that you’re challenging him.”
“Good man, Tuna Shark,” said The Drunkard.
The two stepped into the large room on the other side of the door, and the three of us, languishing behind and not really sure why The Drunkard wanted us along, followed behind.
The room, when The Traveler turned on the lights, was the top of the Student Affairs building stuck onto the end opposite the bookstore. It, I guess, was the headquarters of the Inquire newspaper. There were three flimsy, plastic desks on top of which sat old computers with CRT monitors. Against the wall to my left upon entering was a gigantic printer, out of which—I reckoned—came the newspaper every month. The rest of the room was given over to some large desks on top of which sat tools for measuring out and aligning the paper before it went to print. It was one of these tables that Tuna threw out the window.
The alarm sounded, The Student fled, and The Drunkard sighed. “Jumped the gun, man.”
Tuna said, paced back and forth along the windows. “You call me up and you say, ‘We’re gonna wreck some shit.’”
“I said ‘We’re going to engage in sabotage,’” said The Drunkard.
“Same thing. You say that, and then you want me to not wreck some shit? You need to work on your communication skills.”
“Well,” said The Traveler. “I’m—I’m going to head out, now. Don’t really see the point in hanging around only for Campus Watch to swing by and arrest me.”
“Man, Campus Watch aren’t worth the badges they wear,” said Tuna.
“Be that as it may. Narrator, you want to head out?”
I looked at Tuna and The Drunkard. The Drunkard was haphazardly smashing at a keyboard on the largest desk, and Tuna had pulled a face that said, very clearly, that if I left now, I would forever be branded a coward, and would not have his respect. And I knew, then, that not having Tuna’s respect would be a dangerous thing. (I didn’t know at the time that Tuna was actually a really cool dude—except when someone insulted one of his friends—who listened to opera, of all things.)
“Nah,” I said, “I’ll stick around. Y’know, bar the door and rappel down the side of the building if needs be.”
The Traveler raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to rappel down a building? Y—look, your funeral.” He lowered his hat over his eyebrow, dug his hands into his p-coat, and left the building.
“Where do you get your friends?” asked Tuna.
“We tell each other stories,” said The Drunkard.
“What, like some gay shit?”
The Drunkard looked up with a quizzical look on his face.
“Man, I’m joking.” He turned to me. “Your name is The Narrator, right?” He now had to scream as the alarm’s volume grew.
“Yeah,” I shouted back.
“What are you here for?”
“Ranting in Literature.”
“What the fuck is that and why are you doing that in grad school?”
“It’s like everything in the School of English,” I shouted. “It’s an excuse for otherwise unemployable people to gather around a table and talk bullshit for three hours a week. At the end of it, we’ll get a degree that means nothing except that we should probably go for a PhD if we want to accomplish anything in life.”
Tuna laughed. “I like that.”
“All right!” shouted The Drunkard. He swiped a bunch of stuff off of the desk in front of him. “Let’s head out.” He walked to the door.
“What were you doing?” I asked as we passed the door that Tuna had almost headbutted.
“Tweaking a few things on the next issue of Inquire. See, this organization?” he asked, drawing the hoodie tighter around his face as we approached the door. “This place is unbelievably shitty, as you well know. Gents,” he said to the two tall, obese Campus Watch guards who were standing outside the building, looking up at the broken window.
They looked at us and said, “You wouldn’t have anything to do with that, would you?”
The Drunkard laughed a merry laugh and put on a shitty posh accent. “Why, what a humorous question. My friends and I were just locking up at the Societies Room, what, and happened to overhear what seemed to be the most awful crash—pip pip, what? When we looked out into the hallway, we saw some uppity Yank storming out. Believe he had black contacts in and looked just on the pallid side. God save the Queen.”
“God save the Queen,” the Campus Watch said in chorus. “This American,” the one on the right—who had the extremely thin hair—said, hatred dripping out of his voice at the word ‘American,’ “how tall would you say he was?”
“Oh,” said The Drunkard, scratching his chin. “About my height. A bit thinner. Pallid. So very pallid. As if Death himself were about to swoop down with his mighty scythe and take off his head. Would be worried if he weren’t going around breaking through windows, what what?”
“Indeed,” said the two Campus Watch officers in chorus.
“Oi James,” said the one on the left—the one with the ginger hair. “Don’t that sound like that one who been peekin through windows, what?”
“So it does, Carl. So it does. Lads,” said the one on the right. “We thank you much and get home safe, now. See any more Yanks around causing trouble, you tell us, and we’ll head over and beat em down for you.”
The Drunkard thanked them, and we went on our way.
Right as we were at the border between out-of-earshot and still audible to the Watch, Tuna began going on a tirade against the Brits’ and their “post-colonial mentality.” I didn’t quite follow him all the way, since I think there was just some need to vent at something there, but as long as he was content, that was cool.
We got back to Woolf and Tuna went to “watch Dark Knight, because I need to see something blow up tonight.” The Drunkard and I hung around the courtyard for a bit longer, discussing what was going on in our lives. This was aided by a bottle of Scotch that The Drunkard procured from some deep recess of his hoody, and two cigars—which also magically appeared from somewhere in his hoody. (I’ve never quite understood the way that clothing garment manages to always have much more storage capacity than it should.)
He was having nightly confrontations with the Frenchmen about their smoking habits and the odd pamphlets he’d seen sprinkled around the house. “If I’m translating them correctly,” The Drunkard said after a puff of his cigar, “then they’re tracts calling for the upheaval of the cultural cesspool that is the British royal monarchy and complete reversal of the current hegemony.” He sighed. “I don’t know what the fuck they’re studying.”
“Revolutionary Cliches?”
The Drunkard shrugged.
There came a ruckus from Block E. We looked over and saw the two morbidly obese Campus Watch officers pulling a screaming and flailing Stalker from the building. “Fascists!” screamed The Stalker. “I have rights, God damn you! Where are my rights? I demand a barrister!”
The officers didn’t respond, just dragged him out of the building and tossed him—as if he were a rag doll—into their golf cart. They sped off and The Drunkard and I looked at each other.
“That’s not good,” I said.
“No,” said The Drunkard. “That’s probably because of what I did.”
“Probably,” I said.
“Think I should do something about it?” he asked.
Time passed. “God damn it,” he said.

[1] It is a well known fact that there are very few places—per capita—to get a good burger in the UK. I guess it’s because they are—overall—healthier than the U,S,m and thus, the urge to eat fat-ridden red meat is lesser. Still. As an American, seeing the profusion of the cardboard the Brits called hamburger patties was a horrible thing. Next time you’re in the UK, tell them that they don’t know what a good burger is. They won’t listen and insist that Yanks are too stupid to talk about food, but you’ll at least be trying. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Stalker's Second Tale

Mordechai ben Yosef was a short, stout man from a Caliph’s land far to the south. It was rumored to never have seen snow, and the people were said to move about by way of mounting strange, four-legged beasts with bumps on their backs. He was a man of books, sent from that land because he’d insulted the intelligence of his teacher by insinuating that the trainer had mistranslated a word in a Greek text while preparing for a discussion at a temple.
The teacher, an extremely egotistical old man, had Mordechai banished on the next trade caravan heading north. As tended to happen, that trade caravan was ambushed by nomads fifty miles north of their departure, and everyone who had not been killed in the ambush—totalling twenty people—were captured and put to irons. Mordechai was one of them, and came close to death several times simply because he continuously complained about his station in life.
The slavers’ patience wore thin, and the only thing keeping a blade from hacking off Mordechai’s head was the suspicion that the Jewish scholar might pull a decent price as a galley slave. While incredibly undernourished for such a position, the Jew showed a good amount of stamina by not dropping dead in the desert heat, which several other slaves had. The only problem was the man’s incessant yammering, but that could easily be solved by sewing the man’s mouth shut.
At any rate, they didn’t make it to their destination. As the slave caravan passed into Asia Minor, they stopped at a small river to rest for a few hours. Mordechai had been allowed a bit of freedom after he pulled one of the guards’ dead tooths. He wandered off to the river and plopped down in the bank-side dirt for a nice, long think—most of which had to deal with him analyzing his present situation and deciding whether or not he’d be able to get away with fleeing.
About ten minutes into his interior monologue, Mordechai looked up from his reverie to see three very odd-looking ships, long, wooden things with square red-and-white sails and horrible beasts that resembled Leviathan's description on the front of the boat. Men were on those things. hulking men who looked like they could rip someone in half with their pinky fingers. They stood at the sides of the boats, clutching sharp axes and straight swords, things that lacked the grace of a decent weapon. Mordechai, of course, was scared the point of petrification.
As they drew closer he heard their chanting. It was a guttural sound that hugged the water and the ground, and crawled instead of flew through the air. They thumped their axes against the decks of their boats. “Go back to the caravan and warn them,” Mordechai thought—for a moment considering the caravan more like family than these people. “Yeah,” Mordechai thought, gulping, “screw that. Those goyim can—” his thought was interrupted by a small axe whizzing through the air and burying itself in the ground right next to his right leg.
The men on the boat laughed and leapt off onto the shore.
A couple of the caravan guards had come to the river to fetch the Jew, saw the longboats, and called for help. Mordechai looked dumbly from the longboats to the slavers and gulped. “Oh God, help me please,” he prayed. Not that he expected anything to come of it. This was the same God who allowed him to be put in this position in the first place, caught in between a group of terrifying pale-skinned barbarians and people who wanted to sell him.
No sooner had he thought about all of this than one of the Vikings knocked him unconscious.
When he awoke, he was in a dank, cramped room and was slowly swaying from side to side. He bent up and blinked a few times. He felt around him and noticed that someone had taken away his tefillin, which at least the caravan had had the decency to let him keep. “Great,” he thought. “First I’m cast out of Yerusalem and now where am I? Stuck on a boat somewhere with no tefillin. Can’t pray. There’s no getting out of here.”
Several thumps landed on the ceiling above his head, followed by raucous shouts and more chanting. A section of the ceiling lifted up and one of the giants, a man with one eye and a huge, ratty beard leapt down the stairs from the outside, walked over to Mordechai, said something in his grunting and spitting language and laughed, and then picked Mordechai up and threw him up on the deck.
Compared to the dark of below-deck, topside was blinding, and it took even longer for Mordechai to get used to what he was looking at. When he did adjust, he wasn’t happy with what he saw. The accumulated gems and treasures and coins of the guards were piled on the decks of the longships in what looked like roughly equal amounts. Smoke raised from just beyond the rise separating the river from where he remembered the caravan to be. In the middle of the deck, about four yards from where he stood, two of the guards were tied to the mast of the ship, blood streaming from their noses, their heads lolling down.
“Oh good Lord,” Mordechai said.
The giant behind him spat something out, laughed again, and pushed Mordechai forward, towards the other end of the ship. As they passed the mast, one of the men looked up, blinking, and said, “Salaam, please, help us off of this place and—”
He got no further before another giant, this one with stark red hair, lopped off his head with an axe. The head flung up in the air and the man caught it by its head, shouting out something. The rest of the men on the ship, about twenty, all laughed. The giant prodded Mordechai along to the other end of the longship, where another man, this one a bit grayer about the face and, yes, without an eye and a whole lot of scars across his arms—presumably across his torso as well, though that happened to be covered up by a leather shirt—held a large piece of parchment and argued with another man.
Mordechai stopped three feet away from the man, and his prodder said something.
The old man looked up and over Mordechai. He pointed at the parchment. Mordechai tilted his head. The younger man, who had black-and-gray hair and spoke in Greek, “You are Jew!”
Mordechai blinked. His Greek wasn’t the best, but he was more surprised that a man who had the skin color of a man whose home was a tomb knew Greek. “Yes,” Mordechai ventured.
“Jew knows writing?”
“Yes,” Mordechai ventured again.
The man talked to the old man. The old man responded and the young man said, “My father is leader of our expedition. He says you translate map or we kill you with blood eagle.”
Mordechai gulped. “What’s ‘blood eagle?’”
“Eh,” said the younger man, “it is something that is very bad. Very painful. See, Erik Redbeard—” he nodded to a towering, barrel-chested man with a long, red beard who was kicking one of the guard’s corpses on the bow—“he will take a knife. He will take the knife and he will cut your torso open, at which point, he will take your ribs and—”
“Okay,” Mordechai said, feeling sicker than he had since the day he’d been asked to go to the butcher’s and pick up some fresh meat. “Okay, okay. That’s enough. I’ll translate your map just—oy vey iz mir, just don’t talk about any more of your ways of having fun with dead things.” Mordechai wiped sweat off his brow and walked up between the two men, and looked down at the map.
It was a poorly-made thing, he could tell that immediately. The ink on all of the physical features bled together, creating a greenish-blue blob whenever rivers met plains, as they did so often on the map. From Mordechai’s reckoning, they were somewhere near the Black Sea, which should have put the danger from the maniacs on horseback—with whom the caravan wanted to trade—instead of the maniacs on boats, in whose hospitality he found himself. Far to the east, at least a fortnight’s ride if the map was anywhere near scale, was a trading city in the middle of the land of the Khazars.
Mordechai nearly leapt in joy. The Khazars, while assuredly as barbaric as everyone else in this godforsaken land of steppes, sand, and the barest of grass—not an olive grove to be found, can you believe how these people lived without olives?—were supposedly Jews. Mordechai glanced around him and quickly studied these people.
All men, no women and no livestock of their own. Some of them were engaged in bringing the trophies of their raid of the caravan down into the empty holds. Mordechai would have wagered that these men were not looking to settle down in the area—there was no way their fair skin and predilection for gutting people could make them friends in this civilized area. So if they were hoarding materials, and trying to translate a map, he figured that they were going to either pillage their way around the world, or eventually stop and trade. Now, whether they’d pillage the Caliph’s lands was the question, but, ultimately, Mordechai didn’t care. The mamzers back there had sold him into slavery and they could go shit in the ocean for all he was concerned.
But the Khazars—they were rumored to be people one did not want to fuck with. Armies, ships patrolling their waterways, that sort of stuff. Added to the fact that they were supposedly brothers of the maniacs on horses, and thus carried some of their bloodlust, and it was pretty certain there was a way to get out of this. “Well over there,” Mordechai said, in Greek, pointing to the few buildings sketched on the map, “is a city—can’t pronounce it, but I’ve heard of it. Trading outpost, from what I know.”
The older man nodded and spoke to the younger, then walked towards the bow of the ship and conferred with Erik Redbeard. The younger said, “Jew, you and I will go to this place.”
“I’m sorry?” asked Mordechai. “You and I? H—Wh—How?”
“We kept four horses alive. The rest are food now. My father Wotan Baldricksson sends us out to search, destroy, and spread the fear and war of the All-Father as we go.”
Mordechai looked at the towering, grinning man with his gapped smile and bloodshot eyes and gulped. “I—I’m not really one for long trips. The longest trip I’ve taken was a couple years ago and that was the butcher. Know how that ended? I plotzed when I saw the lamb carcasses. No, I think I’ll—uh...” He looked around the boat at the gore and treasure. “I can teach your friends Talmud?”
The tall man burst into laughter and slapped Mordechai in the back, sending him hurdling forward and nearly falling off the top of the longship. “I like you! Jew has name? My name is Sven Wotansson, and I have killed ten men today—” he held up ten fingers, “—and many more in the past. How many have you killed?”
Mordechai pulled at the neck of his robe and cleared his throat. “Once I killed a lizard. That was on accident. It stepped in front of me and I stepped on its head and cried shortly thereafter. My mother, she told me to stop being a moron and slapped me and brought me to the rabbi, who called me a moron and slapped me, so I don’t really—”
The Norseman boomed laughter and shouted in his guttural language. His shipmates, in turn, also burst into laughter. “What was that about?” asked Mordechai.
“I say that the Jew will be like a sentry for them. If we are in trouble, you will scream loud enough for Valhalla to hear!”
“Oh,” said Mordechai. “What’s Valhalla?”
“I will tell you all about it. Come, friend Jew, we begin a long journey.” Sven Wotansson smacked Mordechai on the back once again and left to gather supplies for the long journey to Khazaria. The rumored towers and high city walls of the exotic nation rose up in Mordechai’s mind, just enough to allow him to overlook the stinging pain of the Nordic man’s less-slap-more-bash.

The steppes never ended. Mordechai had never conceived of something that could never end. After all, his world existed within the confines of a walled city. But these lands, with their repressive flatness and vegetation that was, well, alien, stretched out far and wide with few signs of habitation. That evidence he did see was mostly ruins, shells of buildings and burned-out frames of huts, with some dead and decaying animals nearby. “Battle,” Sven Wotansson said. He sniffed at the air and squinted into the distance. “Battle from these beasts.” He shook his head. “Not the right battle, though.”
“Sorry?” Mordechai asked. He’d long ago taken off his coat and hat. Stripped down to his shirt, trousers, and yarmulke, it was still too hot. He wondered what the rabbis would think of avoiding heatstroke as an excuse to trim his beard, but decided he better not tempt bad things. “There’s a correct sort of battle?”
Wotansson nodded. “That is right. From ships. A quick raid, just enough to take a village’s gold and maybe some women, yes?” He boomed in laughter. “There was a time, we sailed down River Volga—you know Volga?”
“Can’t say I do, I’m afraid.”
“You should see Volga. I think we are near it, actually.” He squinted into the distance. “Yes, I recognize this land. My boat sailed through here years ago and took enough prizes and—”
A horn sounded somewhere in the distance. A low sound, almost like that of a shofar at Rosh Hashanah, cut across the steppes. Sven silenced himself immediately and his hand jumped to the base of his double-bladed axe. Mordechai gulped and a chill went down his spine. “What kind of bird was that?” he asked.
“Friend Jew, this was no bird,” said Sven, hoisting the axe in his hand and stopping the horse. “Look,” he nodded off into the distance.
Mordechai looked. For a moment, he saw nothing. Then came the cloud. Then he saw the horsemen and felt the charge. There must have been a whole army of them, he thought, to feel their approach this far out. “Do we get off our horses?” he asked. “You know, dig holes, hide maybe?”
Sven only shook his head. From the pack on the back of his horse, he grabbed a long knife and tossed it to Mordechai, who caught it, barely missing cutting his palm open on the blade. “Oh,” he said. “Thanks.”
“Wield it well and honor your ancestors.” A terrifying grin spread outwards on his face as Sven spoke. “For today we die, friend Jew.”
“Oh fuck me,” Mordechai said. “You’re kidding, right? You’ve got a plan, right? My ancestors—forget it. My father was a baker and my mother’s family were musicians. Warriors they were not and, oy, if they were to go into battle, then well they’d plotz, I think. Sure wouldn’t be abl—”
“Then you will be the first to die honorably in your family, and you will meet Odin in the halls of Valhalla and feast and fuck until Ragnarok. Fight from the saddle.”
“With this?”
“Yes, with that,” said Sven.
The riders were now close enough to loose some arrows at the pair. Mordechai knew this because an arrow sailed through the air and hit his horse in the throat. He learned something, then, that he never thought he’d have to learn: Horses do not like being shot in the throat with arrows. His mount reared up and bucked him off, sending the Jew falling onto the ground. The horse ran off back the way they came and Mordechai had just managed to stand up as the riders rode up, screaming in a horrible language.
The next five minutes were brutal and bloody, and, weeks later, Mordechai still wasn’t able to recall everything that had happened. He did know, however, that he somehow managed to live and, judging by the way Sven Wotansson clapped him on the back so many times, he must have killed someone.
He guessed it happened as he backed up to Wotansson’s horse, which was treating this like it was just another day in the life. As the riders—all wearing thick leather armor, caps with flaps that covered their ears and oily black hair (he figured out this detail as the decapitated head of one of the riders flopped down at his feet, followed shortly by the rider’s corpse)—rushed and circled them, the horse grazed at the grass even as blood speckled its body and the Norse warrior screamed nonsense about Odin, Thor, and that Valhalla place while heaving his axe all around him.
Mordechai, figuring that there might have been safety in the calmness of the horse was pressed up against the beast, clutching the knife out in front of him. As Sven fought above him and the riders circled, one of them, whose horse was nowhere to be found, charged at Mordechai from the circling ring of madmen. The only detail Mordechai caught was the man’s teeth, which were godawful, and bared like the man was some sort of damn baboon. But the more worrying part of this was the sword the the man held and seemed quite intent on burying in Mordechai’s skull. The scholar froze as the barbarian charged, screaming and bringing the sword down in an arc.
At the time Mordechai was begging Adonai’s forgiveness for all his sins, the horse decided that he didn’t actually like this spot. Perhaps the sudden deluge of blood had ruined a patch of grass. Anyway, for whatever reason, Wotansson’s mount moved slightly, but just enough so that Mordechai toppled over backwards and the rushing barbarian, carried by surprise, stumbled a bit. Mordechai reached out with the knife and swiped at the man’s calf. Judging by the spray of blood, he connected—and then promptly vomited.
The man toppled forward and, through a couple of freak occurrences that worked out quite well for Mordechai, stabbed himself through the gut by falling forward onto the blade.
Soon after that, the riders fled the wrath of Sven Wotansson. The Viking leapt down from the horse and gave Mordechai a kick in his ribs. “Friend Jew, I hope you are not dead; someone must read the maps.”
Mordechai rolled over, squelching in the blood-soaked dirt. “No, that would be a kindness. And when has God been kind?”
Sven laughed. “Odin is kind to those who kill.” He nodded at the dead rider a few feet away. “Is that your work?”
“Oh, oh shit it is.”
Wotansson barked a laugh—in the back of his mind, Mordechai worried for this man; no one should laugh this much, and if they did, they probably had some severe birth defect. “Well met, friend Jew. It is a shame we travel through a country where one man can kill fifteen and receive only a scratch across the chest.” He pointed at a deep, bleeding wound running across his pectoral muscles. “You brown men are weak. Too much sun, I think. Drains energy, makes you rely on those weak bows instead of an axe.”
Mordechai sat up and made a perfunctory effort to dust off his robes. “Yes, well, I don’t know quite about you, but I spent most of my life learning to read.”
“Read?” Wotansson asked, puzzled.
“Never mind. Let’s move on, shall we? I wouldn’t want your horse to get sick from eating grass affected by, er, entrails.”
“Not yet,” Wotansson said. “First, we loot.”

The looting was, somehow, even more barbaric to Mordechai than the massive amounts of killing. Maybe it was the unadulterated glee Wotansson showed when he mocked the various dead men on the ground as he went around, stealing lightweight, valuable-looking items. Of course, when Wotansson tossed Mordechai a long, curved scimitar, there wasn’t much complaint out of him.
And then, several hours later, near dusk, they made camp at a bend in the river they followed. Mordechai made the fire and then had to instruct Wotansson on the proper way to cut the meat from the lamb he’d killed earlier. “I’m not eating that,” was how it started.
“What do you mean?” Wotansson asked. “It is a perfectly good brain.”
“Oh, God, no. Just, no,” Mordechai said with a shiver running up his spine. “Look, that’s not good for you. It is well-known that the people who eat kidneys have plagues called down upon them by God.”
Wotansson gave Mordechai a blank look. “What?”
“Okay, look, take my uncle Yeshua. My uncle, he was a member of a trade caravan, yes?”
“I have killed many trade caravans. They are weak.”
“Fair enough,” Mordechai said, “but that’s not the point of this story. Look. One day, they’re travelling north from Yerushalem, yes? Well, they run out of food because some schmuck up ahead got lost and thought they were following a Phoenician Road when they were really following a Xian road, okay?”
“This is all nonsense,” said Wotansson. “They should have been in boats. Rivers go one way. Never get lost that way.”
“Okay, I’ll make sure to tell that to the trade companies when I return. Can I continue?”
“Please do.”
“So they run out of food and, thanks to God, they find a herd of wild sheep. So, they proceed to butchering them. Well my Uncle Yeshua, he was never the smartest man in the family, so he starts eating literally everything from the body, because he’s so hungry, you see.
“Well, as you probably know, there are certain things forbidden to man to eat—”
“What?” Wotansson shouted. “What sort of god would forbid man to eat something? This is madness, and you too are mad.”
“Anyway,” Mordechai continued, “after he eats the sheep kidneys and, ah, various unmentionables, a group of raiders not entirely unlike yourself sweep through and eliminate the entire caravan.”
Wotansson shrugged. “They were weak and had probably eaten sheep with sickness. I tell you, kidney is fine to eat. This sheep I killed, it was fine. No zig-zag walking and it sounded perfectly normal. I eat brain, look,” Wotansson did, indeed, take a big bite out of the boiled kidney. He wiped his mouth, belched, and tossed the organ on the ground. “It is fine. Tomorrow, I will be alive, healthy, and I will kill another fifteen men if Odin the Gallows God wills it. Now, you tell me about your mad god who makes people follow stupid rules to make him happy, let me tell you of my god.”
Mordechai, still disturbed by the wanton consuming of something so blatantly treife, nodded.
“Excellent!” Wotansson said. He clapped his hands, cracked his back, and sat up straight. “Many eons ago, after he was born, Odin killed a frost giant and carved the world out of his armpit.”
“The hell?” asked Mordechai.
“Yes. It is true. It is also known that this was one of the first times that Asgard and the frost giants clashed—but it shall not be the last. For when Ragnarok comes, all will be bathed in fire and warfare, and the righteous dead—those who have died honorable deaths in battle and have feasted with Odin and the Aesir—will fight alongside the gods against Loki, Hel, and the giants.”
“What? Who are these people? Define your terms.”
“Yes, yes. The brown ones do not know Odin and the Aesir.  Loki is the trickster god who killed Baldur, the favorite son of Odin, the All-Father. Ragnarok is the end of all that has been made, when Fenrir breaks free of his chains and Loki rips out of his son’s intestines.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Ah, yes. Loki was sentenced to be tied to a rock in a cave by his son’s intestines while a snake drips poison onto his head. But he shall return, angry for whatever reason, and lead the combined races of giants and trolls alongside Hel’s armies of the dead too weak to have died in battle. And in the ensuing war that will sweep across the surface of  Midgard, which will be called Ragnarok, Man and the gods will be eliminated.”
“Wait,” Mordechai said, breaking in and shaking his head. “What sort of gods can die?”
Wotansson tilted his head to one side. “The gods. Not your god, who is a finnicky eater and requires you to dress in woman’s clothes.” Wotansson pointed at Mordechai’s robes.
“What?” Mordechai responded, gesticulating wildly. “You’re mad. This is the only proper way to dress; not parading around, in fur leggings like some—some... faun.”
“What is faun?”
“One of the freaks the Greeks see when they’re drunk. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you, and all your people are barbaric morons, drunk on blood and delicious, delicious honey wine of yours—speaking of which, do you still have any?”
“Friend Jew, it might not be wise to drink mead when it is hot enough to make Thor sweat.”
“Eh,” Mordechai said with a shrug. “I’ve made worse decisions—like joining you, for example.”
Wotansson laughed and held out the skin of wine.

The next day found them hiding behind a rocky outcropping at the top of a hill. They were still in the steppes—as Mordechai feared, the steppes truly did appear to be never-ending—but at least it was overcast today, which blocked some of the heat and made the hangover much more bearable. That said, there were times through the day when Mordechai seriously considered lopping off his own head with the scimitar.
But now, around midday, Wotansson, the horse, and Mordechai had stopped dead in their tracks and right in the middle of another argument about whether Odin could beat Adonai in a fight. They stopped because just over the hill was a camp full of men who looked exactly like the riders who had ambushed them. The camp was arranged in a circle and made up mostly of brightly-colored, circular tents. To the west, a small herd of horses and sheep grazed in the grass. Fires rose up from within the main camp as some men stood over stone pits and turned spits. A few men wearing swords and bows on their backs walked around the edge of the camp, eyes on the horizon.
Inside the camp, there wasn’t much activity, since a good number of the men had been killed the day before. Those who weren’t watching the animals or patrolling the perimeter were all congregated one man in particular who stood on a raised, wooden platform. The man wore a purple version an outfit that reminded Mordechai of one of the priests in the Temple. The difference being that while the priests were distinctly Jewish, these men quite obviously worshipped some sort of blob—at least, that’s what Mordechai judged by the bronze-cast splat-shaped object attached to the man’s hat. He shouted—Mordechai could hear bits of his speech, but not enough to get any specific words—and held his large staff in the air, bandying it about like he was trying to stir the air. “Have you seen these guys before?”
“I have not,” said Sven. His face was devoid of the sadistic glee that Mordechai was used to seeing and his eyes seemed like they’d turned to ice. “But I want that staff.”
“What? Why?”
“That icon is of bronze; bronze can be traded for more than gold in some places—and with that much, I can have my own ship.”
“You’re crazy, you know that? We go around these sorts of things. People in the thralls of religious mania are not to be crossed, Sven. That’s why the armies of Israel have never—what are you doing?”
Sven Wotansson stood. “I am going to find out what they’re doing.” He dropped his axe on the dirt and said, “Friend Jew, give me the knife I gave you.”
Mordechai did.
“I will be back.” The glint returned into his eye. “Or not, if Odin wishes to feast with me this day. If that happens, then you must return to my people on the northern end of the river Volga and tell them that this land is not for the likes of us.”
“It’s not?”
“Of course not. All lands belong to Odin. But, my people have not the patience to come this way anyway.”
“I don’t understa—”
Wotansson smacked him on the back with a hearty laugh. “Worry not, I shall return.” And with that, Wotansson crept down the hills. Mordechai was impressed. Such a man as him, what with his massive frame and all-around loudness should not have been able to creep, but there he was. The horse wasn’t bothered by its master’s departure, apparently; it kept grazing, tail flicking back and forth.
The Northman, after a ten minute descent, reached the edges of the camp. He hid behind a tent and peeked around a corner, spotting a lone rider walking away from the center—unarmed. Wotansson headed his way and the two intersected about six yards away from the rearmost tent on the south-western side of the camp. There was a moment where the rider stood in confusion and was about to shout an alarm, but then Wotansson buried the knife in the man’s throat and heaved him to the ground.
The viking then removed the clothing the rider wore and put it on himself. Surprisingly, it fit. And the only problem he now faced was how to hide his face. A Nordic man such as himself would stand out easily in this group of men with braided black hair and tan skin. So he looked around, had an idea, and cut a strip fabric off of a nearby tent and wrapped it around his face, hiding all but his eyes. He then put the man’s wool cap on his head and walked into the camp.
The center of the camp was in such a horrible state that Sven Wotansson sighed and considered lobbing off the head of the man closest to him, but decided that wouldn’t get him any closer to learning what was going on, or getting a hold of the priest’s staff. So he lingered and listened. The man spoke in a language that sounded as if he were trying to dislodge a hunk of pork from his throat, punctuated by a wheezing breath that, Wotansson supposed, was some sort of vowel. Regardless of the hideousness of the language, it was clear that the man was working himself up into some sort of frenzy, and that was having an effect on his congregation. The riders started chanting in the same language and holding their hands into the sky. Wotansson, still wanting to blend in, mimicked the group. Then, for a brief moment, the world grew dimmer. He heard a deep thrumming all around him and, just as soon as it had begun, it ended.
He shook his head and everyone lowered their arms. The priest spoke a few more words in his language and then shuffled off of the platform, walking into a large, red tent crowned by a large, iron blob much alike the one that was on top of his staff.
The crowd, murmuring passed by Wotansson. A few clapped him on the shoulder, speaking to him. He grunted back, and the others laughed and walked off towards the horse pasture. The Viking, though, kept focused on the priest’s tent. He realized that he had little time before someone discovered the corpse on the edge of the camp, and he had to act fast. He doubted that the priest—who seemed from this close to be surprisingly thin, and eyes sunken—would be able to put up much of a fight, so he figured on a good ten minutes to take him out and remove the bronze icon. Then the fun would begin. He grinend to himself and figured that the bloodshed would begin when it would begin.
He strode to the priest’s tent and walked inside, immediately hit with the stench of a hundred different oils. He blinked in the low light and saw the priest in detail—a wrinkled, old man with blackened teeth and milky-white eyes. The man looked at him and began murmuring and pointing at Wotansson.
Knowing just what to do, the Viking leapt and buried his knife in between the priest’s eyes. The warm red spurt covered Wotansson’s chest, but he didn’t pay it any attention. The body dropped to the floor and the Viking picked up the staff, which leant against a small table towards the back of a tent. Also on the table were a few gold icons, also shaped like different kinds of blobs. Shrugging and figuring that gold has universal value, Wotansson picked them off the table, stuffed them in the stolen robe, and grabbed the bronze blob on the staff.
The world went dim then, except for a deep, bass throbbing. His head felt like it was going to pop at any second, then went to the other extreme and felt like it was going to shrink into a size smaller than his eyes. There came a guttural language, something that resonated at the back of his head, as if he’d heard it before.