This piece was inpsired by a flash fiction prompt provided by Eva Deverell.
Pint Number 4
Stuart waited patiently. He knew it was a ring, he just didn’t know what a ring meant. The witch cackled to herself.
“Ring in the teacup! Fight to the death!” she declared.
“What?!” Stuart was aghast. It couldn’t be right.
He should have known better not to enter into a bet with a gnome, and a Russian gnome at that. They were worse even than the notorious Welsh ones.
He also knew he should have stopped drinking after the third pint. Pint number four always led to problems. Number four usually led to financial ruin or some kind of long-term embarrassment.
Occasionally it led to prison and once it had led to an unfortunate naked night in the Northern Tundra with Ogre Bert from Whistleshire Creek.
Stuart shook his head and shuddered at the thought of it. He had been convinced that he had developed frostbite on his unmentionables that night. He even went to see the village healer to talk about how to get a new one. She had laughed at him, just like the Seer witch was laughing at him now.
“Is there no way you can be mistaken?” he asked her.
“No! No! Look! See!” she said displaying the cup to Stuart and to the closest members of the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle. “Clear ring in the tea leaves.” A hum of approval and excitement circulated amongst the eager audience.
“But is it definitely a fight to the death?” Stuart asked.
“Yes, yes. Everyone knows it. Fight to the death,” she said still looking into the cup, flapping her hand at him.
“What, even against a fire dragon?”
“Especially against a fire dragon,” she replied. “Often quite hard for them to hold back a step before actual death on account of the fire breathing, you see.”
“Bollocks,” Stuart said. “So this is it then? I’m just expected to die at the hands of a fire-breathing dragon?”
“A fire-breathing dragon that you insulted,” added Vladmir the gnome.
“Nobody asked you to pipe up,” Stuart said.
“What was it you said again?” Vladmir continued. “Something about his Mum being so ugly she -”
“Yes, yes, we don’t need to go there again,” Stuart said. He could see the dragon starting to emit dark smoke out of his nostrils. He was about 20 feet away, staring intently at him. Stuart was convinced that could feel the heat radiating from inside the angry beast from where he was standing.
Why, oh why had he bet the gnome he could fight a fire dragon and why had he gone for the Age of Darkness ruleset? It couldn’t get any worse really.
Stuart desperately tried to think of some way he could get out of this.
The crowd took a few paces back from the edge of the fighting circle and then several more just to be safe. Vladmir was busy taking bets on how long it would be before Stuart was burned to a crisp.
The witch was just finishing her cup of tea and was ready to read the leaves and start the fight.
The crowd hushed, waiting for her to speak.
“I give ye… SPIRAL SHAPE!!” yelled the witch holding up her cup for all to see. The crowd gave out a low “ooh” in unison.
Stuart stood for a moment, sword in hand by his side. “What does that mean?”
“It means,” yelled the witch, “name ye both one condition!”
The dragon, Boris, immediately spoke. “I name this fight devoid of weapons!”
The crowd gasped. One woman on the end appeared to faint.
“What?!” Stuart shouted. “That simply isn’t fair! You have a weapon inside your belly!”
The dragon laughed. Clearly, he was enjoying this.
Stuart dropped his sword and sighed.
“What condition state ye?” asked the witch.
“What kinds of things can I choose?” Stuart asked.
“Well, anything really, within reason,” the witch replied. “I mean, whatever you decide, it’s got to be the same for both of you just to make it fair, you know?” She cleared her throat and then yelled out once again, “What condition state ye?”
There was a silent pause and all eyes rested on Stuart.
“Four pints each,” Stuart said finally. A loud, uncertain mumble spread quickly through the crowd.
“What?” Boris asked.
“Four pints. You’re not scared are you?”
The dragon looked at the witch who was nodding and mumbling to herself. The crowd, Stuart and Boris all awaited her adjudication.
“So be it!” she announced finally. “Fetch the ale!”
The next morning Stuart woke up dressed in women’s clothes, on a ship bound for an unknown destination beside a woman called Doris, her cat, Whiskers and a rather large man named Bear.
He had no idea how he had ended up there but was relieved to be alive and that there were no gnomes to be seen.
That fourth pint. It was a glorious thing. He chuckled to himself. Things always went pear shaped after pint number four.
Thank the gods for pint number four.