"He gave him to his mother," Ragnvald said.
"He gave Magnus to his mother?"
"That horse is a bloody beast. Nobody can ride him except Dagfinn. The only reason Magnus hasn't bitten Dagfinn's hand off by now is because every time he tries, Dagfinn bites him back. And you're telling me Dagfinn gave him to his mother? What is she going to do with him?"
Ragnvald spread his arms. "I don't know, use him for home protection or something. I'm not a psychic. I don't know what goes through that man's head."
"You mean me?" Johan roared. "You mean I'll regret it?"
Oh no. He finally got it.
"Do you see any other fat old drunks making a spectacle of themselves?" Ascanio asked.
Johan swung over to Derek. "You! Slap a muzzle on your girlfriend."
Derek smiled. It was a slow controlled baring of teeth. I fought a shudder. The couple of guys to the left of us grabbed their chairs.
"Derek, we're guests," I called out.
Curran chuckled quietly to himself. Apparently he found me amusing.
"They need a lesson in hospitality," Ghastek said.
"I'll show you hospitality." Johan sucked in some air.
"Don't do it," Ghastek warned.
Johan hacked. The gob of spit landed on the vamp's forehead.
"Suck on that!" Johan pivoted to Derek. "You're next!"
Ascanio shot from his seat in a blur and punched Johan off his feet. Vikings swarmed. Someone screamed. A chair flew above us and crashed into the wall. Grendel bounced in place, barking his head off.
Ragnvald heaved an exasperated sigh. "Which way are you leaning, Kate? Veterans or Mark?"
"Are you going to tell me where Dagfinn is?"
Bastard. "Then I guess I don't know which way I'm leaning."
Ragnvald looked at Curran. "Seriously?"
Curran shrugged his broad shoulders. "It's her show."
A tankard hurtled through the room and crashed against Ragnvald's back. He surged to his feet roaring. "All right you f**kers, who threw that?"
The second tankard took him straight in the forehead. He staggered and lunged into the full-out brawl raging in the middle of the mead hall. Fists flew, people growled, and above it all, Ghastek's vamp crawled up the wall to the ceiling, its left paw gripping pissed off Johan by his ankle.
I sighed, jumped on the table, and kicked some viking in the face.
*** *** ***
My butt hurt, because some viking woman kicked me from behind while I was busy and the motion of my horse wasn't doing me any favors. The red spot on my shoulder promised to bloom into a baseball-sized bruise but other than that I got away scot-free. Derek sported a cut across his chest and Ascanio, whose shirt somehow got mysteriously ripped to shreds in the heat of the battle, was black and blue from the neck down. It wouldn't last more than a couple of hours and by the evening the lot of them would look like new, while I would be nursing a sore shoulder.
The wind brought a whiff of hops from Ghastek's vamp loping next to me. The vikings had tried to drown it in the barrel of beer and most of the green sunblock had come off, so Ghastek ended up rolling him in some mud to keep the skin damage to a minimum. The mud had dried to a nasty crust and the vamp looked like something that would come out of Grendel's tail end.
Grendel had spent most of the fight barking and biting random people and was now smeared with someone's vomit.
Curran escaped unscathed, mostly because when people tried to assault him, he punched them once and then they didn't get up. He walked now next to my horse in his human form, a big smile on his face.
"What?" I asked him.
"Good thing you took the lead on that one," he said. "It could've gone badly and degenerated into a huge brawl."
"Oh I hope you do, baby."
In your dreams.
"And that's why I don't like visiting the neo-Vikings," Ghastek said, his voice dry. "They're an uncivilized, idiotic lot and nothing good ever comes from it."
"They started it," Ascanio said.
"Of course they started it," I growled. "They're Vikings. That's what they do."
Ghastek cleared his throat. "I can't help but point out that now Dagfinn knows we're looking for him. He may go into hiding."
"Dagfinn doesn't do hiding. If he isn't involved in this mess, he'll show up on my doorstep demanding to know what's going on. If he is involved, he'll show up on my doorstep, waving his axe and trying to crush skulls. Works either way."
"So we wait?"
It made me grit my teeth. I'd hoped we'd get a hold of Dagfinn today. Roderick was running out of time, but there wasn't anything else we could do. "We go home and wait."
We parted ways with Ghastek and the four of us, Curran, Derek, Ascanio, and I, made our way back to the Keep. Jim waited for us on the stone steps as we rode into the courtyard.
"What happened to you?"
"We went to see the Vikings," I told him.
"This is nothing," Curran said. "You should've seen what happened to the vampire."
I dismounted and gave The Dude's reigns to a shapeshifter kid from the stables.
"Some people are here to see you," Jim told me.