Words: Mikal Hrafspa (Mikal the Ram)
Notes from Mikal:
This tale is loosely based on "The Price of an Ox," found in the Elder Edda, or the Icelandic Codex if you are a stickler for detail. This is a tale of a lazy oaf who trades an ox and through phenomenal good luck becomes king. In my tale, it is really bad luck and it ends in a horrible mess for the main character. It is also given as an excuse for never eating pork, since I loathe the taste of the animal almost as much as I like dark beer. (Talk to me later about that. I take bribes.)
This is the second most popular of my tales, and the only one I have heard another bard do.
KNOW YOU THIS: there are three good things in the world; the taste of good mead, the singing of a good war-song, and the kisses of a good woman.
But pay heed: there are no things more terrible than these; to wake in the morning after drinking too much mead, to be singing a war-song on your way to battle, and to be wholly in the power of a woman!
Keep a careful ear on what I say, you young unmarried men, for this tale pertains especially to you!
A long time ago, (and I will not say how long, for this tale concerns me,) I lived in a village with peculiar traditions. One of those was that the eldest born boy should marry the girl of his choice, the fairest of the lot. The second eldest would then marry the second most fair, and the third then should have his choice. Being born quite late, I saw the fairest of the maids married far before I had a chance. At length it was my turn, and the pickings were poor. It was between an old maid of sixty winters with no teeth beneath her lips nor hair above her ears, and a sheep. I must admit the sheep seemed the better of the two.
I complained to my father that it seemed a bit unfair that I be required to marry with such poor pickings to choose from. But he told me, "Son, a man is made noble and honorable by marriage, and if you do not marry, you will be fit for nothing but to go a Viking!" I listened carefully to his words, and realized he was right. I joined the first Viking ship I could find!
Oh the life of a Viking! How I wish you could see the world as I did from the deck of a longship. Ah, the comrades, the smell of the sea, the rolling of the deck, the crack of the wind in the sails, the singing of the wind in the lines, the rolling of the deck, the pull of the oars, the rolling of the deck, the crash of the sea, the rolling of the deck, the rolling of the deck, and the rolling of the deck...Even now, I feel my spirit rising within me...
At length we came to the shores of Scotland, a hard place of hard rocks and people with harder hearts. We decided to split the crew into two groups of twenty, and search the country for booty.
My own group of men encountered a group of a hundred armed Scotsmen on the road. Now my lords and ladies, you know me. I am no coward; but it seemed a bit unfair to me. After all one hundred Scotsmen are hardly a fair fight for twenty Norsemen. Why that's only five apiece! A hero such as I cannot soil my hands with such a paltry brawl. So I sat myself down, to wait until a few hundred more might show up.
I sat down not far from the fight, beside the road, which was a short walk to the brush pile, that was a stone's throw from the ditch, which was a spear-cast or two from the fighting. Fairly near. Then I found my senses alerted by a most subtle and powerful magic; Drifting on the air there came the scent of a pork pie. It was glorious, this wafting perfume. I could not help but follow. So I quite literally followed my nose to the source of this magic.
There, in a clearing, I saw a small, blind hovel, with a narrow door, locked solid. But around the back through a single narrow window was the origin of the odor. Inside, on a rude wooden table, lay the most perfect of all pork pies!
Oh, the crust was a golden brown, with little tiny cuts all along the crust to let the tempting bits of pork peek through. At the edges the crust was crimped in just such a way to let you see the flaky edge. And there, on one side, you could see just a drop or two of gravy dripping on the side. It was truly the most perfect pork pie I had ever seen! I had to have it! I stuck my arm through the window and...
And then, good gentles, I suffered the first of the curses the gods had laid upon me: My arm was too short to reach through the window! I stretched! I strained! I cried! I cursed the very heavens! But not one inch closer did I come to that beautiful pastry!
Then it occurred to me; If I were to take off my helm, drop my axe, and cast aside my mail shirt, it might be possible to wriggle my way into the window. Well to think was to do! I threw aside my helm and axe. I slid free of my mail shirt, and by turning and struggling and wiggling myself most cunningly I reached a point at which my feet just touched the ground outside and my body rested upon the table inside, and my hands were on that wonderful pork pie.
Oh, my lords and ladies the crust was so tender! And the sauce was so fragrant! The tender cuts of pork were so flavorful! I could not help myself! I ate the whole thing right then and there!
Then it was that the gods visited their second curse upon me; For that pork pie had so ruined my slim and boyish figure that I could not wriggle back out of the window! I struggled! I fought! I scraped skin from my sides! I strained! I cried! I cursed the very heavens! But not one inch did I move from that accursed window! I was trapped like a rabbit in the jaws of a dragon! Here, I thought, is the worst thing that could happen to me! What could possibly be worse than this?
Just then, someone began to lay most smartly upon my backside with a heavy stick. On and on the blows rained down without let or slack. I cried for mercy, but none was given. Oh, the pain! Oh, the indignity! Oh, the damage to my asssssssssential nobility!
When at length the blows ceased, I heard a voice say, "There! And now I shall go fetch the village elders to see you punished as the thief you are!"
"I am no thief!" I cried. "I am a Norseman, and a nobleman besides! I can pay for what I ate!"
"Pay?" quoth the voice. "What could a vagabond like you pay? How much gold?"
Now good gentles, it is a matter of common knowledge, one goes a-Viking to make ones fortune. Not to carry it about with you! I had not two coins to rub together nor the purse to put them in.
"Take my axe," I cried. "It is worth a hundred such pies!"
"Not enough for me!" the voice replied.
"Then take my mail shirt," I said. "It is worth a hundred such hovels! A million such pies! Take it and leave me in peace!"
"Still not enough!" the voice returned.
"Then what do you wish," I cried.
"A husband!" came the reply
It was then I noticed the voice was of a decidedly feminine nature. Well, I was hardly in a position to bargain at that point, but I did not know what the lady looked like. I knew that she could cook..."I am not about to take a pig in a poke," I shouted. "I must know before I agree; Are you young?"
"Oh yes!" cried the voice. "As young a maid as the spring. And as graceful as a deer!"
"And are you fair?" I asked. "And beautiful to behold?"
"Oh, beautiful as the sunrise, and as lithe as the wind in the grass!"
Well, I was not too sure she told the truth, but even if she was half as good looking as she said, her cooking would make her a prize. "Very well," I said. "I will see you married.
Just then I was lifted like a babe and pulled, POP! Like a cork from a bottle free of the window, and I beheld the woman with which I had spoken.
She was six-foot-five by six-foot-five by six-foot-five! With long black greasy hair that hung down over her warty skinned yellow-gray hide. Her nose was a misshapen lump above her slash of a mouth that was lined with evil, green teeth. "A husband!" she cried! "At last I shall have a husband."
I kicked her hard in what I took to be her chin, and hit the ground running for all I was worth. All the way back through the forest, back over the roads. Every step I took I could hear her massive tread, boom, boom, behind me like the hammer of Thor!
When I reached the shore I saw my ship pulling away, for they thought me dead. I leaped the last twenty paces from the shore to the deck, and taking the oars in my hands, I pulled us a good two arrow-shots from shore before I stopped.
I saw her then, standing in the waves, screaming after me. "YOU PROMISED ME A WEDDING!"
"AND YOU SHALL HAVE ONE!" I yelled back. "JUST AS SOON AS I FIND YOU A BRIDEGROOM!"
Now my lords and ladies, you know me; I am an honest man, and my word is as true as any. I have not been able to eat a pork pie, or even pork itself, since I made that vow. It must be satisfied. So I ask you, as a favor to me, is there a young man here who would marry this woman and free me of this promise?
I thought not!
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