A/N: See? I totally had at least one more in me! This one will be a bit longer than "The Prank War" and as a result will be released in installments. As it gets more into the action, I might take suggestions for hijinks that can ensue. You'll see what I mean later! And now, on with the show!


Prologue

It was a dark and stormy night.

No, wait.

Actually, it was a bright and lazy afternoon.

It was the sort of afternoon where there probably are worthwhile, productive things you could be doing, but the air and the light infect you with a pervasive lethargy in order to prevent it, so what you do instead is invite a friend over and get moderately sloshed while watching the kinds of shows on TV that are only amusing when you are moderately sloshed.

Denmark loved these kinds of afternoons. A bag of chips, a case of beer, and Norway—what could be more perfect?

In something close to unison, the two of them finished off their current bottles, tossed them aside, opened new ones, clinked them with a cry of "Skål!" and took long swigs. They could have been members of the Scandinavian Synchronized Boozing Team. They even had a mascot…of a sort.

"Uuuuuuuuuuh! Beer for me?"

"No!" Denmark said for what had to be the twentieth time, flicking a flyswatter at the interloper. It passed through its target instead of striking, but it had the desired effect. The third, uninvited member of the informal drinking party shuffled off to slurp the last few drops out of the new empties.

On second thought, things could have been a little more perfect.

They called it the Beer Ghost. Every wandering spirit has a singular purpose that drives its existence, and for this one, that purpose was drinking beer. Any beer. All beer it could find, regardless of whom it belonged to. It could really put the stuff away, despite being only the size of a very well-fed hamster. Denmark was forever find it trying to insinuate its way into his fridge, or sneaking down into his cellar and beating itself futilely against the unopened cases. Fortunately it didn't have hands with which to open bottles or cans, or he would have been in real trouble.

Sometimes—most of the time—he was scared of it. He considered this a logical response, given that he occasionally had nightmares where it drank all the beer in the world, leaving none at all for him. None. But on a day like today, even the supernatural will of the undead was no match for the lassitude of the afternoon, and its token efforts to claim each newly opened bottle were nothing to worry about. Denmark had his flyswatter, and he and Norway didn't really mind if the ghost went after the empties.

Something funny must have happened in the TV show, because there was a round of prompted laughter from the audience. Norway perked up slightly, squinted at the wall clock, and said "Hey, Denmark?"

"Yeah?"

"Can you change it? The TV? To that thing where the people talk about stuff?" (It wasn't that he was too drunk to remember the words he wanted, but the combination of alcohol and laziness had done it.)

"Talk about stuff?" Denmark repeated blankly.

"Yeah. Stuff from today. You know what thing I mean."

There was a pause while Denmark processed that. "The news?"

"Yes! The news." Norway sat up straighter and let his head clear a bit. "It's almost time for the sports report. I want to see if my sister beat Sister Sweden in football."

The Beer Ghost perked up some too, responding to the change in the room. "More beer for me?" it said hopefully.

"No," said Denmark, groping blindly around the couch for the TV remote. He found it and changed the channel with a flourish.

There were still a few minutes to go in the Local News segment, and reporter-on-the-spot Sister Denmark was using them to cover a human interest story about the impending closure of an old brewery.

"You're finally shutting that place down?" said Norway. "I'm surprised. I thought all the equipment still worked just fine. And isn't it historic?"

"Gotta move with the times," Denmark replied languidly. "We're opening a new one. State-of-the-art. Way bigger, too."

"But it's historic."

"Oh, don't worry about that. After we get the new place up and running, we're turning that one into a museum. A beer museum. It'll be awesome."

Norway nodded slowly. "It sounds awesome."

The Beer Ghost stared at the TV as Sister Denmark chirped some final feel-good platitudes over a long shot of the shuttered facility. It looked up at Denmark. "Beer there?"

"Not anymore," Denmark almost said. Halfway through the sentence, however, he spotted an opportunity to rid himself of the annoying spirit, at least for a while, and quickly revamped his statement. What he ended up saying was "Not any…beer you've ever tried before."

"Uuuuhhhhhh…" the Beer Ghost crooned, fascinated. Then, with a soft sound like a head of foam fizzing up in a mug, it simply vanished.

Norway blinked at the spot where it had been. "Huh. Did it leave?"

"We can only hope," said Denmark. He examined the bottle in his hand, which was still mostly full. "Skål!" he said, tossing back.

"Skål!" Norway agreed.

Somewhere far away, a faint and windy voice echoed, "Skål!"

That was almost a month ago.

To Be Continued...