I don't own anything. Buffy is not owned by me. It is owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me.
The Troll Games
The entire world sat on top of Buffy's head, squeezing her brain like a walnut in a nutcracker. From within, a crew of angry, shouting men operated a fleet of jackhammers, seeking some exit from inside of her skull. She had also somehow swallowed an entire desert of gritty salt, and a heavy, hairy weight pressed down upon her stomach.
At least, that was the way it seemed to her as she woke up with the most colossal hangover she had ever imagined having in her life. She hadn't had so much trouble when she awoke from the dead, and even after digging her way free she had felt better than her current state. She would have felt better if Glory had been the one swinging the troll hammer around.
The thought of the troll hammer slowly brought hazy images into her sluggish, agonized mind. She remembered something about trolls. Did trolls beat her head in? It would explain the way that she was feeling, anyway, she decided slowly.
The heavy, furry weight on her stomach shifted slightly, the refocusing of her attention below her pounding head reminding her suddenly of her much abused stomach. She had never drunk so much volume of any liquid in her life, and on top of that she had eaten a feast as well. But added to that, the thing that she had drunk had been troll ale, which had gotten her even drunker than her experience with hard liquor right after her resurrection. She knew that she was going to throw up... very soon.
When the furry weight shifted again she suddenly froze, her nausea increasing a hundred fold as sudden fear of what she was waking up next to filled her. The memories of the evening before came flooding back, at least until the singing had begun. After that everything was fuzzy, but she distinctly remembered all of the young trolls of both genders flirting with her.
"Oh god, oh god, oh god," she muttered in a hoarse rasp. She was terrified to open her eyes, but she needed to vomit, and she wasn't about to do so all over herself and... whatever else was in bed with her. "Oh god, oh god, oh god."
"Here," Willow said, her voice distinctly amused.
Buffy gathered all of her Slayer courage, hoping against hope that after their heart to heart the night before her best friend wouldn't find her sleeping with a troll funny. Slowly she pried her eyelids open, whimpering in pain as the dim light of the room seared her retinas. She promised herself, troll or or no troll, that she was never going to drink again. She really, really hoped for no troll.
Her swimming vision finally came into focus, and she steeled herself, turning her pounding head enough to see her bedmate... a black furred wolf. "Oh thank you, god," she whimpered. It was the wolf pup that she had been feeding the night before. No trolls. Relief swept through her... although it wasn't enough to drive the nausea away.
"Expecting something else?" Willow asked.
Buffy noted that her friend was still amused. Traiter, she thought petulantly. So much for best friend solidarity. "I'm gonna hurl," she moaned.
"Hence the 'here'ing with the bucket," Willow said.
Buffy slowly turned her head back towards the redhead, noting that she had placed a troll sized bucket on the floor. Buffy immediately bent over it and lost what felt like everything that she had ever eaten. When she finally finished dry heaving, she lay back down, moaning in disgust. Troll ale was much, much worse the second time.
"Here again, but with the fresh water," her wonderful friend told her.
After rinsing her mouth out enough times to forget the taste for the moment, she then drank her fill, before laying back down with a whimpering groan. She no longer felt like she was dying, but she still wasn't certain that she wouldn't rather be dead. Dead was nice. Soft and peaceful. Troll sized hangovers were anything but. She suspected that she had discovered what hell was like. She didn't like it much.
Willow left, presumably taking care of her ripe bucket, and Buffy dozed for a few minutes, drifting in and out of hazy recollections of the previous evening. Why had she gotten so drunk, she wondered desperately. Besides the whole, drink or die implicationy thing.
Her friend returned, this time with a plate of delicious smelling bacon. Buffy's nose twitched, her memories of losing everything she had eaten fighting against her sudden hunger. Food or sleep she wondered for a moment. "You win again bacon," she finally muttered, slowly sitting up. She paused once she had, holding her head as everything started spinning. "Oh god..."
"That's what you get for drinking so much," Willow told her smugly.
"Can't you fix it? Please?" Buffy rasped.
"Hey, you were the one being all 'no Willow, don't do magic! It's of the bad!' to me, missy! I told you, no more magic unless I need to for world savage until I can spend some more time with the coven."
"If you won't make with the mojo, can you bring me an axe?" Buffy asked plaintively. "I don't need a head, right? Nothing this painful is necessary."
"No mojo for hangovers," Willow answered smugly. "It would be selfish magic, messing with natures way of saying 'naughty! Don't drink so much!'. And no axes, either."
Buffy whimpered again. "Had to drink. Trolls would eat us."
"Maybe the first glass," Willow agreed. "The rest while you were getting your troll boogie on? So unnecessary."
"Troll boogie?" Buffy asked. "Do I want to know?"
"Let's just say, if I hadn't steered you to bed last night, you wouldn't just be waking up with your puppy. Troll ale is potent stuff. I don't think it's just alcohol – it's more like some kinda magic brew. Just super drunken Buffy instead of cave Slayer Buffy."
Buffy whimpered again, so pathetically that Willow took some pity on her. They had made up the previous evening, after all, and there were limits to her sadism. "I do have some pain killers, though. Slayer specials."
Buffy took the offered pills, swallowing them dry, and then sat, rubbing her forehead for a couple of minutes while they went to work. Finally, with a sigh of relief, she pried her dry eyes open again, this time taking in the plate of yummy bacon with a side of bread. "You are my hero."
Willow smiled, and for the first time that morning the expression didn't make Buffy want to pound her head in. The breakfast was hot and tasty, and slowly but surely the combination of water, greasy food, and Slayer strength pain medication brought Buffy back to the land of the living. A staggering, stumbling trip to the bathroom, which turned out to be a chamber pot, and she almost felt like herself again.
The two women made their way back to the main area of the longhouse, where they found the majority of the trolls eating breakfasts and nursing hangovers of their own. Olaf in particular looked rough as he sipped at another ale, his green face pale and his baggy eyes half open. When he saw her he raised his tankard in salute. "Herr Buffy!"
Buffy glanced at Willow. "Herr?"
"You got knighted," the Witch explained. "Or, well, Riddered. You're a Ridder now."
The two of them sat down next to Olaf, who took another long drink, and rubbed his forehead. "When I was human and would feel this way, Anyanka would clatter her pots and pans loudly to make my head pound more. She was cruel even before becoming a demon!"
Buffy smiled wistfully. She had never been terribly close to Anya, but she missed the outspoken former demon, and not just because of how miserable her absence had made Xander. "She was one of a kind."
"Now, what brings you to my lands, minuscule warrior? Why have you and the Witch come so far?"
"We're looking for a dwarf," Buffy answered. "He's the brother of this other dwarf, and we need 'em to fix my sword. He said he'd do it if we brought his brother back."
"You seek Brokkr," Olaf said.
"You know him?" Willow asked.
"Witch!" Olaf glared. "I put up with your kind because of the good you did me, and because you are boon companions with the Ridder. Now be quiet while noble warriors speak!"
Buffy thought about objecting for her friend's sake, but really, Willow had been entirely too smug about the hangover from hell. "So you know where Brokkr is?"
Olaf raised a hand, pointing at a dwarf sitting at the far end of the feast table. He resembled his brother, having a thin build with pale skin and a long black beard. He appeared to be nursing a hangover of his own.
Buffy blinked stupidly. "That was easy."
"To find," Olaf agreed. "But not to get! I took him to forge me a new hammer to replace the one you took, but he claims to only run the bellows and tend the flames! It is his brother that works the metal, not he."
"Well, Eitri said he'd fix my sword if we got his brother back," Buffy said with a shrug.
"He's my dwarf," Olaf said. "You may be stronger than I, but even you could not take my entire camp."
Buffy couldn't deny that, so she settled for nodding. "Well, he's not doing you much good here, is he? Just making with the ale swigging and food eating. Honestly, you'd be better off without him."
Olaf chuckled. "But not better off without a stout weapon! If you want to retrieve the dwarf, then you shall win him off of me, or not take him at all!"
"Win him?" Buffy asked.
"Yes! A contest! Of skill and strength and wit!"
"What kind of contest?" Buffy asked.
Olaf stroked his beard thoughtfully. "We shall have three games. If you win them all, then you can take the dwarf. If you do not, then you must bring me his brother, so that I may have a hammer as fine as Mjolnir!"
"Wait, that's not fair! Why do I have to win all three, but you just have to win one."
"I already have the dwarf," Olaf answered smugly.
"Well then, I should get to pick the contests! Fair's fair, right?"
Olaf snorted. "You will play good troll games, or not at all! Now, ready yourself, wench, or be declared in forfeit!"
Buffy pouted, before sighing in resignation. "Fine. You know, this sword really, really better be awesome, 'cause this is all way too much trouble."
"We shall begin with a classic game of hnútukast!" Olaf shouted. "Five of you, volunteer to represent our people!"
Five huge, muscular trolls quickly came forward. Several more had tried to join in, and a small scuffle had erupted before its winners arrived to play. Buffy looked at Olaf with a frown. "What's... that game?"
"It is simple but good! Players pick up the bones of the last feast, and throw them at each other! The winner is the last one standing! Now, go join the brave troll warriors and the contest shall begin!"
Buffy and Willow exchanged a long look, before Buffy shrugged and stood to join the other players. "Good luck!" Willow called after her.
Buffy waved in response as she moved to the far end of the hall where the stripped bones of the two giant boars were piled. The six of them looked at each other for a long moment, sizing each other up, before one of the trolls grabbed an oversized rib and hurled it at Buffy. The crowd began to cheer as Buffy caught the bone out of the air and threw it back, catching her attacker in the head, knocking him unconscious.
The other four trolls and Buffy eyed each other for another long moment, before they all burst into motion. The air was thick with heavy bone being tossed back and forth, as all of them ducked and dived out of the way of fast thrown attacks. Buffy wasn't the only player to grab a bone from the air and hurl it at someone else, although her agility allowed her to do it more often than the others, despite their greater experience with the game.
Two more of the trolls were literally knocked out of the contest fairly quickly, and soon the remaining three players eyed each other warily, each holding a pair of heavy bones in their hands. The two trolls exchanged a quick glance, and then suddenly turned on the Slayer, throwing as fast as they could as they attempted to double team her. "Foul!" Willow screamed, jumping up and down, as into the crude game as any troll in the crowd. "They're double teaming her!"
"It is legal!" Olaf shouted. "Only one may win, but any teams may form before then!"
Buffy skipped, flipped, and cartwheeled through a veritable barrage of bones, narrowly avoiding all but a few glancing blows from the coordinated assault. Unfortunately, while as the Slayer she had incredible endurance, she was having to move far more to avoid their hits than they did to launch their attacks, and so she knew that her current tactics were a losing proposition. Watching carefully, she kept an eye on their available stockpiles of bone as well as their rhythms as she waited for opportunity.
It soon came, as she saw that one of the trolls had been too focused on attacking her to pay close enough attention to his supply of missiles. She took a quick glance at the area, before timing a cartwheel to take her to a huge skull just as he ran out of bones to throw. Grabbing the skull while she moved, she launched herself into a front flip from a handstand mid cartwheel, flinging the boar skull with terrific force, the blow not only knocking the troll out, but also sending him flying into the wall behind him.
Her bold move wasn't without consequence, however, as the other troll, which had been more careful with his stockpile, managed to catch her hard in the shoulder with a leg bone, the blow popping her arm from its socket with a crack. She bit back a scream as she moved, grabbing his next bone out of the air with her left hand and tossing it back at his face as she continued to dodge.
He caught the bone and threw it back quickly, but the break in his rhythm gave Buffy time to take the initiative, hurling bones with her good arm furiously, while he replied in kind. Soon they were rapidly tossing the same five bones back and forth, as they managed to keep them in the air while they volleyed. It was an impressive showing, and the crowd cheered and clapped along.
Buffy took advantage of that rhythmic pounding, as her opponent became consumed by it, allowing her to wait for just the right moment to sidestep and let his bones pass her by. The troll, so lost in the repetitive motions and the steady cadence of the crowd, was slow to react, and she was able to throw several quick bones at him before he realized what was happening. One caught him square in the temple, and the troll slumped to the ground, unconscious.
A great approving roar came from the gathered crowd, as Buffy raised her non injured arm high overhead in victory. She then made her way over to Willow, who wrung her hands nervously as she joined her friend. Willow began to carefully probe her shoulder, frowning all the while. "Are you alright? Other than the dislocated shoulder? I didn't see anything else, but..."
Buffy took a deep breath, before nodding at Willow, who grabbed her arm and waited. The Slayer grit her teeth, before jerking her body and grunting in pain as she forced her arm back into its socket. She then carefully flexed her arm, wincing as she did. "Two more games. This is gonna be all kinds of fun, huh."
"I'm not the one who thought playing games with trolls was a good idea," Willow reminded her unhelpfully.
"I was hungover," Buffy defended. "Actually, I'm still all with the hangoverage. It was your job to be the smart one! I'm just the muscle."
Willow snorted. "Right. Like you've ever listened to what anyone tells you to do."
"I listen!" Buffy objected. "I just ignore. Unless I was gonna do the thing they said anyway."
Before she could say anything else the wolf pup hopped up against her, panting and slobbering all over Buffy, who smiled at petted it. "You know, this little fella really needs a name," she observed, glancing at Willow as she said it.
Willow nodded thoughtfully. "A good name. Maybe something Norse?"
Buffy looked at her incredulously. "I can't even pronounce half of this stuff. No way am I gonna be stuck calling him 'you' all the time due to bad nameage."
The two women returned to their seats at the head of the table, the wolf following behind them excitedly. Olaf raised his tankard to Buffy in salute. "A fine round! You are indeed strong and skilled. Never have I seen finer dodging in a game of hnútukast."
"First time I ever met a Watcher, he threw a knife at my head," Buffy said with a slightly pained shrug. "Compared to that, I'll take bone throwing any day."
"Good!" he boomed. "Are you ready for another game? Only two more remain!"
"I'm ready," Buffy said, nodding. The things she did to save the world, she thought with a sigh.
Ridder was a title used in the Netherlands and Belgium. It was their equivalent to Knight. The old Norse didn't have a proper term of their own for a knight that I could find, and I thought it would be funny if Buffy was knighted by trolls, so I branched out to the oldest such term from the general area in question that I could find. I went with Ridder because of all fo the puns it makes available.
Hnútukast is a game mentioned in some of the sagas, although I made up the part about the number of players. Otherwise, it is more or less as described. Vikings – wow. It's scary how trollish their actually games really were.