Beer for My Horses

"We'll raise up our glasses against evil forces
Singing whiskey for my men, beer for my horses."
—"Beer For My Horses," Toby Keith

So, lads, you must have known, before ever you got here, that we have a reputation problem, and that it involves wine. So here's the bad news: you should virtually never drink wine.

Why? First, that reputation: If people see you drink wine, they are likely to become uneasy or alarmed.

Second: They are right to be uneasy: It takes only a third the wine to get us drunk as it takes to get a human-simple drunk. A little old lady can drink any of us under the table, with wine.

Only we won't slide under the table. We'll probably smash it. Third: Wine makes us boisterous drunks. That's always bad. If we get angry into the bargain, it's much worse. And please bear in mind: It does not matter if you win the resulting fight or not, it will still be bad later on. Whatever else happens, we take another hit to our reputations. And by "we" I mean all your brother stallions, and even lads who haven't taken the sagitta but will some day.

Now the good news: It's just wine. Beer, whiskey, rum, vodka: they're all fine. But any grape wine—no. And no port, no brandy. So you can see that there's something magical going on. There are fables about what.

Beer and so on affect you normally. Sub-normally, really. You now have greater tolerance for it than before. It all comes down to blood volume. When we changed, our blood volumes went up at least fivefold. Wardley, you might be about tenfold.

So, if you like the taste of beer, that's unchanged. If you like the warm glow in your belly, that's unchanged too. (It won't get as far as your horse belly.) If you're after the relaxed feeling, it'll take you five or more times as much beer to get there, unless you can run on placebo effect. Many can.

Fortunately, it also takes five or more times as much to get you really drunk. Do not try for it.

Back to reputation: Be careful where you drink. Here in town, everyone knows about us and our real strengths and weaknesses. Old Irwin down at the Bow and Sabre is very pleased to see us coming, because he knows our capacity, and he knows not to serve us wine, and that we're not even supposed to ask. Everyone in the Standard Cavalry knows, too. Elsewhere, unless you know they know that it's just about wine, don't drink in public. Order black coffee or something. Don't worry about being thought effete. You'd be amazed how seldom we are thought to be effete.

Now, let's go back to my first lecture, the one about women. You shouldn't even need to be told this, but if you encounter a woman who has got drunk, under any circumstances, do NOT so much as steal a kiss on her cheek. Reputation again, in spades. Keep your hands off. Going away should be high on your list of options. Or, if circumstances warrant, strongly consider stepping in to protect her from any unfair advances from others. I yearn for the day we are thought of as knights in shining armor who just never dismount. Make your old captain happy.

Now, you may have noticed there was nothing about wine in the oath you took just before you were changed. Wine is not absolutely forbidden. It can be taken in Holy Communion. It can be given medicinally. But the main reason is that it acts as elixir for us, restores magical energy. So if you ever learn any magic, and if you are ever in a tight spot and running low on energy, it can be a lifesaver to be able to charge back up with a shot of wine. The catch is that expending your magical energy will not make you sober.

Here's a story for you: I have no magic myself, but– Yes, Sanders? ("Nothing, sir, just swallowed wrong.") –but I was once on one of the expeditions looking for a Vanaheim passage. There were four of us from Dedicated. The expedition was stalked and attacked by a goblin tribe out in the marches, and our best weaponry was our mages' spells. Fortunately, one of them could move energy around, so all us non-mages chipped in our chi (that's what she called it) to keep the mages going. After a bit, the human-simple fighters were tapped out and could barely keep their eyes open. We would have been the same, but one mage was Foresighted enough to have brought a couple of wineskins. One mouthful, and I'm wide awake again and able to donate more chi. I have to tell you, I only remember the first three or four rounds. I'm told it got harder and harder to convince us that we were most useful turning wine into chi, not charging the goblins. But we lived.

That's it. Yes, you can drink, but don't get drunk. Don't drink wine for fun. Only drink it when someone who knows what they're about tells you to. Dismissed.

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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2017