Mahoney’s Pub in Belfast has been the ultimate neutral ground in Ireland for over eight hundred years, ever since the English invaded, and there has always been a Mahoney to run it. Hospitality is its byword and security is ever-present and never includes the police. As the Irish icon Brendan Behan had written after visiting Mahoney’s Pub, “There is no human situation so miserable that it cannot be made worse by the presence of a policeman.” The pub maintained its own security and was known for its ruthlessness in crushing those who caused trouble. Sometimes, the bodies of the troublemakers were actually found.
There weren’t a lot of troublemakers at Mahoney’s Pub, not even during the Troubles. At Mahoney’s Pub, everyone minded their manners.
One night in late October, Mahoney’s was the meeting place between Adorjan, a vampire, and Bronys, a werewolf. They were there to decide how best to carve up the hunting grounds of Ireland for their respective packs.
Adorjan wanted the northeastern half, from Leitrim to Wexford. Bronys didn’t mind that such an arrangement would give Adorjan both Dublin and Belfast, but he was unwilling to give up the Wicklow mountains, where his pack had first established itself.
Each night for a week, the two of them came into the pub, Adorjan pretending to drink a glass of wine, Bronys complaining to Mahoney about the lack of German beer. Gradually, they worked it out. On Halloween, they sealed their deal. Bronys got to keep Wicklow, in exchange for the mountain ranges in Sligo and Mayo. Both agreed to keep their extended packs under a hundred members each, for security.
It wasn’t until they got up to leave that they realized the clientele was watching them.
Adorjan the vampire looked to Bronys the werewolf and said, “A gift. Let’s eat them. And you can have the owner.”
Bronys growled his agreement and began to shift as Adorjan let his fangs descend.
The two of them tore into the crowd, only to find that they weren’t humans at all. Too late, the vampire and the werewolf recognized their prey as Sluagh, the spirits of the restless dead. Specifically, the spirits of Irish people who had been their prey.
A dapper gentleman by the fire took off his hat, revealing coal black goat horns. He stood slowly, letting the glamour drop and revealing himself as the Chief Púca of Ireland.
As the Sluagh smothered and began to dismember Adorjan and Bronys, Bronys called out, “Mahoney’s Pub is supposed to be neutral ground!”
The Chief Púca smiled, a terrible thing that would give a brave man nightmares for the rest of his life. “Sure, sure,” he said. “Mahoney’s is neutral ground, which treats its patrons fairly and follows the ancient laws of hospitality. We waited and watched as you planned to overthrow us and establish your packs in our fair green lands, and we did nothing. We just waited. And sure, when you violated the rules of hospitality by choosing to attack Mahoney himself, you lost the protection of neutrality.”
The Chief Púca leaned in close and added, “But don’t worry, lads, we’ll still treat you fairly. We’ll be sure that you’re each torn into the same number of pieces and burned in the same Samhain fire.”
The screams of the vampire and werewolf were mercifully short.
The Chief Púca went to the bar and put three ancient silver coins on it. “Thank you, Mahoney, for alerting us. Each of these coins will buy you another ninety-nine years.”
Mahoney nodded, replacing his shillelagh in the corner and putting the three coins in a small lockbox that he kept under the bar. “Thank you, Lord,” he said quite politely. One was always polite to the Lords of Faerie. You didn’t get to reach eight hundred years by making old gods angry. The silver coins would grant him long life, Mahoney knew, but good manners were gold, something Adorjan and Bronys never figured out.
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Afterword: Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, even thought this particular tale is set at Halloween, it’s my only flash fiction set in Ireland. I hope you enjoyed it.