Tony Stark poured himself another glass full of Glenfiddich, threw back his head, gulped it down – and there was a waste of good Scotch – and placed it on top of the shot-glass tower he was building.
From the bar in the snug of the King's Head, the landlord watched them nervously. Most of his regulars were at the local cricket match, and he had not been particularly keen to admit four Americans, two of them women, one in an armoured suit (though Tony was now more comfortably clad) and a ten-foot spear.
Across the stained wooden table, Tony's opponent, Jones's girlfriend, Marion ... something... and how had he come by her legitimately? ... lifted her own glass of rotgut. Though it was the same alcoholic content as the Glenfiddich, Tony was sure that it also contained more different poisons than he could legitimately count, but Marion insisted that she had served it for years in 'her' bar. Luckily, that appeared to be no longer in existence, judging by her sorrowful expression at the time, and Jones's guilty one.
They had been standing deep beneath the Cornish countryside, at either end of what purported to be King Arthur's spear, unpronounceably named Rhongomynyad, but known, familiarly if improbably, as Ron. Tony had no idea whether it had any supernatural powers, but he had no intention of letting go until he found out. Jones, he suspected, probably had a contract.
Jones, who had the advantage of not wearing an iron helmet, was winning the glaring contest. Tony, on the other hand, being in the armour, could have wrested the spear from him in two seconds flat, but that would have broken it in at least fifty places.
"Let go!" Jones snarled. "I found it first."
"You got your hands on it first, but only because I was stopping the roof from falling on you."
"You're nothing more than a treasure hunter, Stark."
"And you're a treasure hunter pretending to be an archaeologist, Jones," Tony retorted.
"Ouch," said the dark-haired woman who had accompanied Jones.
"I'm not putting that exchange in Marvels," said Pepper. "Look, why don't we stop arguing and get out of here before the roof falls again."
"Seconded," the dark-haired woman said.
"Marion, whose side are you on?" Jones wailed.
"Right now, mine . And this lady's."
"Pepper," said Pepper.
"Marion." They shook hands.
Knowing better than to argue with Pepper, Tony said, "We can settle this back up top. Game of cards, maybe? Poker?" He was pretty sure he could beat Jones, who wouldn't know when he was counting cards.
Jones looked sly. "How about a drinking contest?"
Inside the helmet, Tony's eyebrows shot up. "Okay. I hope you can hold your liquor, Dr Jones."
Jones was grinning. "Not me," he said, waving one hand at the women; "Marion."
Tony was beginning to lose focus but his admiration for his opponent was growing by the tot. He eyed Marion over the empty glasses and noted the steadiness of her hand as she raised her glass, drank, turned it over and put it down on the table. Unlike Tony, she had not tried tot-glass engineering, probably a wise move on her part as he was not sure where his next glass was going to balance and whether his hand would be steady enough to balance it.
Jones and Pepper had both become bored and were now slumped against each other in sleep. Marion noticed his glance and pulled a face.
"Sure you want to stick with him?" Tony said. "I pay well – and I have a great cellar."
"You're in the funnies. I don't want to be in the funnies. Besides, he's cute."
"You have no taste."
Marion grinned. "You know that, Stark. You've seen what I prefer to drink. And it's your turn."
Tony reached for the bottle and poured himself another Scotch, tossing it back. The bottle was almost empty.
A bell clanged loudly in his ear, and Tony dropped the glass with a curse. "Time!" the landlord bellowed in his ear. "You've had more than enough time to drink up. Everyone else has gone and the law of the land says you've to be out of here—"
The landlord had been addressing his words to Tony, but it was Marion who rose to her feet and delivered one of the best right hooks Tony had ever seen, flooring the unsuspecting Cornishman.
Tony closed his eyes and wondered how much money it was going to cost him before this was over, as Marion wandered over to the bar and came back with a different bottle of Scotch and another of what looked like a very bad vodka.
The landlord had begun to snore.
It was going to be a very long night.
"Can you remember who won?"
Tony and Marion looked at each other in dismay over the litter of shot glasses, having both been shaken awake only moments before. Tony's head was pounding and his vision was blurred and would have sold every share he had and possibly his soul for a pot of coffee, and rather suspected Marion was in much the same state.
"Best of three?" Pepper suggested brightly.
The expressions of the two at the table turned to horror. Tony rose to his feet, carefully hanging onto the table. He would have liked to have bowed to Marion – who showed no signs of trying to get up herself – but instead took her hand, considered raising it to his lips, and decided against it because he would have to bend and, besides, he'd seen her right hook. "Jones, I wouldn't give you the time of day, but I'll give best to your lady. Miss ... er..."
"Ravenwood!" Pepper hissed.
"Miss Ravenwood, victory, and the spear, are yours."
"Why, thank you, Mr Stark – the only problem is, I don't see the spear anywhere around here."
"Someone must have stolen it while we were asleep!" Pepper exclaimed.
"While Stark and Marion were drunk!"
"Hey, it was your idea..."
Then the landlord woke up and the police arrived and Marvels never published anything at all about the results of that particular adventure.