Thomas woke at dawn, dressed and ate a hasty breakfast. He wanted to get an early start as the city would soon be crowded beyond capacity. It would take him several hours to travel from the Eastern Quarter to the West Docks considering the throngs that would be filling the streets. He chided himself for waiting until the last minute to procure the necessary stocks for his wife’s upcoming party. His mission today was to purchase a number of cases of fine wine for the cellars; a task he was rather fond of as most wine merchants had tastings available and perhaps a bit of bread or cheese. He was imagining the smooth palate of a fine red as he waited for his horse to be brought around. The morning air still held a slight chill but a clear sky bode well for a warm afternoon. It took the groom longer than Thomas had expected and when his horse finally arrived at the front of the house, he cuffed the man soundly.
Thomas Henry rode a powerful barrel-chested, bay stallion taken from the Renwald stables themselves. A well trained, spirited animal that held Thomas’s large frame well, but was still easy to maneuver. That would play an important part as he wound his way through the masses that would plug the thoroughfares and streets. He considered taking some of the less traveled side streets but that would add another hour at least to his journey. No, he might as well stick with the direct route. For the first half-hour or so his progress through the city went well, but at mid-morning the streets became nearly impassable. Hordes of festival goers had arrived clogging the streets with their carts, wagons and horses. Street performers and food vendors were out in force and street urchins and pickpockets swam through the crowds like hungry sharks. The city Guard was nearly tripled to help keep order and already there had been numerous scuffles and arrests. Thomas could not imagine what the next week would be like. Glancing north, towards the Castle and Citadel, atop the central hills, he could see the huge multi-colored banners representing all the noble houses, being erected. The air was charged with anticipation and excitement as the throngs shuffled along like a living, writhing creature.
It took nearly three hours to reach the western docks. Even though the crowds thinned out considerably here there still seemed to be more folk about than usual. Stewards and servants of the upper class houses milled about looking for choice meats or brews to purchase for their masters. Everyone was planning some dinner or social event over the next week. The harbor and docks were jammed with barges and ships of all sizes, some unloading while other waited a turn to dock. Shipments coming overland entered through the west gate leading directly to the warehouses, taverns and inns that populated the merchant quarter. Thomas dismounted and led his horse along the rows of merchant stalls and vendors. He nodded to one or two people he recognized either as associates or clients, but his focus was on the task at hand. He paused several times to sample a wine or a bit of food. There were cheeses and salted meats, nuts and early harvest corn, grains for baking and feed for horses, honey and barrels of mead.
Near one of the larger warehouses someone had set up several stalls protected by awnings. Thomas was drawn to it by the fact there were already several other patrons he recognized sampling the wares. A fine display of goods, colorful labels and bowls of wine soaked breads. He tied off his horse and began working his way along the stalls tasting several wines and nodding at their richness and body. Overall, these were the best he had tasted yet this morning and as it was nearing noon he wanted to finish his business then perhaps stop at a nearby tavern for an afternoon drink before plunging back into the fray of the inner city and making his way home.
“Fine Bora Wines” the sign read.
Thomas looked about for someone to take his order. He had gold to spend and five cases of this wine would be well suited for his cellars.