It had been an early autumn. The leaves of Bora had never turned so quickly, or so vividly. From his position on the balcony the city was Philomere's staircase, littered with gold and crimson amidst the green that still clung to the houses. The southern stretch was always warmer, but there had been chilling winds as of late. The river was still heavy with blossoms and lavender, but soon the dittany would turn and the persimmons would stubbornly give up their fruits. The sun was rising and the town gently stirring. He turned from this picture of peace to the men who were already crowding his parlor. It was getting too late in the season to keep it open to the balcony, a chill could be killing. To warm his spirits, it was his dear wife who spoke first.
"Do you really believe the king is interested in butter, Phil? I know he's a lover of luxury, but I think he's fond enough of the wine, and I'm not sure we can afford such lavish gifts..."
She had a point. That woman always had a point. The income as of late was lacking, and this season's wine was too young to count on, so the crates upon crates Philomere was having loaded onto carts seemed extravagant even for established gentry. There was no way his wife would let him shrug it off, she was far too inquisitive for a woman, and he rued the day they had decided that she may speak freely within the house.
"I think it's an investment. We're expected to bring wine with us, I'd have us all hanged myself if we didn't. But this is a festival of peace, I think we should show that House Dunn has wealth and potential"
"You want to put on airs, don't you?"
"I just think we've done better in peace than in war. We should remind everyone of our bounties, get new blood into the veins, you know, seed some interest. Besides, this summer's butter is the finest I've ever had, and I'm far too fond of butter as it is! Best be rid of it."
Lorelei lovingly rolled her eyes.
"I still think investing in a solid port would do more for us than King's favors, he's not going to care about us until the wine's run out."
"Well my apologies if I'm trying to get him a bit more vested--"
"--With food and wine?"
Philomere gave her a stern look, before turning to the servants still sorting bottles of wine and wheels of cheese. A servant approached with a look of great dismay.
"My Lord, the wine has, turned, it must be corked!"
Philomere looked as though he had seen his own ghost. He spoke with a tone of despair.
"Bring it to me, show me..."
The servant brought forth a wine, it was good wine too, one of the quick harvests, much too young to be so dark, almost orange, but it was clear. It had its own golden appeal except for the wicked looking bubbles which appeared throughout it, like it was some witch's brew. He swirled and sniffed and peered at it like a man observing a wet horse, and finally sipped. His demeanor changed...
"This batch got mixed some time along... Must have been trying a new blend, I've never seen such fine bubbles, they are usually so coarse and rank." He contemplated the glass for a while, and Lorelei took a quiet sip, with a similarly perplexed look.
Philomere made a bright smile, lighting up his blood-hound face.
"I think it would be quite appropriate to christen a new wine in honor of the festival, no? Tie down the corks, boys, I imagine these will be violent elixirs to deal with, but showy, and I think quite popular..."
By midday the coach, part of an elaborate train of gift-carts was departing from Bora. Markham, heir presumptive of the House of Dunn lounged across one seat, while his aunt and uncle sat quite rigidly across from him. Lorelei was reading the scribbles on a scrap of paper torn from a holy book.
Philomere, observing this, sighed.
"We have to keep Aya away from the monks, she's a burden to them, destroying their books."
"I think she's just lonely, I don't think she's well, her poetry is getting more erratic."
"I don't think it was ever poetry." Philomere snorted, thankful that the trip from Bora to Olympus was short, flat, and clear.
"You'd think she'd have more decency, I'm sure she thinks the sun and stars shine only for her. Strutting around in wedding gowns and dancing."
Markham butted in running his hands through his hair and smelling it as he spoke.
"I don't understand why we don't just lock her up. Might be a good reason to rebuild that bell tower like we keep promising, always have someone to ring it every hour in between shuffling around in a sheet or scribbling down ramblings."
Lorelei shook her head and put away the paper, looking out the window for her last glimpse of Bora, trying to ignore the fact that she was an accessory, an entertainment, of the same value as cheeses, butter, wine, and bread, on her way to the feast.