The path to Olympus was the major artery of Pandora's southland. The region was quite dry, had no major rivers, and was surrounded on three sides by some of the most treacherously pirate-filled waters in the world. The overland route, therefore, was the result of many years of investments by Kings, Lords, merchants, and even poor farmers, who saw it as good luck to build a shrine or re-tile a bit of the road on wedding days. Its many offshoots to the stately manors of minor lords and small farming villages that tended to the great swathe of dry, fertile plains, stretched out daintily along the curved hillsides. The main road, however, was quite stark. It cut through the hills instead of gliding along them, and was dotted at regular intervals with small, plain inns where a fresh horse and a clean well could be had.
The trip was a beautiful one, as Bora's colorful flowers and lush fields melted away into golden waves of wheat, crisscrossed with black ribbons where the earth had been scorched with woodpulp and manure. Smaller fields of alfalfa or clover rested like green patches on a vast amber quilt.
"I detest this trip." Said Markham, squirming in his seat in House Dunn's carriage, designated only be two crossed polearms and the family crest.
"Shut up, Markham" retorted Philomere, and the carriage returned to silence.
Philomere had, a few months ago, appointed a new head vintner of the Boran Monastery. Though the Order of the Austere was quite autonomous, House Dunn had acquired, among other things, control over the monastary's vineyards and cellars, and appointment followed. Hayden Winzer had been given the position, despite being far, far younger than any vintner before him. His appointment came a few months after the death of the last vintner, a stoic, pious man who made no waves and produced no truly fine wines. Hayden was, though inexperienced, devastatingly likable, with a demeanor and vigor that inspired both Philomere and his wife, and won him the position despite his shortcomings.
Hayden had been sent ahead a few weeks ago along with Lurick, the head of the Boran Men-at-Arms, to manage the first wave of cargo from Bora as well as to settle a lodging dispute. House Dunn had, historically, stayed in a small crescent of land in the shadow of the Royal Palace where houses of Dunn standing, meaning those considered unflinchingly loyal to House Brackard, built large apartments. The land was quite swampy, and took years of construction and sinking of stones before it could be paved over, and its location near the city center was ideal for visiting royals. It seemed, however, that all the apartments were spoken for, and Philomere could call no favors nor work no diplomacy to secure the place House Dunn had resided in for its entire history.
Markham was beginning to speak up again, the bratty boy was too much like his father, too quick-witted, too active, too handsome, and too cosmopolitan for country life, and he, like his father, would ruin the family name. Finally Philomere spoke.
"You know, Markham, our train is slowing us down, and we'll have to stop at the night, take your money and buy a few horses along the path and ride into the city if you're so anxious."
Markham didn't even reply, preferring to swing himself up and out of the still-moving carriage, shocking Philomere and leaving Lorelei mildly amused. She spoke.
"He really is his father's son..." to which Philomere replied.
"Bastard in name bastard in nature..."
The city was bustling and all alight. The nights here had been warmer and more temperate than Bora, where an early chill had been blowing through. A few broken rainstorms went unnoticed under the many awnings and balconies and warm roofs. Lurick, being technically on the path to knighthood, had traveled before, but Olympus still amazed him. What did not impress him was the company. The men he had traveled with were incompetent, but thankfully a local merchant, keen to break into the wine business, had helped smooth out the affairs. Hayden, the pretty little beardless chap House Dunn had sent with him was dressed in silks and off playing sommelier to the higher houses, who often delighted in having new and exciting wines and cheese and fruit presented to them by a bright-eyed servant.
Lurick, however, had a far more stressful time. His original intention of entering the archery competitions now seemed a foolish dream, with all his extra time spent securing storage facilities and living quarters for his patron House and their unending stream of gifts. Despite being shafted for proper housing, and being a dying house, Dunn was putting on its best and to all the world would seem the most prosperous, garish house in the world. Their loyalty to the King would be their downfall, it seemed. Lurick had, since his appointment, been pushing for the city of Bora to swear new allegiance to House Montague, thus securing a freer, more advanced port and perhaps revitalizing the dying region.
But fat Phil never had any interest in real change. He would have to make due, however, as the closest place Lurick could find with enough space for the bulbous man, his pithy wife, and their hoards of things was an old fletcher's warehouse turned inn just for the festival. It was closer to the wall than the palace, and located in the heart of a particularly vibrant merchantmen district, so it actually proved better for hawking high end wines to the ladies in waiting who would shop their for their mistresses, or knights looking for the world famous brothel just an alley over. It was city life, and Lurick figured House Dunn was not meant to live it, but had been told as he left that Markham would inevitably arrive early, upon asking his Lord how he knew this, he gave a witty albeit tired aphorism that always accompanied any mention of his nephew.
For now though, Lurick was concerned with keeping the cellars clean of thieves and keeping track of Hayden, who would often vanish for days at a time only to return overburdened with gold and silks and even furniture. The boy would prove useful.