A to Z 2017–U is for Uncorked

Another one that’s complete in itself, but which may suggest something longer. I definitely need to keep all these as story starters and prompts!

U is for Uncorked

“Fill the bottles. Hurry!” Haden held a large earthen jar beneath the water. When it was filled, Haden lifted it out and pressed a wide cork into the neck.

“To what end, Haden?” Mendae let her frustration bubble to the surface just as air bubbled out of the wine jug. “All we have is the spring. The Magistrate expects better than water served at his daughter’s joining.” She crossed her arms and glared at her husband. He was a good man, but she had always been the brains of their business.

Haden grinned that grin that Mendae could never resist. “The ceremony isn’t for 3 days yet. Sending bottles of water that look like wine will buy us time to deliver what was promised. Trust me.”

Mendae chuckled and shook her head. “I don’t know where you’ll find the impossible,” she said. “But maybe it will buy us time to get away before the Magistrate has our heads. I hear the South of Endanak is lovely if you can avoid the Gentou.”

“When did you get to be so cute and smart?” Haden leaned in to steal a kiss from his wife.

“Hush, you, and fill the bottles. The courier will be here before sundown.”

* * *

“How could I have known they would make us come with them?” Haden whispered, but his voice held a double-measure of pleading.

Mendae glowered at him as the wagon they were in rolled through the city. At least they were finally off the ill-kept road that led to their haebit. “I don’t know why I let you turn my mind. This time, though…,” she sighed a deep and weary sigh. “I don’t know how we get out of water this deep. We may as well be inside one of those bottles with the cork set tight.”

Haden scooched closer to his wife and dropped his voice even lower. “I have a plan,” he said.

“Oh? And it is…?”

“Remember the cleric that came last month?”

“The one rambling about Ventor the wine god?”

“Exactly!” He had the temerity to look pleased with himself.

“You want to blame water in the wine bottles on the cleric?” Mendae was confused.

“Of course not. I want to plead with Ventor to assist his humble servants!”

Mendae blinked, disbelief causing her eyebrows to climb.

“The cleric did say he was a very good god,” Haden continued. “Surely he will have mercy on those who only want a little of his wares.”

* * *

Mendae still couldn’t believe she’d let Haden talk her into this, but she shrugged off the self reproach. After all, what real choice did she have? They had convinced their escort that the bottles needed to be handled carefully and properly dressed. They were left alone in the storehouse with the alleged wine, but the door had been locked from the outside.

Haden had placed the jugs in a circle on the smooth stone floor. To center the energy of Ventor, he claimed before he started praying.

“Ventor, great one. Have mercy on your servants. Convert this finest spring water into your finest vintage. Your wine will draw the Magistrate and his masses unto you….”

Mendae was praying too, but only that their deaths would be quick and painless.

Both fell silent and stood when the door opened. The Magistrate approached, flanked by his personal escort of guardsmen and servants.

Mendae dropped a curtsey as her husband took one knee. “Your Loftiness,” they muttered together.

He motioned with one gloved hand, and one of his entourage lifted a bottle from the circle. “Open it,” he demanded. “I must ensure that their wares are fit for my daughter.”

Mendae squeezed her eyes shut and waited as Haden resumed muttered, anxious prayers beneath his breath.

At the sound of the poured liquid, the Magistrate sucked in a breath. Now, thought Mendae, the end will surely be quick.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” said the ruler. “I’d been told it would be a pale wine.”

She opened her eyes and stared at the glass of ruby-colored liquid he sipped from. “Outstanding! Best I’ve ever had,” he said. “Thank you.”

The Magistrate turned and strode away as Mendae collapsed in relieved tears on the floor.

“Well, imagine that,” said Haden. “I guess Ventor likes me after all.”

 

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