+++IRON AND WINE+++
Maria expertly sucked the olive from round its stone and spat the pit into the purple-and-gold water below.
Some of the dancing phantasmal horses that had been called up by one of the Reckoner covens were still prancing and turning on the surface of the river - albeit with a lot less definition. She expertly spat the pit so it passed through the forehead on a particularly fine stallion, and felt a rush of satisfaction as it exploded into shimmering droplets of water and mist.
She was more than a little tipsy. It had been a good night, but she was considering retiring now. There had been no fireworks for nearly half an hour, and even the musicians back in the main hall were beginning to become a little unsteady - probably more due to the drinks they had been putting away than due to exhaustion. She tried to decide if she wanted more more drink before bed, and whether she was prepared to endure another half hour of political maneuvering from the other guests to get it.
The decision was made for her. Quick, slim fingers plucked the spent glass from her hand and tossed it into the river, replacing it with a fresh glass of something tall, translucent and gold. Luija slumped heavily against the parapet next to her, and took a big sip of her own dark violet concoction. She set the half-full ambergelt goblet down on the smooth marble of the railing, and pushed her golden mask up onto the top of her head, dislodging several of her butterfly hair pins. She was flushed, and sweaty. She mopped her face, and snapped open a small practical fan to try and cool herself down.
“I thought you might have taken refuge out here,” she said as Maria took a sip of her drink. It was surprisingly refreshing - a hint of apple and orange companionably mixing with more than a subtle suggestion of strong spirits. “It is far too damned hot in there.”
Maria made a face. “No, it wasn’t the heat. Bloody d’Bauser will not take a hint, even when it’s wrapped around a fairly pointed insult and jabbed into that gut of his.”
Luija winced. “Oh dear. Still on at you about that Temeschwar business?”
Maria nodded. “Yes. And some new madness of Duke Ferrero’s. And of course the election. He kept trying to bribe me into going to Anvil to support him as Senator. Can you imagine d’Bauser as Senator for Tassato? They’d eat him alive!”
Luiga paused at her fanning for a moment, coincidentally covering her mouth with her fan. “I was talking to a delightful little naga just this evening who reckons that d’Bauser is being funded by the vyig.”
Maria was not surprised, but neither was she entirely convinced.
“Yes, but people say that about everyone from Temeschwar. And d’Basuer is too much of an idiot even for those tattooed thugs. Anyway, I thought they were all done and dusted?”
Luija made a noncommital noise. Before Maria could ask for more details, her Prince suddenly burst out laughing.
“Oh my! Maria! Could you imagine dear Cesares face if d’Bauser actually turned up to try and challenge him?”
Maria could, just about, it made her smile. Cesare Sanguineo Rezia Di Tassato, Senator of the Twin City, had cleverly managed to get himself named to oversee the collection and expenditure of funds for the grand celebrations. She could not fault his commitment to excess. The wise had marked fairly quickly that there were as many posters of Cesare looking stately - nay, regal - in his role as “Prince of the League” as there were banners and flags with Empress Lisabetta’s face on them. It had been his idea to dye the Vassa with wine and gilding - and his idea to shower bunting across the entire city. Golden horns in Mestra, red foxes in Regario. There was a man of ambition. A man to watch. The two sipped their drinks companionably for a few moments, then Maria furrowed her brow and asked:
“Did you and he ever …” she left the sentence hanging.
Prince Luija composed her features into a coy look. “A lady does not brag about such matters, and another lady should not speculate.”
“Yes,” said Maria. “But this particular lady knows you have a fondness for rugged cambions, so …”
Luija smiled, but she made the subtle gesture with her fan that meant “I would like to change the conversation”, and Maria complied.
“Actually, on a related topic, I’ve been thinking about the Empress’ message. Especially with the barbarian practically at our door, as it were. I think we should do something.”
Luija nodded, gestured “go on” with her fan. Pulled a piece of yellow fruit out of her drink, inspected it owlishly for a moment, then flicked it into the river.
“Before d’Basuer turned up, I was talking to Pesca. She knows someone who knows someone at military procurement. We make a reasonable profit through potion sales to the rich, but I think that if we invested slightly in refitting the Temple Street shop a little, we could look at a different market. The soldiers of the Empire are forever being injured - stabbed, cut, shot with arrows, bludgeoned, hacked, trampled, gored -”
She realised she was just listing ways a soldier could be injured and realised she was a good deal more tipsy than she had at first thought. With an effort she stopped talking and took a breath.
“Anyway. Pesca thinks - and I agree - that we could negotiate a pretty good deal with the civil service to supply the big five potions - the easy ones everyone knows how to make but nobody ever makes in bulk. Bulk for potions, I mean obviously. With our contacts in Feroz and Madruga, and with Pesca keeping an eye out for good deals at the Apothecary House, we could make a reasonable profit, I think.”
Luija had been nodding along for several moments as she spoke.
“I like it, but … we make enough as it is. Would the profits really be worth the effort?”
Maria pondered for a moment. “Not really,” she said slowly. “But … there are other benefits. Once you have your feet under the table at military procurement you’re in a better position to secure other opportunities. We’d be known as people supporting the Empire, and that never hurts not with the Jotun just over the horizon. But really … well … destiny. The Empress … you know.”
She trailed off, blushing. Prince Luija chuckled, but gently.
“Yes, yes I do know. I do indeed know.” She pulled her mask back down, resettled her hair, and extended an arm for her sister who slipped her own through it companionably.
“Look into it first thing in the morning.” Luija looked Maria over, checked herself. “First thing tomorrow afternoon, I meant to say. Now! Let’s go and see if we can’t snag ourselves a couple of ambitious nephilim to make sure the evening ends with a bang!”
Laughing together, the sisters returned to the party, leaving their empty glasses balanced on the stone wall above the wine-red river.
The first Wind of Fortune for the last main event of the year. Begin with a bang - the legendary celebrations surrounding the coronation of Empress Lisabetta!
Along with some three-day hangovers, the celebrations, and the Empress’ celebratory message, have had some subtle but profound changes in the Empire. First, there is a new order that any General can take. Second, there is an opportunity to permanently change the identity of one of the Imperial armies on a profound level.
You can learn all about these celebrations and opportunities here → profounddecisions.co.uk/empi … n_and_wine
We’re going to be getting more Winds of Fortune up tonight - we’ve left it a bit late, and there’s already a lot to digest from the Winds of War, but hopefully the tags and relatively small number will make it easier for people to find the stuff that applies directly to them.
The picture is a public domain photo by Ippolito Caffi, Moccoli Evening in Rome, 1834, at the Thorvaldsens Museum (www.thorvaldsensmuseum.dk)
#herewegoherewegoherewego, #moredestinylessbleeding, #weregoingtoneedtokeepthisfocusedifweretogetthroughthemallbeforeBrooklyn