I’m not sure it was intemperance as much as youthful enthusiasm. But still, I heard somebody preach about intemperance and used Kalin Adwell as an example. The preacher gave a covert glance at Maljie as they mentioned the name, but she didn’t even snort.
Kalin Adwell hadn’t been seen in Port Naain for some time, but he was still remembered. At the shrine we had had a money raising event. A summer fete, held on Exegesis Square. We had all the usual things, we started with pretty children singing to delight their grandparents. Then there was catching the greasy mott, a foot race where all the competitors had to wear unsuitable shoes, fortune tellers, a sedan chair race, and much more. But one event dreamed up for the occasion was throwing sodden cloths at the incumbent who was in a set of stocks.
This didn’t elicit the enthusiasm that we had hoped, and so Maljie was prevailed upon to enter the stocks. Immediately there was a queue.
Now the range was reasonable and it was the job of the person handing out the cloths to make sure they were completely sodden. But on the bright side you got two cloths for 20 dregs. Kalin Adwell tendered forty dregs and took four cloths. Now Kalin was at that uncertain age the male of the species passes through. It’s that point in a chap’s life where his defenders would call him a boy and his detractors would describe him as ‘a youth’. To be fair, he entered into the spirit of the event, even dunking each cloth in a bucket before throwing it. And he threw with absolute accuracy and surprising force.
As somebody thought to check that Maljie was alright, Kalin, realising what he had just done, faded quietly from the scene. Indeed it struck him that being Kalin Adwell in Port Naain might not be an entirely sensible option. He suspected that being Kalin Adwell anywhere was likely to lead to retribution. So he decided to visit Partann.
His adventures started almost immediately. Even as evening was falling, a now hungry Kalin fell in with a peddler leading a pack horse. Kalin merely explained he was travelling looking for work. The peddler explained he was seeking an apprentice, and produced the necessary paperwork to sign. Kalin who was rather more literate than you might suppose just looking at him, saw immediately that the paperwork was a deed of indenture. Nevertheless he signed it, giving his details as Qualicon Oeltang, son of Radsel Oeltang. He accepted the meal, helped with the horse, and then when the peddler was asleep he quietly walked out of the camp, taking the horse with him.
Next morning, the peddler, realising what had happened, made his way to the house of Radsel Oeltang. This worthy, listening carefully to the complaint, pointed out that he had no kin by the name of Qualicon and had no intention of accepting responsibility the failure of the scheme. Thus he had his footmen eject the peddler, forcefully.
Kalin on the other hand made reasonable time on his journey south. He sold the horse (which he couldn’t manage anyway) for a little more than a pittance and looked around for some sort of employment. He worked on various small farms as ‘a Betty Boy’. This is the lad who does the fetching and carrying for the women in the house. Cuts kindling, carries coal, runs errands, and takes the dinner basket out to the men in the fields. Eventually the time came when he could take on a job as one of the outside men. Like all lads he would move from farm to farm every six months. He might have been eighteen when he finally ended up working on a vineyard. For reasons nobody quite understands, he took to it as if he’d been born to it. When the six months was over, his employer asked him to stay on for at least another term. This was quite an honour, it was rare for an employer to do that, if only because the labourer so invited was entitled to a slightly higher rate of pay.
It just so happens that whilst the invitation to stay came from Kalin’s employer, it would have been enthusiastically seconded by the employer’s younger daughter, Mia. In the course of time, Kalin and Mia married, set up home together, and had children. Not necessarily in that order but still, it worked out well enough.
Yet the writing was on the wall. Kalin’s employer (and now father-in-law) summoned Kalin and Mia to a private conference. He pointed out that the vineyard was too small to divide, and that after his day, it would go in its entirety to Mia’s older sister and her husband. So he suggested that the young couple think carefully about their future, whilst he was still around to help with finance.
It was Mia who came up with the idea of selling wine. She had seen how people who were happy to purchase wine, but found an entire bottle a formidable expense. Now this area in Partann was famous for its fortified wines, so people wouldn’t necessarily want to buy a lot anyway. Kalin experimented with containers and taps and donkeys and finally came up with a system that worked. So the young couple made their way to Prae Ducis. They had a wagon with several barrels, plus their donkey and its pack. Over the next few weeks they proceeded to sell their fortified wines to a wide variety of citizenry. Indeed clerks would come out of counting houses, mothers would come bearing empty gripe water bottles, teachers their carefully washed and dried ink bottles, all to be filled with the life giving fluid that Kalin and Mia dispensed. Along with the wine they got cheerful chitchat and good natured banter.
It has to be said that the whole thing was something of a success, but Prae Ducis isn’t very big. The obvious next step was to try Port Naain. But here Kalin faced a quandary. He was wary of showing his face in the city again, but he didn’t want to admit to his wife that he had fled for his life.
So he decided to be cautious.
Thus it was they crossed the Roskadil Ferry with their wagon laden with barrels and their faithful donkey. They set up their base in a rented yard and started to work. It was on the third morning that a shadow fell across Kalin as he filled a bottle for a customer. He looked up to see Maljie. Purely by chance she was accompanied by two of the burlier mendicants. She smiled at him.
“So what are you selling, Kalin Adwell?”
“Fortified wine, Maljie.”
“Is it any good?”
Instinct took over. “Try this one. Medium-bodied and saucy but it has a racy acidity which I feel stabilises the wine nicely. Some say that the tannins are a bit robust but personally I feel that the combination of red currants and ripe cherries, laden with the aromas of cheap coffee, loamy soil, charred herbs, pencil shavings, and roasted hazelnut make it unmissable. But I would suggest that it is the incipient notes of gamebird that make it a truly fine wine.”
“Bluidy hell,” muttered one of the mendicants.
Maljie merely nodded and pointed to another tap, “And this one?”
“In the mouth, it is a truly opulent wine. It is juicy, full-bodied, and impossible to resist. People have described it to me as harmonious yet dense. They rave about the herbal character. Indeed it has been described as a wine with a medium body, smooth yet grippy.”
“And the terroir?”
“Ah it is the yellow granite, bespeckled with both quartz, mica and with slight hints of the argentous, which lays the foundations for the complex soil tones, fresh herbs redolent of mustard seed and lavender, with a touch of youthful pepperiness.”
Maljie looked at him carefully. “Do you believe all that bollocks?”
“No Maljie, but everybody seems to expect it.”
She clouted him almost affectionately on the side of the head. “It’s good to see a young person so better themselves. Arrange for a barrel of each to be delivered to the house. Winter’s coming in and we need something to keep the chill out.”
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As a reviewer commented, “This author has created a rich world, filled with interesting characters – of whom Maljie is one of the most colourful. Her life and adventures are presented though the gossip of the poet Tallis Steelyard who has a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. Reminiscent somewhat of Pepys’ diaries about the small and large events of London, Tallis is a better writer. And why is Mr Webster dangerous – too much of my money is being spent on his books.”