The Shadow of the Rose
Scottish Highlands 1529.
It was a portrait perfect summer day in the Highlands. Birds flitting from tree to tree, calling to each other through song. Honeybees buzzing from flower to flower collecting pollen to bring back to their hive. A hum in the air, announcing the arrival of Reginald Ravensblade, the harpist of Time, disturbed the otherwise tranquil setting as an opening appeared in the Fabric of Time. Reg stepped through the opening and set off down the road toward the local monastery.
He rang the bell at the monastery's gates and waited several moments before a friar came to the gates and opened a small peephole.
"What can we do for you?" the friar asked.
"I would like to buy a barrel of whisky," the Bard answered.
"Wait a moment please," the friar replied, closing the peephole.
A few moments later the door opened and a rather large rotund man stepped out. Brown hair cropped short, he was wearing a brown coarse homespun robe with a simple hemp rope sash.
"I am Father David. Brother James said you would like to purchase a whole barrel of whisky?"
"Yes, I would," the Bard answered. "I want to try an experiment. I want to age a barrel for several years. I am hoping it will mellow the flavor, and make the whisky smoother. I would prefer a barrel of single-malt, something that was not blended."
"We have several barrels that will meet your requirements," Father David replied. "How much were you thinking of spending?"
The Bard reached into his shirt and removed a small pouch. Weighing it in his hand, he tossed it to the friar.
"Will that cover the cost, as well as a donation?" the Bard asked.
Opening the draw string and peering into the pouch of gold coins, the friar replied, "Yes, this is more than generous. Where do you intend to store your barrel?"
"Well, I had two ideas," the Bard smiled. "I could store it in a cave in the foothills, or perhaps your monastery would be willing to store it for me?"
"Yes, there is more than sufficient payment in here to cover those costs as well," Father David replied.
"Good, I will return in ten years," the Bard explained. "At that time I will require you to bottle the barrel's contents."
"Ten years?" Father David asked, clearly surprised. "A lot can happen in ten years."
"I will return in ten years," the Bard countered. "Can you ensure that my barrel will still be here?"
"Yes, to the best of my ability," Father David replied.
"Then that is the best that I can hope for," the Bard replied.
"Then, we have an agreement," Father David stuck out his hand, which the Bard grasped and shook. The friar returned to the monastery and shut the door.
"Timekeeper, forward to the time of the inn if you please." Reg commanded.
"As you wish, My Lord," the sword replied. The sword blade glowed with a bluish tint as its runes glowed silver. The "pocket door" slid open and Reginald Ravensblade, Harpist of Time, stepped through, the door sliding closed behind him.
Scottish Highlands 1539.
Reg stepped out onto the road leading into the town of Mortlach. Arriving at the town, he stopped at the blacksmith shop and rented a wagon and draft horse. He drove the wagon to the monastery, noting that it had changed very little in ten years. Parking the wagon, he walked up to the door and rang the bell. A friar came to the door and opened a small peephole.
"Yes, how may we help you?" the friar asked.
"Is Father David available?" the Bard asked. "I bought a barrel of whisky several years ago, and asked him to store it here in the monastery."
"Father David has retired," the friar replied. "If you will wait, I will fetch Father James."
The Bard nodded his head, and the friar closed the peephole. Several moments later the door opened and Father James stepped out.
He had changed little in the ten years, a little more gray in his hair, still cropped short. The same coarse home-spun brown robe and hemp rope sash.
"It has been many years," Father James stuck out his hand, which the Bard grasped and shook. "You have not aged at all."
"I try to keep fit," the Bard replied. "Although, that does not prevent the gray from coming out."
"There has been a running wager on whether or not you would show up," Father James smiled, releasing the Bard's hand. "Come, I will show you to our cellars."
The Bard followed Father James into the monastery and to the production cellars.
"It is good that you returned when you did," Father James explained. "Good King Henry VIII has broken with Rome. He has abolished all monasteries, and sent out troops to shut them down. We are far from London and his influence, but I fear our days are numbered."
"What do you intend to do?" the Bard asked.
"Some of the brothers and I will stay," Father James replied. "There is a farm not far from here that Father David bought, and retired to. We have begun moving our distilling process there. When the monastery is closed, we will move to the farm and continue to produce whisky. Actually your idea some ten years ago will make our transition easier."
"How is that?" the Bard asked.
"Father David in his wisdom, set aside several barrels of our own as well," Father James explained. "Actually, we are excited for your return, so we can sample some while we bottle it. I have sent for Father David and he should be here shortly."
When Father David arrived they moved the Bard's barrel to the bottling room. Using earthenware jugs they transferred the contents from the barrels to the jugs, corked them and sealed the lids with wax. The Bard explained filtering through cheese cloth to reduce sediment and increase taste. The aged whisky was certainly mellower and went down smoothly. The friars had put up several barrels of their own every year since the Bard's strange request. They had completely changed over to only aged whisky, and the results were fantastic. The Bard explained different aging times and different pricing, and the friars were eager to experiment. He also suggested they call the aged whisky, 'Scotch' and to only use the single-malt recipe. They helped load the jugs into the procured wagon, and the Bard drove off after accepting a standing offer to come to the monastery, and eventually the farm as often as he liked.
The Bard arrived at the inn and talked with the innkeeper about storing his jugs, as well the prospect of selling the aged drink. They toasted the proposition with several glasses of aged scotch.
The Bard arrived early for dinner. The common room began to fill up while he ate. Sitting back in his chair, smoking his pipe, and holding a glass of wine, he watched the room swell to capacity, and beyond. The innkeeper came over and cleared his table, patting him on the back affectionately.
"Knock them dead," he smiled. "The crowd is good. I brought in more ale and wine, as well as hiring several serving girls. It should be a good night."
"This story may take longer to tell," the Bard smiled. "It may carry over several nights."
"That sounds like coin in my purse," the innkeeper laughed.
The Bard got up and made his way to the front of the room, where a cozy chair and table with a decanter and glass had been placed. Standing in front of the chair, he addressed the crowd.
"The adventure we are about to start is a continuation of the 'Thief of the Rose'," scanning the room as he set the stage. "I am not going to re-visit that particular story, so, if you have not heard it, get with someone that has, and they should be able to help you understand."
"This story, like the last, takes place on the western region of Andor," the Bard picked up his harp and began to play a background melody.
"When we left Aaron and Reg, they had just finished meeting with King Thane of Aithen," the Bard began. "Aaron had battled with and killed Lord Malachi, God of Thieves, and killed Malachi's tool, the would-be usurper, Lord Colin Beadle. Then their plan was to get their horses and start out for Realto and eventually the Thangdaemon Forest."
"Meanwhile, Lord Devlin had been banished from the Ethereal Plane, for his actions, and inactions, concerning the God Thief, as well as his attack on Lady Rannath, Goddess of Light."
The Bard put his harp down and sat down in his chair. He poured a glass of wine and raised it in a toast to the audience.
"Sit back and be comfortable, have a sip, and without further ado," the Bard paused, "I bring to you, for your listening pleasure, 'The Shadow of the Rose'..."