Story for #Thanksgiving: Harvest Moonshine
Mean Fhomhair is the beginning of the Frewyn High Holidays and the last harvest of the year. Naturally, this means feasting and drinking until someone has had too much and needs to go home, but the evening cannot be finished without someone bringing out the moonshine, in this case good ol' fashioned Westren Rime:
|Read about the Gods HERE|
The glow from the bonfire waned, the air cooled and a chill poured over the celebration, diamond dust coruscated against the decrescent light, the moon mirrored a faint warmth which the worldcivilly declined, and to appease everyone and convince them to keep the gaieties going, drinks were made and handed round, warm chocolate for the children and Rautu, who was given two to keep the cries of “No, that’s my warm chocolate, Mr Den Asaan!” at bay, and mulled wine and spiced brandy for everybody else.
Aoidhe tended the fire, convincing it to be as noble as it was before with a miracle, one which Chune was entreating him not to perform, and the farmers and their families gathered by the table, to enjoy a few drams and judge whether the fire or the drink would operate quickest. A few bottles from the house that had been warming by the hearth came out with Beryn, glasses were lifted and filled, and the Royal family gathered to enjoy what was being called an especial vintage.
“This the Westren peat rime?” Aiden asked, admiring the noxious wisps frothing from the glass.
Beryn was all smiles. “Oh, aye. Had it waitin’ in the cellar th’while.” He raised the mouth of the bottle to his nose and inhaled. “Abhaille,” wrenching and shaking his head, “tha’ll strip the whitewash off the walls. Made my eyes water.”
Adaoire immediately descended upon his drink. He leaned forward, wrapped his lips around the rim of his glass, and leaned back, finishing his dram in one draught. “Hoo!” he coughed. “Bhi Borras, that’s got teeth on it.”
A few more eagerly followed, both regretting their drinks and liking them at the same time, and Jaicobh, who was always reluctant to try anything so cried up by those who were wont to submerge themselves every Gods’ Day evening, was urged to have a glass.
“Go’wan there, Jaicobh,” said Adaoire, giving him a dram. “Get that inna you.”
Jaicobh held the glass up and watched the smoke from the rim waft over his hand. “It’s burnin’ my fingers.”
“It oughtta with a taste like that. Go’wan. Regent’s honour and all.”
Jaicobh sighed through his nose, regretting his position and popularity, and finished the dram in one go. He slottered and stared at the glass in amazement. “Tastes like the bog with fire on it.” He joggled. “Smells like it too.” He turned to Shayne, who was looking into his glass. “You better not have any.”
This caution was immediately thrown away: Shayne was already half way through his dram when the warning came, and only stopped drinking to say, with an abysmal look, “…I better not have any.” The rest of the glass was given back to Beryn, and Shayne shuffled off to the fire, to welter in the warmth and gaze into the lambent oblivion, to remember why it was that the consumption of spirits was ill advised and forget that he had ever had any.
The half dram eventually found its way to Dobhin, and as all his love went for wine and brandy, he thought he might as well try only half a glass of the rural mordant pleasure. “Gods,” he exclaimed, gawping at the empty glass, “that is prodigious. That tastes the way I would imagine Vyrdin’s beard feels. Look, it is leaving a ring around the glass. What percentage is this? If I have to ask, probably too much. Give some to Brennin,” gesturing to Alasdair as he passed. “He will hate it, and it will make me happy.”
Alasdair would drink anything given him if done in good humour, and as everyone was watching and waiting for the king’s opinion, he thought he might as well try it than not. “Oh, well, it is the holiday,” was his pitiable piece. In one moment a dram was thrust into his hand, in another it was gone, and only the solemn stains of violent lamentation remained. He stared somewhere in the distance and his brain deliquesced: all thought ceased, necessary processes were momentarily held, time slowed. He blinked, and life suddenly resumed. “Well,” he said, after a lengthened pause, “that will certainly make you forget. I almost forgot to breathe for a moment.” He glanced at the bottle in Beryn’s hand. “That’s from Westren, isn’t it?”
“Pure Westren rime,” Beryn declared.
“I was wondering what smelled like fertilizer. I don’t know whether that is meant to cleanse latrines or erase memories.”
“Probably both, Majesty. Winter is harsh for the hunterfolk up that way.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Another moment brought the taste back again, and Alasdair’s sense at last caught up with sensitivity, and his knees weakened and legs waggled. “By the Gods,” bending over and holding his head in his hands, “I don’t know whether that will cure a headache or give one.” He looked about in confusion. “I think I might be blind.”
“That won’t give you the blindness, Majesty,” Adaoire laughed. “Might kill yer thinkin’ bit and burn aff some bacteria, but that’ll sure chase the cold away.”
“It will chase away more than a virus.” Alasdair righted and wiped his brow. “Perhaps we should have brought Bilar for this.”
“Shayne had half a one and went to go stare in the fire a while,” said Jaicobh.
He nodded to the newly kindled bonfire, where stood Shayne, his back to the party, staring into the flame, his mind a foray of forgetfulness.
“A bottle of that would certainly make him forget Martje,” said Alasdair.
“I cannot think anything would be that strong,” said Boudicca, laughing. “Not even a mallet to the back of the head could make Shayne forget the woman who nags him as much as she loves him. You would need a battering ram with Gaumhin and Bryeison behind it to be effective.”
“That,” said Alasdair, pointing to the bottle in Beryn’s hand, “is worse than a battering ram. I would rather be thrown over by Gaumhin charging at me than ever drink that swill ever again.”
She was immediately invited to try it, and just as immediately was inclined to regret her having accepted a dram from Beryn.
“That is vile,” she exclaimed, forcing the empty glass into Beryn’s hand. “Medicinal as a sleeping aid, I’m sure, but lethal as anything else.” She slottered. “I might have to solder my tongue to remove the taste. And now I’m sweating.”
“Well, it sure warms you up,” said Beryn, pouring himself another dram. One swift delibation rushed on him, and he stared at the burning effigy of Aoidhe with a hale and hardy pride. “Aye, there she is,” with a fervent aspect, the taste fervid on his lips. “That’s a drink that makes you know she’s there.”
“Yes, by melting your gums,” Alasdair murmured.
“Whatcha drinkin’, Beryn?” said Lochan, sauntering over after having finished his small glass of brandy.
“Don’t think you should have this, Loch,” said Beryn cautiously, holding the bottle away from him. “Might take the hair aff you.”
Lochan gave the bottle a chary look. “Don’t got much to lose, ‘cept the hair on my head, and I think I got enough. I’ll have a drop.”
A drop he was given, and a drop he wished he had never asked for.
“Aw!” he wretched, writhing under uranic agony. “How can ye drink that? It tastes like an ash fire!” He stuck his tongue out and wiped it with his hands. “The taste won’t go away!” he cried in a panic.
“I warned you, Loch,” said Beryn, offering him a glass of water. “Said you shouldna had it, but you wanted it.”
Lochan drank the water and moaned. “It only made it worse,” he floddered. “It only spread it all over my mouth. And I have a cut in my mouth too.”
“It’ll go away soon,” said Sheamas, giving him a pat on the back.
“Ugh—not soon enough.” Lochan swallowed and wished he could salivate onto the ground. “Did you try that, Shea?”
“No, and I’m not gonna.” Sheamas held up his glass of mulled wine. “I like rememberin’ my wife.”