The Mead of St. Winston


Plots are Hatched

Evil is Thwarted

Lovers are United

** And **

Large Quantities of Mead

are Consumed

at Every Opportunity

Miriam Kresh Wrote The Story.

Chapter One

In Which We Meet Some Stout Fellows and a Winsome Wench

It was hot and noisy that night in the Unicorn Pub. Giovanni Fiori, preacher, took a long, thirsty swallow of his chilled mead then solemnly regarded the others seated around the old wooden table. "So, what will St. Winston contribute to the Harvest Festival this year?" he asked over the cheerful din.

"Fifteen barrels of Rosemary Metheglin," replied Farmer Apple in his deep voice. "That is, five barrels are a gift to the Castle, and the rest are for sale at the festivities. Let’s hope all arrive safely. It’s a long journey."

"Beglan O’Daniel will deliver them to the King and Queen", said wild-haired Otto, who owned The Unicorn and made all the mead and ale served there. "We can rely on him. Giovanni, will you go with Beglan? He needs help managing those wagons loaded with barrels. You could stop and say a few holy words at any of the towns along the way. See? You’d be doing two mitzvahs."

"No need to wheedle," smiled Giovanni, "I’m eager to see the big town myself, maybe even the castle. Maybe even the King and the Queen! But where is Beglan tonight?"

"Ah, you know Beglan, he’s the quiet type. He prefers to come in for a drink in the late afternoon, before all this rowdy lot arrives. He likes to advise me about managing fermentation, it’s great having an apothecary friend."

"Yes, a stout fellow," agreed Giovanni.

"Actually, he prefers mead", remarked Otto.

The noise in the Unicorn Pub rose as blond and buxom Gloria, the mead wench, sailed in balancing a large tray loaded with mugs with one hand while slapping away the hands of drinkers with the other.

"Get away! Calm down, everyone will be served," she laughed, putting full mugs down in front of the customers.

"That Gloria sure keeps things lively", chuckled Otto, watching her circulate. "And she’s smart! I think I should retire to the meadworks and just let Gloria run the place."

Farmer Apple puffed reflectively on his pipe. "All the young lads are crazy over her. Except for my Ber," nodding over to the hearth, where a tall young man stood thoughtfully staring into the fire.

"He doesn’t seem to be serious about any of the girls, although he’s of an age to marry. I wouldn’t mind Gloria running Ber. And my wife is fond of the girl, too. She says Gloria is just the one to make Ber a warm home and bring up good kids."

They glanced at Gloria then smiled into their moustaches, for there she was in the middle of a circle, taking a mug from an admirer and lustily drinking it down.

"A dance!" someone shouted. "I’ll dance with Gloria!" A disheveled customer got to his feet unsteadily and advanced upon her, arms outstretched. She escaped laughingly, and to Giovanni’s alarm, ran up to the table and pulled at his rusty black sleeve. "I beg you to dance with me," she said, laughing, "these drunken louts just step all over a girl’s feet!"

"But I don’t dance either," Giovanni said, blushing. "I’d squash your feet flat. And my wife wouldn’t like it. Ask me to deliver a sermon, that’s more my style." He looked around the table for help.

Farmer Apple’s eyes twinkled, but he kindly rose, took Gloria’s arm politely and escorted her to where Ber was standing. "My boy, dance with Gloria and let our preacher drink his mead in peace." Ber turned his brown eyes from the fire, and beheld the pretty Gloria on his father’s arm.

He bowed gallantly. Gloria smiled and swished her skirts in a playful curtsey that showed off her tanned, sturdy legs. The fiddler sawed a polka. Joining hands, Gloria and Ber stepped out and danced energetically up and down the room a few times while the drinkers marked time banging their mugs on the tables. Laughing and perspiring, the two sat down at the bar and pulled a couple of ales to refresh themselves.

"Thanks for getting me out of that – I really didn’t want to dance with any of those drinky men," said Gloria when she’d caught her breath.

"Not at all," replied Ber pleasantly. "It was fun." They fell silent, Ber looking straight ahead with his mind obviously elsewhere, while Gloria searched for something to say. After a few minutes,

Ber bowed politely again and left, letting a draft of fresh air into the crowded hot room as he opened the pub door onto the cool summer night.

"Get a move on now, Gloria," ordered Otto, "everyone’s thirsty again, so bring out more mead." Winking at Giovanni and Farmer Apple, he added, "Going to make a lot of money tonight!"

Gloria’s blue eyes followed Ber’s departure, but she sprang up again and ran to the kitchen, returning almost immediately with another mug-laden tray. "Got mead?" she asked flirtatiously.

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Vicky Rowe
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