The whole of Dread Romantic sits about the table, staring at each other as the adrenaline fades. Corey is the only one without a smile. They departed the town of Boring at a speed that even Olive didn't think possible. They all felt the movement, but only a little. Toby watches Corey, her mind racing to decode what she knew, or at least, what she thought she knew of the man. Olive interrupts Toby's thoughts with boisterous laughter. "We should celebrate." When met with nods of approval, and a gentle shrug from Mavis, Olive stood. "I'll get the brew." She lightly placed a hand on Toby's shoulder. "I might need some help."
Dread Romantic produces many odds and ends for barter and trade: potions and enchantments, the occasional magical charm or perhaps one would rather peruse their exhaustive stock of herbs, spices, and other such trappings used for their own spellwork. However, it is the work done in the basement away from prying eyes that truly sets them apart from so many others. Below the storefront, tucked away in a pocket of higher dimensional space, is a wine cellar where various brews age and ferment. Barrels and vats sit in columns and stacks, each adorned with sigil and runes designed to alter the flow of time. A batch of mead or ale can be ready to consume in a matter of hours, while a twenty five year barrel of whiskey could be ready in the span of half a day. It isn't the intoxicating effects that set these marvels apart from what one could easily find in a liquor store or a local Walmart. What truly makes them special is what Mavis brings to the table…
Olive guides Toby beyond a random door in the storefront. A set of stairs lead down to the cellar, a massive room filled with wooden barrels and steel vats. Toby considered the space she entered when reaching the bottom of the stairs. It was far too big for the double wide trailer above. "How can you fit so much in such a small space?" She asks. Olive turns and replies with a smirk, "how do you think?" "Magic?" Toby asks. "Just how big is Dread Romantic?" Olive turns and struts down towards the back of the room, glancing at the many barrels around them with Toby on her heels. "As big as we need it to be, honestly." Toby studied the containers as they walked, each had symbols on the surface, some etched and others painted. "You use magic to speed up the process?" "And even to slow it down if we want to preserve a vintage or prevent spoilage." She points aimlessly to the left. "Even the white wines and beer can last indefinitely." Olive pauses and looks around. She disappears behind a stack of barrels and returns with a steel cart rolling on four wheels. "We're here for something special though." Toby narrows her eyes, "This is a lot of work for such a small group of people."
Olive gives a warm smile as they neared a door on the far wall of the cellar. "The man downstairs does most of the heavy lifting. Whiskey and Mavis do the rest." She opens the door and they pass into a much smaller room. "Then you have to remember time in general passes differently in Dread Romantic." The room had a glow to it, light radiating off of symbols etched into much smaller stacks of containers. Olive stops in front of a stack of barrels labeled Gold Water. "Whiskey tends to hire help from local spirits when she can. On dull days, you'd be surprised how much we can get done." "Gold water?" "Long story, it's a working title." Olive tries to move the bottom barrel and the moment she does, arms of black tar emerge from the wall to do it for her. She nods to the wall and continues, "We can work on naming it once we figure out how exactly we made it in the first place. It was yet another happy accident." With the barrels on the cart, the two walk back to the stairs leading up to the storefront. As soon as Olive begins pushing the cart, the steps drop, forming a wooden ramp. Olive chuckles. "Thanks, big guy."
There are many distinct beverages that can only be sampled through Dread Romantic. No one else knows how they're made and some recipes are lost even among the members of Dread Romantic themselves. While intoxicating and almost universally seen as delicious, it's the magical effects that make them special. Gold Water, for example, makes one lucky and attracts wealth. Dragon's breath makes one physically stronger, with the added benefit of literally being liquid courage. Some original recipes are far more subtle. Nyx can make one remarkably hard to see in the dark. Glamor restores youth and makes one appear more beautiful to everyone who looks at them for a time. There is even a single barrel of Knock, a licorice liqueur that can make one able to walk through walls at will for up to ten hours after drinking it.
…and cauldron bubble
The added peculiarities of these creations are rarely intentional. Most are accidental at best and can be reproduced if brewed under the exact same circumstances with the same recipe. The more potent and powerful the effect, the harder it is to reproduce. So many factors go into what make these effects possible. It could be the phase of the moon, the day of the week or time of day. It could even come down to the mental state of the brewer as well. While Mavis and whiskey keep detailed notes on each batch, there are bound to be irregularities. The ability to preserve these marvels and the miniscule dosage needed to gain their effects ensures supplies will last, but those who operate Dread Romantic tend to limit their usage to emergencies only.
Toby stares at the liquid gold in her mug for some time. The others are already sipping and talking among themselves as they do, save for Corey who hasn't even touched his cup. Toby looks back to her mug and dares to take a sip. The smell reached her first, honey with notes of spice. The flavor was divine, like nectar. She felt a single moment of guilt, as if such a thing was never meant to be tasted by the likes of her. The feeling fades, replaced by euphoria. She beams, and drinks deeper, already feeling a slight buzz that never seemed to near a state of full on drunk no matter how much she drank. Olive looks at Corey and asks, "Not in the mood today?" Corey shrugged and picked up the cup but wouldn't take a sip for several seconds. The moment he did, he smiled. "I am now." Toby sets the mug aside. "It really raises one's spirit," she says with a sly smile. Corey's stares at her with narrowed eyes. "Was that a pun?"
Toby nods. "I was never much for drinking, or people really." She hid her smile behind the mug as she brought it to her lips. "I was always so buried in my work." She takes another sip and relishes the groans of everyone at the table. Not Corey though. He couldn't stop laughing. “Probably would have worked myself to death.” "What the fuck?" Olive whispers with a grin. Toby nodded. She lets out a sigh. “Sorry." "No." Whiskey says. She points at Corey and laughs. "I can't handle two of you." Toby then says, "They may be dead 'on arrival but I'm known to leave an audience in stitches…” she pauses and, when the laughter fades, adds, “...knocking them dead, even."
- Lapesnape from 123rf
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