Thursday, 3 May 2007

Chapter 49: Fine Wine

The Deputy Lord Chancellor waved his empty glass in the air and a servant of the clan rushed over with a jug to fill it up. The thick, dark red liquid poured into his glass. Luca Salazar lifted the glass to his nose and took a deep breath. He swirled the wine around then took a sip.

‘How do you find the wine?’ Marcus asked. He was sitting at the opposite end of a long table in the stone walled dining hall. Flaming torches lit the hall and the crackling logs in the huge roaring fireplace kept both diners warm.

Luca Salazar licked his lips in appreciation. ‘Very good,’ he said. Marcus believed him as well. Salazar had complained about most of the meal but he knew he would like the dessert wine. All vampires did.

‘Where did you get it? I don’t recognise the taste.’

‘We make it ourselves,’ Marcus said.

‘Really? I didn’t realise you had a farm.’

‘Yes, I’ve been producing wine for many centuries. I learned from the best. The farm is a long way out of the city, hidden away from the humans. Only a few of us know where it is.’

‘I’m not surprised. If I could make wine of this quality, I’d keep my methods secret as well. I would increase the production if I were you. I will recommend it to the Lord Chancellor and he may want to place an order.’

Marcus rolled his eyes but Salazar didn’t notice this show of disdain from a subordinate. It was just like a senior vampire to sit up there on his high horse, looking down on those of us doing the real work. He has no idea what goes into making a wine of this quality.

Making a wine as good as the vintage that Salazar was sampling took hard work and patience. There was only one harvest per year. The specimens took twenty years to ripen, fed daily on the best foodstuffs and only the best were picked to make it into the premium wine.

The specimens are taken to the kitchen, slaughtered and their blood is drained into the bottling machine. The leftover human skins and muscles are then put to good use. The steaks they had both eaten had come from human bodies. While Marcus’ steak had come from the rump of a premium body, Salazar’s had come from a rejected body.

He always complains about the food so why waste a good meal on him?

‘The next specimens will be harvested soon,’ Marcus said, ‘I personally oversee the harvest myself every year and I will ensure a case of the finest wine is produced for the Lord Chancellor.’

Salazar nodded, ‘Very good idea. He will appreciate that.’

Servants opened the doors to the dining hall and Roxy entered. ‘Sir, may I have a word?’ she asked Marcus.

‘Of course. What is it, Roxy?’

‘I have just had confirmation of Doctor Owen’s location. The Brotherhood are evacuating their outpost and returning to their regional headquarters. We will strike when the extraction team arrives at the outpost.’

Salazar butted in. ‘Is that wise?’

‘Excuse me?’ asked Roxy. The look on her face showed she had as little respect for the Deputy Lord Chancellor as Marcus did.

‘If you are going to attack The Brotherhood, surely it would be a better idea to attack when their numbers are fewer.’

‘That may seem like the easy option but this is not the usual kind of mission. One of our brothers is a member of the extraction team. Our plan is to sabotage the infrastructure and reduce their capability. A large unit in a state of panic is a much easier target than a small well-prepared unit.’

Salazar didn’t answer. That shut him up, Roxy thought.

‘Also,’ she continued unopposed, ‘we are using this attack as an opportunity to demonstrate our military capability. There has not been an attack of this size in a very long time. We have previously only operated in groups of ten or fewer.’

‘How many of our brothers and sisters will be joining this attack?’ Salazar asked.

‘One hundred,’ she said.

Salazar’s eyes widened and apart from the noise of the burning fire, there were a few seconds of silence in the dining hall. He turned to address Marcus. ‘I would wish her good luck but I don’t think she’s going to need it. Her squad are sure to have a greater feast than we have enjoyed this evening.’

Marcus raised his glass and nodded in agreement.

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