Turning back to Theresa, Ranualt saluted her with his cup. “It would taste better chilled, but I will allow . . It is good, excellent in fact. I congratulate you.” he paused for another sip and smiled. “Mentiol is defeated. Clan Ranualt has a new wine that all will desire. I have informed Anhall Cal, that when the wine is sold that I shall direct some funds to the school.”
Theresa considered her possible approaches, and, encouraged by a delighted grin flashed at her by Cal behind Ranualt’s back, she assumed Formal posture and bowed. “Patriarch of Clan Ranualt. I am pleased that my poor wine meets with your approval. I hope we may come to an accommodation. I have two conditions to be met before I give you the recipe.”
Ranualt’s expression closed again. Theresa noted the storm signs and Cal’s flashed: ‘careful, girl’.
But this was too important and it was going to be her only opportunity to have some control over the rest of her life.
“One of the conditions, I will tell you later, but the important one is that I would like you to deed half of the profits to the school, forever. Write up a contract in such a way that your heirs will be bound to it. The mistake your ancestor made was to not arrange for ongoing funds for the school’s upkeep. Now you have a new wine, you can take action that will prevent the school from being in such a terrible state ever again.”
Theresa held her breath. Cal flashed: ‘brilliant’ at her then they both waited for Ranualt’s decision.
He took another sip and placed the cup carefully on the table, studying the gently swirling colors. It was difficult to stop from leaping upon the table and dancing, or from gathering Theresa into his arms and kissing her until she was limp and breathless.
Beautiful Theresa, how could he have doubted the Gods?
She had succeeded where generations of vintners had failed. Mentiol wine! It would not matter, much, if it had been an inferior wine, but to be the first to suceed, his Clan’s status would soar!
His spontaneous action, snatching her from the pit, was going to save his Clan from financial ruin. The idea of deeding the profits to the school also pleased him. Even if he must surrender the Clan to unworthy heirs, the school would continue, ever a thorn in the side of the High Clans. His legacy. She was brilliant. He did not know what higher sense she possessed, and used, to create the wine, but the Clan was blessed that she was there.
When everyone was gone this evening he would not let her depart his presence until she had learned pleasure at his hands. Her reward for her hard work. Whatever means it took, she would know the extent of his joy in her. He smothered the predatory grin he could feel tugging at his mouth. It would do no good to let everyone know his plans for the evening. He lifted the cup to inhale the bouquet again. The distant scent of mentiol flowers, the warmth of the sun teased his palate. He could not analyze the subtle extra elements, but he would know them all soon.
“Beautiful Theresa, I agree to your condition. You greatly benefit the school and your wine will enhance the reputation of the Clan Ranualt. . .” He poured a little into a cup and offered it to Anhall Cal, who was, no doubt, impatiently waiting what would probably be his only chance to sample the wine. Ranualt considered the price he could set on the first few years pressings. Yes, it would be years before a school teacher could afford another sip. Fortunately the man appeared to realize how much he has been favored to receive this chance. Ranualt need have no fears for Theresa in this one’s company. He had the proper respect.
“I said there were two conditions, Commander. I will tell you the other later. .” Theresa paused. “Perhaps you should contact the head of your vineyard and ask him not to throw out any of his experimental wine until I have shown him the process to stabilize it. There is not need to waste any of it, I have a technique to rescue what he has already fermented.”
Ranualt returned his cup to the table with a sharp click. Anhall Cal immediately began gathering his scrolls and papers together and departed the room with a bow, tugging Elsia Ton along after him. Ranualt watched him depart without comment, a good servant quickly learns his master’s storm signals.
“Theresa, I advise you to think carefully.” Ranualt folding his hand neatly on the table between them. “Is this condition, that you will not speak before other witnesses, something that will please me, as did your condition concerning the school?”
Theresa fiddled with the empty wine bottle. “It isn’t going to make you happy, short term. In the long term, I think you will agree with me.”
“If it is something you think I will disagree with, even briefly, then I suggest you withdraw your other condition, unsaid.”
“It is too important to me,” Theresa’s hands trembled on the glass. “I have to take the chance of upsetting you.”
“Be warned.” Ranualt drew a finger across her lips. “At this moment I am very happy with you. Why are you trying to end that?”
“I have to.” Theresa glanced away. “I . . .the other condition, is that. . . you. . .stop thinking about me as your potential lover.”
“ENOUGH,” he roared.
“NO,” Theresa came to her feet, almost in fighting stance. “I have told you over and over that I will not sleep with you. I cannot stand having that threat over me any longer.”
“Say nothing more, Theresa, I warn you.”
“You don’t need me. Your Clan. . .”
“ . . . and say nothing of my Clan.”
“You would be better off with a Korum wife, even I know that . . .and with the wine. . “
“. . . Silence!”
“Your family reputation increases. . .”
“ . . . Theresa, no more.”
“They will be competing to marry you. .”
“They already do. I want none of them.”
“I don’t want to bed you.”
“I won't be a sex slave,” shouted Theresa. “I won't spend my live serving one of the enemy of my people. I have little enough respect left, I won't give up. This is wrong. You know it's wrong!”
AND THE BAD NEWS IS THIS IS AS FAR AS i HAVE WRITTEN . NEXT WE GO TO THE THIRD PART OF CHANGING MAGIC - ow ow ow.. enough with the throwing of shoes.