“Shut up and deal the cards, Jennen.”
Jennen lifts his index finger in a gesture of “hold on a minute” to Aydrianne and continues spinning his tale to the rest of the table. “So then she said to me, ‘this time next week I’ll be stationed at Fort Salma, and I don’t know when I shall return.’ I, of course, was devastated.” His pantomime anguish raises another wave of hysterical laughter.
Aydrianne rolls her eyes and bats his raised hand away. She stretches forward across the table to snatch the now-mostly-empty bottle of wine, watching the faces of her friends. The gentleman, the rogue, the life of the party, and of course, her sister, all ring the hand-carved table, laughing at each other, winning and losing the same five or six gold over and over, and drinking their way through history in vintage form from their families’ wine cellars.
Luc slides his glass toward Aydrianne and she finishes the bottle between their glasses. In her reverie, she’s lost track of Jennen’s story and laughs with the others to hide it rather than out of amusement.
“We’re going to run out of this stuff eventually you know,” she muses aloud, spinning the bottle around to read the label. “1292… I pronounce 1292 a banner year for Shaemoor wines.”
“I much prefer the ’71″ Luc opines, sipping from his glass. “It’s a good thing you don’t have to make your living selling wine.”
“It might come to that soon.” Aydrianne hoists the empty back to a basket full of similarly discarded bottles behind her. “Mother’s been on her high horse again about ‘producing heirs.’ Support the House or find someone else to do it.” She takes too large a swallow of wine, not looking at the rest of the group.
“You know I’m always here for you, Anne,” Blake answers with a gallant flourish and a chuckle.
“Nothing against you, Henries, but I think I’d rather sell wine.”
He clutches at his heart, acting mortally wounded. “You cut me to the quick, my dear. You know I can’t stand to see a beautiful woman suffer.”
Seated in her shaded corner, Qora snorts audibly, looking up from sharpening her dagger just long enough to flash Blake a snarl.
“Great, you find one of those, you can go rescue her.” Aydrianne slumps in her chair.
“Mother will be quite disheartened to hear she, once again, does not get to take a bride out dress shopping. Her poor little heart might break. She may just have to buy me a new suit! How utterly delicious! I will — of course — have to show proper depression at being turned down by the illustrious Aydrianne Seelund. All the girls will just hate you for this you realize?” The excitement in his voice has his whole body quivering at the idea.
“How would that be any different from any other day?” Aydrianne lifts her glass, about to drink, and says to Jennen, “Would you deal the da– what are you doing?”
“Oh, Jennen, you adorable,” Henries pauses, thinking hard, then huffs, exasperated, “Oh I never can come up with a good name for you! If you are going to cut the cards like that, you might as well stencil a C on the lapels of your frock.. oh… that IS quite a fetching color…” Henries reaches across to rub the lapels and examine the lace. “Good fabric too. Who did you go to for it? Wait… No. I was discussing your atrocious shuffling. I know you need the practice, but over five gold? Perhaps we could stencil that C in a nice complimentary silver…”
Jennen looks up from the cards with a casual air of innocence, changing the subject. “Well why don’t you? Sell wine, I mean.” Without waiting for an answer, he adds to Blake “Lion’s Arch… the silk came from a lovely but disreputable pirate with excellent taste in haberdashery.”
Turning to Aydrianne, Blake chimes in, “Wine, my beautiful, never-to-be, yes! If you won’t accept the profferance of a life of utter leisure,” the word utter is drawn out to show Henries’ personal disdain for word, as his eyes roll towards the ceiling, “then wine might be just the thing. After all, we drink it.” He takes a careful sip from his glass. “Breath it.” He tilts the glass so he can take a long sniff of the wine’s vapors. “Hell I’d eat it if there was any nutritional value, and dried wine didn’t taste like something better left unmentioned. I could buy you your first case! Or just raid Dadums cellar; it is quite remarkable, after all.”
Jennen breaks in, “Maybe you should consider the silk trade…You could fund your house three or four seasons just from Blake and Luc’s unmentionables…” Jennen snorts and starts dealing.
“I could use a new pair of BOOTS,” Qora adds, kicking Jennen squarely in the kneecap after looking at her first card.
“Ow!” Jennen spits out through clenched teeth “And shin-guards.”
Aydrianne ignores their banter, staring into her glass.
“I would consider that,” Luc pipes up. “I’ve been looking for a more …fruitful venture to throw my money at. And you can never have too many… unmentionables.”
“More fruitful than women and wine?”
“Oh but if Anne here is bringing in the wine, aren’t I still spending my money on exactly those things?” Luc lifts his glass toward Aydrianne.
Aydrianne concedes that point with a half-shrug. “I dunno. Businesses are expensive. And there’s already several companies importing to Divinity’s Reach.”
“But none of them have your greatest asset, darling.” Blake picks up his cards and splutters over them. “Really, Jennen…”
“And what’s that?” Aydrianne doesn’t even bother touching her cards.
“Why, US, of course! Who in this city knows more about _indulgence_ than we do?”
That elicits a laugh from Aydrianne. “Well, ok, you’ve got me there.” She tosses back the rest of her wine and crosses the room to retrieve another bottle.
“Not the craziest scheme I’ve ever heard around this table. Sounds like a lot of work though,” Jennen adds.
Blake holds out the bottle opener to Anne as she returns. “It does sound like a lot of work. Let’s go back to that ‘heirs’ idea…”
Anne grimaces. “Let’s not.”
“Let’s let Lady Luck decide.” Jennen drops the deck in the middle of the table. “High card. If you win,” he points at Aydrianne, “the rest of us fund your trade company. If Henries wins, we pay for your wedding.”
Blake brightens. “Oh how devilish! Better chances than I had thirty seconds ago. I’m in!”
“Didn’t he–” Luc starts to say but is cut off by Aydrianne slamming her hand down defiantly on the deck.