“She’s Beatrice. She’s acting as my guardian.” (Zack)
Beatrice bows lightly, and Bertram looks up at her, more than fifty centimeters taller, and says, “I’m Bertram,” and holds out his right hand.
Beatrice takes his right hand in a slightly crouched position.
Bertram says, “Hmmm, you’re a spearman… Zack’s guardian. Hmmm…. I see,” and chuckled.
Apparently, he could tell that Beatrice was a first-rate warrior just by shaking her hand.
I was curious about the woman behind Bertram.
She had a rather stout build for a woman. But she had rich brown hair in strong waves, a round face with large eyes, and a rather low nose, but she was a lovely and charming dwarven woman. Her face had an innocent expression on it, and at first glance, she looked like a child about the same age as Mel and Sharon. However, upon closer inspection, she had a calmness that a child would not have, and seemed to be an adult woman in her late twenties or so.
When I asked Bertram to introduce the woman, he said, somewhat brusquely, “Oh…” and then began to speak.
“This is Wilhelmina, who was forced into my workshop by the people of Ars–the royal capital of the Kingdom of Caum in the south, where there are many dwarven craftsmen. Mina, this is Zack, the guy I always tell you about.” (Bertram)
She kept smiling and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Wilhelmina. Please call me Mina if you like,” she says, bowing flatly.
I return the greeting,
“I’ve heard a lot about you from my master. I’ve heard that you are the real inventor of ‘scotch’…” (Mina)
To my surprise, Bertram explained the situation.
“When you left the village, I smithed a sword for you. The steel at that time was a gift from Ars. This guy knew about that. When I smithed that sword for you. When I said that, she realized that you were the inventor of ‘Scotch’.” (Bertram)
After saying this, he apologized with a small “I’m sorry”.
(Come to think of it, he said something like that when I asked him to hammer a sword for me. It’s true that if she knew about that, it wouldn’t be strange for her to notice. But how much does she know about me…?) (Zack)
From my silence, Bertram seemed to realize what was bothering me. He gave a small shake of his head, implying that she didn’t know any more than that.
I felt a little relieved, and my hardened expression relaxed.
To change the subject, I turn to Mina and ask, “By the way, I heard you said you are his apprentice.”
She nodded broadly and said, “Yes, Mr. Bertram is my master. But my master doesn’t approve of me,” she says, her mouth a little stern.
Bertram says he’s not my apprentice, but I somehow read the intentions of the artisans at Ars.
Bertram is past sixty.
Dwarves are said to live longer than humans, over two hundred years, but even so, it is safe to say that he is still out of wedlock and single at his age. There are no Dwarf women in this village to be his partner, so they must have sent a woman who looked like a good match.
As I nodded my head thinking about this, Bertram suddenly changed the subject to swords, perhaps feeling embarrassed.
He accepted my sword as if taking it from me and immediately went into his workshop.
(Does he have eyes for this? As a friend, it might be better to take it easy here.) (Zack)
I swore to myself and followed him into the workshop.
Bertram entered the workshop and already had the face of a craftsman.
I couldn’t even tease him, so I just stared at what he was doing.
He pulls out a sword and carefully checks it for any distortion or blade damage.
“It looks all right. I didn’t know there were decent craftsmen in Doctus…” (Bertram)
When I told him that I had asked a craftsman named Zergius to take care of the blade, he looked somewhat satisfied. Apparently, he knows him, and he has his own network of dwarven blacksmiths. Perhaps it was a network of drinkers, though.
After checking my sword, I asked Bertram about the new distiller.
“Yeah, Scott commissioned it. It’s the third one this year alone.” (Bertram)
(That’s consistent with what I heard at Pericritor. I guess the demand for Scotch is pretty high. Not only were they building more distillers, but they were also building more storage units. …But how can they keep up with the supply of the original brew…) (Zack)
It’s no surprise, but to make distilled spirits, you need the original brew.
In the beginning, they only distilled the beer or wine produced in the village of Rathmore, but as demand grew, they also distilled the liquor they had purchased from villages near Kilnarc. Sourcing from the outskirts of Kilnarc does not mean a sudden increase in supply.
Originally, liquor was merely a luxury item, made from the surplus of food, mainly wheat, which was a necessity. Nicholas is also providing some sort of agricultural guidance to neighboring villages, but it’s hard to imagine the supply extending by leaps and bounds in a year without me.
It is possible to transport it from distant places other than Kirnarc, but previous estimates concluded that the transportation costs would be too great to be worth it.
Given that, I can’t think of any reason to add three more distillers.
When I looked at her curiously, Mina told me the story.
“We bring in all kinds of alcohol to Ars. You see, when people come to sell scotch, they come back with empty wagons, right? That’s why instead they come to buy scotch, they bring grape wine, beer, and so on…” (Mina)
(Apparently, the dwarves in Ars have realized that raw materials are indispensable for increasing scotch production. Certainly, it would be more efficient to transport raw materials than to return to the village empty. However, I feel like a single wagon is like a drop in a desert… No way!) (Zack)
“Is it possible that the number of wagons is increasing?” (Zack)
Bertram nodded sagely at my question.
“About five wagons will come from Ars, and they are loaded with barrels of liquor.” (Bertram)
When I asked him about the details, he told me that they were going north along the Ars Road–the road connecting Ars and Pericritor–while buying liquor from Ars. They are buying it without regard to money.
(Is that why there were ruts in the road into the village? I didn’t expect them to go that far. I guess the Dwarves’ obsession with liquor is not to be underestimated. …Maybe one of these days we’ll be able to get liquor from Pericritor as well. When that happens, the “Ars Road” will probably be renamed the “Liquor Road”…) (Zack)
While I was thinking about this, Bertram clapped his hand and said,
“Come to think of it, in the past, you said that you could make good liquor by distilling apple cider. It’s good! Come here!” (Bertram)
He said, shouting at the end, then grabbed my hand and dragged me away.
(Where are we going? No, I know where we’re going. Scott’s Distillery…) (Zack)
As I walked along being dragged, I talked to Bertram. He told me that he had brought in several barrels of apple wine, but Scott was hesitant to distill apple cider.
“I asked Nicholas, but he said no, he won’t allow me to distill it without your input. So, please explain this to Nicholas.” (Bertram)
I smiled and said, “Okay, okay,” and hushed Bertram.
“I’ll ask Nicholas later. …You’re still the same when it comes to liquor.” (Zack)
Liddy and the others watching in the back were taken aback, but Mina, feeling like she had seen something interesting, said, “Master seems to really enjoy being with Master Zack. I’m jealous,” laughing.
But soon after, she said, “But good luck with the apple cider idea. I’m looking forward to it too,” she pressed me with a serious face.
It seems that dwarves, even women, are invested in alcohol.