Chapter 9 – 24 Hours
Hour 1: 12 PM: Miss Joyce
Joyce bolted out of a fitful nap even before the first notes of the clock downstairs reached her ears. She blinked her eyes and forced herself to rise from the couch, running her fingers absently through her hair in an attempt to wrangle any stray strands back into place.
The final chime rang through the air as she reached the top of the stairs.
Twelve in all.
Just twenty-four hours to go until the wedding and she was exhausted and anxious and feeling stretched thin.
The last few months had been a whirlwind of activity. Herman had ceded to her control of all the details of the wedding with but a few directives, and she had taken to the tasks with a vengeance, throwing herself into the details and minutiae of the planning. The tents that had sprouted up on Herman’s property like wild mushrooms, the back and forth of vendors and tradesmen and craftsmen, the buzz of hundreds of voices merging together with the sounds of frenzied construction – all were a testament to her efforts.
Joyce smoothed her tunic and tugged her leggings into place before descending the steps; the expensive dresses she normally wore had by now become an anomaly, practicality demanding a much less formal attire for her day to day activities in Oakmere.
The muted hum of sounds she had heard from her room bloomed into a full-blown cacophony as she opened the door to step outside. At the same time, her eyes were greeted with the bright and colorful panorama of motion and labor now taking place under the noon sun. She found the sudden change disorienting.
“Miss Chesterhill!” a voice suddenly shouted out from nearby before she could even catch her bearings.
Joyce tensed up a little inside, recognizing the shrill tones.
Then a brief pang of sadness rose in her heart; she realized that this would be one of the last moments she would use that name.
She shook the thought away and turned to see a thin, elderly woman running towards her, trying to catch her attention with an upraised hand while trying to wipe her other hand on the apron tied about her waist as fierce gusts tugged at it, whipping both apron and the woman’s loose red hair about her with a crackling sound.
“Yes, Mrs. Saldean?” Joyce asked carefully.
The thin woman stopped, put her hands on her hips. Her mouth briefly pulled into a frown. “I’m still waiting on those livers you promised me!” she grumbled loudly, trying to make herself heard over the wind and noise. Then she seemed to remember who she was talking to and blanched slightly.
The winds began to subside.
“Begging your pardon and all, but they were supposed to be here two days ago, then yesterday, and then this morning.”
Mrs. Saldean noticed the blank look on Joyce’s face.
“For the Goretusk Liver Pies?” she prompted.
Joyce was still struggling to remember when she at last noticed the woman’s hands: stained the same reddish-brown as her fluttering apron.
“Ah – ah, yes!” Joyce said, suddenly remembering. Goretusk Liver Pies: one of the gastronomic delicacies she had commissioned for, and for which she had brought Salma Saldean from far away Westfall to prepare.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Saldean,” she continued, “I’ve been more than distracted lately.”
“Can’t make Goretusk Liver Pies without goretusk livers, you understand.”
“No, of course not.” Joyce agreed absently, putting a pair of fingers to her temple to try to soothe away the headache that was threatening to grow. She thought for a moment. “ If I recall correctly, the shipping manifests I was looking at this morning indicated that they should be here by now, but I will have Maxwell double-check.”
Mrs. Saldean looked dubious.
A new voice broke in. “Trouble, Salma?”
Joyce heard a mix of mirth and haughtiness in the tone and saw Mrs. Saldean grimace as they both faced the newcomer.
“Not at all, Chef Breanna,” Mrs. Saldean replied to the pixie-faced woman who was striding towards them. Then to Joyce she hissed in a low whisper – “Before the sun sets! No later!” – and strode away without a backwards glance.
Joyce watched her go, groaning inwardly. It’s not that goretusk livers were as notoriously rare as their reputation, she knew. It’s just that they had to be harvested in just the right fashion from the golden-skinned beasts that roamed southern Westfall: the shock of death usually spoiled the organs and required a quick and skilled touch to claim them before they were rendered useless for the specific flavor that Salma Saldean’s pies required. And Salma was right: there wasn’t much time.
“And what can I do for you, Chef Breanna?” Joyce asked, turning to the chef from Redridge.
The new woman was watching Salma Saldean walk away, a smug smirk dancing at the corners of her mouth. Then she turned back to Joyce and the look became more serious.
“It’s about those goretusk snouts, Miss Chesterhill…”
As Joyce went through a very similar conversation to the one she had just had with Mrs. Saldean, she noticed a knot of people forming, clamoring for her attention.
Fingers went to her temple once more, but at this point she knew the headache would come anyway.
Hour 2: 1PM: Mama Pig
Mama Pig had watched with fascination over the past month as the normally placid and quiet farm had become a hub of activity.
Today she roamed the pen with the eagerness of a puppy, snuffling and stomping, trying to find the best vantage points to see what was going on, but the crest of the small hill leading up to the barn blocked most of her view. Several times she tried standing on her hind legs and letting the fence take the weight of her upper body, but each time the thick oak planks creaked ominously under her massive bulk. This despite all the efforts the Mean Man had put into reinforcing the structure over the years to accommodate her phenomenal growth
She tried one last time, then stepped back off almost immediately as the wood groaned. A sharp snort of disappointment followed, but she knew from experience that it would not go well if she damaged the enclosure: the Mean Man would take it out on Bobos like he always did.
At that thought, Mama Pig stopped in her tracks and sniffed at the air. She could find no scent of Bobos, but the overwhelming smells drifting around the farm made it hard to tell for certain.
And oh, such smells!
Meat, poultry, and fish of all kinds roasting on spits in the open air intermingled with the delicious aromas of exotic spices and pungent gravies and stews. Mama Pig found herself trailing a small line of drool from her mouth as she trotted through the mud into the barn proper in search of the boy, but there was no sign of him.
Grunting with irritation, Mama Pig went back out to the pen, sloshed heavily into the thick mud, and rolled onto her back.
It was not unusual for Bobos to be away. Especially lately as there had been less work for them and the Mean Man had kept them cooped up and out of sight at the barn. But rarely was Bobos away during the day when he could be caught within sight of any of the multitudes of people now roaming the open spaces of the farm.
Mama Pig hoped Bobos would be back soon. She was getting bored and the smells were becoming more and more distracting every hour.
With thoughts of food on her mind, Mama Pig rolled in the mud to cover herself with a good coating of muck before flopping onto her back again.
As light puffy clouds wove themselves into an ever-changing dance of shapes between her and the early spring sun, and sporadic gusts of cool air tickled her ears, she slowly closed her eyes. Mere minutes later the sound of loud snores echoed through the pen, to be swept away on the wind.
Hour 3: 2PM: Stormwind
Count Remington Ridgewell struggled to stay awake. He found most meetings of the House of Nobles to be very boring affairs and this one was no different, with the sole and rare exception of the presence of the Regent of Stormwind, Highlord Bolvar Fordragon.
Ridgewell sat up suddenly, forcing his eyes open. The other meeting attendees smirked at his blank and dazed stare.
“I asked you, Count Ridgewell, for an update on the status of the delegation we sent to the Hersey-Chesterhill wedding,” said the Highlord.
“This, again?” cried out Lord Wishock, rising unsteadily from his chair. “Why do we waste time and effort on Herman Hersey? He’s an oaf and a lout. Yes, yes, he is an important supplier of foodstuffs, but that hardly rates – ”
“Sit down, Wishock!” roared Fordragon, pounding the table with a mailed fist. He glared and muttered something under his breath before regaining his composure. “Herman Hersey may be, as you say, an ‘oaf and a lout’, but he also was a hero of the Alliance forces in his younger days. Have you forgotten his action leading a fighting retreat at the very gates of this city during the final days of the Gurubashi Wars?!” Fordragon swept his eyes across the assembly gathered there, daring them to meet his iron gaze. “Enough of such talk.” he finally grumbled.
He gestured to Count Ridgewell to continue.
The Count nodded his head in agreement – decorum insisted that Stormwind send at least a token group to the wedding. But he also understood Wishock’s ire: he knew that each and every one of the people at the table had had their run-ins with the hard-headed Herman Hersey. The man was as shrewd a businessman as they came, and his bold and often aggressive attitude did not sit well with many.
“Of course, sir,” the Count said. “I received word just hours ago that the party has already arrived by gryphon at Capital City and are set to travel in the morning to Oakmere proper.”
The Highlord nodded. “Very good, then. Let us move on,” he said, his eyes boring into Lord Wishock’s as the latter squirmed with mute anger in his seat.
Count Ridgewell glanced at the next sheet of paper and ran his eyes down the text before continuing.
“The next item on the agenda concerns the alarming shortfall of goretusk herds in southern Westfall and the economic impacts of said to the area at large and more specifically to the operational readiness of troops stationed at Sentinel Hill.”
“Not this again…” someone said as sighs echoed through the chamber.