Viscount Lingonberle was having a very bad day.
Nothing appeared to be going well since he woke up this morning. Getting dressed to go to the Duke’s wedding, he found himself heading there alone.
His children were all avoiding him, ever since he had pitched his hat in to support the Duke. They were off working on knight training with their classmates.
His wife made an excuse to leave shortly before he was ready to head out the door. Claiming that she would rather have tea with the girls rather than attend a stiff ceremony, he watched her being led into a stagecoach by the servant. The servant was a tall, sturdy-looking man with a face shining with charisma. He could have sworn that his wife gave him some amorous looks, but perhaps, he was imagining things.
Even alone, the Viscount saw that it was his duty to attend the wedding of a man he believed could be the next King. From his exchanges with the Duke, he saw nothing but a meticulous and calculated man, who would bring much prosperity to the kingdom. Since he had given his support, the Viscount’s wine business had flourished like no time before it.
However, he did find it strange that the Duke had chosen a wife that was less than half his age, and one that was still a minor at that. Granted that the young lady had been making a name for herself recently, he simply wrote it off as a political marriage in which a slightly unripe fruit had been plucked prematurely before others could take her.
That in part had driven a wedge between him and his children, Violet and Bianca, who had been inspired by the rise of a female magic knight in the ranks. They too wished to pursue a similar path, so they had been devastated to learn of Lady Faulkner’s retirement from the guild. At the same time, they had become displeased with the man who took her away from it, along with those that supported the marriage, their father included.
What choice did he have though? He had the opportunity to secure the support of a powerful man, and his business was doing great since then. With these factors in play, it wouldn’t be long before the title of Earl would be his. A little bit of family trouble was a trivial matter and only temporary, he hoped.
With those thoughts in mind, the Viscount decided to enjoy his day alone. It wasn’t every day that he would get to partake in a lavish banquet such as this.
The food and drink were the highest quality that one would be able to acquire in the kingdom, truly a banquet fit for a ‘future King’. With his belly stuffed and the wine making him merry, he wandered through the ballroom until he came upon a cake towering above him.
A dessert of this magnitude and flair nearly brought him to his knees.
“Cake for you, sir?”
He looked to his side to find a chef with a plate of cake extended towards him. Recovering from the awe he felt moments ago, he took the plate in his hand and set his wine down.
Taking a forkful to his mouth, his eyes widened as the cake seemingly melted on his tongue, coating it with sweetness that could not be matched by any dessert that he had eaten before. He had the urge to shove the rest into his mouth, despite the cries of fullness from his belly.
There was room for this dessert. He wouldn’t be able to eat it anywhere else, so he had to get his fill now. His waistline would just have to suffer and expand just a bit more today.
Finishing the rest of his cake, he started reaching for his glass of wine to wash down the last bit.
“Sir, can I recommend you this wine? It is the perfect pairing for the cake.” The chef once again held something out to him, a glass of red wine.
The Viscount took it and swirled the liquid, before bringing the glass to his nose for a whiff. The scent was nothing unusual; rather, it barely held any distinctness at all. He looked over at the table and noticed a lack of any wine bottles.
‘So, it has already been left to aerate for a while. How disappointing…’ The Viscount was well versed in wine, given his expertise in the business. A wine sitting out for so long would likely not taste very good. He would have to chide the chef for making such a blunder.
As the Viscount took a sip just to humor him, his previous conceptions of the wine were suddenly dashed. Accents of citrus and pome danced in his mouth, along with a heavy taste of sweetness. Though the wine had none of the unique flavors that came from aging, there was a spark of freshness that conflicted with the traditions of wine-making that he had long been accustomed to.
This drink was not so much a wine, but a cocktail of different flavors blended to compliment the wine.
“Mister Chef, what wine is this? This does not appear to be something that came from a bottle.”
“Ah, I guess you caught me. It’s a creation in which I infuse wine with fruit and some secret ingredients to give it a unique flavor. Where I come from, it’s called Sangria.”
“Infused wine? Which wines did you use?”
The Viscount listened patiently as the chef named the makers off the bottles he used. They were all wines of mediocre quality. It was rather surprising to hear them being used in an event as grand and expensive as this. However, one would hardly be able to tell given how unique of a drink this was. There was nothing else in the kingdom to compare it to. He knew of some taverns that added little touches to their wine upon serving, but nothing that achieved a balance comparable to this.
The Viscount started seeing opportunities play about his mind. A specialty such as this would certainly boost the tail end of his products which were lacking in sales due to quality.
“Young man, would you be interested in selling the recipe? I am a producer of fine wines and would like to add this to my catalogue.”
The chef looked in the Viscount’s direction, having been distracted from his role of passing out cake.
“Umm… I’m a bit busy at the moment… If it interests you that much, I’m sure that it will end up at the Faulkner trading company at some point.”
The Faulkner trading company? The merchant company that had been growing ferociously due to a sudden stream of popular goods? Suddenly, the Viscount had a thought. Did the Duke arrange the marriage to acquire this flourishing business through the daughter’s hand? What a cunning ploy.
It seemed like his day was suddenly looking better.
About an hour later, a sick rumble vibrated through the pit of his stomach. Thinking that he simply ate too much good food, the Viscount continued chatting with his colleagues. However, those rumbles did not stop, causing him to excuse himself from the other guests.
As he trotted through the mansion looking for the washroom, the rumbling continued to worsen. He was quickly led by a servant to the nearest one. However, a surprising sight had greeted him upon arriving.
Several agitated people were pacing around and visibly suffering as they waited their turn for the washroom. A man pounded at the door.
“You’ve been in there for TEN MINUTES! Give us a turn!” The man sounded desperate. Others around him were in a similar state of distress.
As the Viscount stared at this scene, several more people arrived. Their faces became crestfallen at the ever-growing queue.
Some started leaving to search for another toilet to relieve themselves. The servant quickly led the Viscount to the next one, but time after time, there was a long line in front of each toilet. All of the walking had started to wear away his endurance as he struggled to hold it in. The waves of discomfort in his intestines were getting too much to bear.
“How is this possible?! Why are there so many people using the washrooms?” The Viscount yelled at the servant in an irritated tone.
“I don’t know, sir. This has never happened before. We’ve held this many guests before without such trouble.” The servant slunk back, fearing the noble’s ire.
This situation was very odd. He had seen many people running through the halls of the mansion, looking like they were all in a similar condition. Could it be…food poisoning? Did someone purposely sabotage this wedding? And why in such a crude manner?
He could no longer concentrate as another quake passed through his body. He could almost feel it leaking through. That wouldn’t do. He was a prideful nobleman. It would be unacceptable to dirty himself in public in such a way, no matter the circumstances.
If all the washrooms were occupied, then he would endure until he found some building in town with one free.
“Quickly. Get me to my coach.”
15 minutes later, the Viscount had hopped on his coach and was making his way out of the Duke’s front grounds and into town. By this time, he was visibly panting and red in the face, trying to control his natural urges.
As he stared out the window to distract himself, he noticed a number of people were running into the woods surrounding the Duke’s mansion. A few people were partially obscured by the foliage as they sat in the bushes to relieve themselves.
“How crude. I would rather slice my throat than be caught in such a state,” the Viscount said aloud. However, his inner thoughts had started pitying his sense of pride, whispering voices of temptation.
‘Let it go.’
‘Everyone else has given in.’
‘It’s not your fault.’
The Viscount pushed away those thoughts and focused his eyes on the buildings that appeared ahead of him. As soon as the coach stopped, he flung himself out the door and ran up to one of the buildings.
Turning the knob, he was shocked to find it locked. He immediately pounded on the door, hoping that its inhabitants were home. He was met with only silence.
He ran to the next door and repeated the drill, finding yet another locked building. Though he continued to try, It seemed odd that there was no one present at any of the buildings that lined the street on a typical business day.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!” The Viscount couldn’t take anymore.
A man walked out from an alleyway and waved to get his attention.
“You looking for a toilet, sir? I heard that the guild has some set over there. Apparently, they caught wind of something strange going on.”
“Truly? Here’s a coin for your trouble.” The Viscount flicked a copper coin from his pocket towards the man and dashed off.
True to the man’s words, it appeared that a swarm of people was heading the same way in search of relief. Finally, he saw a large set of makeshift stalls, likely created by magic, in the middle of the square. Several of the guild knights, led by Guildmaster Castia, were directing people to the stalls.
Not questioning how they had been able to set all this up so quickly, the only thing on his mind was to get himself into one of those stalls.
As he passed by the team of knights, Guildmaster Castia blocked his way.
“Viscount Lingonberle, I see that you have been afflicted too.”
“Yes, now if you would please. I would like to pass.”
“Before you do, we have some questions for you. If you would care to share the relationship that you have with the Duke, I suppose I can let you by. If you do not wish to aid our investigation, then I’m afraid I’ll have to turn you away.”
“NO! I’ll tell you anything! Just let me go!” The Viscount shouted. He could already feel something running down his trousers. There was no way he could manage another minute.
“Very well then. Sign here. We can talk after your business is done.” Castia handed him a pen and some parchment, in which the Viscount quickly signed before he climbed into a stall.
With a slam of the door, the next thing that could be heard was a large sigh of relief. As the Viscount spent the next thirty minutes isolated in the small shed-like structure, he could only think of one thing.
Today was certainly a bad day.
Castia laid the parchment down, which was a statement of confession, and shook her head at the ridiculousness of the situation. Though she would certainly inconvenience herself to aid Knight Faulkner, especially at the pleading of Knight Reichenstein, this messy situation was certainly not an elegant way of dealing with things. It had all been a plan concocted by an otherworldly chef that had been explained to her merely days ago.
In order to capture the Duke and make him confess, they had planned to strike at the ceremony when he least expected it. To do that, a significant portion of his supporters would need to be detained in some way.
The chef had proposed a method to incapacitate most of the guests, an idea that no one had expected to hear.
According to him, the new imitation sugar that the Faulkner trading company had started marketing had an undesirable side effect when consumed in large amounts. It would loosen one’s bowels and lead to a timely discharge that couldn’t be prevented. He referred to it in his world as a ‘laxative’, but it seemed quite similar to ‘purgatives’ here.
This substance was easily substituted into the cake and wine offered at the ceremony without being detected, and impossible to trace as the effects were delayed. Chef Evers had purposely chosen ice cream and sweetened wine as the method of distribution, giving nearly all of the guests a hefty dose by taking advantage of their sweet tooth.
By setting up these makeshift toilets, the knights were about to draw the guests away from the mansion. They could even detain some of the Duke’s recognized supporters so that they couldn’t make their way back to the inevitable battle that was about to happen at the ceremony.
Castia turned to one knight that had walked up to her.
“Looks like it’s your move now, Knight Reichenstein.”
“Yes, and I’ve brought a helpful ally too.”
Castia looked over and was shocked by the person accompanying him.
“Oh my. Coming out of retirement? I can certainly understand why you would,” Castia said with a smile.
The man, whose face was covered by a mask, simply nodded.