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Found 4 results

  1. Grover

    Brewery at Prenmôr

    After the castle forge was completed, attention was turned to the brewery. Many castles had a small brewery, but Lady Gwenllian had planned a large facility located prominently in the inner ward next to the kitchen since it would be a significant source of her household income. The structure sat directly over a small fissure that had been excavated into a makeshift cave that allowed for a climate-controlled fermentation area. Like the blacksmith shop, it would eventually form part of the inner curtain, so the roof was built to slope only one direction. The brewery had been completed just before Ambassador Gisela was to leave for her journey back to Varlyrio to avenge the attempt on her brother's life. Lady Gwenllian wanted to tour Gisela through the brewery before she left, and they now walked to the large new building. As they entered the finished brewery, Lady Gwenllian showed Gisela around. Mohatu stood guard outside under the pentise, having learned to trust Lady Gwenllian as much as his training would allow. Looking around, Gisela noticed that someone had filled barrels with water and grain, but no one was around aside from several terriers that scurried about. "Might I ask who you have found to brew, m'lady?" Gisela asked. "I have not seen any new servants, and I see no one here." Lady Gwenllian laughed. "I myself am brewing." Gisela raised her eyebrows, but had learned not to be surprised by her liege. "Brewing was my family's business, so I am well versed and I will have to do the work myself until I can train a brewmaster," Lady Gwenllian replied. Gisela bowed her head. "As you will, m'lady." "How familiar are you with brewing?" Lady Gwenllian asked. "Not particularly. Could you please explain it? I would be remiss if I did not understand the intricacies of my community's largest industry," Gisela replied. "Of course," said Lady Gwenllian. "The first ingredient is the grain. The best is barley, but almost any grain can do. Oats are the second choice. Wheat can be used, but is usually combined with another grain since it's hard to brew. Once you choose your grain, you soak it in water for several days." Lady Gwenllian showed Gisela the sacks of grain and the malting vat. "This is the first step in the malting process. Any fresh water will do at this point, so we will use river water since it is abundant." "Then you dump the wet grain out onto the floor to let it germinate," she said and gestured to a slight depression in the stone floor. "It just sits on the floor?" Gisela asked, both surprised and somewhat disgusted. "Not entirely. You have to turn the seeds, which involves picking them up with a wooden shovel and tossing them lightly into the air once a day for a week. If you think of the grains as seeds, it makes more sense. They are sprouting, which makes the seeds able to brew. If you want a detailed explanation, you'd have to talk to a druid or a sage, but if you don't let the grains sprout, they won't brew." "So that's why the floor is tiled with stone?" asked Gisela. "Yes, and also to keep the dust down so the beer is cleaner," replied Lady Gwenllian. "The real trick to malting is to kill the new seedlings before they grow too far. Not enough or too far and you can't brew," Lady Gwenllian finished. "How does one kill the seedlings?" Gisela asked. "Great question. There are two methods." Lady Gwenllian held up a finger. "The first is to air dry them. Air drying is best in the summer, when there's a lot of sunlight and heat. It usually means a smoother tasting ale, but it's slower and less precise, so sometimes you lose yield to spores that grow too far. We mark the barrels containing the summer’s air dried brews and charge more for them since they have a cleaner taste but are lower yielding." She held up a second finger. "The other method is kiln drying, which you can use year round. Our kiln doubles as a heat source for boiling." Lady Gwenllian pointed to the kiln. "Kiln drying is more precise and kills the seedlings quickly, but it can be tricky. Too hot and you scorch the grains, making them useless. If you use a smoky fuel, the ale tastes like the fuel. Sometimes you want that, but usually you don't. I prefer to use straw or sea-coal, but most people use peat or simply wood. It's more expensive since you have to pay for the fuel, and since fuel around here is in fairly short supply, we will have to minimize kiln drying until we establish a good fuel source. The expense of the fuel is made up for in the extra yield from killing the seedlings precisely and from the higher price charged for the ale made from the air-dried malt." "At this point, your malt is done. Malt is easy to store for a year or more. We will make sure we always have an ample supply on hand in the case of a siege. Once our reserves are full, we will sell the excess. Small breweries without enough floor space will pay for malt to avoid having to malt their own grains." Gisela nodded. "I shall make it a priority to cultivate trading partnerships with such establishments." She looked at the barrels of malted grain on the floor, then to the storage of grains in the rafters above. A few cats roamed the overhead storage, while on the ground level, several terriers happily patrolled about. "M'lady, may I assume that the animals are for rodent control?" Gisela asked. Lady Gwenllian reached down and scratched one of the terriers behind the ears. "That's right. The dogs are easier to train to stay in a territory, so they get the brewery floor. The cats roam freely in and out, but they can get into the higher and tighter spaces. Mice and rats are always a problem with the amount of grain stored here, but we should be able to keep the population under control with the dogs and cats." Next, Lady Gwenllian led Gisela to a large contraption with a hopper and three stone rollers in the corner. "The next step is to mill the malted grain." She pointed to the odd equipment. Gisela looked confused. "This does not appear to be any mill that I am familiar with. Are not mills usually two large, flat stones that lay atop one another and turn to grind grains?" "Many people grind their malted grain with traditional mills as you describe, but this type of grinding damages the husks too much, which makes the next step, the mashing process, more difficult. Small breweries get around this by hand crushing the malt in a mortar, but it's too time consuming for larger operations. My family invented this rolling mill for crushing the malted grains while being gentler on the husks." Lady Gwenllian demonstrated the hand crank that spun the three stone rollers. Gisela imagined the malted grain falling down from the hopper above and getting crushed in the rollers before falling into the barrel below. "It's been copied by a lot of breweries over the years, so it's not a great secret anymore." Lady Gwenllian walked past the door to the kitchen to the next corner of the brewery where a large lead vat sat atop the stone kiln. Next to it, a long trough stood, sloped slightly downward, and below it sat a barrel. Some steps led up to a wooden walkway around the lead vat. Lady Gwenllian climbed these and Gisela followed her. "The crushed, malted grain is dumped into this vat, and water is added. This time, the water should be fresh and as clean as possible, so we will have to cart in water from some of the nearby springs that feed the Afondraig River." "How is water sourced in times of siege?" Gisela asked. "In the case of a siege, we will use any stored clean water, but after that we can use either well or river water. Although it won't produce as high a quality brew, it will sustain our troops," Lady Gwenllian replied. Continuing, she gestured to the vat. "The mixture of crushed malt and water is heated from the oven below. This is called mashing and is the trickiest part of brewing. The temperature must be exact, or the brew will fail. Too cold and the mash is not activated. Too hot and the life of the brew is killed. The whole mashing process takes around an hour." "How do you know when the right temperature has been reached?" Gislea asked. Lady Gwenllian smiled at her. "That is the art of brewing!" she laughed. "The truth is that most brewers feel the temperature with their hands and only the good ones get it right all the time. My great grandmother found a way around this, and made our family famous for producing a consistently good beer." Lady Gwenllian climbed down to the floor again then unlocked and opened a chest, removing two candles: one white and one black. "These candles are made from special waxes by a secret family process. A cut of wax from each is placed in a small glass dish and floated on the surface of the mash. When the white wax melts, the temperature is hot enough. If the black wax melts, it's too hot, and you have to cool the fires quickly to avoid spoiling the brew." Gisela was suitably impressed. "Of course, these are actual candles, too, so their true nature is hidden well and if need be, you can burn them to prevent the secret from being revealed," Lady Gwenllian said. She reminisced for a moment on her old life. "When I escaped from Albers, I brought three chests from my family's castle. They contained gold, a few family heirlooms including the recipe books for our ales, and these candles. This is the secret of our craft that we must protect." Gisela nodded. "Of course, m'lady." Lady Gwenllian replaced the candles in the chest and locked it. She stood and dusted her hands. "The mash after heating is called the wort. Wort is sweet with the sugars, and has to be separated from the grains. The vat is drained from this spigot," she pointed to a metal spigot, "through a cheesecloth into a barrel to filter out the spent grain. The grains are poured back into the vat and warm water is used to filter it again, and then the process is repeated. Each filtration has less sugar in it, and makes a weaker brew. This is called parti-gyle brewing. The first extract is the 'single beer' and is sold. The weaker brews are called 'small beer' and are reserved for servants. The spent grains, called draff, are fed to livestock." "At this point the wort can be flavored. Many brewers flavor their drinks with herbs and spices. My family did as well, but hops can also be added as a preservative. Hops add a bitter taste so must be used carefully so as not to be overpowering, but the beers last much longer and are easily transported for sale great distances away. In Albers, there was another preservative plant, but I have not seen any here in Avalonia yet. If hops or other preservatives are used, the wort must be boiled with them for at least an hour. This uses more fuel, but the beer keeps much longer. Most brewers boil their beer anyway, since it kills some of the bad growth, which helps keep it a bit longer even if hops aren't added. Boiling also leaves a foam that is skimmed off, which improves the clarity. I have noticed that a few brewers here in Avalonia forgo hops and boiling to make their brew more quickly, but it spoils just as quick and has a sour taste." "M'lady, you have used the terms brews, beer, and ale. What distinguishes between them?" asked Gisela. "Brews are anything that is brewed, so it is a generic term," Lady Gwenllian began. "The other terms are more confusing. Back in Albers, we had a term called 'beor', which meant a drink made from honey, although I believe it is called 'mead' here. Brewers in Albers describe ales as a type of beer that ferments at warmer temperatures with a particular kind of yeast (lagers being another type), but here in Avalonia any brews made without hops are called ales while those made with hops are called beer." Gisela paused and looked like she wanted to say something, but didn't. "It's confusing, I know," Lady Gwenllian replied. "I'm not sure the terms have global agreement yet, so be careful to ask when you travel to different places to make sure it's clear what you're talking about. Ask what the brew is made from and if it has hops or not, and you should have a good idea." "Yes, m'lady," Gisela replied. "Once you boil the wort, you must cool it. The faster the cooling, the better tasting the beer, since less time is allowed for the growth of unwanted spores and such. To that end, we pour the hot wort into this long, shallow cooling trough." Lady Gwenllian pointed to the large trough that sat above barrel. "Because faster cooling leads to better beer, the best brewing is done over the winter, when the air is cold. This building is designed so the doors and some windows in the roof can be opened to speed the cooling process. If there is snow on the ground, it can be packed around the troughs for even faster cooling. For these reasons, malt is usually made and stored in the summer, and the brewing takes place during the winter. Poor quality brewers will make beer in the heat of summer and can have their brews 'foxed' if it's too warm outside. Foxed beers have a red color from unwanted growth. Our location on the coast helps keep the summer temperatures down, so we can start brewing earlier in the fall than some of the inland brewers." "After cooling, there's usually some sediment that falls out. You can see that the valve for draining the trough sits a little above the bottom. That prevents some of the sediment from draining. Small particulates are filtered out by a bit of cotton stuffed into the end of the valve. It drains more slowly, but has better clarity, and the plug is changed out each brewing." Lady Gwenllian walked Gisela over to a large wooden crane with various pulleys on it, suspending a barrel above some doors on the floor. "And now we come to the purification process. Yeast is added to the cooled and filtered wort, and the barrel is sealed with a lid. This part of the process takes a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the strength of the brew and the desired end taste. Usually the purification process must take place in a cellar to hold the beer at the right temperature. In our case, we were lucky to take advantage of a natural fissure in the rock that we dug out into a makeshift cave that serves the same purpose. These large doors close to keep the temperature in the cave constant. The barrels are lifted in and out of the cave by this rig," she said, pointing to the large wooden scaffold. "With the pulleys, a single person can easily lift a full barrel up and down without difficulty." "Is that rig built to the dwarven designs?" Gisela asked. "Yes, Sven used the design that you negotiated from the local dwarves to build this contraption. It is counterweighted with some stone from the top, and has gears underneath that allow the entire apparatus to turn back and forth to load the barrels. Nice work getting the design for such a low price!" Lady Gwenllian complimented. "Thank you, m'lady," Gislela curtsied. Pausing a moment and looking at the barrel, she then asked "Where does the yeast come from?" "For now, we're buying it from the baker in town, but eventually we will be able to hold back some of the yeast that settles out of our brews to begin our next batches, and in time, we will have enough to be sold to others," Lady Gwenllian replied. "Are the beers sold in the purification casks?" Gisela asked. Lady Gwenllian shook her head. "No, once the brews are purified, the barrels are hoisted back out of the cave and are opened and poured into new, clean barrels of various sizes. Excess yeast is harvested that can be used for the next batch of beer, and more sediment falls out, again improving the clarity. Then the casks of beer can be sent back to the cave for storage during the summer months, or stored in a shed in the winter before being sold or tapped and drunk." Lady Gwenllian led Gisela outside through two huge doors, finding Mohatu waiting for them. "The large doors allow for a horse cart to be pulled into the brewery to load the barrels," Lady Gwenllian explained. She gave Gisela a serious look. "Our first brews will be sold, since we need a source of income. I have spent most of my family's fortune on the beginnings of the castle, so it is important that you bring us the best prices you can for our beer, or we will have a hard time next year. I will mark each barrel with the flavors they contain and discuss prices for you to negotiate their sales." Gisela nodded. "I understand, m'lady. I will make sure that our beer is sold widely at the best price possible." As Lady Gwenllian closed the large doors behind her, she turned back to her new ambassador. "I'm sure you will. I wish you well in avenging your brother. I have assigned a small contingent of my guard to accompany you to help with your endeavor and keep you safe." "Thank you, m'lady," Gisela replied with a curtsey. Lady Gwenllian took her hand in a warrior's grasp. "Go with speed and luck!" she wished her new ambassador, and then watched Mohatu follow her down the rock outcrop to her waiting ship.
  2. 7b. Palisade As the summer began and more people began to settle in Prenmôr, the peasantry became a little more anxious about their safety. Rumors abounded of lizard people taking human form, drow looking to invade again, the Mitgardian civil war reigniting, and to top it all off, there were rumors of the nearby Enchanted Forest harboring an evil elven sorceress who had been twisted by magic into a grotesque beast. A town wall was planned for around the community, but it would be a few years before all the stone could be quarried, cut, and finally built into a permanent stone structure. In the meantime, a temporary palisade was built, made of logs sunk into the earth with the skyward ends sharpened into points, held together with boards and tied near the top with rope. Unlike a wooden fortress, this temporary wall lacked wall walks and other features of a permanent structure. Simply meant as a deterrent to any potential attacks while the stone walls were being built, the palisade had a rudimentary wooden gate and was shored up with supports from the rear. While the foundation of the castle rested mostly on solid bedrock and overlooked steep embankments, the town wall was different. It was to be built surrounding the adjacent farmland with a foundation on the flat earth there. Thus, the laborers dug a ditch in front of the wall foundation where the palisade now rested, carrying out dirt and rock to be piled behind the palisade. This ditch would remain once the stone walls were in place, forming a dry moat around the town to add to the layered defenses.
  3. 7a. Rumors Lady Gwenllian was surveying the progress on the town’s palisade when she heard a commotion from one of the nearby farms. Quickly heading over to see what was the matter, she found a farmer obviously terrified. “What’s going on?” she asked the farmer. “M’lady!” the farmer said, and quickly bowed. “It’s the chickens! Please, come see!” Lady Gwenllian followed the farmer over to a small grassy area where his chickens and a few pigs were milling about. A man with a black beard, dressed all in green, carrying strange odds and ends strapped to his belt, stood watching the chickens. The man, however, was not the strangest part of the scene: in fact, the man was watching one enormous chicken amongst the others. His head turned to watch Lady Gwenllian and the farmer approach. “M’lady, this huge chicken came over to my flock today! I’ve never seen anything like it! It has to be some sort of demon chicken!” Lady Gwenllian looked over the chicken, which stood some five feet tall. Besides being a monstrosity, it appeared to behave like a normal chicken, pecking at the ground for bugs and plants like the others. The man with the green hat spoke. “This is no demon, my good man,” he began. “M’lady,” he said, tipping his hat to Lady Gwenllian. “It is in fact what magic users refer to as a dire animal, one that is enlarged unnaturally by a magical malady of some sort.” Lady Gwenllian looked at him. “And are you the wizard responsible for this bizarre creature?” she asked bluntly. He shook his head. “No, m’lady, I am not. I am here, in fact, because I am trying to track down the source of this beast. It is not the only dire animal I have encountered in this region, and I would like to know the source. There is word of an evil sorceress in the Enchanted Forest who, once a pure and good elf, has been twisted by powerful magic into a ruthless, power hungry monster. If this is true, these realms could be in peril.” Lady Gwenllian considered him, then the chicken. “What is your name, good wizard?” she asked him. “I am Razin, the traveling wizard, at your service, m’lady.” “It so happens that my household is in need of a wizard, Razin. How would you like to become Razin, the grand mage of Prenmôr? I have a very keen interest in solving this mystery and finding out if there is any truth to this rumor of an evil sorceress in the forest.” Razin bowed. “I would be honored, m’lady.” “Good, then it’s settled. I will have your belongings brought up to the temporary housing for my personal household.” She gestured to the wattle and daub houses on the high rock outcropping above. “Now what about this chicken?” she asked. Razin shrugged. “Other than being extremely large, it is just a chicken.” Lady Gwenllian looked at the farmer. “Get a spear. We are having chicken for dinner tonight.”
  4. The Tales of Lady Gwenllian 0. Introduction 1. The arrival of Lady Gwenllian aboard the Cedar Serpent 2. Scouting a Site 3. Early Spring in Prenmôr 4a.(Prelude) Restoring the Shrine 4. The Fishery and Shrine at Prenmôr From her high rock outcropping, Lady Gwenllian had a good view of the coast and had watched throughout the spring as the villagers from Flewd had moved to their new home in Prenmôr. Now that it was early summer, Lady Gwenllian wanted to see how the villagers from Flewd were settling into their new life, and wanted to inspect the work that the elves and dwarves had completed on the shrine to Neptune. She and Lady Seren rode their horses the half mile or so to the rocky escarpment that defined the edge of the land, separating it from the beach. She found that the villagers had sailed their boats laden with their meager belongings down the coastline from Flewd, had assembled lean-tos for drying fish and set up a small net repair station on the beach. The dwarves and elves had done an excellent job on the statue to Neptune, which sat overlooking the sea and was already laden with offerings and gifts from the villagers. Lady Gwenllian smiled as she saw the villagers hard at work. Because most of the young men had been lost during the drow raids, the remaining elderly, women, children and the local village idiot all had jobs, from killing and gutting fish to shooing away the seagulls that inundated the fishery. The locals greeted Lady Gwenllian and Lady Seren warmly, happy to have a new home in a safer location. This is the original build that I had envisioned with the shrine that didn’t get completed in time. I think it was a little too ambitious. On the other hand, it’s nice to see the idea finally come to fruition.