Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Wine Crier

The wine crier is often overlooked when it comes to medieval occupations. The town crier gets all the publicity. I'm here to give a shout out (pun is intended) to the wine crier. I'll name my imaginary wine crier Herbert and go through an imaginary day.

Herbert awakens earlier to prepare himself. His monthly bath was taken ten days ago so he is still good. He grabs his red tunic and tall feather cap, symbols of his profession. He needs to stand out in a crowd. He brushes of the dust off from yesterday's work and any bugs that have embedded themselves into the fabric. Then he opens a small locked chest with the tools of his trade, a leather flagon and a small metal cup. Dressed and armed with his tools he leaves his home to consider which taverns he should try.

The Yellow Belly Son of a Coward Tavern was closed down after the owner was chased away by rodents of unusual size. Too bad he still has two barrels of Cliffendour Wine. Herbert nods at a passing patrol of city guards.
"What is your choice this morn Herbert?" One of the guards asks. "Yet to be determined my brave friend. Listen for my song in an hour's time."

The Rusty Keg Tavern was rumored to have gotten a keg of the Red Sorstrum Wine. Herbert turns into the Rusty Keg and sighs when he sees Randal standing there in a newer red shirt and a taller feathered cap. Randal preferred to be called Raven. "I'm surprised to see you so early this morning, Randal." Randal turned and smiled. "I'm surprised to see you so late this morning Hubert." "It's Herbert." Randal shrugs his shoulders. "I've already gotten the commission for the day."

After a few moments considering what Randal would like bleeding from the head, Herbert turned and considered a new course of action. He could return to the Gored Tusk, but the wine was uninspiring and lacked any real surprise. He always ordered the local White Foal wine or what the locals call Swamp Water. It does not good for the reputation of a wine crier to have the samplers spitting wine on your boots.

Temple of Grog came into view. He stood outside for a moment and considered how he would approach the owner who was difficult to understand. They had decent enough wine and even smart enough to buy a few exotics when caravans came in, but their religious angle always disturbed Herbert. He straightened his leather flagon and hat and walked in. Two men were bowed at the waist with their shaved heads touching, hands tied behind their backs as they grunted and appeared to be pushing one another over. Herbert cleared his throat and wished he'd stayed in bed. "Good day my friends. I am here to sample today's wine." The taller of the two shaved head men looked up as the other one fell to the floor. "Herbert. How are the gods treating you these days?" "As if I were a privy." "I have a wine for you to sample." The owner looked excited. Herbert wished he could remember the owner's, it was something like Moon Friend. "I have made my own wine." "Oh," Herbert tried to sound pleasantly surprised, but it came out more of a whimper. "Would you mind untying me?" Herbert untied Moon Friend. "I've had it blessed by all the temples so all the gods favor this wine. I call it super ambrosia." "Ah yes, the addition of super is always a clever strategy." Herbert groaned inside. When Moon Friend opened the barrel the soupy green liquid burped up bubbles that released a horrible stench. Herbert could not stifle his gasp. "I feel I have wasted your time my friend. My stomach has suddenly taken a turn for the worst." He fled the Temple of Grog trying to wipe the smell from his nose.

Herbert saw George, another wine crier heading into the Misty Tankard only a few steps ahead of him. He reconsidered the time he needed to start the day. He once was the first to arrive at taverns and he could pick and choose who he worked for, but the number of wine criers grew and it has become a cutthroat business. The purity of the profession has become diluted like most of the wines these days. It no longer was about the wine, but more of a footrace.

Herbert decided to backtrack towards the Gored Tusk. He sighed and went inside. Prather stood behind the bar, he smiled when he saw Herbert and patted the small cask. "I've been waiting for you all morning Herbert. You're late." "My apologies." Herbert looked at the cask curiously. The expert craftsman of the keg alone got him excited. "What vintage is this?" Prather filled a goblet, "You tell me." The glorious scent of fruits and woods fill his nostrils. "By all the good gods this is the elven wine of the Forest Lords." Prather nodded. "And I've bought several casks so I expect you to sing their virtues until they are all sold."

The wine crier spends the rest of the day out on the street providing samples to people and singing the virtues of the wine, telling stories to drive the people into the host tavern. So in your next game don't forget to employ a few wine criers for your town. They add a lot of color and fun for a street encounter.


  1. Excellent suggestion and fun write up Tim. I believe my wife will particularly enjoy this aspect of role playing!

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  3. Awesome Idea! I never thought about these guys before. Totally adding a Herbert in there somewhere. =D