She handed Uten two anvils, barking, "Roll our wine now." "Roll wine casks down a slope to the castle, yes maam!" Uten responded, attempting a salute with his anvil-laden hand and pretending to knock himself in the head with it in the process. "Just go you silly boy! I don't need that grin on your face, nor do I need your ears," Mistress Caria threatened, gesturing with the small blade hanging around her graceful neck. "Fine," Uten sighed, his bright green eyes never dimming as he set his face into a mask of sorrow and regret, "I will take my leave." With one final heaving sigh he went off to deliver wine casks to the castle.

Mistress Caria now heaved a sigh of her own, staring at the stick-skinny figure retreating from her range of sight. "What is one to do with a boy so insolent and hmmph," she ended finding her feelings beyond words. "In my day the novices in the Guild of Grapes kept their mouth firmly shut unless requested to speak and even then were sparing and respectful with our words!" she muttered and continued at a lower voice that could be not be understood.

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Uten smiled as he slowly pushed the casks along, gently knocking the heavy metal against the wood with his long skinny arms. Looking at his pale face you would think that he was pushing two strollers containing precious newborn babies. His hair, deep mahogany with a tint of red, fluttered in the wind as if his hand could not be out doing mischief or at least moving quickly, so his hair would instead. As the wine casks trundled along with him the babysitter his mind began to wander a little. He thought about the ball taking place at the castle tonight, the reason for this order of wine, but his thoughts also ranged to the pretty girl with flashing brown eyes he had met last night at supper. But where ever his thoughts were, his body was slowly, but steadily making its way to the castle.

Finally he was at the castle gates. Uten was jolted out of his reverie about how pretty the girl's smile was by a loud shout of the traditional, "Who goes there?". And he responded, "Uten Katari, novice to the Wine makers guild with two casks of wine for the ball." "Oh, the wine guild's boy, come on in." Uten continued his slow procession the wine casks right through the now open castle gate.

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In the shadow-shrouded banquet hall a hand methodically dusted each crystal glass on the heavily garbed table. Slowly and irrevocably the hand traveled up around and down the great table. Until it reached the single beam of sunlight poking around the curtains, a solid, corporeal line cutting across the hall. There it stopped, considered, looked at the dust-laden beam and decided not to cross. Instead it stopped dusting cups and withdrew to a silk-lined pocket in the coat of its bearer. Then the person left by a small side door sheltered and hidden by silk hangings.

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Mistress Caria smiled to herself as she sat at the Masters Table in the dining hall, reflecting on the good report she had received from Uten on the reception of her wine at the castle. It had been welcomed, and on top of that Uten must have kept a civil tongue in his head or else surely they would not have given him a silver penny for the "trouble" of taking the wine down. Looking out on the amassed guild she smiled at the abundance of novices, not like the small amount three years ago. She slipped into a remembrance of old times and her gray-framed face gained an introspective look.

"Masters, Masters, the most horrible thing has happened!" The shout brought her up from the depths of time faster than if a rope had been tied to her and a space shuttle taking off. She looked over the crowd to find a novice about a year from journeyman with the worst look on her face, and clearly about to burst from news, while not really wanting to share it. "What is it, child?" Mistress Caria said as gently and soothingly as she could possibly manage, which was not much. The novice took a deep breath, and began to speak in a hurried get-it-over-with fashion, "The king's two eldest sons are dead and so are half of the other courtiers at the banquet!". "What? Of what did they die? Tell us!" Mistress Caria demanded, abandoning all attempts at gentleness. The girl just closed her eyes and seemed about to cry.

"Let me handle this, Caria. I don't have a tongue like a file and eyes like a hawk's!" a fairly quiet voice entreated. It was Mistress Lark, the quietest master ever to gain the Master's knot, who was well known for her people skills. " Don't cry miss. Now what is your name?" Mistress Lark continued, not giving Mistress Caria a chance to shake the girl up again. "Nera, Mistress" she stuttered, her eyes gratefully focused on Mistress Lark "Well Nera, why don't you tell us, slowly, what happened? Come now, you can do it," she soothed. "Well, the news is that they all died when they drank of their wine, Mistress," Nera sobbed on the last word and ran out of the room in shame. At her words mutters and whispers swept through the room. People wanted to know who had brought that wine, surely he or she were to blame. Through all of it Uten grew more and more indignant, as if he had tampered with the wine, the absurdity of it.

.

"Stop the whispering, I took the wine to the castle and I did not tamper with it! It was done at the castle, not by me!" he shouted over the crowd. Instead of the silence he had hoped for there was a loud shout and then more. Why they were angry with him and he had done nothing.

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The next morning a delegation from the guild answered a royal summons and found the king outraged. He would not listen to reason and insisted that the person to blame was Uten. In the end if the guild did not wish to move to a different kingdom they had no choice but to agree to throw Uten out of the guild and never let him back

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Upon returning to the guild house the delegation sent Mistress Caria to Uten of his fate. Mistress Caria marched up to the door, determined to keep a blank face and she knocked twice. Uten slowly cracked open the door, saw who it was and immediately finished what he had begun. "Well, Mistress, by your face the ruling was bad. Care to tell me about it?" he said after various pleasantries were exchanged, opening up the point for Caria. "Uten, sorry as I am to say this, we have to throw you out of the guild," and went white as sheet. "Oh, I had it phrased in a way that it would not hurt so much and I blew it!" Caria blurted. "Mistress, it would have hurt no matter how much honey you soaked it in. Should I pack my bags now? May I stay another day?" Uten stated. " Yes, to the first and no to the second. Boy, what will you do?" she asked. "I'll, I'll, I'll think of something. Maybe I can do an act in a show or be a messenger," he said confidently, "or not, I will miss this place so much!"

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The sun was low on the horizon as Uten steps up to the Guild Mistress, his spindly frame loaded with bags. As the Guild Mistress pronounced him anathema to the guild and hereby and forever deleted from its record etc. he was smiling sadly, trying to put the best face to it as possible. He was told to leave them forever and the whole guild turns around, not permitted by custom to see him go, but for one person with gray hair. As he takes his first steps away from the guild, Mistress Caria steps up, puts her arms around him in a big hug and tells him with tears in her eye and voice, "Boy, I am going to miss you, all of you from your big feet to your spindly knees to your loud, obnoxious mouth. The guild is dead wrong on this one, they lose more then they gain." Startled by this wave of emotion, he can only say thank you, slowly disentangle himself and continue his journey into the dying sun.