Let me begin my tale right from the beginning. Were we seated in the Torro warehouse vault you would see seven great oaken barrels lining the subterranean walls. These barrels are tall enough for a grown human man to walk through without the need to bend his head or duck. From left to right the barrels are plainly labelled: I-II-III-IV-V-VI-III.
Yes, there are two third barrels and let me explain why, for therein lies my purpose in coming to you. Go back to the years 130 and 132AV – twenty and eighteen years ago when I was still a spry lad helping my father and grandfather in running the winery. We had nearly sixty local men and women working our lands and with that many people gathered, there was bound to be problems, but we never expected anything like what happened during the harvest of 130.
Now to clarify, each of these barrels contain the fermented grape from a different year. We bottle or cask our wines from one great barrel per year, rotating each year so that every harvest ages in the barrel for six years before being bottled in the seventh year. When barrel one is emptied and bottled, the barrel is thoroughly cleaned and prepared to hold that autumn's harvest, which will sit there until barrels two through seven are emptied in subsequent years… Am I making sense so far?
Okay, so back to the year 130 when a passel of rowdy working lads both took to fancying the same woman; now this woman, Dora-Donna, was promised to marry young, Honeyboy Hardy (to this day I can never recall his real name – everybody just called him Honeyboy), but at least two other lads wanted her hand, including the son of a wealthy land owner. It was well known that Honeyboy and Dorra-Donna were mad in love with each other and would have already been wed if Honeyboy hadn't insisted on waiting until he had stockpiled enough coin to buy himself a small plot of land and build his soon-to-be-family a cottage to dwell within.
Of course, with so many love interests and so much drinking of wine and the Idran beauty of Dorra-Donna, this story does not have a happy ending. One day, as the hands came in from the vineyards and the hills, our foreman, noticed that one head was missing. This happened now and then, so when Honeyboy didn't return it was assumed he broke off early to tend to other matters. But days soon went by and the well-liked Honeyboy was missed more and more. Dorra-Donna in particular was in a fit of worry and before long folk from all corners of Vineroost gathered to search for Honeyboy. Even rival vineyards released their laborers to aid in the search – I remember myself and a group of friends venturing along the Vine-Stream in the hopes we'd find Honeyboy off on an excursion or some such, but we had no such luck, neither did any of the other seekers.
It was two years later when Honeyboy's remains were finally found. Bottlers and caskers were emptying great barrel III but were having a devil of a time getting the wine to flow out properly, but it wasn't uncommon for sediment to stop up the taps, so our chief wine-man used a great oak pole to push at the area around the tap in hopes of undoing the blockage, but instead of clearing away sediment his pole repeatedly struck something large, soft and mushy.
By now you've worked it out for yourself – there was poor Honeyboy, under our noses all of these two years. The poor fellow's corpse was stowed away in that vat, not to be found until it was time for bottling. Now, a good 3/4 of the wine from that vat had already been emptied into casks, smaller barrels and bottles, but that which we found Honeyboy submersed in was discarded. We had a choice to make concerning the bottled wine taken from that vat and my grandfather made the choice to ship and sell it, though our chief wine-man objected.
It was not surprising that the wine from that vat had a fetid smell and a sanguine taste to it. Many who sampled it said they could taste rot to the root of their teeth and many compared that year's vintage to drinking of blood. Vat three was thoroughly washed, scrubbed and cleansed then put back into rotation despite the morbid story behind it. It wasn't until the year 139 (seven years later) when that next batch of vat III wine was bottled that we got the same complaints. The wine had a subtle but distinctive grave-like aftertaste, despite the cleansing and cleaning.
My father, who now ran the winery was set to discarding the fresh grape that was filling vat III and have the vat destroyed and removed, however, before he could do this, a visitor from the necromancers at Hollowfaust arrived asking to purchase the remainder of our stock of 132 wine. When the story was shared with him, he beseeched us to keep the vat in use as the flavor and energies of the wine seemed to have some otherworldly appeal to the Hollowfaustians.
Still my father refused, but when the the price this man was willing to pay continued to increase, my father had to give in, as it would be folly to cast aside such a fortune. To this day we continue to use vat III, but only bottle it's contents every ten years, with last year (149) being the latest shipment of that stock – and just so you know, even this latest shipment retains that cadaverous after taste.
Now, why I need your help. My family still holds two casks of the original 132 Red – the first and most potent batch from vat number III – the actual wine that poor Honeyboy's body was dunked within. Now we would never drink it, but the value of this very rare vintage is extreme. Sadly, with the local banditry plaguing our community, the soldiers of Fort Vinous confiscated a small bit of my stores. Unfortunately, one of the 132 casks were taken, leaving my family with only one!
I ask you to craft this to help in safeguarding this last cask – not solely because of its monetary value, but because we see it as a part of our family's history. If you could do this for me, I would gladly meet your price and recommend you to some of my friends in Calas.