Welcome to the first installment of The Alcohol Wars! I recommend some Franzia boxed wine to go along with this part of the story, or a Woodchuck cider. See how many brands of alcohol you can find in the story!
Franz ducked and wove through the streets of his hometown, kicking up grunge with every footfall despite his slight weight. Close to his heart he cradled a box the size of his torso; it was his job to deliver these boxes all across the city, to whoever may want them, and to bring the money back to his master at the winery. These wines weren’t expensive, high-class, or fancy, but even impoverished have their small luxuries.
“Delivery for Mr. Oakleaf!” Franz panted at the shoddy door before him. He banged on the doorframe, for fear that banging on the door would cause it to fall off of its rusting hinges, and waited patiently. The door swung open to reveal a doddering old man, dressed in similar rags to Franz and the rest of the people in his city.
“Fie! Fie on boxed wine!” He roared as Franz shrunk back in surprise. “Your cheap swill is the reason we can’t get out of this hellhole, the reason we can never afford anything worth anything! You’re the ones keeping us down! I hope your wine turns to vinegar and your grapes get fungi!” The door slammed shut. Franz blinked, frozen on the spot – hadn’t the man ordered the wine himself? Did he just order it to yell at the delivery boy? Unsure what to do with the specially made wine, he hesitated on the doorstep long enough for the door to slip gently open a second time. This time, a much younger woman left the house and smiled apologetically at Franz.
“I’m really very sorry about my father, he’s not well. He made inexpensive bottled wine before he retired, and can’t understand the concept of boxes…if only he understood that he could make even cheaper wine with a box!” It quickly became obvious that she was the true recipient of the wine, and her father was just an obstacle on the way to a successful delivery.
“Well, delivery for you then, ma’am,” Franz replied with a beaming smile. It didn’t matter to him why Mr. Oakleaf was unfairly biased against boxed wine; all that mattered to him was that someone paid for the wine he was holding.
To the south, the apple orchards were in full bloom. It would take a full 3 days to cross from one end to the other, assuming you took the most direct path possible, and was a haven for those who created cider for a living – and those that exclusively drank it. Cideries would crop up within the trees, with housing in all directions around it. The five most stable cider towns in the orchards were hubs of activity, with worn paths connecting them for trading and travel. But the fastest growing one, Woodchuck City, was under threat by the edge of the forest.
“The council won’t allow Woodchuck City to fall!” Senior Councilman Roper roared, slamming his hands on the wooden table that the most powerful players in the orchards had gathered around. “Our only recourse is to fight back against the fields. We have no other option.”
“We’re not equipped to go to a full-scale war, Councilman,” Conroy Heron, ruler of Woodpecker Orchards, gently reminded Roper. “They have lumberjacks, axes, machines to take us down, and it takes much longer for us to rebuild. We must negotiate with them, or else we will lose Woodchuck.”
“They already have so much space to grow their grains, why do they need more?” complained Doc Grizzanti, inserting herself into the conversation without much to add.
“They’re already sharing their barley fields with the local beer brewers, and it takes more space to grow corn than apples.” Conroy sighed. “The expansion of the bourbon industry has made this inevitable. We’re going to have to give up an orchard. If we negotiate, we can choose which one. If not, they’ll come and take Woodchuck City.”
“Whose side are you on?!” Roper glared menacingly at the unfazed Conroy. “We can win this war! Their stalks are soft. They’ll fall to fire.”
“And so will we.” Conroy shot back.
“I have sent my swiftest spy to investigate the preparations and equipment that the bourbon makers possess,” Bulmer Strongbow interrupted. “We can make this decision after she has returned and reported her findings. Woodchuck City will stand for another few days at least.” Once he had spoken, the matter was closed; as the leader of the stronger cidery by far, his experience and seniority gave his opinions a respect that none of the other leaders had earned. The meeting retired for the night, with the threat unresolved and no one satisfied. Roper surreptitiously ordered his troops to be ready to move out at any time; he fully expected the report to come back that there was no choice but war, and his bellicose city would be the one to carry it out.