Saturday, 31 July 2010

inns & taverns: the minotaur's horn

This busy two-storey inn is the heart of a small village crouched over a rocky hillside spring.  The inn is a simple whitewashed stone building with a neat courtyard shaded by lime trees and surrounded by a drystone wall drowned under bramble with a latched wooden gate.  The sign showing a minotaur's head in relief is topped by a pair of horns (actually bull's horns) chained in place above the sign.  A number of well-fed grey cats laze in the sunshine, ignoring or begging food from passers-by.  The courtyard has a pair of benches often part-occupied by farm labourers or masons who the cats usually ignore.  The labourers and masons are friendly to those willing to talk but have little patience for braggarts. The entry has a trellis from which hang the spade-like leaves of betel vine, a relative rarity in these parts.

Inside, the inn is usually busy if a little chill, lit by oil lamps reflecting off pieces of amber glass.  Whitewashed walls decorated with simple murals in black of warriors and athletes striving shelter a spacious comfortable arrangement of well-worn tables and chairs of grey-stained wood.  Both floors are available to patrons but service is more reliable on the ground floor, the first floor is used by those wishing to drink in peace and quiet, some nights the landlord can be found sharpening a sword as old as he is and willing to tell stories of his band's exploits against the minotaur reavers who plagued this land some twenty years ago. In one corner a table with a chessboard shelters a knot of aged, leathery farmers who sip at tumblers of fiery, clear spirit and play chess almost continuously.  Travelling traders working the market road and labourers drink side by side, tended by two sisters who tend bar and sing local songs.  The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming of all but the most ominous figures to whom the sisters suggest that upstairs may be preferable to them.

The sisters who tend bar are the cousins of the landlord, a grizzled former adventurer whose scars were gained by fighting off minotaur raids.  All three of them take an equal share of the profits and the Minotaur's Horn is quietly lucrative, due in no small part to their talents as brewers and innkeepers.   They live in the cellars where they brew.  A passable brown ale enjoyed by farmer and mason is the main drink, along with sweet blackberry wine and the fiery clear spirit (called sivesir) favoured by the old farmers.  For cold nights, a measure of sticky-sweet, sepia-tinted liquor called 'mountain mist' made of honey and blackberries warms any living heart.  Lime segments wrapped in betel leaf are sold for a copper and travellers new to the area are sometimes alarmed by red betel-stained juice dripping from the mouth of a labourer and the indifference of other patrons.  This usually ends in the travellers being bought a round at the expense of everyone and their introduction to betel leaf as a stimulant.

Floor space is available to those with nowhere else to go for a silver coin a night.  After three nights though any such visitor is politely told to leave and not return for a lunar cycle.  This tradition has come about after a tragic incident involving a shapeshifter and the landlord has a stash of silver blades and spear heads in the event that one attempts to take the inn by force.  This stash is a well-kept secret, the blades and spear-heads are worth a pretty penny to those needing protection of that kind.  The landlord's interest in the silver trade is a matter of gossip among the locals.


  1. I like the bit about the shapeshifter incident, and not being able to return for a lunar cycle.

  2. 'How would a publican deal with were-customers?' was one dilemma faced by a party of PCs (one of them got bitten) in a game I played in.

    Basically imagine a combination of The Wolfman and Weekend At Bernies. Much fun! :)


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