Friday, 2 July 2010

inns & taverns - the resting pond

Known to travellers as a fine place to watch the condemned die over a pie and pint, the Resting Pond is named for a small yet deep freshwater pond (for drownings) and nearby sycamore tree (for hangings) sheltered by a hillside cemetary for paupers and criminals. The Pond sits on a well-used trade road in a barony known for it's harsh punishments. The inn is an eight-sided two-storey structure of whitewashed stone and seasoned timbers complete with thatched roof and shutters and actually digs into the hill on two sides. Painted on the southernmost wall above the door are the words 'The Resting Pond' and a well-worn path leads from the inn's door to the sycamore tree and the pond that provides it's name.  Horses are tethered to a cartwheel chained to the side of the inn.

Inside the inn is dry and warm, the presence of the cemetary hill does little to dispel the cheer of the place. Though you'd expect gallows humour, the locals have an infectiously bucolic passion. The inn is often busy and bawdy songs are sung by patrons after sundown. Yet when an execution is called, there is a festive air and people from nearby villages flock to see justice exacted.  The Resting Pond encourages these crowds such that the landlord now has a tradition of offering the condemned a final drink or meal, which is indulged by the baron and cheered on by the watching crowd.
The landlord, Skard is a great, bulky fellow capable of lifting a barrel of ale onto one shoulder and has a voice capable of shouting down almost anyone.  His wispy hair and beard are mocked by locals sotto voce and this tempers an otherwise insufferable brewing lout into a damn fine landlord.  Skard is a widower and has almost given up looking for a wife, channelling his passions into brewing.  There are two bar staff, war veterans with leg injuries who will tend bar and gossip with anyone.  In the kitchen labours Rolver, a former soldier and fair cook whose talents with a crossbow prevent rowdiness going too far.

For drink, the landlord brews three regular ales and buys others in so there are usually five kinds of ale to be found at any time during the month.  After large trade fairs or when the local baron feels the occasion needs to be marked, there may be seven or eight kinds of beer to be found.  The house ales are as follows:
  • Sunbeam - a flowery pale ale, light, refreshing and quaffable in large quantities.  It muddies the senses but without lasting consequence, usually gone after an hour.  This ale is often sold to those watching the executioners in large quantities and this makes the landlord a pretty penny.
  • Sunset - a full-bodied russet ale with a hops bite favoured by locals that complements cheese well. Barrels of Sunset sometimes find themselves taken to neighbouring baronies and even found in the stocks of the Summer Swan.
  • Winter's Sun - A strong black porter, fruity and capable of rendering even the most miserable beer drinker cheerful for a time but the hangover is particularly fierce.  This is the traditional ale offered to the condemned who sometimes quip they don't have to deal with the hangover.
The food offered is basic but nourishing, thick-crusted pies filled with beef and ale gravy, firm cheddar-like cheese and 'rounds' of black bread.  Prices for this fare is typical and this generous pricing is more than enough to ensure the Resting Pond's reputation and loyal customers.  For entertainment, the locals sing bawdy songs to each other, a couple can manage passable tunes on fiddle and drum but if a minstrel visits, they are plied with hospitality to play as the range of bawdy songs known is somewhat limited and gets worse as more ale is consumed.

Though there is a single room at the Resting Pond, accommodation is not offered for any period less than a month.  This is monopolised by four prostitutes who sleep cramped and who work the Pond.  Executions are a busy time for them and they all have each others' back - a slight to one is avenged by all of them who carry knives to discourage such activity.  If Skard hears one of the girls is injured, there will be an immediate rousing of angry locals and said unfortunate may find themselves on the receiving end of a lynch mob intent on taking them to the sycamore tree for a hanging unless a generous offer is made. Skard is businessman enough to decline payment in kind.

    1 comment:

    1. Has anyone ever let you know that you have a child?


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