Saturday, 1 January 2011

inns & taverns: the ties that bind

The drow sing of taverns in the City of Razored Webs yet the Ties That Bind is famed among them for refined delights.  The sign hanging at the front balcony is a criminal wrapped in spider-silk shrouds bound in a web of chains to an ovoid frame.  Each 'day' a new criminal is raised up for exsanguination by the city's spiders to accompaniment on drum, flute and lyre.  The exterior of the Ties resembles a three-storey high carapace with domed roof and balconies at front and back.  It's iron doors bordered by faceless caryatids bearing lintels.  Light from iron lanterns lit by magical crystals cast a dim greenish light over the Ties, it's sign and the front balcony it hangs over.

Inside, the main hall is tiled in polished dark granite.  Side-chambers are decorated with mosaics of dancing and hunting dark elves in obsidian, porphyry, red tachylite and pale albite.  These are lit by crystal chandeliers shaped as translucent spiders of muted amber and violet light hanging from red-stained iron chains. Decorative purple spider-silk screens afford a veneer of privacy and help provide a hint of organisation.  Chairs of carved bone and stained chitin leather are scattered among benches of mica and bronze.  Heavy, low-set bronze and red chitin stools are provided for servants.  Four separate bars, linked by descending stairs into a cellar large enough to run beneath the entire building are kept by attractive slaves of various races and genders liveried in short red silk shifts and spiked collars of lizardhide.   The air is laden with exotic incense, the faint smell of perspiration and blood.   
The Ties labels itself a free house, picking and choosing from trade, successful raids and the ingenuity of drow brewers.  A thick fungal gruit called mother's milk is served to the poor and slaves, it's creamy texture has a hint of salt and a cocoa aftertaste.  For those with money, other choices include:
* Basjine, a heady, cloying pale wine made of giant ants killed by fungus drunk by drow women who wish to forget what follows;
  • Frothbeard, a golden fungal ale, strong with an floral, earthy taste unknown anywhere outside of a duergar citadel;
  • Samrac, an effervescent water tinged violet whose sulphurous taste is said to have healing properties;
  • Spurtax, a phosphorescent yellow brew of boiled lichen and crushed centipede stirred with a fingerbone and served in cups formed by the top of a dwarf skull.  The taste is astringent and it's potency is respectable;
  • Widow's Kiss, a sour green distillate of psychoactive fungi brewed in spider venom served in thumb-sized cups that causes light to halo and if drunk to excess, diverting hallucinations.
Raided ales make up another three choices, these are liberated for the pleasure of clients who discover exotica like gnomish stout and goblin spirits.

Food is also served at each bar.  Boiled giant ant eggs, a green lichen broth and seared shelf fungus are consumed by commoners while nobles dine on jugged spider and rarer cuts of meat.  These are supplemented by eight-piped hookahs of gold and leather carved to resemble spiders with elven faces.  These may be filled with various resins or simple pipemold to engender 'fellowship' among it's smokers.
The red-clad slaves work tirelessly to two taskmasters.  A much-tattooed duergar called Frothbeard (his name forgotten to all including his owner) wields a scourge to drive the creation of his ale.  The other is Leishella, matron of the Ties.  Widow of seven husbands, dealer in antiquities and iniquities, her bloated body hides under veiled spider-silk gowns.  Trusted by noble and wizard, she rules the Ties.  Leishella stalks the periphery, battening on the unwary and dealing in gossip, vices and sometimes poison.  She is sometimes accompanied by a stone and steel humanoid automaton that serves as a bodyguard.  Other staff are a mixture of races united in mortal fesr of the matron and other drow.

The rear balcony of the Ties houses small rooms decorated to excess.  Here there are sixteen such rooms, each with a small porthole-sized window and a collection of dark-stained cushions to make a nest-like bed.  Packets of sand and talc as well as small jars of scented unguents are provided along with crescent-shaped chamberpots.  The alley beneath the rear balcony is avoided by locals who fear what may rain down on them more than opportunistic ex-slave cut-throats who privately sell hot goods to those looking for them.

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