Saturday, 5 November 2011

inns & taverns: the mason's jar

The Mason's Jar is a busy two-storey tavern in a town known for temples and pilgrimages.  The Jar primarily serves masons working on temples or noble houses.  Artists, patrons and agents attend, seeking wprkers or commission.  The Jar has a reputation for wealth.  Many well-heeled patrons dress ostentatiously.  The sign is a large jug with a compass and hammer imposed and Mason's Jar underneath in scrolling ironwork.

The Mason's Jar is a south-facing tavern with shaded patio off one of the main roads circling the town.  Massive stone amphorae mark entrances, serving as oil lamps. Filled and lit at twilight, they last all night. The patio is often busy until the pious attend midnight ceremonies.  Inside, the Jar is always busy and lit by cool-burning blackened clay lamps.  A mix of pipeweed, spilled ale, sweat and rosemary oil assails the nose then grows unobtrusive until the next morning.  The door opens to the taproom.  Half of this room is taken up bytables and stools with benches and tables lining the wall.  The other half is clear before a long bar.  Open stairwells lead to a mezzanine over the benches where more small tables and stools cluster and then further to the second floor where doors block further view.

The Mason's Jar buys in ale from many local breweries.  Wife-ale, a nut-brown ale with faint citrus tones is the usual tipple.  A dark wheatbeer brewed by monks is sold in half-pints to poor masons and apprentices.  An ongoing fad for pale ales, like forgewife or furst ale among the wealthy attracts a premium price.  Those drinking such are noted by regulars as nouveau riche or potential patrons.  Wine is also sold, a sweet dark wine said to ensure potency and a red with fruity undertones.  Spirits are not sold by local ordinance and those with them are discouraged from drinking them ont the premises.  Food is inconstant in quality with a stodgy saltfish crumble that provokes thirst, sauerkraut and rock cakes accompanied by delicious sweet cherries marinated in brandy.

The landlord is a surly, burly human gentleman called Jessem.  Familiar with masons and their ways, his clothes are well-mended, his hair a mass of iron curls defying comb, eyes glaring from under beetling brows. He snorts and stamps his way through life, though his cellarmanship is first-rate. The other staff are courteous if subdued and mildly terrified of him.  In the early hours customers are unceremoniously asked to leave by broom-wielding staff.  This has provoked uproar on many times until Jessem comes downstairs, usually to bar the tardy for a lunar month.  Within the Jar's walls, Jessem's authority is a mail fist in a steel gauntlet.  The only exception is the mediocre cook, Addel, a weatherbeaten old sailor who Jessem tolerates with unusual grace.

Five small east-facing garrets on the second floor are available but at double the usual rate.   Jessem leeringly claims this discourages casual whoring, to the outrage of goodwives on pilgrimage.  Those who take rooms here often have commissions, buying the affections of masons with food and ale.  The rooms are warm and well-appointed with coverlets and good straw mattresses.  There is no stabling, again by local ordinance though a municipal stable is a short walk away.  A gang of linkboys patrol the walk between the Jar and the stable at night.

Those seeking masons do well to come here.  Temples, castles and towers attract varied commissions - the whispers of a mason's guild are confirmed on the half-moon every lunar month.  Master masons, influential journeymen and well-heeled gentry visit the mezzanine to discuss business.  These affairs are quiet and subtle but shape the temples' influence upon the city.  Infiltration of the guild by wererats and doppelgangers only serve to make the guild's influence disproportionate to it's size.  Some members are concerned at the guild's rising star being crushed by the temples.  For now, they ride high.


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