The Fool & Hounds, refuge of rogues, thrives in the shadows of a hard market town. Most honest folk avoid it. A three-storey longhouse without ground-floor windows, it's long walls have six laughing-face plaques. These spew stale air and wisps of smoke. The stained long walls form scarred, narrow cartways haunted by black flies to a butcher's yard. The painted sign creaks on iron chains, a florid-faced jester with two dogs, one biting his posterior. This creaking punctuates the hubbub from it's door. The west-facing doorway is well-kept with wooden plaques showing links to merchant houses and street gangs. The cobbles reek of old blood, ordure and yeast. Shuttered casements on the second and third floors remain closed at all hours whatever the weather. The back door has trapdoors to the cellar. The cartways at night are lightless.
Inside, the ground floor bar is gloomy and cool. A U-shaped bar dominates the room, four doors to the left lead to privies. Tables orbit the bar with antechambers before doors. Candles at each table hurl shadows at dingy booths claimed by assorted ne'er-do-wells. Boards with prices and risque artwork line the walls. In daytime, the bar is quiet, chill and dialogue is hushed. At night, a more raucous atmosphere takes over. The place fills with drinkers and rogues who warm the air in the bar. Dogs work the room, fed scraps by patrons.
Beyond the bar's right arm is a gambling den, the hearth and candles lit only at night. Five tables with checkered tops and comfortable chairs await. Chess, cards and table games are popular with regulars. The only dogs in here are illustrated on boards. A darkened mirror hangs on the south wall, etched in silver with a jester's grinning head. Beyond the bar's left arm is a corridor leading past an ascending stair. This opens into a back room redolent of a ship's deck complete with locked hold doors. These descend into a pit for animal fights. Crushed hops and sawdust are strewn on the floor after fights to conceal the blood. Upstairs leads to staff quarters for the landlord, his partner and the cellarman. The top floor is the subject of conjecture, odd lights at odd hours are the least. Whispers of a rogue wizard persist. Clanking chains on moonless nights suggest they have company.
The inn keeps mediocre ales at best. Regulars favour Dunbarrel, a muddy brown quaffing ale or Baldegard, a coppery ale in clay bottles. Dark rum or sloe genever are also available. Those eager to flash coin buy Mo'zaat, a spiced salt beer irrestible to orc and kin. Food here is portable and/or meat-based. Beef jerky, smoked sausage, fried pork rinds, pickled walnuts and hard cheese are sold from jars. The staff are not skilled chefs.
The inn changes barmaids routinely with few permanent staff. The current landlord, Zarick is distinctive. Slim, slinking and hollow-eyed, his half-shaved head is adorned with scars and topped with blonde ringlets. His feral smile and foppish breeches, high boots and fleece-trimmed embroidered vests cut a dash. Nobody sees the silvered razor until too late. Skynah, his leman is pale and pretty, favouring crimson chemises, leathers and silver. Her rasping voice and ready daggers deter casual advances. Their relationship fuels gossip with a trail of broken hearts, bodies and minds yet remains strong. They watch the bar, letting the staff serve. Brune, a hulking, hirsuite half-orc with dueling scars, muttonchop sideburns and stained buckskins tends cellar. His presence is solid yet silent. Everyone else lasts at most a season. Better pickings are found if Zarick and Skynah don't break them.
The Fool & Hounds has no accommodation. Falling asleep means being vulnerable to other patrons. Instead the door is locked at midnight, opening to eject patrons until Zarick or Skynah closes up. Drunks blundering into the fetid cartways risk their lives.
Needless to say, opportunities await. Zarick and Skynah are famed for tempestuous arguments, passionate reconciliation and tag-team seduction of willing suitors. Brune is more calculating in his advances. Gambling ranges from genteel games of cards to cruel dog fights. Ex-barmaids whisper horrible stories of Zarick's pecadillos. The cartways offer liaisons, mugging and murder with a choir of black flies. Yet the inn is busy most nights.
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