Saturday, 30 January 2010

inns & taverns - the sweet hearth

At the southernmost point of a elven forest, the Sweet Hearth is a crescent-shaped elven manse, three stories high with a well-tended orchard.  The manse is built between two carefully tended pear trees and sheltered by a giant of a lemon tree, it's trunk is woven into an ornate lattice by careful grafting.  This tree is adorned with woven canopies, decorative banners and two types of fruit - fist-sized juicy lemons and green limes. Nearby is the hearth it is named for, a compass rose of bluestone and slate nearly twenty feet across part-shielded by smoke screens of woven branches,  tended at all times by two staff who keep watch over a serving area with solid logs for seats amid the scent of cooking and pear wood smoke.  Windscreens of woven cloth keep the serving area and hearth from being disturbed and afford some privacy.

The inside is well-appointed with evenly-spaced wooden panelled tables and ornate wooden chairs.  The oil lamps burn with a unique white-gold flame and sweet scent.  Fires of pear and oak wood burn bright in their stone hearths, warming those preferring to stay inside who may listen to local minstrels, study in nooks or seek conversation at a circular table decorated with an ornate compass rose and the inscription 'Seek conversation here, ask for directions if you are uncertain.'  Nearly every night, this table has at least eight guests talking and debates have been the most violent thing at the table.  This has led to certain elflords using the Sweet Hearth for political ends though the staff will change the subject politely if conversations take a darker turn or appear to be going nowhere.

Notable fare includes pear ciders served in a cup of hollowed lemon, honey ale, metheglin (spiced mead), wines and potent herbal cordials.  The food ranges from spiced boar sausage to stuffed vine leaves, pheasant pastries and venison stew.  A speciality in winter is stewed pears in honey served with mulled wine, much beloved by visitor and regular alike.  Most travellers use the common room, it's floor strewn with sweet broom and flower petals, partitioned by opaque drapes that deaden sound and dim light.  For discerning guests and nobility, there are six private suites with goosedown beds soft enough to please the most sensitive.  These are not cheap, offering amenities and discretion equal to the cost, to the delight of discerning elfmaidens and their suitors alike.  Steeds are kept in a nearby enclosure amid the orchard and tended by a talented half-elven stablehand.

The Sweet Hearth is run by an extended family group of thirty-six elves working three shifts, morning, noon and night.  The staff are elves clad in raiment decorated in saffron crescent moons and green-grey leaves and three half-elves who work the stables.  All are attentive, capable, polite yet informal.  There are also various working pets, all have a touch of the sylvan and interact with the elves like beloved family.  There is magic in the Hearth, yet it is subtle, much comes from horticulture, craft and alchemy rather than outright spellcraft.

The usual clientele range from wealthy nobles to artisans seeking finery and off-duty soldiers wishing to relax.  Aggression to the staff is not tolerated.  Violence is frowned upon, instigators find staff capable with sword, spell and stealth with devoted guardians.  Preparations for defensive magics are concealed and used if needed though the Hearth seldom sees trouble, it is ready when the worst happens.

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