Saturday, 13 February 2010

inns & taverns - the glass leaves

Near a lively stream shaded by juniper and willow often frequented by gnomish shepherds, The Glass Leaves is a gnomish tavern beneath a tall maple tree decked with clay pots and red and green leaves of ornamental glass.  At the root of the tree is a short stair leading down, wide enough for two gnomes to walk abreast.   When the gnomes wish to hide, this is hidden by an illusion to become a large maple tree surrounded by nettle and brambles.  When things are safer, the area around the tree is bathed in shifting red and green light when the sun is at it's zenith.

Inside is cheery and warm, yet taller folk must stoop or regularly bump their heads.  Panels of wicker and painted mirror decorate the walls and provide numerous alcoves.  There are two main areas for patrons - the first is a taproom often crowded with gnomes eating, drinking and engaged in banter or games of skill and chance.  The second is a smoking lounge with a pit in the south wall for five musicians to play lyre, shawm, tiple and tambour.  Each table is built around a hookah with covered bowls for tobacco, molasses, mugwort or poppy straw for gnomes to eat, drink, smoke and do business.

These areas are separated by the bar.  Drinks served include a pale spruce ale, a black barleywine, golden maple liquor and a sweet genever.  He also serves a cloudy mint cordial to those who will not take alcohol or willowbark and spearmint tea to who are fatigued or showing signs of illness.  The food is exceptional, the kitchen uses a wide trench for an oven covered by stone tiles stacked so hot air flows evenly.  Typical fare includes boiled eggs, smoked mutton sausages, eel pie, gudgeon and leek stew, roast mutton with garlic and mushroom, maple drizzled pastries and spearmint cake. The house specialities are an exquisite lamprey and onion pastry and a slow-roasted lamb flavoured with herbs and truffles. 

There is a common room for up to a dozen gnome-sized guests to sleep in that is cosy yet noisy, sandwiched  between the kitchen and the bar.  Small candles containing soporific oils and herbal pillows help alleviate this, plunging guests into a deep, dreamless sleep.  Guests often wake groggy unless they've a dwarven constitution or until they've eaten something.  Those who enter trances instead of sleeping find the atmosphere cloying and not conducive to focus.  They often end up preferring to go outside and rest in the shade of the tree which if it's raining guarantees they'll get a little wet.

The landlord Gwyll has a light touch, a ready smile for anyone but dogmatic priests, blatant sadists or snakes.  A former apothecary and travelling bard, he enjoys brewing and moving between the boisterous taproom and the more cerebral smoking lounge.  Some of the herbs he tends around The Glass Leaves walk a fine line between naturally occuring and happy coincidence and he can rival a druid in his protectiveness of the land around his tavern.  His customers are shepherds, artisans, entertainers and makers of mischief and he would have it no other way, claiming he "...rather be kept on my toes than falling asleep."

Beneath the kitchen are staff quarters (a dozen gnomes plus Gwyll and his wife, the chief chef), glassblower's workshop, bakery, brewery, kiln and still.  Down here the air is warm and dry, fires vented through chimneys that filter the smoke through sand and gauze to trap sootblack and dry wood for burning.  These chimneys are disguised as rabbitholes yet no rabbit will go near them.  A faint smell of woodsmoke and occasional patch of low-lying smoky mist at night only adds to the mystery.

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