Saturday, 27 March 2010

inns & taverns - the mangal lesard

The Mangal Lesard stands on tarred stilts over a mangrove swamp plentiful in bloodsucking vermin.  These range from leeches through mosquitoes to press gangs.  The sign shows a stylised gecko and "Mangal Lesard" mis-spelt around it in gold leaf.   The Lesard has grown from a shack on stilts to a large building with quay and veranda over four generations.  The bittersweet smell of citrus and rushlights chase mosquitoes from the veranda and blends with the smell of the salty estuary which feeds the swamp.  The stained boards gently creak underfoot while gecko and cicada accompany the muttered conversations of fisherman, hunter and overseer and the hushed sibilance of lizardmen drinking outside.  Lanterns and rushlights are seen moving through the mangroves as boats navigate the estuary and people people walk to and from the Lesard.

The clientele is a volatile mix of human colonists and exiles with occasional half-elves and civilised lizardman.  The latter are treated as second-class citizens exploited as scouts, pearl divers and porters.  The owner, Calthus Varro pays lizardmen to harvest oysters for pearls and hunt for food. A portly, brash human with thinning dark hair and perpetual sweat-slicked leer, Calthus projects benevolent entrepreneur yet possesses a low, greedy cunning and considerable personal wealth.  He masks his ugliness by careful etiquette, calculated generosity towards newlywed couples and infrequent assassination.  Varro's bar staff double as cronies and bodyguards of a sort, all of them battle-tried and skilled with the knife at their belts.  Women dressed in widow's colours and smocks work hard as cooks and cleaning maids.  Lizardmen do not stay in the Lesard beyond getting their drinks and those who invite them in offend the patrons and find the staff a lot less helpful until they and their 'scaly friend' leave.

The drink here is variable.  A potent and heavy liquid bread is sold to the lizardmen and poor for a copper; for those with a little more wealth, small ale is served as is coconut rum and pomelo liquor (a tart citrus taste).  Food is plentiful.  Oysters, mud crabs boiled in coconut milk, brown lobster and milkfish grown in wooden cages underneath the Lesard provide staple fare.  The speciality is a stew containing shrimp, oyster and okra thickened with coconut milk.  Varro claims this stew can make any man potent.  Though some local youths have his dark hair and perspiration, the staff encourage ignorance of their ancestry.  Accommodation (with no lizardmen allowed) is split between a common room hung with diaphanous nets for the mosquitoes and two smaller rooms dominated by carved wooden beds with bed posts carved to look like perching geckos.  Tradition has it newlyweds must touch a gecko's head for good luck on their wedding night and Varro has hidden small gifts underneath them in the past.

1 comment:

  1. Another job well done! I love the diversity in these =)


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