Saturday, 13 March 2010

inns & taverns - the taproot of all evil

The Taproot Of All Evil sits at the intersection of two narrow alleys. Blood Alley runs down a steep hill from a marketplace and is named as runaway market carts crush anyone in their path, leaving bloodstains on the walls and eerily cold spots.  The other is The Coppers, named for copperwrights and alchemists gleaning copper from ore and clay. Here cobbles are cracked and uneven, the mire seeping through them whetted by sour ale, chamberpot leavings and less identifiable humours. The air smells of acrid vitriol and human debris, born on a warm breeze from The Coppers that leaves in the mouth a taste of brimstone and bloody nose.

The Taproot is an angular three-storey tenement decorated with leering gargoyles holding pitted iron torch sconces and it's mottled sign, a stylised apple tree with a single red apple growing out a skull with open jaws next to a gold tankard on an umber field.  Inside, the decor is sparse and the foul smells outside are diminished by the smell of smoke, alcohol and bodies.  Spherical tallow lamps burn with greenish-orange flames that give the place an eerie cast.  The floor is flagstoned and strewn with sawdust and sand. It supports heavy tables made of iron-bound wood and converted ale barrels though seating is difficult to find for The Taproot is busy with patrons who often stand around drinking and talking.

The walls are adorned with dark slate panels painted with barbarians fighting off wild beasts, scantily-clad devil women and gods in revelry.  Ironically, the clientele are less iconic.  They range from beggars by the fire, daringly drunken young apprentices, traders needing a drink, grime-handed hired labourers as well as itinerant rogues and streetwalkers between opportunities.  It's owner is Vechi Julitura, a willowy yet wrinkled tiefling woman with pitchblende eyes and small fangs.  She is rarely seen in the daytime, usually working in the downstairs distillery or upstairs on her accounts.  Customers are left to the tender mercies of ever-changing bar staff, most tend to work very short contracts.  Despite this the patrons are usually polite around them.

Her ownership has been for as long as anyone can remember, her accent is naggingly familiar and her speech sprinkled with terms like 'jink', 'cutter' and 'deadbook'.  It's jokingly said she's mother to every rogue as none ply their trade here.  Actions bringing the watch here meet the ire of all the rogues here, a lot of trouble for relatively little coin.  For a pair of silver pieces, Vechi will put out word that work is being sought. For a handful of gold, she'll hire out a room with a circular table and six chairs upstairs for private 'meetings' for an evening. This brings a mixture of mercenaries and adventurers to do business with each other - these are often quiet, intense affairs but all violence is taken outside.

Available drinks in order of ascending potency are a full-bodied red smoked ale, a thick stout with caramel tones and a tart yet potent pale cider bought from the hilltop market.  House specialties include a very potent genever, and a crude absinth made of anise, wormwood and other herbs steeped in rough white wine called by locals 'green vitriol'. This last is usually plied as a rite of passage for wishing to prove their mettle though some patrons get a taste for it.  Though minstrels have occasionally performed here, few are encouraged to stay as Vechi distrusts them - more than one minstrel has performed badly enough to clear the place.

Instead the patrons sometimes break into drinking songs ranging from the ribald to the obscure as a number of the beggars are former war veterans.  The name was chosen by Vechi after an altercation with an aasimar paladin over the slate murals.  As such The Taproot Of All Evil has occasionally borne zealous preachers standing outside though the chamberpots and runaway carts tend to discourage all but the most determined.  While there are dark hearts who drink here, much of The Taproot's sinister reputation is the result of a shrewd campaign of gossip, innuendo and outright lies told to give it a much darker reputation.  It's infamy is assured by every mercenary or adventurer who travels and it's fame grows in the retelling...

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