Saturday, 24 April 2010

inns and taverns: the shadovar

On the northern road of an exposed crossroads of the Eastern Road looms the stone-walled inn and waypost known as the Shadovar.  The sign is of a stag-like beast with sharp teeth stood watching a crossroad.  Atop the sign are three wooden pots with metal reeds, when the west wind blows, it emits a moaning whistle carried eastward on the wind.  This eerie noise can be heard for some distance before the lights of the inn are visible.  Traffic along the crossroads ensures steady business with couriers and merchants making it a regular stop on their journey.

A three-storey inn forty foot each side, the ground floor is an arched tunnel without windows running from east to west leading to stables for up ten horses and a stairwell leading up in the south wall.  This opens into a sizable common room where guests may slake their appetites and a cloak room in the west.  A cartwheel window over the stairwell with red, clear and amber glass helps illuminate the room with tallow lamps yet other shuttered windows are narrow with sturdy trestle tables underneath.

The hearth is set opposite the stairwell and the bar runs along the west wall; hunting trophies of wolf, boar and deer grace the walls with icons to gods of trade and travel.   Though active, the large common room has an unhurried air and seems half-empty.  Only if a merchant's caravan or noble entourage appears will the Shadovar really bustle.  The staff are genial ex-veterans who can still show thugs some tricks of the trade and camp followers who run the Shadovar smoothly at the behest of the landlady, Marenna, a shrewd, iron-haired matron of considerable presence who served as chatelaine to nobility until politics encouraged her to relocate.

The Shadavar's position on a trade route enables it to have a varied stock of ales ranging from a sharp red nutty brew sold along the Eastern Road to a creamy pale ale favoured by southern drovers, most common ales and a few rarer brews can be purchased here routinely.  A rough southern red wine is sold by the jug and drunk by travellers seeking to blot the moaning from the sign on certain nights.   The food is simple; roast chickens, game stew and pastries with beef and turnip.

In accommodation the Shadovar excels as the top floor is devoted to it.  Four south-facing private double rooms with thickened walls, goosedown quilts and wooden tubs await those seeking privacy and are undisturbed by the sign's moaning.  A spacious common room that holds ten in comfort (fifteen at a pinch) as well as allowing guests to sleep downstairs make it roomy yet the in-house healer and scribe are what make the Shadovar tower over it's neighbours.  These services are charged at premium and often paid gratefully by travellers who have had or expect a rough journey on the road.

The cellars under the Shadovar are well-stocked and appointed, built around a redoubt that a pair of soldiers could hold for a week before their supplies ran out.  The redoubt is known only to staff and a handful of couriers and noble retainers who have used it in the past.  Stores are well-kept and routinely checked by Marenna personally, as is the secret door in the north wall that runs for a quarter mile allowing someone to escape if things got too dire.

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