Saturday, 28 August 2010

inns & taverns: the goblin's head

The Goblin's Head is solidly-built, a long two-storey stone building amid taller wooden tenements at the corner of a street of smiths.  The rooftop is thickly thatched, ivy clings to the walls in defiance of soot.  The inn sign is wrought black iron letters hung by chains with a tarred goblin's head.  This ghoulish decoration stands from a tradition of trading goblin heads for ale during a siege.  The inn occasionally has adventurers try to cash in heads for ale though most are turned away.  Entrances at each end lead to the ground floor and stairs going up. The backyard and cellar of the Goblin's Head are hidden from view by neighbouring tenements and are guarded by a large, well-fed black mastiff with a scarred throat that doesn't bark.

Inside is well-appointed, the floors are flagstones strewn with sawdust and plastered walls are painted with murals of smiths at hammer and anvil and drinkers lifting tankards.  The ceiling is low enough to be cosy without injuring the tall.  Numerous booths provide seating and the bar runs the length of the building.  Upstairs, there is no bar but numerous small chambers separated by panels of black wrought-iron.  These permit some privacy while letting patrons and staff see who's available.  The panels are heavy and ornate, bolted to ceiling and floor to stop their removal although a couple of them show signs of having been bent by someone attempting to impress with their brawn.  Such behaviour is frowned on and usually leads to barring.

The inn serves a number of ales, some brewed on premises, some traded in.  Among them is a potent yet sweet pale ale favoured by forgeworkers, a darker nut-brown ale favoured by traders and in the autumn, a pale elderflower beer often given to sweethearts. Other drinks sold include a dry elderberry genever distilled on premises and a competent cornwine.  Food is famously not served here, rather local pie traders are invited to wander the floors, offering their wares to those in need.  The locals usually spot a good pie-seller "...from a throat-cutter." and are quick to recommend particular sellers based on their own experiences. 

The landlord, unsurprisingly is a dwarf.  What is surprising is that his head is clean-shaven but his full beard is red, oiled and styled in ringlets so that it looks like his chin is on fire.  Hidden among this magnificence are a number of tindertwigs.  The oil prevents accidental ignition but he has been known to light those tindertwigs when angry so he seems part azer when confronting trouble.  His relentless energy in brewing and skill in doing so makes the Goblin's Head popular despite it's unsavoury sign.  His staff know a good deal when they see it and his fairness and generosity to them is repaid by diligent service and genuine pleasure at seeing customers.  Troublemakers are given one warning and then barred, his memory for faces is exceptional.

No accommodation is offered though Akarsen will quarter those overcome by ale in the courtyard where the silent mastiff will greet their hangover the next morning with a slobbering tongue.  This has led to some neighbours claiming that the Head shepherds drunks at holidays but such rumours are malicious gossip at best.  The watch is rarely called to the Head, often to deal with belligerent outlanders trying to cash in goblin heads or to console someone who has believed the rumour that the goblin's head has cursed them with bad luck.  The head has no power to do so beyond that of drunken rumour though sometimes a piece may fall off to land in the lowered hood of a cloak, an open bag or the folds of a garment resulting in an evil, evil smell.

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