Saturday, 5 February 2011

inns & taverns: the cup of skulls

A busy backstreet tavern in a bustling docks, the Cup of Skulls is muttered about by local fishwives. The port watch keep a discreet watch on it. The macabre painted sign of a four-sided cup atop a pyramid of skulls serves as a beacon. Decent folk will turn back. Less decent folk walk right in and the Cup's clientele range from wealthy to poor looking for shelter from their lives, a little vice to spice things up and the opportunity to kick back.

The Cup is a solidly-built two storey wood and stone building amid rickety wooden tenements, the door guarded by a burly, tattooed half-orc with angry scars on his arms and a scuffed, studded leather vest. Vekk serves as a bouncer saying little beyond 'No'. Those who hear that don't get in. Oddly Vekk doesn't enter the Cup unless invited by the landlord. Vekk sometimes has company in the form of drunken sailors and labourers, beggars are chased off with force used as needed.

Inside is gloomy, tallow candles gutter amid the smell of sea, sweat and old ale. Clay spitoons are strategically positioned and sand is strewn on the flagstones of the floor. The crescent-shaped bar is often crowded at night. The pale plaster walls are hung with tattered flags amid icons of various seafaring gods and doggerel graffiti. Tables are strategically positioned next to long galley benches along the walls. Finding nooks to conduct business is difficult but possible. Regular games of arm-wrestling, dice and shovepenny attract side bets as well as arm-wrestling. The building has a sheltered courtyard bordered by primitive privys where at least one aging prostitute works when the ships come into port.

A salty ale is served, this smooth, murky brown brew is strangely attractive with food but turns empty stomachs. A thick broth and warm biscuits can be bought for a handful of silver and this combines with the ale admirably. An almond-flavoured genever is also sold in four-sided tumblers. Limes are served with any drink for an extra copper.

The landlord, Denrys is a pale-skinned, foppish half-elf whose dark hair and cocksure charisma combine with immaculate grooming and exaggerated courtesy to women. His ear for gossip and scuttlebutt is exceptional and wit is such that he disarms most women. The staff are a mixture of local beauties beguiled by Denrys or former sailors working off gambling debts. While Denrys doesn't have any accommodation his recommendation is good to a number of local tenant landlords for a room. These landlords are used to dealing with people at all hours and from all walks of life though their tenements are uniformly grim.
Whispers that Denrys was a pirate periodically make the rounds but are quickly silenced by a cutting retort from Denrys or a visit from Vekk. Denrys is known to various pirate captains as a fence and they would be interested in renewing that acquaintance.

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