Saturday, 2 April 2011

inns & taverns: zora's cove

A pirate queen's former hideaway over an inland bay.  Zora's Cove serves a syndicate of spice plantations with their chartered trader and native allies.  Those visiting Zora's Cove seek fortune or wish to spend one earned from sale of spice.  Zora The Raven is believed dead.  Her crew rot in gibbets, jails or cheap taverns.  The Cove lost it's pirate trappings yet fortunes still change hands and blood clouds night seas.  Even without  pirates, the Cove can still be deadly.  

A row of thatched parasols hide the exterior.  These shelter the path and entrance from strong sea winds and noon sun.  Long shadows paint blue-stained shutters black.  Clusters of natives and minor agents linger, awaiting opportunity.  Inside the cave, tables hug the corners and edges.  The air is thick with tallow smoke and spices.  About half the tables are occupied.  A circular bar in the centre of the cave dominates the room.  A pulley and chain hangs over the bar providing a dumb waiter from the cavern below where food is prepared and drinks are stored.

The usual drink is a cup of dark rum though a spiced rum infused with nutmeg is also popular.  Cold nights see a buttered rum with cinnamon and nutmeg served to wealthy agents.  A fortified root beer finds favour with new visitors and the stubborn who must drink from tankards.  A spice tea is offered for delicate palates or those wishing to stay sober. Food ranges from salt fish broth and sourdough bread through roasted chicken to ogre crab claw - a crab claw as long as a shortsword.  The last is a delicacy, ogre crabs are territorial and aggressive, especially under a full moon.  Prices are double that on the mainland.

The landlord Gewhayn, is an affable psychopath.  An ex-pirate and slaver, the syndicate and traders pay him handsomely to maintain the status quo.  His eleven daughters tend bar, exotic beauties skilled in deception, reading people like books and occasional assassination.  Gewhayn keeps slaves in the caverns beneath Zora's Cove.  Though immoral, there is no denying his wealth or apparent influence. Gewhayn has stated "The only people who kill in here are family."  Most patrons know the odds favour the house.

Accommodation is available with well-appointed rooms carved from the rock.  Guests risk enslavement if they don't work for the syndicate or traders. Gewhayn and his daughters almost always know who is and who isn't.  Baths, massage and valet services are available for additional coin.  These services are provided by slaves supervised by a single daughter.  Misunderstandings are settled by coin or swift dumping of a weighted canvas overboard.  There are few permanent guests though every solstice, agents of the syndicate stay here with preferential treatment.
Adventure is a canoe-ride from Zora's Cove with ogre crab hunts, tracking escaped slaves or following maps to pirate treasure.  Getting involved with the spice or slave trade is more dangerous.  The trading houses have exploitable rivalries.  These are used by the syndicate and Gewhayn's family to their advantage.  The return of pirates to the Cove would cause chaos and if the rumours of Zora's death are just rumours, the market and the Cove not survive that.

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