Saturday, 3 September 2011

inns & taverns: beklar's wayside

A rowdy's inn, this former waystation expanded out of necessity.  Lawless men made fortunes rich as they robbed prospectors.  The mine now runs iron-sided wagons to the town.  Though well-guarded, outlaws still raid.  Beklar conquered the waystation in a raid and turned it into an inn.  He bought in ale, dancers, drugs and hot food.  The outlaws keep it safe if blood-stained in return.  Those seeking quick coin, stealthy knives or swift death find what they desire at Beklar's Wayside.  The sign is a square wooden board painted with a white bear.  The land around the Wayside is still half-tamed. 

An extended barbican in good repair, the waystation straddles a road on rough ground.  Scraggy bushes and stumps provide cover.  A knot of half-drunk outlaws with a pair of chained war dogs chew the fat outside. Getting past them is a sign of acceptance.  The entrance is found within the gate arch.  Other iron-bound doors in the arch lead to addict-filled cells.  A stairwell ascends to the main bar.  There are benches and stools in passable repair. During the day, it's a bedlam of drunken rogues, begrimed starveling addicts and dead-eyed harlots.  Nights are worse.   Three ruffians wreathed in scars and tattoos tend bar.  Another stair leads upward to another chamber where musicians and dancers entertain the patrons for coin.  Patrons are as likely to hurl abuse.  In gloomy corners, wealdbloom addicts slump, patrons game with dice and whores of both sexes work. 

Drinks are cheap yet grim.  Most patrons swill 'gut-bile', a weak, sour ale or boiled 'rush beer' for two copper.  A handful of copper buys a cup of 'warmouth'.  This rough red wine, fortified with wormwood and juniper helps with stomach illness and starting fights.  Actual wine is available for two silver a jug. In winter, lambs-wool is made (mulled rush beer with chunks of apple) and quaffed.  For food, saltfish, biscuits and smoked sausage of variable content can be bought.  Other purchases include wealdbloom, a chewable narcotic flower.  In autumn, certain mushrooms provide distracting hallucinations.  Both are bought for five silver or fifty copper.

Beklar stays in the east tower with loyal lackeys.  He descends twice daily, once at noon to trade and at eventide to choose bedtime companions.  Beklar is gaunt, cavern-eyed with a steely grip.  Sly witted, his mind is a steel trap.  His stained surcoat hides mail and knives.  Locked doors and a massive, ill-humoured warhound guard the tower from intruders and thieves alike.  This beast accompanies Beklar if his routine is disturbed and is known to enjoy human flesh.  On a slow night, Beklar and his staff drag addicts from the cells to fight for them.  Those refusing are beaten by violently disappointed patrons.  Side betting is often lucrative for the wary. 

Those crazy enough to seek accommodation for ten silver are escorted to the western tower and locked in overnight by Beklar himself.  Beklar has used this to abduct travellers for ransom.  The rooms are small, cold with mattresses of grimy straw and chamberpots.  Whores pay staff to use them as well.  More than one ambush happened in these rooms.  Rooms are strewn with dirty rushes to sweeten the air but there is often tell-tale stains among them.

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