Saturday, 1 October 2011

inns & taverns: the footman's boast

The Footman's Boast is a triangular three-storey cornerhouse on a ghetto crossroads.  Flower girls and tinker handcarts linger as patrons enter and leave.  The ghetto is busy most hours except from midnight to dawn when drunks and beggars reel.  Geese from a nearby river alight on the flat rooftops nearby and are sometimes disturbed by vagrants.  The sign shows a soldier flourishing a golden sword.  This shines brightly on autumn and winter nights.  The Boast is the jewel of the ghetto's crown. 

The exterior is dark stone smutted and stained with woodsmoke and damp.  The window shutters and door are iron-bound oak in peeling black paint.  Inside is immaculate panelled wood, painted tiles and woven rugs.  The smell of wax polish and pipeweed masks ale, sweat and when it rains, wet dog.  The taproom is trapezoidal, the front door opens into the narrow end.  Cushioned benches and stools cluster around oblong tables, backlit by brown clay oil lamps.  The taproom is busy with labourers and goodwives.  A doorway leads to a stairwell and through into a narrow lounge dominated by a long table.  This lounge is sometimes rented out for private parties between eight and twenty people.

Drinks include small beer (the main drink) and a rich black pearl stout favoured by weavers.  Steel-wine (a fortified red wine used to temper blades) is sold to uniformed watch, known soldiers and nobody else.  A smoke-wood genever (dark, whiskey-harsh yet juniper-scented) and sweet briar wine is sold by the glass to goodwives and flower girls alike.  In winter, red wine spiced with cardamom, cloves and pomace to fortify it is pressed into hands.  Food is limited to salted pork pastry, pickled cabbage and saltfish.

The landlord, Milesh and his wife Gloriona are small, wiry people.  Milesh is an ex-infantryman, hard-bitten yet genial.  His skill in the cellar keeps the Boast profitable.  Gossips say his skill with hatchet and knife keep local gangs in check.  Gloriona is houseproud, frugal and dislikes gossip.  There are occasional girls brought in to help during busy times.  Some are flower girls done good, others are daughters of soldiers from Milesh's old regiment.  They learn courtesy, the inn trade and get to live in the city.

The top floor of the Boast has three small garrets available for rent.  Each occupies a corner of the triangle and affords a singular view of the tenement roofs.  The rooms are small and cold but the beds are stuffed with goosedown.  Bedpans for warming are available for an extra silver each night.  The quality of sleep varies with geese and occasional thieves.  Access to rooftops from the barred and shuttered windows makes these rooms popular with certain trades.

Milesh is rumoured to have links with the local gangs as well as his old regiment.  The night-time rooftop traffic of thieves is regular.  Those seeking acceptance into the local underworld sometimes take one of the corner rooms in the Boast.  If they are accepted, they periodically return to drink in the Boast and take a room.  If they don't, would-be rogues have fallen from the rooftops to a sudden death.  And the backroom parties have many and varied guests...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Greatest Hits