Saturday, 15 October 2011

inns & taverns: the pot helm

The Pot Helm is a noisy, cheerful inn at the corner of a smith's row.  It's famous locally for generous fare, hard-drinking clientele and display of decorative metal tankards.  The local forges are often working late and the smiths here work and play hard.  Occasional brawls in the courtyard are known.  The watch often arrive fashionably late - most smiths are strong and used to pounding on things. The Pot Helm is good-natured and forgives it's clientele who keep it well-paid.  The sign is an over-sized pot helm, burnished to silver-brightness and set atop iron scrollwork.

A sprawling single-storey structure with it's own courtyard, this was a smithy.  The forge is now an oven and firepit.  The small bar sees money exchanged over an anvil.  Behind the bar is a rack filled with decorated tankards.  Dwarven war-visors, gods of brewing and love, dragons, helmed warriors, fair maidens and jolly halflings stare down from the sides of tankards polished with obsessive care.  There are nearly a hundred tankards on the rack and each is distinct.  Woe betide whoever drinks from the wrong tankard.

The house ale and regular's drink is a light, creamy ale called forgewife. It is a perfect brew for soot-throated smiths.  Dwarven rust ale is occasionally sold, this murky brown ale with metallic aftertaste is potent and popular.  A tart pear cider is regularly sold to women who visit the Helm.  Hardened drinkers choose a distilled spirit flavoured with aniseed called 'forgewine' made cloudy with water.  Food here is elaborate and plentiful.  A stew of pig offal, turnips and onions is sold to the poor.  The house speciality is the pot helm pie, half filled with meat and onion gravy, half filled with fruit. 

The Pot Helm is managed by Nieve. This slender, unassuming woman with greying favours durable men's clothing.  Her wiry frame has a smith's strength and her bearing commands respect.  Her talent for managing the Pot Helm is evident.  It's said the Helm has other owners.  Nieve doesn't speak of them, no matter how much forgewine she's plied with.  The staff are failed apprentices or girls hunting husbands.  Nieve believes in second chances and hard knocks.  Those who squander the first earn the second.  Local thugs avoid the Pot Helm.  Nieve with a sledgehammer backed by a dozen off-duty smiths is enough to dissuade them.

Accommodation is not offered yet a stable is available for a handful of coppers each day.  Nieve knows a dozen reliable local families and tenements with rooms to rent.  The only people who sleep in the Pot Helm are Nieve, the stableboy and a couple of desperate staff.  The noise from neighbouring smithies wakes even deep sleepers.  Sleeping drunks learn to avoid anvils and horses.  This arrangement pleases the families and Nieve, who usually spots troublemakers.

The Pot Helm is a home from home for many local smiths.  Those wanting to learn the trade or wishing to commission work do well to drink here.  While a persistent rumour says Nieve sleeps on a bed of gold coin, this is laughed off by staff.  Nieve doesn't mind the rumour.  What she objects to is naive adventurers trying to find out if she's a dragon.   She jokes that her bed lacks room for a pseudodragon, let alone a real one. 

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