Saturday, 24 December 2011

inns & taverns: the golden cinquefoil

Befitting a busy river-town tavern in the ice-fell, the Golden Cinquefoil has a reputation.  Quips about 'reputable taverns' aside, it is sought out by those who enjoy drinks and victuals.  A few 'regrettable' incidents involving sell-swords preclude it from courtly favour.  Those wanting disreputable activities are best somewhere else.   It's sign, a gold tormentil on black, indicates the sponsorship of a local knightly order. Their ongoing vigillance usually means trouble is distant.

From the outside, the Cinquefoil is a quadrangle of solid stone and mortar.  Horses are stabled in a municipal stable in the town centre.  Dwarven stonemasonry is evident in it's construction.  The black slate tiles are often rimed with ice.  A rarity, the downstairs windows are glazed with green and clear glass set in lead to resemble fish-scales.  These windows are shuttered in barred casements that make a racket when opened.  These are closed at sundown without exception.  There are no upstairs windows, bitter winds preclude it.  Inside pale lemon plaster walls with black-stained timber are hung with scrimshaw icons and iron horseshoes.  An open hearth spills heat into the taproom and cooks a profusion of food.  Doors to a backroom, privy and kitchen see occasional traffic.  An open stairwell ascends to common and guest rooms, while the bar runs the length of the north wall.  A trapdoor leads down to a voluminous cellar and brewery.

The ice-fell allows unique brewing techniques.  The typical drink is spruce beer, sweetened with black molasses, crowberry and rowan berry.  Less discerning palates prefer fireweed ale, a straw-coloured bitter with sharp aftertaste.  The house speciality is Blood-Head, a potent ruby-tinted eisbock with plum and chocolate aftertaste.  Bloodroot, a bitter brown liquor is drunk from small glasses, warming and soothing, popular in winter.  The hungry are equally well-catered for.  A creamy saltfish stew with rye bread is surprisingly good. Blood sausage, goose confit and piragi (dumplings filled with ground beef, pickled cabbage and egg) are sold to artisans.  Knights and the wealthy are treated to jugged hare and fattened goose stuffed with rye, herbs and crowberry.

The current landlord, Merus Merusson, is newly-appointed. Though a quintessential ice-fell landlord (portly, porcine, balding and bewhiskered) he knows his proper place.  Namely following the lead of senior barmaid Alietta River. Fair of hair and skin, sagas once sang of her beauty, now satires sing of her spite.  Skilled in sword and spear, her tongue is sharpest.  The remaining staff, three barmaids, two chambermaids and a chef work to keep things lively.  Their outfits are simple white linen and fur where appropriate.  Alietta and Merus between them run a tight ship.  Merus is an expansive host, generous with measures. Alietta tolerates this as it 'keeps things sweet'.

The Golden Cinquefoil has a common room capable of sleeping nine. Chambermaids roust sleepers shortly after sunrise to clean it.  Five expensive double-guest rooms, with lockable doors, fur-lined blankets, iron chamberpots and bedpans are surprisingly comfortable.  Merus gives newlyweds a bottle of bloodroot as wedding-gift. He recommends it 'to steady the nerves'.  Alietta is obsessively protective of anyone newly married.  The chambermaids are especially careful.  Guests pay in advance to Merus who provides keys (and who keeps spares).  Unusually again, the keys are different for each room.

Once a month, when the moon is dark, the Cinquefoil hosts it's sponsors.  Nine knights bearing the golden tormentil on black will arrive and take up the common-room.  During the day, they occupy the backroom.  Matters of state, peril and religion are discussed over ale and food.  Those hoping to eavesdrop incur Alietta's wrath if caught.  At harvest-time, the inn brews bid-ale.  Locals chip in to making batches of ale, profit from which is donated to just causes  These are decided by the knights, individually or collectively.  Their decision is often sound and always final.

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