Saturday, 3 December 2011

inns & taverns: the rouge and glass

Gnomes enjoy beer in cellars. The Rouge and Glass is celebrated among gnomes, halflings and certain taller folk in the know.  Noise usually comes from it's doors and there is almost continuous activity.  Though some dislike it's gaudiness, it's popularity is evident.  The Rouge and Glass is tucked in a hill beneath a fortified tower manned by a platoon of crack gnomish crossbowmen.  Trouble is almost never a problem.  This has led to speculation that whoever owns the tower owns the inn.  Gnomes, dwarves, halflings and the wise know it's the other way round.  The sign is a steel mirror with gilt scrollwork and "The Rouge and Glass" painted in red.  This glows with foxfire as light fades.

From the outside, the inn is built within a hill with a tower atop it and a mirror affixed above a double door.  Through the double doors, an antechamber ends in a door between two crystal-studded pillars.  Light brought into this space causes the pillars to shimmer.  A lectern and stool are positioned to the right of the door.  During daylight, an old, extremely wizened gnome maid in somber fabrics and leathers alternates between pipe and hipflask to grant admission.  After sundown, the usual occupant is a gnome in spiked leather with steel wire woven into his beard.  He grants admissions but hassles those he dislikes.  Beyond this door is a long chamber, almost airy and spacious.  The layout is not unlike that of a ship, there are raised seating areas to the right and left of the door.  Pillars are roughly positioned where masts would be.  At the far end is a semi-circular ampitheatre with four tiers of gnome-sized seating.  The bar is on the left wall and decorated by various painted mirrors and crystal tiles.  Light flickers from an ostentatious candelabra of red and orange glowing crystals and copper wire.  This softens features as good firelight does.  Three closed doors to the left (cellar, landlord's office and a store room) and two to the right lead to privies.

A number of drinks can be purchased.  A brown ale, of wet sand colour and average taste is the safest bet. Many regulars prefer a hard pale cider or a dark ruby beetroot beer (dry with hints of earth and malt) to drink.  Connoissieurs may wish to take a glass of pomace (apple liqueur) or a slightly jaundiced genever.  Jugs of wine are also sold, red or white.  Neither are particularly appealing to any but drunks or those who cannot countenance ever drinking beer.  Food is not sold though on some cold nights hot meat pastries are offered to clients by staff.  These are greasy, yet substantial.  The meat defies simple identification and is of mixed origin smothered in thick onion gravy.

The staff here are mostly gnomes.  The landlord, Amlyn Hyssop, is rakishly handsome.  Twinking sapphire eyes and white-gold hair are sometimes complimented with a courtly suit, or flouted with a labourer's outfit and leather boots.  Comfortable and confident, Hyssop prefers to advance without drawing undue attention. His wolfhound, Reaver, is slavishly loyal.  The other staff are itinerant gnomes, equally balanced between male and female, all with ready smiles.  Practical jokes are regular occurences, resulting in beetroot beer fountains, inexplicable noises and coins attached to invisible thread.  The other staff are a troupe of dancers and musicians of various races.  These range from convivial line dancers to more exotic performances with veils and gaudily feathered fans.  One part Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, one part Moulin Rouge.

There is no accommodation.   Those seeking it are chased off.  Some patrons drag feet to tease favourite staff.  The invective unleashed often shows the height of gnomish creativity.  Those who don't take the hint will find themselves chased with brooms. Yet when Reaver growls all but the stupid drunks know that it's time to leave.  Reaver has been trained to take someone's hand between his jaws and gently lead them out.  Amlyn usually handles high-status troublemakers who inevitably visit, laden down with gold coin and disrespect.  They usually leave lighter of both.

Some humourless locals claim pickpockets work the Rouge.  This leads to 'raids' supported by staid clerics.  Amlyn and the bar staff tone down their ribaldry.  The regular clientele don't resulting in a brawl.  Needless to say, this provokes a crackdown.  The Rouge cloaks their more scandalous activities but word gets out - as it always does.  A large watch raid may meet stiff opposition from the crossbowmen and what appears to be a siege might attract attention...

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