Saturday, 21 January 2012

inns & taverns: the devil-porter inn

The Devil-Porter Inn sits halfway up a market town's hill, astride an alley's entrance.  Locals passing by always smile at it's statue.  The wooden icon of a portly gap-toothed devil lugging sacks in peasant garb greets patrons.  Only the foolish would fear him.  Bristle-bearded, glass-eyed and five feet tall, his blunt inch-long horns are no threat.  Over the archway, the words 'The Devil-Porter Inn' are painted in immaculate white script.

The inn's wooden door opens on the right leg of the arch from the main street.  Within a rickety wooden stair creaks with each step.  At the top, a doorway opens into a bar-room bridging the arch, narrow yet well-appointed.  Carved wooden benches line the walls.  Before these are thick tables of oak and wrought iron decorated with laden vines and flowers.  Brass lanterns in the corner illuminate the room.  Often tables are mostly filled, encouraging patrons to mingle with regulars if they want seats.  This is normally an agreeable process.  The bar runs along the opposite wall with stairs behind it leading up and down.

A strong, pale ale sells the year round.  Winter brings a smooth dark ale with notes of caramel and salt that sells very quickly.  A fair red wine and a spiced piment (wine with honey and herbs) compliment the ales.  A limited but excellent selection of food is sold. A beef and onion stew with dumplings and pickled cabbage is served with black rye bread.  Pickled eggs and butter pies complete the menu.  While not courtly fare, it is substantial.

Marien, the landlady, is matronly, rotund, redolent of lavender and honey, her clogs drum the floor.  Staff are cheerful, competent locals of assorted ages.  All are clad in plain white chemise, dark breeches and soft leather boots with brass buckles.  This simple uniform is kept immaculate.  Marien's watchful eye keeps staff from lowering standards, service is cheerful, brisk and accommodating.  Good relationships with the watch keep criminals out.  Officials do not visit the Inn but hirelings often enjoy an ale and meal here.  Marien will sometimes treat them in return for news.

While the Devil-Porter Inn lacks accommodation, staff know where rooms may be rented locally at reasonable rates.  These are usually basic but safe and warm.  Though the staff have rooms, Marien doesn't brook guests.  Previous incidents with staff connected with gentry ensure this will never happen if Marien is here.  This is reciprocated by local nobility.

The Devil-Porter Inn lacks pretension.  This has harmed business - nobles and courtly types avoid the Inn, looking down upon it.  Patrons don't even seem to mind.  Yet some younger nobles are violating the agreement.  Brawls seldom happen but over-friendly visitors and nobles with a grudge have to be handled.  The Inn's lack of muscle can be a problem.  Those who help out are feted by Marien, who makes friends easily and looks after them.

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