Sunday, December 23, 2012
Inns, Arduin, and "The Pearl"
An extensive listing of the inns and road houses of Arduin were provided to us in the famous treatise Welcome to Skull Tower. Also covered, was their place in the fabric of society. While the Inns have come and gone as the years have drifted by us, the original listing has changed some (and not a few owners to say the least) the overview is still a fairly accurate one.
Inns are the center point of Arduinian life. Whether you live in a small outlying farming community near Foxton or in the largest mansion of Talismonde, Inns are where its at!!! Inns provide every form of entertainment a citizen or traveler to Arduin could want. Whether it’s a small roadside tavern with an occasional bard stopping by and a simple dart board and nightly game of swords and dragons or a large Inn in the center of Melkalund featuring nightly shows, gambling tables and dancing. It always comes down to the Inn. Need a drink—drop by the pub. Desire to gamble? Stake your fortune at spin of the dice in the backroom. Need a bit of “loving” companionship ? Drop by the next street to the left and see Bruno at the door; he can take care of that for you, for just a few SP of course.
But you know all of this! You have ventured in and out of pubs and taverns all your life. Have you ever considered what life is like from the other side of the railing? Dealing with your nightly regulars as they cry on your counter, drowning their sorrows not only in ale, but in your bar keep’s endless supply of wit wisdom and yes, my friend, sometimes love. Have you contemplated what life is like for Efwryn the Curvaceous, the tavern wench, constantly sashaying her hips for tips while avoiding over-reaching lushes with lovin’ on their minds? How about Mousewhisker? Who is Mousewhisker you ask? Why he is the little guy who always wipes the table before you sit down and brings you your bangers and mash without a word..
On Fast Fall Hill, ‘round the Circle Way with its sodden, wilted trees and dilapidated buildings lies the ramshackle inn, Pearly Gates. It’s in the older part of Khurahaen, where the taint of the vulgar waters of the Misty Sea have worn haggard aging timber and the stone is pitted and crumbling from the pass of time. Winding up the lopsided hill, the leaning buildings sag against one another and are little broken by change: giving more meaning to the sudden appearance of the haggard but still off-white pearl like curving arch that leads to the Inn of the same name.
“Once a dive, always a dive”, they say and it ranked among the seediest of the city. It was quite a trove for the beggars and thieves that infest the roads as more than one corpse or almost corpse found out quickly how the hill got its name (usually face first down the sheer side. Splat!) Its looking up a little these days. It was during the Spice Ale Riots some six years, that the Royal troops took time out from smacking rioters to round up some of the City’s less reputable citizens and make them involuntary guests of the throne.
The interior is comfortable and aged, like a worn boot or veteran courtesan. It is thick with rafters and heavy ceiling beams, not to mention dozens of niches and nooks. Its to the “Pearl” that everyone comes here to do their dealings, you know the kind I am talking about, the ones that you really don’t want your neighbors aware of. Whether you need a little trysting, a secret meeting with a guy you shouldn’t know, or perhaps you just want to pick up a little something for missus at bargain basement prices (considering it just came out of the Twuahn the Goldsmith’s basement, it really is a bargain tonight). Or perhaps you really do just wish to tip a flagon of Rumble Tummy Ale (yeah right).
Of course, no one comes in through the front door; that’s for the young in life and tourists (also referred to as fresh meat) who don’t know any better. Anyone with the least sense of the place comes in the other ways, the most common through Prat’s Bean Emporium at the “mouth” of Circle Way or Jongle’s Rent a Wreck near the Slash. A couple of the more daring nobles have taken to running the rooftops and wandering in via Shank’s Wares on the Shingle or across the span from Vrenduor’s Hot Spot. (Better take care going that way, since the women get real peckish if you don’t give them their piece, no not a silver piece; for the other type you pay ALOT more—and don’t think about shorting them! They tossed the young and stuck up lord Zig Malr-Tyvo headfirst off the side when he jilted them.)
Malakai Peerse runs the bar and doesn’t bat an eye when his patrons wander in from seemingly everywhere; he’s used to the comings and goings after all these years. Newcomers are always a treat and he gets a smirk or two when the new ones “have a Vroat” ( isn’t that what the kids say now?) watching folks appearing and disappearing from everywhere, (“By the moons, you mean to tell me a roof’s out there!?”), all over the place, all the time and doors opening and closing almost out of thin air it seems. Mixed drinks are his specialty. Need a Spiga Slammer or perhaps, on a really bad day of three dancing dwarves and two spitting elves, you find the need for something truly potent, like a Windego Wangdango. The man is half artist and half Wizard when it comes to mixing mash, that much I will say. He talks about as fast as he mixes and is notorious for lecturing about the various potables, and the Inn. With the right amount of coin and a taste for trying his drinks, he’ll explain it all to you (yeah, but don’t drink the blue flaming one until he blows it out!).
It’s less a mystery or magik than just that the Inn is riddled with doors of all shapes and variety, leading off into one room or another. Its not the finding of a door hidden in the wall or floor that’s challenging, its the realization that there is a door within that door and another within that one, like some vast intricate puzzle that really boggles the mind. Where they go is another question, and while Malakai has maps, or so its said, he openly admits he doesn’t really know either. Then again, he doesn’t want to know, his concern is coin and where it comes from is “no business of mine”. That the whole block has doors that lead to / from his inn is a surety as well as to the sewers and deeper into the under cities. Ah my friend, don’t ask him about the undercity. If you need something, tell him with a coin in your palm, but don’t ask about his trade secrets or your life isn’t worth the silver ten ‘pence you slid him across the wooden bar.
If you need something Malakai is there for you. Need a loan? No problem, he knows where you live. Girl problems? “Fine, lets talk to Kyra Burning Eyes over at the Blue Light, she specializes in such things as make women fiery with desire”, he’ll say with a wink and palming of your sovereigns. Understand this though, before you take a gander inside that like most things in Arduin, both Malakai and the “Pearl” are as complex as a minotaur’s maze. Always claiming its about the “da coin”, Malakai helps all who ask, sometimes even helping for ‘nah cost’. Other times he’s recalcitrant when he could make a baron’s ransom, refusing to grant aid at all, though it would cost him nothing.
Many people think that Malakai works the Inn by himself. A minute of clear thought will dispel this illusion. Malakai actually has five full-time bar wenches along with a full cleaning crew and his own security staff. When asked why he allows the bar to look so dilapidated, he has been known to reply, “neighbor, remember a pearl that shines bright is coveted by all, one of dull luster fewer look at, despite the fact with, but a wipe of a rag, one would realize its true worth”. Many think he is just a small time owner of a shabby Inn. Follow him home one morning (DON”T GET CAUGHT!!!!), as he winds his way from the odorous mists of the harbor up to his mansion on Three Jewel Hill. Apparently he does “alright” by the “Pearl”.
The “Pearl” isn’t to be taken lightly. Its a nexus between the upper world of “the straights” and the dancers of the undercities. For those in the know or those who need to find it, the “Pearl” can lead to salvation or damnation. Many wish to walk its roads from the light to the dark side of the city and back. There are toughs and other strong types that rent their services out just to lead and guard the adventurous through the paths of the inn. Where those travels may lead is rarely made public. It is always an incredibly unpredictable trip, which is why people come, but be warned, you would not be the first to enter and be lost. That however, is a tale for another time.