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Elminster Speaks - Part 17
By Ed Greenwood
A Place to Stay
Despite the shadow of the Dark Sun lying over much of Voonlar, it has grown greatly in population and prosperity in recent years -- due to folk fleeing both the troubles in Zhentil Keep and the harsh rule that has arisen in Hillsfar. A lot of trade to and from the mines north of the Moonsea relocated from small holds in and around Zhentil Keep to various places a little farther from raiding orc bands and marauding monsters -- and Voonlar was one of them. The temporary collapse of Zhent road patrols and the cessation of habitual local skirmishes with the forces of Hillsfar encouraged even more overland trade, as merchants were emboldened to send their goods in smaller, more frequent caravans.
This in turn has led to an increased in the size, number, and services of Voonlar's inns, which were already, for the most part, "of the best that can be expected upcountry," as the notorious traveler Volothamp Geddarm put it.
In addition to houses offered for rent and boardinghouses (Rhingallo's and Mother Tarset's, both ramshackle old mansions long used seasonally by traveling harvesters and farm laborers, and now within a decade of falling down if not rebuilt), Voonlar can offer the traveler no less than five inns.
The Flying Stag (Good/Expensive)
The newest of Voonlar's inns, this two-story, barnlike structure (of fieldstone and firequench-enspelled-wood) stands on Blarun's Lane, north off Runstal's Ride not far west of the bakery.
Owned and operated by Hlarvo Dluthree, the Flying Stag can readily be found by travelers because of its huge 'stag with wings, swooping' carved and painted signboard, that hangs amid three storm-lanterns over the inn foreyard and circular front door. Its name comes from a long-ago waspish observation by Hlarvo's tiny and bustling wife Valladonra, who told her husband that she expected to see him give up carpentry and actually follow his dreams as far as opening an inn at about the same time as stags learned to fly.
The Stag caters to wealthy travelers who desire privacy and quiet. It offers no taproom or common dining area, but rather suites of several joined rooms, each separated from other suites by linen cupboards or serving-stairs. A small menu of excellent hot dinners is served to each guest in their rooms by arrangement, and the Stag has both a high-walled compound with stabling of the finest quality and covered, guarded storage for wagons, but two secluded "bowers" in the back corners of its walled yard (vine-cloaked and tiled areas fitted with benches, tables, and couches) for the use of guests. It's said in town that Valladonra, a great beauty and hopeless romantic, hoped that many couples would enjoy the romantic solitude of the bowers, and early on arranged a booking and rental sytem to ensure their privacy -- but instead, the bowers have largely become short-term offices for travelers desiring to transact their business unseen.
The Sembian merchant Taglinder of Selgaunt judged the Stag "simple but clean, with caring, attentive staff." Furniture and amenities are thoughtful and plentiful rather than adorned or luxurious, and every suite has its own tub and scented-water flushbucket jakes. Suites range from 3 gp to 5 gp a night, depending on size and view (most have balconies), with meals included. Stabling is an extra 5 sp/beast/night, and use of a bower costs an extra 1 gp/half-day, or 4 sp/quarter-day.
Typical meals at the Stag consist of a soup, two main dishes (hot or cold depending on the season), hot rolls served with herbed butter and a dish of fiery pickle-spread, and a guest's choice of four or five ales and six or seven wines.
The main dishes might be roast boar and fresh greens; a potato mash of fried and diced lamb, onions, garlic, and parsnips; smoked turkey and bulls'-tongues savander (steamed and hot-spiced horseflesh and quail baked into a pie) served with a selection of lime chutneys and pickled eels, mussels and smallfish; a many-spice stew of barley, peppers, and beef; or something seasonal and special (such as butter-fried Moonsea silverfin, when a fishmonger's wagon rolls into town).
Soups tend to be creamed leek and potato; mushrooms and almond; breek (wild onions, radishes, hot spices, and boiled beef -- which is to say hooves, tripes, and all, strained out before serving); forest leaf (berries and a tisane of certain flavorful roots and leaves); and wildfowl stew (barley-based and pleasant, but widely suspected to be a way of using up old chickens and captured mice). When the second cook, the fat and jovial Mareeka, is at work in the kitchens, soups are always served in hollowed-out round loaves of bread, sealed against leakage by spreading a thick layer of melted cheese into the inside surfaces to harden into a crust.
Meals are served on wooden trays covered with metal domes; guests may ring for them to be removed at any time. Portions are small, but guests are encouraged to ring for more, so that everything may be fresh.
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