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Elminster Speaks - Part 18
By Ed Greenwood
The Finest Beds in Town
The Sign of the Shield
Travelers desirous of luxury (and stiff prices) are directed to the Shield, Voonlar's best inn. It stands on the south side of Shind Road, just northeast of its meeting with Daerndrean Street, directly across from the headquarters of the Shield Trading Company, and is the largest building in all Voonlar.
To the road, the Shield presents a stone facade as grand as any temple. In fact, it's often been mistaken for a holy building. Its large balcony on the third floor overhangs the front entrance and is supported by an imposing row of four stone pillars, which are cloaked in ivy and clinging floral vines to hide the cracks that crisscross their surfaces. The pillars are so tall that the second floor hides unseen behind them.
The Sign of the Shield does indeed have a blank ivory-hued shield (surrounded by carvings that are either flames or garlands) overhanging the door. The inn is owned by the Shield Trading Company, which despite persistent rumors to the contrary, claims independence from the Bron and all Zhent investors and influence and is run by a seldom-seen elderly Voonlarren cloth trader by the name of Zaravron Rarthree.
There's a fourth floor crowning all of this that contains servants' apartments, and an attic atop it inside the hipped slate roof. Neither attic nor fourth floor extend all the way back down the long, rectangular inn. They end halfway, giving the rest of the roof over to a rooftop sun area and herb garden, both for the use of the staff.
The presence of this garden makes the rooms directly beneath it (the south upper floor) prone to ceiling leaks, and hence these are the cheapest rooms in the Shield. One can have large and usually quiet accommodations here for as little as 2 gp a night, with stabling 5 sp/beast extra and all meals on top of that. This room rate buys a guest an ewer of drinking water, a bath with the attentions of an attendant, and the space.
The Shield boasts Voonlar's only dumbwaiter (an elevator for furniture and food), from which hot food on platters covered in silvery metal domes is wheeled. The dumbwaiter is large enough for persons to ride in if they crouch over, but this is strictly forbidden (and riders couldn't raise or lower the box they're in themselves in any case). The dumbwaiter runs from the cellar to the fourth floor, creaking along on ropes, and has only fallen once -- when it had a bit of encouragement in doing so from a wizard guest's spell. He would have been asked firmly to leave if he hadn't perished moments later at the hands of the foe attacking him at the time.
The folk of the Shield (the trading company, that is) police the grounds of the Shield inn at all hours, and the inn boasts an unusually clean and well-appointed stable, which also houses sheds to shelter wagons from rain and snow. These sheds are guarded at night by a dozen veteran warriors of the Trading Company The stable building flanks the inn to the west, and on the east stretches a lawn with a tall cedar boundary hedge and a row of apple trees.
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