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Elminster Speaks - Part 26

By Ed Greenwood

Why Stay at the Wizard?

The Whistling Wizard, Continued

Meals at the Wizard vary in specifics and quality, but regardless of the hour they always involve a soup (hot -- and usually hoof-tongue-ox-tripes-and-diced vegetables -- except in the very warmest days of summer, when it will be cold leek-and-potato), a stew of thick gravy and mixed fried meats, locally baked bread served with garlic butter, and fruit pies. The fried meat is usually snared forest game or old mutton, beef, or horsemeat from local animals past their prime that has been marinating in large vats in the rearmost outbuilding -- vats into which more than one person somehow fell, some with their wrists and ankles bound, so that the vats now bear locked covers.

In short, it is plain farm country food, good and filling but neither dainty nor distinguished. Patrons who visit the cookhouse with special requests are liable to be chased out by the hurled cleavers of the sweating, near-naked staff, who work in constant heat and smoke from boiling cauldrons and the open cooking hearths. The kitchen staff consists of a pair of unlovely and aging dwarves and their young human assistants. They all snap and shout at each other constantly and eat as they go, terrorizing the four scurrying serving wenches. The kitchen staff, all male, are the bald, bearded, and constantly cursing Bezoldur Thornhand (LN male dwarven War7), the clean-shaven and less articulate Thaunder Gallowglaive (NG male dwarven War6), and three stokers-and-fetchers, who keep the fires tended, draw and carry the water, and wash and chop mountains of vegetables: Thamphrol Sarlar, Rauntil Balarr, and Nivlin Goskull (all NG male human Com1s). Nivlin likes to play pranks, but he's been literally beaten out of his habit of leaving severed animal heads propped up on the pillows of certain guests' beds.

The current innkeeper and owner of the Wizard is Harauna Beltzund, a short and fiery-tempered woman whose family seized the inn from the previous owner, a thin and sour Zhent by the name of Anthalus Droon, for unpaid debts. Droon is widely believed to have been a Zhentarim spy on both Voonlar and Northride trade, and to have "scuttled back to the Keep to get his new orders." Certainly he's seen in Voonlar no more. Harauna's large hands, feet, nose, and burly build suggest dwarven blood in her lineage. Her warm nature, flashing eyes, and gruff kindnesses leave most folk liking her -- while at the same time dreading her tongue and rages (for she's deadly accurate with hurled pots, tankards, and drinking jacks -- wherefore there's not a glass or ceramic drinking vessel to be found in the Wizard today). Harauna frowns on guests bringing their own beasts with them, and she insists that anything monstrous or in any way snakelike be locked up for a guest's stay in one of the secure undercells in the basement of the back pantry (the easternmost of all the low, stone-and-slate outbuildings that dot the Wizard stableyard).

Named for the local belief that the wizard Mhzentul once kept bees on the site where the inn stands and could often be seen thereon whistling as he worked among the hives (and a magically warded away cloud of buzzing bees), the Whistling Wizard is famous locally as a refuge for adventurers, wizards, and other dangerous sorts' -- and a place where spell battles between monsters and mages seem to often erupt. Any local inhabitant can relate many fanciful struggles involving flames shooting across the forest for miles, the inn itself being whirled up into the air, a striding colossus or two, dragons erupting out of flagons and being sucked into chamberpots where they're still imprisoned, and wizards being transformed, limb by limb, into different beasts as they hurl spells at each other.

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