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Glantri Tavern Series - The village of Estin

by Patrick Sullivan

Here we go (in Joshuan's words, and in Estin. not Kern):

Perhaps the low point of the entire tour occurred during my visit to the barbaric frontier principality of Sablestone. Upon entering the village of Estin, I immediately noted that there were eight or nine taverns and inns clustered together in the village, a remarkable number for a town of this size. I hoped that the large number of establishments would mean that they were forced to be very high quality in order to compete. They each looked quite well-kept, as did the entire town. It reeked of humanity, of course, but apparently the military presence in town kept the external appearances neat and tidy. After making a long, tiring journey (such as the one I had just made) one needs a good ale (or six), so I hurriedly decided to go into the first tavern I came to. That tavern was the Tarnished Sovereign Saloon, a two-story wood and plaster affair with neat red trim. We stepped in off the peaceful streets of Estin, and into a completely different world.

I was simultaneously blinded and deafened as I entered, an experience not entirely unlike being bashed in the head with a giant cymbal, but considerably less enjoyable. Were I not of such extraordinary fortitude, I may never have recovered, but, being the strong individual that I am, I was able to adjust in only a couple of minutes. The tavern was extremely dark, and the brilliant sunlight outside only heightened the blinding effect of the scantily-lit interior. A "band" (if it can be so called) was on a stage to the right of the door. One tone deaf man was torturing what looked to be half of an old cast-off calliope while another bashed metal plates with complete disregard for anything even remotely resembling rhythm. A pleasantly short, if rather dirty, woman, who appeared to be upset over the lack of the attention which patrons paid her, was shrieking at the top of her high- pitched voice an approximation of what was supposed to be a tender love song. Various patrons were shouting to one another in order to be heard over the clatter. I began walking toward a seat at the bar as far from the band as possible, but I felt something strange under my feet. It was slippery and spongy at once. Looking down, I saw the floor was covered with a layer of sawdust. I thought this remarkably strange, but any mystery is best pondered over a fine ale, so I continued to the bar. The bar, for our gentle readers who may be unfamiliar with this term, is long counter. The patrons sit on one side, using the counter top as a table, and the bartender stands on the other side pouring drinks, which are kept behind the bar. this particular bar had stools on steel posts bolted to the floor, so I climbed up onto a stool and immediately noted that they were brutally uncomfortable. I had to sit on my legs to reach the counter (which had been made ridiculously high by some obviously incompetent carpenter), and the wooden stool bit into my shins, threatening bruises if I stayed too long in this position. I managed to get a seat at the end of the bar furthest from the "musicians," next to a man (I think) who had apparently passed out long ago. The bartender came over, made one of the customary rude comments regarding my height, to which I made an answer regarding his bald spot, and asked me what I wanted. I ordered an ale. He poured me a mug, and I took a sip of some of the foulest ale this side of Port Tenobar.

As I choked down the putrid liquid, I looked around at the other patrons (by now my eyes had almost fully adjusted to the dim surroundings). There were several women wearing very skimpy outfits, and about a dozen rough- looking men drinking. The men were all particularly dirty, perhaps from one of the nearby mines. One man and woman near me were screaming at each other about something I couldn't quite follow, but they soon went up to a room together. I watched one nasty-looking character spit, not into the provided spittoon, but right on the floor. I suppose the mystery of the sawdust was cleared up at least. I firmly believe that one should never waste a drop of ale, so I forced myself to gag down the entire mug (only once have I been unable to do this, at the unfortunate Port Tenobar incident). One thing I will say for that ale is that it did seem to have a high alcohol content, but I needed something better. Fortunately I always carry a few pints in case of just this sort of situation. The bartender returned to me, seeing the empty mug. I declined his offer for a refill, and asked if the other establishments in town were similar to this one. The man replied that, to his great embarrassment, this is actually one of the quieter, cleaner inns in town. The patrons at the Sovereign were primarily miners, whereas the really lively inns were frequented by soldiers. As he finished telling me this, a shouted conversation between two miners suddenly escalated when one grabbed a chair and smashed it over the head of the other. The companions of each joined in, and soon, the entire tavern was engaged in a brutal brawl. The women seemed as adept as the men at brawling, and the bartender simply looked on. One patron apparently mistook me for a chair and tried to attack his assailant with my head. I dare say that the poor fool will never make THAT mistake again. The constabulary soon arrived, broke up the fight, and demanded that several of the initiators pay for the damage to the inn. My ordeal had tired me greatly, and I needed a place to drink my own ale. From what the bartender had said, this was one of the safest places in town to sleep, so I decided to order a room. I was careful to ask for a private room, which I was forced to pay for by the hour. I probably should have simply slept in the street, for the bed was terribly lumpy and crawling with bugs. Soon after I laid down I had to fight off a mangy young woman who didn't seem to be able to comprehend that I didn't want her services.

In the morning, I simply left this atrocity as soon as I could get myself up (alright, perhaps it was early afternoon, not morning). The inn had gotten steadily louder through the night, so I was able to get much less sleep than I would have liked. I decided to try my luck at another tavern, so I walked over to the Musky Rat Inn. As I was about to open the door, a muscular, but scummy, man crashed through the window hear me, onto the street. He reeked of the same foul ale that the Sovereign had served, and I heard a similar cacophony from within. I wisely decided to turn and leave without a moment's more hesitation. Now that I think about it, except for my splitting headache, leaving Estin was by far the best part about the village.