“Welcome to Zelkor’s Ferry. I hope the captain didn’t question you too hard at the gate. You may be a person bent on finding an adventure, but you don’t look like a troublemaker to me.” The woman’s blue eyes seem to twinkle as she smiles at you. Her light brown hair is beginning to show some grey, but her arms look strong where she has pushed up the sleeves of her brown dress. “If it’s adventure you want, let me tell you, you’ve come to the right place. Although we hold our own here, this area can by no means be considered safe and there’s plenty for a brave soul to find and do.
“I’m Amelia, and my husband and I are the proprietors of Bristleback Inn. It’s been in my husband’s family for several generations.” She leads you into the building’s common room and continues. “A room with your board is one gold piece a night… Thank you very much. The stable is just next door and stabling for a horse or mule is one silver piece. Anything more exotic than that and you’ll have to ask Bristleback; we own the stable, too. The two fellows out there, Vort and Igor, are both decent folk and will take good care of any of your animals.”
Amelia turns to survey the room, and you take a look around also. The
inn’s low-ceilinged common room is really nothing special, but out here so far from civilization it seems to have all the comforts of home. The tables are well-worn, but also well-scrubbed. In fact, a teen-aged girl with hair the color of honey is engaged in scrubbing one right now. “Don’t forget the sides, Ysbel,” Amelia says to her. The slender girl looks up at the comment, flashes a shy smile when she sees you looking at her, and then goes back to her work.
The shutters are open to let in some fresh air, and at the far end of the room a small fire burns in the fireplace as an old man snoozes in a chair nearby. Lamps are set into brackets high on the walls, to provide the most light in the evenings and also keep them out of the way of clumsy patrons. The bar is on the other side of you, before the stairs; it is supplied with a couple of kegs, and a row of pottery mugs hung on pegs on the wall. The treads on the stairs are worn in the centers, and you can see that anyone of much height will need to duck on the way up to avoid an inconvenient beam.
A door opens between the bar and the stairs, and another woman enters carrying two sealed bottles. The woman has skin the golden-brown color of good ale; her eyes are deeper brown, and she wears her black hair pulled up into a loose knot at the back of her head. “Amelia, the cook brought these up from the cellar and told me we’ll be needin’ them in here.”
Amelia nods. “I heard Bristleback tell Gumbel last night to get some more bottles up here today. Just put them in the rack under the counter, Tallie.” The woman does as instructed, than straightens to look at you. Amelia introduces her. “This is Tallie, one of our serving women. She and Ysbel stay plenty busy around here, but feel free to ask them if you need something and I’m not around.”
Suddenly from behind the door you hear a man’s voice, rather muffled, calling “Tallie!”
“That Gumbel!” she exclaims, and rolls her eyes. “I’m coming! Keep yer britches on,” she calls, then disappears again behind the door.
Amelia gives one last satisfied look at the room, then turns to you. “I need to get out back and weed the vegetables or pretty soon we aren’t going to be able to find the food for the weeds. The privies are around back to the left; the kitchen garden is to the right. If you end up around that way by mistake, watch your step because I don’t want anyone trampling on my garden. You ought to take a look around and chat with some of the people here; I’m sure several of them have things to tell you about their own experiences in this area, things that might help keep you alive when you head out looking for your destiny.” With that parting remark, Amelia also disappears through the door to the kitchen and leaves you alone.
You’re not quite alone, though, as you realize when a soft voice interrupts your thoughts. “Pardon me.” It’s the young maid; Ysbel, that was her name. She’s now working on a table nearer you, and lays down her small scrubbing brush when you turn.
“I couldn’t help but hear what Amelia said about people having things to tell you. I know someone who tells amazing stories! Some of them may even be true.” She gestures to the old man sitting in the corner by the fireplace and continues. “That’s old Russ. He’s Amelia’s grandpappy, and to hear him tell it, he may have tamed this whole area single-handedly when he was young. There’s no doubt his stories are interesting, though they might not be helpful to you. Let me just get his attention.”