At the sign of the drunken goose by Chiara Cadrich
Summary: Horor and humor tales from the Inn. New : an adult tale from Umbar.
Categories: Fiction Characters: None
Content: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 25 Completed: No Word count: 61462 Read: 9428 Published: October 16, 2015 Updated: September 29, 2018
Welcome at the Inn by Chiara Cadrich
- "Good evening, my good fellow! My companions and I are looking for an inn for tonight. Could you tell us..."

The gaunt farmer interrupts his work. Resting his hoe for a moment, he painfully straightens, casts a frightened glance at the rider and, lifting his cold-shivering finger, points at the cobbled road without saying a word.

A wide and short gossip, ruddy and shyless, empties her basket of onions in her cart and puts her thick eyeglasses on. After a carefull inspection, she hails the conveyor:

- "Stride along the King’s cobblestones. On Castle square, no possible mistake, you’ll find for sure. "

The captain of the company, somehow abashed, nods a thank and leads his caravan of overloaded and exhausted mules. Soon the road runs on a well-kept pavement along Thalion’s first huts, from which emerge disheveled poor devils in the midst of sheep. The convoy passes under a wooden porch and enters the town proper, protected by a high fence on a ridge. Climbing the slope in the middle of cottages and workshops, they reach the square, lined with the only real town houses.

The riders stop over, seeking the inn.

The facades of the square houses display their past pomp. Engineered beams are maintained with makeshift dyes. The tailor’s storefront exposes some spruce dresses but his workshop hardly sells utility clothes; to survive the owner's great-grandfather also had to improvise weaver, but the current tailor jealously keeps the expertise of his predecessors. The apothecary once sold subtle imported compositions from Harad. Now the herbalist survives distilling remedies and perfumes himself, with local products. Times are tough but Thalion’s craftsmen retain, as a talisman ennobling their days, the memory of past glories and the know-how of their ancestors.
Northward, an imposing building of fair stones and red brick borders the square with its powerful slender facade. The castle of Thalion, once the summer residence of the kings of Tharbad, still casts a protective aura.

Gregarious, the mules have stopped in the center of castle square, tight like a flock shivering at the approach of night. No hostel! Yet it is time to find shelter. Twilight clears its bright colors one by one, still blazing for a few moments with warm and caring tones.

-« No possible mistake… ! », mutters the disappointed leader. The former captain is in charge of a few mules, three fighters and precious commodities to be sold on the greenway. He must make a decision quickly. He hesitates for a few moments, when the oak castle gates open noisily:

- "Hear ye, Hear ye! Good pilgrims conveying from Far South!"

A figure in livery advances, brandishing a lantern on the porch of the castle. The character, lanky and dignified, harangues the surprised traders with histrionics:

- "In quest for bellydrench, hearth roaring or sack hitting? The sign at the Drunken Goose regally accommodates riders and their mounts! Right this way, my lords! 1 "

The man, dressed with a jabot, multiplies the bows, his lantern held up at arm, while praising the establishment with the distinction of a butler:

- "The castle’s estables may cater for thy mounts, arroy and cargo in our faithful guard. Shalt thou aucthorise thy guidance up to thy dormitory? 2 "

The numb understanding of the caravan captain finally lights up with a flash of lucidity: the hostel is housed within the castle walls! The talkative and sententious bailiff is none other than the inn’s doorman. With an anguished doubt as to the rates of the institution, he reluctantly gives the order to proceed to the porch, lit by the crepuscular rays.

The porter - who despite his nice outfit, is also the groom, waiter, room boy, butler and handyman - encourages the riders by clever allusions to the comfort of Thalion’s castle, former royal residence within the famous town fair... with the dignity of a noble house herald, he leads the guests to the stables in the light of his lantern.

In a corner a sow wallows, surrounded by a dozen fighting piglets. Two lean cows, dowagers of the house, lazily chew their hay, next to two donkeys and a huge draft horse. The stable boy lodges the mules and horses in large stalls, souvenir of the royal stables. After helping the travelers to unload their bales in a shed, he entrust the key to them and without giving them time to negotiate the rates, he leads them into the yard and into the main building.


The travelers enter the old keep, after a flight of worn pink marble steps, by antique double doors of immaculate black wood, speckled with fine silver stars arranged in a circle.

- "Welcome under the Sign of the Drunken Goose!"

A huge blond guy welcomes the travelers, behind his bar resting on a half-dozen barrels of beer. The man tries to put on a fair face but the scar that disfigures the left side of his jaw would scare a goblin, despite his shrewd gaze. The former captain knows to gauge men of war. The worn white shirt of the tenant, surprisingly cut, betrays a distant lands’ adventurer. They exchange a short military nod and the householder, resigned and lucid, tells with a kind gesture:

-"Master Gigolet will take care of you! Welcome!"

The huge room extends under four vaults, all of which are based on the same central pillar of pink sandstone. Massive candelabra light the center of the room. Candles burn off a tallow smell and black smoke, in addition to the thick fumes from the enormous fireplace with a poor draw. Large logs end up burning under a pin topped with a sheep oozing its fat and sizzling pleasantly smelling promises.

The porter - Master Gigolet – approaches the captain, with the obsequious and competent air of a palace bailiff:

- "Well came home! 3 Messer Finran, sire of the Sign at the Drunken Goose, makes thy Lordship aware thy pouches be hoisted up to thy barracks. The company, seated in the vast hall of the hosts of said tavern, would delightly swoon to be told thy exploits and deeds from distant baronies by mouth of such distinguished travelers."

The distinguished travelers exchange incredulous looks:

- "He said what?"

They had been assured that along the greenway, they would be able to make themselves understood with westron. The captain, coming from the minor nobility of Imloth Melui, has got some letters in Dúnadan tongue. He explains to his comrades that their luggage was brought to their room, and the guests would love to hear some news from the South.

To tell the truth, the approximate syntax and pompous turns of the usher, make poor justice to the Sindarin tongue that once flourished at the court of Tharbad. Yet master Gigolet does his best to perpetuate the memory of a sophisticated time, but his ancient vocabulary and noble-like expressions produce a mixed impression on the travelers. The captain thinks he’s hearing an offspring of a kitchen boy, aping the manners of the castle nobility in its heyday. But he wonders how much can the food and shelter cost, so coated with precious and adulterated verbiage. Thus he seeks to cut short:

- "You are very urban, master Gigolet. We are tired and should bed after a quick and light meal."

The smooth and emotionless face of the stilted butler yet lets out a disapproving eyebrow thrill:

- "Thy Lordship, do thou allowest the home-legislating courteous charter be told?

- He said what?

- I think he wants to state the rules of the hostel."
The caravan leader represses a temper of his three colleagues, who expect some rogue craftiness:

- "Do, master bailiff, we are listening carefully.

- Coins be of good Kings’ alloy. Shame and discourtesy oblige winasse punishment for whole hall. Specious business be mended in alcoves out of Great Hall. Good feeding be halved, for him narrating a tale of nice outfit, for her singing a lay or gigue dancing, over the approval of our hall. May fresh ale offset truthful news – But behold bashing fibs!"

The dazed travelers are not sure they understand. The captain translates the best he can:

"Counterfeit money is denied. We must behave, otherwise pay a drink for everybody. Uh... no trade in the common room. The meals are half price for anyone who tells a great story, uh… or sings or dances, for the company in the great hall. And the drinks are free to anyone who provides for real news!

- But why so? Whence come stories, songs, dances and girls? Have we fallen into a shanty? ", objects a traveler suspiciously and threateningly towards the poor butler, who struggles to maintain decorum.
His colleague – who may not be the brightest fellow – would fancy some free pints, but he suspects some commercial trickery:

-"What is this place all about, Captain? This ale thing isn’t quite clear…"

The usher tries to maintain his dignified manners but his indignation overwhelms his temper:

- "Messer Finran is infastuated with enscripted tales. His hostellery, cheekily and prolixly renowned, is attended by worthy gaulters 4 telling chosen lays. At vespers, Thalion’s frank community moots around a warm blaze and fallacious or thruthfull tales. Elders meditate in remembrance, petties raise in letters. The tales of our glorious past lull the nocturnal fears and firm up our brotherhood. No gaiety girl around!"

The captain, wishing to avoid any annoying incident, still laboriously assumes the translation:

- "Master Finran likes litterature… uh… which is books. He attracts every able-minded around to tell good stories in his inn. Every evening, Thalion’s free men gather around a good fire and tales, fictions or true news. Old people tell their souvenirs, children learn to read. He says that sharing their glorious history strengthens team and undertaking spirit. Well well… it seems a bit strange but I think this inn is respectable."

The former captain understands why bind the community together. But Thalion’s literate gatherings leave the chief caravan merchant, quite unmoved. He has not travelled two hundred leagues through Rohan and Dunland to tease the muses. His duty is to lead commercial transactions.

The good usher sighs – here is another band of uncultivated swordsmen and venal traders, who must be circumvented the proper way! He softens his syntax while adding in a more confidential tone:

-"If you come here, as I believe, for some commercial business, weaving bonds with local traders might prove useful. Many are present tonight, as every evening."

Reluctant, the captain thinks hard. He checks his purse. After all, having their meal at the common room would fit his finances. With a downcast mustache and low shoulders, they are slowly heading to the grand hall when the usher adds:

- "The custom recommends our guests to take on their best humor before appearing in the great hall!"

The four men waddle while wringing their hands and elbowing to remain at the rearguard. Their smiles wrinkle when the travelers discover their public.

Two or three dozens bourgeois and farmers observe them with gentleness and interest. Peasants with breeches placidly joke with several craftsmen, recognisable thanks to the tools hanging at their belt. A handful city-dwellers, with sober and a bit worn dresses, converse meaningfully in a low voice. Most remain standing up, warming in front of the hearth, a beer pint in hand. Dignified and cordial, all obviously live in the village or nearby, and are not ashamed of staring at the travelers with curiosity.

A little further away, three Dwarves eat silently - which is without pronouncing any word, but the ustensils, their chewing and their swallowing, without forgetting their belches of satisfaction, make as much noise as a forging mill in full activity! It seems the dwarves pay full price for their peaceful meal…

A watchful silence settles when the travelers come in. The looks, most friendly, some a bit derisive, converge towards the caravan chief who sighs with resignation. His stooges shine neither by the academicism of their rhetoric, nor by the correctness of their song. And as for dancing, better not think of it… the loyalty and courage of his comrades show only a weapon in their hand.

-"You are the chief…" seem to say their elusive looks.
Overcoming an unpleasant cold sweat and a strange sensation of knotted stomach, the caravan captain commands an ale, recollects his memories about a Harlond boatman song, and here he goes… 5


Now you know why, at the Sign of the Drunken Goose, tales are nurtured, news are reported and these who wield them are welcome. Master Gigolet and Sire Finran are collecting some of these tales in the next chapters.
See thou soon !

End Notes:
1 Are you looking for dinner, fireside and bed? The inn at the Drunken Goose royally accommodates riders and their mounts! This way, Gentlemen!
2 The castle stables will shelter your mounts, their equipment and loads, safely guarded. May I show you your room?
3 Welcome
4 From Galtier, joke-teller
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