Last Inn on the Long Road North
The dense canopy of the forest thinned out about fifteen minutes ago. Up ahead, the dark shadows of a cluster of buildings stood out against the sunset and fields beyond. The caravan driver eased the horses into a slower pace. A stone wall - in a bit of disrepair - started along the side of the road. Closer to the buildings, someone had brought the wall back into alignment. An open gate in the wall beckoned to the caravan.
We had been on the road for fourteen days. On the first leg of our trip, we drove hard through the K'hala Swamps until we hit the forest. Then it was just a matter of making it to each forest village to rest the horses at proper intervals. Most stops had a quaint farmhouse or Inn. Access to a few beds let us stretch out for the night instead of sleeping on the ground. This Inn was the last stop before the caravan made it to its destination, Etonia.
A metal sign hung by the road. An elegant lion on the sign welcomed visitors to the Red Lion Inn. The caravan wagons turned one by one into the gate and pulled around the main building to the stable. Caravans come through here every few weeks. Charley, the lead driver of our caravan, said he made the trip from the South at least 17 times. To the left of the stable was a long building with three covered sides. Carts and wagons squeezed in side by side to keep out of the heavy seasonal rains. The Inn adapted to meet the needs of the caravans. My partners and I grabbed our gear. As we settled our packs on our shoulders, a young woman came up to us.
Welcome to the Red Lion Inn
I'm Ivy. Will you all be looking for a bed tonight?" We nodded. "Excellent!" She continued, "It is much better in the house than staying out here with the wagons or the horses!" She clasped her hands and guided us to the main house's front door.
The front room had a long desk and low lighting. Inside the air was cool. Smells of stews and baked goods flowed from a kitchen in the back. A large common room was to the left, through a set of pocket doors. The sound of vibrant conversations and dishes scraping from hartily eaten meals filled the space. Three barrels of ale lined the wall behind the front desk. The innkeeper, Yerik, greeted us and offered a drink. "It's not Thorngage Ale but has a pleasant taste and is locally made. So, will you be staying for one night until the caravan leaves in the morning?"
"No, we were hoping to stay a few days. We understand there are ruins nearby from the Zhab Heel dynasty. We would like a private room and time to study the history of the ruins." Before I finished, Yerik was making notes.
He rattled off a series of questions. "Is a bed for all three of you suitable, or do you need individual accommodations? Are you interested in 2 meals a day or 3? Do you have any food allergies? Do you want a room with a bath?"
I interrupted him, "I don't know that we can afford a room with private plumbing. We only need one bed and two meals."
His smile was infectious, "Oh no, don't worry. It is a mere two gold coins a day for the works! You are about to be properly welcomed to Etonia. The council has established the Wizard Network to bring magic into daily life. With a bit of that magic, you'll be staying in the best room of your trip. I'll need 10 minutes to set up a room. While you wait, make yourselves comfortable in the common room." He headed up an open stairway with a landing then another set of stairs to the second floor. We shrugged. Two gold a day was not a bad price.
The Great Room and the Patrons
We headed into the common room. It was busy. A group of miners sat around a long table, busy talking about the Everst Silver they would be hauling back to Etonia. Another group of travelers were boasting about the Etonia Fish and Biscuit Rally. They insisted on performing a few acts. They were a little over the top, but it was entertaining. A blacksmith and some other locals had claimed a table by a window. The fireplace warmed the room and kept a constant crackle in the background. Ivy served us a plate of cheese and bread.
As Yerik returned from the second floor, another group entered the Inn. Blast, it was Bartholomew and three others from Coral Gate.
They must have come via ship through the Bay of Claws, docked at Etonia, and traveled the day to the Inn. We heard Yerik give his pitch and end with "make yourselves comfortable in the common room." I got everyone up. We exchanged glares as Bartholomew passed.
Yerik saved the day by saying, "I can take you to your room now." His eyes lingered on a woman with Bartholomew for a moment as well. She gave Yerick a nearly imperceptible shrug. Keys dangled from his hand, so we followed him up the stairs.
A long hallway of doors ran the length of the building. It was a little disconcerting; the doors were set right beside each other. "These look like awful small rooms, Yerik," I commented. I couldn't cover up the concern in my voice.
"Oh no, they are extradimensional spaces. Here is your room. Third door on the right." He unlocked the door and handed us the keys. "Press the sigil on the key and recite the allowed occupants' names. I configured a common room, three bedrooms, and a private bath. Let me know if you need anything. I'll leave you to get settled."
A large common room with two tables and a cabinet stocked with wine, bread, and ale awaited us inside. Three doors on the right and back walls led to private bedrooms. The bed looked comfortable. A small chest sat by the foot of each bed. The door on the left opened into a bathroom that included a tub and several caldrons of hot water. A separate space in the back held a privy.
This is more magic in one night than most people in the South see during their entire lives. The knowledge of the world resides in the South. The most powerful mages and schools have a presence in every city. Their power is not shared like this. I sat at the table in the central room, contemplating our mission. They say traveling through forest on the long road North changes you. I wondered about the futility of gathering artifacts and returning them to the South. They would be locked away forever save for a few powerful people - who would only use them to secure their power further.
Uncovering a Plot
Everyone else was getting settled or using the bath. I wondered back down to the common room, to clear my head. Yerik was sorting through a wide collection of mushrooms and talking with a woman about the environmental impact of the wall. "I think it should probably come down then. Oh, Vlad. Join us." He mentioned me over to the desk.
Yerick introduced his friend, "This is Dee. She has been doing an impact study of the Inn on the forest. If you need someone to get you around the ruins she is your best bet."
I wasn't sure what that was but it looked like she was a scout or tracker type so I took his recommendation. "Yes, we can offer compensation. Would you be available as soon as tomorrow?"
"Is doable." She replied. "I'll be here for breakfast if you want to discuss a plan."
I thanked her and Yerick then headed into the common room. There was a nice fireplace with rocking chairs that looked like a cozy place to relax. There were some pamphlets on a table. "Red Lion Inn, a quiet and inviting retreat." They listed a game night. There was a post-harvest festival and artisan show "showcasing homemade talent" every year. Looks like the food comes from a cluster of local farms and maybe what can be gathered in the forest . I looked back over at the front desk.
The woman that had been with Bartholomew earlier, came down the steps. She signed something to Yerick as she left. I think they were keeping an eye on old Bartie - that might make my job easier or maybe harder if there is a third group after the artifacts. I settled back into the chair. My instincts hadn't let me down. Maybe now I could get some rest.
World Anvil's 2022 Adventure April is complete! My 2022 tabletop role-playing game one-shot adventure starts at the Red Lion Inn featured in this article and continues Vlad's story. Join my Patron's Ardelis Arrows Tier to get in on the action. Be ready for the next Adventure April by joining my newsletter or following my world:
It is suspected that the original owner selected the location of the Inn due to its proximity to a source of stone and that it was about a day's ride out of Etonia. A wealthy businessman from the south by the name of Kaltreider, he constructed several buildings nearby to make this an outpost separate from society and self sufficient. The local mill, stables, orchard, and several homes retain the same architectural features as the Inn. The details are lost to time as the buildings are estimated to be nearly one hundred years old.
There are no buildings in Etonia of this age so it is likely the Inn was around when Etonia was not much more than a seasonal fishing camp. Nearby ruins, several hundred years old provided the high quality bricks and stone for the buildings. Thick stone walls, patios, and slate roofs kept the structures intact through the wet springs, heat of the summer, and bitter winters.
The barn is set into a earthen embankment so the stables are the ground level and the first floor can be accessed around the back of the barn by walking up the embankment. The first floor stored hay, grain, equipment, and other supplies for the compound. This structure was also fashioned from the stone bricks of the ruins and has a slate roof. Wooden Slats near the roof open to allow air flow
Two privies and the wagon shed are more recent construction. It is clear that the craftsmanship of the original construction could not be matched but an attempt was made to duplicate appearance with the stone brick walls and slate roofs. More wood was used in the framing and needs to be maintained frequently.
- Yerik - Innkeeper/Bartender/Owner
- Ivy - Hostess/Server
- Ford - Server
- Brooke - Cook
- Eliza - Brewer
- Taylan - Stablehand
- Maya - Groundskeeper
Fruit (seasonal), Croissant, or Muffin
Baked Eggs or Pancakes
*served with tea
*turnovers, mini-muffins, fruit custard
Meat Pie (half portion)
*served with tea
Roast Venison or Roast Vegetable Plater
*wheel of cheese available upon request
*served with tea, ale, or mead