Saturday, March 31, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 13.

I look up from a hastily-scrawled side-note on the early origins of the pastoralists who once called this region home, as well as a personal note to elaborate upon that history in full at a later time, to see the imposing structure of the alehouse looming much closer.

For what it is worth, the building does seem to have several hallmarks of authenticity to it, both in terms of architecture and upkeep. Both Hraela and I are surprised to find that there are many features to the alehouse consistent with the style of building used by the more southerly and easterly kin-groups of Gertish peoples who, owing to the greater drainage of the broad expanses of relatively sandy land they inhabit, are more given to mixed agriculture than to fishing and more intensive river industries. In fact, Hraela finds herself admitting that it resembles a farmhouse she once saw at Hoehpleg.

Yes, the dense thatch roof has been garishly painted over in a variety of dyes to produce symbols and imagery of wild animals, nonexistent clan lineages, and scenes of battle. And indeed, the crossed beams above the roof's front gable, though accurate, are thickly gilded and shaped like snarling unwelcoming wolf's heads. But the walls, obviously made from wooden boards, have been textured to resemble wattle and daub from a distance, and a pole bearing some sort of potted plant on a rope could serve no other purpose but to indicate the readiness of the proprietress' latest brew. For every stretch of soulless, clueless pandering, there is a very clear indicator of care taken, and of knowledge of the genuine craft and practices. Perhaps it is that sense of compromise and wasted potential that wounds Hraela the most.

At the very least, she has relaxed her grip on her training sword without my needing to bring up that any violent reaction to the farce on her part could, conceivably, be construed as a reinforcement of certain hot-blooded stereotypes "enjoyed" by Gerts in the south.

Beyond the large alehouse structure itself, the accuracy quickly dissipates. Nearby, at another terminus of the joined roads we are rolling over, the actual travel-house and stables stands. It uses far more stone and mortar, its roof is far less steep, and its somewhat boxy nature gives it away as Denerothi in influence. It could easily pass as a chain of residences along the lowest tier of the city, or perhaps a particularly wealthy family's storehouse higher up. Past its prodigious gatehouse I can see several wheeled vehicles and their animals being loaded or unloaded, and there are sounds of carousal between caravan teams and traders almost as loud as those issuing forth from the alehouse itself. A dark beeline of liquid stains the shortest path between both buildings, where countless containers of alcohol have recently been sloshed or spilled during the frantic back-and-forth runs of the servers staffing both locations. It seems we've arrived on an unusually busy day, despite how dead and empty the roads seemed up to this point. I am remound that, for some travelers, the alehouse is as much a destination as it is a stop-off.

As we draw closer to the gate and Elrusyo leaps off of the side of our wagon in order to go about a task which he refers to opaquely as "getting a feel for the place", Ciudo attests to the diversity of patrons. One of our mixed Esgodarran guides asks for the overnight fee in a pronounced "Woodlands" accent, to which one of the men posted at the entrance responds with a hand gesture and an accent indicative of the south-central Ersuut spoken by people from Porylus to Meroth. And when the taskmaster pays for our party's stay in pieces of roughly-hewn electrum, everyone within earshot bursts out in a series of uproarious exclamations and jokes at the expense of the Ivory Tower originating from an eastern Nambarish dialect. I knew I should have petitioned for our budget to be supplied in the form of something more universally acceptable, like tin or lead.

His excitement at the linguistic confluence somewhat distracts me from my fears that we will be targeted for casual assault, robbery, or urination upon University-owned equipment before night's end.

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