The Tavern and Gambling Den at the Sign of the Squandering Snail
Written by Fraser Ronald
Maps and Illustrations by Dean Martin
The Tavern at the sign of the Squandering Snail
The dim light of a few candles is all that illuminates this area. The shutters are always closed. Few who frequent this establishment wish eyes upon them. Smoke infuses the atmosphere. The few round tables and the chairs around them have seen too many patrons and too many years. Cracked, chipped and gouged, they serve their purpose but little else.
Against the far wall, opposite the main doors, runs the bar. It is uneven, lower to its left, a fact apparent when looking at it from across the room. Still, it is even enough to stand at, and the tilt does nothing to disturb the tankards atop it.
A door is set into the wall beside the bar and a stairwell beside this door leads up.
The tavern is not Murnac’s main focus. It’s always second on his list of priorities, and if it weren’t attached—physically—to the gaming hall, he would likely sell it. Still, it nets him some small profit, and he can’t argue with that. Strangely enough, Murnac places his most trustworthy and competent staff in the tavern. This is because he visits the tavern so rarely and the workers are without any real supervision.
Dunchad will be at the bar in the tavern from about noon until well after midnight. While he occasionally leaves the tavern for errands, he is a constant most evenings. If the tavern is at all comfortable or at least not uncomfortable, this is due to Dunchad. He uses his carpentry skills on slow days. The beer and ale served here is not the worst in the Temples, and is certainly palatable given its cost.
The food in the tavern is limited. In the morning, meaning from the first bell of the new day until the fourth bell, porridge and bread are available. A bowl of porridge and a slab of crusty bread costs 2 dublings (cp). After four bells, the menu becomes more varied. One can have a bowl of stew and bread, a slab of cheese and bread, or a slab of meat and bread. These gastronomic threats will set the customer back a hefty 5 dublings (cp).
A mug of beer or ale is 1 dubling (cp). A pitcher of the detestable wine available is 4 dubling (cp). The beer and ale is better than the wine, though few patrons of the Snail are connoisseurs of the finer things in life.
The Tavern Kitchen
Between the oil lanterns ensconced on the walls and the fire in the great hearth, this room is both well-lit and extremely hot. Atop the fire is a cauldron, steam rising from it, as is the scent of meat stew. A long, wood table dominates the center of the room. There is little room in which to manoeuvre around it. Beneath it are stacks of pots, mostly iron, and bowls, mostly wood.
Tathan works here, alone. She will not abide interference in her kitchen. No one ever bothers her there. She works all day long and at night, she disappears into the Temples. She doesn’t speak to anyone except Dunchad, and then only in short, terse sentences.
The Guest Rooms
This room is small and dank. Its windows are covered in a thin layer of oiled skin, tattered and torn, letting in filtered light and offering some privacy. The wood shutters hang on leather hinges. A single bed with a straw-filled mattress abuts one wall while a small chest sits against the other.
These rooms are intended to be rented for nights. They were intended for travellers. They’ve become something else. Most of the time they are rented for an hour or two. While the bed gets messed, people don’t usually sleep in them. The cost for renting a room is 10 princes (sp) per night, though they can be rented for 3 princes (sp) per hour.
The Interior Guest Room
This room boasts stone walls though no windows. Oil lamps at either end light the cramped room, which offers only a small bed and a foot locker. The mattress, though, is filled with goose feathers and there is a clean wool blanket atop the dingy sheets.
This is the one guest room regularly used for its intended purpose. Due to its stout walls and relative assurance of safety, it is one of the few rooms in the Temples travellers or those required to stay the night in the area regularly hire.
Due to the higher quality and utility of the Interior Guest Room, it runs at 15 princes (sp) per night. It isn’t rented by the hour. If it looks like the hirer can afford it, Dunchad or Murnac will try to run him for a wren (1 sovereign or gp)
This is the dry storage room. The walls are lined with shelves on which sit bags of grain. Barrels fill the centre of the room. They are each marked as beer, meat or fish. Stacked atop the barrels are amphora.
In the southeast corner, there is a wood plank door on the ground with a simple, rope knob.
The wood plank door in the southeast corner covers the stairs down to the basement. The amphora are filled with wine. The meat and fish in the barrels are salted and stored in brine.
The Gambling Den at the sign of the Squandering Snail
Double doors lead into this round hall, with a ceiling some three stories above and balconies overlooking it both from the second and third floors. A collection of round tables, each with a half-moon sized section removed, cover the area. Around each table are a few chairs. At the half-moon section is a man. At some tables, the man holds playing cards, at others he gathers up and hands back thrown dice.
Against the east wall is a bar, curved along the wall, presenting a crescent. Behind it is a door. Across from the bar, a set of stairs lead up, following the curvature of the wall. At the far south end of the room is another door.
Though not the largest gaming establishment in the Temples, the gambling den at the Sign of the Squandering Snails is certainly one of the most unique. Unlike the tavern, the walls of the gambling den are wood.
The gambling here is usually fair. It isn’t necessary to cheat, most times. There are always five hulking guards moving around the room and two more at the main door. Cheating the house will get one beaten within an inch of one’s life (basically, they’ll try to beat an individual to -1, though sometimes mistakes do happen). If a cheater is caught a second time, they are killed and dumped in the alley. In the morning, Murnac will report the suspicious death to the authorities, who will come and collect the bodies, ask questions and threaten Murnac.
Should someone who obviously doesn’t belong enter the gambling den, for example someone who appears to be wealthy—maybe a slumming aristocrat, a young thrill-seeker—Murnac will politely warn them that this is a very rough area and that they might want to move along. If they remain, Murnac will detail one of the thugs (whoops, I mean guards) to watch over the wealthy patron. If a wealthy patron cheats, they will be held and the authorities called. Murnac doesn’t want any trouble with the duke, so in these instances, he scrupulously plays by the rules, including laying a charge and going to court. Murnac even has an advocate on his payroll for just such occasions.
The gambling den offers the same selection of drinks as the tavern, but they cost 1 dubling (cp) more. They taste no different and their quality does not improve when they are served in the gambling den. For food, there are only sweetmeats (basically, organs of small animals, like weasel intestine or fox liver) and pastries (thin bread with sugar). Either cost 5 dublings (cp), the same price as a meal at the tavern.
The Kitchen at the Gambling Den
This large room has worktables lining the walls. The work tables are lined with canisters and jugs. In the centre of the room, a great fire burns in a stone housing. Above the fire is an oven. Smoke rises up past the oven, through a set of grills, and along to the chimney. The design is quite ingenious.
This kitchen rarely sees the amount of activity seen in the tavern’s kitchen, but oddly enough, it has a much larger workspace. The only thing regularly prepared here are sweetmeats and pastries. Often, Tathan comes here in the morning to bake bread for the tavern, and she will help to prepare the pastries, though she will not spend her day here, preferring to work in the smaller though more familiar confines of the tavern kitchen. During the day, the barmaids working at the gambling den will work here, preparing whatever foods are requested.
This is the only room with stone walls in the gambling den. It has a single window with waxed skin and shutters. This allows in some light while protecting the occupant’s privacy. A single desk is set against the south wall with a single chair. A strong box sits beside it. Along the walls are shelves which hold ledgers.
This is Murnac’s office. In easy reach, under the desk, is a short sword. In the desk are a collection of knives, a bottle of good whiskey, a deed to the gambling den and tavern which was the first job Murnac had his advocate complete. Other than that, the other papers and documents on the desk are beyond Murnac’s comprehension. He does not read. The ledgers on the shelves are from before Murnac’s time. He doesn’t really keep records.
This room is spacious, with a single, round table in its centre surrounded by six simple chairs. Against the far wall is a sidetable on which sits two decks of cards and a collection of dice. Candle holders line the walls and torch sconces flank the door.
The Gambling Rooms can be rented for private games. If they are rented, for the minuscule fee of 5 princes (sp), one of the gamesmen from the gambling den can conduct the game. A constant flow of the Snail’s sub-standard brew or wine is part of the rental price of 10 princes (sp) per night. Of course, if one would like something a little better, it can be provided—at an additional cost, of course. Further, for the low, low price of 2 princes (sp) per night, a guard can be assigned to guard the door from the inside or out. Three guards come at the special rate of 5 princes (sp). What a bargain!