The Sage of Shadowdale has something to say about pretty much everything. Despite having outlets in Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Adventures, and Polyhedron Newszine, the Old Mage still has more to say about Faerûn. Not wanting to anger an archmage, we decided it would be best to give him a regular column from which to discuss the finer points.
Listen well, young one . . .
Where Zhents Feel At Home
Travelers who hail from Zhentil Keep, who belong to the Zhentarim or other organizations affiliated with them, or who enjoy the company of the rather fierce inhabitants of the Pride of the North feel most at home at the Meet, a fine if forbidding-looking, inn that stands on the south side of Shind Road just east of the Stagfoot (across from the White Stag). If the traveler considers the two converging roads that form the Stagfoot as making the shape of an arrowhead, it points right at the Meet: the large, dark, square stone building two tall stories in height that boasts spitting gargoyle downspouts at its corners and mock crenellations around the edges of its steeply peaked (and always rusty) metal roof. That roof makes the Meet a noisy place to stay when rain or hail is drumming down, but it's otherwise "a superior inn," in the words of the veteran wool merchant Helauther Windelgrym (NE male human War5), formerly of Zhentil Keep and now a resident of Ordulin, who spends at least a third of every year on the roads.
The Swords Meet was named by its deceased first owner, a retired Zhentil warrior by the name of Naskaler Ormith, for its intended use as a haven away from home for Zhents, who are often treated coldly south of their home city. Though it looks like a fortress on the outside, the Meet is warm and dry, not dank, on the inside thanks to three wood furnaces in the cellar, which is where guests' horses are stabled. The Meet claims to offer the largest and best-appointed stables in Voonlar, and although a glance at the Shield down the road shows that "largest" is certainly a falsehood, "best-appointed" is probably true. There's even a barn and paddock to the west of it for ailing beasts.
To keep stable aromas from making a stay at the Meet overly memorable to the nose, scented oils are burned in hanging lamps in every room. Other lighting is kept low, but the furnishings are luxurious (and if truth be known, plundered from dozens of Sembian hunting lodges and upland mansions in earlier, bloodier times), and the tapestried and rug-strewn passages are very quiet.
The Meet is run by its present owner, Aerel Hassammar, a grim wolf of a man (LN male human War4) who is brutal but fair to his staff of seemingly scores of hurrying chamberservants who are encouraged to be as friendly as guests want them to be and remain almost unseen by all others, flitting into rooms like silent shadows to see to everything with lightning speed.
Hassammar's inn offers guests double sets of lockable doors on all suites. These make the suites private and give occupants warning before the staff -- who all have passkeys -- enter. (The passkeys are things that, travelers should be warned, often go missing. Ambitious guests down through the years have stolen dozens of them, and the locks are never changed.) Inside each suite are at least two beds, a hip bath or better, scented washing water, and a water-sluice jakes.
Read the previous Elminster Speaks column or go to the Forgotten Realms main news page for more articles and news about the Forgotten Realms game setting.