Slice of Silverymoon
By Chesmyr Morrowynd
(as told to Ed Greenwood)
I've got more to cover here, and you'd best listen. Time enough later
for letting your thoughts wander.
is a working neighborhood, where visitors who come to the Market can,
for a few coins, stable beasts or store wares down in the cellars of the
old, closely-huddled houses. Nearly all of these byres are stone-lined
and plentifully equipped with rushes underfoot, high overhead racks of
hay for the beasts (wherein many things can be swiftly hidden from unwanted
eyes, mind), and water-troughs filled down long gurgle-pipes from roof
rain-cisterns in all but the months of ice.
of these cellars are sunk a good 6 feet down from the street and are reached
down wooden crossbar-shod-against-slipping ramps. Arched windows (usually
open gaps that can be closed off with shutters in harsh weather, but lack
glass panes) in the upper cellar walls open directly into the street at
time of day or night such places are guarded by armed cellar-guards (often
sons or lackcoin kin of the owners of the buildings above), each of whom
passes time talking and gambling with a friendly cluster of "lantern
lasses" (fetch-and-carry boys or girls, who, for a copper, can lead
outlanders through the streets to desired destinations). Try to rob such
a place, and the younglings'll scatter and call for "the Rods,"
at about the same time as all the cellar-guards around blow their horns
for the same reason.
the Rods are new to Silverymoon, but they are also old and familiar. That
is, there've been watch patrols for as long as I've been breathing, but
the nickname "Rods" (given to them for the black metal skull-crushing
short-staves they bear, that are tipped at both ends with little candle-cages
that can be lit to make torches that give poor light but can also scorch
writings onto walls and cobbles -- or burn some drunkard's face or hair
right proper, too) is new, and so is the composition of these patrols.
to see six or seven leather-clad, armed men (there're a few maids, but
mostly the Rods are men) who wear gorgets and bracers stamped with a simplified
silver moon badge of the city (and that bear some sort of enchantment,
mind, that lets them be traced from afar by Spellguard mages; I'm told
they glow a faint but pretty blue when such magic is awake). There's stiff
justice (imprisonment and mind-reading by one of those wizards, plus at
least a lashing, and probably more justice, if he finds something ill
in your intent or doings while rummaging around in your memories) for
stealing Rods weaponry or regalia, or impersonating a Rod.
patrol is led by a Knight in Silver and always includes at least one other
Knight; if they want to impress, are in a bad mood, or are in the throes
of a personal laundry shortage, they'll be in full armor. With them will
be a few militia "jacks" in training, and probably some "oldswords"
(wounded or down-on-their-luck adventurers who've hired on for the coins
-- and passed regular sessions of Spellguard mind-reading). If a patrol
goes out expecting trouble, a Spellguard mage or even two may also come
along, with perhaps another two to four swift lads who can climb and run
got the idea by now that Silverymoon is a place that sees little trouble
because only fools try to start any, you've been listening and I've been
saying some of the right things. Want to be bad? Abuse folks in the college,
guild, or whatever you belong to, behind closed doors where the Rods won't
be called. An outlander in a hurry to taste trouble? Attend a revel, wait
for folk to get drunk, and then get up to tricks. Fortunately for folk
like me, the highnoses and lowgowns who throw revels don't dwell in Hollowhar
-- or visit it at all, unless they're up to some whisper-secrets game
every outlander asks what that naming means. Whisper-secrets -- some are
elaborate pranks, some are initiations, some are swindles of rich and
gullible merchants, and some are lovers' trysts.
Silvaeren are by and large clever, learned folk -- and if they're not
gripped by crafting things or songs or new ideas to set Faerûn afire (literally,
in some cases!), they grow bored. So some of them devise games that consist
of what Waterdhavians might scornfully call "scavenger hunts,"
or "find the masked fox" or "follow the cryptic clues"
across the city -- and sometimes the little riddles and fanciful descriptions
lead or mislead players in such games into Hollowhar. Not often, but frequently
enough that I've grown used to seeing masked lasses climbing past my window
on warm starry nights, or mistakenly whispering catch-phrases and passwords
to me in the dark. Sometimes, of course, I play along; you've no idea
what fun it can be to misdirect a dozen wealthy young things of an evening,
and watch them all blunder into each other or into accosting the wrong
(and quite bewildered) outlander or self-important merchant.
more, but then I'd be forced to claim the Red-Eyed Eel from you, or warn
you that the Black Lady Passes, or that Four Candles Burn . . . and I'd
hate to see you get that bewildered look or run to the Rods or a Spellguard
mage with dire warnings that'll only bring us both headaches.
the cellars, most houses in Hollowhar have a balcony room that holds a
shop, and two or three floors of dwelling-space above that. This is a
neighborhood of carvers, who from bone, beast-tooth, or wood fashion the
harps, tool and knife handles, combs, flutes, bowls, hand-coffers, gaming
boards and pieces, and hundreds of other little things that folk who love
beauty like to see adorned. Some merchant societies in Amn and Tethyr
even come here to have little trade-tokens carved for them (whimsies in
gemstones or shell that they can use privately to mean "you owe me
three castles or six ships or seven hundred thousand gold pieces"
or whatever). I've seen their agents come skulking, all in silks and bristling
with blades and enchanted weapons and menacing glares, to pick up the
finished orders from the complicated little locked hiding-places most
carvers arrange in their dwellings to frustrate thieves.
seldom hang out signboards, advertise where they live, or invite clients
into their homes. More often, clients come to the local "shraehouses"
(places that would be called taverns if they were larger) and ask for
them, and local lantern lasses go and fetch whoever's asked for, or whoever
else they think will do if the one asked for isn't to be found. Carvers'
business is most often done over flagons in the shraehouses.
carvers live above -- with the exception of Vrelda's and the Hawkroost,
of which more anon -- and the shops bustle below.
balconies typically thrust out over the street some 6 to 9 feet and are
festooned with awnings, windows that can be propped open to let air in,
and an abundance of herbs and beautiful trailing floral plants that hang
down and perfume the street. Small, curving staircases carved with delightful
dragon-head, fanciful "never-goyles" (that is, grotesquely cute
gargoyle-like creatures one will never see in nature), and flowing,
spindle-spired banisters link the street with the shops; larger and plainer
rear stairs ascend from the cellars to all levels of the building above.
Tasteful signboards (the local fashion is to elaborately-intertwined,
elven-style flowing lettering, all curves and curlicues and cutouts that
seem to have flowed naturally rather than being carved and smoothed) adorn
most shops, often hanging down on chains among the greenery rather than
jutting boldly forth from the balconies, as is the custom in most other
shops in Silverymoon are cramped and cozy -- even the large ones are so
crammed with wares that quarters are close. And yet when space is needed
(fitting and "promenade before mirrors" rooms in the establishments
of those who sell fine gowns to highcoin ladies, for instance), ample
space will be provided. Shops tend to be airy, with dappled shade where
possible and with the endless trill of running water. ("Pipefall"
sculptures that bring roof-cistern water down through metal, glass, or
wood tubing to make pleasant sounds and plays of light are common.)
me the "grand flash" of the brightest, largest, newest, and
most expensive Southbank or shadow-of-the-Palace shops, but let me tell
you of my favorites of the more modest establishments of Hollowhar.
I'd start by telling you where to get fed in Hollowhar, but it strikes
me that I'd better say a few words about what Silvaeren eat, first. The
flippant answer is, of course, everything -- and that's true, if you've
coins enough. Fruit can be scarce in winter and spring, of course, and
much of what can be had is pickled or candied, but the Gem of the North
can please all palates.
for us simpler folk, trying to make our coppers stretch, we tend to make
do with daily meals built around larger or smaller portions of a soup
or stew, fish or meat, bread, and drink.
popular local soups are onion-and-cheese; mushroom-and-wine; peppery leek-and-potato;
and rabbit-and-leek, whereas stews are built around potatoes plus meat
bones and leavings. (Peppered mutton and venison are probably the most
popular.) The fish is apt to be cold spiced eel or eel pie, or stuffed
river crab. The meat will be coney, or roast rothé, or some preparation
of dove or duck.
the wealthy, Silverymoon is known for its sugared breads and its golden
yellow "egg-bread," but for the likes of me 'tis "black
bread" all the way: small, round "hardloaves" of rich dark
nutbread that fit in the hand.
"working" Silvaeren drink, they down tall, slender, lidded tankards
of blackroot beer or spiced "moon wine." This last is nothing
like the "moonwine" famed elsewhere, but rather is a spiced
local blending of dregs of this and that, plus juniper and other forest
berries, fermented in local cellars. As you might well guess, it varies
much in taste and desirability from keg to keg.
can provide all the workaday provender I've just listed, plus a variety
of teas and imported drinkables, a few handwheels of cheese, and pickled
wild onions or sometimes skewers of pickled olives imported from the Sword
Coast South. The best houses run to real mouth-watering menus, but Hollowhar
has only one such bright spot: Swordsfall House.
east side of Nutting Lane facing the mouth of Druinwood stands the grandest
shraehouse of Hollowhar. Its cellars were long ago enclosed to make a
lower level of kitchens, pantries, and jakes (separate and quite lavish
"jack" and "maid" privies, with piped water and large
sinks), so from the street you'll see elegantly paneled wooden walls between
stone columns (at the corners and evenly spaced along both side walls)
carved into the shapes of smiling elven maidens. Hmm; those must be rather
cold smiles, considering the light sheets they're draped in and how cold
it gets of winter nights hereabouts.
curvaceous pillars hold up a wide weather-awning planted with lush mosses
and overhung with tiered stone planter-bowls (usually full of herbs and
vine-flowers) jutting out from the walls above, where two floors of folk
who must be rather hard of hearing live. I suspect most of the staff of
the place are among them and are used to all the din of cooking and serving
and patrons arriving and chatting at all hours. People come from many
parts of the city for the food here, though it's not a palatial dining
lounge like many in Silverymoon, nor large enough for all who'd like to
crowd inside. A fair number of patrons dine here and then stroll over
to the two more modest Hollowhar shraehouses, or ones nearer their homes,
to talk and drink the rest of the night away.
meet the harpmasters who buy my strings here, though their shops are in
grander parts of the city; thanks to the food and the fair prices (you
can easily spend seven times as much for similar fare, elsewhere in Silverymoon),
they don't mind the walk. If you happen to be after smaller, less outrageously-priced
harps than most folk favor, I can heartily recommend my own clients: Altymo
Phaernphar (Phaernphar's Fine Harps, Northbank, Candlestar Lane), Arilyn
Dathlue (Heartsong Harps, Northbank, Goblinwood Rise), and Markovel Stonestorm
(Stonestorm's Harpery, Southbank, Mrellow Lane).
shraehouses are crowded places with drinks ledges all around the walls.
Drinkers cram the flagstone floor, and a central bar juts from the keg
room wall and dispenses lots of wine, almost as much beer, stronger drinks,
and hot broth and soup in the coldest months.
is like that, but with the addition of four long "common tables"
for diners, and twice the usual floor room to accommodate them. Seating
is on benches attached to the tables underfoot, service is spartan, and
the place tends to be dimly-lit, not to say dark. Open at all hours, Swordsfall
is reached by going up a broad, well-worn stair behind a street-level
arch. The staircase ascends only a little way before it reaches a stout
wooden door (enhanced with magic, too, I'm told) whose handle is fashioned
of two swords whose broken-off blades were blunted and welded together,
so that two ornamental sword hilts are at top and bottom of a broad, flat
metal bar that stands out from the wood of the door.
'tis always crowded, and no wonder. Master Jarvalar Buckman and four kindly,
middle-aged ladies named Alyth, Cathla, Ilmaeri, and Ninrae dispense food
and drink (the latter always by the tankard, for prices in the 2 cp to
6 gp range, depending on quality). Meals run from 2 sp (for "low
meals") to 6 sp (for "high meals") per serving-platter
(a soup or broth comes in a bowl placed on a platter with garnishes).
garnishes include honeyed figs, roasted almonds, pickled lemons and quince,
biscuits spread with garlic or nut butter, and fruit tarts or "savories"
(tarts filled with minced cooked dove or coney, mixed with lime or berry
include all soups and broths (the Swordsfall specializes in venison-and-mushroom
broth), duck livers, thaevor potatoes (thaevor is a strong yellow local
cheese), mushrooms in cream, spicy lamb sausage, and wine-marinated pears
and Calishite tammar.
meals are usually platters of wood turtle, plucked roast dove, and "firespiced"
(seared) rothé steaks, but on rarer nights a patron might enjoy boar with
sliced apples, rabbit in zzar, duck in berry dressing, roast duck with
chestnuts, whole quail skewered and cooked in butter, diced poultry (fried
in garlic, nuts, and ginger), or river clams (steamed in a rich fish stock
with onion, sarsae -- the tough-skinned, hardy tomato-like savory fruit
of the North -- and herbs).
of a high meal always includes a "side" of thin-sliced cheese
and fruit, and a small cordial (zzar or a fruit brandy) to "clear
the throat" after the main repast.
Something like tangerines or clementines, but with a red 'peel' or inedible
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