Tales from the Silent Coin Tavern
The Silent Coin Inn stands, as it always has, a few miles out of Panshaw proper. Although it has taken many shapes the inn has survived the test of time and goes on as being “The foremost establishment for adventurers and their ventures”. Words inscribed in all the many signs it has had over the years.
Its owner, simply known as the Tavern Keeper, has become hardened from seeing his precious tavern destroyed and rebuilt so many times. However, no matter how many times it was devastated by monsters and disasters, he couldn’t help but fall in love with the Silent Coin all over again. If you are a patron you are sure to hear him proudly profess that the current state of the tavern is his very favorite. Maybe keeping things fresh is what gives the Silent Coin its legendary status and its current state definitely colors that image.
A six-story building with every room, sight, and secret that an adventurer would expect to find in a tavern. From the outside, there are protruding chambers that should surely be falling from the finely detailed facade. Closer inspection shows that things put together with Uten Ironhearth’s nails don’t come apart that easily. The inside of the Inn is a cozy, warmly lit environment that feels like home to weary adventurers on the road who long for something familiar. The large bar always carries your preferred drinks, and the tables and counter are always as clean as they can be.
Today, however, like many days and unlike many others, there was mystery afoot right inside our dearest Inn.
“Boss, there is something you’ve gotta see.”
The Tavern Keeper looked down instinctively, hearing his cook’s voice. The dwarf looked serious and stoic, his expressions unreadable, a common sight for those familiar with his kind. Chef was a small, stout individual who always sported belts of condiments and spices strapped around his outfit as if he would need them to save his life at a moment’s notice.
The Tavern Keeper looked chipperly and approachable from behind the bar, watching the regular customers come into the tavern for early supper and getting ready to serve them.
“Can’t you just tell me what it is?” said the Tavern Keeper, “Is it about food? I can’t help you with a new recipe right now.”
“Nothing of the kind,” the dwarf’s expression remained unchanged, “and it’s not that simple.”
The Tavern Keeper sighed, resigned. “Lead the way.”
They went out the back of the Inn, to a small courtyard. Bags, boxes, and discarded things populated the space alongside a lonely unopened barrel and two other employees of the Silent Coin who stood beside it as if standing guard.
One of them was the Inn’s resident Bard. She had been working here for the past six seasons and was one of the most well-known faces of the tavern. Her songs were mostly about the Inn’s legendary patrons, heroes who have saved Panshaw countless times.
The second was the Silent Coin’s very own cleaner, a cheerful retired buccaneer with a thick accent, who always had his monkey with him. The man had a swingy personality, sometimes a cool and collected jokester, other times a superstitious dolt with a sharp tongue.
Both were staring intently at the lonely barrel.
“Oh, shit!” said the Tavern Keeper as he joined them. “Did something – or someone – get into the booze?”
“That barrel. It’s weird,” said the Cleaner.
“What?” said the Tavern Keeper.
“The barrel is weird,” the dwarf repeated matter-of-factly.
“Care to elaborate why?” asked the Tavern Keeper.
“I don’t know, boss. No one knows where it came from, and there’s magic emanating from it… Just a faint hint, but I can feel it there….“ said the Bard, “I think we should destroy it.”
“Well, let’s open it and find out what’s inside,” said the Tavern Keeper.
“No! Don’t open it,” said the Cleaner. “I was searching for that sleeping dog of yours that disappeared last week, and I swear that barrel tripped me. I bet that thing ate the dog!”
“The barrel didn’t trip you, you tripped on the barrel, you peg-legged klutz. And Cormah found the dog,” said the Tavern Keeper, “that lazy bastard had just fallen asleep in the pantry and got himself stuck. He is even fatter than he used to be. Unless it falls on your toe, this thing is harmless, don’t worry.”
“You know what, maybe we should listen to him,” said the Chef.
“Afraid of a little barrel?” the Bard smiled.
“Nothing of the sort,” said the dwarf, angry that she even suggested that. “We shouldn’t open it. Maybe it’s rare booze. Sometimes brewers seal the special stuff with magic. There could be something special brewing in there. If we just open it we can ruin the process. We have to treat it carefully and keep a watch on it.”
“Is it always about booze with you?” said the Tavern Keeper.
“Always!” said the Bard, “From what I know, he’s even been slipping a bit of grog on the soup.”
“What?” the Tavern Keeper was not expecting this today.
“Alcohol is a pinnacle of the dwarven culinary arts,” the dwarf said, unshaken, “and the patrons love it.”
“They are too tipsy to say anything about it,” said the Bard.
“Both of you, stop squabbling. Never do that again,” the tavern Keeper said to the dwarf. “At least without asking me. Besides, if that thing does have alcohol in it, and we don’t know where it’s from, that barrel probably came from the Gunther Farm. It’s probably another one of their ‘inventions’.”
“That’s the thing, boss,” said the Chef. “I checked with the Gunthers, and they didn’t deliver anything like that… We don’t know where that barrel came from at all…”
“Well, maybe an adventurer dropped it here as payment? It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing…” The Tavern Keeper started conjecturing but got interrupted…”
“Or maybe one of the adventurers left it as a prank. Remember the Halloween pumpkin pie three years ago?” said the Bard looking at the barrel wearily.
All the others looked at the barrel again with the same mix of fear and disgust in their eyes… They all remembered the fiasco of the pie.
“What in the hell are we thinking? What are the odds of THAT happening again? Let’s all just calm down for a bit,” said the Tavern Keeper.
“Okay, boss, but what are we supposed to do with the barrel? I think we all agree that weird barrels showing up out of nowhere can’t possibly be a good sign… But what do we do?” asked the Bard.
“I vote we just leave it in a strong box. Just in case it does turn out to be a gift from an adventurer. It sure is the good stuff,” the dwarf offered.
“Well, then I vote we give it to the dog to make sure it’s safe to drink,” said the Bard.
“I vote we blow it up!” said the Cleaner, which caused the Tavern Keeper himself to explode:
“ABSOLUTELY NOT!! First of all, this is not a democracy! What are you all on about voting for? Second of all, if any of you get anywhere near the dog I swear there’ll be a reckoning. Third of all, no one is blowing up anything anywhere near MY INN… Wait, where’s the Cleaner?”
At some point during his outburst, while he chastised the others, the Cleaner had slipped away back into the Inn. The Tavern Keeper looked around frantically now, fearing the worst, and his fears were confirmed when, out of the Inn, came the
Cleaner, holding aloft a flaming mop, his little monkey screeching in his shoulder.
“Die, you evil thing, die!” the Cleaner raged.
“Stop this! Get back, right now,” the Tavern Keeper rushed to cut him off, screaming. “Are you insane?”
Realization finally hit the Cleaner, he hadn’t even considered his boss and the others weren’t all in with him on his crusade against the wicked barrel.
“Oh, we’re not doing my idea? Well, crap… And I even had to use the good booze to light up the mop…” The Cleaner said, now throwing the flaming mess of cloth and wood aside.
“YOU DID WHAT?!?!” the Tavern Keeper and the dwarven Chef both said incredulously.
Unfortunately, they didn’t even have the chance to mourn the spilled whiskey, because when the Cleaner threw the mop he accidentally stabbed the fiery end of the mop onto the burlap sacks, right outside the Tavern. A fireball formed from the fateful mixture of booze-soaked trash and fire as the flames jumped from the mop toward them. Fire instantly consumed the back porch of the tavern. It fell forward with a powerful thud, just missing the startled Cleaner. The porch still crackled with fire, but it fell before the flames could spread to the rest of the building.
Another piece of the Silent Coin lay destroyed on the ground. The patrons of the Inn had run away instinctively, expecting the building to take up in flames completely as it had a habit of doing.
The Tavern Keeper was red with rage, half at his employees, half at the damned barrel.
“This is the Silent Coin Inn, you hear?” he bursted, shouting at the barrel.“The greatest heroes of our age frequent this fine establishment. Caex, Corman, Trinity, and even the Spinebreaker, they all have unpaid tabs here. What would you say if I called her down and told her to split you open?”
The barrel stood, indomitable, in sweet defiance.
“Gaaaah!” the Tavern Keeper shouted in rage as he picked up the barrel, ready to throw it.
“Hey, it’s fine boss. It’s just a barrel,” the Bard said half-heartedly.
The Tavern Keeper’s rage turned to his three frightened companions. Barrel above his head.
“Just a barrel? JUST a barrel? Not the magic alcoholic aberration that will end us all?”
The three were quiet while he scolded them.
“Let’s get something clear, it isn’t dangerous, it’s just a stationary object, it can’t do anything to you,” the Tavern Keeper spoke in a low tone, bringing the barrel down toward the ground gently before letting it go. “Nor is it an avant garde ale, nor would I even care if it were.” The dwarf looked down at the ground as he spoke.
“I still think it could be a monster or something…” the Cleaner started.
“Shut up,” said the Bard under her breath, kicking his one good shin.
“We are going back inside, we are going to forget about the barrel, and we are going to forget this ever happened,” said the Tavern Keeper. “Am I clear?”
“Crystal, boss!” the rest answered.
“Good!” The Tavern Keeper cleaned his brow with his tablecloth, the adrenaline leaving his blood.
His three companions walked inside. They had a certain satisfaction in their stride, going into the tavern. Even though their suspicions were proved to be wrong, and the barrel was just that, after all they were going back into the Silent Coin feeling like they had done their job and disposed of this possible threat.
The Tavern Keeper stayed behind a moment, a feeling of overall defeat washing over him. A perfect day was ruined. Better to cut his losses and go back to the bar, he thought. He gathered himself and walked up the stairs towards the back door, but some feeling deep inside him had him look back at the source of his discontent.
Gone, the barrel was gone! He had looked away for just a few seconds, and it had disappeared. Not even a trace of its presence was there. The Tavern Keeper’s mind could have decided on a reasonable, rational answer: it rolled down the hill, it was taken by someone, or anything else, but the words of his workers came back to haunt him, and a sick feeling came over him. Just then, he saw some movement in the woods just beyond. He really wished he hadn’t seen what came next, but there it was… Under the half-light of the woods, there was a silhouette, that of a rough barrel-shaped creature with two legs, a large mouth, and too many teeth to count. Just as quickly as it had appeared it was gone as if it had been just a figment of his imagination. That damned barrel sprouted legs and ran.
The Tavern Keeper realized two things at that point. Firstly, that barrel business was above his pay grade. Panshaw has heroes, let THEM deal with it. Secondly, the Tavern Keeper decided not to tell anyone what he had just seen. He hadn’t believed his employees, and they would drill him mercilessly if they discovered they were right. The Tavern Keeper had always been the proud sort, he wasn’t about to stop now.
He closed the shutters and closed his mind. No more weird for today. The sun had set, again, for the Silent Coin Tavern and Inn.
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