Among the warehouses and shops of Annan’s Port dockyard is a popular inn named the Wanton Halfling. It has a large common room with an ample fireplace to keep away the chill. There are two upper stories with bedrooms for those sailors who are smart enough to pay for it before drinking and gambling their pay away. The kitchen is adequate, the food is plentiful, and the ale is strong. The tables and chairs are solid, heavy oak, black from time, scratched and pitted from use. But it’s not the comfortable furnishings or the ample refreshments that draw in the customers.
Lily is a middle-aged Halfling whose complexion is still cream-colored perfection. She has curly brown hair and sea-foam eyes and a figure that men have killed for. She eats, drinks, gambles, and curses like a sailor. When she gets deep into her cups she gets up on the tables to dance and sing. And when she’s tired of that she chooses someone to escort her upstairs to her room. No one is sure what catches Lily’s eye, or how she chooses her escorts but the men, and no few women, constantly vie for her attention in the hope of being chosen.
Bertram, a human man of average height and build, owns the inn. He spent his early years as a deckhand on trading ships. He suffered a severe leg injury during a storm and was left in port to heal. It soon became clear he would never again safely walk the deck or work the rigging, so he retired and apprenticed himself to Walter Brown-Ale, who owned the Safe Harbor Inn. When Walter died, Bertram inherited the inn. The Safe Harbor earned enough to stay open and to keep Bertram together body and spirit, but not much more. Then Lily arrived. She sang, and drank, and danced, and “entertained” the sailors, and her reputation grew. The Safe Harbor began making serious money. Bertram gave Lily her own room, and promised her all the food and ale she could drink if she would stay. And so the Safe Harbor became the Wanton Halfling.
The inn now makes enough money that Bertram and Lily split the profits. Until now, Bertram has spent most of his money repairing the building. It still looks run down – a dockside inn shouldn’t look all dapper and fine – but it’s solid, and cozy, warm and dry even in the worst winter storms.
As the saying goes, the gods give with one hand and take with the other. Bertram would give it all if he could get Lily to stop her destructive behaviors that are oh-ho-profitable. He never in his wildest dreams imagined he would fall in love with her. He knows that she has suffered some tragedy, something horrifying for which she blames herself. He knows that this event took her entire family from her, including her betrothed, and that she is desperately trying to wipe it from her mind. He is certain that she could not be responsible for this terrible thing, but he would be wrong.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.