The Drunken Dagger
You’re coming in from a long, difficult journey, with a caravan at your back. You’re bringing back cotton and linen, furs and leather. You have four new hunting hounds for the Mayor, and a precious beehive to strengthen the local hives. You’ve got a tiny bamboo box too, filled with diamonds from Ark’saw; a box no one in the caravan knows you have.
You’ve been in the saddle for months, and you’ve fought bandits, wolves, and Sonoran raiders. Outriders and scouts from Ellay joined you this morning, and they’ve been ranging around the caravan all day but have raised no alarms. You heave a sigh of relief as you pass the guard towers and into Ellay, and you grin because the very first building you see is the Drunken Dagger. You direct the caravan to the right, where the goods will be offloaded and sorted. The horses will be tended and stables. You negotiate with the captain for guard detail tonight, so you and all your men can rest. It will be hours yet before you can cross the thresh-hold of the Dagger but you know she’s there, and waiting for you.
The Drunken Dagger and the Dagger’s Inn are possibly two of the most important buildings in Ellay. They are the first things encountered by anyone coming into Ellay from the Eastway. They provide food, drink, shelter, and companionship to every merchant and caravaneer who trades eastward. They’re the first targets for Sonoran raiders. The captain of Eastway district is no fool and understands both the Dagger’s importance and vulnerability. The units assigned to the Watch actively patrol around the Dagger as well. Sometimes this becomes… awkward… as the Yumis engage in a little smuggling from time to time, but a bottle or two of Tennsee whiskey is usually enough to keep business flowing without complications.
The Drunken Dagger is a single story building made of stone, timber, and adobe brick covered in thick white plaster. The doorways and windows are wide and arched. The doors are made of sturdy oak, and the windows have inch-thick glass panes.
Inside, the Dagger’s plastered walls have been stained by smoke, and the oak floor stained with spilled drink, food, and blood. Heavy round tables, black with age, dot the floor space. A bar runs half the length of the western wall. There is a large hearth in the middle of the north wall. There is an archway in the north east corner, and a 20’ hall beyond that leads to the lobby of the Dagger’s Inn. Beyond the hearth is the door to the kitchen. Behind the bar are two more doors: one leads to the Yumis’ private residence, and the other leads to their private courtyard. In the south corner, on the west wall, is a door that leads out to the Dagger’s courtyard. Here patrons can find the latrines and a stone path that leads to the bathhouse/laundry, or around to the back entrance of the Dagger’s Inn.
The Drunken Dagger serves hearty food, and hearty drink. Though it has some of Ellay’s cheapest and strongest liquor, it also serves some of the best. Through his connections with the caravan masters, Deacon arranges for regular shipments of Tennsee whiskey and Kentuckee bourbon, which are still the finest spirits on the continent.
The Dagger’s Inn is a two story building also made of the stone, timber, and adobe brick. The inn shares its southern wall with the tavern which was added many years after the inn’s construction. There is a large lobby, with hand-woven carpets, comfortable sofas and small tables, and a staircase leading to the upstairs bedrooms. There are larger, more gracious bedrooms on the ground floor for the wealthier patrons. The dozen or so prostitutes who work for Rosa live in their own small home separate from the inn. They come and go discretely using the courtyard door in the west wall.
Rosa is meticulous in keeping the inn clean and vermin free. The bedding is changed and washed regularly, and the mattress ticking replaced every autumn. She also has the rooms smudged regularly using white sage and other herbs. This not only helps to control insects and spiders, it gives the Dagger Inn a unique odor, one that most patrons consider pleasant and welcoming.
The courtyard outside has stone paved paths connecting the inn, the tavern, the latrines, and the bathhouse. There are also palm, orange, and lime trees, and a few benches beneath them. Yucca shrubs line the exterior wall that closes off the Yumis’ private courtyard. The long, sharp leaves discourage people from climbing the low wall.
The Drunken Dagger and the Dagger’s Inn together are known simply as “The Dagger”. It’s the preferred place for caravan masters and merchants, even those who travel the north route to Frisco. They often meet at the Dagger to discuss trade and coordinate caravan schedules, effectively linking the northwest to the Midwest and the gulf coast.
Author’s note: “smudging” is the practice of filling a room or space with aromatic smoke. It’s used to drive away insect pests, and to spiritually cleanse a place or person.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.