Is the Restaurant at the End of the Universe next door?
"I don't care if he is a damned prince," the dark-skinned dwarf growled, his leathery left fist shaking in Nikko's face, "he has no business being here now... with us, doing... this."
"I understand your concerns Chisel," the tattooed elf said in his most conciliatory tone as the burly dwarf turned and furiously tried to wrestle his axe from the shoulder of a dead giant, one of two that had set upon the party from the darkness of the surrounding caverns, "but you must understand that we, that is to say myself, Eli, Markis, Arliss and Talon have an obligation to the King, and we are compelled by honor to do as he requests. Besides, the king would not send him with us if he did not think it was best for Reneel, under the circumstances."
The dwarf kicked the dead giant twice, his axe still buried deeply in the corpse. He wheeled on the slender elf in a fury and pointed one stubby finger at him. "You mark my words elf," he spat, "this lad will get one of us killed trying to keep him from becoming someone's dinner."
There was no humor in Chisel's demeanor, but Nikko found it suddenly difficult to keep from letting out a sharp snort at the large, ragged piece of vein hanging from the dwarf's nose. The stout fellow was covered with blood and worse from helm to boots, but where that all seemed grim, that one bit of giant gore was the straw that came near to breaking the donkey's back. Rubbing his own white and stainless palms against his eyes to hide his amusement, the elf shook his head before pulling his hair back and then intentionally not looking directly at the dwarf.
"It would be a shame if someone who had no duty to the King were to be killed trying to protect his son, so please make sure that you leave it for one of us to do," he said softly.
"Ach, lad, that is not what I mean and yeh know it," the dwarf protested, gesturing his hands in a stopping motion, "it's just that the boy is going to get slaughtered in spite of our best efforts, and then the lot of you are gonna mope around and be all insufferable for a day or two, and I have no mind to put up with it."
That was as much of a concession as the dwarf was likely to make, so the elf shrugged expansively and turned to leave the dwarf to unstick his axe.
"Does he think that I cannot hear him with his near-shouted confidences," the young human man asked Nikko as he approached.
"Oh, I think he knows perfectly well you can hear him," the elf replied with a wry grin, "but this way he can say things to you that he thinks you need to be told without shaming you by actually saying them to you."
The boy scowled. "I think it is clear that I am not welcome here," he huffed, his posture teetering on the brink of rebellion, "I can do just fine on my own if I am too much of a burden for you."
Nikko shook his head, still smiling. "No Reneel, you are not too much of a burden. But we are men who routinely go looking for trouble, always find it, and more often than not have to kill it quickly, brutally and without recourse to get it to stop. There is no more dangerous place to be than wherever we are. No place at all."
The elf wasn't smiling by the end of that. The boy thought for a minute, but that was as long as his irrepressible good humor could be held at bay. A wide smile broke across his face. "Isn't it fantastic, all of this," he grinned, gesturing at the carnage scattered in the gloomy dark all around them. A finger attached to an arm that was no longer attached to the first giant twitched as Nikko pondered Reneel's irrational glee.
"Aye lad," the elf sighed in resignation, "aye that it is. I think you will fit right in, given time... assuming you live..."
The elf strolled off into the darkness, still mumbling to his self.
"I think we've done enough killing for one day, Nikko," Arliss, the priest of Varnus said, "a man's heart must be nourished, as much as his soul and his blade. Let us retire for a time..." he waved his hand around at the darkness vaguely, "the night... whatever."
"As you say," the elf nodded, his voice weary.
Reneel was still brimming with energy and enthusiasm. "Are you going to summon one of those ropes that leads to a room that smells like leather and is all gray and spongy on the inside?"
Markis the light dwarf chuckled in his beard.
"No Reneel," Nikko said with a faint smile, "in places like this one, where our enemies seek us and sometimes have extraordinary ways of going about it, it isn't safe to slip off into a pocket dimension like that. But I do have a little something just for such occasions."
The elvish wizard gathered the group around him. Each huddled close, making sure that their hand made direct contact with a bit of the elf's skin. Carefully, Nikko pried open a tiny latch on an ornate ring he wore upon his left hand. He tipped the ring upside-down into his other hand, popped something in his mouth, then bit down with a grimace. "Gah, I hate that..." he began. Then the world twisted, twisted some more, then disappeared.
Reneel's legs gave way as the group came to rest in a large room which was well-lit with lamps on the wall around them. The walls themselves were ornately carved stone depicting a variety of martial themes in bas relief by obviously different sculptors. The very large and muscular barbarian named Og reached down and stood the boy upright again, as easily as if he were a doll or some other toy.
"Have to move off the platform," Og said, thickly. He was not in the least bit stupid, as Reneel had discovered during many nights around the cook fire, but he sometimes sounded slow.
There was a circular area where they had arrived. The tiles on the floor there were red, whereas the rest of the floor was tiled in black. They swiftly moved off of the red area.
"Welcome Reneel," said the ranger, Talon, with a grand flourish, "to The Inn at the End of the World!" He gestured dramatically at a large, richly laquered sign hanging above a sturdy oaken door in the far wall. It was the only apparent exit from the room. The sign was boldly lettered and indeed said "The Inn at the End of the World" in glossy red letters against a field of black.
The Inn at the End of the World is an oddity. Long ago, many centuries past, some wizard or priest stumbled upon it whilst attempting to travel to another plane. It wasn't much then... just a small cave with fresh water coming in a wall and then exiting through the floor. The magic used to enter the place is an odd mix of conjuration and transmutation. Once discovered, the secret was closely guarded and passed down to a select few.
Nobody was sure where the cave was, whether it was on this world or another, or perhaps even some distant plane. There was no exit from the cave other than the one the water followed, and it proved to be impossible to follow out of whatever mountain it raced through. Air circulates through the many cracks and crevasses, but from where, none have discovered.
Over the many decades and centuries since its discovery, an enormous amount of effort has been devoted to carving out the cave, sculpting and refining it, enlarging it, and carrying out the excess. Experts have closely examined the mined stone and have pronounced it completely ordinary. Great quantities of materials of various sorts have been hauled in, a few baskets or bundles at a time, and these materials have been used to build a quite-extraordinary inn.
It takes a great deal of cash-flow to support a business of this sort, a resource that the inn's patronage happens to be well-equipped to provide. The exhorbitant prices charged by the inn's proprietors guarantee quality rest and relaxation for those most in need of it.
Anyone coming to the Inn at the End of the World for the first time has been brought by someone else. One can bring themself and nine others to the inn, but no more. Guests may stay at the inn for about twenty-four hours. When prepared to leave, each guest must pay the going rate to receive a 'pellet', the tiny bit that must be crushed between one's teeth to activate the magic. Each pellet is attuned to he who purchases it, and costs as much as a night's stay for ten in the most expensive Inns of any realm.
The inn's proprietors have been an eclectic bunch over the centuries since it first opened for business. Dwarves, elves, humans, gnomes, and a few harder-to-identify species have held the reins. Likewise, they have come from all walks of life and a wide variety of professions. Skilled innkeepers have always been among the inn's employees, but never has one actually owned the place.
It is difficult to determine with any certainty the exact number of those who work at the inn. It has become a great and sprawling place, with quite a few masters in charge of their various areas. There are countless bedrooms, baths, bars, kitchens, common rooms and other, various facilities in the place, a veritable hodge-podge of halls, stairs, doors that won't open, rooms that weren't there a minute ago, and hallways that lead to nowhere. It would be accurate to say that even the owners don't have a good grasp on the extent of their holdings or all of the mysteries of the place.
My entry into this month's contest is the Inn at the End of the World. I will attempt to map as much of it as possible, but we all know that there are some things that no map can possibly encompass, ideas that the human mind can not wrap itself around and windows that were never meant to be peered through. If I should go missing, don't bother sending a search party. Have a pint in my memory and move on.
Last edited by Immolate; 06-08-2009 at 05:17 AM.
Is the Restaurant at the End of the Universe next door?
Thar be things next door that'd curl yer hair laddy!
Last edited by Immolate; 06-16-2009 at 06:07 PM.
Entering the doorway to the Inn, you find yourself in an unexpected hallway. Just ahead it doubles in breadth. A series of blue lanterns of exotic design line both walls, and portraits of dignified men of various races and apparent ages decorate the hall. Ahead on the left, a counter of polished burlwood protrudes from the wall, a hinged section allows the cloakman to come and go.
The first person you see at the Inn at the End of the World is as odd as the place itself. He is tall and gaunt, his beardless face framed by slighty pointed ears. His eyes are sunken and seem, if not lifeless, at least quite distant. His attire is formal, but his dark suit, though woven of fine silk and skillfully tailorered, seems limp and tired. He doesn't utter a word... merely extends his hand and accepts your cloak, draping it over his left arm as he collects the rest.
The cloakman retreats into the dark recesses of the cloak room, soon hidden by the wooden walls lined with polished oaken pegs. He returns after a short time and says, in a voice as dry as a desert crypt, "What room?"
"Surprise us," you say, just a hint of nervousness in your voice. Legend has it the those precise words can lead to more adventure than one is seeking rest from, but you are the in mood for a bit of spice. The cloakman nods and gestures to the large stone doors nearby at the end of the hall.
Wow, I really enjoy the fluff to go with these maps, it really adds to the flavour. I might have to use this stuff in my own campaign.
There is one thing that bothers me though. The miniatures in the entrance hall, if these maps get used in a VTT, might confuse people. Other than that, I love it!
Good point, and I removed the characters from the entry room in the OP. Thanks for pointing that out.
The great doors open and your senses are assaulted by a riot of color and a raucous din. Within, an enormous room awaits you, littered with dozens of tables, most of which are occupied by small crowds of strange folk, many of whom appear to be in good spirits.
You barely notice the door closing behind you. The great room is round, you realize, and at its center is a bar, also round. At first it seems small by comparison to the room, but as your mind adjusts to the scale of the place, you realize it is quite large. Many of the stools surrounding the bar have tenants, but you have no problem attracting the attention of a rotund man with a cheerful face, who quickly fetches you a mug of ale and a loaf of freshly-baked bread.
As you make your way with your crew to an unoccupied table, you stare in wonder at the many people around you, some members of races that you're completely unfamiliar with. At least half a dozen have horns. Some of the patrons are of races that you recognize, but never expected to see except in battle, such as dark elves and brutish orcs. One gentleman, sitting at a table alone, is so pale and grey of skin, he might have just woken from the grave.
But even this amazing menagerie of people seems ordinary against the background of this place. The floor is covered in pine slats, stained in the pattern of a huge map. Maps large and small decorate the curving walls all around. Some are of such stunning beauty that you find yourself stopping and gaping when they catch your eye.
You reach your table finally, and notice that it too is a map. This one is of some mountainous land with which you are not familiar. The labeling is in some foreign tongue anyhow, but you recognize instantly that the work is the product of a master. The table edge is wooden, but the map spans the inside and a single sheet of perfectly clear glass covers it, no doubt to protect it from spills and dirt.
As you pull up a chair, you look at the tables around you and see that each is similary decorated, and each map is another example of a master cartographer's labor. A dwarf at a nearby table, leaning back in his chair and smoking a long-stemmed pipe, nods at you and chuckles at your slack-jawed wonder. "Tis a sight to behold, is it not lad?"
You stand abruptly, unable to stay seated for long in this place. "My father..." you say, somewhat breathlessly, your eyes taking in a gorgeous topographical map halfway across the room. You shake your head and force your attention and your gaze back to the dwarf. "My father is... was a cartographer. All his life. I grew up around maps. I have seen all of the world countless times through my father's maps. But many of these places I have never seen."
"Aye... aye it amazes even me just how many new things there are to see, even long after you've seen it all."
This room is the Map Room, and is a WIP (obviously). The chairs and stools came from the Dundjinni forum. The bar, stairs and wood was all created for this project. The tables were hand-made too, although I cannot take credit for the maps. They were made by master cartographers from all across this land (and perhaps some others).
There is still much to do, but I wanted to share with you what I've done so far, and perhaps benefit from suggestions.
Lookin uber sweet my man. The only thing that I can think of is that the floor looks very orange so I might try to bring that back into the tan range (new layer of tan set to color or hue) because I really don't know how to tone down orange...it's either too dark orange or too bright orange (plus nothing rhymes with it so that can be annoying).
If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
-J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)
My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps