2. The Gilded Lion (3017 T.A..)
The Gilded Lion
Est. 1428, T.A.
3rd Circle North
Minas Tirith, Gondor
If you're in Minas Tirith, and looking for fine wines, exotic foods, and luxurious surroundings, then The Gilded Lion is not the place for you. If, on the other hand, you'd like a quiet mug of ale, a plain but hearty meal, and friendly company in a very informal atmosphere, The Gilded Lion may be the tavern that you're looking for.
And make no mistake, you will have to look for it. Tucked away in a circular lane on the third circle, The Gilded Lion is not located directly on the street itself. Instead, it sits between and slightly behind a cobbler's shop and a disreputable-looking apothecary (we are assured that no matter what its appearance, the apothecary does not sell any deadly potions). There is no sign displayed on the street to indication the location of the tavern. There is only a waist-high wooden statue of a lion -- gilded, of course, although the gilt is much faded and flaked -- placed at the entrance to a small courtyard, and patrons must pass through this courtyard to reach the tavern itself.
The Gilded Lion is primarily a gathering spot for men of the immediate neighborhoods, and is not commonly known or frequented by any who do not live on the third circle. It is of moderate size, with ten tables and a long, highly polished wooden bar. There are no private rooms; there is only the main common room, and here you will find men of varying ages engaged in in one of three activities: draughts, political discussion, or exchanging news of the neighborhood. The Gilded Lion is well-lit and scrupulously clean, for the owners, Tathar and his wife, Nengel, treat the tavern as if it is an extension of their home, rather than simply a place of business. Nengel welcomes everyone in the same manner - with a cheerful greeting, and an immediate offer of food. Tathar, on the other hand, is a bit more reserved with strangers, though if you pass a bit of time in idle chatter about the weather or recent fighting, he will soon become much more talkative. All friendliness aside, if a patron becomes belligerent because of over-indulgence, Tathar will have no qualms about showing him the door, forcefully, if need be. Additionally, men laying hands on any part of the anatomy of the serving girl will be speedily, perhaps painfully made aware that this is " a wholesome establishment, and there'll be none o' that!" If you are looking for female companionship, be discreet in inquiring about a house; if Nengel hears you, there will be a scene.
The ale, surprisingly for such a small, unassuming tavern, is rather good, neither too watery nor too strong, though we would advise that you empty your mug slowly. Tathar's brother, a carter by trade, is an amateur brewer who provides The Gilded Lion with its ale, and Tathar has been known to take offense at those who toss down their drinks too quickly. The food is much what you would expect - simple, filling fare that is likely to remind you of your grandmother's cooking. Nengel makes a wonderfully thick beef stew, and her jugged rabbit is a treat which you would do well to sample.
Legend has it that The Gilded Lion was once used as a meeting (and hiding) place for those men who were brave enough to act against Castamir the Usurper, and the tavern's location makes that claim seem likely. Tathar and Nengel will neither confirm nor deny the long-standing rumour that somewhere in the tavern, there is a secret panel which leads to a hidden room underneath the street. There is a suspiciously unobtrusive door in the furthest corner; behind this door is a staircase that leads to rooms above the tavern, which are said to have been used for seditious purposes during Castamir's reign. However, nowadays those rooms are Tathar and Nengel's private residence. And be warned - for all its legendary past, The Gilded Lion is not currently a place in which you should disparage the Steward or his line. If you speak too contemptuously of the house of Hurin, you will be asked to leave, permanently.
The Gilded Lion is never going to be a fashionable tavern which is widely known in the City, nor is it ever going to be a place for loud, raucous evenings. Rather, it is a quiet, mellow place to chat with friends while having a relaxing drink or a meal. Or, if you dare, to play a game of draughts with one of the deceptively mild looking patrons who seem to be in permanent residence. We would not recommend that you wager on your own victory.
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