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The tavern was long, low building which looked like it would collapse at any minute. It was surrounded on three sides by a tangle of stables, outbuildings, and enclosures. It was known to have at least four levels of cellars, and many more were said to exist. Stories told of hidden passages and connections to the city's sewer system.
The lobby had a high of ceiling adorned with a crudely carved life-sized mermaid suspended over the reception desk. This nearly nude woman was adorned with more than a score of blackened and shriveled severed hands of patrons who did not pay their bills. There were rumors these hands could magically animate and aid the desk clerk in "handling" the city watch, intruders, or obnoxious guests. The tavern's other rooms had low ceilings and dim of lighting; they were furnished with mismatched and much-abused furniture. All rented rooms were heavily lockable with iron or wooden bars, but patrons were still advised not to sleep too soundly, which was difficult to do as the establishment was usually noisy at all hours.
The Mermaid was renowned up and down the Sword Coast as a meeting place for those who wish to conduct illicit business. It was a noisy place frequently beset by brawls, and patrons either go in heavily armed groups or studiously avoid provoking other patrons. A representative of virtually any illegal group operating in Baldur's Gate can usually be found somewhere on the premises, and the Mermaid is the best place to engage the services of any of them. 1 sp is the usual fee to get a representative's attention, with an additional 1-5 gp (2 gp on average) fee to enter serious negotiations. Independent operators usually frequent the Elfsong Tavern rather than the Mermaid.
The Mermaid served a variety of drinks, including sea ale, stout, a light, golden lager from Mintarn, and several kinds of strong whiskey. No wines were available. Food came in two varieties: Food ordered from nearby establishments and food prepared on the premises. The Mermaid had arrangements with several close by eateries for the former. This food was excellent and more elaborate, but tended to be lukewarm or cold by the time it got to a diner.
Some of the more popular items on the menu included:
- Salted small-fish stew (rotting baitfish boiled with sea salt and seaweed)
- Bread with drippings (hard-crust nutbread rolls covered with a thick organ meat gravy)
- A variety of cheeses (sold by the handwheel)
- Pork, thyme, and mushroom platters
- Ale, bread, and fish (meal)
- Small pickled squid
- Whole roasted pigs
- Oysters, mussels, and other shellfish (sold by the heap, cooked or raw)
- Boiled flounder (house specialty)
- Rooms for 2 gp per night (included stabling; long-term rates or bathing facilities, and room costs did not include food)
- Food for mounts an extra 3 cp per night
- A platter of fish, bread, and drippings for 2 cp
- Meat dishes for 3 cp per platter
- Shellfish for 1 gp per heap (several bushels)
- Ale for 3 cp per tankard
- Whiskey for 1 sp per tallglass
The owner(s) of the Mermaid were unknown and never seen. The staff was unobtrusive, swift, and extremely competent. Patrons took staff members lightly at great peril.
Many stories spoke about secret passages and hidden vaults under the Mermaid, but it was well-known that illicit goods and persons could be hidden quickly and well for a fee. Rumors stated there were facilities deep underground for holding persons, both willingly and unwillingly. For additional fees one could rent shackles and associated hardware, and even specialized equipment for restraining wizards.
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- ↑ Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 225. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 20. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 76. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), pp. 21–22. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 21. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (1994). Volo's Guide to the Sword Coast. (TSR, Inc), p. 22. ISBN 1-5607-6940-1.
- ↑ BioWare (December 1998). Designed by James Ohlen. Baldur's Gate. Black Isle Studios.