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SEVRIN LORE: The Cat and Cauldron

Storytelling plays a central role in the culture of Sevrin.  In addition to tales from history, folklore, and legend, there’s much demand for new stories.  These fall into three main categories: traveler tales, which are expected to be factual; ballads written and sung by skalds; and a performance form of stortelling known as spinning.

Spinning takes place in many venues, ranging from hearthside tales told to entertain children to elaborate storytelling festivals.  Several taverns and festhalls are known for the spinners they attract. Foremost among these is the Cat and Cauldron.

Pennilee, the proprietor, has won top honors at a dozen storytelling festivals. Her fame draws both patrons and spinners to the tavern, which is also known for its simple but excellent fare–soup and small loaves of bread served with a creamy cheese that tastes faintly of honey–and a refreshing elderberry mead affectionately known as Backstabber for its ability to sneak up on you.

In addition to the news brought by travelers, the tales told by spinners, and the ballads sung by skalds, patrons enjoy the ebb and flow of real-life drama between Pennilee and the spinners who perform in her establishment.  The innkeeper knows that her livelihood depends upon her ability to attract talented spinners, but she can’t quite keep herself from treating them as rivals.  Her sweet, barbed insults drive away some spinners and leave others seething with resentment.  To the delight of her patrons, one spinner has turned Pennilee’s unfortunate propensity into a new type of spinning. When Vishni takes the stage, patrons exchange furtive grins and place bets.

Vishni performs frequently at the Cat and Cauldron, for she finds that an audiance helps her hone tales she intends to include in The Book of Vishni’s Exile.  Her first performance was memorable. While most spinners ignore Pennilee’s barbs and inuendoes, Vishni sweetly returned fire. The ensuing verbal battle delighted the patrons, and Vishni’s subsequent appearances drew large crowds hoping for a repeat performance.

Pennilee is no fool, so she reeled in her pride and privately honed her craft for the next bout.  Everyone–Pennilee, Vishni, and the Cauldron’s patrons–maintains the polite fiction that this ongoing battle is nothing more than a performance.  But the betting, which usually focuses on who will come off best in the evening’s exchange (an honor that both Pennilee and Vishni are shrewd enough to share), also includes wagers on whether or not the two females will come to blows.  A few speculate on what manner of unnatural death will befall Vishni, and when.  So far, no one has collected on those wagers, but most patrons agree it’s only a matter of time.