Friday, 26 October 2012

In An Ysan Inn

I commented earlier on convivial drinking places in Poul Anderson's fiction, most notably the Old Phoenix. There is a perfect example in Roma Mater (London, 1989) by Poul and Karen Anderson.

Located in the Fish Tail - the small slum in the city of Ys - the inn occupies a former home, centuries old. Everything is faded. There are fragments of sculptures and mosaics. A stain half way up the walls was caused by sea damage before the rampart was built - an appropriate drinking place for sailors and fishermen, perhaps as near as they can come to Aegir's Hall or Davy Jones' Locker.

The inn sells mead and wine. Its interior is candle-lit and smoky, with kitchen odors. There are three resident prostitutes. Four fishermen sit at one end of a long table, an Ysan naval man and his companions, two Roman legionaries, at the other. After a near fight over a prostitute, Ysans and Romans fraternize, drink together and swap songs. This occasion, described in section 3 of Chapter IX (pp. 176-185), sets the scene for later social gatherings.

En route to the inn, the Ysan seaman genuflects before the Shrine of Melqart (the city founders' original name for Taranis), mentions a similar Shrine of Ishtar (Belisama) and shows his companions a pillar that was raised to an unknown God before the city was built. The Pagan legionary thinks that his Christian comrade will not understand this honour to the Gods. The Christian replies that he " 'ain't that good a Christian...' " and also that the place " '...is 'aunted...' " (p. 180).

Thus, the authors continue to present the uncanniness of Ys as well as its hospitality and fellowship.

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