Out for a jaunt through Randland? TarValon.Net’s trusty travel advisor gives you the good, the bad, and the braid-tuggingly awful!
The Perfumed Quarter is an interesting place. The scent makes it impossible to miss. I nearly turned around, but curiosity got the best of me. How could an inn so highly recommended be in this area? I finally found it, and was pleasantly surprised. The exterior was picturesque: a beautiful two-story stone building with a light green tiled façade, and an amusing sign with the inn name above the entrance. I arrived close to dinner time and was greeted by a young lady dancing and singing some tunes I didn’t recognize. I always appreciate an inn with night time performances.
The innkeeper, Nieda, a delightful Illianer, helped me get situated in my room. I hadn’t expected much, but was pleased to find a wide, soft bed and windows that let in a fresh sea breeze. Only the scent of the harbor reminded me how hungry I was from traveling all day. I was told the red-stripe here was a must have, and indeed, it did not disappoint! I wolfed down two with a bowlful of peas. These were perfectly seasoned and cooked! If that wasn’t enough, the room livened up as the young lady continued her dancing and song.
One odd thing, though. I decided to tuck in early for the night and just as I laid down, there was a huge commotion that couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes. I peeked down to the common room to see that an Ogier and a small group of travelers had roughened up some other travelers. It’s bound to happen, I suppose, but in the morning, it was business as usual, if just with a few less chairs and tables.
Overall: Great food, better entertainment, just watch your back.
(Reference: The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 42, “Easing the Badger”)
I heard tell of an Ogier stedding in the Cairhien area, Stedding Tsofu. I’ve only seen the odd Ogier out and about—though perhaps it was the same one multiple times—and I must admit, it was like seeing a fairy tale come to life. For this reason, when I came across a tattered sign advertising tours, I decided to take a chance that it was not a joke. The Dark One’s own luck was on my side: it was not a joke!
Stedding Tsofu was just over a day’s journey from the city. No guides were provided from Cairhien, but the signs were clear, and it was a pleasant journey. It’s impossible to miss the threshold of the stedding. The feeling of crossing over is just indescribable. I felt the change and was taken aback. Soon, I saw the trees. The tree were not ordinary trees, but Great Trees, with branches a hundred paces and more above the ground and a trunk twenty paces wide!
If that was all I saw, I would have been satisfied for a lifetime. But Erith, a good-natured Ogier woman with a voice like a bumblebee, emerged from the forest to lead me through the town. The buildings were taller than normal, and of beautiful craftsmanship. Nothing said about Ogier is an exaggeration. Treesingers were helping out some Aiel visitors, and it was just the purest sound, leaving no room in the mind for anything but the growing earth. By the time Erith escorted me out, the sun was well past the horizon and I camped at the edge of the stedding, if only to hold on to that feeling but a little longer.
Truth be told, it is the experience of a lifetime. No words can do the stedding justice, and the Treesingers’ song will forever live within me.
(I later learned there were some Aiel heading to visit the Ogier when I was on my way there. They alerted the Ogier to my presence half a day’s ride out. If I had looked like a typical Cairheinin, the Aiel might not have let me enter the stedding at all. Thank the Light I look like an out-of-towner!)
(Reference: The Great Hunt, Chapter 35, “Stedding Tsofu”)
“The Nine Rings” was the name of one of my favorite adventure stories growing up, and I had hoped the inside might be kitschy. The innkeeper, Mistress Madwen, was very intent on making sure I was well-taken care of and had all my needs met, though it did feel as though she thought I was up to no good. Her establishment looked well-cared for, though small. The size is most likely a reflection on Tremonsien being a stopover to Cairhein, rather than the final destination.
The room was small yet functional, but what I really wanted was a taste of the food. The smells had wafted out to the street and my mouth was watering. My plate was full of pork and veggies, all wrapped in a thick sauce. The spices and flavors—tender, sweet, and sharp! It filled the belly of this hungry traveler. A young man with some burns on his hand played the flute while I ate, and was still playing when I left.
All in all, The Nine Rings was a pleasant experience. Aside from the food and the music, the place was nothing special.
(Reference: The Great Hunt, Chapter 21, “The Nine Rings”)
The Queen’s Blessing in Caemlyn was recommended to me by an acquaintance, though the directions they gave me were spotty and I needed help to find it. After what felt like half a day of crisscrossing the streets over and over again, I finally laid eyes on a well-kept sign blowing slightly in the breeze. The sign itself was pretty self-explanatory, a red-haired beauty with a crown laying a blessing on a kneeling man. I was happy to find that my acquaintance was indeed telling the truth about an attached stable. That’s always a bonus in a large city like Caemlyn.
The innkeeper, a jolly, round fellow named Basel Gill, greeted me warmly. After settling on the price, I was offered a private room. It had the basics: a bed, some hooks for clothes, and a little room to move around. I tucked my bag under the bed and headed back down for a meager meal. Not enough of anything, I was told.
All in all, a pretty decent establishment. Watch out for the Ogier in the back! Definitely NOT a Trolloc.
(References: The Eye of the World, Chapter 35, “Caemlyn”; The Eye of the World, Chapter 36, “Web of the Pattern”)