Themed Fantasy Tavern Week: The Pixie Ring
The Pixie Ring is a cozy cottage, part-time tavern, small inn, and herbalism shop sitting in a beatific glade just out of site of a major trade road. There’s a small town just another hour or so down the road, but the Pixie Ring stands on its own near the mouth of an extensive, wild valley. With a living thatched roof, multiple ovens often baking sweetbreads and hearty soups, herb trying racks, and a small brewery in back, it’s often said that when the wid is just right, the smell of the place bringing in more customers than any sign or visibility could. It’s also said that despite being isolated and apparently undefended, the Pixie Ring is the last place anyone would want to attack, because it’s protected by the forces of nature itself. It’s proprietor, an ageless-looking woman named Vassilya Darghrace (who seems both matronly and filled with the bloom of spring) just smiles when asked, and says it’s true, without ever going into details if she can help it.
And, indeed, the Pixie Ring is so protected, because Vassilya Darghrave is renowned in the fairy realms as a “Fey Chirurgeon,” a mortal who can solve ailments of the Fair Folk. This reputation stems from her saving a winged pixie from an (iron) bear trap when she was a child, right on the location where the Pixie Ring now stands. The pixie was a favorite of the a major Fey Court noble, who swore to protect Vassilya whenever she was in the field where she saved the pixie. No fool, Vassilya built a small cottage there as a teen, so she had a place to go if ill, moody, or in danger where the fey realm itself would defend her.
What Vassilya did not count on was other fairy creatures bringing her their problems. She has no special powers as a Fey Chirurgeon, just an expectation from sylvan beings that, given her reputation, she can fix any problem they bring her. Over the decades she has soothed a unicorn’s broken heart, stitched a shadow back onto its grig, made peace between warring lilac fields, split 1 keg of honey into 7 equally-large kegs promised to 7 fairy nobles by turning into mead, and nursed a whole host of sprites through winter cold by feeding them herbal soup.
Each fairy problem she has been brought has forced Vassilya to find a solution, which has often meant picking up a new skill. She’s become a master cook, herbalist, brewer, seamstress, woodworker, and painter. While she learned the basics of each skill through hard work and dedication, often travelling for months to reach a master able to teach her what she needed to know, once she used a craft to aid a fey creature, other fey creatures often paid her for her services in secret knacks. Spiderfolk taught her to weave secret eaves. Brownies shared their secrets of brewing morning dew. Tommyknockers showed her their woodworking techniques. As she practiced these arts, her humble shack grew bigger, and grander, and more beautiful.
In time, non-fey began to drop by as well, and being a hospitable person, she tended to feed and house them. In appreciation, most paid her… though she was just as likely to ask them to chop wood, or bring her hard-to-get seasoning on their next time through. Locals tried to keep her presence secret, but once a few traders found her, word of the off-the-path reststop spread. Vassslya slowly expanded her home, trading seasonable contracts with caravans for ceramic stoves in her fireplaces (no iron!), construction materials, labor, and unfinished furnishing she could refine herself.
Vassilya turns no one away. Those with problems are offered solutions if Vassilya can think of one, and given advice on where to get some if she can’t. The hungry are fed, the sick tended to, the tired allowed to rest. Payment is asked only of those who seem likely to afford it. Money is accepted (and tossed carelessly into a drawer, where fey friends carry it off to a more secure location, bringing her coins when she needs them), but trade and service are just as good. If someone just has one spare wagon wheel to trade, Vassilya takes it with the same gravitas as gold or a hand-painted doll. And, in her experience, someone will eventually come along who really needs a wagon wheel.
And, of course, as a crafter, she often turns broken barrels into tables for her garden. Indeed, she often repurposes something just before she or someone else unexpectedly find need for it. Even Vassilya doesn’t know if this is some effect of fairy influence, or is the fates just spun the thread of her life to overlap others’ at useful moments.
The Pixie Ring is now a “common secret,” a place lots of travelers and traders know of, but most people don’t share knowledge of without good reason. Most people never see the fey who come for help, or the ones who have become friends and tend to live in her building. Their presence is sometimes hinted at, when birds help set the table, scuttering occurs in shadows, wolves and bears appear to growl at the unruly, or things get fixed or cleaned when left unattended. Those few people Vassilya consider close friends or family are more likely to be trusted with seeing the fair folk, as are druids, bards, and similar visitors, but only when “outsiders” are not present.
Vassilya does her best to not have to leave the Pixie Ring anymore, and often pays others to find materials or bring crafting manuals to her so she can fins the problems mortals and fey bring to her. In a more extreme case, if she must leave for a short jaunt, she finds someone she trusts (she’s an excellent judge of character) and leaves them “in charge” for a few days or weeks. When this happens, some shy minor fey almost always shows up with a problem they considered too minor to brother the “great fey chirurgeon” with, which may be as simple as needing advice on what to wear to a fairy dance, or as complex as being exiled from their home court under pain of death. Anyone who can successfully deal with such issues is generally rewarded, and often becomes part of Vassilya’s trusted inner circle.
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