The Rose and Phoenix Inn, as many good fairy tale inns, is located at a cross-roads. It’s near, but not quite at, the edge of the city, so it has a varied clientele — and naturally, a most wide-ranging collection of conversations take place inside it. The front door has a small courtyard before it, which, incidentally, has an ancient lemon tree with a bench under it, facing on the square where the roads meet.
Imagining this? Glossy green leaves; fragrant flowers; sweet-sour lemons ranging from green to a clear yellow; a few thorns. The bench is quite big enough for two people to sit on comfortably, talking, watching the people passing by across the cross-roads. Sit down next to me; I’ll explain what we’re looking at. Have some lemonade.
Heading off one direction, towards the hill at the centre of town, is the Tower Road, which winds around through the Booksellers’ Quarter towards the University of Riddles. Students and their professors come and go, arguing about philosophy and literature and magic and astronomy and the strange histories of many lands. Travellers lost in the maze of bookstores come by sometimes, too, for refreshment, or to talk about interesting books on many topics.
One side of the square opens onto the North Market. We’re near the edge of the city, as I said, so this is the main farmers’ market. It’s full of people discussing gardening and animal husbandry, useful tricks of many trades, cooking and weaving, and, of course, farming. North of the city the plains along the river are full of gardens and farms that feed it, and this is a place where you can get lost in terroir and growing things.
The international market is down by the harbour, which is down the road behind us, the other side of the Inn from the Tower Road. This street has many names, and strangers in the city often call it simply that, the Street of Many Names. Its proper name, here at its origin at the Market Cross, is Market Street, but a few hundred yards along it turns into the Goldsmiths Court, and then jumps over the sunken lanes of Fleshmarket and Grassmarket with the North and South Bridges, and eventually comes to meet the Ten Thousand Stair about halfway between the university and the Quays.
Lastly, and the reason why this is an Inn where adventures start, there is a road cutting straight through the North Market and heading north of east, towards the mountains. The road out of town is broad at first but peters out once past the growing lands. It leads into the wild blue yonder, the Mountains of the Sun, where be dragons. But of course the road goes both ways, and travellers coming to the city are always welcome.