The grand inn was on the south side of Shind Road, facing the Shield Trading Company across the street. A short way towards the southwest was the intersection of Shind Road with Daerndrean Street.
The Shield was the largest building in Voonlar, topping four stories with a hipped slate roof and an imposing stone facade that resembled a temple edifice. Four massive stone pillars framed the entrance and supported a large third-floor balcony that sheltered the entrance below and provided a venue with an impressive view. The rectangular building extended deeper than it was wide, except for the fourth floor which ended halfway back. The rest of the fourth floor was a rooftop herb garden and sunning area used by the staff.
To the west, a large stable building provided shelter for animals and lockable sheds for storage of wagons and carriages. To the east was a well-tended lawn that was framed by a tall cedar hedge and a row of apple trees. The columns were covered with ivy and flowering vines that hid signs of aging. Surmounting the entrance was a large shield without blazon; just a bare, ivory-colored escutcheon surrounded by flame-like garlands carved in wood.
The first floor had a lobby and three meeting rooms, two of which were free for guests to use on an as-available basis. The third room rented by the hour, was heavily soundproofed, and contained a large table that sat eight comfortably and bedchamber separated by a privacy curtain. On the other side of the lobby was a hallway leading to luxury guest rooms. Behind the lobby were the kitchens. Plentiful closet space was one feature of the ground-floor rooms that also helped muffle the noise coming from the lobby and kitchens.
The next two floors were guest rooms. At a minimum, all rooms and suites had a canopied bed that could comfortably accommodate three tall adults sleeping side by side; a writing desk with quills, ink, and parchment; a high-backed armchair and footstool; a bedside table; a wardrobe; a bathtub; a stepstool for guests of shorter stature; extra seating with plenty of cushions; and plants and flowers as seasonally available. Many rooms had extra amenities. The ground-floor rooms had baths set into the floor. On the other hand, the rooms on the south side of the third floor directly beneath the herb garden were prone to leaks when it rained.
The top floor contained apartments for the servants. A dumbwaiter that was large enough to carry portable furniture items or food trays ran from the cellar to the fourth floor. It was large enough for one or two people to ride in if they stooped, but this required others to operate the ropes and was strictly forbidden. The cellar was used for cool storage and the cultivation of edible mushrooms for the kitchen.
The furnishings were sumptuous bordering on opulent. Even the stables were exceptionally clean and stylishly appointed. The rooms were kept as shady as possible in the hot season and warm and cozy when the weather was cold.
The Shield had a huge staff and were able to provide service to their customers in a speedy and attentive fashion with thoughtful gestures, often anticipating their guests' needs. The service was so attentive that those not used to it would sometimes complain that they felt they were being watched. Overseeing the staff were the majordomo, Mester Rauvaraudo, and his two chatelaines, Amratha Shuldeiroun and Maeragra Duskwinter. The ladies had quick wits and sharp tongues that they used to great effectiveness without resorting to vulgarities. Staff, guests, and potential guests were all treated with an iron hand wrapped in a velvet glove.
Small rooms typically cost 3 gp per person per night and meals were 1 gp each. The larger and often very quiet rooms on the third floor south were usually discounted to 2 gp because of past and potential leaks. Stabling a beast was an extra 5 sp per night.
For this relatively high cost, guests could have skilled attendants give them a massage; assist with a bath; wash, comb, and coif their hair; and assist with getting dressed to look their finest. The valets and maidservants were cheerful and efficient, but any attempt at intimacy beyond the call of duty was quickly dissuaded with firm instructions for the guest to look elsewhere in Voonlar for what they desired.
The food at the Shield was good to exceptional. The menu varied with the seasons and was accented by herbs from the roof garden and mushrooms from the cellar. There were no set mealtimes; food was available at any time of day or night and tended to emphasize soups and entrees that could be kept warm and served with a sauce without losing its savory appeal during the interval from oven to table. Meals were delivered to the meeting rooms or the guest rooms under shiny metal domes on wheeled carts. The dumbwaiter was used to port carts to the upper floors.
As an example of the fare at the Sign of the Shield, a meal might start with a choice of either venison barley or apple bacon soup. The entree could be a choice of oven-roasted quail or horseradish-scented lamb cooked to juicy perfection and served over a buttery hash made from potatoes, diced leeks, and scrambled quail and duck eggs and complimented by smooth-as-silk buttercream biscuits. For drink, the Shield had a wide selection of beers, wines, ales, and sherries in their cellars. Beer or ale was 5 cp per large silver tankard and wine or sherry was 7 sp for an elegant, ornately fluted tallglass.
The inn was owned by the Shield Trading Company which was headquartered just across the street, and the stables and sheds of the Sign of the Shield were guarded at night by twelve veteran security guards. Additional defenders were just a shout away. The majordomo of the inn was Mester Rauvaraudo who, unbeknownst to all but the oldest residents of Voonlar, was a minor sorcerer. He only used his magic in utter emergencies, but he kept a wand of hold person and a ring of the ram handy to quell the rare brawl or rampaging guest.
The Shield Trading Company had a reputation of being untainted by Zhentish influences, and this was evidenced by a few incidents that were the talk of the town at some point in the history of the Sign of the Shield. One notable story described how petite, red-headed Maeragra, the inn's evening chatelaine, broke the jaw of one deputy and the arm of another when they tried to bluster and force their way past her on some business for the Bron (sheriff) of Voonlar (a known toady for the Zhentarim). Thereafter, the deputies steered clear of the place whenever she was on duty unless they were forced to go there.
Another anecdote related the shaming of a Zhent officer by the chief ostler of the stables, Lanther Maerown, a retired warrior known for his raspy voice as "Smokethroat". Apparently, the brash officer, in full armor, drew his sword on Smokethroat during a disagreement and was bodily heaved out of the stables and into the mud in front of his soldiers (much to their amusement) by the redoubtable stable-master.
The indoor staff of the Sign of the Shield numbered just under forty and were led by Master Mester Rauvaraudo and the chatelaines Amratha Shuldeiroun, who took the day shift, and Maeragra Duskwinter who managed the night shift. The rest of the indoor staff consisted of chambermaids, cooks, and footmen. Outside, the stable-master was Lanther "Smokethroat" Maerown, who was in charge of nine other ostlers, and four groundskeepers that tended the lawn, garden, and small orchard.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 23–24. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Ed Greenwood (2001-06-20). Part #18: The Finest Beds in Town. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-06.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 John Terra (Feburary 1995). The Moonsea (Player's Guide). (TSR, Inc), p. 10. ISBN 978-0786900923.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 John Terra (February 1995). The Moonsea (Reference Guide). (TSR, Inc), p. 23. ISBN 978-0786900923.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 25–26. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Ed Greenwood (2001-08-01). Part #20: Staying at the Shield. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-12-10.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Ed Greenwood (April 2001–May 2003). Elminster Speaks archive (Zipped PDF). Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 24–25. Retrieved on 2016-09-03.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Ed Greenwood (2001-07-04). Part #19: The Shield Staff. Elminster Speaks. Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on 2016-09-21.