The Civilising Influence of Betta Thrang ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

I cannot be sure now when I first met Wilam Charmwater. He’s just one of the people I got to know over the years. I probably met him at some event I was to host. But he’s a pleasant enough chap. People would say ‘there’s to him,’ and he was generally liked. I know people asked why we got on so well and Wilam would say, “Tallis never asks me for a loan, and I never turn him down.”

I suppose I ought to mention at this point that he was a Usurer. Obviously a pretty good one, because his lady wife was always well dressed. She also used to entertain, and their house was beautifully done out.

Wilam’s success seems to have stemmed from the fact that he worked for a week in Port Naain and the next week he worked out of an office in Fluance. This is a bustling town upriver from Port Naain, where the river Dharant joins the Paraeba. Talking to people here, it’s interesting to note that they do not consider themselves Partannese. The town is on the east bank of the Dharant, and to them Partann is the west bank of the river. Hence Port Naain is seen not as the local capital but as a rival metropolis. Indeed the inhabitants claim that Fluance was a town of significance when Port Naain was a fishing village.

Wilam was one of the few who did work in both places and thus he probably picked up a fair bit of business from those who wished to transfer money from one place to another.

Whatever you accused Wilam of, it could never be idleness. One evening I was dining late at the Fatted Mott. This is a chop house popular with single men, lawyers, clerks, and the like. It has the great advantage that if you turn up late, they will often do you a meal at a very reasonable price, rather than throw stuff out. I’d just started to eat and Wilam came in. We shared a table and a bottle of wine, and then he bought another bottle. By the time we’d finished the fourth bottle it was gone midnight.

Wilam explained he’d come straight from his office, he’d been working late to try and get caught up before he went to his other office in Fluance. Indeed he wouldn’t go home that night, he’d sail at dawn.

I commented he had made a lot of work for himself and asked whether it might not be better just to let the Fluance office go, or put a manager in. It was then he told me his full story. Apparently the reason he had to go to Fluance was because he had a wife in Fluance, just as he had a wife in Port Naain. Not only that but his finances were complicated. As a young man he inherited the house in Port Naain, but he also inherited a very nice property in Fluance. So to start his usury business, and to raise his initial capital, he’d mortgaged both properties.

Now for a while this went well, and then he married. With one wife, things grew more difficult, but once he had a second wife, he found he was running to stand still. So whilst, for the last fifteen years, he’d maintained both households to a high standard and kept up with his interest payments, he’d not been able to repay a single dreg of the capital that he’d borrowed.

Not only that but when he was with his wives he was thrust into the social whirl and barely had time to just relax. His one real luxury was the small boat he’d purchased for sailing to Fluance and back as he ‘commuted’ to work.

In the years before he’d been such a frantically active businessman, he’d always liked fishing. Then for ten or more years he’d never had a chance to so much as drop a worm into the water. So when he got his own boat, he thought he might at least be able to fish from that as he travelled backwards and forwards. Indeed he did manage to get some fishing. Then one day, as he travelled he spotted a small pier, almost entirely screened by trees. Out of pure curiosity he tied up there and discovered that it belonged to a very scattered community of small farmers who would use it to send their produce to market. They had no objection to his tying up there for a night to do a spot of quiet fishing, and in return he’d transport their produce free to wherever he was going next. He got to know the small community, especially Betta Thrang, a young widow who had a small mott herd. They became friends and eventually she got to hear the full story of his life.

How long this would have continued is hard to tell. But eventually a jealous business rival told both wives about each other. Wilam discovered what had happened when he was in Fluance late one evening. He made it to his boat, cast off and disappeared down river into the darkness. Eventually, out of habit, he tied up at the small pier and tried to work out what on earth to do. He was still sitting there when Betta Thrang found him next morning as she searched for a lost mott. Wilam helped her find the mott, and told her of his dilemma. Betta thought about it briefly and then asked whether he’d like to live with her. Obviously she couldn’t offer the luxury he was used to. She’d be grateful for some occasional help with the mott, but she could guarantee that he’d have plenty of time for fishing. Later that day, in a simple service, Wilam was married for the third time.

Meanwhile back in Port Naain, the Fluance wife had arrived and had sought out the Port Naain wife. Both had already spent some fruitless days hunting for their errant husband. Hence when they met, it was a very heated exchange, largely because the two ladies had had time to come to terms with the situation, and with Wilam’s disappearance. Indeed they had both made their own plans. They had each decided that they were the genuine wife, so were entitled to Wilam’s entire estate. Their plan was to keep their own house and sell off the other house to provide them with an investment income to live on. Unfortunately it wasn’t really a plan they could compromise on.

When I innocently walked into the parlour, having been booked to help run an entertainment, I found both ladies, stripped to the waist, attacking each other with rapiers. Now it takes a very brave or a very foolish poet to step forward and tell them to stop. But in all candour I didn’t want them killing each other without them knowing the full financial situation.

Eventually they stopped attacking each other and I had a chance to explain about the mortgages and the debts. For a brief period I did wonder whether both were going to attack me. But I managed to convince them I was merely the bearer of bad news, not the cause of it. I also pointed out that the only way they could maintain their standard of living was to take over the usury business.

Once I’d got them calmed down, somewhat less distractingly garbed, and with the rapiers safely removed out of easy reach, they discussed the matter sensibly. In the end they kept the business going, but with the two of them in partnership. One ran the Fluance end, one the Port Naain end, and kept things going between them. In all candour the business did better. Firstly each could give all her time to her own city, and because they were more in tune with the situation, their expenses were perhaps less excessive than they had been. I have no doubt that over the years they’d get their mortgages paid off.

As for Wilam, he used to appear reasonably often in Port Naain. Nobody seemed to connect the somewhat dishevelled mott farmer and fisherman who would arrive with a small boat loaded with produce to sell, to a usurer who’d disappeared in unusual circumstances some years previously. Occasionally when I needed time out of the city, I’d go and stay with him and Betta and their growing family.

~~~~~~~~~

And now the hard sell!

So welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.

So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees. These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty
criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.

Firstly;-
Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories

Available at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

And then there is;-
Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories

Available at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/
and
https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

Tallis even has a blog of his own at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

Jim Webster

~~~~~

There are fourteen installments in Tallis Steelyards current blog tour, each
guest blog as entertaining as the next, and they can be read in any order.
A significant gesture
An eye to the future
Butterfly net
Getting rich moderately rapidly
In tune with the Zeitgeist
Learning a role
Love letters
Matchmaker
Mother mine
No strutting or fretting
Something of the night?
The civilising influence of Betta Thrang (this installment)
Unfashionably tired
Vegetating

An Appropriate Boy ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Benor felt that his first task was to find Garrent Woolmin and his academy. This was comparatively easily done. Tallis asked round his various patrons and a number of them had had family pass through its hallowed halls. Apparently the Woolmin Academy was a large house in Dilbrook, standing in its own, securely fenced, grounds. Most boys lived in, with only a few travelling each day from home.
At the same time Shena had been asking friends and business acquaintances about Salat Wheelstrain. All she had managed to discover was that, according to a couple of people involved in shipping, he was a good man if you wanted an embarrassing but over insured cargo to be destroyed in transit. There were hints that he might have arranged what were nicely described as ‘useful’ fires. But none of her informants claimed to know any more than that.
This rather disturbed Benor. Given that Minny seemed to be expected to arrange for the accidental death of Young Vortac, Wheelstrain seemed like the person to arrange it. As he remembered, there was a respectable amount of gold in the bag with Wheelstrain’s name on it.
Finding Young Vortac was a little more complicated. Benor took Mutt with him to reconnoitre. They walked past the front of the building and boys could be seen playing in the grounds. As Benor commented glumly, other than shouting a name and seeing who looked up, there didn’t seem to be a lot more they could do. Mutt excused himself and disappeared. Ten minutes later he arrived back with a smaller boy.
Mutt introduced his new companion. “This is Wain. If any of the boys wants anything, they get a message to him with the money and his commission and he gets it for them.”
Benor looked at the urchin in front of him. He was comparatively clean and was dressed in what were recognisably clothes, rather than the rags he’d often seen on children deeper into Port Naain. Bits of his costume might even be cast-off school uniform.
“I just wondered if you could help me Wain.”
Immediately a hand shot out, palm up. With the casual excess one finds in the newly prosperous, Benor dropped a full silver vintenar into the outstretched palm. “What you wanna know.”
“Is there a boy called Vortac in the school.”
Wain was briefly silent. “There’s Vortac Lilywhite.”
“Could you point him out to us?”
Wain shrugged. “He’s not near the fence but if he comes closer I can.”
Benor had been thinking about the attempt on Young Vortac’s life. It was supposed to look like an accident. “Do any strangers go into the school?”
“No, only the ‘eadmaster’s family.”
“Do the boys ever come out of the school?”
“Yes, once a week they go to the indoor riding school.”
”Where’s that?”
Wain gestured, “Down that side street past the mews.”
As Benor surveyed the scene, Wain said helpfully. “And next time is in three days.”
Benor turned to Mutt. “We’ll better be here.”
“Funny that,” Wain said. “It’s exactly what the other chap said.”
“What other chap?”
Wain held his hand out, palm open again. “He paid me ten vintenars not to tell anybody.”
Mutt stepped forward and grabbed the other boy. “Bad lying is painful to watch. How much?”
“Five.”
“You sure?”
“Yes.”
Benor gently put ten vintenars into the boy’s hand. Mutt said quietly, “’An my people will be about to make sure you don’t tell no one.”
“Somebody called him Wheelstrain”
Benor asked, “Could they have called him Salat Wheelstrain?”
“Dunno, it were just Wheelstrain.”
Benor and Mutt withdrew out of earshot. Mutt whispered, “I’ll have some people down here soon. We’ll watch the place.”
“And on the day I’ll be here as well. I’ll see if I can get Tallis to come.”
Mutt muttered, “Yeah, coz you always needs a poet.”

On the fateful day Benor made a point of being early. There was a pavement café between the Academy and the Mews, affording a reasonable view of both. There was also a small bookshop opposite, Mittins. Tallis, inevitably, knew the proprietor and he was somewhere inside, in theory watching what was going on from there.
Mutt was with Benor. Benor had contemplated the situation and decided that he needed Mutt close by, but a man with a scruffy urchin sitting in a café was likely to be viewed with a degree of suspicion. On the other hand a young man treating his school-aged brother to coffee and cakes was surely the most normal thing in the world?
Wain had provided the outfit for a nominal sum and Mutt had agreed to wearing the garments with purely nominal reluctance. He now sat opposite Benor dressed in the scarlet breeches, white shirt and blue jacket of a pupil of the Woolmin Academy.
As the morning passed, the café filled with a collection of ladies of various ages who appeared to be regulars. Benor and Mutt drew little attention, but more than one of the ladies commented about the sheer number of workmen on the street that morning.
Benor had also noted this. Whereas during his reconnaissance visits there had merely been domestic servants about their errands, or the home owners going about their business, today the street was busy. There were dog turd collectors, two men pushing a barrow collecting horse dung, a small gang of workmen who were digging up the cobbles and relaying them, various people going from door to door touting for night soil, and a solitary gentleman wearing breeches and jacket in the same shade of lilac. He had arrived at the café to discover the last table had been taken and was reduced to sitting on a garden wall to drink his glass of rose petal infusion.
Eventually a small boy ran past the café being pursued by another. Mutt sat up, “They’re coming.”
As Benor looked towards the Academy he could see the gates open and a column of thirty boys aged between seven and eleven marched out in column of twos, led by Headmaster Woolmin, a wiry man wearing a black gown over his clothes. He wore pince nez and walked with a heavy walking stick with a polished brass head.
As the column approached, Benor saw a brewer’s dray come down the road behind them. It was obviously moving more rapidly than one would expect and as the column reached the café the dray seemed to accelerate. There were shouts and screams from the two men on the dray and suddenly the street was galvanised into action. The boys, uncertain what to do, halted, and then as the dray started to mount the pavement, they scattered. The solitary
gentleman in lilac rose to his feet and grabbed one of the boys.
Mutt said, “He’s grabbed Young Vortac.”
Benor leapt to his feet and ran towards the man and boy. The dray was accelerating now, and Benor suddenly realised that the man had picked the boy up and was about to throw him under the approaching dray. In the chaos workmen were running through the boys as if to stop the dray and one of them seemed to accidentally shoulder-barge Woolmin the headmaster, knocking him sprawling. Even as he ran Benor knew he’d be too late, the man in lilac, largely screened by workmen, had got the boy ready to throw. Then slick as an eel, Mutt overtook him and ran behind the man in lilac.
The man screamed, his right leg collapsed and he fell backwards with the boy on top of him. Benor grabbed the boy and dived over the low wall into a garden. As he lay there he saw the top of the loaded dray as it thundered past and heard one set of screams somehow more terrible than the shouts and cries that had preceded them. He picked the boy up, jumped back over the wall and ran across the road. Tallis was coming out of the bookshop. Benor took the ring from around his neck, hung the cord round the neck of the child and said, “Go with Tallis, trust him.” Then to Tallis he said, “Get out of here.”
As Tallis and the boy disappeared down an ally behind the bookshop Benor was joined by Mutt. The street was a scene of chaos. It was obvious that the only person hit by the dray was the man in lilac. Two of the labourers were trying to carry him away; others were running through the boys towards Benor and Mutt. Somebody pointed in his direction and shouted, “They went that way.”
Benor decided to try and draw the chase away from Tallis. He and Mutt ran towards Woolmin who had given up the search for his pince nez and was standing erect, shouting for the boys to congregate on him. The various pursuers split, some continued in pursuit of Tallis, others headed for Benor and Mutt. It was obvious that they weren’t sure which was the correct boy.
Two dog turd collectors stood between Benor and Woolmin. One reached out to grab Mutt. Without hesitating the boy dived between the man’s legs and as he passed through stabbed sideways with the short blade he held clenched in his left hand. The other swung a shovel at Benor who ducked under it and head butted the man in the solar plexus. The dog turd collector collapsed and Benor scrambled over him and came to his feet next to Woolmin. The rest of the boys were now behind Woolmin. The headmaster braced himself as the ruffians who were pursuing Benor and Mutt arrived. The first one ducked as the ferrule of the walking stick whistled past his head, but then collapsed as the brass head struck him firmly in the face, his colleague took a sharp jab from the stick which hit him in the stomach and doubled him over. Still the other thugs were spreading out and Benor unwillingly drew his knife. This didn’t look like it was going to end well.
It was then that the wave of café patrons stuck the ruffians from the rear. A sturdy parasol, wielded with determination, is not a weapon to be sneered at. Similarly, the man struck on the back of the head with a milk jug is unlikely to turn round to discuss the ethics of such a strike from behind with the jug’s wielder.
Suddenly there were no ruffians and Benor was left standing next to the headmaster. The latter peered short-sightedly at him. “Thank you for your assistance good sir. I am forever in your debt.”
He then turned round, “Boys, column of twos, we return to the academy.”
Obediently his boys formed up, and set off. Woolmin tapped Mutt on the shoulder. “Come on young man, back in the ranks.”
Mutt glanced despairingly at Benor who just nodded. Explaining the presence of Mutt in school uniform was not something he had time for just now. He watched as Mutt marched away with the others. Now, where were Tallis and Young Vortac?

~~~~~~~~~

And now the hard sell!

I’ve thought long and hard about blog tours. I often wonder how much somebody reading a book wants to know about the author. After all, I as a writer have gone to a lot of trouble to produce an interesting world for my characters to frolic in. Hopefully the characters and their story pull the reader into the world with them. So does the reader really want me tampering
with the fourth wall to tell them how wonderful I am? Indeed given the number of film stars and writers who have fallen from grace over the years, perhaps the less you know about me the better?
Still, ignoring me, you might want to know a bit about the world. Over the years I’ve written four novels and numerous novellas set in the Land of the Three Seas, and a lot of the action has happened in the city of Port Naain. They’re not a series, they’re written to be a collection, so you can read them in any order, a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories in that regard.
So I had a new novella I wanted to release. ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure.’ It’s one of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’ collection and I decided I’d like to put together a blog tour to promote it. But what sort of tour? Then I had a brainwave. I’d get bloggers who know Port Naain to send me suitable pictures and I’d do a short story about that picture. It would be an incident in the life of Benor as he gets to know Port Naain.
Except that when the pictures came in it was obvious that they linked together to form a story in their own right, which is how I ended up writing one novella to promote another! In simple terms it’s a chapter with each picture. So you can read the novella by following the blogs in order. There is an afterword which does appear in the novella that isn’t on the blogs, but it’s more rounding things off and tying up the lose ends.
Given that the largest number of pictures was provided by a lady of my acquaintance, I felt I had to credit her in some way.
So the second novella I’m releasing is ‘The plight of the Lady Gingerlily.’ It too is part of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection.

So we have ‘Swimming for profit and pleasure

Available at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon

Benor learns a new craft, joins the second hand book trade, attempts to rescue a friend and awakens a terror from the deep. Meddling in the affairs of mages is unwise, even if they have been assumed to be dead for centuries.

And we have ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily

Available at:
Amazon UK
and
Amazon

No good deed goes unpunished. To help make ends meet, Benor takes on a few small jobs, to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house. He began to feel that things were getting out of hand when somebody attempted to drown him.

Jim Webster

And to follow the blog tour from the start, follow these links:

An Appropriate Boy (this episode)

 

Equine Entanglements ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Equine Entanglements.jpg

Equine Entanglements_title

Adrasa Drane was remarkable, even amongst her siblings, for her fascination with horses and her total lack of fear. Even as a toddler she would walk under the great dray horses and stroke their legs. Thus it was inevitable that as she grew older she started to frequent stables and similar places.
At the age of fourteen she was present when Cavalier Qualan, the condottieri captain, rode down Ropewalk at the head of his men. Admittedly back then it was a lot less spectacular procession than it was to become, he was young and would struggle to field a score of lances. He stopped to talk to a passer-by who had hailed him, and Adrasa stepped forward and retied the throat lash on his bridle properly.
Cavalier Qualan looked down at the gamin, all legs and long hair and asked whether she could ride. She admitted that she couldn’t, so he told her that if she wanted to learn she should present herself to his house at the edge of town next day.
Adrasa may have contemplated discussing this matter with her parents but decided against it on the not unreasonable grounds that, firstly, they might forbid it, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as a dutiful daughter she didn’t want to cause them any distress by going against their specifically stated wishes.
So next morning Adrasa arose early and left a note on the kitchen table informing her parents that she had the chance of an apprenticeship. In brackets after it she wrote, “Something to do with horses.”
The Cavalier lived on what had once been a farm, but had been swallowed up by the advancing city. So whilst the house was not large, there were barns and stables around quite a large courtyard. There was even a field of sorts which various previous owners had neglected to sell off. Adrasa presented herself at the house and was immediately sent round to the stables where the Cavalier himself watched her tack up an elderly horse. Then he assisted her into the saddle. She sat there holding the reins until eventually the horse turned its head to look at her as if to enquire as to whether his services would be needed that day.
Still, by the end of the first week she could mount and ride a sensible horse with reasonable confidence. She was also able to clean both tack and horse and could be trusted to feed and water it. At this point Cavalier Qualan had a serious talk with her. He pointed out that her path had come to a crossroads. She could return home, learn a proper trade and have very little to do with horses. Or she could join his staff as a stable girl where she’d get a reasonable wage and enjoy considerable security. Indeed he went so far as to grin when he told her that he kept losing his stable girls to matrimony. They tended to find ardent suitors amongst carters, the owners of livery stables, and even his own horsemen. The third option he held out to her was that she became a squire with the aim of eventually bearing arms and riding for him as one of his lances.
He sent her home to her parents, accompanied by his Mistress of the Stables.
This formidable lady explained the situation to both Taffetia and Garrat. Next day Adrasa came back, her articles of apprenticeship signed by both parents.
Her chosen career path was unusual but wasn’t unheard of. Perhaps one in twenty of the condottieri horsemen in the city are women. Talking to men who’ve served, they see no problem with this. Women are generally lighter, and whilst they might be less powerful, they can wear the same armour because the horse takes most of the weight. When it comes to the shock of combat, the woman’s horse tends to be fresher and hits faster and harder. Amongst the infantry one rarely sees a woman. Some claim that it’s due to their lack of stamina and physical power, but frankly I’d suggest it’s purely that the infantry don’t get horses.
Still whatever the reason, Adrasa flourished in her chosen career. At the age of seventeen she rode south. In the following two decades she had typhus, dysentery (three times), ringworm every year until she became immune to it, and gave birth to three children and lost one of them. She had her left arm broken, (twice) and suffered from innumerable cuts and contusions. On one notable occasion she received a blow which tore through the armour on her right thigh, left her needing seventeen stitches and she couldn’t walk for three weeks. She fought to defend three towns and was at the sieges of four others. She commanded the garrison of an isolated tower for three months and fought in innumerable ambuscades, skirmishes and routs. On her thirty-seventh birthday she led the successful attack on a merchant convoy.
Six months later she followed Cavalier Qualan north to Port Naain for the last time; financially secure due to the looted convoy, she had decided to retire. After two decades in the saddle, Adrasa had changed but Uttermost Partann remained much as it had always been.
After talking to the Cavalier she started a stable of her own, but with ponies suitable for children and young people rather than horses. She taught all and sundry to ride. The children of the wealthy would arrive on their own pony; the daughters of the middle classes (sometimes the sons but mainly the daughters) would ride one of her ponies. Rather than calling it a riding school, she called it a club. They played games such as polo and tent-pegging as well as performing more formal exercises on the field she borrowed from the Cavalier.
Indeed just to make sure that her pupils and their mounts were competent she would have them ride in column of twos through the city. She would ride at the back, watching her charges carefully. Occasionally she’d say firmly, in her parade ground voice, “Stop slouching girl.”
When Adrasa did that I’ve seen married women with a toddler in one hand and their shopping in the other, guiltily snap to attention two streets away.

~~~~~~~~~

And now the hard sell!

OK so perhaps the not so hard sell. It’s just that this is part of a blog tour which is peering into the lives of Garrat Drane, and his lady wife Taffetia Drane. Now we are meeting their various offspring, delightful people and pillars of the community. Or perhaps not.  But still now is your chance to meet them and inadvertently you may discover their importance to our hero, Tallis Steelyard. Tallis has his own blog at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

But actually the purpose of this blog is to draw your attention to the fact
that a new book has been published. ‘Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat.’

Six men in a boat

Rather than a collection of his anecdotes, this is indeed an ‘adventure’ as Tallis ventures forth from the city of Port Naain. Questions are asked that may even be answered, why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.

Treat yourself; you know you’re worth it!

Jim Webster 

And to follow the Blog Tour from the start – follow these links:

Garret Dane and the case of the petty cash

Money doesn’t earn itself!

Amazing what you learn as you grow older

Only themselves to blame

Do you want honey roasted grub with that?

A constant struggle for funding

The Tenant

Equine entanglements (this episode)

A touch more colour

Moving to the music

What are the chances of that? Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

What are the chances of that

What are the chances of that_title

Shalan Kettlewell was a bookmaker. He always insisted on ‘full title’ and refused to be called a ‘bookie.’ This term he felt to be objectionable and he held that it denigrated a proud profession. Still whether you thought of him as a ‘bookie’ or a ‘book maker’ he made his money by taking bets. He maintained not especially prestigious premises two streets back from the less fashionable end of Ropewalk. Here you could go in and place your bet. On race days he had a stall on the course itself.
His permanent establishment had the name, ‘House of Kettlewell’ emblazoned across the front in gold letters. In some circles this might have been considered a little immoderate, but compared to the man himself it was distinctly understated. There is a black and white print of Shalan Kettlewell in his prime hanging in the gent’s privy in the Misanthropes Hall. One or two people have suggested having it coloured but frankly if it was true to life it would be so bright as to force those using the room to squint. This was felt by the management to be inappropriate.
So other than a taste for garish clothing, tasteless accessories, and a certain precision in speech, what else marked Kettlewell out? Well, between ourselves, he did have a tendency to gloat. Other bookies take your money and will offer worthless congratulations (often through clenched teeth) if you win, and equally worthless commiserations when, as happens far more often, you lose.
But Kettlewell seemed to regard each bet as a personal challenge to him. If he won, you would think that he had overcome the odds and defeated you by the exercise of his personal virtue. If he lost, then he was prone to sulking and depression.
This probably wouldn’t have mattered, but he was also proud of his ability to calculate the odds. Indeed his catch phrase when he won was, “What are the chances of that? In my experience, the successful bookie has no real grasp of numbers. What he does have is an instinctive grasp of the punter and the world in general. He will look at the punter, contemplate the bet and somewhere deep in his shrivelled and possibly mortgaged soul a small voice tells him, “Three to two, on.”
Kettlewell was an exponent of the subtle calculus of computation. Not for him the mere adding up of a column of numbers, he went far far deeper than that. Deeper perhaps than it is safe for a mere mortal to go. At last he gazed upon forbidden things and drew upon himself the attention of those far more powerful in the art than he was.
So it happened that one day a cloaked and hooded figure appeared at the ‘House of Kettlewell’. He announced himself at Valair the Numerator, thaumaturgist, sage and student of the mathematical arts. He proceeded to look down the odds offered on various horses and made a complicated bet.
On the chosen day there were seven races and Valair had picked out seven winners. But the winnings from the first bet would become the stake for the second bet; the winnings of the second bet would become the stake for the third bet, and so on.
Kettlewell dropped the stake money into his chest with a superior smile and thought no more about it. Yet on the chosen day, from his stall at the racecourse, Kettlewell experienced the first vague sense of unease. The horse backed by Valair won the first race so as instructed, Kettlewell placed the winnings as stake money on the horse picked for the second race. Somewhat to his surprise Valair’s horse won the second race. The amount of money placed on the horse chosen for the third race was considerable. Kettlewell could only remember two other bets as large.

Valair’s horse won the third race. When Kettlewell placed the winnings as a stake for the horse in the fourth race it was a purely paper exercise, he didn’t have enough money with him to use cash. He was beginning to get desperate. He summoned a loyal and trusted servant, surreptitiously handed him a small bottle and whispered in his ear the name of the horse Valair had backed for the seventh race. The minion went on his way and Kettlewell continued to pace nervously up and down behind his stall. He attempted to calm his nerves by taking sips of brandy from his hip flask.
When the fourth horse won, it won more money that Kettlewell could afford. Even if he sold everything he had, he couldn’t have paid off the bet. Almost mechanically he pushed all the money onto the fifth horse. This won by an embarrassingly large margin. By now the stake money on the sixth horse was beyond Kettlewell’s comprehension. He proceeded to do a hasty calculation on the back of an old betting slip. He checked it twice and the numbers kept adding up. If the sixth and seventh horses won, even if Kettlewell sold the entire city of Port Naain, lock, stock and barrel, it still wouldn’t raise enough money to pay off the final bet.
It was a pale and nervous Kettlewell who watched Valair’s chosen horse win the sixth race. Indeed his hands shook as he paid out those punters who had bet merely on that race. He had discarded the hipflask and was now drinking openly from the bottle.
As the seventh race started, Kettlewell noticed Valair walking towards the stand. The bookie was too tense to even pretend to smile at him. The savant leaned against one of the poles that held up the canopy over the stall and he and Kettlewell watched the race together.
Valair’s choice got a good start; as the tape dropped it leapt clear. With a quarter of the race run it was two lengths clear. At the turn it was four lengths clear. Kettlewell felt a cramping in his bowels.
Then at the three quarter point the horse slowly slumped to the ground and lay there, snoring as its jockey danced round it cursing. It was at this point that Kettlewell had realised he was holding his breath. He let it out with a gasp as the rest of the race thundered past the sleeping horse and the race was over.
Finally he turned to face Valair. The face of the savant was contorted with fury. Before the other man could say anything, Kettlewell smiled insincerely at him and said, “What are the chances of that?”
Strangely nobody ever saw Shalan Kettlewell after that day. His staff, assuming he was on some errand, paid out punters as usual after the last race, then closed the stall down and made their way back into town. They reopened the shop next morning but when he still failed to appear, finally the business was handed to his sister who sold it.
As an aside, the area around the shop is now known for the gaudy and exotic butterflies that you can see in the area. What are the chances of that?

~~~~~~~~~

At this point Tallis drifts off and leaves me, Jim Webster to let you know what is going on.
I’m promoting a book, that’s what is going on. You see, for a number of years I’ve been writing about the adventures of Benor, a cartographer living in a fantasy setting. First I published a couple of novels and then tried something different. I wrote a number of novellas about him, under the title of ‘The Port Naain Intelligencer.’
The thing about the stories in the Port Naain Intelligencer collection, you can read them in any order. It’s a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote them in a particular order, but you can dip in and out of them, you don’t need to start with volume one and work through them chronologically.
So I’ve just published, ‘A licence to print money: The Port Naain Intelligencer.’ It’s available on Amazon at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07DNLCD9V/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DNLCD9V/

In it, Benor, who just wants to get paid for some work he’s done, struggles against corrupt officials, bent bookies, and all manner of other problems. On the positive side he does get to meet a Magistrate who is also a performance poet, and young Mutt finds somebody who might even be tougher than he is.

Tallis, the leading poet of his generation, first appeared in one of the Port Naain Intelligencer stories, so for those of you who still love Tallis, his blog is still there at
https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/

And some more collections of anecdotes from Tallis Steelyard are in the publishing pipeline.
And you can find my books at

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jim-Webster/e/B009UT450I/

Oh and I’ve got another blog which I write which is mainly sheep, quad bikes and stuff. Or perhaps not?

https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/

Also, in case you’re interested, I’m trying an experiment. I’ve split a Port Naain Intelligencer novel into episodes (or chapters) and these can be followed on the web as part of a blog tour. If you fancy following them then here’s the timetable:

A licence to print money tour, addresses
Wednesday 20thJune Annette Rochelle Aben Episode 1 https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/
Thursday 21stJune Suzanne Joshi Episode 2 https://patriciaruthsusan.wordpress.com/
Friday 22nd June Chris Graham Episode 3 http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/06/22/tales-from-the-port-naain-intelligencer-collection-blog-tour-episode-3/
Saturday 23rdJune Robbie Cheadle Episode 4 https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/
Sunday 24th June Craig Boyack Episode 5 https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/2018/06/24/a-license-to-print-money/ 
Monday 25thJune Sue Vincent Episode 6 https://scvincent.com/
Tuesday 26thJune Chris Graham Episode 7 http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2018/06/26/reserved-for-jim-webster-2/
Wednesday 27thJune Sue Vincent Episode 8 https://wp.me/p1wss8-fyz
Thursday 28thJune Annette Rochelle Aben Episode 9 https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/

A license to print money

 

Pictures from an Exhibition blog tour with Tallis Steelyard – Rich and poor

If you have been to Port Naain (as of course you have), you will thoroughly enjoy the tale about to unfold before you. If you are one of those rare folk who have not, then you are in for a treat, and, I dare say, you will be making travel arrangements even before finishing your read.
The reader who has not been to Port Naain is likely someone who does not travel at all, as it is known far and wide as a destination of character. All are welcome there, whether highborn or low. Many have stayed, and they sometimes find themselves included in the tales of Tallis Steelyard, a poet with the highest of standards, sometimes exercised in the lowest of places. Continue reading, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the lore of Port Naain.

Rich and poor.jpg

As we continue our perambulations through the paintings exhibited here by Andeal Willnoton Quillabin we come to one which I feel is somewhat unusual. This picture is his interpretation of something he was told about but never saw. Indeed he couldn’t have seen it as it happened before either he or I were born.
Andreal, like all artists, is happy to take commissions. Normally these involve people putting coin into his hand in payment. The only discussion is over the amount of coin. Yet in this case the situation was somewhat different. A group of us were sitting, minding our own business, having a quiet drink in the Lubbergate Tavern. It was a somewhat sombre occasion as we were ‘celebrating’ the passing of Jettin Sal. We’d delivered her body to the corpse boat with proper ceremony and now were gathered to drink a toast to her memory.
The chief mourner was Jeia, her daughter and our contemporary. She told some tales of her mother and father who had been shore-combers. Jeia herself had gone up in the world and was in domestic service as a maid. So the group round the table consisted of shore-combers, other folk who’d known Jettin, and people who were friends of Jeia and wished to support her. Andeal, like me, had known Jettin but mainly we were there because we knew her daughter.
Jeia turned to one of the older men sitting with us. “Uncle Quanard, could you tell us some of the old tales about my parents please.”
The old man so addressed put down his glass. “Did you hear about the day your parents were married?”
“Only a little, Uncle.”
“Well it was a proper shore-comber wedding. You don’t see them much now. Everything was worked around the tide. The Priestess of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Fecundity turned up with the high tide to sanctify the marriage. Then we borrowed tables from all the mud-jobbers and served the wedding breakfast. By the time we’d finished eating the tide was well out so we all trooped onto the mud for dancing.”
Jeia looked surprised, “I don’t remember my mum being much of a lady for dancing.”
Old Quanard just patted her arm. “After four children, and the accident that lamed your dad, she didn’t dance. But as a young woman she was a fine dancer.” He stared off into memory. “It’s how she and your dad met really, they were both fine dancers.”
We sat in silence as the old shore-comber pulled together the threads of memory. “The day had worsened, but I well remember the last dance. It was for the bride and groom to dance alone, but the rain was already blowing in. So they danced it with a couple of us just trying to keep the rain off them with some old umbrellas we’d got. I’ve never seen such dancing, him tall and handsome, her slim and beautiful, and both so much in love.”
Jeia dabbed a tear away from her cheek. “Oh I’d have loved to have seen it.”
With that Andreal kicked me under the table and mouthed, “You and I have to talk.”

~~~~

As we walked back from the Lubbergate Tavern Andreal told me his idea.
“I’m going to paint a picture for Jeia. It’s going to be her parents dancing at their wedding.”
“But you haven’t got a clue what they looked like.”
Andreal waved a hand airily. “You and I will interview people and I will capture the spirit of the occasion.”
“It still happened forty or more years ago. How many people do you think will remember the details?”
With perfect logic Andreal replied, “Tallis, if they don’t remember the details, they cannot quibble about what I put in the painting.”
“I realise I’m just a poet but I don’t think it works quite like that.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll meet you tomorrow at high tide on the Old Esplanade.”

~~~~

I had hoped that if Andreal was going to persist with his cavalier attitude to reality, then we wouldn’t spend much time interviewing. In fact, Andreal, with me tagging along behind him trying not to look put-upon, interviewed everyone. And I mean everybody. He talked to all and sundry, he talked to the people we could find who had been at the wedding. He talked to the children of people who’d been at the wedding in case the parents had mentioned it. He even talked to people who thought they remembered it because they happened to walk along the Old Esplanade that day.
By the end of the process we had copious notes and from these I tried to produce something that might approach a consensus. There were facts everybody agreed on. There were the two dancers and two people with umbrellas trying to protect them from the rain.
Our witnesses were agreed that Iappan, the groom, had worn a suit. Details were sketchy, but generally it was agreed that it was dark, almost black, and he’d borrowed it from his brother. Because his brother was a clerk he had some black shoes to wear with the suit and Iappan had worn them. This we know because apparently there had been a flaming row when the brother got his shoes back and had to spend most of a day rubbing vinegar into them to get rid of the salt.
For Jettin we had a stroke of luck. One woman produced a piece of material that was all that was left of the dress. Jettin had been the fourth woman married in that dress. She was also the tallest, and it looked a little short on her. So she’d cut the back low and used the material salvaged to lengthen the dress a little. Our informant was the next bride to be married in the dress so she merely removed the material Jettin had added to the length. She’d been at Jettin’s wedding and had liked the low back, so kept that style. The spare material had remained in her scraps box ever since because one day it might come in useful.
So now Andreal started work on his painting. What intrigued me was that the bride and groom were comparatively straight forward. His big problems came with the figures holding the umbrellas. His idea was to contrast the dancers, oblivious to everything but each other, with the umbrella holders who would be used to show how bad the weather was.
Because we were cheap and available, he used Jeia and me as models. I could see that he was struggling with it, and finally, one day, in exasperation, he took us down to the Old Esplanade, and as he sat under the shelter of Shena’s awning, Jeia and I were left out in the wind and rain for a good hour as he strived to capture our postures. Finally satisfied he dashed back to his studio to finish the work. He’d been gone ten minutes before anybody thought to tell the two of us that our services were no longer required. We were so cold and wet that we had to be half carried to the Goldclaw Baths where we were stripped and thrown into the warm waters.

~~~~

Obviously when the picture was finished, all those who’d contributed to our researches wanted to see it. So Andreal brought it down to the Old Esplanade and exhibited it in Shena’s office. I arrived early; I wanted to be there, not merely to hear the comments but to see the expressions on their faces. Those who had heard the tale were modestly flattering. The interesting ones were those who’d been at the wedding. They stared at the painting for a long time in silence. Andreal was a little worried as a lot of them just shuffled off in silence. Finally he grabbed old Quanard as he turned to go.
“Please, what is it like, is it any good?”
Quanard seemed to be struggling for words. Finally he just rested a hand on Andreal’s shoulder. “Well lad it’s like this. It were nothing like the picture, yet the picture sums it up perfect.”
So this is the tale of how I, Tallis Steelyard, suffered for somebody else’s art. Were my sufferings worth it? Look at the picture and decide for yourself. But I must warn you that this picture is one of the few that isn’t for sale. Jeia has merely loaned to the exhibition.

Rich and poor

Other stops on the Pictures from an Exhibition
blog tour can be read here:
Partannese Promenade
The Old Castle
Children’s Quarrel
Cattle
Unhatched Chicks
The Market
The Catacombs
Chicken Legs
The Gnome
The Bogat Street Gates

For those interested in reading the Pictures from an Exhibition collection
on Kindle, it’s now available at Amazon UK and Amazon.

AND NOW…

Tallis Steelyard, the festival, and other stories.

Tallis Steelyard and Jim Webster proudly present
The Festival, and other stories

Available from Amazon UK
and Amazon
(The States)

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In here Tallis touches upon child rearing, politics as a performance art, the joy of dance and the advantages that come with good manners. Discover why Madam Dolbart was forced to constantly hire new cooks, marvel at the downfall of Dash Blont, lecher, libertine, and philanderer . Whatever happens, do not pass through life without knowing of the advantages to be gained by an early morning pick-me-up of horse dung spread fine on toast. You too can be charming and elegant once you know how.
For a mere 99p all this and more can be yours.