Three sisters ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

It was Estini Clogwain who got me involved in this mad quest. She was a charming young woman, she made gloves, bespoke, for private clients. I would occasionally see her when in the presence of a common patron. By unspoken agreement I always made a point of commenting favourable about her gloves to anybody who asked, and I know for a fact she recommended me as a safe pair of hands for anybody wishing to organise an entertainment.

But I was a little surprised when I got home to the barge one evening to find her sobbing on Shena’s shoulder. I did the sensible thing and made coffee and waited for the ladies to involve me in the conversation. Eventually the reason for her presence was vouchsafed to me. She had a
brother, somewhat older, who had been courting the younger Mistress Yarbattle. He had disappeared. She had had no word from him save a letter some time ago saying that he had signed on a ship to the west and would never return.

She had been shocked by that, after all, few glovers make that sort of career change. She had been even more shocked when she got another message from him merely a week ago saying that he was dying from some illness he’d succumbed to out there. Enclosed in the packet was their father’s pocket watch.

Now they weren’t wealthy people, their father had been a whittawer, but was known for the quality of his saddles. He encouraged his children to aim for quality and was proud of what they were doing. Both brother and sister had a considerable following amongst those with money who appreciated quality. Now I barely knew the Yarbattle family, but when a young lady with eyes glistening with tears pleads for your help, what fool of a poet can resist?

The Yarbattle house is high about Nightbell, looking out over the Ocean. It was an early summer’s evening by the time I arrived. When I knocked, a maid admitted me and showed me through to a very pleasant parlour with a balcony looking out over the sea. Sitting in a chair, reading, was a lady who was perhaps not as young as she had been. On the balcony was a younger lady who was staring out over the sea and who never deigned to acknowledge my

I was greeted courteously by the older of the two ladies and when the maid had left, the lady asked my business. I explained about Estini Clogwain and her missing brother.

“Ah, Erasmas Clogwain.”
As she said the words I would have sworn I saw the young woman on the balcony stiffen slightly.

“A sad story but for the sister’s sake I think you deserve to hear it. You must know that there were once three of us. The oldest sister, Olina, the middle sister, Marta, which is me, and the youngest of us, little Irianna. We lived together after our parents died, and frankly it was a mistake. We were not happy. Olina was a lady who wished to control everybody. She couldn’t have driven off suitors more rapidly if she’d hired bullies to track them down and beat them up.” Marta paused, “Although I’m certain she did actually do that in one case. Finally Irianna met Erasmas when she ordered a pair of gloves. They met in great secrecy, I’ve never known a pair of gloves need so many fittings. Indeed without going into too many details, they became lovers.”

She sighed. “Then Olina found out and she was furious. She discovered the two lovers as they lay together in a folly in our garden overlooking the sea. There was apparently a flaming row, Irianna claimed she was pregnant. Olian responded by swearing she would drown the child at birth. She banned Erasmas from our house and promised to have him killed. Irianna,  distraught, threw herself from the cliff into the sea and drowned.
Olina stormed into the kitchen where I was making our evening meal.” Here she smiled in a somewhat embarrassed manner. “We can afford a maid but not a cook.”

She glanced at the figure on the balcony, but elicited no response. “Olina told me what had happened, and was working out what to sell to pay the fee for an assassin to kill Erasmas. I told her she was a fool and we argued, furiously. Then she had a fit and died. I didn’t know what to do but the maid went and found Erasmas and we wrapped the body in a shroud, set it in cement and next day we hired a boat and dropped my sister’s body overboard.”

I sat stunned by what I’d heard. Then the figure on the balcony turned to face us. “And she rolls backwards and forwards on the sea bed in her stony shroud. The kitchen knife in her vitals traps her there. And I go down and mock her. Then soon, my Erasmas will come and we will leave here and be together again.” With that she turned back and continued looking out over
the sea. Even as I stared at her, she faded slowly from my view.

Marta nodded slowly as if in agreement with her younger sister’s pronouncement. “It is not an edifying story you have to tell young Estini. Still I will do what I can. When my sister leaves I will sell the house and leave the city. I have no future here, nor any desire to remain.”

She didn’t dismiss me, she merely picked up her book and recommenced reading. I rose quietly, bowed and made my own way out of the house. It was a year later that the maid from the Yarbattle household appeared at the barge. She handed me a small purse. “The house is sold. Give this to Estini Clogwain.”

With that she turned and made her way back into the city. I opened the purse gingerly. Inside there was a piece of paper. When I opened that, perhaps a score of small gold coins nestled securely in it. On the piece of the paper were written the words, “Love who you want, and for what it’s worth, you have my blessing.”


And now a brief note from Jim Webster. It’s really just to inform you that I’ve just published two more collections of stories.

The first, available on kindle, is
‘Tallis Steelyard, preparing the ground, and other stories.’

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Meet a
vengeful Lady Bountiful, an artist who smokes only the finest hallucinogenic
lichens, and wonder at the audacity of the rogue who attempts to drown a
poet! Indeed after reading this book you may never look at young boys and
their dogs, onions, lumberjacks or usurers in quite the same way again.
A book that plumbs the depths of degradation, from murder to folk dancing,
from the theft of pastry cooks to the playing of a bladder pipe in public.

Available at:
Amazon UK

The second, available on Kindle or as a paperback, is
‘Maljie. Just one thing after another.’

Once more Tallis Steelyard chronicles the life of Maljie, a lady of his
acquaintance. Discover the wonders of the Hermeneutic Catherine Wheel,
marvel at the use of eye-watering quantities of hot spices. We have bell
ringers, pop-up book shops, exploding sedan chairs, jobbing builders,
literary criticism, horse theft and a revolutionary mob. We also discover
what happens when a maiden, riding a white palfrey led by a dwarf, appears
on the scene.

Available at:
Amazon UK

Jim Webster


There are fourteen installments in Tallis Steelyards current blog tour, each
guest blog linked below is as entertaining as the next.
A free lunch
A gaol break
No accounting for taste
A poetic inheritance
All perfectly respectable
Bearing all before them
Cleaning up
Culturally appropriate
Not really a living
Only the truth?

Remarkably sharp
The bait digger
Three sisters (this installment)
We could just elope

Not particularly well liked ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Now I was safely home in Port Naain, I was wary about just picking up where I left off. After all, I’d left the city under something of a cloud with unpleasantly inclined people hunting for me. There again, I’d merely assumed they were unpleasantly inclined, I hadn’t waited long enough for them to prove their intentions one way or another. I had decamped from the city because I was being blamed, I feel unfairly, for the publication of a book of children’s tales. These tales were claimed by some to cast a harsh light on the antics of the rich and powerful. Now I’ve upset the rich and powerful before and so far my unfailing solution to the problem is to just leave the city for a few months. Thus I when I arrive back, these people have been upset by somebody else and I have been forgotten. In this case I suspected that I hadn’t been away for long enough.

What to do about it? Well what I did was to quietly go about my business, visiting patrons and suchlike, but all the while trying to pick up any gossip that might be relevant to my situation.
You might be surprised to discover what you can overhear if you’re careful.
I once overheard two ladies expressing their surprise that a third lady seemed to have forgiven me for some unintended slight or the other. Fortified by that knowledge I acted immediately, wrote the lady what I felt was a charming poem, and called upon her to both apologise if I had offended her, and to present her with the poem. As it was, the two ladies I’d overheard were correct and the lady had realised that it was a lot of fuss over nothing. Hence when I arrived to apologise I was made most welcome and the rupture between us was securely healed.

Yet on another occasion I had just finished giving the company a selection of verses. As I moved quietly through the throng I heard one lady ask another where a third lady had disappeared to. The answer rather perturbed me. “Oh she’s just realised that Tallis is here so she had gone to get her sedan chair bearers to give him a sound thrashing. So I sought out my hostess, and explained that it was probably for the best if I disappeared quietly without attracting attention. She was most understanding and recommended that I leave via the kitchen. To be fair, when I arrived in the kitchen, the cook asked why I was leaving through the back door. I explained. Because I’d always made a point in dropping into the kitchen with a few tales for those working there, Cook was dismayed at this news and insisted I take a shoulder of orid, “For you and that lovely wife of yours.”

But I seem to have drifted off the point. I was forced to walk as if on eggshells, as I didn’t know whether I was still in bad odour or not. There are times I wish that there was somebody definitive I could just ask. They would come up with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and I could act accordingly.
Yet even this sort of service would not be without its problems. Dorbert Wengul had once attempted to provide something similar. Dorbert was one of those people who would often express his opinion first and contemplate the consequences later. After several hard lessons, he learned discretion. But his experiences had given him an idea. He would keep abreast of events generally. Thus if, for example, a poet had inadvertently offended somebody and felt it wise to leave the city, the poet could just drop Dorbert a line and Dorbert would write back stating whether it was or was not safe to return.

Initially his scheme worked well and he looked to be on the road to building up a flourishing little business. Because his first clients tended to be people he knew, and they tended to have offended people he knew, (if only distantly) it was comparatively easy for him to know whether the offence had been forgotten.
But as word spread about the service he provided, with glowing reports about its convenience and accuracy, he had even more takers. His new clients tended to be people who were not from his social circle, and they had offended people who were just names to him. This presented him with a quandary, but he rose to the occasion. He decided to just ask the offended person whether they were still offended. You can see his reasoning, he’s asking the one person who does genuinely know the answer to the question.
Perhaps a year after he implemented this policy, one quiet afternoon he was browsing his records. In the cold light of day it became obvious that in those cases where he didn’t approach the offended person, they forgot about the offence far more quickly than when he did approach the offended person. Indeed it occurred to him that, in reality, he was reminding them of the offence and was thus ensuring that it wasn’t forgotten and thus inadvertently forgiven.

Initially he was somewhat downcast by this discovery. After all it meant that his business model was flawed. But as he thought about it, another scheme suggested itself. So he offered his ‘Reminder’ service. Hence if you were offended by somebody, you would pay Dorbert a retainer and every month of so he would remind you, in exquisite detail, about how you had been offended. This was an invaluable service for those who like the luxury of nursing their wrath, but have busy diaries and might otherwise allow some imagined slight to slip, unavenged, into an unintended oblivion.
But once Dorbert started offering this service (alongside his other, rather than in lieu of it) he found he had another group of customers. These were the rivals, professional or personal, of people who have been forced to flee. They were happy to pay Dorbert’s retainer. To them it was a cheap and efficient way of ensuring that their rival didn’t return. I know a number of ladies who have been left wondering why their admirer never did return, leaving them to seek solace in the arms of their second choice. The second choice was the one who’d wisely invested with Dorbert and had thus ensured their rival couldn’t make an inconvenient homecoming.

I think that Dorbert felt that he had now reached a position where he could hope to achieve financial security. To be fair to him, he wasn’t looking for wealth, he just wanted a liberal prosperity. Indeed he felt obliged to congratulate himself on his perspicacity in creating this business. You can perceive where he was coming from, he calculated that not only were the rich and powerful inclined to think positively of him, but those who might object to his business practices were excluded from the city. Indeed if they tried to enter Port Naain to remonstrate with him, the rich and powerful would doubtless have their hirelings administer a salutary lesson. Unfortunately Dorbert had forgotten one group of people. He had overlooked the families of those who were effectively exiled. This group came to his attention by the simple expedient of beating him up in a back alley. An assortment of wives and children explained to him as they administered the beating that what they were administering was a medicine, designed to remedy a number of moral and ethical deficiencies they had noted in his character. Dorbert took the hint, left the city that evening under the cover of darkness and has never returned.


And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster…

So here I am again with another blog tour. Not one book but three.

The first is another of the Port Naain Intelligencer collection. These stories are a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories. You can read them in any order.

On the Mud.           The Port Naain Intelligencer
When mages and their suppliers fall out, people tend to die. This becomes a
problem when somebody dies before they manage to pass on the important
artefact they had stolen. Now a lot of dangerous, violent or merely amoral
people are searching, and Benor has got caught up in it all. There are times
when you discover that being forced to rely upon a poet for back-up isn’t as
reassuring as you might hope.


Available at:
Amazon UK

Then we have a Tallis Steelyard novella.

Tallis Steelyard and the Rustic Idyll
When he is asked to oversee the performance of the celebrated ‘Ten
Speeches’, Tallis Steelyard realises that his unique gifts as a poet have
finally been recognised. He may now truly call himself the leading poet of
his generation.
Then the past comes back to haunt him, and his immediate future involves too
much time in the saddle, being asked to die in a blue silk dress, blackmail
and the abuse of unregulated intoxicants. All this is set in delightful
countryside as he is invited to be poet in residence at a lichen festival.

Available at:
Amazon UK

And finally, for the first time in print we proudly present…

Maljie, the episodic memoirs of a lady.
In his own well-chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of
Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her
bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the
difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We
enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation,
and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh
yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.

Available at:
Amazon UK

All a mere 99p each.

Jim Webster


There are fourteen installments in Tallis Steelyards current blog tour, each
guest blog as entertaining as the next.
Cartographically challenged
Silent Justice
Knowing your profiteroles
Coming Clean
Bringing the joys of civilisation
Trite tales for little people
A lisence to perform
Working the Crowd
And home again
Not particularly well liked (this installment)

More trite tales for little people
A poet is always a gentleman
Justice of a sort
Getting to the bottom of it all

Water Under the Bridge ~ Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

Tallis Steelyard Guest Post

I discovered the Bridge Tower on one of my perambulations around Partann. Some people say it isn’t in Partann, in that it’s on the right bank of the Dharant, some way south of Fluance but north of the road from Avitas over the mountains to the East.
Still, whilst geographers, cartographers and the inhabitants of Fluance might quibble, the inhabitants of the area do think of it as Partann.

I approached it from the north, following the River Quibble, which is one of the tributaries of the Dharant. Some miles away I saw the tower high on the bridge and hoping for shelter for the night I followed the track which led towards it. I soon found that the track climbed and ran along the edge of an escarpment above the river. The escarpment itself was thick with brush, briars and similar, and once you had left the river it appeared impossible to return.

Indeed in several places where the impenetrable scrub to my left seemed potentially more penetrable, there were even signs marking the track as I was following as being the correct route to the Bridge Tower. At these places the road had been cleared of overhanging foliage and seemed more obvious. I confess this made me a little curious and at the next signpost I squatted down and peered carefully at the ground where the scrub was thin. I soon realised that for a man on his hands and knees there was a perfectly adequate path that seemed to lead down the escarpment. My interest well whetted I made my way down the path and soon reached an area where I could stand upright. Soon I was following a perfectly acceptable path down to the river.

I continued along the river. The river itself ran between deep banks and although the water was shallow I could see crossing it would be difficult. I have no doubt that in wet seasons it could well be a torrent, especially when the snows melted on the mountains upstream. Across the river one could look towards the fells and moors which faded gradually into the foothills of the Apices.

Finally, not far from the bridge, I came across an older man, tending his beillie. He seemed surprised to see me but greeted me in a friendly enough fashion, introducing himself as Cordin the Beillie herd, and asked my business. I explained I’d been contemplating reaching the tower, looking for somewhere to spend the night. He glanced up at the broken bridge above us and explained that because of the difficulties of the terrain it could take me several hours to get there, especially if I had been on horseback.

Still we chatted, and in return for some help with his small flock he was perfectly happy to provide me with accommodation and a meal and set me on my way to the tower the next morning.

That evening as I sat with my host and his wife in their pleasant enough cottage, I asked about the tower and who lived there. I had been told that it belonged to a savant called Chekwind. The old man smiled nostalgically and launched into his tale. It appears that Chekwind had indeed acquired the tower. This was when my host was young and had just married and set up home in the cottage. The ownership of the tower was of little moment to those living below it. The tower looks to the west, whilst those living below by the side of the Quibble look to the east. The escarpment blocks easy traffic in either direction. Still it seems that Chekwind had seen my host and had shouted to him from one of the lower windows. Apparently Chekwind had been checking his deeds and discovered he was the owner of the land below the tower and was entitled to rent from it. Cordin said that he was the tenant and promised to deliver the rent the next day. So at noon he arrived with the annual rent, a young goat kid. As the tenancy agreement said nothing about the gender of the kid or whether it had to be alive, or prepared, ready for the table, Cordin had brought a young billy.

As fate would have it, it was Chekwind’s concubine who met him at the door and immediately pronounced the kid as adorable. She took the kid inside and Cordin, his duty done, went back to his flock. A few months later, Chekwind managed to attract Cordin’s attention and offered him ready cash to remove the beillie. What his lady hadn’t realised is that as they grow older, billy beillies stink. Not long after Chekwind and his concubine moved out. Apparently the tower depends for its water on rainwater collected in cisterns. There wasn’t enough water to wash away the smell of the beillie. Between ourselves, even if you could have diverted the river through the tower, there’d still not be enough water to get rid of the smell.
The tower stood empty for the rest of the summer, and then it was occupied by a band of brigands who were looking for a base from which to plunder the countryside. They were dislodged by an Urlan maiden aged sixteen who rode up to the door and pointed out to them that they didn’t have the water to withstand a siege. The brigands checked the cisterns and were forced to agree with her. There was then a semantic argument amongst the brigands over whether having a sixteen year old girl standing outside your only door properly constitutes a siege.
Eventually they looked over the parapet to discover she was still waiting. Tentatively they broached the issue of raising the siege. She pointed out that if they were respectable travellers who were jut sheltering from the rain, there obviously would be no talk of a siege. Hastily the small band of heavily armed but respectable travellers departed for pastures new.

The tower stood empty for the winter. Then the following spring Chekwind managed to rent the property to the celebrated poet Rargan Grosset. He moved in, seeking a bucolic idyll. He enjoyed the summer, endured the winter and raved about the following spring. The second summer was blighted by the knowledge that winter was coming and on a golden day in autumn he packed his bags and headed for Port Naain.

For the next few years a succession of poets, playwrights, lyricists, and poseurs spent varying amounts of time in the tower. Given that Chekwind demanded a year’s rent in advance, in some years he managed to collect three year’s rent. Cordin remembered some of them as individuals. There was a poet called Floban. He survived a winter, but his nerve was broken by the cold and the silence. As soon as the roads cleared he made his way back to Port Naain. He was finally committed to the Lunatic Asylum by his wife. Apparently he could only get to sleep if there was noise and he paid musicians to play under their bedroom window all through the night.

The sequence of persons of an artistic temperament was interrupted by more brigands. (Here I realise I might be doing them an injustice. After all if lyricists claim to be artists, why cannot brigands claim the same?) Still these brigands were an altogether tougher and more violent collection of thugs than the previous incumbents. They had already made parts of Partann too hot for them. When the Urlan arrived this time it wasn’t in the form of a maiden. There was a score of them.

The brigands boasted that they had adequate supplies of food and water for a long siege. The Urlan merely commenced the assault and under the covering fire of their archers, they smashed down the door and stormed the tower. It fell in less than an hour. Those who didn’t die in the assault dangled from the gallows an hour later.
This time the Urlan didn’t leave. A handful stayed on and the tower became a hunting lodge. In all candour they may not have known that Chekwind had a claim to it, and to the best of my knowledge he has never informed them. Still the Urlan left their mark. Cordin met a young Urlan sergeant out on a hunting expedition. The sergeant asked the best way back to the tower and as always Cordin directed him the long way round to ensure that people never learned the short cuts that would drag his valley into the real world.

Next day the sergeant was back with a hunch of venison for Cordin and his wife. He’d discovered the short cut and assumed that Cordin directing him miles out of his way was an amusing practical joke. When Cordin explained why he adopted this policy, the sergeant apologised with fitting formality. During the next six months while he formally courted Cordin’s daughter, the sergeant always used the long way round.

The Urlan moved on, priorities had changed and Cordin’s daughter went east over the mountains with her new husband. Chekwind had obviously got wind of the change because he immediately rented the tower out to some other unfortunates. By now the tower’s reputation had spread amongst the artistic community, but there are plenty of aspiring, budding, or embryonic artists out there who have more money than sense. Cordin watched them with interest, and he shared their stories with a degree of wry amusement. There was the poet who saw Cordin working below so had himself lowered out of one of the lower windows. Apparently he hoped Cordin would know the nearest wine merchant. (Fluance, three days walk in good conditions and assuming you know the short cuts.) There was the artistic collective who rented the tower, intent on returning to nature. Their plan was to live only by what they could glean, the wild fruits and berries. Thus they ceremoniously burnt their clothing and went about naked. When they arrived in early autumn things didn’t go too badly. It was a mild autumn, and there were good crops of various wild berries. Problems arose two months later, when there was an early cold snap and the tower froze solid. It was only the hasty intervention of Cordin and his wife that prevented the artists freezing likewise.

The following spring Cordin and his wife had a surprise when their grandson and his wife walked into the valley. Lord Eklin had sent them to settle in the tower and make sure the Bridge Tower didn’t fall into the wrong hands. He had decided that it made sense to have an Urlan hunting lodge in the area. By this time Chekwind had died, and his only heir was his concubine who still bathed daily in the hope of removing the lingering scent of goat.

Next day I made my way to the tower, the long way round. I was made welcome, on the strength of my claim to know at least three Urlan sagas well enough to tell them in company. There was a merry company there, a hunting party half a dozen strong, knights, sergeants, matrons and maidens. I gave them the The Saga of Barc Glai which they listened to with the air of connoisseurs assessing an unknown vintage. At the end of it they applauded and I was formally commended for my grasp of the language. Then I told them the tale of Three Shorecombers and the Lost Dinket. This got them laughing and they proclaimed me a capital fellow at the end of it. Then we dined, well hung dart marinated in the strongest of red wines, herbs and vegetables and mushrooms taken from fields thereabouts. Washed down with ale so dark you could hold it up to the light and yet see nothing through it.

Next morning, my host, Garron, the sergeant grandson of old Cordin asked for a quiet word. He and his wife had been wondering about what to do after old Cordin’s day. Cordin and his wife were both a fair age and at some point, if they lived, they’d probably have to move into the tower where they could be looked after. But that would leave the cottage.

It appeared that Garron had also been spending time listening to the old man’s tales and asked, “Do you think there would be artist types in Port Naain who’d want to hire it for cash?”

I confess I was tempted to supply the names of people whom I felt deserved to spend winter in an isolated cottage in the wilds of Partann. Still I felt I had a duty to my host. “There are people who will be interested. But frankly I’d suggest you just rented it for the summer and included in the cost their meals and suchlike. Garron nodded sagely, it was obvious that he had been listening to Cordin’s tales. “I thought I could have one of the maiden’s cook and clean for them as well. At least that way we’ll know the cottage is kept in good order.”

I could see his point, but knowing my fellow artists, I could already spot the pitfalls. “It depends how many fatalities you want. I would suggest you pick one of the fiercer matrons, somebody who can set up a forge down there and do some metalwork as well. If the poets see her hammering steel on an anvil they’ll be less likely to make immodest suggestions that might be taken amiss.”

He smiled. “My mother said something similar.”


And now we’d better hear from Jim Webster…

So here I am again with another blog tour. I’ve released two collections of short stories from Tallis and if you’ve enjoyed the one you just read, you’ll almost certainly enjoy these.

So what have Tallis and I got for you?

Well first there’s, ‘Tallis Steelyard. A guide for writers, and other stories.’ The book that all writers who want to know how to promote and sell their books will have to read. Sit at the feet of the master as Tallis passes on the techniques which he has tried and perfected over the years. As well as this you’ll have music and decorum, lessons in the importance of getting home under your own steam, and brass knuckles for a lady. How can you resist, all this for a mere 99p.

Available at:
Amazon UK

Then we have, ‘Tallis Steelyard. Gentlemen behaving badly, and other stories.’ Now is your chance to see Port Naain by starlight and meet ladies of wit and discernment. There are Philosophical societies, amateur dramatics, the modern woman, revenge, and the advantages of a good education.

Available at:
Amazon UK

So come on, treat yourself, because you’re worth it.

Jim Webster


There are fifteen installments in Tallis Steelyards current blog tour, each
guest blog as entertaining as the next.
A fine residence
A man who doesn’t pay his bills never lacks for correspondence
Be careful what you pretend to be
Call yourself a writer?
Every last penny
It all comes out in the wash
Performance Art
The alternative career of Dilkerton Thallawell
The automated caricordi of Darset Dweel
The dark machinations of Flontwell Direfountain
Thoroughly married
Water under the bridge (this installment)
Who you know, not what you know

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.

Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories

Available at:
Amazon UK

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

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

Tallis even has a blog of his own at

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
Mother mine
No strutting or fretting
Something of the night?
The civilising influence of Betta Thrang (this installment)
Unfashionably tired