Oh yes, sorry, I’m still here. Hope you’re enjoying the story, ‘A measured response.’ Have you worked out whodunit yet?
As I was saying, I’ve just published, ‘A licence to print money: The Port Naain Intelligencer.’ It’s available on Amazon.
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.
As with all 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.
But it struck me that people have got used to me writing about Tallis Steelyard and might need reintroducing to young Benor. So I decided that I’d write another Port Naain Intelligencer tale, ‘A measured response,’ where each chapter is a post on the blog tour. Follow the blog tour and you’ll probably get to uncover the mystery, free and gratis. Cannot say better than that can I?
A Measured Response… Episode 8
That morning, after the luxury of a privy that smelled almost sweet, he breakfasted as normal. Then he made his way to that part of the estate nearest to the village of Tarrant and from there he strode down to the road to the Bridge, and then turned along the main road heading towards Lord Addlestrune’s tower.
He had been somewhat nervous about going too close to the toll gate. He suspected the dour faced clerk would probably remember him. As it was he needn’t have worried. He asked two men cleaning a ditch the best way to get to see Lord Addlestrune and they directed him across the fields to the tower. At the tower itself he asked after the Lord and was told to wait. Twenty minutes later a short bustling woman handed him two pails. “Don’t drop them, one’s stew, an’ the other’s bread.”
“Where do I take them?”
“Nowhere yet,” She disappeared back into the kitchen and came out with satchel that she hung round his neck. “This has bowls and stuff in.” She disappeared once more and returned with another satchel which she hung round his neck but with the weight hanging down his back. “Fruit cake.”
“So where do I take them?”
She led him across the stack yard and opened a gate that led into a field.
“Follow those cart tracks. They’re at the end of them. No dawdling, dinner will get cold.”
Benor set off across the field. The tracks led towards a belt of woodland in the distance. Half an hour later the tracks still led towards a belt of woodland, but his shoulders ached, his neck was sore and his arms felt as if they were being dragged out of their sockets. Finally he reached the edge of the wood to see a group of men working on the fence that separated the wood from the grazing. A short burly man in a leather waistcoat saw him. “Dinner’s
here lads.” Benor assumed he was Lord Addlestrune.
The men gathered around to watch Benor arrive. Gratefully Benor placed the two pails on the cart, then carefully took the two satchels off and placed them next to the pails.
Lord Addlestrune opened one satchel and pulled out bowls and spoons. He handed out a bowl to everybody, including Benor, and then started pouring the stew. “Help yourself to bread lads.”
A little nonplussed by the casual nature of his reception Benor concentrated on his meal. He discovered his morning had given him an appetite. He also noticed Lord Addlestrune watching him.
“Not sure I know you lad?”
Still holding his bowl Benor sketched a low bow. “Benor Dorfinngil, cartographer and pack mule at your service sir.”
The short man laughed. “So what brings you here then, other than a noble desire to ensure we got our dinner on time?”
“Actually sir, it’s a legal matter and I wasn’t sure how to see you about it.”
“May I speak plainly sir?”
Lord Addlestrune turned to the men surrounding him. “You’re now a jury. Nothing gets repeated.”
He turned back to Benor. “So now you can speak as plain as you want, so long as you don’t insult the food or the honour of my wife.”
“I’ve found the body of a dead woman, buried secretly. Probably two years ago.”
“In my jurisdiction?”
“On Grayer Thirsk’s estate.”
“My problem then.” He turned to the men surrounding him. “Right, let’s make ourselves comfortable. Master Dorfinngil here is going to give us the details.”
The men topped up their bowls with more stew and grabbed more bread. Then they sat each side of Lord Addlestrune facing Benor.
As carefully and as methodically as he could Benor went through the story of how he came to discover the body and what he’d done since he found it, including the various people he’d talked to and what he’d learned.
As he talked he watched Lord Addlestrune, trying to read his face. It struck him that whilst this was no robe-wearing judge overly familiar with the law; the short man was shrewd and was following his tale with interest.
The story drew to a close. Lord Addlestrune stood up and joined Benor facing his impromptu jury. “Right lads, you’ve heard what the man said. Any thoughts?”
One raised a hand. “I was one of those hired to dig the ditch. Grayer Thirsk did turn up a couple of times to see how it was going, but never told us where or where not to dig.”
”Thanks Ralf. Anybody else?”
Nobody had any comments, so he asked, “So your thoughts?”
Ralf again, “I think he’s right. I don’t think Grayer Thirsk did it.” This produced a general muttering of agreement.
Someone else muttered, “It were awful convenient for Arad Branwit; this woman disappearing and leaving him free to make a play for Grasia.”
“Awfully convenient for Grasia as well.” The others looked at a short bald man. “Oh don’t mind me, it’s just my wife has never had a good word for Grasia for the last twenty years that I’d swear to.”
Lord Addlestrune turned to Benor. “Right, it looks as if we’ve got a job to do here. You and I are going to take a quick look at the body. Then I’ll have to get word to Josette and tell her to send the family on to me.”
He turned round to Ralf, “You’re in charge now, just get this finished.”
Ralf gestured at the cart, “You leaving without your fruitcake?”
“Hells no.” Lord Addlestrune opened the other satchel, pulled out a fruitcake and cut it into slices. He took one, handed one to Benor, and then indistinctly with a mouth full of cake, added, “So you come with me Master Cartographer.”
When they eventually got to the ditch, Benor poked away the lump of clay.
His companion looked into the hole. With a sigh he turned to Benor. “I’ll mark the spot. We’ll dig her up when her kin arrive, which should be this evening. Then I’ll take her with us when I have a quiet word with our good friend Arad Branwit. It’s amazing how seeing the body can bring memories flooding back.”
Benor put the clay back. “So what do you want me to do?”
“What do you want to do?”
“To be honest, I’ve had enough of this place. I had intended to leave.”
Lord Addlestrune clapped him on the shoulder. “Then leave, it’s a local matter, let local people deal with it. It could get a bit unpleasant; if he’s guilty then he’ll probably hang himself out of remorse, even if I have to swing on his feet to make sure he dies.”
That evening Benor finished the work he’d been paid to do by Grayer Thirsk.
He signed the top left hand corner of the map, and under it, he did a rubbing of his astrolabe medallion which showed him to be a member of the Cartographers’ Guild. He packed everything except what he would be wearing, and went to bed. It was the middle of the night when something awoke him. He sat up in bed and listened. He could hear Gyp stir and move to the door. Muttering to himself, “Not again,” Benor dressed hurriedly and climbed down the ladder.
About the author
Someone once wrote this about him:
“Jim Webster is probably still fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels.”
Now with eight much acclaimed fantasy works and two Sci-Fi to his credit it seems he may be getting into the swing of things.
Find and follow Tallis (and Jim)
Many tales of Port Naain can be found on Amazon. Click the images below to see these and other books by Tallis Steelyard (and Jim Webster).