Previous chapters in this tale can be found scattered across the blogosphere….
1) For want of a knight
2) The eyes have it
3) The miser and the demon
4) Just one more glass
5) Occasionally one has to do the right thing
6) Consummate artistry
7) Something fishy
8)The ethical choice
9) Delicate work
10) A cup of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou?
11) An Appropriate Boy
Everything going swimmingly
Mutt had barely reached the Ropewalk before he met Nail and Tolsin. Nail was tall for his age, lanky and could run faster than anybody else Mutt could afford. Tolsin was short, even for an eight year old and was still chubby in spite of living on the streets. Mutt regarded him as an apprentice. He could see the boy’s potential but realised he had a lot of learning to do if he was going to become as streetwise as Mutt, or even Nail.
Mutt turned first to Nail. “Good you’re here. Get back to Tallis; tell him ‘the women is on the boat Flower of Partann and Benor is going to need help rescuing them. Tell Tallis to tell Old Vortac.” He looked at Nail, “Got it?”
Nail repeated it back word perfect, turned and ran back towards Fellmonger’s Wharf. Benor looked at Tolsin. “You stick with me; I might have a job for you later.”
Together the two boys made their way across Rapscallion’s Wharf towards the Flower of Partann. They were running along the top of a pile of crates when Mutt saw Benor knocked unconscious. Quickly Mutt dropped off the crates and made his way towards the barrels where the thug holding Benor’s body was talking to a man and a woman. Mutt glanced behind at Tolsin. “You watch my back; shout if anybody sneaks up on me. Got it?”
Tolsin nodded and Mutt moved silently along the side of the barrels. The man holding Benor was saying, “Yeah, well Salat Wheelstrain would have come, but he’s knackered.”
The woman, Minny, asked, “Knackered? What’s up with him?”
“He were hit by a runaway dray, broke a leg and an arm. That’s why he never got the kid, but he wanted you to know he were still on wi’ the job.”
“Good. When is he going to do it?”
“When are you going to pay him?”
“Why should I pay him until he delivers?”
The man’s voice dropped to a growl. “Salat is always paid in advance. You got a special favour because of the past. Don’t cross him, he is a bad person to cross.”
There was a silence, and then the woman said, “I brought the money, I was going to pay Salat and Ardal Jorrocks together. If he needs the money he can have it.”
Mutt saw the woman pass the man a purse. “But it’s not me he’s crossing. Ulgar-Zare is the one paying out the money.”
The man glanced in the bag. “So you’re working for the pirate lord of Upper Pronghorn Keep. I thought you were Partannese by your accent.”
Ardal Jorrocks, who had been listening to the exchange with interest commented, “You’re well informed?”
“For a thick bruiser,” the man asked. “Got to be, Salat wants sharp lads who know what’s going on.” Then with one hand he lifted up Benor’s unconscious form. “So what do you want doing with this one?”
Minny glanced at Benor. “Just tie him up and stick him in the hold, he can go down with the rest.”
The three walked towards the boat, leaving Mutt crouched behind the barrels. He turned to Tolsin. “Go to the barge; tell Tallis I’m going to have to go onto the boat to rescue Benor.” He thought briefly. “Tell Shena as well, make sure she knows. We wants a proper grown-up dealing with this lot.”
Benor opened his eyes. Everything was dark. He tried to move and his hands and feet wouldn’t obey him. Fuzzily he raised his hands and brought them close to his face. They appeared to be tied together. Something moved his foot and he kicked out.
A voice said, “Oi, stop that.”
Benor asked, “Mutt?”
“Yeah, I’m cutting the rope.”
“What the hell’s going on?”
“You let yer sel’ be jumped. They’ve dumped you in the hold of the Flower of Partann.” There was a flurry of activity and suddenly Benor found he could move his feet. Mutt then appeared in front of his face. “I’m rescuing you.”
There was a pause as he started cutting the ropes tying Benor’s wrists, then the boy added, “Sort of.”
His hands now free, Benor gently felt the side of his head. “Aea, but that hurts.” Then as Mutt’s comment sank in he asked, “What do you mean, ‘sort of.’”
“We’re sailing, so we’ll both need rescuing.”
Benor got onto his hands and knees. His eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness and he could see the light coming in from around the hatch cover.
“We’ve got to get off, and get the two women off.”
Mutt pointed up at the deck, “Listen.”
“There’s nothing to hear.”
“Ten minutes ago there were men sticking sails up and stamping about. Now there’s nothing.”
Benor glanced at the back of the boat, he couldn’t see if the drogue had been deployed or not. “We got to get onto the deck.”
He looked round and could just about make out the ladder in the gloom. He climbed quietly up it. Mutt said, “What’s that noise?”
Benor stopped. There was the sound of a lot of canvas moving. “I think they are deploying the drogue.” Hastily he climbed up to the hatch and with both hands pushed upwards. The hatch cover moved relatively easily and he pushed it to one side. Outside it was a bright, starlight night. He could see nobody on the deck.
“Follow me Mutt.” He climbed out and looked round. The Flower of Partann seemed to be carrying all the canvas her mast would take. Mutt scrambled out beside him. “Now what.”
“I’ll wake the ladies.”
With that Benor went to the stern and hammered on the door of the cabin below the poop deck.
Benor recognised the voice, it was the Chevaleresse.
“Benor Dorfinngil, the cartographer you paid to find your husband.”
This was met by silence. So Benor added, “This boat is about to sink.”
There was the sound of a bolt being drawn and the door opened slightly.
“What do you mean, about to sink?”
“It’s a trap, any minute now the hull will be torn open and we’ll go down.”
“What about the crew?”
“They’re the ones who’re sinking it.”
Mutt added, “They’re in two small boats, probably to kill you if you don’t drown.”
Benor glanced down at him, “They are?”
“I see’d them. At the back off to that shore side.”
The door was open fully now and light streamed out though it. Both women were standing looking at him. Benor looked at the Chevaleresse and asked cautiously. “I’ve just had a bang on the head, what colour is your hair?”
“Black, I dyed it. We thought it made me look less noticeable.”
There was a jolt that ran through the whole ship. Benor stopped himself from falling by grabbing the edge of the poop deck. “That’ll be the drogue
biting. Any minute now timbers are going to give.”
Natisse asked, “So what should we do.”
Benor looked to the stern, trying to see the two boats. “We get in the water as quietly as possible on the side away from those two boats and try and not be seen. Have you any dark cloth?”
“Yes, a couple of cloaks.”
Hurriedly Benor explained. Cut up some pieces big enough to cover your faces. They’re the brightest bits and will be the easiest spotted.”
With that he and Mutt went to the side of the boat. Benor found a rope and tied it to the rail. “If we just slide down this into the water we’ll stick together.”
At this point they were joined by the two women. Benor asked, “Can you swim?”
The Chevaleresse answered, “Natisse can, I’ll need support.”
“Good, I’ll go in first, you come next and lie back and I’ll support you. Natisse and Mutt come down last and we’ll try and move south, away from the killers.”
He tied his shoes and hung them off his belt, let himself down the rope and had barely got onto his back before the older woman landed in the water next to him. “On your back, think of it as sitting on my lap, only lie back.”
Natisse entered the water next with hardly a splash followed by Mutt. Benor asked, “Got your dark cloths?”
Natisse held up a hand, “I tore four bits.”
“Good.” He took one off her and placed it over the face of the Chevaleresse, then he put one over his own face. “Link arms to keep together. Then keep your hands under water. He felt Natisse take one of his arms and Mutt swam round to take the other. “Right, now get your feet under water. We’ll all kick gently and let’s see if we can move.”
Slowly they moved southwards. Benor managed to tug the cloth down his face so he could see the stars above. “There’s a bank of cloud coming in. If we can keep hidden until then we might get away with it.”
Mutt said, “I told Tallis what were going on.”
In response to Benor’s silence he added, “And I sent somebody to tell Shena.”
Benor smiled in spite of himself. “That’s better.”
They kept kicking gently, Benor turned his head slightly to try and see the boat. It was definitely listing now and he was sure it was deeper in the water than it had been. “Keep kicking, but don’t break the surface or they’ll see us.”
Benor realised that he was being dragged down by the weight of the woman he was trying to support. He had to keep kicking just to keep supporting her.
“Madam, without being rude, but you do seem awfully heavy.”
“It’ll be my corsets.”
Natisse commented softly, “We replaced the stays with gold coins; we intended to hire mercenaries when we landed.”
“And anyway there is no way I can jettison them now, without displaying a large quantity of white undergarments.”
Benor sighed. “Ah well, if the shore-combers find our bodies, you with be celebrated in song for a generation.”
He glanced across at the Flower of Partann. It was almost under the water now, he could see the masts and very little else. What worried him more was that the two rowing boats were close to the sinking ship and crewmen with spears were prodding the floating debris. He wondered if they’d send somebody down to look in the cabin.
Mutt prodded him. “I can hear something.”
“I can’t hear them.”
Mutt muttered, “Yeah, but my ears are under water.”
Benor lay back, in the distance he could hear a regular beat of oars.
Somebody was coming. “Natisse, if you paddle more strongly and Mutt stops, we’ll turn slowly and hopefully head in the direction of the oars.”
The Chevaleresse asked, “Who are the oarsmen we’re swimming towards?”
“I don’t know but at least they’re not circling round spearing the wreckage hoping to kill us, to I’m predisposed to like them.”
As they slowly turned, Benor watched the two rowing boats full of crewmen.
On one boat they seemed to have stopped whatever they were doing and were looking in their direction. Then one of the crewmen pointed.
“I think they’ve seen us. Everybody kick but try not to splash.”
Benor lay back and kicked as strongly as he could. He could feel the Chevaleresse kicking as well as she lay on top of him. The older woman whispered, “Both rowing boats are coming this way.”
“Just kick and hope that whoever is coming up behind us is friendly.”
Now with the four of them kicking furiously they were making better speed, but Benor knew that the rowing boats would overtake them. With his ears below the water he could hear the beat of oars, but confused now as it seemed to be coming from several directions. Mutt said excitedly, “I can see a boat, it’s old Taggon’s whaleboat.”
Natisse asked, “Can they see us?”
Her mother commented, “The amount of splashing we’re doing, they should be able to see us from the beach.”
Benor could see the whaleboat now. There were a dozen people pulling the oars, and one was standing at the prow. It surged past them, and Benor stopped kicking. “Just rest for a while until we see what happens.”
They hung there, Benor kicking gently just to keep floating. The whaleboat aimed straight at the two rowing boats. There were shouts of alarm and the two smaller boats tried to turn out of the way. The whaleboat caught one amidships and rode over it, pushing it under water. Benor heard somebody shout, “Hard a-port.”
The whaleboat seemed to pivot almost on the spot. The other rowing boat came alongside it and Benor saw a man stand up and lunge with a spear. The figure at the prow of the whaleboat swung round and a steel blade glittered in the moonlight. There was a cry and the crewman with the spear collapsed and fell into the water. The sword rose and fell twice more, Benor could hear the sound as it smashed through timbers and the crew of the rowing boat dived over the side.
There was silence and Benor said quietly, “Mutt, wave and attract their attention.”
“Oi, we’re here.”
“Coming.” Benor recognised the voice of Tallis.
The whaleboat swung round again and slowly caught up with them. Somebody reached down and grabbed the Chevaleresse. As they lifted Benor tried to push. Others joined in and she was dragged into the boat. Natisse followed, and then another arm reached out and plucked Mutt out of the water. Finally Benor found himself being pulled in. The whaleboat was packed.
From the stern, where she sat holding the rudder, Shena shouted, “Run out your oars.”
Benor could feel the boat shift as the oarsmen settled. Then Shena shouted,
With Shena keeping the pace the whaleboat made its way steadily to shore.
Shena brought the whaleboat alongside the barge and she led the disembarkation. Benor watched somewhat disconsolately as the last of his recently acquired gold went to paying off the oarsmen and the boat hire.
Tallis hustled the rescued into the barge and lit the stove. Shena whisked the two ladies into the cabin which she shared with Tallis, while Mutt and Benor dried themselves in the main cabin. Mutt left his somewhat battered school uniform drying in front of the stove, and dressed in a more usual miscellaneous collection of cut down clothes and rags, disappeared into the night. Benor was still warming himself when Old and Young Vortac appeared.
Benor noticed that the father was now carrying his sheathed sword rather than wearing it. Tallis poured wine and the four of the chatted quietly until finally Shena led forth the other two ladies, clad in what they could find of Shena’s that would fit.
The Chevaleresse marched up to Old Vortac. “You,” she said, jabbing him in the chest, “are supposed to be dead.”
Her husband gestured towards the estuary. “So are you.”
They stood in silence and then he added, “And I think black hair suits you, Katin.”
“So what now?” Natisse asked.
Katin stood, staring at her husband, “Well, do you want to go back to being the Chevalier of Windcutter Keep?”
Vortac sighed, “Not if I can help it.”
She reached out for the glass of wine Tallis handed her. “I’ve been thinking.”
Natisse was about to say something, but her father laid a hand on her arm.
“Let your mother speak, she’s the best strategist I ever met.”
Katin smiled at him. “Frankly, I’ve had enough of the whole endless warring.
I’d fetched money north so Natisse and Young Vortac here had something set aside for their future. I’m now wondering about buying a farm north of the city. Nothing special, just enough land to breed decent horses.”
Her husband nodded. “A sound investment, the Condottieri are always looking for remounts.”
She continued, “But I know a man with a real eye for horseflesh. I could really do with him.”
“You mean the silversmith?” Vortac asked.
“I see no reason why we cannot have a decent workshop on the farm.”
Young Vortac prodded his sister. “Is this where they kiss and make up?”
She glanced down at him. “Hopefully.”
Old Vortac looked at his son and daughter, “And you two? What do you think?”
Natisse said simply, “Mother settled money on me. If I want to buy my way into a keep somewhere, I can try when I’m ready. Or I could see whether horse breeding interests me.” She glanced down at her brother, “And you?”
“When I’m old enough and trained in arms I can lead my own company down there if it looks interesting.”
Her father took Katin’s hand and kissed it. “It seems that these things are decided for us.”
Katin turned to Shena. “Could you spend tomorrow with us, I think we need a new wardrobe. If I am to be the wife of a respectable silversmith I ought to dress appropriately.”
Tallis blanched. “Not another day’s clothes shopping! I shall be reduced to beggary.”
Benor winked at Shena. “Tallis, you would be if you ever had any money in the first place.”
It was later, after their guests had left and Mutt had returned with an assortment of artisan breads, that they ate. Benor, dipping his bread in a sauce of his own devising, said, “Ardal Jorrocks is dead, died at sea, Salat Wheelstrain had a leg and an arm broken, but it looks as if the two sisters have got away with it.”
Mutt muttered, “Nah, they’ve fled.”
“Summat about Salat Wheelstrain hunting them down for paying him in dud money, seems whoever is in charge of the boat yard was cheated, and they’re hunting for ‘em to.”
Benor looked at Mutt, ‘Forged money, I only swapped ten coins.”
Mutt squirmed, “Yeah well it seemed a good idea, so I got the rest swapped, I got him to make me a key when he made yours.”
Tallis said quietly. “So you’ve got nine hundred alars, Mutt?”
“Well there were expenses….” Mutt’s comment trailed off as Tallis stared at him.
“Mutt my boy, you’ve got to take advice and invest it properly.” Tallis
looked towards Shena. “Isn’t that right my dear?”
Before she could reply he continued, “The first thing is to publish a volume or two of poetry, just to test the market before…” At this point he noticed Shena’s expression, and Tallis joined Mutt in embarrassed silence.
Mutt said, “I had a talk to Headmaster Woolmin when I ended up in school. He tested my reading and said I could start school if I wanted to.” He shot a glance at Shena. “Only days, not living in, he knows I got interests.”
Shena nodded encouragingly so Mutt continued. “So I paid my fees for the next two years.”
Tallis stared at him opened mouthed, Shena asked, “What about the rest?”
His voice serious Mutt said, “Well I thought I’d buy a property. Jillet needs somewhere, and there’s a lot of kids on the streets as need somewhere safe on a night. So I thought you could buy it for me.”
Shena’s face softened, “You are a nice boy, Mutt.”
“Yeah,” he said, happily. “But I’m going to get education now.”
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’
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
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.
Treat yourself… you know you’re worth it!
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)
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