The Arcade Market in the Commercial district is not the most prestigious of the markets in Port Naain. One will not find the truly exotic, but there again one will not find the grossly overpriced either. It provides decent quality produce. The price is higher than I would expect to pay, but if one uses a poet as one’s reference, one can easily be led astray.
I know one of the stallholders reasonably well. Jilliane Lanwaster is a regular at the market, selling vegetables. Now it has to be admitted that vegetables lack glamour. Spices and exotic fruit stalls hint at exotic places, with mysterious merchants passing hastily through fear shadowed lands to bring us their wares. Vegetables are somehow ordinary.
To be asked to write without blushing
On the romance of the carrot
The dark mystery of the parsnip
The wonder of the skirret
Shows that your patron knows nothing
And has the wit of a pierrot
Jilliane on the other hand is not ordinary. I see young women now tutting at her and treating her as if she were some old biddy who is losing her wits, but frankly she’d still dance round them, metaphorically and practically. As you see her now with her youngest son in attendance, peering at the coins in her hand through her pince-nez you’d wonder if he’s there to stop the old lady embarrassing the family. No, he’s there to do the heavy lifting and to learn how selling should be done.
I have known the old lady for many years. When she was in her forties she stopped me in the market and asked if I would teach her children to read and write. That I did, two or three mornings a week for several years. My pay? Every dinner time, when lessons finished, I joined the family in their midday meal. As much thick vegetable broth as you could eat, with bread broken into it, and a bunch of vegetables to take home to Shena to go with our evening meal.
It was there I learned much of Jilliane’s past. She was born on the street, her mother a common whore, and she might have been seven when her mother either died or finally abandoned her. The child lived by her wits on the streets, and at some point she realised that if she wanted to survive, she would need a trade other than that of a sneak thief. So when she was about nine, she started selling vegetables. Now some girls and young women sold fruit, but frankly that was often a charade, it enabled them to ply another trade in apparently respectable areas. Vegetables, Jilliane felt, were safe.
She had no working capital. Somebody put a basket down when they tried on a shawl at a market stall. When they looked round to pick up the basket it had gone. So now Jilliane had her shop.
Then she walked out into the countryside north of the city with her new basket, and in the darkness she worked her way through the vegetable plots.
She didn’t take a lot, she couldn’t carry all that much. Yet what she did take was perfect. Apparently she might take only two carrots from one plot and then worked her way through three more plots to make up a decent bunch.
This produce she sold. Slowly she managed to put away a few savings and with them she bought a wheelbarrow. By the time she was twelve she was visiting the various market gardens and purchasing produce legitimately. Her business slowly grew, and as she grew older, she discovered she had suitors.
I don’t think she was ever beautiful, indeed she might even have been described as plain. But she was obviously somebody who was clawing her way out of the gutter. She winnowed her suitors rigorously, picking through them with the same care that she showed when she was selecting vegetables.
Finally she accepted a proposal from a young man who had somehow acquired a wheelbarrow of his own. He accompanied her every morning to collect produce. This he did before going to his own place of work, he was a jobbing builder.
Once married, they managed to acquire a small parcel of land. This was a small patch of stony ground none of the local market gardeners particularly wanted. Jilliane purchased a large but elderly rowing boat. It was in a distinctly fragile condition, the timbers were showing their age and frankly the hull was held together by innumerable layers of antique pitch. She hired a cart and had her boat transported to their plot. Yarrow, her husband, built walls of turf and stone and the boat sat upon them as a roof. In this home they raised their family, adding further rooms as they were needed, and eventually there was a stable for their horse and cart.
Obviously there were setbacks. But Jilliane had not climbed out of the gutter to fall back. Those who regarded a woman on her own in the Arcade Market as an easy mark did so at their peril. Yarrow was engaged in purchasing and transporting vegetables, Jilliane stayed on the stall. It suited her because she knew her customers, her customers knew her, and she could keep an eye on her younger children. On one occasion, Goswit, petty thief and would-be protection racketeer did make a grab for the box with the takings in. He stumbled over a toddler, and was then nearly brained by a passing housekeeper who belaboured him with a tightly rolled umbrella whilst Julliane tied his feet together. When Yarrow arrived with the cart, he unloaded the vegetables, threw the thief onto the cart and dropped him off at the nearest watch house.
Next day the Goswit was back at the stall, taunting Jilliane and boasting that he had friends in high places. He demanded a share of the day’s takings. When somebody tried to push past him to inspect the produce he made the mistake of taking his eye of Jilliane and she caught him round the side of the head with the flat of the blade of a heavy chopper she kept for cutting up the larger root vegetables. She tied his feet again and Yarrow collected him It is assumed that Goswit recovered consciousness in the cart and escaped, but he never returned to Port Naain so perhaps Yarrow had ‘words’ with him?
There were rumours that Goswit had been ‘done away with’. These were spread by any number of ill-intentioned people, and the Watch did descend upon Jilliane’s house, looking for a body. But as she pointed out, theirs was a small plot and stony. It would be obvious if somebody had buried a body there. The watchman merely looked around at the market gardens surrounding them. Each would have crops being harvested, crops growing, and large areas of newly turned soil where the new crop would be planted. He gestured around.
“What if Goswit has been buried over there?”
Jilliane merely smiled. “Then rest assured, for the first time in his life he’s contributing something.”
And 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.
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.
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?
Tallis even has a blog of his own at Tallis Steelyard
You can also read previous posts from this blog tour:
Stevie Turner: A significant gesture ~ Monday 8th April
Chris Graham: An eye to the future ~ Tuesday 9th April
Robbie Cheadle: Butterfly net ~ Wednesday 10th April
Ritu Bhathal: Getting rich moderately rapidly ~ Thursday 11th April
Willow Willers: In tune with the Zeitgeist ~ Friday 12th April
Colleen Chesebro: Learning a role ~ Saturday 13th April
Suzanne Joshi: Love letters ~ Sunday 14th April
Ashlynn Waterstone: Matchmaker ~ Monday 15th April
Annette Rochelle Aben: Mother mine ~ Tuesday 16th April
Lynn Hallbrooks: No strutting or fretting ~ Wednesday 17th April
Jaye Marie: Something of the night? ~ Thursday 18th April
Ken Gierke: The civilising influence of Betta Thrang. ~ Friday 19th April
MT McGuire: Unfashionably tired ~ Saturday 20th April
Sue Vincent: Vegetating ~ Sunday 21st April
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)
For many more books by Jim Webster (and Tallis)…
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