Today we welcome Tallis Steelyard to our blog. He has kindly come along with another of his lovely stories.
This image is a painting by the great Frank Frazetta, an artist my son adores and tries to emulate, and suits the story very well.
Over to you, Tallis!
Officers and gentlemen?
In a world of bitterness and evil where gross unpleasantness is rife, it is good to talk occasionally about the decent people one meets. Thus I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of my patrons. Now anyone would think that all my patrons are ladies, and to be fair a considerable majority of them are. But there are still gentlemen who feel the finer arts are worthy of support.
Two of them, Sir Stee and Sir Regald, lived together in a pleasant enough house on the edge of Dilbrook. They lived alone save for their
cook/housekeeper Solia and a handful of other staff who didn’t live in.
As patrons they knew what they wanted. Sir Stee liked something with a good steady rhythm and a strong rhyming pattern. He also felt that poems should commemorate stirring actions. I confess that whilst I could write what he liked, after a while, you run out of convincing rhymes for ‘gore’ or ‘slaughter.’
Sir Regald, on the other hand, liked something more lyrical. He appreciated the melody within the language, and for him, rhyme and rhythm should be subordinated to this. As you can imagine, it’s not an easy combination to achieve, and to be fair, they tended to accept this.
Solia on the other hand, I frankly adored. She was almost a surrogate aunt to me. The gentlemen kept a good table, and when you dined there with them, you dined heartily and well. Solia would always send me off with ‘a little something for your Shena.’ This little something would feed the pair of us for a couple of days.
What always irritated me over the years was the gossip that seemed to
circulate about this household. There were all sorts of unpleasant rumours, including one that claimed that the two gentlemen remained in the same house because of their common passion for Solia.
Now that the last of that household has taken their final journey I can
reveal the truth. They were three siblings. Their mother was a chambermaid who fell in love with a common soldier. Not even a horseman, but an infantryman. He marched south before they realised she was pregnant and with no sign of him returning it was arranged that the child, a boy she called Stee, would be adopted by a childless family nearby. The errant father returned, and when it was explained to him what had happened, he swore he would marry his beloved. Alas, there was trouble in the south, and he was swept away to the wars, leaving another child to be born. This boy, called Regald, was adopted by a second local family. When the father returned he
married the mother on the day he got back, got his discharge and became a cobbler. Their third child, a girl called Solia was born a year later. All three children knew of their siblings and to some extent grew up together.
The boys went for soldiers and not long after Solia, sharing their love of adventure, followed them. For many years they worked in Partann, signing on with this company or that company, or working directly for petty warlords.
This saw the brothers acting as sergeants and their sister in great demand
because of her command of logistics.
One story worth telling came from when the three of them were travelling in Partann, having finished one contract and whilst they were looking for the next. They arrived at a small village to find it in uproar. It seems that the minions of a local mage had arrived in the village to kidnap one of the village maidens and after something of an affray had taken not merely the girl, but also a young man who had been passing through and had got caught up in the fight. The three siblings put their heads together and in return for board and lodging, promised to see what they could so.
Now, in the best traditions of storytelling, I will transport you to the
dungeon in the tower of the mage. The tower was a simple affair with four stories above ground and a cellar which acted as a dungeon. Each storey was a single large round room. The cellar was illuminated by lanterns hung around the walls, with a burning brazier near a long work table. In the very centre of the room was a pit and over the pit dangled the maiden and the young man. The pit was of unknown depth, and from above could have been mistaken for a narrow opening to some fiery hell. Both the two potential victims were stark naked and hanging upside down, with the mage busily writing cabalistic symbols across their naked bodies in blue ink. A score of
the mage’s lickspittle henchmen clustered around, watching the process with unnerving attention.
From upstairs came a hammering sound, four sharp blows. A senior minion made its twisted way to the Mage.
“There is someone outside Master, they demand entrance.”
There was another flurry of heavy blows.
“They are hammering on the door Master.”
The mage impatiently gestured around him. “Then take these upstairs. Then when the intruders enter, slay them.”
The senior minion made his limping way up the spiral staircase that ran around the outside of the tower. He was followed by a shambling crowd of twisted and misshapen creatures, clutching a selection of implements having blades, points, or both. Once the malformed brutes had left, the mage started marking out two pentangles on the floor. One enclosed the pit, the other the brazier next to the workbench. From above came another flurry of heavy blows.
The mage cast a handful of powder onto the brazier. The flames flickered green and purple. From the pit came a yammering and howling. The mage checked his pentangles. From above came an explosion.
Above the two brothers had exploded the petard which they’d fastened to the door. Shattered fragments of wood had scythed through the deformed guardians waiting for them so that when Sir Stee and Sir Regald burst into the hallway, they found no-one in any fit state to dispute their passage. With Solia close behind them, they headed down the stairs. The mage was waiting.
Tackling a prepared mage in his own workroom is not a task for the faint-hearted, but the siblings were also prepared. Even as the mage raised his hand, Sir Stee hurled a piece of the door at him. Instinctively the mage flinched, and the missile disintegrated into grey powder. As Sir Stee dropped down from the stairs onto the floor, Sir Regald hurled his piece of timber and then sprinted down the stairs. The mage was forced to duck the timber to conserve his powers and then rose to face the two soldiers. He raised both hands and started chanting. At this point, a heavy steel crossbow bolt, fired by Solia, tore through his chest and buried itself in the wall behind him.
The mage was hurled back by the blow, and Sir Regald leapt after him and struck off his head with his sword. Then, fastidiously and at sword point, he dropped the still chanting head into the brazier and waited until the flames had entirely consumed it.
After that, it was purely a matter of freeing the prisoners and letting the local peasantry loot the tower. Then they cleansed the tower with flame, burning it so that it collapsed, burying the dungeon.
Looking back, the three siblings never told this story to anybody. I often wonder how many more of their deeds have been forgotten. As it is, I can recount this one only because I was the young man dangling naked upside down over the pit with esoteric symbols scrawled across my buttocks in blue ink.
I am reliably informed that it took months for them to wear off.
At this point, it might be an idea to mention the publishing of another
collection of stories from Tallis Steelyard. Some have been on the blog, but some are completely new. Now you can acquire more of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. This work includes the unexpurgated account of the Mudfold and Cockeren feud, the dangers inherent in light music, and how Tallis first met and wooed Shena.
It is available from
Tallis has come to the attention of a world not entirely ready for him through the actions of a mutual friend, one Benor Dorfinngil. Benor is a friend and one-time tenant of the Steelyards, and it is my unworthy self who has been fated to chronicle some at least of Benor’s career. (This is career as in ‘the coach careered downhill’)
It was when I sent some of my labours to Mike Rose-Steel he noted a snatch of verse from Tallis and toyed with it.
The results, which represent the sole example of Tallis’s work published in our time can be found at
Further tales, including details of how they met may be found in ‘Flotsam or Jetsam.’
Obviously any lover of literature or even art in general will insist on acquiring copies, so I suggest you purchase now to avoid disappointment.
At this point Tallis has graciously allowed me, that is, Jim Webster, to mention some of my own work. Admittedly there is too many books to mention without trespassing too far on the generosity of mine host. Still if you wish to read the story in which Tallis is first introduced to modern literature I would recommend ‘Flotsam or Jetsam’