Consummate Artistry–A Guest Post by Jim Webster

Consummate artistry

There are times when a chap finally begins to feel put-upon. Benor rolled
the ten alar piece across the table from his left hand to his right, and
then back again. He watched the light glinting on the gold coin.
“Benor, stop it.” Shena’s voice cut through his musings. “Tallis and Mutt
are sitting there watching with their tongues hanging out.”
Benor looked up; both Tallis and Mutt were indeed fixated on the coin.

“Sorry. I was thinking.”

“Meks a change,” Mutt muttered.

Benor ignored him, “It was that note our clerk friend saw. I wrote it down,
but I can damned near remember it word perfect. ‘So if the two lilies will
die from salt water, how are you going to kill the little dragon? I trust
that too will look like an accident.’ Well are the two lilies the
Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep and her daughter? And who is the little dragon?”

“Has she got a son?” Shena asked.

Benor shrugged. “I haven’t a clue to be honest. We didn’t discuss families.
I wasn’t even introduced to the daughter and she was in the room.”

Tallis muttered something under his breath which sounded like, “I wouldn’t
introduce my daughter either,” but Benor chose to ignore it.

“Let us assume there is a son,” Shena said, reasonably. “What can we assume?
I’d say he’s still a junior, younger than the sister, or he would have
stepped into his father’s shoes and taken over Windcutter Keep.”

Benor nodded thoughtfully, “I’d guess that the son must be in Port Naain or
close by, otherwise Minny wouldn’t be expected to deal with him.”

Obviously feeling he wasn’t contributing Tallis added, “I know ladies who
know the Chevaleresse; they’ll know how many children there are.”

Benor rubbed his eyes with one hand. “If you could do that, I think it would
be useful.” He turned to Mutt. “We could do with somebody watching Minny to
see what she gets up to. She might even know where the boy is.”

Mutt held out a grubby hand. “It’ll cost.”
Seeing Shena glaring at him he shrugged. “Not me. I’ll need others as well.
They’ll want paying.”

“Who is paying for all this?” Tallis asked, rather too casually to be


Almost simultaneously, Mutt and Tallis exclaimed, “Nobody?”

“Because I’m the idiot who is doing it as a favour for a priest who has
managed to make me feel guilty.”

Mutt pointed at the coin lying briefly ignored in front of Benor. “You got

“Not for long,” Benor sighed, “and how long do you think this will last if
we have to find and then hide the boy?” Then he appeared to see the coin for
the first time. “Mutt, you know all sorts of people.”

“Yeah.” Mutt’s reply was distinctly cautious.

“I know somebody with a lot of money, but I need a forger. I assume you’ll
know one.”

“Yeah but it’ll….” He stopped, looked guiltily at Shena and just mumbled,
“Yeah, I’ll take you to him.”


Benor wasn’t sure what he expected when he’d asked for a forger. Mutt led
him to a bollard by the Graving Dock. “Sit there, say nowt.”

Obediently Benor sat on the bollard, just another idler passing the day in
idle contemplation.

Mutt sat on another bollard and they waited. After ten minutes a young girl
approached Mutt and they squatted together on the wharf, playing Slow-go on
a board they’d scratched on the timbers. After five minutes the girl ran off
and ten minutes later returned with a boy a little older than Mutt who
surveyed the board with interest. He was obviously commenting knowledgably
about the state of play. Mutt replied and the soft-voiced discussion
continued, both boys moving pieces backwards and forwards as if trying to
find a way out of an impasse. Finally the boy left. Mutt drifted back to
Benor. “I might a got one.”


“Well the good ‘uns are careful. Why’d he want to meet wi’ you? He don’t
know you.”

“So what happens now?”

“You take me to Ninno’s and we drink coffee and eat sugar buns.”

Benor looked at him askance.

Mutt explained, a little shiftily. “They can watch and see if they want to
deal with you.”

“In the Merchant Quarter?”

Mutt merely shrugged. “Happen he’s a merchant?!”

Benor sighed and stood up. “Right, coffee it is.”

“Wi’ sugar buns,” Mutt added, helpfully.


They sat for half an hour at Ninno’s and it wasn’t until Mutt got his second
bun that something happened. Ninno’s had filled up; the cafe obviously had a
successful lunch-time trade.

“Excuse me, do you mind if I join you, the other tables seem to be full.”

Benor looked up. A man of about his own age was standing there holding a cup
in one hand and with a plate of cold pasty in the other. Mutt kicked him
under the table and when Benor glanced at him, the boy nodded slightly. “Why

The man sat down. “I’m Tyro.”

“Benor Dorfinngil, cartographer, at your service.”

Tyro took a mouthful of pasty and chewed it with obvious enjoyment. “I heard
you might need some engraving services?”


“I do some specialist work, even producing specie.”

“You could be the person we need,” Benor said cautiously.

The other man leaned forward. “So what do you want?”

Benor produced the ten alar piece and passed it across the table. Tyro
looked at Benor’s coin, “So you want some more of these.”

“Yes please. How many can you make me?”

“Depends what you want to do with them. How much inspection will they get?”

“Really I want them to sit in a box, mixed in with a lot of real ones, and
not be noticed.”

“Right, so they’re not going to be handled a lot. Gold leaf gilding will do
that for you. But we’ll need blanks. Then I’ll need to strike them before
gilding. I’ve got an assortment of coin dies, I’m sure to have some the
right size and I’ll have a city crest for the obverse. The reverse is
trickier, but I should be able to do something.”

He scrutinised the reverse. “Yes, it’s the common one.”

Benor asked, “Why how many dies are there?”

“Not many being used now, gold is a soft metal and you can strike an awful
lot of coins before a die wears out. So there aren’t many reverses out
there. I’m pretty sure I can borrow one.” He nursed the coin in his palm.

“Now what about weight, pretty much everything is lighter than gold, will
somebody notice if the coins weigh less?”

Benor could imagine Minny picking the box up. “I think we want to keep the

“That makes it tricky. I think I’ll go for lead; I couldn’t use it if the
coins were getting a lot of handling, but if they’re for display, then they’ll
do. I’ve got some which has some printers’ type mixed into it which means it’s
harder than you’d expect. I can stamp the blanks and then gild them.”

”How much?”

“Give me that coin and I’ll give you ten back.”

Benor considered the deal. “Seems reasonable, what about timing?”

Tyro gestured at Mutt. “He knows where my shop is. Send him round the day
after tomorrow at this time and I should have them ready.”

He finished off his pastry. “I can see why Mutt wanted to meet here. Mind
you there are cheaper places a lot closer.”

Sanctimoniously Mutt said, “But Ninno’s does good coffee and Benor likes ‘is


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.



17 thoughts on “Consummate Artistry–A Guest Post by Jim Webster

  1. Pingback: Consummate artistry – Tallis Steelyard

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