Perla and Mayla were sisters. Born a year apart, they were the daughters of
Tilford Wheelboom, a man of some means. They tended to divide their time
between Port Naain, where the family lived in a delightful house in
Dilbrook, and their summer villa on the coast south of the Estuary.
They were, to put it bluntly, sought after. Not only were they pretty,
charming and well educated, they were wealthy in their own right, having had
money settled on them by their grandmother. This made them a little wary in
company, as even attending a minor ball could lead to them having to decline
two or three proposals.
Eventually they hit upon a solution. They put it about that they were only
accepting proposals in writing. Not only that, they added, somewhat
pointedly, that they would judge the proposal on literary merit. They added
that they would automatically disregard any proposal made by a different
route. Overly ardent suitors discovered that ‘automatically disregard’
actually meant, ‘have the servants beat the offender with clubs.’
The system worked reasonably well. Proposals would come in and each girl
would read the proposal and compare it to others they’d received. Indeed
they both eventually sewed their proposals together to make a scroll which
they could open up and browse. They claimed the format made comparisons
easier to make.
Now no sooner does one create a system than somebody else comes up with ways
of subverting it. Potential suitors would approach poets and similar and ask
us to write something suitably elevated. It isn’t a bad idea, and I wrote
any number of different proposals for various people. They then copied them
so that the lady of their choice did at least get the suitor’s own
There was some discussion amongst us as to the ethics of this practice. Some
pointed out that we were attempting to deceive innocent young women. After
all, if she accepted a proposal that I, for example, had penned for Creel
Brosset, she would end up married to Creel Brosset. Thus she would soon
discover he could barely string two words together with any confidence.
Given that he was a painter I suppose he didn’t really need to, but that is
perhaps beside the point.
In response to the charges I merely pointed out that she couldn’t marry me
in any case because I was already married. Not only that but the work paid
well, and was not too taxing.
Still, deploying the best writers money can buy, suitors laid siege to the
two young women. But because of the nature of the contest, it was a very
genteel siege and meant that they could still mingle in society, dance with
single men and not have the embarrassment of turning down unwanted
proposals. Indeed the system worked so well that weeks could go by without
them having to instruct their servants to thrash somebody with their clubs.
All in all I feel it was very satisfactory.
Indeed because they were both educated and well read, and because they made
a habit of studying the proposals seriously, they soon began to spot when
the love letter came from a poet or writer of similar calibre. Twice I was
stopped in the street by Mayla and congratulated on the quality of the
letter I had just penned for her. Perla even went so far as to say that had
she not known I was married, she would have accepted my proposal. I felt
that was a very pretty comment and shows what a genuinely pleasant young
woman she was. Needless to say, we didn’t share these comments with the
Eventually, after a number of years, both ladies did marry. Perla was the
first to succumb to the blandishments of a particularly eloquent gentleman.
San Fardust was the one who succeeded where so many had failed. His love
letter was utterly different from those that had preceded it. Instead of
dwelling on her beauty and charm, he pointed out that he was offering not
merely marriage but partnership. His proposal included an investment plan,
with a full cash flow and detailed budget for the next five years, assuming
they merged their portfolios.
Perla was so taken by this that she agreed to dine with him, and discovered
that not only was he an excellent businessman, but he was charming and
presentable. After a number of meetings where they discussed various
options, pored over various potential investments and discussed the
fluctuating market in commodities, she realised he was, literally, a man
after her own heart. They were married and in spite of various hiccups due
to unplanned maternity, a fall in the commodity market due to an
inauspicious outbreak of peace in Partann, and the jealousy of lesser
rivals, together they have taken their family to a situation of solid
Mayla waited only a little longer. She got a proposal for Ard Bendron. He
sent his proposal written not on the finest paper, but engraved on a sheet
of silver, with a note on the back, ‘sew this if you can.’ She felt that
such originality deserved some reward, so she invited him to dinner to dine
with her. Ard was nearly twenty years older than her and had somehow never
married. Initially she was a bit reserved, but discovered that Ard too was
shy. She initially intended to treat him as a confident, but slowly came to
realise that she would struggle to find a better man. They were married and
lived happily for many years, until finally Ard died. She stepped into the
breach and took over as head of the family usury business, running it with
considerable aplomb, whilst training her numerous children to follow in her
Of the various rejected suitors there isn’t much to say. They married other
women and had better or worse lives than they would have had otherwise. The
only one I would comment on was Creel Brosset. He was hired to illustrate
the work of an expedition that was heading west and south to find and
explore new lands. The expedition petered out inconclusively and Creel
himself ended up on a modest tropical island. There his ability to paint was
seen by the local inhabitants as blessing from whatever gods they worshiped.
Instead of merely sacrificing him and then eating him, they took him to the
tribe’s collective bosom. He somehow acquired a considerable number of wives
and fathered innumerable children. He funded his ever growing family by
producing paintings which travelled the long and difficult route to Port
Naain. There, given that he specialised in painting attractive young ladies
who appeared not to wear many clothes, (perhaps because of the warm
climate,) he always got a good price.
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
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
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?
If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some
of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at
Tallis even has a blog of his own at https://tallissteelyard.wordpress.com/