This is a bit of a turn up isn’t it? A blog post on a Tuesday. Except today, someone else is writing the blog post so I don’t have to! Woot. As I do from time-to-time,may I welcome Jim Webster’s alter ego and literary creation, Tallis Steelyard. Tallis, renowned poet and raconteur, literary giant of the Land of the Three Seas is here to amuse us with another of his stories. Over to you Tallis …
Everyone else … enjoy.
Such a sweet creature …
I cannot remember what brought Grubby Manly to mind. He was a sneak thief and had aspirations to become a burglar. I suppose it is in some way admirable that a chap might want to rise in the world but still in the case of Grubby, I think he’d have been better off reforming and trying to make a living as an honest citizen. Even if he lacked wit and application, he could at least have wielded a shovel with adequate dexterity. Still, he decided that he would start his career of burglary by stealing from Buffer Dizzoon, the jeweller. Old Buffer had a perfectly straightforward attitude to security. He reared an erret pup. One of those damned big hunting dogs the Urlan use. I haven’t a clue where he got it. It may have been half bred but his grandchildren still rode on its back.
Buffer’s house and shop were the same building. The two rooms downstairs were shop and workshop, the rooms upstairs were where he lived. So each evening, when he finished work, Buffer and his wife would retire upstairs to their part of the house and abandon the entire ground floor to the dog. Now there was other security. Buffer’s wife insisted he lock the doors and put bars on the windows, but in his heart Buffer doubted their effectiveness. I talked to the watchman who visited the scene after the burglary. Apparently Grubby had made a bit of a mess of the door lock but had finally got in. By this time he may have woken Buffer and his wife, never mind the erret. Grubby slipped into the shop holding a bone in front of him. The erret grabbed the bone between his teeth and bit right through it, before spitting the bitten off piece onto the floor as a gesture of contempt. At this point Grubby probably had his fatal heart attack. At least the general feeling among those who witnessed the scene was that Grubby probably died before the dog attacked him.
As the watchman said, if Grubby had gone to a real dog man, they would have told him that the old bone trick hardly ever works. Why is a dog of that size going to be satisfied with a bone when he can have a whole, raw, burglar? Apparently the real professionals proffer a meat pie. Apparently you have to get a good one, and it’s wise to heat it up before you leave the house on your way to work. Then the smell of gravy is enough to convince the dog that you are obviously an honest citizen going about your lawful occasions.
Ah, now I remember why Buffer Dizzoon’s remarkably fierce dog came to mind. Somebody mentioned the Incumbent’s coney. At the Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm, our Incumbent has a pet coney. It must be admitted that it is a remarkably large one. Somebody did comment that properly prepared it would feed a family of six. Having seen it I feel that is a little understated. Should it ever appear in the soup kitchen run by the Society of Minor Poets, I’m pretty sure that with a few vegetables, and any horsemeat we might have left, we could spin it out to make a nourishing broth that would feed a score or more of folk.
In a similar manner to Buffer Dizzoon’s erret, this coney has the run of the Incumbent’s residence. It is to some extent house trained, and has an appropriate tray in the Incumbent’s study. Thus the creature has come to associate various bodily functions with books. So on those occasions when the Incumbent fetches the creature with her to the shrine, it will make its own way to the library. There we had the Deacon make a wooden tray for it. This is a thing of beauty, carved with grinning demon heads and fell creatures devouring contemned sinners. One of the mendicants has been given the job of cleaning and polishing it. I suspect that he, like many others, has thought longingly of stew.
Mind you, it might be difficult to find a person willing to approach the creature whilst carrying a naked blade. People have described it to me as a savage, even ferocious, beast. I think, in all honesty, that they exaggerate for effect. Still, when our Incumbent has been in the shrine, the coney has from time to time wandered outside onto Exegesis Square. This has led to rumours among the locals that our Incumbent has a demonic familiar. I’m not entirely sure what gave rise to that rumour but suspect it may be the time it attacked the dray horse.
It has to be admitted that as temple wardens we felt these rumours should be dispelled. After some discussion, we chose a time after one of the services. Here people were sipping various infusions, eating cake and pastries, and generally chatting. Everybody is both sober and in a good mood. Maljie called for attention and explained the theology of familiars and such like creatures. She explained that they were restricted entirely to practitioners of the dark arts and that even on the most archaic fringes of our order, demonic familiars are somewhat passé. I thought her talk was making progress until somebody asked about the creature’s lair.
Maljie said, somewhat coldly, that the technical term was a ‘hutch’. Somebody else said that they heard as how the creature curled up every night on a bed of the bones of its victims. Another added that apparently the lair glittered with gems and gold, these being the rings that once graced the fingers the creature had bitten off.
The meeting broke up at about this time because the coney had wandered in and was lurking under a table, growling at people.
There have been embarrassing incidents. We used to get drunks coming to the shrine late at night claiming they’d come to slay the demon. The mendicants just used to send them round to Maljie’s house. She missed one with the contents of a chamber pot but then managed to hit him and lay him out when she threw the pot at them. It was pewter and heavy and she only kept it because it reminded her of her mother.
As for tales of the missing delivery boy, frankly I wouldn’t dignify them with discussion. Somebody finds a pair of abandoned clogs in the doorway of the incumbent’s house and one might have had blood spilled on it. It could have happened anywhere.
And now a brief note from Jim Webster. It’s really just to inform you that I’ve just published a full Tallis Steelyard novel. Yes the rumours are true. Tallis Steelyard, the man who considered jotting down a couple of anecdotes to be ridiculously hard work, and considered the novella form to be the very pinnacle of literary labour, has been cozened into producing a novel.
In this novel, recounted by Tallis Steelyard in his own inimitable manner, we discover what happens when the hierarchy plots to take control of the Shrine to Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm. Will the incumbent be exiled to a minor fane in the far north? Will Tallis end up having to do a proper job? Does ordination and elevation beckon for Maljie?
This story includes the Idiosyncratic Diaconate, night soil carts, Partannese bandit chieftains, a stylite, a large dog and some over-spiced food. On top of this we ave not one but two Autocephalous Patriarchs and a theologically sanctioned beggar.
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