I’m pleased to showcase two of Jim Webster’s new books today, which are part of The Port Naain Intelligencer series of short stories.  The first one, ‘The Plight of the Lady Gingerlily‘ features our friend Benor, who takes on a few small jobs in order to find a lost husband, to vet potential suitors for two young ladies, and to find a tenant for an empty house.  He begins to feel that things are getting out of hand when somebody attempts to drown him!

Jim has given you a taste of Port Naain in the delightful story The Eyes Have It below:

THE EYES HAVE IT, BY JIM WEBSTER
It was early evening and Benor was dozing quietly. Technically he was
reading but his eyes had closed in spite of his best efforts. He was
awakened by a rapping on the door of the barge. Shena, sitting nearest,
opened it to admit a tall, well build young woman. Benor thought he
recognised her, but couldn’t put a name to her.
“Begging your pardon sir, but after meeting you at the house of the
Chevaleresse of Windcutter Keep I thought I’d seek your services myself.”
Now he’d been given a clue, Benor recognised her. “Ah, of course, you’re
Minny. You are the maid for the Chevaleresse.”
“Not any longer sir, I gave my notice a month since.”
Looking at her, Benor could tell. That was one reason he hadn’t recognised
the young woman. As Minny the maid, he’d seen her in a blouse which fastened
at the neck, with a skirt that hung decorously at the calves. The dress she
wore now was still long but seemed to ‘swirl’ as she moved. The dress was
also displayed considerably more embonpoint than the previous blouse had
even hinted at.
Cautiously Benor asked, “So what are you doing now?”
“Well I found my sister, as I was asking after. She’s here in Port Naain,
and has her own clothes shop. So I’m in partnership with her. I had a few
trinkets and suchlike I’d put aside from my time in service, so I sold those
to raise the capital needed.”
It has to be admitted that the answer was more respectable than Benor had
feared, so when he offered his congratulations, they were genuine. Then he
asked the obvious question. “So to what do we owe the honour of this visit?”
“It’s a matter of the heart.”
Benor could see a grin steal across Shena’s face. Shena was still standing
behind Minny having just closed the door after her. Cautiously Benor asked,
“Could you explain.”
“Well my sister and I have admirers and seeing as how we’re young women with
no father to fall back on, we wondered if you would investigate them for us
and see if they’re everything they claim to be.”
Before Benor could say anything, mischievously Shena said, “I’m sure Mister
Dorfinngil would be delighted to assist you in this. But remember he’s a
busy man and his time is money.”
Benor started to say something but Shena continued, “For a simple case like
this I think ten vintenars will cover it. Is that acceptable?”
Minny winked knowingly at Benor, “Perfectly and I’m sure my sister and I
will cover any costs.”
Hastily Benor asked, “And who are these gentlemen?”
“Santon Gilfell and Wast Divot.”
“And where could I find these two?”
“Well that’s the difficulty. They’re gentlemen adventurers and if we need to
contact them we have to leave a message at the Black Grapes.”
Benor ostentatiously noted down what he’d been told. “And where can I catch
you or your sister?”
“There’s a dress shop called, ‘Two Sisters’, just down Dollymop Street.”
“I know it,” Shena said, “You’ve got some nice stuff in the window, but if I’m
right, you make most of the clothes yourself to fit the lady when she comes
in.”
Minny turned round, and Benor heard genuine enthusiasm in the young woman’s
voice. “Yes, that’s us. I’m glad you like it.”
Shena allowed herself to be caught up by the enthusiasm. “I do. When I first
saw the display I thought it might be a bit young for me, but you’ve got
some dresses with really classic lines. Somebody has a real eye for colour
and line.”
“That will be my sister Timmy, she’s got the way with that sort of thing. I’m
a better needlewoman than her, but she has an eye for style.”
Shena opened the door for their guest. “You and your sister can rest assured
Benor will have something for you by this time tomorrow.”
“And my sister and I will have something for Benor.” Saying this, Minny
curtseyed to them both and left. Shena closed the door and leaned on it,
giggling. “Benor, if you manage to get paid in cash you’re a tougher man
than I think you are. In fact if you avoid being paid in kind, I’ll match
whatever you get.”
Benor looked under the galley table, “Coming Mutt?”
The boy crawled out, clutching his shoes. “Is this cartography?”
Benor paused. “Not properly, but it’ll teach you some useful skills.”
Mutt looked at his shoes and then put them carefully back under the table.
“I heard money mentioned; ten vintenars don’t sound like cartography.”

The first stop was the Black Grapes. Benor looked round the bar and noted
that his friend Xeston, was sitting finishing his meal. Benor walked across
and sat next to him. “I thought you gallant condottieri were always off
doing great deeds of derring do?”
Xeston gestured around him. “This place isn’t as busy as it was a week ago.
The companies are gathering their horsemen together and issuing contracts
for the next season. In another week I’ll be riding south.”
“Anywhere special?”
Xeston just shrugged. “South about covers it at the moment.” He paused and
then asked, “Why don’t you come with us for a season?”
“I’m not a man-at-arms.”
Xeston made a rude gesture. “Which is true, but seriously, we need people
who know which way up to hold a map, and can tell us what is over the next
ridge.”
Benor paused. “Well not this season Xeston, but you never know. Perhaps next
year I’ll want to head home, and if I hire on with a company, I can leave
them and head west over the Paps at the end of the campaigning season.”
“I might just keep you to that. Anyway, you rarely wander in here for no
reason, so why are you here tonight?”
“I’m looking for two young men called Santon Gilfell and Wast Divot.
Apparently they’re ‘adventurers’. Whatever that means.”
“It normally means ‘poseurs.’”
“I suspect as much, but apparently they’ve given this as a place where they
can be contacted.”
Xeston stood up. “Then that we can investigate immediately.”
He walked across to the bar, Benor and Mutt following him. The barman walked
across to them and Xeston asked, “I’m looking for two chaps.” He turned to
Benor, “What were their names again?”
“Santon Gilfell and Wast Divot.”
Xeston continued, “We could be a few men short riding south and somebody
mentioned their names and said that they might be interested in hiring on.”
The barman laughed. “Somebody has been teasing you. They’re a couple of
clerks who have messages left behind the bar here because they don’t want
their landlady discovering what they’re up to.”
Benor said, “Clerks?”
“Well Gilfell is, because I’ve seen him working in the offices of Raswil
Muldecker the usurer.”

It was next morning Benor and Mutt called in at the offices of Raswil
Muldecker. It was a traditional establishment and there, on a board outside
the door was listed the names, first of the partners, and then of clerks and
others in strict order of seniority. Benor started at the bottom and soon
found the names Gilfell and Divot. Glancing in through the window he could
see a
lady sitting behind a desk, placed to intercept anybody who entered. He
weighed her up briefly and then walked it.
The woman looked up from some papers she was working on. “Can we help you
sir.”
Hesitantly Benor said, “I’m afraid I’ve got a rather embarrassing duty to
perform.”
As he hoped, she immediately looked interested. He continued, “Can I ask for
your complete confidentiality?”
She glanced round; all the doors out of the hallway were closed. “Yes.”
“I’ve been asked by two young ladies if I would investigate Santon Gilfell
and Wast Divot. They don’t have a father to fall back on for this sort of
thing so they’ve asked me. Apparently there is some romantic interest and
the girls wondered whether they were two respectable young men.”
The woman’s smile had been growing broader as Benor explained. “Oh yes they’re
respectable enough. They try to be rakish, they try to be dashing, but to be
honest they’re two quiet hardworking young men and I confess I have a soft
spot for them.”
Serious now she added, “And actually Master Muldecker liked his clerks to be
married and settled, so if they were serious and did go through with it,
they’d probably get a bit of a promotion on the strength of it.”
“So you’d vouch for them?”
“As much as I’d vouch for anything male; but a lass could make herself a
decent husband out of either of them.”


With Mutt as a chaperone, Benor called in at the dress shop, ‘Two Sisters.’
He caught the young women at a quiet moment and explained what he’d learned.
He wasn’t entirely sure whether they’d be entirely happy when their
gentlemen adventurers had somehow metamorphosed into clerks. Still they
seemed to take it well enough.
It was Minny who asked, “If they are as you say, they might actually be a
bit shy.”
Benor considered this. “Certainly they might want a gentle push. Especially
if they know you have discovered their real employment.”
Minny asked. “Could you bring them here this evening then, just for the four
of us to have an evening of wine and pretzels, just to get to know each
other properly.”
“Certainly.”
“We can pay you tomorrow; we’ve got the money together.”


Thanks to his ally in reception, it wasn’t difficult for Benor to arrange to
meet the two young men immediately they finished work. Initially somewhat
surprised, they allowed Benor’s devil-may-care attitude to win them over and
pausing only to drop round at their digs to change, they allowed him to
escort them to the dress shop.
Benor, remembering his role as nominal father, accompanied the two young men
upstairs to where his two nominal daughters had made their preparations for
entertaining. He performed the formal introductions and accepted a glass of
wine, with which he drank to the health of the assembled company. Then he
made his excuses and left. He felt his presence would serve no further
useful purpose.
That being said, as he closed the door behind him, the look of growing panic
in Wast Divot’s eyes would haunt him for some time.

The following evening Benor dined with Tallis and Shena. It was here that
Shena asked a question that had obviously been on her mind.
“So when are you going to collect your pay from those two young ladies?”
Adopting the air of an innocent abroad, Benor said, “I’ve already got the
money.”
Surprised, Shena gestured for him to produce the evidence. Benor placed on
the table five silver vintenars.
“The agreed price was ten.”
“Yes, well I sent Mutt to collect and obviously he got half. As he most
perceptively said, ‘Shena said she’d match whatever money you collected, so
you’ll still have ten.’”
Shena glared at him. “Benor Dorfinngil, that’s cheating!”


In the second book, 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.

 

 


A note from the author, Jim Webster:

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.

Advertisements