Kids know the value
Huddle with crayons and a book
Filling in the blanks
With colors that set them free
Lines are only suggestions
©2018 Annette Rochelle Aben
Benor is back! After the first critically acclaimed collection of the ‘Port
Naain Intelligencer’ novellas, by popular demand a second collection is on
Does that sound good?
Not sure if it grabs me.
But anyway Benor is the hero of the first fantasy novel I ever wrote and I’ve
followed his career through another novel and a series of novellas which
have the collective title of the Port Naain Intelligencer. Tallis Steelyard
appeared as an incidental character in those stories and being Tallis he
just took over.
The thing about the stories in the Port Naain Intelligencer collection, you
can read them in any order. It’s a bit like the Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle wrote them in a particular order, but you can dip in and
out of them, you don’t need to start with volume one and work through them
But anyway I’ve just published, ‘A licence to print money: The Port Naain Intelligencer.’ It’s available on Amazon at
In it, Benor, who just wants to get paid for some work he’s done, struggles
against corrupt officials, bent bookies, and all manner of other problems.
On the positive side he does get to meet a Magistrate who is also a
performance poet, and young Mutt finds somebody who might even be tougher
than he is.
But it struck me that people have got used to me writing about Tallis
Steelyard and might need reintroducing to young Benor. So I decided that I’d
write another Port Naain Intelligencer tale, ‘A measured response,’ where
each chapter is a post on the blog tour. Follow the blog tour and you’ll
probably get to uncover the mystery, free and gratis. Cannot say better than
that can I?
For those of you who still love Tallis, his blog is still there at
And some more collections of anecdotes from Tallis Steelyard are in the
And you can find my books at
Oh and I’ve got another blog which I write which is mainly sheep, quad bikes
and stuff. Or perhaps not?
A measured response
As a young cartographer, Benor Dorfinngil knew he would have to travel. On
the long road that had at length carried him from Toelar to Port Naain, he
had braved atrocious weather conditions, serious mining accidents,
anthropophagous beastmen, irate husbands and outraged fathers. All this he
had taken in his stride, asking for little in return.
It was when he arrived in Port Naain that he realised how bad things could
get. The beer rarely even aspired to be mediocre and was often undrinkable,
whilst the food in public dining places was rarely better than bland and
under-spiced, and at the worst, it was uneatable.
But as he got to know the city and made friends there, he finally realised
how one got a decent meal. Along with his friend and landlord, Tallis
Steelyard, he was attending the meeting of a gentlemen’s dining club.
Admittedly it was Tallis who had been invited as an after-dinner speaker;
Benor had merely ridden in on his friend’s coattails. But still he had dined
well. A thick vegetable soup rich with herbs and spices, piquant enough to
make the locals comment and to allow Benor to feel nostalgic. This was
followed by a slow cooked joint, so tender the meat fell off the bone.
Finally a selection of tarts, pasties and a well supplied cheeseboard. The
whole meal was accompanied by a selection of decent wines, poured with a
generous hand. All was well with the world and Benor was predisposed towards
goodwill and friendliness.
To be fair the other guests were welcoming. One, Grayer Thirsk, had stepped
down from a carriage at the door of the club as Benor and Tallis were
entering, and had greeted Tallis as a long lost brother. They briefly
ignored Benor, but he was too busy gazing with admiration at the attractive
and expensively dressed lady in the carriage. She winked at him and then
gave the coachman the order to move on. At this point Tallis remembered
himself enough to introduce Benor to Grayer and the three of them entered
the club as group.
So now the formal phase of the evening was drawing to a close. Tallis had
given his performance whilst the rest were engaged with the cheeseboard. His
collection of anecdotes, extemporised verses, (which Benor knew had been
produced with much toil the previous day) and banter with his fellow guests
had gone down well and now the group was giving its attention to the
important business of talking and drinking.
The guests drifted away from the debris littered table, leaving a few
devoted trenchermen to finish off the more interesting cheeses. The others
sat in deep comfortable chairs and talked in small groups. Benor was
wondering where to sit when Tallis approached him with Grayer Thirsk.
“Benor, I think you two need to talk, he claims he needs a cartographer.”
Benor gestured to a pair of armchairs near the wall that were currently
unoccupied. “Perhaps we could sit there?”
His companion agreed, took one of the chairs and Benor look the other. A
waiter appeared bearing a tray containing a number of empty glasses and a
selection of decanters filled with various spirits. His newfound
acquaintance took two glasses and poured a generous libation into them from
one of the decanters, apparently chosen at random.
“Master Dorfinngil, I believe you are not from around here?”
”Yes, I hail from Toelar and have arrived here by a long and somewhat
indirect route.” Benor had found the inhabitants of Port Naain to be
surprisingly parochial, seeming to assume that anybody born on the other
side of the mountains was a savage barely capable of conversing in grunts.
“Still, your friend Tallis assures me that you are a cartographer, and what
is more, you can be trusted to be discreet.”
“Pray call me Benor, everybody else does.” Benor was a little concerned
about the need for a circumspect cartographer. It was normally followed by
the revelation that the speaker had purchased, inherited or acquired by
dubious means, a treasure map of some sort and wished for aid in
“Thank you Benor; I have a pleasant enough farm, almost an estate, perhaps
thirty miles south of here in an agreeable and civilised part of Partann. It
just so happened that I was up on business and when Tallis mentioned your
skills I decided that I had to hire you. I need somebody to map my lands,
and incidentally make an estimate of their worth. Mind you it must be done
without anybody remarking on it.”
“The Cartographers’ Guild rates normally stipulate four alars a week, plus
an extra alar for each apprentice employed.”
“Oh we don’t need anybody else involved. I propose five alars a week and you
shall sleep in the house and dine with the family.”
This seemed an excellent offer. But before Benor could reply somebody in
another group rose, raised his glass and proposed a toast. “The gallant
condottieri of Port Naain.” He then drained his glass. Like everybody else
Benor stood, repeated the toast and drained his glass which was quickly
Now seated again he turned to Grayer Thirsk. He reckoned that his
prospective client was a little older than him but probably no more than
thirty. Was he perhaps valuing an inheritance with a view to paying off
debts? Certainly if he was contributing to the maintenance of the attractive
lady in the coach, it would be easy to run up debts.
“Obviously I’m very interested in your offer. Could you give me a few more
At this point somebody else stood up, “Gentlemen, I give you the ladies of
Port Naain. Unmatched for their beauty and their virtue.”
Benor rose to drink the toast even though he might have personally had his
doubts as to its veracity.
His glass refilled he sat down. Then he heard the voice of Tallis. “Of
course he can do it. Here’s an alar to prove that he can.” Benor was
immediately nervous. How on earth had Tallis come upon an alar? One gold
alar was a week’s wages in itself for an ordinary working man and few of
them ever crossed the path of a poet.
“Benor, these fellows don’t think you can climb out of that window and in by
Benor hissed to Grayer Thirsk, “Put your details on a piece of paper and I’ll
see you later this week.” He then looked at the windows. They were high up
the wall; at least twice the height of a man. Still they were large enough
to get through. He assessed the placing of the furniture.
“I can do it, but I assume I’ll be allowed to open them both from the
inside. I could probably open one from the outside but this spares
There was a general mutter of agreement. So Benor slipped off his jacket,
climbed onto his chair and from there onto the sideboard. From the sideboard
it was an easy climb via a well secured stand of arms to a shallow ledge
that ran round the room at window height. He unfastened the window and
opened it fully. Then pressing himself close to the wall he moved along the
ledge until he came to the next window. The catch here was stiff but he got
it undone, opened the window and looked outside. This was in reality the
difficult bit, he’d hoped for a matching ledge along the outside of the
building, but there wasn’t one. On the other hand both windows had elaborate
architraves which would give his fingers plenty of grip, and between them
was a downspout which appeared firmly fastened.
With confidence born of long experience, a bottle of wine and two large
glasses of spirit, he swung himself out of the window and hung from the
architrave. He carefully moved along it and then with his leading, left,
hand he reached out and tugged at the downspout. It appeared well attached.
He grasped the spout and transferred his weight to it. It creaked a little
but Benor treated the noise with polite disdain and reached out with his
left hand to grasp the architrave of the next window. He then launched
himself across and pushed himself feet first through the open window,
turning as he did so and dropping gracefully down onto the sideboard.
There was a ripple of applause and somebody thrust another glass into his
hand. Grayer Thirsk announced, “Gentlemen, I give you Master Benor
Dorfinngil.” Along with the others Benor drained his glass. When the waiters
had recharged them he lifted his, “Gentlemen, I give you the hospitable folk
of Port Naain.”
It had all the makings of a long night.