Here you are, I hope you’re enjoying the story, ‘A measured response.’ Have
you worked out whodunit yet?
So here we are at the end of the story, everything done and dusted.
As I was saying, 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.
As with all 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 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?
As he peered out of the door across the moonlit stable yard Benor Dorfinngil
could see a cloaked figure making its way to the kitchen door. Benor assumed
it was somebody intent upon an assignation, but rather than knocking at the
door, the person produced a key and opened it. Intrigued now, Benor waited
until the figure had slipped inside and then he stole silently and swiftly
across the yard. Unsure of what was going on he took the precaution of
checking that his long knife was in its sheath.
Once in the kitchen Benor surveyed the room by the light of the dying fire.
There was a cloak discarded carelessly over the table, and the other door
was still ajar. Benor crossed the kitchen and looked through the gap left by
the partially open door. A man was standing at the foot of the stairs and
was lighting a lantern. With the lantern trimmed to his satisfaction the man
transferred it to his left hand, bent down and picked up a stout cudgel with
his other hand. He then climbed slowly up the stairs.
Benor waited until the light in the hall had dimmed and then opened the
kitchen door just enough to squeeze through. He tiptoed warily to the foot
of the stairs. Whoever it was who had entered the house was already out of
sight above him. Concerned for the safety of the residents Benor walked as
quietly as possible up the stairs. At the top of the stairs he could see
that the lantern bearer had already started down one of the corridors and
was standing with his ear pressed to a door, listening intently. Benor
froze, desperate not to make a sound. Now he had his hand on the hilt of his
knife but didn’t want to draw it lest the blade catch the light.
Suddenly the figure burst into the room, lantern held high. Benor heard him
shout, “Is this how you repay my generosity, Dorfinngil?”
Somewhat perplexed by this Benor walked hastily down the corridor and looked
into the room. Grayer Thirsk, lantern raised, was stalking towards the bed.
His sister sat up abruptly, naked at least to the waist.
“What are you wittering about Grayer?”
“You! Cavorting with that Toelar scoundrel!”
She flicked aside the bedclothes to reveal Arad Branwit lying next to her.
“Grayer, go to bed, you’re obviously drunk.”
At this point Branwit rolled over and leaned on one elbow. “If you want that
Dorfinngil fellow, he’s at the door now!”
Grayer Thirsk spun round and saw Benor. “What in the forty-seven hells are
you playing at? Some Toelar man you. Why isn’t it you in that bed?”
Entirely reasonably Benor replied, “Because nobody invited me.”
Grayer took a step forward, raising his cudgel. Benor stepped back into the
passage and drew his knife.
Arad Branwit got out of bed and pulled on a pair of britches. “So your
little scheme was to have this chap debauch your sister was it?”
Madam Grasia also got out of bed, wrapping a sheet loosely around herself
for decency’s sake. “Was that your plan, to have me befuddled and bewitched
by a foreigner so I forfeited the estate?”
Grayer pointed his cudgel at Branwit, “I’m not going to be lectured on
morality by someone who’s been pimping Ella, his niece, at me.”
“Pimping!” Branwit picked up a heavy earthenware water jug from the bedside
table, “Pimping. You’ve been sniffing round her ever since she was sixteen.
How does she compare to your mistress in Port Naain.”
Grayer stepped forward and swung his cudgel at Branwit who sidestepped
nimbly before swinging the jug at Grayer’s head.
Benor sheathed his knife and walked back down the corridor. It was obvious
that he was not really needed here. Behind him he heard crashing and
cursing. At the top of the stairs he stopped. Standing there was Ella,
dressed in a grey riding habit. Benor gestured back apologetically. “Did you
“Yes, all of it.”
Benor gestured down the stairs. “I was thinking of leaving.”
Ella glanced along the corridor to the room; the cursing and crashing were,
if anything, louder. “That seems entirely wise; I don’t think my presence
will improve the situation.”
They walked down the stairs side by side in a companionable manner. In the
kitchen Ella lit a candle from the fire and held it up to the clock on the
“Would you agree that it is after midnight?”
Somewhat surprised by the change of tack Benor looked at the clock.
“Then I have come of age and am mistress of my own destiny.”
There was a loud crash from upstairs, as if a heavy piece of furniture had
Benor continued, “I’d offer you a drink to celebrate but frankly I’d be
happier to be away from here.”
They stepped out into the stable yard. Ella regarded him questioningly. “So
good sir, what are your plans?”
Above them a window smashed and a porcelain chamber-pot crashed to the
cobbles near them. “In the immediate future I hope to get more than a stone’s
throw from our hosts.”
Following him to the stable she asked, “And then?”
“Well my work here is done. I’ve inadvertently been generously over-paid. I
intended to leave after breakfast anyway. Given the reception I shall
undoubtedly get at the breakfast table, I think I might leave now.”
“Then you collect your things and I’ll go back into the kitchen and pack
some breakfast for us.”
“I have frankly had enough. I intend to visit Port Naain. When I’m there I
will have my late father’s lawyers instruct my uncle to move out and I shall
put a manager in.”
With that she turned and went back to the kitchen. Benor merely had to
collect his backpack which he had packed the previous evening. He descended
the ladder for the last time and scratched Gyp behind the ears. The old dog
was the only living soul he felt any affection for here.
Ella walked across to him carrying what appeared to be a bulging sack. “That’s
a lot for a two day walk?”
She looked at him in surprise. “Who said anything about walking? My horse is
tied next to my uncle’s. You can ride his.”
She led Benor out of the stable yard and down a path to a copse by the beck.
“It’s still a lot of food for one day’s ride.”
“Ah,” she said, “I thought we’d detour south a little in case of pursuit.”
Ahead of them, crossing the bridge from the road to the estate, Benor could
see a cluster of people, some carrying lanterns. He quietly took the young
woman’s hand. “Quiet, let’s just slip behind the trees and let them go
Wordlessly she went with him. As they watched the party pass them it was
perhaps a score strong and was clustered around a stretcher. In the
lamplight Benor could see that two or three of them were women, one at least
was sobbing. Ella asked, “Who are they?”
“People who want a word with your uncle; among them are Anna’s kin, it’ll be
her body on the stretcher. She was buried in secret a couple of years ago.”
“She never went to Port Naain did she?”
Ella was looking at Benor intently, trying to read his face in the gloom.
“Almost certainly not; she certainly never died there.”
“So the letters my uncle received? She never wrote them did she?”
“She was probably dead and buried long before he got them.”
In silence, Ella turned and watched the lanterns split up, some stayed at
the front door, and some went down both sides of the house. Benor watched
her carefully. He felt that she didn’t need to see either the body or her
She seemed to come to a decision, “Right, let’s go. Let’s just leave the
whole sodding lot of them. I was leaving because I felt used; my uncle
seemed to be dangling me in front of Grayer Thirsk as a bargaining chip. He
could marry me if Uncle could marry Grasia, and Grayer didn’t think I was
worth giving up a mistress in Port Naain for. Now it looks as if I’ve been
lied to as well.”
She turned abruptly. “We leave now.”
She led him to the two horses tucked away behind the copse. She mounted the
first. Benor put his foot into the stirrup and mounted the other horse. He
asked, “You never actually said just how far south we were going to detour?”
Casually she said, “Oh just to Prae Ducis and get a boat to Port Naain.”
“But that’ll be at least ten days travelling?”
“Well if you’re bored of my company already?”
Benor grinned at her. “All shall be as you command my lady, Prae Ducis it
Are you sure about that………