Of Kings and Kindness

A Tallis Steelyard Tale
Written especially for us by a popular & prolific author

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Story: © Jim Webster, all rights reserved

Mental Health and Fantasy?

In a blog conversation about his newest Tallis Steelyard tales, The Monster of Bell-Wether Gardens and other stories, author Jim Webster disclosed that he was about to launch a blog tour, sharing stories from and about his protagonist, Tallis Steelyard.

I commented that if he had anything mental health related I’d be happy to participate.

His response was, “I was wondering if anybody else had ever introduced mental health issues into Fantasy Comedy of Manners!”

Quick as a flash, he penned the story that debuts below!
I am honored to be able to host it here.

A little background

This episode picks up our hero following his previous adventure, which those of you who are curious will be able to find on Sue Vincent’s blog (Part I) and Chris Graham’s blog (Part II) — although everything you need to enjoy this story is complete right here, on the page below.

  1. Guest poet and raconteur: Tallis Steelyard – A Family Saga
  2. Playing the Game – Guest Post by, Tallis Steelyard…

I added a bit of formatting to the third part of the story here — for neurodiverse readers who find it difficult to stay focused on longer strings of similarly formatted text, but the author’s words are unchanged (British spellings included).

Let’s not quibble over American and English spellings as we sit back to read this delightful tale.

Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
for a reminder of how links work on this site, they’re subtle ==>

HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

Performing before Princes
by Tallis Steelyard

Caucasian Canyon (1893) by Lev Lagorio (1828–1905)

I travelled for a while through an area that was rustic to an extreme. I confess I was torn between heading back to the west and Port Naain, or continuing north along the river and getting further and further from home.

I eventually decided that I would let my muse guide me further north. After all, I was a wandering poet, every man’s friend, and welcome in any friendly home. Not only that travel broadens the mind and the bucolic life is a constant source of poetical inspiration.

Perhaps more importantly, I had left Port Naain in haste, and I suspected that unkind people there still wished to ask me difficult questions for which I had no glib answer that would satisfy them. It seemed sensible to deny the good folk of the city my company a little longer. Thus I continued north along the bank of the River Slackwater, enjoying the pleasant late summer weather.

It must be said that whilst those parts are not heavily populated, the folk there are kindly enough. Any traveller capable of splitting firewood or doing some other task is guaranteed a meal, or perhaps some bread and cheese to take away. A selection from the ‘Assorted verses’ by Quoloen the Indelicate won for me not merely a meal but a stable to sleep in.

Eventually I passed out of the tamer lands, the mountains grew closer. I was promised that before the river passed into the mountains, I would find a road which eventually led west. Finally, with evening falling I came upon Slackwater Ford. It consisted of three low houses and a ruined tower. In the distance I could see flocks grazing.

I approached the first house cautiously, somewhere a dog started barking. Even before I knocked on the door it opened and a burly man stepped out and looked me up and down.

“A good evening to you traveller; have you a name?”

“I am Tallis Steelyard, a wandering poet.”

He looked at me somewhat askance, but had the courtesy not to laugh out aloud. Wearing the battered remains of the kitchen porter’s overall I had donned to avoid being recognised by those who might be seeking me, I was not perhaps the epitome of casual good taste. Certainly I doubt many of my patrons in Port Naain would have recognised me. Indeed in some houses the footmen would already have ejected me. Hence I added,

“Forgive my lowly guise
Fate intervened, careless of my feelings
Dressed me in soiled rags
A poet in a humble disguise
Other fellows strut
Depending on props, needing borrowed splendour
I rub along quietly
My muse stronger than a poor haircut.”

He smiled at me. “A poet is most welcome on this day. You will dine with us?”

I bowed low. “I would be delighted to.”

He led me into the low house. Most of it seemed to be one room with box beds set into the wall and two doors leading off to other rooms.

A woman of a similar age to the master of the house was standing at the stove stirring something in a large pan. One young boy was assisting her, whilst another boy was feeding twin lambs whilst a dog watched them. The lambs were enthusiastic; the boy very serious, the dog wore an expression of weary scepticism.

My host showed me to a chair. Then he went to a barrel in the corner and poured two glasses of beer from it. We chatted about the weather, the roads, and how the flocks were coping with the season. Two older children came in from outside, to be swept up by their mother into taking part in various domestic preparations. Finally we were all called to the big central table to eat.

I must confess that once food was placed in front of me, I forgot witty conversation and concentrated on eating an excellent orid stew served on a bread trencher. Walking the roads gives a fellow an appetite. Fortunately the family were of the same mind, and there was silence until we’d finished eating.

Then the master of the house drew a jug of ale from his barrel, and one of his sons placed a mug in front of each of us. This our host filled. As he took his seat he asked, “Have you a story for us master poet, or some verses?”

I glanced round the table. Bearing in mind the four children I decided that a story would go down better than verses. So I told the tale of Tittle and the Honest Tax Collector.

In case you don’t know the story, Tittle is fisherman who has had a bad year, he falls ill, then he has an accident, his wife gives birth to triplets, all girls. Then his boat sinks, he looses his net in a gale, and when the tax collector comes round it is to find Tittle shivering at home; virtually naked because he has sold his last tunic to pay the rent on the hut.

The tax collector sits down with four great books of rules, and discovers that Tittle has been so over-taxed, even his good luck has been taken from him.

The tax collector submits a form to reclaim the over-paid tax and in the coming years Tittle gets a repayment of good luck, his boat is blown ashore by a gale along with his net. Then with only a modicum of work he gets them seaworthy, his fishing is better than reasonable, and he slowly works his way out of debt.

On top of this his three daughters grow into great beauties. The oldest marries a young nobleman, the second marries a rich merchant, and the youngest becomes a bandit queen. She eventually captures a tax collector who turns out to be the son of the honest one who saved her father. She falls in love with him and marries him, thus finally balancing the account.

This went down well, but I kept watching the youngest boy out of the corner of my eye. He looked intensely serious, and seemed most put out when his family laughed at my tale. His mother put her arm round him and he seemed to relax a little.

When the tale was finished my host stood up. “A tale like that deserves wine.”

He went to a chest and rooted around in it. He produced a silver drinking cup and a bottle of wine. He passed the cup to me and I examined it carefully. It was large enough to hold most of the bottle.

What intrigued me most were the style and the workmanship. Such cups are rarely seen in Port Naain. A handful of the oldest families will have one, normally with their family crest engraved on it. This cup also had a crest but when I recognised it I looked at my host. “The Royal arms of Port Naain? Is the cup that old?”

He took the cup from me and poured wine into it. “We don’t know when our family acquired it. Family legend claims we are the rightful heirs.”

“But it’s well over a thousand years since the last king left Port Naain.”

He shrugged. “It’s a family legend. Perhaps I am rightful king of Port Naain? Perhaps one of my ancestors was merely an accomplished bandit who stole it. By every year we try and find an excuse to drink wine from it to keep the tale alive.”

Somewhat diffidently I asked, “Have you ever been to Port Naain.”

He winked at his wife. “Like every eldest son for generations, I visited the city. Apparently one was so disgusted with the place he spent less than an hour there. I spent a year.”

His wife smiled back at him. “That’s how long it took for him to convince me to marry him.”

So with great formality my host said, “So I am Rostig, perhaps King of Port Naain, and this is my wife Elisia.” He lifted the cup to his lips and drank. “So Tallis Steelyard, poet and story teller, I wish you good health.”

He passed me the cup. As I held it I said,

“That I
Tallis Steelyard, poet
Should perform before Princes
They bestow it
Provoking envious glances
Seethe, I know it
Still my repute advances.”

With that I raised the cup to my lips, drank, and passed the cup back to him. gravely the cup was passed round the table and all drank. The youngest boy, still solemn, asked, “Should Grandma drink some?”

His mother hesitated briefly,
“You can try her with a little on a spoon when you feed her.”

“Should she meet our guest?”

“If you think she would like it.”

He left his seat and went across to the stove. He took a bowl that had been left to keep warm and went with it to one of the box beds.

Softly his mother said to me, “My mother came with me, now her mind has gone entirely. In a morning we get her up and if it is fine we sit her outside, Jackin our youngest will look after her. If it gets cold we will bring her in and Jackin and I will wash her and get her back in bed. Three times a day he feeds her.”

She sighed a little. “He seems slow at times, he struggles to play with other children. But no-one is better with lambs or his grandmother.”

I stood up. “Then it seems appropriate that I should meet her.”

I made my way to the box bed. The boy had one arm round the old lady’s shoulders and was speaking softly to her, a string of nonsense words but their tone was affectionate and encouraging. With his other hand he lifted the spoon to her lips.

Mechanically she opened her lips and he spooned a little stew into her mouth. She chewed it lethargically and swallowed. Jackin got a little more stew on the spoon and repeated the process. I looked at the woman’s face. It was slack, there appeared to be no sign of intelligence in the eyes, she fed mechanically.

From behind me Jackin’s mother said, “She was a singer in Port Naain. She was perhaps even famous, she sang the great operas. When she first came to live with us here she would sing them around the house.”

Patiently Jackin fed his grandmother, one small spoonful at a time. Then gently he wiped her lips with a cloth.

Softly I started to sing. I chose the great love duet from Phristus and Cimbu. I occasionally sung the part of Phristus to give one or the other of my lady Patrons the opportunity to sing the part of Cimbu. Apparently I’m good enough not to cause embarrassment but not so accomplished that I steal the show.

The duet starts with Phristus working up the courage to tell Cimbu of his love. It’s actually quite funny at times as he keeps losing his nerve and changes the subject to talk about the weather.

As I sang I would swear I could see life seep into Grandmother’s eyes. Then when the moment comes for Cimbu to come in, she opened her mouth and started to sing.

Initially her voice was small and weak, but as she sung, her voice strengthened and by the time the duet finished I could detect hints of the singer that she had once been.

Jackin gently brought a spoonful of wine to her lips and she sipped, smiled and seemed to sink down into her pillows in a natural sleep. I made my way back to the table where the family sat in silence. As I sat down Jackin stood in front of me. “Sir, you must teach me that song.”

I glanced at my host. He sat there, his eyes damp. He nodded slightly, so I concentrated my attention on Jackin.

“Then Jackin, tomorrow I will teach you the song.”


From the Author

At this point it seems pertinent to mention that the story of Tallis’s escapades continues on other blogs. They will be reblogged in what may one day be accepted by biographers as the chronologically correct order on his own blog. Thus and so you can easily follow his gripping adventures.

Also, as an aside, the reason for this whole performance, (aside for being ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’) is that another volume of his anecdotes has been published.

Click HERE for a “look inside” preview or to purchase a copy of the book:
Tallis Steelyard. The Monster of Bell-Wether Gardens and other stories.

Note from mgh: Music has been well documented to remain in the minds of Alzheimer’s patients long after other memories and much of their Executive Functioning capabilities have faded.

Patients often retain memories of well-loved songs, which gives them a great deal of pleasure, and some can still play instruments.

The description of life flooding back into formerly vacant eyes in response to music has been reported repeatedly.

As for the young lad, Jackin, this is perhaps the only description in Fantasy Comedy of Manners of something we see in Aspergers behavior: seemingly “slow” and serious around strangers, good with animals, and kindness personified.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (in his own words)

Jim is now struggling to pass himself off as fifty something, he’s a farmer, writer and freelance journalist whose work colleagues are almost entirely Border Collies.

Married with three daughters who are all old enough to have got over their embarrassment at his dress sense he lives in the North of England, on the coast just south of the Lake District.

Most of his books are Fantasy, with no elves, dwarves, hobbits or dragons (although he doesn’t dislike them he feels that others have already done them better.)

One reviewer said of his stories, “I love these stories. They are adventurous, funny and have a classic feel to them. Jim Webster writes real women, too. “

With the Tallis Steelyard stories he may just have become the worlds first ‘Comedy of Manners’ fantasy writer.

Click HERE (UK) or HERE (USA) if you want to see more of his writing – especially if you’re in the mood to pick up something new to read. ~ mgh

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There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

119 Responses to Of Kings and Kindness

  1. Pingback: Short Story Winner for October | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  2. Pingback: All is in order for the Tallis Steelyard Blog Tour… | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

    • Good to see you reblogged Jim’s post with the links in order – which included a link here, so thanks a bunch personally as well as for Jim (and Tallis). I added an UPDATE link directly to it from Part-3 on my blog, since I already had a long list of links to the posts themselves. It was great fun reading the wandering poet stories, wasn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: I would have mentioned it before but I’ve been busy | Jim Webster

  4. Pingback: Awakened and Enlightened ..Guest Post by Tallis Steelyard | bridgesburning

  5. Lucy Brazier says:

    Fantastic!! Best of luck to Jim with his latest book. I follow his blog and am a big fan 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on bridgesburning and commented:
    Heeeere’s number 3. NOT as in third but as in the next chapter (installment with our friend Tallis Steelyard)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’d read this delightful tale out of order but each of these tales can stand alone so are always delightful. Also, they can be read again and enjoyed just as much. 😀 — Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

  8. jenanita01 says:

    Another gem from Tallis, I had tears in my eyes at the end!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. jwebster2 says:

    Reblogged this on Tallis Steelyard and commented:
    And the third part of the story

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: If music be the food of health, play ON! | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  11. Christy B says:

    How intriguing for a guest post! This is quite different than your usual posts, Madelyn! I see the mental health links and wow I had to re-read your note about music often staying in the minds of Alzheimer sufferers longer than memories.. ! Good to catch up here xx

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Nicely written – you chose your guest well! Congratulations!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. This is a beautiful story Madelyn. What a writer to learn from.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. M T McGuire says:

    I also have a longer Tallis story which Jim gave to folks on my mailing list. I doesn’t tie in so well with your neuro diversity theme so feel free to delete this comment if you would prefer. Otherwise, if any of your readers would like to download that they can get it from bookfunnel for the next month or two. They can find it here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/srmqalxdy8

    Cheers (again)


    Liked by 2 people

  15. -Eugenia says:

    This is wonderful share, Madelyn. I am now following his site.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. M T McGuire says:

    My Dad has Alzheimers and that nearly made me cry. Thanks for sharing and for the mention of Jim’s or at least Tallis’s post on mine.



    Liked by 1 person

  17. Breathtaking story, Madelyn and I was completely hooked. What a fantasy and the author sounds such a humble and kind person too. Awesome words so well written. Beautiful for words. Thanks for the great share. Loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

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