An eye to the future – by Tallis Steelyard (aka Jim Webster)…

Port Naain has its share of prophets. I’ve mentioned Mistress Mollina previously; she was appointed Prophet of Aea in her Aspect as the personification of Hypocrisy. For those who never heard the story it’s at:

But these prophets concentrate on ‘forthtelling’ rather than ‘foretelling’. Any prophecy they come up with is the sort your mother was fond of. “Carry on like that young man and you will come to a bad end.” They hold up a mirror to the city and allow us to see it in all its grubby degradation and shame. They serve a useful purpose. Occasionally people in power listen to
them and change things. Perhaps more often people who are not in power listen to them and live their own lives a bit differently. The most common result in those at the bottom realise that they are not forgotten, and that they still matter. So they walk a little taller and hold their heads higher. This makes those in power nervous and uncomfortable. This is never a bad

But we do occasionally get the other sort of prophet. The sort who peers into the future and tells us what is going to happen. These are the ones who will predict specific events rather than pointing out general trends. Also their predictions often lack a moral imperative, concentrating more on the details rather than pointing out the ethical decay that produces the details. In truth they are fortune tellers rather than guardians of our civic morals.

These prophets tend to be remarkably specific but simultaneously vague. Thus I have known some who will go into considerable detail about the passionate relationship a lady will have with a new admirer who is just about to make himself known. Yet they will be equally vague about the name, appearance, (other than the fact that he is handsome) and financial worth of the individual whose arrival they predict.

These prophets or fortune tellers all seem to require props. I’ve seen them read the future in the dregs at the bottom of a wine glass. Indigestion and a headache figure strongly. Some feel that they should strive for the spectacular. Peering into a glass ball or reading the message from cards is all well and good, but pouring molten lead into cold water and reading the future by interpreting the strange shapes the lead forms always gets people interested.

But the leading fortune tellers, those who are most likely to claim the title of prophet, claim they come into contact with some vaguely defined spirit world and draw their information from there. This normally means they go into a trance and then recite gibberish. This is written down and interpreted by a wise companion who is skilled at the art.

The advantage of this system is that you can keep things vague and show, in retrospect, how the answer was correct, it’s just you, as the punter, who misunderstood it.

Dalyla was one of these, and to be fair, she was really impressive. She managed to work on her own, without the wise companion. She would allow the person asking the question to put her into an ecstatic trance, normally by waving a precious token in front of her. She would then sing her prediction, accompanying herself on the lute, or similar instrument.

She covered the usual field, love, bereavements, lost relatives; and was no better and no worse than any of the others. But one day, halfway through a description of dark handsome stranger who was about to call, she stopped, and said, ‘Darkling Vale, to win.’

Somebody was quick on the uptake, wondered if it was a horse and discovered that there was a horse called Darkling Vale racing the next day. Purely in the interests of science they put an alar on it, and it romped home at twenty to one. Immediately Dalyla was much sought after. Whereas previously she had been happy to just work what is often known as ‘the bored ladies’ circuit, now she was invited to gentlemen’s clubs and dining rooms. It was discovered that she worked best if the person wishing for a prediction dropped gold down her cleavage. It was also clear that she didn’t predict many winners, but she seemed to be able to successfully tell you what horses not to back. Over the months she built up quite a following. Her greatest triumph was when she predicted Swollen Rain to win at a hundred to one. In theory only a few people were supposed to know, but some told friends who also told friends and before the day was out there was a fortune riding on the horse. The bookies had cut the odds all the way to evens but it was obvious to everybody that if Swollen Rain won, a lot of them would be bankrupted.

Next day, to the shock of the crowd, Swollen Rain ran moderately well, and finished fifteenth out of seventeen. To be fair, it’s largely the sort of performance that you’d expect from a hundred to one outsider. Dalyla was nowhere to be found.

To be honest, this latter fact didn’t surprise me. Late the previous evening I’d seen her board the paddler, The Seramis, bound for Oiphallarian and beyond. What did intrigue me was the solicitous way three bookies were carrying her cases for her.

And the hard sell!

Welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.

So, meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees.

These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.


Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.


More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn’t Tallis’s fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?

And then there is;-

Tallis Steelyard. Playing the game, and other stories.


More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?

If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at:


Tallis even has a blog of his own at:


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