An ode to outrage

An ode to outrage

I was talking to Laxey, the sub-Hierodeacon and he mentioned the sad case of the Theological Envoy. The role, of modest importance within the various temples and shrines, is normally taken by one who thrusts themselves forward to take on the task. The individual so chosen may, if they wish, travel from one holy place to another, dispensing wisdom, keeping up standards, and ensuring that various of those associated with the shrines are not lapsing into heresy.

It is generally accepted by those being so inspected that their inspector has all the utility of the spare bride at a wedding. On the other hand the Theological Envoys seem to regard their role as crucial to maintaining good order both within the city and within Northern Partann. None of them is ever recorded as having travelled even as far south as the Dreg River in Partann, probably fearing that they would be eaten by the natives.

Still, it must be confessed that they are regarded within the religious community as being one of the burdens that fall upon those who are called to the ministry. The Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm at the foot of the Sinecurists ‘Grand Stair has always had more problems with the various Envoys than most other shrines. The problem lies in the mendicants. The Theological Envoys seem to think that they are in some sense robed members of the order. In reality they are poor and hungry people who have put on robes so they can work on the Stair without being harassed by their ‘betters’ and thus earn their regular meals.

The trouble started with the arrival of the supremely pompous and self-regarding Boollean Nuncia, who was, at the time, the Envoy. As he descended the stair he berated the mendicants for their appearance. As he passed, one made a comment behind his back. He turned to belabour the offender with his staff, to find himself faced with a particularly large and remarkably hairy mendicant.

At this point there is a divergence in the stories. The one that both Laxey and I believe is that as Nuncia struck down with his bronze headed walking stick, the large and hairy mendicant caught it and held it. Nuncia, furious, promptly had a heart attack, collapsed and died before anybody realised what was going on. It has to be admitted that the mendicants acted with celerity. Before anybody noticed, they whisked his still warm body into the shrine and summoned Maljie and Laxey.

These two worthies, surveying the corpse, sprang into action. They had it stripped, and sent some of the younger mendicants to sell the clothes to a number of different second hand goods emporia. Then after some debate, the body was dressed in a spare mendicant’s robe and the pair of them walked their ‘drunken’ colleague between them down to Mott Martil’s establishment. This celebrated gentleman and pillar of the criminal community maintains a mott fattening business in a wharf-side building. He feeds his mott entirely on swill brought in from the surrounding area. Indeed for a fee, anybody with a body to dispose of can add it to the swill boiler.

As you may well imagine, there are many in the felonious fraternity who find Mott Martil’s facilities very useful. In this case, old Martil was willing to take the body of Nuncia without charge, as a sign of respect for the Lady Aea and her priests. Satisfied in a job well done, with scandal averted, Maljie and Laxey walked back to the shrine. There matters rested for about ten days until the Watch appeared on the scene. It appears that Boollean Nuncia had been reported missing.

Given that the route of his perambulations was announced weeks beforehand, the various shrines should have contacted the authorities to see where he’d got to on the day he didn’t appear. As it was, such was the esteem he was held in that none of them had in reality missed him for over a week. So the Watch had decided they would follow his route, if only to try and work out where the last place was he had been seen.

At the shrine, the mendicants, closed mouthed and sullen, had seen nothing. Even those who had genuinely seen nothing and had no idea what was going on were still close mouthed and sullen. When questioned, Maljie and Laxey weren’t sure whether Nuncia had visited them or not. After all they’d had to take a mendicant home who had arrived at the shrine much the worse for drink.

Finally Weden limped into the shrine and told the Watch he knew what had happened to Nuncia. Weden is the shrine’s prophet and is considered by all to have only a passing attachment to reality. Still the Watch were happy to talk to anybody.

“So Prophet Weden, you saw Boollean Nuncia?”

“Aye, ah did lad. He were coming down’t stairway when he pricked his finger on a thorn.”

“A thorn?” The Watchman was writing all this down.
“Ist tha deaf? A thorn. Anyhow all’t pomposity and bile poured out on him in one long fart and there were nowt left but this thin shrivelled thing ligging on’t stairs. Then a dog run up, grabbed it, and run off with it.”

“Thank you Prophet Weden.” The Watchman turned to the incumbent. “We’ll not waste any more of your time.”
With that they left.




Now it could all have ended there. Except of course the incumbent was now involved. If matters are left to Temple Wardens and sub-Hierodeacons, problems are sorted. Once incumbents get involved, the discussion moves on to a whole new theological level. Doctrinal issues come to the fore. Before you know it, somebody has asked the question, “What is truth.”

In this case the incumbent asked a number of questions which were easier to ask than to answer. The three most difficult questions were, “Who was the mendicant you had to help home, the worse for drink. Another one was, “I wonder why the younger mendicants all seem to have ready money for once?” The one that proved hardest to answer was, “And how has that large and hairy mendicant acquired a rather nice bronze headed walking stick?”

The result was that Maljie and Laxey were sent to attend a two week silent retreat for their mystical development. Even the meals were eaten in silence. As an aside, it has been suggested to me that this was more to stop complaints than as an aid to spiritual growth. A meal should contain more than just vegetables, and on the one occasion when meat did make an appearance, it was a thin and somewhat flaccid piece of bacon which was so ashamed of itself it tried, almost successfully, to hide behind half a fried tomato.

Still don’t let it be said that our two heroes lacked stimulation. They were even allowed to speak, or at least proclaim their lines during the regular rituals. These seemed to centre round the celebrants beating their breasts and proclaiming to the world how wicked they were.

Then for their edification they were allowed to read the Longer Brevity in their cells whilst there was enough natural light to see by. It was during this period that Laxey thought to hear Maljie hiss his name.
Cautiously he whispered back, “What?”

“I’ve discovered a new sin!”
Laxey wasn’t sure whether to be nervous or impressed. “What is it?”

“Proclaiming the forbidden name.”


“So what’s the forbidden name then, Laxey?”

“I don’t know.”
“Some damned sub- Hierodeacon you are.”
“We weren’t taught it because nobody’s allowed to say it. They just showed us it in a book.” Then he added as an afterthought, “I couldn’t spell it, never mind pronounce it.”
From the end of the corridor a voice said, “You two, speaking, two more weeks retreat.”


Should you wish to know more of life in Port Naain

As a reviewer commented “Tallis Steelyard makes a living as a poet, which is sufficiently remarkable in itself, but in reality he is a ducker and diver at the more genteel end of society in the imaginary town of Port Naiin in Jim Webster’s richly comic and intriguing fictional world. This is my first encounter with Mr. Steelyard in book form but I doubt that it will be my last. His tales are warmly amusing rather than laugh-out-loud funny but are none the worse for that. Give Tallis a try, you’ll be glad you did.”

15 thoughts on “An ode to outrage

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s