The remarkable tale of Tar Yurgon’s glass eye

I have many patrons, both in Port Naain and elsewhere. One is Chris, whose hirsute portrait appears on his blog. It was he who pointed out the picture above and asked if I knew the story behind it. I do, it’s all to do with Tar Yurgon’s glass eye.

It must be admitted that Tar Yurgon is no artist. He is certainly not a poet, indeed his sole claim to literary excellence comes from his trade as a ‘freelance journalist.’ Thus and so, little can reasonably be expected from him. Still I was somewhat surprised to go into that somewhat less salubrious establishment, Sattir’s Drop, and discover that they were selling a beer called ‘Tar Yurgon’s Special Select.’

Now I knew that to survive (because nobody is more expendable than a freelance journalist) Tar Yurgon did many things. But I never thought brewing was one of them. Still when I went to the bar, the tapster himself was on hand to encourage me to purchase a tankard of it. Not merely him but others in the clientele were pressurising drinkers to switch to the Special Select. Obviously I asked why.

It appears that Tar Yurgon had lost his glass eye in one of the barrels and was offering a generous reward for the drinker (and the landlord) who brought him his eye back. This immediately raised several questions in my mind. The first, “Since when has Tar Yurgon had a glass eye?” was the one I didn’t ask. The second question was, “How did he not know which barrel it was?”

I mean, you lean over to inspect an open barrel and your glass eye falls into it. It isn’t as if you merely say ‘oops’ and keep on with whatever you’re doing, intending to come back for it later but somehow forgetting. But the tapster had an answer for this.
Apparently Tar was blending the Special Select in a large vat and his eye fell into a vat and the vat was draining into several barrels simultaneously.

At this point I think an Urlan would just have taken the tapster’s head and would then have sought out Tar Yurgon and taken his as well. Beer is brewed in the cask it is in, and never leaves it, save when it is joyfully poured by the proud landlord. The sole reason for putting beer into large vats is to adulterate it. Only in Port Naain would a tapster even contemplate admitting that this happens.

Still, to be fair, Tar Yurgon’s Special Select, even if adulterated, was no worse than any other beer in Port Naain. I finished my tankard and left, wondering what was going on.
But then I called in the Mott’s Head, another inn where I occasionally perform. Here to, Tar Yurgon’s Special Select was being served. In all candour, I use the word served; if only because ‘pimped’, whilst more accurate, has indelicate overtones. But this establishment had purchased three barrels and it was selling well. By now my curiosity was awakened. In the course of the evening I discovered that Tar Yurgon had managed to sell his beer into at least eight drinking establishments. All had purchased multiple barrels and each was selling the beer at a premium. Yet drinkers were paying it. Indeed in one establishment I shall not name here, they brought the almost empty barrel into the bar, and poured the last of the dregs into a chamber pot. This was purchased and drunk by one old soak who ran his fingers through it first to make sure he didn’t swallow a glass eye.

It was late when I arrived at the Misanthropes where, much to my relief, Tar Yurgon had not made a sale. But I did see Trane Forsgill sitting on his own staring at his glass in a manner which seemed to indicate a degree of intoxication. Now Trane, whilst he can be a bore and a pedant, is still not a bad chap. More importantly, he knows Tar Yurgon as well as anybody. So I took a bottle and a couple of glasses and went to sit with him. We sat and chatted for a while, he had a collection he was working on (don’t we all) and we discussed concepts. But as the conversation drifted, I asked casually, “What’s old Tar up to nowadays?”
“Ha. Man of means now!”
“How did he manage that?”

“Pure luck. He picked up a barrel of grain spirit, really cheap. I’m not sure who stole it from whom, but I think the chap who sold it to Tar had stolen it off the thief who stole it off the thief.”

“Well I can see there’d be money to be made on grain spirit, but it could be tricky selling it with so many people watching for it to come on the market.”

“That’s where he was lucky. There was a fire at one of the racing stables. Nothing big but a lot of barley was fire damaged. So he got that for the cost of taking it away.”

“Grain spirit and spoiled barley strike me as a strange way to wealth?”

“Ah but here he was clever. He had a word with some people who sell beer. With their backing he could afford to buy a dozen barrels of Abbot’s Ale.”
“But that’s the worst beer in Port Naain.”
It is as well. Brewed by the Venerable Order of the Awakened and Enlightened Siblings as part of their long term plan to encourage teetotalism in the city. So it isn’t just bad due to accident or carelessness. It is bad by design.

“That’s where Tar was clever. He borrowed one of Mott Martil’s huge swill boilers and boiled up his free barley in a lot of water. When it was cool he poured in his Abbot’s Ale and his barrel of grain spirit. Then he stirred it well and poured it off into barrels as his Special Select. He paid off Mott Martil by giving him the dregs of the barley left in the swill boiler.”
“So the various inn keepers were in on the scheme?”
“Yes, one of them came up with the idea of Tar losing his false teeth and giving a reward, as a way of getting people to drink it quickly.”

“But they told me it was his glass eye he’d lost.”
“That was my idea when I heard about it. When you stop and think about it, a set of false teeth is never going to come out of the barrel into the jug. But a glass eye must might. Or at least you can convince yourself that it will when you’ve drunk enough.”  

I could see where he was coming from, the Special Select was so cloudy you’d have to drink it to find anything.
Trane Forsgill was still talking. “Artistic verisimilitude is very important. I cannot abide sloppiness and a casual attitude to creating a story.”
It has to be admitted that whilst he can be a bore and a pedant, in this instance, Trane was absolutely correct. The fact that Tar didn’t have a glass eye, having two perfectly good ones of his own, is nugatory.

There again, on second thoughts, not entirely nugatory. Shena and I were wined and dined at the Flensers by a maker of glass eyes who now promotes the excellence of his product by claiming he made Tar Yurgon’s glass eye. After all Tar can hardly dispute the matter.


In spite of the obvious disadvantages, it may well be that you want to spend more time in Port Naain.

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As a reviewer commented, “This author has created a rich world, filled with interesting characters – of whom Maljie is one of the most colourful. Her life and adventures are presented though the gossip of the poet Tallis Steelyard who has a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. Reminiscent somewhat of Pepys’ diaries about the small and large events of London, Tallis is a better writer. And why is Mr Webster dangerous – too much of my money is being spent on his books.”

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