Grubscrew reborn.

Tyloran I’ve known for many years. His status has always been dubious. He was a travelling tinker, but that left many of his skills unsung. He was a ‘camp follower’ in that for a lot of this time he followed in the train of one or the other of the great Condottieri captains from Port Naain. This sounds grander than it is, as I doubt very much whether any of them knew Tyloran had graced their force with his presence. Still, I suspect that the sergeant who was supposed to keep the train in some sort of order was aware of his presence and was grateful for it.
Now the term ‘camp follower’ has many unwelcome connotations. Camp followers are normally assumed to be women ‘no better than they ought to be’ (but still do sterling work cooking and nursing). Whilst the men are assumed to be card sharps, corrupt merchants, and rogues. All I can say is that a card sharp who attempts to ply his trade in an environment where every man is armed and regards killing as part of his trade is unlikely to be long lived.

Also in the train there are tradesmen of every sort. There are doctors, who might not be fashionable but the circumstances tends to weed out the quack or the incompetent. There are smiths, priests, horse doctors, and of course tinkers. Tyloran would always describe himself as a tinker but in his cart he’d also have an assortment of leather straps, already cut to size, and a sheet of leather to cut more from. The smiths recognised him as competent enough to assist in bashing out and mending armour, even if they wouldn’t be entirely happy at letting him shoe a horse. Then when the sergeant in charge of the train shouted ‘Men to the flank’, Tyloran would grab a spear and shoulder a shield and take his place in the ranks to defend the train.

It’s a living. You’re never there when there is loot to be had, but then you get fewer chances to die, so most would say that it evens out. Sometimes, if the sergeant was an old hand, at the end of a successful campaign, there’d be gold coins quietly pressed into the palms of those in the Train who’d proved themselves useful. There might even be a hope expressed that you would be joining the train next year.

But eventually Tyloran felt he’d served long enough. As in all these things, you cross the wrong people. Dangerous and mentally unstable people start bearing grudges. So when, at the end of one campaign, a young fellow made him a fair offer for his cart and stock, Tyloran took the money and got a lift home helping the wounded.

As he travelled north, he pondered his situation. Yes he had a little put by, but it was only a little. And he had the money he got from selling his cart. He would have to do something. It was on the outskirts of Saskadil that he noticed a tinker’s cart with ‘for sale’ written on a piece of board next to it. He looked at the cart and was impressed. He opened the box and looked at the tools and found himself nodding sagely. Whoever had owned this had looked after his equipment. He knocked on the door and an elderly woman opened it. The cart had belonged to her late husband. After a brief negotiation, Tyloran purchased the cart and set off south once more. This time he would stay in the peaceful areas and shun Uttermost Partann.

It was in first village that somebody addressed him as ‘Grubscrew.’ The name was painted on the tool box, and Tyloran hadn’t got round to doing anything about it. So he just answered to the name. Indeed as folk gathered with little jobs that needed doing, he merely explained that he was a younger Grubscrew from a distant branch of the family. The name seemed to be well regarded and people seemed happy to patronise a Grubscrew, so Tyloran stuck with the name.

Yet, after a lifetime of fixing pots and pans, Tyloran/Grubscrew felt he owed it to people to attempt to fix communities as well. As he travelled about, he would engage the idle, the shiftless, the bully and the cheat in conversation as they watched him. His tale was always how well the martial life had treated him. He had tales, many of them true, of young fellows who had come back rich. It has to be said that his tactics worked. Slowly and steadily he enticed these troublemakers away. Some of them probably flourished in an uncertain fashion, some of them disappeared, dead in a foreign ditch or at the hands of a brisk martial judiciary unwilling to waste time with ne’er do wells. Some did return home, sometimes chastened, sometimes sobered, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night, sitting bolt upright in bed and shouting out a warning to a comrade.

I met him some years later in Port Naain, sitting quietly in a small café, sipping an infusion and watching the world. He had finally passed on the name of Grubscrew to a successor and had reverted to Tyloran. As he observed, he was now far enough removed from the martial world, nobody was looking for him. So Grubscrew could be reborn to provide a comfortable anonymity for another.   


If you wish to know more about Port Naain.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a great collection of quirky little tales which are a spin-off from a series featuring Benor Dorffingil. Tallis is his friend, landlord, drinking companion and a jobbing poet. There are some lovely phrases used in here, as you would expect from a wordsmith like Tallis, who presents us with his pragmatic take on life. It’s an example of what happens when a minor character takes the reins and gallops off on his own. A great little book.”

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