[LMB] Penric, section 14
M. Haller Yamada
thefabmadamem at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 14 04:36:49 GMT 2016
Our section opens with Pen enjoying a great
deal of his forbidden knowledge (note how the young man is a little stiff from
reading the book), when Clee pops in with an invitation to dine at the castle
with his brother, Rusi.
Something is off here, but I didn’t notice
the hints the first time, and Penric was in such haste to get out and do
something new that he didn’t notice either. Rusi has provided the horses, but
not to the door – they must walk a little distance from the house and get them
from a livery stable.
We’re actively lulled – the two boys have a
lot in common. They are both non-heirs, but they both have no desire to be
After an hour on horseback, they are at the
castle. We get a neat little description of the hamlet and environs. My first
hint that something was up (first read) was when Lord Rusillin said, “Ah, you
have secured our guest.” Secured?? Sounds like a kidnapping. During a short
pre-dinner tour, Rusillin promises that Penric will get to see the lower levels
(dungeons!) of the castle better. Uh-Oh! Lovely dinner, but they keep topping
up his drink. This is not good.
It is interesting to note that Rusillin is
less Evil Overlord, and more Calculating Businessman, as we discover through
his dinnertime conversation.
Then they start pumping him, ever so gently, for demon details.
It’s the most interesting thing that’s
happened to Penric in his young life, and he doesn’t see anything odd in the
interest – even though nobody else has asked him much about the demon (except
for church-related people). It must be a relief to talk about it. They don’t
mind him dwelling a little bit on his lost betrothal. Still, Pen, despite his
innocence and the wine, has some sense of self-preservation, and doesn’t reveal
everything he knows. He worries about being found odd by his new friends, I
And then comes the poisoned cordial!
Desdemona finds the strength to communicate with Penric silently for the first
time, and instructs him. And like so many spy figures in Lois’ work, Desdemona
is intensely curious and wants to see what happens. The smart thing to do would
be to head for the head and try to disappear. But then who knows what plan
Rusillin and Clee would come up with? Better to have a little more info,
Desdemona seems to reason.
And I would like to point out that this is
great evidence that Desdemona is reasoning. She’s not just throwing up past
programs like 20th century Artificial Intelligence. She’s observing,
she’s combining the information she gets, and she’s making judgements and
giving advice based on what she comes up with.
Anyway, the syrup of poppies is rendered
harmless (purely Desdemona at the reins here; Penric isn’t consciously doing
anything), and Penric fakes a deep sleep. Desdemona is supremely confident in
her abilities to get them out of this mess, and Penric goes along.
We have been set up well, though. On first
read, I think they are going to drown Penric – the story of what the Roknaris
do is floating through my head. But then it becomes clear that they intend to
slice his throat and try to catch a demon for their own use. Desdemona isn’t
reassuring – she says a sorcerer can die, but if the demon jumps in time, it
will continue existence. Penric is jealous and despairing – and thanks to the
new mental link, Desdemona hears him and tells him to pull himself together –
she implies that he’s still the best choice of the three men in her opinion.
Desdemona slows time, and does her tricks.
Pen, to the human world, looks insanely fast and also the sword rusts before it
can skewer our dear boy. Pen and his opponents are bewildered, but Desdemona is
having a good time.
Clee cools her jets, though, saying Tigney
is planning to bring the saint from Idau into this matter. Demon death! Penric
tries to be clever, but he only buys a little time while his tormentors
Man-Splain to the boy that they’ve already figured out his little wrinkle – of
course they won’t fight, no matter who gets the demon. Penric is feeling
inadequate again, but Desdemona takes control of his mouth and says, “What? And
have to look at your ugly face in the mirror every day?” Who is that comment for?
think it helps with Rusillin and Clee. Desdemona must know she shouldn’t tip
her hand to them yet. It must be for Penric’s benefit. Despair is an inner
traitor more dangerous to her right now than Rusillin and Clee.
works. Pen concentrates and finally acts. The two use their powers, and cause
chaos, during which Desdemona giggles. She tells him to run for the water gate,
and Umelan takes over for the swim.
But still, our villains pursue our heroes!
Desdemona leads them to the middle of the lake, using Pen as bait, then
dissolves their boats. Then the castle is in on fire, and given his choices,
Rusillin chooses to check out the fire instead of saving his brother (who can’t
swim either) and chasing the demon-boy. Pen paddles off into the darkness.
What a very fun section! Desdemona is so
gleeful, yet full of practicality. Our villains are so practical, yet
ultimately so clownish. Pen is almost an observer in the swirl of chaos, but
the observations will serve him well in the future. He has survived (so far)
something that will definitely make him stronger and wiser.
More information about the Lois-Bujold