[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? 
I don’t

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. 


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