Dust jacket illustration by Lauren Saint-Onge.
When the ship in which they are traveling is captured by Carpagamon island raiders, Temple sorcerer Penric and his resident demon Desdemona find their life complicated by two young orphans, Lencia and Seuka Corva, far from home and searching for their missing father. Pen and Des will need all their combined talents of mind and magic to unravel the mysteries of the sisters and escape from the pirate stronghold.
This novella follows about a year after the events of The Prisoner of Limnos.
Limited: 450 signed numbered hardcover copies
Trade: Fully cloth bound hardcover copies
From Publishers Weekly:
“Pen’s knack for ‘borrowing trouble’ (as Desdemona puts it) and the respect he has for those less fortunate are both as endearing as ever. Series fans will be gratified by this gentle but diverting episode.”
From Library Journal:
“Bujold’s seventh ‘Penric and Desdemona’ story (after The Prisoner of Limnos) is just as engaging as her previous works, highlighting a unique duo and their exciting travails. The expansive worldbuilding is detailed and filled with intriguing characters.”
The Orphans of Raspay
The sickening crunch threw Penric out of his coffin-sized bunk and onto the deck of his scarcely larger cabin, and from deep sleep into frantically confused consciousness in the same moment. Blackness all around him; he called up his dark-sight from his demon Desdemona without thought, though there was nothing new to see in this narrow space. Everything that could move had been tied down in the last day, as the ship had pitched and rolled its way through an unexpected tempest that had blown them, well, he hoped the crew knew where, because he certainly did not.
The horrible motions and the groaning of the ship’s timbers had tamed, which explained how he’d finally fallen asleep despite his nausea and alarm. It did not explain the shouts and cries coming from outside, in a more terrified tenor than the workmanlike bellows of the crew manhandling the ship through the storm. Had they run onto rocks?
Des, what’s happening out there?
Her reply was terse. Pirates.
In the middle of the night? …How could two ships even find each other in such murk?
It’s morning, she replied. Apart from that, unhappy chance, I expect.
Pirates were a known hazard all along the coasts and islands, but more to the north than the south where Pen’s ship should have been, just a day or two out from Vilnoc and home. Curse it, he wanted to be there. Not dealing with this.
He was a Temple sorcerer, possessing the most potent chaos demon he knew of. Long before he’d stepped aboard this modest cargo carrier in Trigonie, he had imagined any number of clever magical defenses against such evil attacks, subtle enough not to reveal his nature and calling to the men on either vessel. He now realized that he had always pictured pirates happening on a bright afternoon, in quiet seas, with a good long time to see the villains coming.
Sorcerers, and the chaos demons that gave them their powers, were considered bad luck on a ship, and many captains would not take them aboard at all. Mild-mannered Temple scholar or no, Penric thus routinely traveled incognito when he was forced to take a sea passage. Pirates, he expected, would give even shorter shrift to the hazard of him: roughly the distance from the thwart to the heaving water.
Oh, yes, agreed Des grimly. Who, with her two centuries of experiences, knew the risks firsthand. Pen fought against the panicked memories flooding his mind from one of her unluckier prior possessors. He had plenty of current panic on his plate to attend to.
Because mixed among the voices crying in Adriac and Cedonian out there, he heard shouts in Roknari. Pen rubbed his sleep-numbed face and scrambled up, listening harder.
No seamen loved sorcerers, but the Roknari heretics, who abjured the fifth god Whom Penric served as a seminary-trained divine, considered all who worshipped Him an abomination, to be either forcibly converted to their foursquare faith, or inventively executed. Not that Pen worshipped his god exactly; their relationship was more complicated than that. Pirates, Pen tried to encourage himself, were unlikely to be passionate about the fine points of theology. On the other hand, they were a superstitious lot. If there was anything more likely than his sorcery to result in him being summarily tossed overboard, with or without torture first—
Attempted torture, Des put in with a snarl.
—it was certainly Pen’s calling as a divine of the white god. Both of which would be revealed by his possessions: the garb of his Order, his Temple braids, the letters and documents he carried, all packed away tight in a sealed chest stuffed under his bunk. Plus the three ancient scrolls he’d picked up in Trigonie, which he hadn’t even had a chance to read through yet, let alone translate, of which pirates were unlikely to recognize the value at all. He shuddered.
Turning, he knocked open the tiny port at the back of his cabin in the stern of the ship, admitting a leaden illumination. He didn’t think his shoulders would squeeze through, nor had he the least desire to anticipate their assailants’ murderous actions by throwing himself overboard, but, holding his wooden case up to the aperture, he thought it just might fit. Still he hesitated.
Des, impatiently, ran a line of hot disorder around under the lid, sealing it more firmly. It’s more likely to float than we are. Get rid of it.
Thuds like sledgehammer blows against his locked door made him flinch and shove it through. Lord god Bastard, Fifth and White, if ever you loved me, let this find me again somehow. More prayer than spell, surely. Too much noise to hear a splash, though the cries out on the ship were dying away.
Who had won? was a question answered by the brutish banging. As the door burst inward he turned and fell to his knees, something between supplication, surrender, and the thought that if the pirate came in swinging, his aim would be too high.
Pen blinked in the dingy gray light framing the hammerer’s broad shoulders, and reminded himself that he could see out better than the man could see in. Confirmed at once when the pirate said, in a voice of surprise, “A woman?”
For once, Penric did not rush to correct this annoying misapprehension, though Des muttered, Being female’s not as much help as you’d think. Electrum hair shining in a mussed queue, blue eyes, fine features, a lean build that might at a glance be mistaken for slender; the error had been made before. His pale coloration, common in the mountainous cantons where he’d been born, was rare here in the lands of Cedonia, Adria, and the Carpagamon islands surrounding this sea. In any case, the man did not at once try to bash in his blond head.
Which allowed Pen time to fling up his convincingly ink-stained hands and cry in common Adriac, “I’m a scribe!” The Don’t hurt me, I’m valuable! And harmless! was implied, if the fellow wasn’t too drunk on violence to care.
- Lauren St. Onge
- Lois McMaster Bujold
- 224 pages
- United States
- In Print