The Deed of Paksenarrion

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Action Girl. Well, yes.

In a sheepfarmer's low stone house, high in the hills above Three Firs, two swords hang now above the mantelpiece. [...] The other is a very different matter: long and straight, keen-edged, of the finest sword-steel, silvery and glinting blue even in yellow firelight. The pommel's knot design is centered with the deeply graven seal of St. Gird; the cross-hilts are gracefully shaped and chased in gold.
[Old Dorthan reminds his grandchildren] of the day a stranger rode up, robed and mantled in white, an old man with thin silver hair, and handed down the box [with a scroll] and the sword, naked as it hangs now.
"Keep these," the stranger said, "in memory of your daughter Paksenarrion. She wishes you to have them and has no need of them." And though he accepted water from their well, he would say no more of Paksenarrion, whether she lived or lay buried far away, whether she would return or no.

The scroll Dorthan reads is headed The Deed of Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter of Three Firs, and many are the tales of courage and adventure written therein.
—Prologue, Sheepfarmer's Daughter

The first series written by Elizabeth Moon first released in 1988, a work of Heroic Fantasy divided into three books:

  • Sheepfarmer's Daughter - 18 year old Paksenarrion ("Paks" for short) runs away from home and an unwanted Arranged Marriage to become a warrior. She signs up with the mercenary company of Duke Phelan, undergoes training and fights in her first wars. She comes out relatively well for it but starts to wonder whether she's always going to be fighting for the right reasons and where her allegiances ought to lie. Sheepfarmer's Daughter is available for free (legal!) online reading at Baen Free Library.
  • Divided Allegiance - Paks leaves the mercenaries to enter training as a paladin candidate in the order of Saint Gird. In the process she meets and travels with the other races of the kingdom and also has an encounter with the kingdom's Religion of Evil that does not end well for her, threatening her future and livelihood.
  • Oath of Gold - Broken from the events at the end of Divided Allegiance, Paks must come to her senses, regain her courage and rediscover her calling to Paladin-hood even without the formal organization of Gird's order. Also, there's the question of a lost king she goes on a quest to find. And the aforesaid Religion of Evil - Achrya the Webmistress and Liart, the god of torment - are still hard at work.

All three books are available in a compiled omnibus edition. Moon would later write a pair of prequel books about Gird himself, Surrender None and Liar's Oath, collectively titled The Legacy Of Gird. A second series of a projected five books, set after The Deed of Paksenarrion and entitled Paladin's Legacy is also in progress. Oath of Fealty, Kings of the North, and Echoes of Betrayal (formerly announced as Crisis of Vision) have already been published.

  • Oath of Fealty - A continuation with Paks as a background character, showing the effects of Oath of Gold. The lost king of Lyonya has been found, but now he must learn to rule a people and a culture he has never known. The void he left behind him in his old life must now be filled by his loyal deputy, who never expected to command. And the traitorous duke of Tsaia has been slain and his entire family placed under Order of Attainder... except for one expatriate mercenary captain who is now suddenly finding themself the new duke, having to bring peace and order to a domain deeply tainted by Liart. Add in that someone is attempting to shatter the Guild League alliance of the South and, well, the reward for a job well done is another, even harder job.
  • Kings of the North - Kieri, new King of Lyonya, and Dorrin, new Duke of the traitorous house Verrakai struggle to set their lands in order as a mounting threat to the south rises. Kieri's human advisors and subjects pressure him to marry, while his elven family are strangely distant. The continuing rumblings of an unsettled peace and frightened princess from hostile lands only add to the problems facing the former mercenaries.
  • Echoes of Betrayal

The inspiration to write Paks allegedly came from Moon watching people play paladins in Dungeons and Dragons and deciding "such a person wouldn't act like that" - perhaps the players in question were playing their characters as Lawful Stupid, something the book averts tremendously.

Tropes used in The Deed of Paksenarrion include:

Paksenarrion: (thought balloon) Humans need not, Paks saw, worship their immortality, their cool wisdom, their knowledge of the taig, their ability to repattern mortal perceptions. In brief mortal lives humans met challenges no elf could meet, learned strategies no elf could master, chose evil or good more direct and dangerous than elf could perceive. Humans were shaped for conflict, as elves for harmony; each needed the other's balance of wisdom, but must cleave to its own nature. It was easy for an immortal to counsel patience, withdrawal until a danger passed... She took courage, therefore, and felt less the Lady's weight of age and experience. That experience was elven, and not all to her purpose. Kieri Phelan himself was but half-elven; his right to kingship came with his mortal blood. And as she found herself regarding the Lady with less awe, but no less respect, the Lady met her eyes with dawning amazement.

      • Though Kings of the North dives into "played straight" territory with the Screw You, Elves: The Lady of Ladysforest refuses to help Kieri co-rule Lyonya as is her duty, tries to prevent one of the Kings Squires (Arian) from marrying Kieri by insulting Arian in front of Arian's father and an assembled court of elves, THEN gets herself trapped underground due to her rude behavior to the gnomes and tries to blame it on Arian. Kieri, Dorrin Verrakai, Arian and a dragon all call the Lady out on this, Dorrin especially: "High rank never excuses wrong behavior".
    • The Lady of the Ladysforest, the High Queen of the elven race, later confirms the accuracy of these observations.

The Lady: We singers of the world, who shrink from disharmony, may choose silence instead of noise, and not always rightly.

  • Cold-Blooded Torture: A hobby of the priests of Liart, at at the root of at least one Crowning Moment for Paks.
  • Church Militant: Most religious orders of the world have a branch of these.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The High Lord.
  • Detect Evil: Basic paladin power
  • A Father to His Men: Duke Phelan. Certainly some of the other mercenary dukes as well, but Phelan takes a fatherly interest in Paks' development above and beyond the call of duty, even after she leaves his company.
    • At least partly because Paks is roughly the same age as his daughter would have been.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The High Lord and his saints, a bevy of regional gods and goddesses.
  • Gender Is No Object: In the Eight Kingdoms, women and men fight together with no distinctions made between them. The cultures of Aarenis in the south are less egalitarian.
  • Healing Hands: One of the paladin's powers
  • Hollywood Tactics: Averted, hard. Elizabeth Moon went through UMSC Officer Candidate School and did four years in the Corps, and has degree in history. She knows she's doing when it comes to battles.
  • Insignia Rip Off Ritual: A non literal example. To be turned out Tinisi turin is the worst punishment short of death for a mercenary soldier turned out of the force under disgrace: publicly stripped, a full-body shave, beaten, branded then expelled.
  • Knight in Shining Armor
  • Lawful Good: Its a book about 'Paladin done right.' But Kieri, Dorrin, and Stammel also fit this Character Alignment
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Gird is considered to be either a saint or a god in The Deed Of Paksenarrion; then the author went back and wrote the Legacy of Gird books to show what really happened.
  • Magic Knight
  • Moses in the Bulrushes
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
  • No Sense of Humor: Gnomes are absolute Lawful Neutral with No Sense of Humor, believing that only they know and follow the true laws laid down at creation by the High Lord.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Though they play mostly bit parts or background characters.
  • Our Elves Are Better: You've effectively got high elves, definitely dark elves in the form of the kuaknom, plus half-elves and elf-blooded humans.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: They're absolutely Lawful Neutral, believing that only they know and follow the true laws laid down at creation by the High Lord.
  • The Paladin
  • Private Military Contractors: Duke Phelan's company and and many other nobles; a major source of income for their fiefs.
  • Religion of Evil: Liart the god of torment; the Webmistress Achrya
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Apparently, in elvish, reversing the spelling of a name inverts its meaning -- hence the elves (sinyi, singers) are opposed by their evil kin the iynis (unsingers), and the gods Adyan the Namer and Sertig the Maker have their counterparts Nayda the Unnamer and Gitres the Unmaker.
  • Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Stammel, Phelan's training sergeant
  • Skeptic No Longer: Paks transitions into this: in Sheepfarmer's Daughter she starts off not knowing about Gird and doubts the over-zealous Effa's professions about him (particularly after Effa dies). Then it becomes evident that the gods have an interest in protecting her and as she learns more about Gird she starts coming around.
  • Thieves' Guild: Plays an important role in Oath of Gold
  • Truce Zone: Valdaire, the truce city where the mercenaries stay the winter and train.
  • Uncoffee: Sib, though it's not clear whether it's more like coffee or tea.
  • Warrior Monk: the paladins
  • White Magic / Black Magic: Powers granted by good and evil gods/saints to their paladins, marshals, priests, clerics, etc. There are wizards with a different, neutral form of Functional Magic that is never fully expanded on in the main trilogy though elements of Rule Magic are hinted at. Magery is a hereditary power associated with the old mostly-evil aristocracy and the god of torture, and is banned in all civilized lands.
  • Word of God: Elizabeth Moon maintains a Paksenarrion website.