Background/History: The following will attempt to sum up the high points of each novel, providing an overview of Pak's life as seen in The Deed Of Paksenarrion.
(Sheepfarmer's Daughter synopsis)
Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter (Paks for short) grew up in the tiny village of Three Firs, tending to her father's sheep and the rest of the farm. But she longed for more than a life of forking hay and shoveling sheep dung. She wanted to be a warrior, like her cousin Jornoth, and come home with a sword and riches. To make matters worse, her father wanted her to wed a pig farmer, while Paks had no desire to marry at all—she liked the outdoors life—hunting, wrestling, and the like. So, she ran away.
Walking all night and into the next morning, Paks made her way from Three Firs to Rocky Ford (a distance of around thirty miles all told) and signed up at a recruiting station for Duke Phelan's Company. She agreed to serve the Duke though basic training (which would last from four to six months) and for two years of regular service.
For the next three years, Paks served in Duke Phelan's Company. She learned to march, to dig latrine ditches, to load and unload animals, to move in formation, to use a sword, a shield, and other weapons, and most importantly, how to fight. She fought in open fields, in sieges, in the woods, and even acted as a town guard. She also experienced a number of adventures—the most harrowing of which was her escape (with two companions) from the fort of Dwarfwatch, after it was taken by men of Lord Siniava, and her journey south to meet up with Duke Phelan. Afterwards, she participated in the campaign to eliminate Lord Siniava (a.k.a. "the Honeycat") once and for all, and was present at his capture. But afterwards, she saw a harsher side of the mercenary's life, one that troubled her and clashed with her beliefs in a soldier's duty and her image of Duke Phelan. So, once her two year term was up, she took her leave of Duke Phelan's Company and set out as a freeblade, to find her fortune.
(Divided Allegiance synopsis)
Following a short stint helping to keep order in the Duchy of Immer, Paksenarrion decided to take her accumulated leave, and return home (if possible) for a time, and consider what she wanted to do with her life. She considered staying with the Duke's Company, or seeking advanced training elsewhere, perhaps even become squire with the intent of seeking knighthood.
On her travel back home, Paks was joined by the part-elf Macenion, and ended up journeying with him to the ruins of an old elven fortress/feasting hall called the banast taig, a place inhabited by an evil spirit and shunned by the elves. The two of them managed to destroy the evil spirit, freeing the banast taig to become the elfane taig again, the elves' Winter Hall. Afterwards she made her way to the town of Brewersbridge, where she met Master Oakhallow the Kuakgan (a form of Druid) and Marshal Cedfer, a follower of Gird. She stayed there for some time, befriending Oakhallow, training with Cedfer and his yeomen, and leading troops into battle against an enclave of bandits. The bandits took some time to clean out, and Paks was part of a group that brought down the evil priest magician commanding and controlling them.
Once autumn came, Paks set out from Brewersbridge for Fin Panir, to meet the Girdish Marshal-General, and see about training there. Paks does join the Company of Gird, but does spend some time wondering if she's right as a Girdsman and if Gird is the right one for her to follow. Still, she trains with enthusiasm, finding great joy in learning new weaponscraft, as well as gaining knowledge in tactics, supply, and other arts of war (and peace). Eventually, she joins the Company of Gird, first as a yeoman, and then is made a Paladin Candidate.
That spring, Paks rode out with a contingent of Girdish knights and men-at-arms on a quest to find the fortress of Luap, an assistant to Gird and chronicler of his deeds. The quest is successful, but Paks was captured by dark elves and forced to fight in their arena for days, her wounds healed by dark magics and her mind nearly destroyed. Although rescued, the seed of evil had been planted, and Paks slowly begins to succumb to it. Finally, a magical ritual is enacted that purifies Paks of the taint of evil—but at the cost of her courage. Unable to even some much as spar without fainting, Paks find herself unable to continue as a Paladin Candidate, and leaves the Company of Gird.
(Oath Of Gold synopsis)
After spending the winter unable to so much as defend herself from assault, Paks, cold, hungry, and scared, finds herself back in Brewersbridge. There she enters Master Oakhallow's grove, and offers up everything she has—her money, a ring the Duke gave her, even her cloak. Master Oakhallow takes her in, and then spends some time healing her. First he simply feeds her, allowing Paks to regain her strength and sense of self. Then he begins to work on her wounds, which still hadn't healed from her time spent as a captive of the dark elves. And finally, he heals her mind.
Afterwards, Oakhallow sends Paks off to Lyonya, to work with the rangers. She stays with them all summer, improving her skill with the bow and learning woodcraft. While with the rangers, Paks finds she can detect strong concentrations of evil and after an encounter with a deadly daskdraudigs can heal others. Once summer ends, she returns to Brewersbridge and Master Oakhallow. There, they speak about her future, and her desire to be a paladin. In response to Paks's statements, Oakhallow gathers together several lengths of wood and builds a fire, commanding Paks to place her hands within. She does so, and experiences a communion of sorts, meeting in turn Gird, the protector of the helpless; the High Lord, maker of the world; the Windsteed and father of horses; and lastly, Alyanya, The Lady of Peace.
Now a paladin of Gird (for the most part), Paks journeys back to Duke Phelan, and stays with him. She tells him of her travels and experiences, but also informs him that she will no longer swear allegiance to any mortal lord, her oath is to a higher power. But that doesn't mean she will not serve beside him, and does so, helping him rid his duchy of evil as well as finding him his true destiny. And along the way, Paks will experience her greatest trial yet—five days and nights of torture at the hands of the Priests of Liart, the Master of Torments....
Personality/Motivation: Overall Paks is a nice person, which seems odd to say about someone who starts out as soldier in a mercenary company. But then, that is one reason why Paks becomes disenchanted with the some of the things the Duke's Company is required to do at the end of the Honeycat Campaign. Paks doesn't want to fight, simply to fight, she wants to fight for the right reasons—not to be bigger, or stronger, or tougher, but to put down evil, to stop injustice, and to uphold the good.
On the flip side, Paks's open nature means she tends to see the good side of most people, and will overlook (or explain away) their more negative qualities. She wants to like people and wants people to like her. And for the most part this works for her, allowing her to make friends quickly and easy, although it does "blind" her to actions and attitudes of several people.
Paks greatest quality is her sense of honor and fairness. She is strongly loyal to her friends and most everyone in the Duke's Company (and certainly Duke Phelan himself), and tries to comport herself properly. She doesn't drink (to excess), doesn't gamble, stays out of fights (and other trouble), and isn't much for looting a sacked town, finding it... wrong to a certain degree. She is also quite honest, and can be counted on the tell the truth if asked, even if the truth may harm her future in some way. Paks is also chaste, and while feels strongly for several of her male companions, isn't interested (for the most part) in taking any of them to bed.
Finally, Paks takes great joy in learning new forms of weapons play, and is an avid student of just about any form of armed and unarmed combat. She also enjoys fighting—although not killing. She realizes that battles mean death, but don't have to mean mass slaughter. However, against unredeemable evil enemies (such as Priests of Liart) she will show no mercy.
"I didn't—I don't want to marry at all. I want to be a warrior like my cousin Jornoth. I've always like hunting and wrestling and being outdoors."
Paksenarrion: "I want to fight --"
Master Oakhallow: "What needs fighting?"
Paksenarrion: "I think that's what I mean. ... I want to fight where I'm sure it's right—not just to show that I'm big and strong."
Oath Of Gold
"I know that I can, if I but ask the gods, know what is right, and do it."
"I travel as as I am bid...; Gird was a plain man, and I am a sheepfarmer's daughter. When Gird chooses to have me recognized, I daresay I will be."
"I am a Girdsman, and a paladin, and Gird was part of my choosing. But the High Lord, the Windsteed, and Alyanya were present."
Powers/Tactics: Her life on a sheep farm made Paks strong and durable. When she joined Duke Phelan's Company at the age of 18, she was able to lift an adult sheep to her shoulders and claimed to have never been sick before. In Divided Allegiance a tailor says Paks is "as big as a man, even in the neck," giving one an idea of her size and strength. She is also very quick, and can hold her own against many other older and more experience fighters.
In battle Paks uses whatever she has in hand, be it short sword and shield, long sword and shield, or a long sword alone (It's not clear just how long the long sword it. It may be a typical one-handed cut-and-thrust weapon, or it may indicate a hand-and-half sword.) She has trained with spears, the crossbow, and by the end of Divided Allegiance is a resonably skilled archer. Her attempts to learn the axe failed rather miserably, however, and she's never done much with polearms. Her fighting style is pretty much by-the-book, although she does tend to incorporate various sword tricks into her repertoire as she learns them. If armed with a shield, she tends to combine blocks with quick cuts or thrusts, and if armed with a short sword will use the point for the most part.
As Paks gains her paladinhood, she gains a number of fairly specific powers. They are:
Before Paks became a paladin, she still exhibited some rather unique abilities. First, she was able to heal a comrade (as mentioned above), second, she was given a Girdsman medallion (despite not being one) and wore it. The medallion warned her on several occasions of danger, once causing her to nearly stumble (and this duck a crossbow bolt), while another time it "pricked" her, forcing her awake just in time to spot an oncoming enemy. She also survives fighting a Priest of Liart (something almost unheard of for non-paladins), and seems to avoid wounds, even when at the front of a battle.
Appearance: Paksenarrion has an attractive face and figure, and is very tall, probably standing six foot or so (possibly taller). She meets very few people with height greater than her's, and almost none of them are women. Her eyes are gray and her hair is golden and worn very long, past her shoulders at least-- although usually she braids it up to help support her helm. Her normal mode of dress is a shirt or tunic, with a leather over-tunic, trousers, and boots. When geared for battle she dons a long-sleeved coat of mail, leather gloves, leg armor, and an open-faced helm.
At certain points in her career, Paks is heavily scarred, on both the face and body. Most of the time these scars simply indicate her profession, but at the end of Divided Allegiance they are bad enough to be almost disfiguring. In Oath Of Gold she is branded with the sign of Liart on her forehead, but this becomes the silver circle of the High Lord once the ordeal is over.
Designer's Notes: The Deed Of Paksenarrion is a trilogy by Elizabeth Moon, comprised of Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath Of Gold. I have heard (and have every reason to believe) the trilogy is a novelization of an AD&D campaign Moon participated in, with Paksenarrion being Moon's character. Many AD&D elements are obvious to the reader, such as the dwarves, gnomes, elves, and orcs (as well as other races), the gods (Gird seems to be St. Cuthbert, while Achrya is pretty much Loth), the dark elves are Drow, and Brewersbridge is apparently a renamed Village of Hommlet. Also, the paladins in Paks's world are pretty obvious adaptations of AD&D paladins, right down to creating light, laying on of hands, having protection from evil, and being able to summon (or in this case, receive) a warhorse upon being granted paladin status. That said, the series is a fairly good read, and Paksenarrion is an excellent example of how a paladin should be played (and directly inspired the creation of my own paladin character, Merriya de Blackmere).
(Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter created by Elizabeth Moon, character sheet created by Michael Surbrook)