In which Pat Rin executes the will of Fal Den ter’Antod.
The other reason I placed “Shadow Partner” before “A Day in the Races” was that I knew this was up next, and it follows on from the end of “A Day at the Races” in a way that I felt would go better without another story intervening.
This is one of my favourite Liaden short stories. It has several shining personalities in it, not least of them Pat Rin himself. I also admit a certain fondness for the sense of humour evinced by the man in the back room, though I’m not keen on the nature of his work.
(A couple of side notes about Pat Rin: First, his field as a gamer is again cards and not dice. Second, there’s a nice though not surprising bit of continuity in the names that appear in Pat Rin’s social circle; in particular, the names of yo’Lanna and bel’Urik, which also appeared in yos’Phelium’s social calendar in the days when Daav was delm.)
This story also has a special place in my regard for another reason: it is the story which brought me to a conscious understanding that Liadens have a number of cultural hang-ups regarding the face, which brought together and shone new light on all the moments in other stories where Liadens were careful not to look another person too long full in the face, or felt distress at meeting someone whose face was distinctly marked (whether by dirt, injury, or deliberate decoration), or sought privacy before wiping a sweaty brow or rubbing a sore nose.
And I recall the sense of epiphany when I realised that this is not just an arbitrary bit of alien culture, but is complemented by the other famous marker of Liaden culture, the use of modes and bows to express thoughts and emotions — or, to put it another way, the fact that in Liaden speech all the messages that a Terran might convey through facial expression are transferred to other parts of the body. Terrans in conversation have to pay close attention to each other’s faces or they’ll miss part of what’s going on; in Liaden culture it’s impolite to pay close attention to another person’s face — and communication has been arranged so that it’s possible to carry out a conversation without doing so.
Tomorrow: “This House”