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Luck in the Shadows (Lynn Flewelling, 1996) Study Guide: Chapters 8-10

Summary: Chapter 8 "The Captain and the Lady"

On the final night in the inn, Seregil awakes to find Alec sleeping naked beside him (it's the nakedness that's the odd part; bed-sharing is by now commonplace for them), and Micum dead on the floor. His dead father arrives to scold him and cut off his hand. He wakes up.

Seregil and Alec board the Darter under the guise of the beautiful noblewoman Lady Gwethelyn and her husband's cousin, Squire Ciris. Captain Rhal is immediately taken with Gwethelyn, and makes various attempts to seduce her, which Alec foils. At night, Seregil rewards Alec's convincing and amusing performance with a story about the history of Skala, and why it is always ruled by queens (an oracle decreed it). He scandalizes Alec with tales of illegitimate heirs.

Summary: Chapter 9 "The Lady is Indisposed"

Seregil awakes from another nightmare early the next morning. Alec tries to comfort him. That night, they have dinner with the captain. Gwethelyn/Seregil elicits some minor intelligence (increased Plenimaran shipbuilding) as Rhal flirts heavily. Alec/Ciris casually mentions that Gwethelyn is pregnant, and while this doesn't have the desired effect of putting off Rhal, it does provide a convenient excuse when Seregil suddenly leaves the room to vomit. Alone with Alec, he confides that he hallucinated horrible images in the dessert platter, and he's afraid he's going mad. Alec promises to stand by him.

Summary: Chapter 10 "Seregil Descending"

Seregil ventures out briefly in the morning, and finds that Rhal seems off Gwethelyn somewhat. Feeling ill, he spends most of the day shut up in his cabin. Alec unsuccessfully tries to get him to eat. Seregil gives Alec a writing lesson, which ends when he suddenly becomes angry and shouts at him. Hurt, Alec leaves him alone. That night, Alec and Rhal hear strange noises coming from the cabin, and Rhal bursts in to find Seregil half-dressed and armed, at the tail end of some kind of hysterical attack. Recovering himself, Seregil drops his sword and talks Rhal down, pointing out it would be in Rhal's own best interest not to tell the crew about Seregil's cross-dressing, and to simply let them quietly disembark at Torburn, the next port. Rhal agrees. Alone again, Alec questions Seregil, asking about the wooden disk necklace; Seregil becomes inexplicably angry when Alec touches it, and yells at him again. That night, Seregil wakes up in the night to apologize and warn Alec to be careful around him from now on. In the morning, Alec, anticipating the necessity of taking charge of the journey, surreptitiously questions the crew about the way to Rhìminee. As they disembark, Seregil slips Rhal his ruby ring.

Analysis: Chapters 8-10

Seregil seems to delight in confusing the issues of personality, gender, and sexuality, and the Lady Gwethelyn disguise gives him ample opportunity to run wild in that particular playground. Seregil accordingly begins the journey in high spirits, teasing and confusing Alec with the news that the captain is trying to seduce him:

"What are you going to do?"
      Seregil winked. "Go along with him, of course. Up to a point, anyway."
      "Well, you could hardly let him, you know--" Alec gestured vaguely.
      "Yes, I know, though I rather wonder if you do." Seregil raised an appraising eyebrow at his young companion. "But you're right, of course. Letting him under my skirts now would certainly spoil the illusion I've worked so hard to create. Still"--dropping into the manner of Lady Gwethelyn, he looked up at Alec through his lashes--"this Captain Rhal is a handsome rogue, wouldn't you say?"
      Alec shook his head, unsure whether Seregil was being serious or not. (ch. 8, p. 108)

Lady Gwethelyn makes Alec uncomfortable at first. Seregin informs him that he's not alone, giving us a hint of the goings-on of some previous adventures:

"Micum hates working with me when I go as a woman. Says I'm 'too damned pretty by half' and it makes him nervous."
      "I can understand that," Alec replied with a self-conscious grin. "Lady Gwethelyn" sounded a troubling chord in him, as well. Seregil's convincing illusion stirred up a confusion in him that Alec hadn't the philosophy to put into words. (ch. 8, p. 109)

Nonetheless, Alec falls naturally and immediately into his role as the earnest protector of Lady Gwethelyn's virtue. At first, he seems to be chiefly concerned with preventing Seregil from being found out, but at the dinner, he reaches Seregilian levels of playfulness, winking at Seregil when the captain isn't looking, and throwing a curveball in the form of the pregnancy announcement. Seregil has put Alec on the spot in similar ways in the past to test him, but Alec has no doubt Seregil will be able to handle his improvisation; he's finally relaxed enough with performance to have fun with it. In doing so, he's proving himself to Seregil, setting himself up as an equal rather than a student, and engaging him in a friendly, almost flirtatious game.

Alec's ability to lose himself in this particular part may be due to a subconscious confusion of Seregil with the woman he is playing. Even though he knows intellectually that the "woman" on his arm is actually his own mentor, as skilled in fighting and survival as he ever was, Seregil's convincing disguise may spark some deeply ingrained protective instinct in Alec, which is only reinforced as Seregil falls victim to his strange affliction.

Important Quotations Explained

"Exile has only strengthened your baser tendencies," his father sneered. "As ever, you are a disgrace to our house. Some other punishment must be found." (ch. 8, p. 105)

Seregil's dream father provides some clues as to Seregil's mysterious past: he was apparently cast out for "base tendencies." Tellingly, this statement comes shortly after the dream-father calls Alec a "catamite" and dream-Alec rises from the bed "with a wanton graces completely unlike his normal manner," suggesting that Seregil's homosexuality (or perhaps his choice of younger partners) was instrumental in his exile. Seregil's attempt to mitigate the situation by saying "That's only Alec" indicates that Seregil doesn't or doesn't want to think of Alec as a viable sexual partner. On the same lines, it is interesting that in Seregil's worst nightmare, Micum is dead, and Alec is sexy.

"I suspect he's intelligent and shrewd enough when women aren't involved." (Seregil to Alec about Rhal, ch. 10, p. 127)

Seregil uses this as a justification for trusting Rhal, whose good graces he hopes to keep, as he has a hunch Rhal may prove a good ally someday ("Intuition, maybe. I'm seldom wrong.") Perhaps this explains why Seregil makes a point of giving Rhal his ring; but Seregil also seems to want to continue to perplex and amuse, which he accomplishes nicely, judging from Rhal's private reaction ("A peculiar character, and no mistake.") He also seems to find Rhal genuinely attractive, although he seems to sense it's for the best not to push the issue in front of Alec.


- Laura