Redemption in Indigo

A Novel

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June 11, 2024 | ISBN 9780593946909

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About the Book

The enchanting tale of mischief and myth—inspired by West African folklore—that became a fantasy classic, from the award-winning author of The Blue, Beautiful World

Paama is a marvelous cook who’s had the bad fortune to marry Ansige. He was the least eligible bachelor in his village: self-centered, foolish, and food-obsessed. Paama has had enough of this miserable life with her gluttonous husband, and so leaves him to return to her old life with her family.

But Paama does not know that this is the beginning of a remarkable adventure. Because the Undying Ones are watching her. These spirits observe the follies of mortal life . . . and sometimes meddle and make mischief.

One of these beings presents her with a magical artifact known as the Chaos Stick, which he says is “great for stirring things up.” As Paama gets to know the powers of this marvelous gift, she learns that the Chaos Stick was stolen from a rival spirit, who decides to stir up some trouble of his own.

But mastering this magical artifact is only the beginning of Paama’s quest. Although Paama has been granted great power by the Undying Ones, her real journey is to find the magic that lies within herself.
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Excerpt

Redemption in Indigo

1

Ansige Is Delayed on the Road to Makendha


Why did Paama leave Ansige?

There are men of violence. There are men who drink. And then there was Ansige, a man with a vice so pathetic as to be laughable. He ate; he lived for his belly. No one would believe that a woman could leave a man for that, but before you scoff, consider this. With his gluttony, he drew in other sins—­arrogance complicated by indolent stupidity, lust for comfort, ire when thwarted, avarice in all his business dealings, and a strange conviction that always, somehow, there was some undeserving person who had more food than he did.

I can hear some of you complaining already. ‘A woman who cooks and a man who eats should be a match made in heaven!’ Do you really think so? Then you have not grasped that Ansige was not an epicure, but a gourmand. Paama’s talents were wasted on him.

Whatever his faults, he was not yet so far gone in discourtesy as to try turning up unannounced. Unfortunately, the messenger who brought the tidings to Makendha made sure that everyone knew, and wherever Paama went, she heard this half query:

‘I hear that your husband is coming to Makendha.’

Paama’s usual response to this was to breathe deeply, gather herself, and beam forth a brilliant smile. ‘Isn’t it marvellous? When I visit my family, he gets so lonely. He cannot do without me.’

Any gossip thus treated would then tilt her head doubtfully, smile uncertainly, and go away dissatisfied. The village longed for word on just what was the situation with Paama’s marriage, but no-­one could break past Paama when she decided to be earnest. She had the talent of speaking many things with little meaning, the gift of red herrings.

Fortunately, she did not have to red-­herring the gossips about the date of his arrival. Ansige was one week late, turning up all but unexpected, looking around for his welcoming committee. But no, before we describe his arrival, it would be worthwhile to relate the event that caused the delay, for it was rather unusual and makes a good story in itself.

Ansige had set out with an entourage as grand as any minor chief. He had a veritable herd of quadrupeds—­eight mules for his baggage and one horse for him to ride. Amid the baggage were bundled sections of wood which, when assembled, would become the light carriage in which he would make his grand entrance into Makendha.

He couldn’t help himself. His mother had been the daughter of a minor chief, and she had carefully instilled in Ansige an understanding of the importance of importance. Dutiful son, he followed this instruction to the letter, for the longer the baggage train, the more of his favourite foods he could carry with him.

This is not to say that Ansige was above living off the land, which was why his two mule drivers were both expert hunters, and one was also a reasonably talented chef. The household of Ansige had many such multiskilled persons—­a side effect of Ansige’s curious mingling of parsimony and ostentatiousness.

Experienced in providing for Ansige, they had brought a formidable array of equipment. They carried with them both the long throwing spears needed for swift, running game and the short thrusting spears most effective with ground-­crawling game. One was skilled with the bow, the other with a blowpipe, and the points of their arrows and darts had been dipped in poison. There was material for fashioning traps and snares; hooks and a quantity of fishing line for when they travelled alongside the river; assorted scaling, skinning, jointing, dressing, and carving knives; and racks and bags for the hunters to carry their kill to camp.

It is not necessary to discuss the pots, pans, cutlery and crockery. These are not worth commenting on; they were very basic since Ansige was not particularly interested in the presentation once the food was tasty and plentiful. Besides, a little privation was to be expected during travel.

This, as you can appreciate, implied a leisurely trip, for who has time to move quickly while hunting and then cooking so much meat? However, Ansige did not expect the hunters to be out every day. They were his insurance, a safety net in case anything should happen to the food stores.

In fact, the bulk of the baggage was food. Five bags of coarsely ground meal, two bags of finely ground meal, and one bag of sugar covered the backs of one mule pair, while ten packets of dried fruit, twenty dozen eggs (carefully packed in a hay-­stuffed crate), and seven sacks of rice weighed down another. Further down, there were three crates of dried, salted fish and two boxes of dried, salted beef. These provided the base for the large pot of highly seasoned pepperpot, which was placed on the campfire at every lunch and dinner, but fresh meat was also used to replenish the stock. Smaller boxes contained assorted sweetmeats and delicacies for Ansige to munch on; packets of spice tree bark to brew Ansige’s favourite drink; and—­the pièce de résistance—­a bottle of strong sugar brandy, for medicinal purposes.

Now you understand why Ansige had sent messages and servants to Paama. Travel was for him a serious and frightening undertaking which threatened to pinch off the umbilical cord that kept him tethered to his house. His journey to Makendha would take only three days, but he had taken every precaution so as not to arrive haggard and starved out.

Truth to tell, his frame looked as if it would take far more than three days’ worth of racking to pare it down. Ansige was not flabby, no, but he was solid. Layers of muscle braced the fat around his arms, legs, and shoulders. Only his belly betrayed him. He carried a prosperous paunch before him and occasionally stroked it as fondly as any expectant mother cradling her womb.

A prosperous, slightly pompous businessman, then, was the first impression Ansige gave to strangers. Ansige’s outer appearance could be deceptive, but, given enough time, he let everyone know who and what he was.

There are people who inspire others to reach lofty goals. Ansige was one of these. People got to know him, and it came to them in a flash of revelation that whatever it was that they wanted to be, it was not a man like Ansige, and they scrambled to occupy the opposite end of the accomplishment spectrum. People have heroes whom they imitate; Ansige was the perfect antihero. No-­one wanted to turn out like him.

How then, you may ask, and wisely so, were Paama and her parents so thoroughly fooled? They do not appear to be stupid people. There again we must thank Ansige’s mother. She had come to realise that the only way Ansige was going to give her any grandchildren was if she sent him to a place reasonably distant where no-­one had heard of him or seen his follies. She had selected Paama in Erria for her famous cooking, and then she had rented a small restaurant nearby so that she could stuff Ansige’s roaring appetite silent before sending him off, sated and sane, to woo Paama and impress her family. I do not doubt that she may have had her more royal relatives speak to the chief of Makendha and the bureaucrats of Erria and encourage them to pass on to Paama’s family a good report of her son. What else could she have done? It is a heavy burden, as Paama’s parents had found out, to find a worthy spouse for one’s offspring, but how much harder the task and heavier the burden when not even love can hide from a doting mother’s eyes the sad fact of her son’s utter ineligibility.

Now that you have seen Ansige and heard something of his background, imagine the temper of a man like that when he finds a wash of landslid mud has covered the road ahead of him, the road leading to Makendha. First the pangs of fear and frustration hit his belly, so in an instant he is fishing in his saddlebags for something to chew on and settle his nervous stomach. Then he feels strong enough to start flinging blame about. He blames his mule-­driving hunters for having selected the road. He blames them further for not having known in advance of its condition. He blames the Council of Chiefs for permitting roads to get into such a condition, and then he blames the Parliament of Princes for allowing such ineffectual chiefs to stay in power. He blames Paama’s family for moving to such a distant village, and Paama for staying such a long time with them, and his servants for being so bad at running his household that he has been forced to go fetch his wife. Finally, he blames God for the weather, and that, as you know, is the point at which mere pettiness descends into dangerous folly.

Rahid, the mule-­driving hunter who was not a chef, grinned. Do not be fooled by his happy face. Rahid is a pure cynic who has long ago concluded that since the world seems set up for men like Ansige to get ahead, the only thing to do is to work for the most amusing one of the breed so that one can at least be entertained by his japes and capers. Of course, he is not correct, but it will take a broader experience than his home village and its environs for him to learn otherwise.

‘What do you recommend, Mister Ansige?’ he enquired.

‘I? Recommend?’ Ansige spat fragments of food in his wrath. ‘It is for you to tell me how you plan to get me out of this mess that you have got me into!’

Pei, the mule-­driving hunter who was a chef, looked disgusted, an unwise beginning since it only made Ansige think that he must be against him.

About the Author

Karen Lord
Barbadian writer Dr. Karen Lord is the author of Redemption in Indigo, which won the William L. Crawford Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature, and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her other works include the science fiction novels The Best of All Possible Worlds and The Galaxy Game, and the crime-fantasy novel Unraveling. She edited the anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean. More by Karen Lord
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