Mira, what are you about? asked Penric in panic. Are you out of my mind?Penric's Mission, and will make little sense if read without knowledge of the events therein. It opens a few days later, with Penric recovering -- under the watchful eye of Nikys and the less physical, but no less concerned, attention of Desdemona -- from a near-fatal attack. He is still determined to see Adelis and Nikys to safety, or the nearest local equivalent: this involves overnight stays in a variety of unusual havens. Luckily Penric is accompanied by a ten-selved chaos demon, whose previous hosts (all female) have a range of talents -- while it's Desdemona's demonic pest-control skills that win the trio sanctuary in the town of Sosie, it's the long-dead courtesan Mira who makes their escape possible. With, of course, hilarious consequences -- sadly, these occur 'off-stage', but seem not nearly as dire as Penric initially fears.
Come, come, Penric ... We have sat through any number of your bedroom ventures over the years. Turnabout is fair play. She added after a moment, Also, you will learn some new things. That should appeal to the scholar in you. [loc. 778]
Meanwhile, Pen and Nikys are circling one another, attracted but (in Nikys' case, at least) aware of a number of practical difficulties. 'When a woman marries a man, she marries his life. And it had better be the life she wants to lead'. And given Penric's own lack of direction -- it feels more than ever as though this mission may, paradoxically, have saved his life in removing him from an untenable situation -- as well as his demonic companion, one can understand that a woman who wants a quiet life might hesitate.
I enjoyed this a great deal, and am happy with the lack of romantic resolution: I do think Pen (and Desdemona) deserve happiness, but I didn't think it likely in this particular circumstance.
I read all five novellas in under a week, whilst in Helsinki in the sunshine: I feel Mira's Last Dance would have been a good place to stop for a while even if there were more books in the sequence -- which there aren't, yet. I shall look forward to encountering Penric and Desdemona again, though!