Authored by Elizabeth Moon, Sheepfarmer's Daughter is the introductory book to the world of Paksenarrion. The title refers to the eponymous protagonist Paksenarrion, who in the first pages flees her family's sheep farm after learning of her betrothal to a pig farmer to seek a new life as a soldier.
After running away from home to seek the more adventurous life of a soldier, Paks quickly learns that the life is less about fighting and more about chores. She also begins to see how much larger the world is beyond her home tucked away in the corner of Tsaia.
Bruised and bloodied, Paks sits in a cell, accused of assaulting Stephi, an officer. Upon further investigation, lead by Kolya, Paks is cleared of the charges; Korryn and Jens are found guilty of assaulting her instead and covering up the incident. Both men are dismissed from the company. Stephi is punished but do not find him at fault believing him to have been under the influence of a spell or potion.
In the company's first battle of the season, Paks is injured but continues to fight. Stammel promotes her to private for her stupidity and bravery in the situation.
While the company will march to Rotengre to seige, Paks' cohort is sent to garrison a fort so the local militia can harvest crops. The fort, known as Dwarfwatch, offers a break from other duties, especially the boredom of the siege. The cohort is surprised when the Halverics appear and siege them on behalf of their contract. Phelan's forces surrender despite cries of opposition within the ranks; it's not worth the potential loss of life. Paks' hesitantly gives parole to her captors when the time comes.
Paks, Saben, and Canna are outside the fort picking berries while still under the control of the Halverics when another force arrives and immediately attacks. Canna is hit by an arrow as the attackers attempt to flush them out. They escape without any additional injuries.
One night soon after the attack they overhear that this is work of Siniava, the Honeycat, as an attack against Phelan. The threesome decide to get word to Phelan and the remainder of the troops, but it means trying to get and stay ahead of Siniava's forces, without getting caught.
On the road the trio has a few close calls with a scout on a horse and deceiving family. When Canna's would slows them down significantly, Paks suggests praying to Gird, as that is Canna's faith. This pious act seems to work or perhaps it is their field dressing, but surprisingly she begins to improve.
After their encounters, they decide to move closer to the road, which allows them to travel faster but more exposed. Eight brigands ambush them and Canna orders Paks to run. She eludes her pursuers and makes it to the Phelani camp. Ashamed of leaving her camarades, she gets the message to the Duke and he is eager to meet this challenge with his allies, the Halverics, Vladi, and Clart.
Upon arriving at Dwarfwatch, they immediately engage with Siniava's forces which are pinned between the advancing allies and garrison still held by the remaining Halverics and Phelani "captives." Despite this advantage, losses overall are noticeable.
Paks among many others are given rings to signify their honorable efforts. After honoring their dead, all companies head back to the siege at Rotengre. There Paks learns the fate of Saben and Canna. She is given Saben's red horse trinket, which Paks originally gave to him, and Canna's medallion of Gird. The latter is considered highly unusual as it is normally returned to the grange with an account of their deeds. This is especially unusual given that Paks is not Girdish herself.
Once a tunnel into the besieged city is found, a concerted attack is organized and executed, leading to the city's fall. While looting Paks is almost killed by a bolt of energy. In the subsequent altercation, she receives a poisoned cut. The man is a priest of the Webmistress Achrya.
Back at the winter quarters in Valdaire, Paks learns how to use the longsword as short ones are used in fighting formation. She also gets to know troops from other companies, including Golden Company, Blue Riders, and Sobonai.
On the road again, the company is attacked, another assault by Siniava. The coalition of forces moves through Cortes Andres, receiving the support of the count. Moving down the river Chaloquay, they come to the city of Cha, trapping Siniava's forces inside. They breech the walls via sapping, taking out the aggressors and saving those loyal to the count.
The fight moves to Sibili, the home town of Siniava. Once the city is breached, the battle is different than the others. Priests of Liart reek havoc using their magic. Not knowing what she faced, Paks tries to help a paladin of Gird, a High Marshal, and Swordmasters of Tir as they fight the powerful armored clerics. Paks survives the encounter but many wonder how as she crossed blades with a priest using a cursed weapon.
In the days ahead, Siniava continues to elude the coalition. Recovered from all of her varied injuries, Paks joins a small force to rescue Cal Halveric from Siniava's camp nearby. He had been kidnapped from the coalition camp. With coalition spies in Siniava's camp, the group is successful but Cal has suffered severely, notably having been sterilized.
Frustration throughout the coalition, Local militias slow progress and are undertrained. Reports come in with varying news. After a few false leads, Siniava is finally traced to an old citadel having been shut out of other cities. Paks' cohort is to guard a secret passage. Finding herself asleep, she is awakened by a prick in the chest, Canna's medallion. A wizard with Siniava has been at work. Luckily Paks is able to wake enough of the guard to encircle the emerging group. Though Siniava is not seen, Paks believes he is in the guise of a woman, thanks to the wizard. Her attention moves to an animal and she instinctively attacks it forcing Siniava to reveal himself. The paladin comes to assist her and the Honeycat is finally captured.
Though the leaders of the mercenary companies are honorable, they still would like to return their agony and losses upon Siniava through torture. Paks sways them to be quick.
The unusual instances surrounding Paks in the recent engagements - priest of Achrya, cursed blade of Liart, awakening from the wizard's enchantment - has many wondering about her future.
Publication History Edit
Sheepfarmer's Daughter was originally published by Baen Books and copyrighted June 1988. Since then it has been reprinted and is also available electronically.
It is included in the omnibus, Deed of Paksenarrion.
SD was awarded the 1989 Compton Crook Award, which recognizes an English language novel for excellence in Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror published that year. The Award is sponsored and juried by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland, USA.