Under the Penitence
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Under the Penitence

by Mary Gentle
Release date: 2004
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: science fiction, fantasy, alternate history

A novella. Later incorporated into Ilario: The Lion's Eye (2006). Introduction by S. M. Stirling.

Long ago – when History was not as it is now – the North African city of Carthage lay under the eternal darkness of the Penitence...

Ilario, a King's Freak from the minor Iberian kingdom of Tarraconensis, has been raised as both man and woman. Now Ilario is on the run – as a would-be painter. Ilario desires to paint neither symbols nor formal icons, but simply and scandalously to paint what emis/em.

Carthage is the great capital of the medieval Mediterranean, existing under an aurora-stricken darkness – anyone who can paint under that light, Ilario thinks, must be taken seriously by the budding New School of painters further east in Rome and Florence and Venice.

But Ilario will not only encounter thieves, slavers, priests of the tophet, the Lords-Amir of Carthage itself, and a questionable eunuch book-buyer from the Royal Library at Alexandria... Murder is hot on Ilario's heels, following all the way from Tarraconensis – and the truth of the past is not to be denied.

Under the Penitence takes place in the Visigothic Carthage of Ash: A Secret History, but stands alone, and can be read without any reference to the novel.

(updated 2010-09-07)

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