Choice of the Black Goddess


  • First publication
    • Liavek: The Players of Luck, ed. Will Shetterly and Emma Bull, 1986
  • Wolfe collection(s)

Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"The closing story, 'Choice of the Black Goddess', presents the further adventures of Captain Tev Noen, Ler Oeuni, and their merry crew, whom you will meet first in 'The Green Rabbit from S'Rian'."


Noen and the crew answer a distress flag on a remote jungle island. A company of actors have lost their ship's captain and their company leader and seemed to have gained at least one extra wizard. Investigation finds an ancient temple to the Black Goddess of the title. They are forced to play out a game of shah [like chess] on the temple floor, fight a demon, learn that the actors' ship was brought to the island by an evil wizard so as to find and plunder this temple, and Oeuni finds her severed hand restored.


  • Oeuni injured her arm in 'The Green Rabbit from S'Rian'. Due to being at sea, she couldn't receive treatment in time to prevent its amputation, and Noen as captain feels responsible for not getting her injury treated sooner.
  • The story involves several cases of cross-dressing as a means to hide one's identity. Nordread is a woman who pretends to be a man; Marin is a man who pretends to be a woman who at one point pretends to be a man. 'The Green Rabbit from S'Rian' also had an old man pretending to be a young woman. Cross-dressing is a trope of sailing stories with some historical basis.

Unresolved Questions

  • Who is the third wizard in the shah match? The four wizards in the match (in order of taking their places on the board) are the black queen's (Baldy), Nordread's (the tall one, Amail in disguise), Dinnile's (the one who just says "It would be better if you don't ask too much"), and Marin's (the evil wizard who controls Kakos and is killed at the end of the match). It appears that Amail and the evil wizard were the two who were earlier imitating Xobbas. That leaves the mysterious third wizard. Could it be Xobbas, raised from the grave (by the goddess) for the purpose of the match? That might explain why he doesn't say or do much, and his voice is very quiet. However, no one from the theater company seems to recognize him as Xobbas, so it seems unlikely.
  • And why, on disappearing, does this mysterious third wizard leave a black feather behind? Note that the statue of the goddess has bird wings on its helmet; the feather might be her signature rather than the wizard's. Also, Noen sees a mysterious black bird from the row boat, which may be related.

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