Professor Nimrod Beauregard Pennyroyal is a middle-aged explorer and author of infamous adventure books which purportedly retell his travels across the world. Pennyroyal first appears in Predator's Gold, then a recurring character in Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.
Pennyroyal was born in Brighton, a raft city, on September 22nd, 957 TE. His father was unknown. After being expelled from several schools he started working in the theatre before setting out into the world as an adventurer and "alternative historian".
Purportedly travelling all over the world, including the Dead Continent, Pennyroyal made a fortune writing tens of books outlining his supposed adventures and discoveries. Their authenticity was somewhat suspect, with the Guild of Historians in London having criticised Pennyroyal's work for focusing more on the adventure and romance than the history; though his books remained bestsellers, pleasing his eager publishers Fewmet and Spraint.
In actuality, most of what Pennyroyal claimed to have done is fabricated and is just written for money and fame, making him a fraud. Despite this, he has some grains of historical authentication, for instance when Tom says Pennyroyal believed "the Ancients had machines called 'eye-pods' where they could store thousands of songs on tiny little gramophone records".
Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw encountered a travelling Pennyroyal on Airhaven, where he asked to be a passenger on their ship the Jenny Haniver to transport him back to Brighton where he intends to write another book on his adventures: "Fire Mountains - Natural Phenomenon or Ancient Blunder?". Hester takes an immediate disliking toward him, whilst Tom recalls hearing about Pennyroyal on London, which prompts him to convince Hester to take the bumbling professor with them. Pennyroyal offers them ten sovereigns, and despite Hester's reluctance, the pair decide to take him as a passenger. The travelling professor is revealed to have overstayed his welcome at Airhaven, specifically at the rooms of innkeeper Widgery Blinkoe, who is furious that Pennyroyal didn't pay his dues.
En route, Pennyroyal tells Tom of his discoveries and adventures in America, who is amazed at them. Soon enough, the three run into a Green Storm patrol in search of the Jenny Haniver; which Pennyroyal reacts to with extreme fear. As they attempt to escape, Pennyroyal remains afraid of being killed, going so far as to demand a refund once he discovers that the ship belonged to Anna Fang, whom the Green Storm worship. After the chase, the Jenny's engines are damaged and the airship floats helplessly over the Ice Wastes, with Pennyroyal knocked out from a gash on his head.
The airship is found by Anchorage, where Pennyroyal is carried on a stretcher to receive help for his wound. Freya Rasmussen, the leader of the ice city, comments on how Pennyroyal looks so different to his pictures on his books; to which he blusters that the painter who illustrated it was a "fool". Freya enlists Pennyroyal to help guide Anchorage to the Dead Continent, appointing him as "Honorary Chief Navigator". Pennyroyal promptly faints.
Pennyroyal soon recovers from his injuries, and is stationed in the Wheelhouse for his position. Whilst "navigating" to the Dead Continent, Pennyroyal starts drinking excessively, acting rashly and becoming withdrawn from his appointed task, as well as other people. When Hester leaves with the repaired Jenny Haniver, Pennyroyal begins to panic; as his only way off the city has flown off.
When Tom encounters Pennyroyal again, the author allows him to come into his quarters, which has become seriously messy with empty wine bottles and strewn-about papers. Tom asks Pennyroyal about possible scavengers on Anchorage, and eventually calls Pennyroyal a liar. Pennyroyal retorts, saying that he has sold hundreds of thousands of books and has received rave reviews, but Tom ignores him.
Pennyroyal, at the end of his tether, attempts to radio signal for transportation off the city, but Freya catches him. After a brief interrogation, Pennyroyal miserably confesses that he never went to the Dead Continent, writing his book about it in the laps of luxury in Paris. Freya subsequently dismisses Pennyroyal, though it doesn't make her feel any better, as the only "navigator" to the Dead Continent is a fraud.
Unfortunately, Pennyroyal's signals for help supposedly attracted the Huntsmen of Arkangel, who capture the city. Pennyroyal luckily escapes, remarking the old Pennyroyal family "motto": ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Sensible Conceal Themselves Beneath Large Items of Furniture.' He is found by the returning Tom and Hester, who wants to rescue the captured Anchorage residents, though Pennyroyal starkly refuses. Hester threatens his life with a knife to help them.
After rescuing the residents and splitting up with Tom, Hester reveals to Pennyroyal that it was her, not him, that led the Huntsmen to Arkangel, in exchange for Tom's safe return. Hester uses Pennyroyal as a decoy to distract several Huntsmen before she kills them, as well as finishing off Piotr Masgard. As Hester is distracted, Pennyroyal slips away, stealing money from a local shop. Tom follows him, tracking him to the Jenny Haniver, which Pennyroyal intends to use to escape.
Tom attempts to convince Pennyroyal to stay, as Hester has helped secure the residents and kill the Huntsmen, but Pennyroyal refuses, claiming that she's "insane" (not telling him about what she did). As Tom attempts to drag Pennyroyal away, the author accidentally shoots him in the chest with a Huntsman pistol, claiming that he just wanted to scare Tom away with it. Pennyroyal takes the keys for the airship and flies off.
Pennyroyal takes the Jenny Haniver east and has the airship renamed and repainted as the Arctic Roll, arriving in Brighton a few weeks later, regaling his friends the tale of his adventures in the frozen north. Pennyroyal writes a new book, entitled Predator's Gold, which twists and changes many events of the book. The story makes him the hero, Hester the tragic villain, explaining that Anchorage sank into the ocean and exposing the Lost Boys. Some years after, Pennyroyal becomes the new Mayor of Brighton, after marrying a woman named Boo Boo Heckmondwyke, which allowed him the high-society connections to get himself elected. Some time after, Pennyroyal has an exhibition of his adventures in Brighton, becoming a popular tourist attraction, with the aged Jenny Haniver on display.
At an age of sixty-five, Pennyroyal's rule over Brighton has made it prosperous over twelve years, especially with it's lucrative slave trade, contracted with the Shkin Corporation, owned by Nabisco Shkin. Using his twisted version of Predator's Gold, Pennyroyal has captured many of the Lost Boys with the faux-charity WOPCART (World Organization for Parents of Children Abducted from Raft Towns) luring them to Brighton to be captured as slaves, by going north into the Atlantic to find more limpets.
As Wren Natsworthy, the daughter of Tom and Hester, is captured by Brighton, she discovers more about Pennyroyal's fraudulent account of her parents' encounter with him. Tom was omitted from the book, whilst Hester was portrayed as "a titian-haired Amazon of the air whose divine face was marred only by a livid scar where some brigand had drawn his stiletto across the damask flesh of her cheek", who sold the course of Anchorage to Masgard (one of the few elements of the book that is true), but was "killed" by Masgard.
With the low amount of limpets captured, Pennyroyal considers that the Atlantic is safe for decent rafe-cities and orders that Brighton move further south to rendezvous with the Moon Festival, a gathering of traction cities that do not eat each other. Whilst Pennyroyal is lounging in his palace Cloud 9, he is visited by Shkin and a captured Wren. Shkin explains that Wren's background and parents, which Pennyroyal reacts with great fear. When asked, Wren instead tells them that she is not what Shkin says she is, and is from Grimsby. Pennyroyal enthusiastically believes her, and with the Tin Book of Anchorage in his possession, he dismisses Shkin and employs Wren into his household as the maid of Boo-Boo, who he has started to loathe.
Pennyroyal later meets with Walter Plovery, his adviser on Old-Tech, who was tasked by Pennyroyal to look at the Tin Book. Plovery explains that the Book holds a code which can communicate with one of ancient computer brains, specifically that of the American military; which Pennyroyal believes can help acquire a fortune during the occurring war between the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft and the Green Storm. Pennyroyal plans to sell it to one of the traction cities at the Moon Festival; mentioning that an acquaintance of his, Cruwys Morchard (in actuality Clytie Potts) may take an interest in it.
During a dinner party, Pennyroyal's office is broken into, with Plovery under the employ of Shkin attempting to steal the Tin Book. Pennyroyal falsely believes that Wren was attempting to steal it with Plovery, with her scheme to escape on his personal airship the Peewit making her suspect. Boo-Boo unexpectedly defends and acquits her servant.
When the Moon Festival arrived on the shores of Africa, the Green Storm attacked Brighton to find the Tin Book, alerted by Cynthia Twite, a Green Storm spy posing as one of Boo-Boo's servants. Pennyroyal knocked out Twite when she cornered Wren and Theo, his intentions to escape with a briefcase full of money and abandon his citizens so he can write another fraudulent book about the battle. Finding Shkin in the cockpit of the Peewit, Pennyroyal hoped that he would take him aboard, but Shkin shot him twice.
Pennyroyal survived, as the Tin Book which he hid inside his robes helped to stop the bullet hitting him whilst another bullet grazed his head, and followed Wren and Theo Ngoni to find a way off of Cloud 9. Wren reveals to him that she is indeed the daughter of Tom and Hester, and thus knows of Pennyroyal's past; which makes him faint. When Pennyroyal wakes up, he reveals to Wren about Hester's betrayal of Anchorage to Masgard that it was true after she tells him that his book was full of lies, and that he ran into a refugee from Arkangel who witnessed the deal being made. Wren firmly doesn't believe him.
Going in and out of consciousness from his wounds, Pennyroyal eventually encounters Hester - much to his fear - who attempts to kill him so that her betrayal isn't revealed to Tom. Wren attempts to intervene, but Hester pushes her away; whilst Tom and Theo arrive. Whilst Tom considers killing Pennyroyal as revenge for shooting him and leaving him to die, he decides that Cloud 9's sinking and his age accounts for revenge. Pennyroyal witnesses Wren explaining to Tom about Hester's betrayal, which prompts Hester to run away in despair.
Pennyroyal joins Tom, Wren and Theo on the Jenny Haniver, escaping Cloud 9.
A Darkling Plain
Before the events of the book, Pennyroyal arrived with Tom and Wren (after Theo departed for Zagwa) at Kom Ombo, "blustering" at the hospital doctors who looked after Tom until they gave him care for free. Pennyroyal then left to find his friends in other cities, as he is virtually penniless after the destruction of Cloud 9; as well as promising to write a new book about the battle of Brighton to Wren, mentioning that he will be as truthful as possible (though she doubts he will).
Pennyroyal is found by Tom and Wren after they see "Cruwys Morchard" at Peripatetiapolis, visiting the Traktionstadtgesellschaft city Murnau in the Moon's Café. The pair find him telling another fraudulent story, about how he "battled" the Stalker Fang, and are graciously welcomed by him. Tom asks Pennyroyal about Morchard, whom he met twenty years ago in Helsinki, a year after London was destroyed. Pennyroyal noticed that Morchard had dozens of London currency, Quirkes; which she explained was from a dig in the ruins of London. He also mentions that Morchard was the only person who had walked the streets of the wrecked London and lived to tell the tale. Tom believes that Morchard is Clytie Potts, and that she has been spreading false rumours about the city being haunted to keep people away, but Pennyroyal dismisses the idea, as it would be madness for tractionists to still be far behind the Green Storm border.
Tom and Wren next meet Pennyroyal on the Murnau docks, where he is in the company of a high-society lady of Murnau. Wren asks him to send a letter of her's to Theo, which he agrees (albeit a little fearful of sending a message to Anti-Tractionist Zagwa). Pennyroyal tells the pair that he is travelling to Airhaven to attend a dinner party.
Pennyroyal is next encountered by Hester and Theo at the Empyrean Hotel on Airhaven, going by the name "Unterberg" after the newspaper Speculum released an article detailing his fraudulent activities, leaving him penniless. Murnau and Manchester have issued warrants for his arrest, forcing him to go into hiding and try to escape to Nuevo Maya. Hester and Theo take what remains of his wealth, despite his protests, but Theo tells him that they plan to release the captive Oenone Zero from trader Napster Varley. Realising he can rekindle his fame and fortune, Pennyroyal schemes to take Zero and give to the Traktionstadts in order to wipe away his past.
Pennyroyal finds a group of militia officers from Manchester, and tells them of Zero's predicament and his plan to capture her; falsely telling them that the article about him was a ruse to make him appear disgraced to the Green Storm. The militia officers believe him, and they march to the Humbug, Varley's ship. They run into Hester, Zero and Kriegsmarshal Von Kobold as they make their escape, but Pennyroyal is confronted by the journalist who disgraced him, Sampford Spiney. After the ensuing fight, Pennyroyal tries in vain to get onto the departing Shadow Aspect, Hester's new ship; before Spiney confronts him again. Losing his cool, Pennyroyal gets into a fight with Spiney, ending with them tumbling off of Airhaven.
The pair fall into the safety net below, where Spiney jumps happily up and down as he explains how he'll ruin Pennyroyal further as he accuses the writer of being a Green Storm spy. This causes the net to break, sending both Spiney and Pennyroyal falling. Pennyroyal coincidentally landed on the tail fin of the Shadow Aspect, whilst Spiney fell to his death. Pennyroyal finally delivers Wren's letter to Theo.
The Shadow Aspect arrives under a Stalker-bird escort to the Wind-Flower Airfield, with Zero ensuring that Pennyroyal isn't harmed by her Green Storm comrades. Pennyroyal hears from General Xao that he has been made a traitor by the Traktionstadtgesellschaft, but has been considered a hero by the Green Storm, which pleases Pennyroyal once he is told that he will be given riches by General Naga. Pennyroyal escapes with the others as the base is destroyed by Harrowbarrow and the Traktionstadtgesellschaft.
Their airship arrives at Batmunkh Gompa, where Naga has been evacuated to. Pennyroyal overhears the Green Storm soldiers that Naga has branded Zero a traitor, and informs the reunited Tom and Hester. Pennyroyal tries to convince Hester to take him with them, but she refuses. He then stowaways onboard the Jenny Haniver (which Tom brought to Batmunkh Gompa), and is found by Shrike. Pennyroyal is told that Tom, Hester and Shrike plan to go to Erdene Tezh, Anna Fang's home; where they believe the Stalker Fang is. Tom has Pennyroyal tied up to ensure he can't cause any trouble.
After the Jenny Haniver is attacked by Stalker birds and is downed near Erdene Tezh, Tom and Hester abandon Pennyroyal, who is found and released by Fishcake. The former Lost Boy tells him of Popjoy's sky yacht that the Stalker Fang had stolen, and that they can use it to escape, however the keys are around the Stalker Fang's neck. Mustering some bravery, Pennyroyal finds Tom's anti-Stalker gun and approaches the house. Pennyroyal comes inside and is approached by the Stalker Fang, whom he kills by firing constantly at her.
Pennyroyal sees that Tom is dying from his weakened heart, which Pennyroyal himself accidentally caused, and decides to fly Tom out and find a doctor for him. Taking the keys to the sky-yacht from a reluctant Hester, Pennyroyal runs down and finds Fishcake waiting for him. Starting the engine, Pennyroyal tells Fishcake that they will leave as soon as he has collected his friends from the house garden, but Fishcake demands that he leave them behind. Fishcake takes Pennyroyal's pocketknife and presses it against his throat, forcing him to abandon Hester and Tom.
The sky-yacht's engines fail a few miles outside Batmunkh Gompa, with Fishcake leaving Pennyroyal behind. He attempts to restart the engines, but walks the rest of the way to the nearest Green Storm base and tries to get the remaining soldiers to send ships to Erdene Tezh to save his friends, but they don't believe him. After a months of travelling, Pennyroyal makes his way back to Murnau, using that time to write his new (and truthful) account of the events of A Darkling Plain, titling it Ignorant Armies. He confessed all his previous lies in the first chapter, and kept as close as he could to the facts when he described what he had seen and done at Erdene Tezh. However, it is never published due to Spiney's expose of him, as well as his imprisonment in debtor's prison for ten months.
His old friends from Moon's Café pay his debts and Pennyroyal slinks into obscurity in Peripatetiapolis with an old girlfriend of his, Minty Bapsnack. He lived out his final years in her house, and they were not unhappy. But even Minty took his story with a pinch of salt, and she never lent him the money he needed to publish Ignorant Armies.
In Predator's Gold, Pennyroyal is first described as being smallish, balding and slightly overweight, with a trim white beard. His clothes were the typical outfit of a northern scavenger: a long fur coat, a tunic with many pockets, thick breeches and fur-lined boots; notable as they looked too expensive for a northern scavenger.
In Infernal Devices, he has aged to at least sixty-five, but has aged well (likely due to his affluent lifestyle as Mayor of Brighton). Despite losing most of his hair, Pennyroyal lost weight and looked nearly indistinguishable from photographs from his time as Anchorage's Honorary Chief Navigator.
Pennyroyal is overtly-confident, ambitious and self-indulgent in less-than circumstantial situations, retaining a proud and egotistical view of himself. His lust for fame and fortune often leads himself into trouble, debts and threats against his life. Pennyroyal is nothing if not a coward, doing anything if it serves himself, using other people for his own gain.
However, in situations where it is not favourable upon himself, Pennyroyal becomes extremely afraid, meek and desperate; retaining this trait throughout his life. Even when destroying the Stalker Fang, Pennyroyal shouts and screams for help; but quickly retains his composure when the deed is done and even wonders whether anyone could take a photograph of the remains.
Although he mostly serves himself, Pennyroyal has been known to help others, such as the time he helped Tom, Wren and Theo escape off of Cloud 9 or went to fly Tom out of Erdene Tezh to get him to a doctor. He is also been known to be a habitual womaniser, flirting with many such as Orla Twombley.
- Tom Natsworthy - Pennyroyal believes Tom and him to be close friends, despite Pennyroyal's duplicitous nature and Tom regarding him as an eccentric albeit flawed individual. Tom does spare Pennyroyal's life numerous times, even after discovering that the bullet that Pennyroyal shot him with has damaged his heart; believing that he'll do less harm if he's just tied up.
- Hester Shaw - From the start of their relationship, Hester takes an immediate dislike to Pennyroyal; partly due to the disruption he caused to her and Tom's lifestyle, but mostly because she finds him unbearable. Once she tells Pennyroyal that she sold Anchorage to Arkangel, he believes her to be mad and unhinged, fainting at the sight of her.
- Wren Natsworthy - Perhaps being the only member of the Natsworthy family that really tolerates Pennyroyal, Wren views Pennyroyal as a good asset to have, as he helps her and Tom to find Clytie Potts and assisted them in escaping Cloud 9. She also managed to save Pennyroyal's life from Hester by telling Tom about her betrayal of Anchorage.
- Boo-Boo Pennyroyal - Although seemingly in love to her when they married, Pennyroyal simply used her to gain his mayoral position in Brighton. Once he achieved it, he found Boo-Boo's presence annoying, especially with his lusting for other women causing tension between them.
- Freya Rasmussen - Pennyroyal was quite enthralled with Freya, but seemed to be wary of her, especially when she found him trying to signal for transport off of Anchorage. He likely used his newfound position of navigator simply get more drinks and get more drunk.
- Thaddeus Valentine - Pennyroyal seems to intensely dislike Valentine, due to his rejection to join the Guild of Historians, as the Head didn't like his supposed findings in America. Pennroyal describes the Guild as "dusty old farts".