At the end of Kings of the North, there’s a war just started between Pargun and Lyonya. News has arrived in Tsaia, but not everyone’s heard it yet. Beclan Mahieran, squire to Dorrin Duke Verrakai, is out on patrol in the SW corner of Verrakai’s domain when Dorrin hears…commanding two tensquads of militia (some of them former Phelani soldiers. Beclan’s proud of the fact that he is given a longer patrol route and more troops than the other squires. He has no idea what’s coming.
Beclan brushed off as much snow as he could before stooping through the doorway into darkness. Out here in the southwest of Verrakai domain, none of the improvements Dorrin had planned and begun nearer the house had taken place, so the hut was not only dark and cramped, but flakes of snow had sifted through the roof and the packed dirt floor stank of sheep droppings. No one had thought to store dry wood for the next arrivals; only a couple of very dirty rough-tanned fleeces lay in one corner, visible when one of the troops finally got a torch from their baggage mule alight. For a wonder, there was a crude fireplace in one corner. Beclan leaned on the wall, as the Phelani soldiers badgered the others into finding wood and starting a fire.
(snippage, then later that evening)
Beclan knew he should not feel sorry for himself–he was too old for that, and a royal besides–but he did feel sorry for himself. Here he was, in a filthy stinking hut, with only trail rations to eat and nothing to sleep on but dirt and sheep dung, while other people–other squires, even barons’ squires–lounged in houses that didn’t leak, warmed by fires that didn’t smoke, eating real food hot from kitchens, looking forward to sleeping in warm beds and putting on clean clothes in the morning. His brother Rothlin and the king were probably having a jolly evening with their friends. When he finally slept, he had bad dreams he did not quite remember when he woke, but their dark mood stayed with him.
Beclan, some will recall, is Duke Mahieran’s son, and fourth in succession to the throne, should anything happen to King Mikeli of Tsaia. The king’s younger brother Camwyn is first, then Duke Mahieran (the king’s uncle) and Beclan’s older brother Rothlin–the same age as the king and his close friend as well as his cousin.
The Mahierans were chosen to rule Tsaia in the aftermath of the Girdish war specifically because they apparently lost their magery a couple of generations back. (The Tsaians, for reasons of their own, wanted to keep their monarchy rather than go whole-hog for Gird’s original idea of a peasant-run government. The nobility in Tsaia had been, on the whole, less vicious than those in Fin-aarenis (which became Fintha) and even the peasantry of Tsaia were unwilling to embrace the stringent austerity and “simplicity” of the early Girdish. ) The Mahierans were not nearly as prominent a family before the Girdish war, and at the time of that war were looked down on by families that still had considerable mage ability. (The Marrakai, powerful both before and after the Girdish war, had also lost their magery–even earlier–but their very prominence made them unacceptable as a royal family.)
So Beclan, though still a raw youth, is a collateral royal, and he’s very, very aware of that. Though Dorrin has blunted his earlier arrogance somewhat, he still can’t help thinking that he’s entitled to a little additional deference.