It’s always fun having to quickly sketch out minor supporting characters who are only going to appear in one or two chapter. They need to feel real and have purpose, but they’re ultimately there to aid the lead characters and the plot – in this instance we have the two generals, Stover and Zdarton. May I just say that I rather like the name ‘Zdarton’.
What we see here is the blundering King Guijus making things worse simply by being there: his presence now is corrosive, in that his judegment is entirely shot yet people are still compelled to follow his lead and do as he says. I’ve always had a deep-seated suspicion and skepticism of inflexible hierarchies, so this is a way of exploring that. A strict hierarchy assumes competence at every step, otherwise the entire house of cards comes tumbling down.
In Aviar, there was a very strict caste system imposed on the populace, based entirely around their source affinity, with Aera the undisputed god-leader at the top. Lagonia in general is a typical monarchy with a semi-feudal system underneath; that can work OK as long as you’ve got an effective monarch, but can fall apart quickly when you don’t. Capable advisors can separate the monarch from reality and maintain stability to an extent – but in Guijus’ case he’s foudn himself entirely alone, at the worst possibly moment.
Compare all this to Bruckin. It’s still ostensibly hierarchical, but the society is more two-tier than multi-tiered. Each tier has a relatively flat structure, even if moving between those tiers is difficult and unusual. There’s far less standing on ceremony – it’s not unusual for someone to directly question Baron or Viscount Liefs. Similarly, it’s plausible that the Liefs can go wander the lower streets and the shipyards without requiring a massive entourage; you can’t imagine Guijus being able to walk unprotected through Treydolain, despite its veneer of civility and culture.
Anyway, back to the specifics of this chapter, in which we get to see the gifts given to Pienya by Kraisa. Her new bow weapon is reminiscent of Kraisa’s armour and Tranton’s sword but pushes things a little further. We’ll learn a bit more about how specifically it works soon enough. We also get some hints of regret, if not quite doubt, on Pienya’s part, showing that she is reflecting somewhat on recent events. Too little, too late, most likely, but I’ve never wanted her to come across as a simple Villain – she’s more complex than that, I hope. She certainly sees herself as the hero of the piece.