King Duaryth enacts upon his Queen's dying wish, with disastrous consequences for the Kingdom of Carmun. Duaryth Spildor of loyalist blood joins the Humming Undercurrents, a radicalist movement plotting to overthrow the royal family.
Peace reigns supreme in the tranquil Kingdom of Carmun. The King is well, the people are content, and the valleys are as green as green as green. The Fountains are flowing, the Crescents are rolling, and the Rings are the symbol of Carmun’s eternal harmony. Carmun City rests in the very centre of the Kingdom, and, in the very heart, is the Castle of Six Candles, where King Duaryth and his Queen and his sons live together under six tall roofs as red as red as red. The City is encompassed inside a pale stone wall, thick and twelve feet in height, with a shallow grass bank on the inside flanked by a deep stream. At three places the bank falls away to the Rushis River as it sweeps on its swift way across the land and out into the country. The ground rises steadily from the low-lying City, and fragrant hills and verdant dales speckled with antiquated farming villages give way to dignified peaks and ominous gorges. A halo of magnificent mountains crowns the Kingdom, confirming the perfect peace of the Golden Reign of Duaryth VI.
There has never been war in the Kingdom of Carmun, which is a peace-making nation made secure by the reassuringly reliable mountains. There is a neighbouring Kingdom, to the West, named Cowl, which has recently undergone a workers’ revolution, and King Raph is known to be in hiding; meanwhile, there is dangerous ‘radical’ talk going on about democracies and prime ministers. Master Rispalt, a promising and talented orator and politician, is said to be a certainty for the post in later years, though the head of the ‘secret’ Labour Party of Cowl, Master Ghaphi, is rumoured to be twice as effective and yet mind-bendingly jealous of his junior.
But that is irrelevant. The Kingdom of Carmun is as blessed with peace as Cowl is immersed in chaos.
There is another nation, nearby, named Antandan, with whom Carmun is on excellent terms. Indeed, Queen Taspeth is the only niece of King Bargad of Antandan, and Prince Padryth would have been heir to both thrones even if the two kings had not intended his small puppy-fatted hand for the slender-skinned one of Princess Susali of Antandan.
Let us flip a few pages to the annual Festival of Nations one year, and then may we return to Taspeth of Antandan and Carmun. The Festival of Nations? Why, the Festival of Nations is the most colourful, most exciting, most awaited time of year. Each ambassador to the Kingdom of Carmun is granted a budget with which to contrive and organise a procession, funfair or entertainment for the amusement of the people of the City, although a large proportion of ambassadors like to borrow from the treasuries of their own capital cities in addition, for families and funmakers flock to the City of Carmun from all over the map for the festive cheer of the famous Festival of Nations in the Kingdom of Carmun.
So we hover over the Market Square on this pallid afternoon of October, rejoicing in the colour and noise lent to the fading weather from down below. From atop the spire of St Nich’s Church we can well see the hundred stalls, run by merchants of all kinds from all over the map. There are jewellers and toymakers and watchsmiths and bakers, and potters and stoners and dressmakers and painters, engravers and perfumers and confectioners and skilled craftsmen of all shapes and kinds. Then there are the buyers – the simply-clothed peasants of Carmun, the black-cloaked pilgrims from Reshid, the flamboyantly-hued draperies worn by visitors from Hujin, the fur-gloved children of Samare, and the head-scarved women of Antandan, all eager and bouncing and desperate for souvenirs of the great event.
Today it is the turn of the Queendom of Luten to provide the entertainment, and Queen Sepith has sent her ambassador instructions to organise a long dance of the kind native to Luten, a popular speciality and one organised by this particular country each year without fail. In Luten, the rubies of the crown are said to run in the bloodline of the daughters in the royal family; hence Queen Sepith’s pre-eminence. Yet sons are equally important, and constitute the ‘loyal labour’ of the country. In Luten, a daughter is a sign of royal favour, but a son is a sign of loyalty, and so, in this way, most women prefer their babies to be born in the male gender.