The Northern Prince was about what they’d expected, slight of build and almost delicate in appearance, with fair skin like morning clouds and blue eyes like chinks of sky, narrowed at them in wary distrust. That delicate look, those airy features had always been deceptive, and even the most coddled royalty of the first of the Four Lands had an uncanny ability to survive.
The Queen’s bedchamber was opened and aired through the day as the servants cleansed it from top to bottom. The Queen herself was not allowed within during the process. Eleya tried to occupy herself by moving upward through the castle’s once familiar halls towards a destination she could not remember.
Tanata rose early most mornings, except on the rare annual holidays he’d always been granted leave for. He’d been trained in the Guard since he was a young boy, newly arrived from the mountains. One didn’t laze around in bed or in the courtyard. Too young to fight, there were errands to run, messages to carry, armor and weapons to polish and care for. Too old to scramble about, there was training and light duty shifts until the day there was the strength to stand in the Guard.
The blood of priests and oracles ran thick in the royal family. Eleya had wakened from night sweats and visions when she was sixteen seasons old and been delivered to the convent furthest from the Royal City at the Heart of All Things. There she was devoted to the gods, and what has been devoted to the gods should not be taken back again.
There was always the element of balancing political relationships and the intricately woven web of loyalties, rebellions, even small defiances, and having the right lineage in the first place when it came time to evaluate the four royal spouses a new monarch must take.