And this was why Selenay had sent Talia, Kero thought. The Monarch’s Own had established a give-and-take in the conversation already, so they could negotiate like equals, no matter what their actual role. Hellfires, if sect heirs were minor princes, they’d damn well better start off as close to equals as they could manage. Maybe that would help get past the twitchiness Kellen had reported.
:It would. If it were just war nerves,: Sayvil mused.
Kero didn’t raise a brow. :You think it’s not.:
:Most mages can’t tell we’re anything more than white horses, unless we want them to. These cultivators are different.:
:Kellen says when he came out of the Choosing? Both Nies had all their shields up, and Huaisang in particular looked like he’d been smacked with a board. It’s crazy, but-:
Kero swallowed unease. :But?:
:Chosen. They know damn well we are not horses. And that makes them twitchy.:
“Mostly my cousin trains younger disciples, and keeps me out of trouble,” Huaisang was saying. “We’ve heard many different things about Heralds and Chosen in our travels. What are you, officially?”
“Now, that’s a story.” Talia sipped her cider, eyes bright as any Bard with an unsuspecting audience. “Centuries ago when our kingdom was founded, King Valdemar realized he had a problem. He’d seen the Eastern Empire, and how other kingdoms rose and fell. Without a good monarch, everything goes wrong. He knew he was a good king, and his Heir would be, but what would happen in three generations? In ten? Our kingdom was created by those who fled the East because it was horrible and cruel. How could he make sure that never happened here? So he built an altar and prayed to all the gods he knew for an answer. And the first Companions appeared.”
Green and white flinches, Kero noted. Well, she couldn’t blame them. Finding out about Companions had been one thing; the Plains had their own guardian spirits. Finding out a whole kingdom had been founded on divine intervention? It was enough to make any sane soul twitchy.
Although in her experience, most outsiders didn’t believe the Founding of Valdemar when they heard it. People from Jkatha, or even nearby Rethwellan, mostly just smiled and nodded. Everybody had their myths, after all.
The way the cultivators twitched, they did believe it. And they didn’t like it.
“He prayed for an answer.” Lan Wangji’s face was still as ice. “Not that his line would keep the mandate of heaven?”