Risdun Hak and Eiji Tunshi

This is another one of those writing moments where characters seem to either introduce themselves or simply intrude into the creative process. Eiji Tunshi is too much of a gentleman to intrude, I feel that he just charmed his way into existence. I already had an idea for a character that became Risdun Hak. He was to be man between the ages of 30 and 40, an émigré who had served as a mercenary, and who, on his return to the Mountain Kingdom, would bring a level of military knowledge and experience that was unrivalled by his peers.

Risdun Hak was a rough and ready man. Born to a family of lesser nobility his parents had fled Oroson in fear of the King’s insane wrath. Hak was young then and grew up in relative poverty. His father tried to educate his son in the ways of a gentleman of Oroson, but he was never able to give him the opportunities that he might have enjoyed had the King not gone mad and initiated his bloody purges.

Somewhere in his career as a mercenary, Hak encountered Eiji, a black man from distant lands. Eiji had fallen victim as a boy to enemies of his father. He was kidnapped and sold into slavery. He earned his freedom but found life difficult amongst white people. Discovering that mercenaries were amongst the few who counted a man’s skill above the colour of his skin, Eiji drifted into that profession with the dream of making enough money so as to be able to return to his homeland in some style.

One evening, Risdun Hak was preparing to enjoy his supper, consisting of a bottle of good wine and some cheese to which he was quite partial. The sun was about to set, and his vista was almost perfect. Unfortunately, the peace and tranquillity of the moment was ruined by a sudden commotion. Annoyed, Hak went to investigate and found a bunch of drunken soldiers about to lynch Eiji. Afterwards, Hak would always insist that the only reason he intervened was so that he could return to his quiet supper. Eiji, a good judge of character, came to realise that his friend was possessed of an innate nobility that had nothing to do with social class. This might be because Eiji, who claims to be a prince of his people, is also imbued with a sense of nobility. Indeed, he is moved to pledge himself to return the favour of saving Hak’s life whenever the opportunity arises. Hak always insists that this obligation is unnecessary, but he is astute enough to realise that if he argues the point too strongly then he risks insulting his friend.

Together they travel to the Mountain Kingdom of Oroson after being cashiered out of the mercenary brigade of the Republic of Palonia. Hak has decided to try and recover his family’s lost titles and land, Eiji has nothing better to do. They both encounter prejudice from many of the people of Oroson. Hak is judged poorly for being an émigré and a mercenary, Eiji mostly for being black. Obviously, this allowed me to explore racialism as a theme in the book.

I really enjoyed some of the conversations that these two have as they are frequently indulge in rounds of banter. I suppose this repeats something that I used in Mesozoic with Cope and Marsh. They swap insults as well, and in the same manner. The point is that when you know someone really well then you can use what might appear to an outsider as insulting language, even objectionable, because the two of you understand the context in which it is occurring. Eiji frequently asserts the superiority of black people over white, especially in matters of intelligence and good manners. Despite this they are both quite realistic about the subject. When Hak is appointed as the Captain-General of the Royal Guard he wishes to grant Eiji a commission as a major, but the officer body reacts vociferously to that suggestion. In the end it is Eiji who insists that a captaincy of the light infantry is sufficient, sparing his friend a possibly damaging confrontation that he probably could not have won.

For his part, Eiji relishes the chance to prove to the ignorant soldiery that military prowess has nothing to do with a person’s skin colour. Although he becomes the victim of a cowardly attack his men come to his rescue because they have accepted him as one of their own, regardless of his race.

As I was writing the book, I saw Risdun Hak as one of those people who do not communicate their feelings too freely. He had a wife, but she died, and he has been alone ever since. They did not have any children. In some ways Eiji might be the son that Hak never had. When Eiji effectively goes AWOL at a key point in the story Hak is both furious and concerned. His anger is such that he cannot bring himself to talk to Eiji when they are eventually reunited, but also, he cannot punish him neither. Instead he sends him to the battlefield ahead of the main army in his role as a commander of a company of light infantry. After the battle he expresses his relief at seeing Eiji again by giving him a bottle of wine to ease the captain and his comrades through a night guarding one of the city gates. Eiji knows that it is as good as a smile and a handshake of forgiveness from his friend.

One area where Eiji definitely excels over Hak is that concerning women and in particular the Lady Julen. She is as old as Hak but still beautiful. Julen is a rare creature in Oroson, an independent noblewoman who has retained her wealth and estates after her husband died. Usually, women of her class are compelled by the king to marry again and so lose their independence, but she did not do as society expected. She is unimpressed by Hak’s worldliness and enjoys tormenting him, especially in the presence of his patron, the Princess Saran. Eiji, however has more success with her. Being younger and better looking his chances are probably greater anyway, but his exotic nature definitely intrigues Julen.

I have plans to further explore Risdun Hak’s and Eiji Tunshi’s friendship in another story concerning the fate of the Mountain Kingdom of Oroson, hopefully it will not be too far off in the future.

The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom is available from Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and other retailers in either eBook or paperback versions

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