The third principal character I'd like to introduce is Prince Jasfer Talai, one of the Thirty Princes who rule the valley. That makes him one of the thirty most powerful people in the entire known world...but that responsibility rests light on him—for now.
It’s worth pulling back a moment to explain how the rulers of Eghsal are chosen. Within the castes of Eghsal are smaller groupings, called jatis. One particular jati of the highest caste is the princely caste. It isn’t a huge jati, by any means (the other principal jatis of the highest caste are the priestly jati and the silk weavers, each of which is roughly similar in size), but still it numbers in the low thousands of adult members. They are the aristocracy, the noble families. In theory any adult from their ranks can be chosen to rule, depending on whatever whims of the current High Prince.
The High Prince himself (up until this point it has always been a male, though...that may change, perhaps even within the timeframe of this series), becomes the ruler by claiming the mantle in one particular room within the High Assembly and defending that claim (and room) for a full day-and-night. Coups are rarely successful without broad support from other princes. At that point, the High Prince chooses 29 others to help rule.
While the High Prince could choose from those thousands of adults, traditionally the ruling title is largely a family title, the positions inherited within a much smaller circle of families.
And this is how Jasfer was raised to the position of a ruling prince—his father died, at a relatively young age, and he was named to take his father’s role. His father likewise was a relatively forgettable prince, ruling a seat that had periodically been a part of his family for many generations. What made him stand out was his daughter Jaritta, burned and banished from the princely jati.
Jasfer has no doubt that the shame his parents felt for their daughter/his sister was part of what led to their early deaths. And now he is a ruler too, but feels more free to help his sister when he can—still in secret, but without the same kind of shame and distrust his father had to endure. He passes what money and food he dares to her, helps her find a place to live when he can.
As for his appearance, like his sister, there is little doubt he comes from the highest caste. He has the deep brown skin and fine, strong features of the valley’s rulers. He wears the silks of his caste and accepts his role within the caste system as simply the way things are meant to be. What happened to his sister was unfair, and he mistrusts the priests ever since, but it’s not a cause for doubt about the system as a whole.
When the novel begins he is still learning what it means to be a ruling prince, working hard to read a room and notice the unspoken things that come into play in all the intrigues and counter plans of the various factions among the princes. Events among the princes will quickly thrust him into much greater responsibility...and danger.