As I’ve mentioned before, there are many characters in The Silk Betrayal. I’m not going to go through and introduce every one of them. But I’d like to highlight a few here and introduce them to you:
Rashul is pure charisma. He’s the Beto O’Rourke* of Romnai. The young dreamer who inspires those around him to dream of a new and different society. For several years he’s been coming to Chaitan’s house and building a following as he dreams of changing the world, of leaving the caste system behind entirely and of what society might look like after that. And it isn’t only the well educated dreamers who are drawn to him. He counts people among all levels of society as friends and supporters. His ideas are dangerous to the ruling caste, of course. When the novel begins he is not powerful enough for the princes to be worried about his little following.
Indima is a silk weaver and dancer. Among the castes and jatis, the silk weavers are highly revered, the equals of the princes and priests. Silk cannot be harvested in this northern valley, so the silks that the highest classes value are ancient, brought here (according to tradition) from the Forgotten South centuries ago. Silk does not naturally last so long, but through jati secrets that some claim are a form of magic, the silk weavers preserve the silks for the other high caste jatis.
So Indima’s presence among Rashul’s followers at Chaitan’s house is as an outlier. Rashul’s dreams would take away her own status. What draws her there, though, is the dancing. Her own training is as a sacred dancer, performing the proscribed dances in the temples. At Chaitan’s house a different kind of dancing is performed. Combining songs unlike the temple music with Chaitan’s (and his acolytes’) arcist magic along with dance sequences that are free of the temples’ strict requirements, this new dancing draws Indima in. And it is through dancing that she meets her lower-caste lover, the fisherman (and dancer) Ekana.
Unlike the other characters here, Bhadrik has no connection to Chaitan’s house. He is a soldier, one of the wolf jati soldiers, which means he lives most of the time far from the cities, patrolling the mountains to keep an eye on the valley’s original inhabitants, the pale-skinned mumblers. Like many of the soldiers, he belongs to the mystery religion, in which the participants challenge the fire itself and strive to be its master. Bhadrik is sure that he will be one of the few to not only equal the fire but to fully master it through the secret rites.
Bhadrik is trained with the sword (in particular the ceremonial sacred sword that is his right as a member of the wolf jati) and the sling, which is a useful weapon in the mountains where the errant winds drive arrows off target, making archery nearly useless. Certain of his own strength and his place within the jati, he is in no way prepared for the events to come.
*yes, this post was originally written right around the election when Beto was all people were talking about (all of these posts were planned out and drafted back in November); feel free to substitute any politician who captures a momentary, progressive-ish zeitgeist, regardless of specific real-world issues...