The Princedom of Two Rivers is a small country alone in its universe (more on that in a moment) that becomes important in the second arc of the Shine Cycle. Today’s post is a background essay describing the Princedom.
The princedom consists of a triangle of land, with two rivers as its two distinct borders and a trackless forest forming the third. Impassable mountains begin to rise only a short distance beyond the rivers, and are seen in the distance beyond the forest.
But though the country is thus alone, it is not completely isolated. Its history shows that anyone venturing too far into the Border Forest, beyond either river, or downstream beyond the Convergence is likely to end up somewhere (or somewhen) else—Avalon, the Forest of Arden, Camelot, Fairyland, or any other place “out of myth or fact.” And every so often, strangers come down the rivers, or out of the forest or the mountains—usually lost and wandering, but very occasionally on purpose.
Most of the princedom’s land is plains and gently rolling hills, with occasional orchards and groves. But a few fingers of the mountains extrude through the forest long enough to provide a ready and sufficient supply of stone. Agriculture is its primary industry, with wheat the principal crop and sheep the principal livestock but also a few noted horse-farmers. It is a highly fruitful and abundant land.
The country is ruled, as one may gather from the name, by a Prince; he is feudal lord of the land, holding the oaths of his subjects and bound to them and to the land by oath. The crown passes from father to eldest son, provided the subjects are willing to give the heir their oath; if they are not, or if the line fails, the people of the princedom elect any relative (and nearly everyone in the country is at least tenuously related to the ruling family), and the newly elected prince has a probationary period of ten years to prove himself fit.
The current ruler is Prince Stephen III; his father, Stephen II, ruled for only twenty years after his probation ended. Prince Stephen is married to the Princess Goneril, a weaver’s daughter—and her penchant for riding into the woods is what brings the Princedom of the Two Rivers into the Shine Cycle … but that’s another story, with which I will begin next week’s précis.