Enter a messenger. That, essentially, is how The Leopard begins.
Deyandara first appeared in an earlier draft of the book as corpse, stage left — an earlier Ahjvar’s just-slain shield-bearer in an attack on the Voice within the Lady’s temple. That earlier woman didn’t bequeath much to our Deya other than her name and her prickly relationship with Ahj. The one we know and love — or in Ahjvar’s case, grind our teeth over — is a girl in her teens, sister of the elected high king of the seven Praitannec tribes, but known by all to be the offspring not of their royal father but of their mother’s adulterous affair, something Deyandara herself only recently discovered. Deyandara’s brother, fed up, one surmises, with a petulant teen having a crisis of identity underfoot, has given in and allowed her to spend one season travelling with a bard. Her mistress died, though, and instead of going home, Deyandara seized the chance to follow her own ends, setting off to confront her alleged true father . . .
[That may be misleading. In trying not to give too much away, for those who like to get upset about “spoilers”, I end up implying other things. So no, Ahjvar isn’t her father. Just so’s you know.]
Deyandara has lied, calling herself a bard for her own protection while travelling. She has betrayed and abandoned the people she most wants to think well of her. Ahjvar looks on her as a silly and irritating child and expects his simpleton horseboy to be her nursemaid, as if she can’t be trusted to stay out of trouble on her own . . .
Deyandara and her role in the politics of the seven kingdoms of Praitan are crucial to the unfolding of the Over-Malagru threads of the story. I take her very seriously as a character; one must, or the story will fall apart, and once she leaves Marakand she grows into playing a very serious role, making a conscious effort to achieve maturity and think of the larger repercussions of her actions. On another level, though, and especially at the start, she is also someone who carries a bit of metafictional humour. Remember all those eighties fantasies with the Youthful Heir who gets swept up into the big adventure and turns out to be the hero despite all the adults around who have been in the thick of things since the story began? What did those adults actually think about that? Why do we assume the teen has to be the hero, anyway?
“Ghu, you explain things to her again, in nice easy words so she can understand . . .”