Hurst is one of the two main characters in ‘The Plains of Kallanash’. At the time the story opens, he is thirty six years old.
Like Mia, Hurst’s father was lead husband at a Karning. When Hurst was born, his father Tanist was already on the fourth line, despite being only twenty five. His mother was the fourth wife, and she and Hurst’s father became a settled couple the moment she joined the marriage. Hurst was their first child. The family moved steadily from Karning to Karning, and by the time Hurst was eleven, had reached the border, the eighth line on the western side. Hurst’s mother died when he was twelve, and Hurst grew closer to his father as a result.
When Hurst was eight, a serious illness swept through several of the western Karnings. Adults were unaffected, and younger children emerged unscathed, but it was most serious for the children of around Hurst’s age. Two of his sisters died, and he and several other siblings were left with deformed limbs as a result. Hurst was determined not to let it prevent him becoming a Skirmisher, and he worked relentlessly to overcome his deficiencies.
When he went to the Ring at age ten to be educated by the scholars and Slaves, he focused obsessively on anything relevant to skirmishing skills, and drifted inattentively through the other lessons. By the time he was fifteen, he had won all the junior tournaments, and had no trouble meeting the requirements to become a Higher (part of the ruling elite).
He went back to his father’s border Karning, and set up his own Hundred (a group of Skirmishers), fighting the barbarians alongside his father and uncles. He spent some time with an uncle at a different Karning, and later a couple of years with an older brother, but he always came back to his father.
Hurst could have joined the marriage of two older brothers when he was fifteen, but his father thought he was capable of being lead husband and advised him to wait. When he was nineteen, his father put his name forward to the Voices for marriage, along with a cousin (not Jonnor). Two sisters were suggested for them, and the fathers all agreed, but when the women saw Hurst’s unprepossessing face and his limp, they backed out. A couple of other proposals fell through at an earlier stage. Another opportunity to join some older brothers was also turned down. Hurst wanted to lead his own marriage.
When he was twenty six, his father put him forward again, this time with his cousin Jonnor, to marry sisters Tella and Mia. Hurst was set to be paired with twenty three year old Tella, while eighteen year old Jonnor would be paired with fifteen year old Mia. The month of discovery went well, but when the three fathers arrived to finalise arrangements, things began to fall apart.
Jonnor had a younger brother who would qualify as a Higher that winter. Jonnor’s father devised a plan to wait a year, and then marry Jonnor and his brother to Tella and Mia. The other two fathers were opposed to the idea, but Tanist came up with a way out: let Jonnor be lead husband instead, but keep Mia downstairs for a few years rather than pair her with the much older Hurst. Tanist felt that Jonnor was malleable enough to allow Hurst to lead the skirmishes, and it would give the marriage time to settle and find its own arrangement. Hurst accepted it, realising that this was his only realistic option.
And so they married, but somehow the marriage never quite settled, and Tella’s death ten years later knocked it off its axis and set in train a disastrous sequence of events.