Mia is one of the two main characters in ‘The Plains of Kallanash’. At the time the story opens, she is twenty five, and has been married for ten years.
Mia was born into a Karninghold family. Her mother was the second wife in the marriage, and, like all the wives’ children, her official father was the lead husband. In this case, he was also her blood father, for her parents had been a settled couple for many years. Her father was well into middle age when she was born and her mother over forty, a rather unexpected late child for both of them.
Mia has scores of brothers and sisters, ranging in age from almost thirty years older than her to twenty years younger. Some were the children of the wives, who were credited to the lead husband, and some were the children of the wives’ Companions, and credited to the second husband, regardless of who actually sired them. All the children grew up together, in one great crowd, looked after by whichever of the Karningholders and Companions took an interest in them. Mia was close to her parents, and to a couple of her sisters, but otherwise she was shy little girl, happiest in the domestic environment of the Karninghold’s family quarters rather than the playing boisterous games in the grounds.
When Mia was five, the family was promoted to a northern border Karning on the sixth line. A border Karning is a very different place from the well-tamed inner Karningplain. There was no craft town outside the gates, no peaceful farmland beyond, no sky ship way, no paved roads. The Karninghold, ringed by a defensive stone wall, was all there was. One stone tower was built as a place of shelter for the family and servants during battles, but everything else was made of wood. It was essentially an armed encampment.
At this point the final two husbands and wives were added to the marriage to give the maximum total of six pairs. The six husbands and several adult sons were engaged in protecting the builders constructing the massive wall being built around the Karning, and battling the barbarian Vahsi when they attacked. The wives and adult daughters raised the children and kept the Karninghold running. Mia’s mother tended her garden, a rather splendid affair taking advantage of the warm northern climate to grow some exotic fruits and flowers, and some of her aunts raised pigs, sheep and chickens, all within the Karninghold walls. They were kept supplied with most goods by their neighbour Karning, however.
When Mia was ten, she started to spend six months of each year at the Ring (the administrative centre) for formal education. Part of each day was spent with the Slaves in the Great Temple, learning about the Gods and the proper rituals. The rest of the day was spent with the scholars. Mia was taught to read, write and do basic sums. She learned the history of the plains, some geography, a little science. She loved hearing about the original plains dwellers, the Old Ones, who followed the kishorn herds with their skin tents, and about the Petty Kingdoms, with princesses locked away in towers waiting to be rescued by a dashing prince. As a girl, she was also taught how to run a Karninghold. She was a diligent pupil, listening attentively, reading everything she was expected to, learning but not thinking about it overmuch. She accepted everything she was told.
When she was fifteen and became an adult, Mia took the tests to become a Higher, one of the ruling elite eligible to become a Karningholder. Some Higher women choose to stay with their parents for a few years, but Mia wanted her own Karninghold so her father put her name forward to the Voices (the administrators at the Ring) for a marriage, along with one of her older sisters, Tella.
The Voices proposed a marriage with two cousins, Hurst and Jonnor. Tella was to pair with the older cousin, Hurst, while Mia was to be with Jonnor. The two men came to Mia’s home Karning, and the four spent the month of discovery getting to know each other. To Mia’s joy, Jonnor was exactly like the dashing princes of the romantic stories she liked to read. Handsome and charming, he was everything a fifteen year old girl looks for and she fell in love with him.
However, when the two cousins’ fathers arrived to finalise the arrangements, everything changed. Jonnor’s father insisted that Jonnor should be the lead husband instead of Hurst, and he convinced the other two fathers to agree to it. Mia was disappointed, of course, but she was not the type to make a fuss. Because she was so young, it was decided that she should be inactive for the first three years of the marriage, and she was content with that. Perhaps by then, she thought, Jonnor would be ready for a change from Tella.
Somehow, that never happened, and neither Mia nor Hurst ever asked for an official change in their status. Mia was content to be the second wife, managing the day-to-day life of the Karning, helping to raise the children, finding a good friend in Hurst and dreaming of Jonnor. For ten years, nothing changed. Until the day that Tella was found dead.