Kinna listened intently as the terms of each marriage were announced, they were all standard affairs, dowries and land grants for the most part. When it came to her own marriage though, her father stood up. The room stood with him, she was feeling fearful now, afraid of who could command her fathers respect so much.
"Amongst those of you gathered here, there are sixteen I invited personally" he started, his voice commanding and wise.
"All but those sixteen may be seated."
There was the sound again of a great many sitting at once, "step forward, that I may address you all."
Again the sound of heavy boots rang out around the hall.
"All of you are men of virtue and honour, renowned throughout these lands and afar. Yet all of you are fourth sons, or men of little station. There will be a great tournament held a week hither, the winner granted my daughter's hand in marriage and allowed the use of the Hyenta name for their prestige."
Kinna's eyes began to well up, her sisters hugging her tightly. She felt such shame at being given away as a prize, to commoners for all she knew. Did her father hate her so much? Perhaps he hoped she would kill herself in despair, she still hadn't ruled that out... but for now, she would stay silent until there was time for grief.
"Leave now, make your preparations, for the tournament begins at the first sign of spring" her father announced with a degree of joy to his voice, that which he had taken from her.
Kinna sat in her quarters alone, she'd sent her serving girls away before weeping uncontrollably, her makeup was ruined now and she'd torn away her dress and tossed it at the wall in a fit of rage. Now she sat calmly, a knife in her hand. She knew killing herself over this may seem petty to her sisters, but they weren’t the ones being touted as a prize. She hesitated though, afraid of the pain... afraid of dying.
“Forgive me my lady... I did not know you were in a state of undress,” a young man said from behind her.
She turned to look at him, he was handsome, his long hair tied in a warriors top knot.
“It matters little, I am shamed and must deal with it as best I can” she replied, ignoring the interloper and looking down at the blade once more.
“Shame, my lady?” He enquired, stepping towards her. “Lady Kinna I have been rude, but your beauty threw me. I am prince Liu Kwon, fourth son of Zhou Kwon, king of Giou... I will be competing for your hand in marriage, my curiosity got the better of me and I wished to see your face...”
“And you are disappointed? my tears have made me ugly and my nakedness shames me before a prince... if I were saddened before, I am more so now” she started, lost in her despair.
Before she knew it he had wrapped his cloak around her, kneeling down and flashing a beautiful smile.
“I have seen you at your lowest my lady, and still find you more beautiful than any maiden I have laid eyes upon. The only shame, is that I must compete with my peers for your hand and not marry you in the morning.”
Kinna was roused from her misery instantly, looking at the handsome Liu properly... she would certainly have accepted him as a husband willingly enough.
“Your peers?” She asked, wiping away her tears.
“Of course my lady, nearly all of my competition are princes or lords sons, your father has gathered us from across the known continent and beyond. I know of my unworthiness to marry a beauty such as you... but please,” he gently placed a hand of hers and she dropped the knife, the weapon thudding on the the wooden floor. “Do not deprive the world of your presence,” he lightly kissed her cheek and departed, leaving her draped in his cloak of green velvet, with a golden dragon embroidered upon it. She smiled, suddenly the tournament didn’t seem so bad.
Kinna knelt upon a soft satin pillow beside her father as her suitors paraded before them. Liu Kuan passed them by first, dressed in his green robe and breastplate, his pauldrons glinting in the sunlight. Next passed by Sir.Garbrand, he hailed from the far north, a kingdom named Florinia, he wore a full suit of plate mail, his helmet crested with a plume of red horse hair and he bowed low from the saddle. Next came You Dian and his brother Kian, both in their clans yellow robes, You Dian was the older and more handsome of the two, though Kian was nearly a head taller. After them came Tai’ishi Hamata, a third son of the emperor of Yishin to the West, his face remained behind a ceremonial mask of a red demon. Her father remarked that it marked him as a warrior of great skill. After he had ridden past came Vior Faden, he wore all black and bore no heraldry. Her father told her that he had once been of a great noble house, that they had declared one of their own as emperor of the lands. It had been his father and the other twelve clans that had put them down, destroying them almost root and stem. Vior was the last of them, a ronin that could find no home. Her father explained how he had kept an eye on the boy, he was now a man of honour and skill and that this would be his one shot at redemption. Kianna couldn’t help be taken in by the story of the young man's journey. By the time she’d finished fantasising about the young man the last of the contestants made himself known, he was Rassan Mulhan of the Southern kingdom of Sandar. He had a long dark beard and white robes gilded with gold weave, he carried his ornate gold chased helm under arm and spun his long spear in one hand beautifully. She watched amazed as he bowed gracefully from the saddle, his long hair spilling over his shoulders. She giggled involuntarily, getting a stern look from her father and a perfect smile from Rassan. Her father stood as the last of them took their place in line.
“All of you gathered here are skilled and gifted beyond most men, as such there will be seven trials to find the best of you. The first trial shall be archery, the first three to miss will be eliminated... the winner shall have one hour with my daughter to know her better, supervised of course.”
Kinna put her hands together in excitement, there were so many handsome men vying for her hand, deep down she’d always wanted this.