How does a country-born commoner transform herself into the ruler of a duchy? Why would an unambitious man set out to remove one of the most powerful figures of the establishment?
Diane de Tremontaine and Basil Halliday are examples of those who were not born great but who worked to achieve greatness—not because they are eager to govern, but because the alternative is so much worse. The Duke’s neglect of the financial aspects of his Tremontaine inheritance inspired Diane to step into the gap. She knows all too well how the wives, children and retainers of noblemen suffer when their estates are mismanaged. Basil would rather keep his head down, do his work to the best of his ability, and live a quiet life, but he is so disgusted by Lord Davenant’s misuse of power as Dragon Chancellor that he is moved to consider taking on a powerful role for himself.
When the alternative is the mediocre or the megalomaniac, and there are vulnerable people at risk, seizing power might be considered not selfishness, but self-preservation, not greed, but generosity. Basil is that classic case: a man who doesn’t desire power, and therefore is the best qualified to wield it because he will never use it to enrich himself. Diane’s motives are murky and her methods ruthless, but she too is fighting against the loss of all that she loves, even if half of her efforts consists of dealing with the tangles of her own past bad decisions.
The devious duchess and the incorruptible public servant make an odd but effective team. They are both tenacious and pragmatic in the pursuit of their ideals. They both have larger spheres of care and concern: Tremontaine for Diane, and the City for Basil.
When we meet them in Swordspoint they have grown and settled into their roles as if this has always been their destiny. The span of centuries from Tremontaine to The Fall of the Kings allows us to see with time’s eye what strange, inauspicious, and hesitant beginnings our legends may have. Perhaps that can make us feel a little better about the state of our own journeys, and more hopeful of what will be remembered and told about the full sweep of our lives and doings.
This is not the traditional Arc of Destiny common in the fantasy genre, where lineage, magic or extraordinary talent mark a character as the chosen one. It is a realistic, relatable unfolding of choices, hope, striving, luck, and, most of all, learning from failure. Seeing Diane and Basil now while knowing who they will become reminds me of these words: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
We are the leaders and the creators that will become legends for another generation. Our generation’s legends were not hand-picked by Fate, and neither are we. That puts a greater burden of responsibility on us, to decide and determine the life that will be our legacy.
Is that a comforting idea, or terrifying? I’d say both.