Kardja wool was Darach’s chief export. It could be considered Darach’s only export. The browns, grays, whites, and occasional blacks that the sturdy kardja stock provided year after year was spun into yarn, rolled into felt, or drawn into thread and shipped westward. Each spring at shearing time the town tripled in size as the people of the steppes came down with their herds to meet the merchants and peddlers.
That’s how Two Queens begins. But what is a kardja?
If you’ve read Two Queens, you’ll have some idea. If you don’t, I’ll try not to spoil anything.
“Kardja” is both the singular and plural form of the noun, meaning “kardja are” and “a kardja is” are both appropriate grammatically.
Livestock terms used of horses – stud, dam, foal – are acceptable though not perfectly proper.
If kardja were alive today on planet Earth, we would assign them to the cameloid family. Camels, llamas, alpacas – that sort of quadruped. This means they are four-footed, hooved, hairy, bear their young not eggs, and are fairly intelligent as animals go. In short, they are mammals.
How do they differ? They have better temperaments than camels but are about as high-strung as llamas. They are in between the two in size.
Their milk is low in fat and high in protein, like a goat not a cow. And their hair varies in length but doesn’t get more than a few inches long. It doesn’t burn very well.
What else? They are very loyal. They are herd animals. For best psychological development it needs its own kind until maturity. If one lives alone, it will bond with whatever else it finds, generally a human or a flock of sheep.
Not a carnivore, though they don’t dislike dogs. They hate cats. They are not safe around children, being too big and reactive to sudden movements and loud sounds.
They are brave. They fight with their fangs, though these are generally smaller than those of dogs a tenth their weight, and by striking with their hooves.
In the wild there is one dominant male per herd but under human supervision the dominance is transferred to the kardja herder.
Females are prized for their longevity, intelligence, and general placidity. Males are more likely to vacillate from aggressive to surly.
Why are they important? Reread the quotation from the book above for how they earn their keep. Why are they amazing? Read Two Queens to find out.