A couple of people asked about this, so I thought I’d address it in a post.
The problem facing Alicia is that she wasn’t ‘confirmed’ by the time her father and brothers were beheaded, as punishment for their role in the failed coup against King Randor (Lessons in Etiquette). A confirmation ceremony marks a parental acknowledgement that a child has become an adult and confirms their place in the line of succession. It also grants certain rights, such as the right to refuse a marriage, which tends to ensure that parents are reluctant to confirm their younger (and female) children before they’re married off or otherwise put in place to support the family, specifically the one who will succeed his father as patriarch.
Alassa’s ceremony in Lessons was important because it ensures that she can take the throne at once, after her father dies. Without it, her uncle would rule as regent – and, because she was a princess, he’d have plenty of opportunity to organise matters to suit himself before he finally stepped aside. (You can see why the plotters wanted to strike before the ceremony, as they already had the Duke of Iron under their control.)
What this meant, in practical terms, was that Alicia, the sole survivor of her family, was legally a minor child (at 24!) when her father and brother died.
Randor’s solution to this problem was to take Alicia as his ward, install her as a ‘guest’ within his castle and appoint agents to run the Barony until he saw fit to allow her to return. This gave him great power over her, up to and including arranging her marriage to suit himself. The prospect of Alicia’s hand in marriage was enough to keep a number of minor nobles dancing on his strings for a couple of years. Indeed, Alicia was far more helpless than Alassa. She wouldn’t be inheriting the throne, nor did she have any powerful friends. Alicia was never courted for her support because all the power rested in Randor’s hands.
Randor, who had grown increasingly paranoid and sadistic since his betrayal and near-death in Lessons, eventually seduced Alicia himself. This was not a healthy relationship. The part of him that wanted to make his enemies suffer loved watching Alicia make the decision to degrade herself, in the hopes that he would eventually give her back her birthright. Randor assumed, with very good reason, that there would be no long-term consequences. He had plenty of time to choose Alicia’s husband, organise the Barony to ensure Alicia’s hands would be tied and generally keep his dominant position within the kingdom.
At this point, two months prior to the opening of Wedding Hells, Alicia realised she was pregnant. And Randor was the father.
Randor had assumed, based on the simple fact that he’d only sired one child (legitimate or otherwise), that Alicia wouldn’t get pregnant. He certainly didn’t bother to take any precautions! Indeed, he was only vaguely aware of the pregnancy – he didn’t believe the signs the maids noticed – until the truth accidentally came out, plunging him into a dangerous crisis.
He wanted a son, wanted one very much. It wouldn’t be hard to fiddle the politics so Alicia became his wife, giving her unborn child legitimacy. But this ran the risk of a clash with his daughter. Alassa, a confirmed Crown Princess, was a formidable magician in her own right, engaged to a fully-trained combat sorcerer, best friends with the most terrifying person on the Nameless World … and very well-placed to serve as the focus for all the anti-Randor feeling that had re-emerged since the failed coup. The prospect of a male child palled compared to the danger of a civil war he might well lose, one that would plunge the kingdom into chaos.
And even if he won, even if he managed to give the unborn child some semblance of legitimacy, it would be at least sixteen years before the child could take the throne. A lot could happen in sixteen years. There was a very strong possibility that someone would bump him off in the intervening years.
At this point, Randor folded his cards and arranged a reasonably decent match for Alicia.
He had good reason to be mad at Emily for forcing his hand. The prospect of a civil war forced him to cut all ties with the unborn child; ensuring that Alicia’s husband would accept the child meant that he wouldn’t have complete control over the Barony or Alicia after her match. Randor had no strong feelings for Alicia, but it galled him to let her go in a manner he didn’t choose. It hardened his determination to bring Emily firmly under his control, which led to ultimate disaster in Wedding Hells.
Obviously, this situation will cast a long shadow over the future of Zangaria.
Historically, this has happened more than once. Henry II, the first true Plantagenet King, was reputed to have seduced his son’s intended bride, who was living with him at the time. This was, of course, more unlucky for the girl than her seducer (although she did have a happy ending of sorts, well away from the Demon’s Brood.)