As I noted, the end of Lloyd Alexander’s The Kestrel had left Our Heroes, or, really, at this point, anti-heroes, in a tense and unstable political situation. As The Beggar Queen begins, this situation has really not improved all that much.
Worse, Cabbarus, only a lingering threat in The Kestrel, has decided that it is time to return—this time with money and troops. Meanwhile, harvests are failing, people are shooting one another, and Mickle, the queen, is responding to all this by making plans to dredge a harbor, plans that Theo, the main protagonist, correctly points out will never get used. Not surprisingly, Theo’s main wish is to chuck it and just go on a picnic.