Marriage Amongst Magicians: Betrothals, Courtships and Engagements

8 Mar

Like our own world, attitudes to sex and marriage vary widely on the Nameless World. What holds true for commoners does not necessarily hold true for aristocrats or magicians. In particular, magicians have (generally) a more progressive attitude to female equality and sexuality in general, a consequence of both female and homosexual magicians possessing power. However, they also have a strong belief in magical bloodlines – in particular, the need to bring fresh blood into the family.

Magicians are not generally concerned about virginity or lack thereof. They do tend to be a little more concerned about children born out of wedlock, as such child sometimes have a claim on family magics or resources. (Void not acknowledging a daughter would make perfect sense to the patriarchs and matriarchs.) A marriage is not so much a way of gaining access to sex as a way of signalling a commitment to raise a family.

The approval of the families (at least of the patriarchs and matriarchs) is generally considered important. A match between two magicians of little significance is likely to go unnoticed, but a match between important magicians can cause problems. The families might already be closely related, or they might have a long-term feud, or one family might be hoping the other will prop it up. Melissa’s marriage would have put a great deal of (eventual) power into her husband’s hands, hence Fulvia’s attempt to dictate who she married. Magicians who elope may be cut off and formally disowned.

There are few limits on who magicians can marry. First cousin marriages are forbidden and second cousin marriages are frowned upon. Parents (and Family Heads) are expected to have a hand in arranging the first marriage, although afterwards their children are considered free entities. To some extent, there is some stigma attached to magicians who choose not to have biological children – a homosexual couple would be expected to find a lesbian couple and make private arrangements or a host mother.

An Engagement is agreed upon by two young or middle-aged magicians who have fallen in love and wish to build a life together. Both magicians will seek the approval of the other’s family – if approval is refused, the magicians can elope and get married anyway … at the risk of being cut off from their family. (This isn’t that much of a threat – a trained magician can make money anywhere.) The formal ceremony is simple, after which they’re married.

A Betrothal is an arranged match between two magicians, planned by the patriarchs and matriarchs. Although these can be planned at any age, they are rarely completely serious (they’re really minor bargaining chips) until the magicians reach marriageable age. At that point, the marriage is usually arranged as soon as possible … assuming both magicians agree to the match. Trying to force a magician into a match can be dangerous, but the patriarchs and matriarchs are quite willing to use all kinds of pressure to convince their children and grandchildren to agree. And someone who doesn’t agree may be disowned, which is – at least in part – a tacit admission that the family as a whole isn’t to blame. (That’s why Markus was kicked out of his family.)

Void received quite a number of requests for Emily’s hand, which he ignored.

In some ways, a Courtship is a cross between an Engagement and a Betrothal.

Like an Engagement, it is started by one of the partners; like a Betrothal, it involves the families right from the start. (Part of the reason it has largely gone out of favour by SIM is that quite a few people regard it as a cumbersome relic.) In many ways, it is an attempt to prove that the active partner (the one who starts it) is sincere in working towards marriage; his parents have already given their approval, he’s willing to open his heart to his partner. And yet, either partner can break it off at will prior to actually exchanging vows.

The current generation of magicians will see a Courtship as either a touching romantic gesture or proof that the active partner is an idiot. There is no guarantee that, upon the first approach being made, that the passive partner will accept it. (Arguably, Caleb muffed up the process … although I don’t think he’s complaining.) If it goes wrong, it can cause bad feelings that linger for generations.


Once a match is agreed, magicians generally broker a marriage agreement between the happy couple and their families. (A couple that elopes might not bother, as they are no longer linked to their family.) The agreement generally formalises the terms of the match and settles the couple’s relative position within the family.

If Markus had married Imaiqah, for example, she would always be considered a subordinate member of the Ashfall Family because she has no magical family of her own. There would be secrets that would never be shared with her, even though they would be shared with her children. Imaiqah would be in a very poor position to bargain. If she separated from Markus, she might well lose formal ties to any children. (Markus would presumably fight for her – and, as he was the Heir, would be in a good position to bargain.)

If Melissa had married Gaius, she would be the formal matriarch (assuming the family chose her) but she would have less power over her husband. Gaius has too many other ties to the Ashworths. To add insult to injury, the agreement would have been written by Fulvia and Gaius’s father, not Melissa herself. She wouldn’t be in a very good place to bargain or demand changes.

(Jade and Alassa are actually a mingled set of traditions … which makes any agreement very complicated indeed.)

Emily and Caleb, as of the end of The Sergeant’s Apprentice, are actually in a bit of a mess. Caleb was not the Heir, so his parents let him open the Courtship without (much) concern for the future. If it succeeded, well and good; if it failed, they lost nothing. Caleb wouldn’t be in a position to inherit, so there would be no concerns about Emily’s suitability. Now, Caleb is the Heir and there is a big question mark over just how Casper died. Nasty tongues wonder if Emily gave him a push in the hopes of clearing the way for her lover.

Assuming Emily and Caleb stay together long enough to get married, they’ll draft out an agreement and get it approved by Caleb’s parents. (Void technically has a say too, but Emily didn’t take that too seriously.) If the agreement is not approved, Caleb will have to decide if he wants to be Heir more than Emily’s husband.


29 Responses to “Marriage Amongst Magicians: Betrothals, Courtships and Engagements”

  1. Glen Romero March 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm #

    You have really put more thought into this than can be reasonable added to the books. It is mentioned but there is more to it than that.

    • chrishanger March 9, 2017 at 6:48 pm #


      There’s a lot of background stuff that will probably never get into the books


  2. Jared March 8, 2017 at 3:21 pm #

    it will be interesting to see what happens. Dispite comon belief Emily doesn’t come from the same set of traditions. And there is bound to be tension when General Pollocks expectations clash with Emily’s. And that doesn’t include outside opinions and or pressure

  3. G March 8, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    Thanks for the added info…what happens with property rights? Does each party keep ownership of assets, to pass eventually to children, or does the head of the house expect to control everything? A couple of questions–could general pollack expect to control Heartseye?? How does Emily being a Baroness and outranking house Waterfall change things? And in the European history, exiled aristocrats still maintained ownership of lands and revenues, with money sent to them by their stewards–Emily would still be getting income from her estates (once a noble, always a noble unless found guilty of treason and executed–and even then children often still inherited like the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Essex in England).Technically, Emily still substantially outranks House Waterfall and is the more powerful sorcerer…

    • darkpoint March 8, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      Good questions.

      I also would like to know, how much the main family of House Waterfall can influence the marriage agreement and Emily’s position in the family.

      I guess, Emily must finally make some important decisions in the next two books:

      – Who will she choose as her master / mistress for her apprenticeship?
      – If she really wants to become a Mediator she must renounce her title as baroness. Just being in exile isn’t enough. As a Mediator she can have no obligations to Zangaria.
      – When Caleb started the courtship he mentioned that its duration is normally two years. This means she must decide if she wants to marry him, and marry into his family, at the latest in her sixth year (book 13).
      I always got the feeling, that she is a bit reluctant to bind herself to Caleb’s family. And Casper’s death will make everything harder for her.

    • chrishanger March 9, 2017 at 6:49 pm #

      It gets sorted out in the agreement.


  4. Bman366 March 8, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Interesting, so is going to be one of the central themes in Fists of Justice? Also do you around when the next audiobook is going to come out?

  5. Bman366 March 8, 2017 at 4:57 pm #

    Also, I think it would be strange in a world of cold logic to consider Emily killing Casper except solely out of spite or solely for Caleb’s sake. Most people still see Emily as a Child of their world and judge her as such. So to anyone who actually thinks about it, Emily is far more powerful and wealthy than anything that she would have to gain by killing Casper. On top of that anyone who knew Casper would know that he was as reckless as Emily seems to be without the excuse of having to navigate the Nameless World blind. Then again there are people whose sole interest is in seeing Emily fall. Also one other question, is the secret of Emily’s origins eventually going to leak out to the world at large?

    • darkpoint March 8, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

      I think, King Randor will be responsible for revealing her origins to the world. Maybe in SIM 15 – The Princess In The Tower or SIM 16 – The Once and Future Queen?

    • G March 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm #

      Excellent point–House Waterfall has no lands or real wealth–Emily does–what does she gain by Caleb becoming head?? Emily already has greater lands/wealth/power…

      • William Ameling March 9, 2017 at 3:53 am #

        If things start getting messy or strained enough with the other parts of House Waterfall regarding Caleb’s and particularly Emily’s status in House Waterfall about things like property and political status/power, Caleb could marry into House Cockatrice instead. Leaving his youngest brother or sisters as the Heir(s) to his parents’ part of House Waterfall. Caleb and Emily will have enough money and power of their own.
        Hopefully, it will not come to that.

        I would raise the issue of how Caleb’s and Emily’s marriage (if the Courtship succeeds) will affect the status of Beneficence (Caleb’s home city) since it is an independent City State that directly borders the Barony of Cockatrice and the Kingdom of Zangaria of which it (the Barony) is a part. Depending on the status of House Waterfall in Beneficence, their marriage could affect claims of independence by the City, since Emily is the ruler (in Exile) of it’s direct neighbor,

        Judging by the map and comments I seem to recall, I think that the land on the other side of Beneficence from Cockatrice is independent of Zangaria. However, I do not think we know who is control of that land, House Waterfall perhaps? (not likely, but possible). Since Caleb’s mother is a Mediator she is only loyal to the Allied Lands as a whole, and this may be true of General Pollack as well.

    • chrishanger March 9, 2017 at 6:50 pm #

      You’re using logic and reason

      Someone might argue, for example, that Emily would be marrying beneath herself … as long as Casper, not Caleb, is the Heir. Which is true, from a certain point of view.

      Or they might assume that Emily did it to please Caleb. Or …

      People will talk, sadly.


  6. William Ameling March 9, 2017 at 4:00 am #

    I do strongly suspect that that King Randor of Zangaria would love to get control of the City State of Beneficence into his Kingdom. So that could be one more cause of friction between him and Emily, as long as he remains King. However, even Alassa as eventual Queen could have problems with Beneficence either directly, or as a result of pressure from her Barons.

  7. nrere March 10, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    I love that we get background informations and details about the SIM world! 😀 Emily’s love life now became quite complicated. Also, people have already been talking about her, so there is no surprise but I wonder if now it will cause real problems for her. With Caspers’s death (poor guy I started to like him at the end of book 11) I wonder what will happen to Caleb and Emily. I hope the will be together. Though, Caleb did say at one point that he would elope with Emily, so I guess that’s a possibility too. Not likely, but still. From reading the comments I guess it is highly probable that they will get married sooner or later. Well, I’m veeery curious!

    (It’s not part of this topic and maybe it has been mentioned before but Emily introduced a lot of new ideas and devices. Very practical ones like stirrups. How come not the bicycles? Yesterday, I just pictured the old,grizzled sorcerers trying to either master or rein in the new “horses”. I mean, it was just so funny in my head :D)

    • William Ameling March 12, 2017 at 4:53 am #

      I think that she did think about bicycles at some point, probably in the first couple of books, but I do not remember where. Bicycles could even be useful for nonmagical military forces, i.e. musketmen/(riflemen someday). However, they are still somewhat dependent on roads, but so are wagons for cargo and supplies. Portals might be used for major supply dumps, but other means will needed to move supplies to the actual fighting front. Even cavalry are somewhat dependent, particularly large groups of them, on supply sources (warhorses need more than grass).

  8. Danna Micoletti March 10, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

    and Emily comes from a modern earth where titles, inherited property , heirs, mean little in a democratic society. She is also independent . Again not something the nameless world actually accepts in a fraternal based society where women , even a queen, is subordinate to men. and the Demon showed her what may cone to pass , which was her kissing someone and it was nor Caleb. It’ll be interesting to see here Chris takes this, with the events of Sergeants Apprentice. Emily can restart Nexus points, she can interact with them without a control system like Whitehall. She’s killed another necromancer, she owns Hearts Eye. She killed Master Grey, she introduced guns and cannons. She’s very very powerful at a very very young age. In everyone’s eyes on the nameless world, she’s grown very very dangerous. To dangerous for a feudal society that keeps control thru heredity ruling. The aristocrats, if their smart, will come at her sideways. / credentials can be used.

    • Danna Micoletti March 10, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

      and, she owes the Fairies a favor. Hearts Eye is like the Dark City where Emily meets the Fairies. lots to look forward to.

    • G March 11, 2017 at 12:24 am #

      If I recall from the 1st book, didn’t the charms master and the 1st year head both know Emily is from another world? Wouldn’t they tell Grandmaster Gordian??

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 11, 2017 at 12:41 am #

        I got the impression that the late Grandmaster requested that they not talk about Emily’s origins.

        Like Lady Barb, they may not see a reason to tell Grandmaster Gordian and Grandmaster Gordian believing he knows Emily’s origins has no reason to order them to give him the full story. 😉

      • Jared March 11, 2017 at 11:32 pm #

        I think the teachers have come to like and respect Emily. Certainly more then Grandmaster Gordian.

    • Jared March 11, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

      I figured Emily kissing Robert de Bold to be a full fillment of the demonic prophecy. But I agree with your other points.

      • Danna Micoletti March 12, 2017 at 9:10 pm #

        there’s kissing. and then there’s being kissed, I took it as the Demon showed her a possible future where Caleb isn’t her real love.

  9. Mark M May March 13, 2017 at 3:34 am #

    I was taken aback by the mention of Tacitus in SIM11 (as was Emily). It would be a major plot twist if Emily eventually became Empress. She would certainly try to get everyone pulling in the same direction against the necromancers. On the other hand, those opposing her would be even MORE constrained in their actions against her, thus allowing Chris to write many more books!!!!.

    • William Ameling March 24, 2017 at 1:48 am #

      I doubt very much that Emily will (or would want to) become Empress of a new Empire. If a new Empire gets formed, it will be Alassa as Empress. I do expect that we are heading for a 3rd Empire in the long run. Emily does not have the training, experience or the desire to become ruler of a 3rd Empire, and would not be very good in such a role. It could only happen if a LOT of other people, including Alassa, died.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 24, 2017 at 2:06 am #

        Well, remember that Emily is the “Child of Destiny” and there’s mention in SIM 11 of the “Sword of Silver”. IE, the Sword of the Emperor.

        Emily, the Child of Destiny, gave Alassa and Jade a very very old sword.

        I’m wondering if that sword was the “Sword of Silver”. 😀

  10. Mark M May March 13, 2017 at 3:35 am #

    Chris: any idea yet on pre-reading SIM 12 on WordPress?

    • William Ameling March 26, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

      Emily got that sword from the estate of Master Grey after she defeated and killed him in the duel. Where Master Grey got it we have no idea, either he inherited it, or he got from the estate of one of those he defeated and killed while in the Dueling League, including several (at least) years as the top rated duelist in the League.

      I think that Alassa will likely be Queen(Empress) of a reformed Empire (3rd) and I did wonder about Emily giving it as a wedding present. After Jade unwrapped, he said it had a set of “An interesting set of very old charms”. Emily realized that Jade did not know that it had come from Master Grey. If Master Grey had inherited it, he might have known it’s history (whatever it is), but maybe not. We will have to wait and see what Chris has planned.

      I have mentioned this once before: once Alassa has borne her baby and the next in line of succession, then there will be a lot of people, including quite likely her father, who would like to see her die and will try to make it happen. Alassa and Jade will have to be VERY careful with her safety.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 26, 2017 at 11:53 pm #

        All we know about the sword is that Lady Barb thinks that it may date to the early days of the Empire.

        As for Jade and Alessa, well Chris is BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!

        Drat! I forgot about the Snerk Collar!

  11. William Ameling March 27, 2017 at 5:55 am #

    Well it sounds like it “might” be the Sword of Silver. We will definitely have to wait and see, but it will be quite a while before we find out, since Alassa is not even Queen of Zangaria yet, and I would expect her to spend some time as Queen before moving up to Empress. Most likely a new Empire will be needed to fight the Necromancers and/or the Faerie.

    Regarding Alassa, plotters for political power love to have long regencies if they think can be on (or control from behind the scenes) the Regency Council after they get rid of King Randor as well as Alassa after she has her baby. One critical question, would Jade, assuming he survives, be on the Regency Council for his child by Alassa, assuming Alassa and Randor are dead? I am sure such a contingency should have covered in the wedding agreement considering how long it probably was. Another question, I know Randor would not want this, but Alassa would want it, would Emily be on such a Regency Council? (This might have been in the original wedding agreement, before Emily refused to do what King Randor wanted).

    I know this may never happen, but people who live in cultures with powerful Royalty like the Nameless World, would almost certainly worry about it happening. It is also not the way I expect things to go, but Chris can certainly surprise us. It would be very hard to reform the Empire around a very young minor Heir, if Alassa and Randor were both dead.

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