Snippet–The Family Shame

7 Mar

It will be a while until i write the rest of this, but this scene was going through my head.


It was a truth often acknowledged, Lord Carioca Rubén thought grimly, that House Rubén was the oldest Great House in Shallot. House Rubén could trace its linage all the way back to the Senatorial Families of the Golden City, a claim that none of the other Great Houses could make. Indeed, House Rubén was also the only Great House to cling to the customs and traditions of a long-vanished world that had, as far as the rest of the city was concerned, outlived their usefulness long ago. He’d seen it, once, as proof they were different, that they were born to eventually take supreme power.

Now, the traditions were a noose around his neck.

He stood in the centre of the Chamber of Judgement, his hands clasped behind his back as the arbiters took their places. Their faces were concealed behind black cloaks and powerful wards, their identities hidden even from the Patriarch himself. They would be men, of course, but beyond that …? Carioca understood the logic behind the tradition – he would have tried to bribe or threaten the arbiters, if he knew who they were – and at one point he would have supported it. Now … he would gladly throw tradition out of the window, if it would save his daughter’s life. He’d been very lucky that Isabella simply hadn’t been executed on the spot.

“We have discussed the matter of Isabella Rubén at great length,” the lead arbiter said. His voice was muffled by the wards. No one, not even the other arbiters, would know who he was. A friend, an enemy … or merely someone who’d lost confidence in Carioca’s leadership? “It is beyond doubt that she committed treason, against both the family and the kingdom itself. And that she acted without direction from a senior member of our family.”

Carioca felt his heart clench. Isabella wouldn’t have been expected to defy a senior member of the family, if he’d ordered her to follow his instructions. She was twelve. She wasn’t expected to make decisions for herself. If she had even a flimsy excuse to blame her actions on someone older, wiser and more powerful than herself …

“Worse, she chose to ally herself with Stregheria Aguirre,” the arbiter continued. “It is impossible to believe that she thought she was acting in the best interests of the family, or even that she was trying to secure the family’s future in the event of Crown Prince Henry’s coup suceeding. Isabella would have claimed power over the remainder of the Great Houses, assuming Stregheria Aguirre actually honoured her side of the agreement, but there would be little left to rule. House Rubén would be left broken in the wake of the coup.”

And the House War, Carioca thought. Stregheria Aguirre had laid her plans well. She’d played Isabella like a puppet. And, because she was an Aguirre, there was no way Isabella could be forgiven for allying with her. House Aguirre was the enemy. She thought she had no choice.

He winced, inwardly. Any father whose child turned against the family was a failure as a parent. That much was undeniable. How much of what had happened was his fault? Perhaps, if he’d been a stricter or a more attentive parent, Isabella would never have looked elsewhere for validation. Perhaps, if he’d fought for her right to succeed him as Patriarch, she wouldn’t have felt she needed to step outside the family line for power. Isabella was his daughter. How could she not be ambitious? But even he could not overturn centuries of tradition. He hadn’t even realised he needed to try until it was too late.

“If Isabella was a grown woman, she would have been executed by now,” the arbiter stated, flatly. “Treason is a serious offense. The king has already executed a number of Crown Prince Henry’s supporters, even members of the highest nobility. As it is, considering her age, we have decided to be merciful.”

Carioca wasn’t relieved. Mercy was a word with many meanings. Isabella was too young to be executed, perhaps, but there was no way she could be saved from punishment. He’d been lucky to escape being summarily stripped of his title himself. If he hadn’t been a war hero, if Caitlyn Aguirre hadn’t made her proposal to end the House War – and the endless feud – he might have lost everything. As it was, there was no guarantee that his son would be able to succeed him. The family council might choose to elect someone else in his place.

And the king will be demanding some punishment, he thought, grimly. Too many noblemen – and army officers – had backed Crown Prince Henry’s bid for the throne. It had been sheer luck that the original plan had had to be replaced at short notice. He cannot let a known traitor get away with it.

“Isabella will be sent into exile,” the arbiter informed him. “We have decided that Kirkhaven Hall will make a suitable home for her until we see fit to recall her from exile.”

“I protest,” Carioca said, immediately. “Kirkhaven Hall is no place for a young girl.”

“She will not be alone,” the arbiter said.

“But there will be no one of her age there,” Carioca said. He was all too aware that he was coming close to pleading. “She will …”

“She is being punished,” the arbiter said. “A few years in exile will teach her a lesson and satisfy the king. Should she comport herself in a manner that suggests she has learnt something from the experience, she will eventually be allowed to return to the city.”

But what she did will never be forgotten, Carioca thought, glumly. Too many people knew the truth for it to be forgotten, even if he bribed or threatened people into silence. House Rubén had enemies. They’d drag the matter up every time they needed to weaken the family’s reputation still further. Isabella will never live it down.

He stared into the arbiter’s hooded face and knew there was no point in arguing. The family demanded its pound of flesh. Isabella had betrayed them, a crime that could never be forgiven. Scheming to become Patriarch was one thing, but actually planning to ruin the entire family was quite another. There were few worse crimes. Carioca’s enemies might take pleasure in putting a knife in his back, while he was weak, but even his allies would agree that Isabella needed to be punished. Sending her into exile, cutting her off from the friends and family she’d need to make a name for herself, was harsh. Her future prospects would be utterly ruined.

As if they weren’t anyway, Carioca thought. Who would want her to marry into their family now?

“Isabella will leave tomorrow morning,” the arbiter said, firmly. “You will not be permitted to talk to her before her departure, nor will you write to her without the family council’s approval. Should you attempt to contact her secretly, her exile may be extended and your own position will be subject to examination.”

Carioca gritted his teeth, wondering – again – who was under the hood. One of his enemies, definitely. The list was a depressingly long one. He’d stood on too many toes during his rise to power. And now he was weak, someone had decided to have a go at him. If he didn’t try to contact Isabella, his fitness as a father – and Patriarch – would be called into question. But if he did try to contact his daughter, his enemies would have all the excuse they needed to strip him of his position. He could not win.

“I understand,” he said.

Isabella would not have an easy time of it. Kirkhaven Hall was in the highlands, right on the border with Galashiels. There were only a couple of people living there, both of whom had been sent into exile themselves long ago. Isabella would have books, of course, and plenty of room to practice her magic, but her education would suffer. And she would be unable to build the circle of patronage that any young person needed to make something of themselves in adult life. She would be alone, in a very real sense, for the rest of her life.

But at least she will be alive, he told himself. And, one day, she will return to us.

But he knew that day would be a very long time in coming.


19 Responses to “Snippet–The Family Shame”

  1. Barb Caffrey March 7, 2018 at 8:42 am #

    This is great, Chris. I can’t wait to see the rest of it, when the time comes to write it…absolutely wonderful.

  2. George Phillies March 7, 2018 at 2:20 pm #

    A fine opening. Ruben might try to recall who all is in Kirkhaven Hall at this point, at least at the ‘magicians who are more powerful than my daughter and prone to attempting to molest her’ level. Perhaps there is only a staff of servants. Perhaps at the mention of Kirkhaven hall an image would come to mind’s eye.

  3. stephen wilson March 7, 2018 at 7:57 pm #

    Hey Chris, You must not get a lot of sleep, with so many stories floating around in that noggin of yours. Have you thought of having books as a service.

  4. Billy March 7, 2018 at 10:17 pm #

    You are like a Artist, painting a picture using words instead of paint.

    • chrishanger March 18, 2018 at 8:44 am #

      Thank you!

      I hope the rest of the story lives up to that


  5. George Phillies March 7, 2018 at 10:50 pm #

    Trying to contact her, with the family council supervising, might be a safe course showing that he cares about his daughter and that he accepts family rules.

    • Ann March 7, 2018 at 11:32 pm #

      Easy out.
      Her brother and mother writes to her carrying messages from her father. So no defiance on direct contact but parental and brotherly communication.
      Carioca could also pay someone else to go there as a mentor for her. Her future might be clouded in her present country under present leadership but there are other countries.

    • chrishanger March 18, 2018 at 8:44 am #

      That would be considered against the rules, though entirely understandable.


  6. Dani March 7, 2018 at 11:32 pm #

    > Should she comport herself in a manner…

    Carioca’s enemies will be motivated to help her fail – perhaps by offering other exiles there a path home. Whether he contacts her directly or not, Carioca may need to make sure there are people there on her side.

    > The Family Shame

    The Alchemist’s Apprentice seemed more promising. Reading about someone who is on her way up is more satisfying than reading about someone trying to arrest or reverse a fall. And Isabella was a not a fully-realized character in the first trilogy, so a reader may not be disposed to care one way or the other about her rehabilitation.

    • Ann March 7, 2018 at 11:34 pm #

      Its Chris’s challenge to get us to care and her story.

      • Dani March 8, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

        That is true, but it is true regardless of the protagonist or her circumstances.

      • chrishanger March 18, 2018 at 8:46 am #

        Thank you! I will do my best


  7. Ann March 8, 2018 at 11:58 pm #

    One way Chris might play it is for the Prince to have approached her rather than the bitch. Serving the Prince is much more reasonable than a family rival and once hooked she could’ve been partly coerced by threats against her family. She could’ve been victimised by others more powerful than her and trapped by her mistakes..

    • chrishanger March 18, 2018 at 8:46 am #

      No, the Great Aunt approached her, convinced her that they had something in common (a lie Isabella was inclined to believe) and eventually got her to help. Being twelve, Isabella didn’t think through all the implications first.


  8. WilliamP March 24, 2018 at 2:54 am #

    Having just finished The Zero Equation I’m happy to read Isabella’s story next. Hopefully you will also write Cat and Co’s adventure to Hangchow as well.

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