Snippet– The Family Pride

11 Jun

Here we go …

Prologue

When I was a child, one rule was drummed into me from the very start. Anything, for the family. It was a very clear rule. The family was my home, my tribe. It sheltered me, protected me, empowered me. And, in exchange for everything it gave me, I was to always put the family first. I could leave, if I wished, but if I left I gave up everything. The family came first. Always.

Isabella, my twin sister, and I had grown up together, told – practically since birth – that we were expected to be a team, against both the outside world and the family itself. The family might show a united front to outsiders – Father had made that very clear, during his long and tedious lectures on politics and family loyalties – but we bickered amongst ourselves in a constant, genteel struggle for power. My sister and I – as the Patriarch’s sole children – were expected to inherit, yet we could lose that position in a moment if we showed ourselves unworthy. In truth, I wasn’t sure I cared. Isabella might enjoy the drive for power, she might strive to establish herself as a leader amongst our generation … I did not. I was always more interested in forging, and magic, than playing power games. It didn’t matter if I wanted to inherit or not. I was going to inherit anyway. Father had it all under control.

I was ten years old, a year short of going to Jude’s for the first time, when I finally realised just how far apart Isabella and I had become.

It was a long hot summer, dominated by endless lessons from our teachers and supervised playdates with children from other aristocratic families. The games might have been fun, if they weren’t so tightly controlled; I might have enjoyed it, just a little, if we’d been allowed to run free, like children who had no aristocratic parents to disappoint. Instead, we were expected to act like miniature adults, demonstrating our manners on one hand and our magic on the other. The playdates were boring. I found myself sneaking off as soon as possible. It was worth the lecture from Father just to be alone for a few short hours.

I was sitting in my study, reading a book on advanced forging techniques, when Isabella burst into the room. I looked up, alarmed. We’d both practiced unlocking the other’s door, but it was generally understood that neither of us would actually enter the room without permission. Our bedrooms were ours, the only rooms in the mansion that were truly private. Even our Governess was supposed to knock. There had been times when I’d kept my mouth firmly closed, when she knocked on the door, and waited for her to go away. It worked. Sometimes.

Isabella and I looked alike, naturally, but – as we grew older – we had started to diverge. Her blonde hair, the same colour as mine, hung down in a single long braid, while mine was cropped close to my skull. Her blue eyes, I fancied, were a little sharper than mine, although our parents claimed they were identical. The green dress she wore was a copy of one of Mother’s gowns, a dress so complex that it was difficult to put it on without magic; I, thankfully, was allowed to wear shirts and trousers. Isabella couldn’t wear trousers. The old ladies of the family would throw their hands up in horror at the mere thought, then subject her to very astringent criticism. A young lady of House Ruben wearing trousers? What was the world coming to? Horror of horrors!

“Akin!” Isabella looked flushed, as if she had been running. “You have to help me!”

I stood up, glancing out the opened door. I half-expected to see Madame McGinty – our Governess, a woman who would explode with fury if we forgot to call her Madame – charging down the corridor in a towering rage. Isabella had been picking fights with the governess more and more as we grew older, constantly struggling against the governess’s dictates as she fought to establish herself as a young girl. I was on her side, naturally. Madame McGinty was not a nice woman. But the corridor was empty.

The door closed at my command. “What happened?”

Isabella held up a book. “I … ah … borrowed this,” she said. “You have to help me.”

I swallowed, hard. “You … you took that from Father’s bookcase?”

Isabella nodded, her head bobbing so rapidly that her braid swung loose. I stared, unable to help myself. Father had made it clear that we were not to touch the books on his private bookcase. Some of them could be very dangerous to the unprepared. I had no idea how Isabella had managed to circumvent the locking charms, let alone steal the book without being frozen in place or zapped into a frog or having something unpleasant happen to her. She’d always been better at charms than I, yet Father was much older and far more experienced. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked with my Father – he was always busy, managing the family – but I had a healthy respect for his powers. He’d been practicing magic for longer than I’d been alive.

“He’ll kill you,” I said, horrified. Not literally, I hoped, but Isabella would be in a lot of trouble. Father would hit the roof. Isabella would be grounded for so long that her grandchildren would still be trapped in her bedroom. “Why did you …?”

Isabella met my eyes, her blue eyes wide. “I had to know.”

I winced in perfect understanding. We had been taught to be curious, to study magic and develop our knowledge as far as possible. It seemed almost a crime to ignore books, even ones that were dangerous. I’d read hundreds of textbooks and tomes that had been intended for older children, although I hadn’t been permitted to try any of the spells. I understood perfectly why Isabella would want to read a forbidden text. They were forbidden. That was half of the fun!

“He’s coming,” Isabella said. She was always pale, but now she was so white that her skin looked almost translucent. “He’ll find me and …”

Her voice trailed off. Isabella was already in trouble. She’d mouthed off to Madame McGinty earlier in the day and the Governess had not been pleased. Mother wasn’t going to be pleased either, when she came home from her society meeting. It really would not do to have a young lady showing anything less than the proper respect … Mother would be angry and Isabella would be grounded and it was a horrible ghastly mess.

“What can I do?” I looked at the book. The title was faded, which meant it was old and probably very rare. “Isabella …”

“Tell Father you took the book,” Isabella said. “Please.”

I blinked. “You want me to lie to Father?”

“He’ll kill me,” Isabella pleaded. “But he won’t kill you.”

I heard the bitter frustration in her voice and winced. Isabella would never be Heir Primus, let alone Matriarch. House Ruben was always led by a Patriarch. I might inherit my father’s titles and position, but Isabella … the best she could hope for was marrying into a position of power. She would have power, I’d been assured, just as Mother had power … it wouldn’t be hers. It was a sad irony of our lives that I, who didn’t want power, was going to inherit it. And my sister would never have power in her own right.

I would have traded places. Yes, I would have done. Isabella actually wanted the power.

“He won’t kill you,” I pointed out. “The worst that will happen is that you get grounded …”

“Yeah, but I have to attend the Lancet Party,” Isabella said. “It’s the event of the year, before school. I have to go, just to solidify alliances …”

I rolled my eyes. Yes, I knew alliances were important. Yes, I knew it was vital to have friendships before we went to school. Yes, I knew that who one knew could be very important in later life … but I didn’t really care. I’d been surrounded by sycophants for most of my life. Isabella, on the other hand, was determined to be a social queen. She’d started training for the role at a very young age.

“Please, Akin,” Isabella pleaded. “I need this. I’ll repay you …”

There was a solid knock on the door. I blanched, feeling my stomach starting to churn. Only one person knocked like that, only one. Father. I looked at Isabella, at my sister’s pleading face, and made up my mind. I took the book, then cast a simple spell. The door opened. My father stepped into the room.

“Akin, Isabella.” His voice was very calm, so calm I knew he was angry. My father rarely showed any display of temper. “Would one of you care to explain …?”

I held up the book. “It was my fault, Father.”

Father eyed me for a long moment, his face utterly implacable. I couldn’t tell if he believed me or not. I wasn’t a good liar and Father had been running the family since well before I was born. But his face showed no trace of his feelings. Isabella was going to owe me big. I made a mental note to ensure that she paid through the nose.

“Your fault,” Father said, slowly. “And why did you take the book?”

“I was curious.” I could have kicked myself. I hadn’t thought to take a look at the book before Father had arrived. I could have come up with a convincing reason to borrow the book if only I knew the subject. “It was the first I touched.”

“Indeed.” Father’s gaze moved from me to Isabella and back again. “Give it to me.”

I held out the book. Father took it, his eyes never leaving my face. I knew, with a sickening certainty, that he knew I was lying. But he said nothing.

“I’m sorry, Father.” My voice shook, although I wasn’t sure if I was afraid or angry at Isabella for getting me into this mess. “I just wanted to know.”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” Father said, quietly.

“Satisfaction brought it back.” Isabella gave him a charming smile. “Father …”

I shot her a sharp look. This wasn’t the time to be flippant. It never was, when Father was concerned, but now was a particularly bad time.

Father gave her a stern look. “I believe Madame McGinty is looking for you, young lady.”

“Oh,” Isabella said.

“And you can go find her, afterwards,” Father continued. “Akin, I am very disappointed in you.”

I looked down. “Yes, Father.”

“You will report to my office after dinner, where we will discuss your punishment.” Father’s voice brooked no disobedience. “And you will remain in your room until dinner.”

“Yes, Father.”

Father studied me for a long moment. I was fairly sure he knew that ordering me to stay in my room wasn’t much of a punishment. I had books to read, experiments to plan … and a perfect excuse to avoid everyone until dinnertime. Cousins Francis and Bernard had been nagging me to play hide-and-seek with them. I liked them both, but they were a bit much when I was trying to study.

“Good,” Father said. “And the next time you want to read one of my books, ask first.”

He turned and swept out of the room. The door closed behind him with a sharp thud. I sensed the spell a moment later, keeping me firmly in my room. Anyone else could come and go as they wished, but I … I was stuck, until Father lifted the spell. I …

Isabella gave me a hug. “Thank you, thank you,” she said. “I owe you my life!”

“Hah,” I muttered. I hugged her back, very briefly. Dramatics aside, it was nice to know our relationship wasn’t totally lost. “Anything, for the family.”

Chapter One

The corridor leading to my father’s office seemed endless.

Isabella and I used to joke, in happier times, that Father used magic to deliberately extend the corridor. It wasn’t impossible. House Ruben was so old that magic had seeped into the very bones of the mansion. The inside was bigger than the outside, in places; there were staircases that went up to be the basement and corridors that twisted in odd ways, threatening to go in directions the human mind couldn’t grasp. Father could have extended the corridor for miles, if he had wished, but I doubted it. I simply didn’t want to reach the far end.

I felt my heart pounding in my chest as I made my way along the corridor. Isabella and I – and all the other children – had been told, in no uncertain terms, that we were not to enter the office floor unless we were specifically invited. And we were only invited when we were in trouble. I didn’t think I’d done anything that might get me in trouble, certainly not in the last few weeks of summer, but … I couldn’t help reviewing everything that had happened, wondering what Father might have found offensive. Perhaps someone had seen Cat and I exchanging brief kisses, when we’d last met. We might be betrothed, yet there were limits to how far we could go. We’d been chaperoned, but …

That was two weeks ago, I reminded myself. Father would have told me off by now, if he was going to tell me off at all.

I pushed the thought aside as I came to the first set of family portraits. The first one showed my parents, Lord Carioca Rubén and Lady Jeannine Rubén, on their wedding day. I stopped to look at them for a long moment, before heading on. Everyone said my father and I looked alike, but I couldn’t see it. Father was taller and more dignified than I would ever be. The next portrait showed Isabella and I, as children. We’d been five when the portrait had been painted … I smiled, as I walked past a series of portraits, each one painted a year after the last. Isabella and I really had looked alike, back then. We’d joked that we could swap clothes and no one would notice the difference.

My good humour faded as I reached the eleventh portrait. It was the last one that showed Isabella, before her disgrace. She looked young and pretty, dressed in her school uniform … I swallowed, hard, as I remembered the House War and Isabella’s role in it. She’d betrayed the family, she’d thrown her lot in with Stregheria Aguirre … she whose name was never spoken. Isabella had been young, young enough to avoid execution, but not young enough to avoid punishment. My sister had been in exile for the last six years. I’d only seen her once, in all that time. Her letters had been upbeat – reading between the lines, I thought she’d found something to do with herself – but something was missing. A little of her fire, her passion for life, her determination to be great, had died with Stregheria Aguirre.

And the Crown Prince, I thought. He died too.

I swallowed, hard, at the thought. I’d killed the Crown Prince, with the family sword. It was currently resting in a scabbard attached to my back, the scabbard charmed to make the sword difficult to see unless someone’s attention was drawn – specifically – to its presence. I had the right to wear it – the blade had bonded to me, once Cat had repaired it – but not everyone liked the idea of me carrying a priceless Object of Power everywhere I went. It was silly – it wasn’t as if students my age didn’t know a handful of killing spells – yet … there was no point in arguing. Besides, the sword was – technically – a betrothal gift. It was going to get sticky if the betrothal fell through and Cat’s family demanded the sword back.

I touched the hilt – it felt reassuringly solid against my skin – and forced myself to walk further down the corridor. The portraits changed, showing me – and me alone. There was no sign of Isabella. I might as well be an only child, for all the acknowledgement my parents made of their daughter. She was lucky they’d kept her childhood portraits. I knew that some of the family elders had demanded they be destroyed. Isabella had betrayed the entire family. They would forgive a great deal, but not that.

And if they hadn’t pushed so hard, Father might have given them what they wanted, I thought, as I reached the final portrait. He couldn’t let them browbeat him into submission.

I stopped and stared up at the portrait. Cat and I stood together, flanked by both sets of parents. Cat’s sisters were missing, no doubt a diplomatic measure to conceal Isabella’s absence. We both looked older than we were, but … I smiled, feeling a rush of affection. I’d always known my parents would choose who I married, yet … I’d been lucky. Really, I would have been lucky if I’d known Cat.

My father’s door was solid wood. Privacy charms – some basic, some quite nasty – crawled across it, their mere presence daring me to tap the door. I braced myself, then lifted my hand and knocked. There was no sound, but I could feel the vibrations as they echoed through the ether. There was a long pause, just long enough for me to wonder if Father had been called away on short notice, before the door swung open. Uncle Davys stepped out.

“Akin,” he said, sternly.

“Senior.” I bowed, quickly. Uncle Davys – my father’s twin brother – was very insistent on proper protocol being followed at all times. It was no surprise to me that Cousin Francis was a little hellion. “Father summoned me …”

“Quite.” Uncle Davys didn’t sound pleased. I knew he’d been one of the loudest voices demanding that Isabella’s sentence be made permanent. “You may enter.”

He walked past me and strode down the corridor. I glared at his retreating back, resisting the urge to stick my tongue out at him. My father and his brother had fallen out long ago, before they’d married and had kids, but they couldn’t ignore each other. Uncle Davys had been the Heir Primus, until I was born; even now, he still had power and position within the family. I was surprised that Francis and I got on, most of the time. It helped, I suppose, that we were very different.

I turned and stepped into my father’s office. It was an immense room, the walls lined with mahogany and studded with bookcases and cupboards. Two comfortable armchairs rested in one corner, another was dominated by an oversized wooden desk and a chair that looked more like a throne. A large portrait of the entire family – Isabella included – hung from one wall. There were no windows. The light came from a handful of glowing crystals, embedded in the ceiling. I schooled my face into careful impassivity as my father stood to greet me. He looked tired, tired and old. For the first time, it struck me that my father really was old.

Not that old, I told myself as I bowed. He’s only in his early fifties.

“Akin.” My father sounded tired too. “Take a seat, please.”

He indicated the armchairs. I allowed myself to relax, slightly. If I’d been in trouble, I would never have been allowed to sit. I’d have had to stand in front of the desk and listen while he told me off for whatever I’d done. I sat, leaning back into the comfortable chair. My father sat on the other, resting his hands on his lap. Even when he was at home, even in his office, he wore fancy suits. It had never creased to puzzle me. No one would dare say a word if Father chose to wear something comfortable.

“You’re going back to Jude’s in a week,” Father said, shortly. There was never any small talk with him, not when he had something important to discuss. “Are you looking forward to it?”

“Yes, Father.” It was true. I was. I’d miss the mansion – and my private forgery – but I was learning a great deal at school. The chance to work with Magister Tallyman was not to be tossed aside lightly. I’d already started to plan how I’d ask him for an apprenticeship, after I finished my final year at school. “It should be fun.”

“You should be more concerned with your exams, not with fun.” Father made the word sound like a curse. “Your exam results will dominate the next decade of your life.”

“Yes, Father,” I said.

Father nodded, slowly. “You will be Head Boy, of course.”

I blinked. “What?”

“You will be Head Boy.” Father sounded irked. He didn’t like repeating himself. “You’ll share the honour with Alana Aguirre, who has been appointed Head Girl.”

“Father …” I stared at him. “Father, I didn’t ask to …”

“Of course not.” Father snorted, as if I’d said something stupid. “You are a Ruben, son, and Heir Primus. It would be surprising indeed if you weren’t Head Boy. It would be quite difficult, quite difficult indeed, if Alana had been a boy too …”

“I didn’t earn it,” I protested. “I don’t want it.”

“You don’t become Head Boy through merit,” Father pointed out, dryly. “And whether or not you want it doesn’t matter. You are going to be Head Boy, Son, and you are going to be good at it.”

“Father …”

My father held up his hand. “The decision has been made, Son, and favours have been called in. It cannot be changed.”

I scowled in mute resentment. Father hadn’t asked if I wanted it. Why would he bother? He’d been making decisions for me – and the rest of the family – for years. But then, if he’d asked me I would have said no. I didn’t want to be Head Boy.

Father met my eyes. “Are you feeling up to discussing this rationally?”

“Yes, Father.” It was hard to keep the anger out of my voice. I was seventeen, not a baby who couldn’t be trusted to keep his hand out of the fire. “Why?”

“You are aware, of course, that there have been some … rumbles … of discontent amongst the family,” Father said. “On one hand, they have been … concerned … about me and my rule ever since Isabella … left us. There have been suggestions whispered – and not very quietly either – that I am not up to the job. And, on the other hand, they have been deeply worried about the alliance between us and House Aguirre. They would prefer not to see the alliance become permanent.”

I frowned. “Father, House Aguirre has the only known Zero. They are …”

Father cut me off. “I am aware of the advantages” – he shot me a smile that made him look years younger – “and also of your … feelings … regarding your betrothed. I have no reason to doubt that a permanent alliance would be good for the family, for both families. Less so, of course, for the rest of the city.”

“But who cares about them?” I spoke with more bitterness than I intended. “The family comes first, always.”

“Quite.” My father studied his hands for a long moment. “They are also concerned about you.”

“Me?”

“You,” Father confirmed. “You have many strengths, Akin, but you also have weaknesses. There are … concerns that you are unable to manage the responsibilities that come with being Heir Primus and, eventually, Patriarch. And your betrothed has similar issues. It isn’t as if you’re betrothed to Alana.”

I blanched. I liked Cat – Caitlyn Aguirre – but Alana? She’d grown up a lot, in the years since I’d first met her, yet she still had a sharp edge and sharper tongue. She and Isabella had been very alike, in a great many ways. Isabella had envied Alana, as well as hated her. Alana didn’t have a family that stuck to the old traditions, even though they’d died with the Thousand-Year Empire. She could succeed her father and take control of her family. And I pitied the poor bloke who married her.

“I have the family sword,” I pointed out. I tapped the hilt, drawing his attention to the blade. “Doesn’t that prove something?”

“The family council would object, loudly, to the suggestion that receiving the sword as a betrothal gift qualifies you for anything,” Father countered. “You were merely the first one to touch the sword, after it was repaired. It could have been Francis or …”

“Or Isabella,” I finished. “She could have taken the sword.”

My Father’s face darkened, as it always did when my sister was mentioned. I knew he loved her, even though he found it hard to show it; I knew he regretted sending her away, even though he hadn’t been given a choice. He had to wonder, deep inside, if he’d failed as a father. His daughter had turned traitor. It was a wound that cut to the quick.

“Quite,” he said. “The family council is lining up possible candidates right now. We have to move fast.”

I leaned forward. “Why bother? I don’t want the job and …”

Father glared. “The family gives you many things,” he said. “You have safety and security, wealth and power and education” – he waved a hand in the vague direction of Water Shallot -“that the average commoner could never dream of having. The family gives you a showed and a shield so you may fight for the family. And in exchange, you will serve the family. It is your duty.”

“Yes, Father.” I did my best to hide the sarcasm in my tone. It might drive him over the edge. “Anything, for the family.”

The look Father gave me suggested that I hadn’t managed to hide the sarcasm. “You should know, by now, that everything has a price. And the price the family demands, for what it gives you, is service. It is your duty to complete your education, marry well and – eventually – lead the family.”

“And if I don’t want the job?” I pressed on before he could explode. “What if Cousin Shawn or Cousin Alcamo would do a better job?”

“Well” – Father’s voice dripped poison – “on one hand, that isn’t very loyal to our branch of the family tree. Is it? And, on the other hand, reshuffling the succession will cause all manner of resentments. There will be endless disputes over just who should succeed me if you refuse the honour. That would be very bad, would it not?”

I knew the right answer. “Yes, Father.”

Father eyed me. “And so you must prove yourself worthy of the title you carry before my enemies can muster enough votes to challenge the succession. You must do something that will convince the doubters that they can support your succession, rather than trying to unseat you before I die or retire. No one expects you to be me, not yet, but they do want to see signs of promise.”

It was hard not to give a sarcastic answer. “I don’t think that being Head Boy will be that impressive, not to them. How many strings did you pull to get me the job?”

Father seemed oddly pleased by my comment. “Too many. But you’re right. The family council will not be impressed. You’re going to do something else.”

I felt a flicker of fear. What could he have in mind? Marrying Cat clearly wasn’t good enough. Cat and I had been betrothed for years. The arrangement might be a legal fiction, at least on paper, but it couldn’t be dismissed. It had to be treated as real – as legitimate – right up until the point Cat and I grew old enough to marry … or say no. The fire-breathers who wanted to restart the House War couldn’t do anything until the betrothal was formally ended.

“It also has to be done quickly,” Father added. “There is a push, even amongst my allies, for you to be declared adult immediately after you leave school. Cat too, meaning that you will be expected to marry in a year or two. The ones who want to unseat you will have to act fast – and that means you’ll have to prove yourself this year too.”

I scowled. I knew the betrothal was important, but I didn’t want to think about it. “What do they want me to do? Fight a dragon?”

“No,” Father said. “You might fight a dragon, you might even kill a dragon, but that wouldn’t prove anything. Your detractors might even claim that just going out to fight a dragon is proof you’re an idiot. And they might be right. It would be very stupid.”

“Yes, Father,” I said.

Idiot would be the right word, I supposed. Dragons were nasty, immensely strong flying monsters that breathed fire and were practically immune to conventional weapons. Thankfully, they rarely flew into civilised lands, preferring to haunt the Desolation. Dragon hunters were amongst the bravest men in the world. They also had the highest death rates. It was rare for a man to stay in the profession after he’d brought down a single dragon. The skin alone would be more than enough to make him wealthy for life.

“You need to demonstrate the skills to run the family,” Father said. “Everything from strong and skilled magic to leadership and teamwork. And you have to do it in a year. Less than a year, really. You cannot fail.”

His voice was very firm. “You, Akin, are going become Wizard Regnant.”

19 Responses to “Snippet– The Family Pride”

  1. Roger Strahan June 11, 2019 at 1:19 pm #

    Nice start-but Swould vs Sword typo. Jumped out.

  2. David June 11, 2019 at 3:55 pm #

    Intriguing start. One error noticed “It had never creased to puzzle me.”

    • Yanai Siegel June 11, 2019 at 4:55 pm #

      The difference between edged weapons and blunt ones, perhaps?

  3. Yanai Siegel June 11, 2019 at 4:56 pm #

    Great start. Looking forward to the book!

    Best wishes on a full recovery of your health.

  4. rwahrens June 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm #

    . Now I’m even more impatient. Excellent, of course. That snippet brings my own teen years back vividly.

  5. Richard Peterson June 12, 2019 at 1:59 am #

    Hi Chris, I love your work and wait expectantly for each new book you write. I pray (literally) That your health is good! One question though, how does Akin sit with a sword strapped across his back? Thanks

    • anifreik June 14, 2019 at 7:03 am #

      It doesn’t have to be as difficult as most people imagine. The most common method of wearing a sword on ones back has the sheath attached at the top to a baldric running diagonally down the back from right shoulder (for a right handed swordsman) to left hip. The top attachment point, near the mouth of the scabbard, acts as a pivot point allowing the sword to swing back and forth, but not move up and down. At the bottom, by the hip, there will be a thong or light chain to limit how far the sword can swing. Sitting on a stool or in a chair isn’t difficult, simply swing the bottom of the sword out far enough to clear the seat. Same for saddles. A couch or sofa is more of a problem. You would need to sit at the end for comfort, turning sideways to lean against the arm, and out towards the edge of the seat to allow the sword to go past the edge of the cushion towards the front. BTW, back sheathes don’t work very well unless the swordsman’s arm is longer than the sword’s blade, otherwise you run out of draw before your sword clears the scabbard.

  6. Dennis Caro June 14, 2019 at 2:10 am #

    I hope for your health to continue improving.
    Akin states he is now seventeen. 11 portraits done a year apart, starting at 5, put them at 15 years old when attempted overthrow. Isabella in exile six years makes them 21? or in exile 2 years?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 14, 2019 at 2:51 am #

      Isabella turned thirteen in “The Family Shame” so the eleven portraits may be in error.

  7. William Ameling June 14, 2019 at 5:06 am #

    So what is Wizard Regnant? I guess we will have to wait and find out. Is it somehow connected to the Kingdom and Royal Family that rules over that City? Particularly since all of the Royal Family’s heirs through the now dead Prince, are still minor children. But why would they want or accept Akin since he killed the Prince? Unless of course, it is because he was the one to kill the Prince. Did the old King die in the last six years?

    An interesting question: Can any of the other members of the Ruben Family, even his Father, besides Akin touch and use that Family Sword or is it only Akin? I am getting the impression that it may only be him.

    If the Sword had been completely unbound when/after Cat had repaired it, then the first person to touch it would have bound it. We know that a number of students tried to touch it before Akin and failed to touch it, so that idea is out. So there was at least some residual connection to House Ruben since only Akin was able to touch it out of those students who tried. In particular, Cat was not bound to it.

    It they want to keep peace between the two Families, and keep the House War from restarting, perhaps they need some additional marriages between the two Families. Also when will Cat make some more NEW Family or Magical Swords? They could be used to further tie together the two Families. I think that she already made one such Sword (or a Magical Sword, if not a Family Sword) in the early part of Book 2 for someone related to her Family before she was kidnapped.

    It will be interesting to see how much Alanna has grow up. Plus of course to see a lot more about Cat, and maybe Isabella.

  8. William Ameling June 14, 2019 at 5:37 am #

    Typo in the text for Family Pride; “The family gives you a showed and a shield.” I think that “showed” is supposed to “sword”.

  9. William Ameling June 16, 2019 at 7:05 am #

    They need more people in both houses who benefit from keeping the Peace between the two Houses. Maybe some new Orbs of Power (Family Swords are just one example) from Cat to the factions that support Peace will help.

  10. William Ameling June 18, 2019 at 5:05 am #

    I would think that a true Regent, i.e. someone who watches over, protects, acts for and then releases his power at the right age, for underage Royal Children/Heirs with a dead father/uncle (King), ought to be someone very capable, with a lot of power and accomplishment in magic (as well as someone who will not try to grab their power permanently for himself/Family in the process). I do not see ANY student of magic being able to fill that role. Even as just an advisor to the Royal Family he(she) ought to be experienced as well as strong magically.

    So Wizard Regant someone means something else to at least some extent. But why someone who is still a student? We will have to wait and see. Any real position of power ought to be filled by someone older than a student. I think that it has to be position of power outside the Family, and possibly/probably even outside the City, i.e. at the Kingdom level.

    Also Akin’s Father does not seem to value Akin’s abilities as a forger as being important to demonstrating his ability to rule the Family in the future. He is more concerned about keeping Akin as Heir Primus, partly because it supports his position Family Patriarch. If Akin loses out as Heir Primus, his Father will probably lose out as Patriarch, and I suspect the factions wanting reignite the House War will gain a lot of power in the Family.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 18, 2019 at 5:52 am #

      In the context of this story “Wizard Regant” basically means “Best Of His/Her Graduating Class”.

      There will be a special Challenge taking place where members of the soon-to-be Graduating Class of the school will be “fighting it out” to be chosen “Wizard Regant”.

      Each Challenger can form a team to take part in this Challenge. Thus winning the Challenge requires team work which is an area that Akin needs to “prove himself”.

      His father likely values Akin’s forging skills but those skills are not important in terms of leading the Family.

      His father’s problem is that if Akin isn’t accepted as Heir Primus, then there will be a faction fight within the Family as to “who will be the Heir Primus” thus the Patriarch after Akin’s Father’s death. The implication is that the faction fight could become bloody.

      If Akin wins the Challenge, his acceptance as Heir Primus will be more likely than if he fails or doesn’t take part in the Challenge.

  11. William Ameling June 19, 2019 at 4:57 am #

    Thank you Paul for that info. It clarifies what an important part of the book is going to be about. I expect that an important part of the struggle for the title of Wizard Regant will be between Akin and Alanna, since they are the Heir’s Primus to the two Houses at the end of Magical Society in the City as well as the houses that were recently in the House War. It will/could also draw in Cat and potentially make her choose how much to support either/both side. It could also threaten the Bethrothal between Akin and Cat, and threrefore the Peace/War between the Houses.

  12. William Ameling June 19, 2019 at 5:14 am #

    I suppose that maybe Cat could form or support her own team of Challengers, perhaps with Rose, that is separate from Akin and Alanna. That would make things nicely complicated for a story. If Cat wins, then the Bethrothal between Cat and Akin might gain in importance, since without it Akin and his Father might lose influence/control of their House.

    Or Cat might end up supporting Akin and/or Alanna in various ways, if she is not in an independent team, which could play on the past and future relationship between Cat and Alanna, as well as Akin.

    It should be interesting to read and watch what happens.

    It occurs to me that the title, The Family Pride might apply to more than just Akin, it might also apply to Alanna and Cat, or even Belladonna.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 19, 2019 at 5:26 am #

      Cat isn’t in that school anymore so can’t take part in the Challenge.

      For that matter, according to the Rules she can’t assist anybody.

      Oh, Rose is a client of both Houses so can’t assist either Akin or Alanna.

      ::Checks Snerk Collar Settings::

      I think I’ve said enough. 😉

  13. William Ameling June 19, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

    I was throwing out some possibilities without enough data on the Rules to rule them out.

    How is Rose a client of Akin’s House? I thought she was only a client of Cat’s House and friend of Cat, and through Cat something of a friend to Akin.

    I notice that you said nothing about my speculation that Akin and Alanna will be competing for Wizard Regant, which I do expect to be a major element in the plot. If they are Head Boy and Head Girl, plus Heirs Primus to the two most powerful Houses in the City, I expect they will probably be the leading candidates going into the competition.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard June 19, 2019 at 5:57 pm #

      It was stated at the end of the third book that Rose is counted as a client of both Houses.

      As for Akin and Alanna competing for Wizard Regant, I can say that Alanna is taking part in the Challenge but do not want to comment more about what Chris is planning.

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