Snippet – Louise’s Story

27 Jan

I just had this going through my head.


We were poor, but we were honest.  And free.

That was what my father said, at least, when I asked him.  It had taken him years to get a reputation as a honest man, he’d insisted, and he had no intention of throwing it away.  He had never cheated his supplies, he had never knowingly overpriced his wares; he had never, perhaps most importantly of all, accepted an offer of patronage from the aristos.  It would have been easy to take his track record and use it to convince the toffs to give him a loan, but it would have meant the end of his freedom.  He would have forever been serving a master who knew little about him and cared less.  The root of patronise is patron.  It was a lesson he drilled into me time and time again.

He did well.  We all did.  I worked in the shop, along with my parents and siblings, from the moment I was old enough to work the till.  Father gave me a very practical education in everything a young person might need, if she wished to set up a business of her own.  He taught me how to read and write, to perform sums in my head … most importantly of all, he taught me the value of hard work.  I was never given an allowance.  I was certainly never given money for nothing.  I earned my salary in the shop, every last coronet of it.  I did so well that I had no trouble at all earning my primary education certificates, even though I’d never set foot in a school.  Father was a far more attentive teacher than someone who cared not a whit for me.  And I came to believe he was right.  I could become anything I wanted, as long as I put in the work.

It wasn’t until I turned thirteen that disillusionment started to set in.

Father had invested in me, and my education, by sending me to Jude’s.  I wasn’t blind to just how much of his savings he’d gambled on me, knowing that it would be hard for me to repay him.  I took his warnings to heart about studying and studying hard, reading all of the coursework texts before I ever entered the building.  I thought I could earn plaudits through hard work, by passing all the exams and showing everyone just how smart I was.  It took me longer than it should have done, I admit, to realise I was wrong.

I was in an odd position, at Jude’s.  I was no aristo.  They looked down on me for my commoner birth.  And yet, I was no scholarship student either.  They didn’t know quite what to make of me, at least at first.  The aristos poked and prodded at me a little, trying to determine if they could make me do their homework, then largely left me socially isolated and alone.  It was hard, very hard, for me to relate to my peers.  I spent my days in the library, studying everything I could in a bid to become the youngest student in decades to win the Academic Cup.  It should have been possible to win.  But Alana won instead.

I’d worked hard.  On paper, my scores were better.  Far better.  And yet she’d won.  I stormed into the office to demand answers, only to receive detentions and lines for my trouble.  They didn’t want to listen to my questions, then my complaints.  It wasn’t until Magister Niven pointed out the truth that I realised the game was rigged.  It wasn’t about scholarship, it wasn’t about academic honesty, it wasn’t about anything … but who you were and who you knew.  Alana wasn’t my equal in scholarship – she was bright, yet no genius – but she was an Aguirre.  Her name had been inscribed on the cup since she’d started her schooling, two years ago.   My hard work has been wasted!

Bitterness raged through me as I looked upon the school with new eyes.  The system was completely rigged.  The aristos offered their patronage to the commoners, but it came with a price.  They lost their independence completely and submitted themselves to their patrons, to the point they were virtual slaves.  And they would remain part of the patronage networks even after they left school.  I understood, now, why my father had worked so hard to remain independent.  To take their patronage was the kiss of death.

Something had to be done, I told myself.  Something had to be done.  But what?  The more I studied the system, the more I realised just how thoroughly it had been rigged.  It was easy – probably – to strike out at a lone aristo, perhaps one of the idiots who bragged of rougish dealings in Water Shallot, but bringing down the system – or even reforming it – was incredibly difficult.  Too many would-be reformers had been defeated by the system, directly or indirectly.  Perhaps I would have let it go too, if Francis Rubén hadn’t enchanted me.  He died, shortly afterwards, but it left me burning with anger.  I would never even have considered doing anything like that.

And so, when I left Jude’s that summer, I told myself I was going to change the world.

10 Responses to “Snippet – Louise’s Story”

  1. Walt Dunn January 27, 2021 at 2:21 pm #

    Nice tickler! I’m sure your imagination. hasn’t suffered with all the extra challenges of being a Dad and a busy writer too. Jude’s. Has always had lots of room for more story tags! Best wishes for a productive year as you keep us involved with lots of new storied.

  2. Peter Davies January 27, 2021 at 3:41 pm #

    The backbone of most societies is the character you’re writing about here. Interested to see where this goes!

    • chrishanger March 2, 2021 at 11:14 am #

      I may put this one on the backburner, for the moment. It needs some polishing.


  3. The dude January 27, 2021 at 10:51 pm #

    I think this is a nice perspective to have, it’s also a nice chance to showcase the huge flaws in the system.

  4. Dave January 27, 2021 at 11:56 pm #

    Love the Zero universe, so the more stories the better. I’ll buy everyone of them, so please keep writing them.

  5. Cathy Howat January 28, 2021 at 6:11 am #

    To the barricades, mes enfants!

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  6. Ryan January 28, 2021 at 5:36 pm #

    I would prefer to read more about existing characters and a story with less politics and more magic.

  7. John January 30, 2021 at 10:36 am #

    This is a really good perspective, looking forward to reading more about Louise!

  8. Rick H. January 30, 2021 at 12:59 pm #

    I dunno. I remember Louise as being kinda annoying.

  9. Kate January 30, 2021 at 6:13 pm #

    I think it’s pretty clear that the system is messed up.
    Is there a revolution coming?
    It would be nice to see Alana and other aristos like her suddenly lose their positions and realize they have to actually earn stuff instead of being born with it.

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