The crystal goblet shattered on the exquisite Torathian marble floor of the formal breakfast chamber. There was a sharp intake of breath. "Yes, it's true", I said. "I plan to take up the Shield of Light and follow in the footsteps of uncle Balanath." There was another tinkling of glass as my step-father's monocle joined the remains of the goblet. For the first time in his life the old boy was actually speechless.
It had all started the day before yesterday. A messenger from the Academy finally arrived with the reply from the regents on my application. I didn't really need to open it. House Torathiel-yng-Ulathual was generally regarded as Third Rank, due mostly to that tawdry affair of my great-aunt Torathiel-yng-Ulathual-min-Alariel who went out to slay a dragon but ended up marrying him instead. We are officially not on speaking terms with that branch of the family but reputations simply don't recover from something like that.
So there it sat, on the antique engraved silver tray which my uncle found in a vampire's castle on one of his crusades against evil, resting atop the side table in the East Foyer. Above it hung the portrait of my uncle in full paladinite regalia, with armor shining and sword flashing. I was always fascinated by it but my step-father thought it tacky and inappropriate for a family like ours. I had his shield up in my room. After mother passed away my step-father had the servants hide it in the deepest recesses of the attic. But I bribed one of the house-halflings to retrieve it.
|(Cover of Aenarion audiobook by Gav Thorpe)|
Uncle Balanath's Portrait
Yesterday I'd finally opened the letter in the Blue Jade Parlor where the family had gathered before dinner as usual. The contents were as expected, couched in very civilized fashion and written in a refined calligraphic hand, but still utterly disappointing. I couldn't bear to read it aloud so my cousin Suomralie did the deed for me. The others made some polite comments to soften the blow but step-father turned quite red and shouted, actually shouted, at one of the house-halflings to serve dinner immediately.
The next morning I spent an hour or so out on the Autumn Lilac Terrace shooting illusionary targets with my longbow. Old Tarky-Lark was particularly creative with his targets this time around, no doubt trying to get my mind off things. The little gnome had been with the family for over a century now and looked just as wizened and wrinkled as the day he'd arrived. Unfortunately his arcane stylings had quite the opposite effect to what he intended. I was instead reminded of my trip two summers ago to visit the famous wizard Hinurial-yng-Toluala-min-Simnar VII. One of my aunts got me an interview with him to become apprenticed so off I went. He was quite haughty, but one expects that of a famous wizard. Alas, after a few tests and trials he declared my level of aptitude to be "ineffable" and that was that. When I got home mother had one of her episodes and spent the next week in bed.
So in the end there was little choice but to act upon my boyhood imaginings. Thus it was that I presented myself to the family in the Lesser Drawing Room after dinner with uncle Balanath's shield and announced my intended path.