I have found this section of The Blackguard is highlighted often in a couple places. I thought I would share it with you and give you a glimpse of book 2. I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse as Alador learns more about his Lerdenian heritage.
“It has been expected that you would come to live here, every year, for the last three years. I made sure the room was readied every time I went to test you,” Henrick answered, waiting against the desk as Alador dressed.
Alador was surprised by that admission. He remained silent, pulling on a pair of boots. He had no idea that his father had been expecting him to pass so eagerly. One of the walls had plenty of weapons to choose from, so Alador picked a knife and sheath and secured them to his belt. That was enough for now, and he felt better after arming himself at least partially. He also saw his pack and kicked it with his boot. It was heavy, and the clink of medure made him feel secure that he was not without slips. His bow lay on the small rack above his pack, along with his quiver.
“How did you know I would pass?” Alador asked curiously as he returned from the closet.
“You are my son.” Henrick shrugged. “I would expect no less from someone of our bloodline.”
"Our bloodline? Is it strong with magic?”
“You do not know? I always thought your mother would tell you,” Henrick answered.
Henrick nodded. “Come, I will explain as we walk.” He led Alador out of the room and into a hallway that was no less impressive in its striking walls and marble floors. “Our family has always been blessed with a strong line of magic. Very few of our children have ever failed in their testing, as far back as Lerdenians have had magic,” he explained.
“So your line is from the first mages that served the dragons?” Alador asked not sure if he liked being directly part of that line. He still had no respect for his Lerdenian ancestors’ betrayal of their oath to protect the dragons, as the dragons had protected them.
“Our line,” Henrick corrected with a grin. “Sorry Alador, you cannot choose your bloodline. I fear you are as stuck with it as I am. But I will be honest with you: we descend from the great mage himself.”
Alador stopped. “The one that took the life of the dragon he was sworn to protect?” Alador’s face showed his horror as he realized how little about himself he knew. Why had no one told him all this?
“Yes. Do not worry, Alador. One does not develop into who they will be just because of the blood that flows in their veins. They also become who they are by the choices they make and the friends they keep.” Henrick turned back to grab hold of both of Alador’s arms gently. He looked with seriousness into his son’s eyes. “You have been raised with a gentle heart. I doubt that will change because of who your great grandfather – well, many ‘greats’ back – was in the past. It does mean, however, that magic flows deeply in our blood, and more so in you if your stone was as I suspect.” Henrick let him go and turned to move down the hall.
Alador stood for a moment, digesting this, before following his father. The hallway, the stairs, and the floor below were no less grand than the rest of the house. Henrick’s home was entirely decorated in variations of white, gold, and peach colors. It made the black robes he wore stand out more, and Alador suspected that the effect was orchestrated. His father looked striking dressed as a mage.
They entered the dining hall, where Alador saw a table that could have easily sat twenty, though only two places were set at one end. “Are all homes in Silverport this…magnificent?” he asked, looking around. He was still in awe.
“The lower the tier, the simpler the dwellings and the more people there are to inhabit it. The higher the tier, the grander the home and the fewer people there are. Odd, is it not, that a home that could house a village of the Daezun houses just one mage here, his family and his servants?” Henrick sat down and picked up the steaming cup of tea that awaited him.
“Why are there fewer people, besides the fact that the tiers become smaller as you climb?” Alador asked slipping into the seat at Henrick’s right. He was amazed to see the dishes before him, and he waited as Henrick began heaping food on his plate.
“You must pass the mage test to a higher tier. There are fewer mages that can pass each level of testing,” Henrick answered, filling his plate high with some sort of round, sizzling meat, cheese, and bread.
Alador sat and considered what his father had told him about Lerdenia during his visits. “You are of the fifth tier. Isn’t that the highest tier?” he asked, beginning to pull a small number of different foods on his plate. He recognized the eggs, so he made sure to get plenty of those.
“Tested tiers. Yes. The fifth is the highest tier. There are two tiers above this. The council’s tier is next, and above that are the High Minister and the Council Hall.” Henrick was apparently in an affable mood this morning, and seemed willing to indulge Alador. He glanced over at his son, who picked at and tried out the new foods.
“Do we have any other family besides your brother?” Alador liked what he had tasted so far; the sizzling meat was spicy and left a bit of a bite on his tongue.
Henrick shrugged and finished a mouthful before answering. “If there is, I am unaware of it. Our father died when we were young, and our mother died in the way of the tiers. We returned to the third tier until we were old enough to begin working our own way up,” Henrick answered.
Alador was trying to understand how this tier system worked. He ate in silence for a while before asking his next question. “So family can be on different tiers?” he asked.
Henrick nodded. “My brother has always been above me. I prefer it that way. I have managed to stay out of his way.”
“You said before that people killed to move up in the tiers, but now you say there are tests. Are those…Two separate ways, or is killing part of the test?” Alador asked carefully.
“You can test, but even if you are a tested fourth tier mage, if there is no hall willing or able to receive you, then you must wait. Most prefer not to wait, so they choose a hall to their liking and, if they can, remove the mage that stands in their way. As that mage moves up, the mage below who has tested but did not wish to kill can also move up.” Henrick tried to explain the system, but it was rather convoluted. “For example, if my brother had chosen to host me when he was a fifth tier mage, I could have lived with him as a fifth tier mage.”
Alador tried to imagine life split from brothers and sisters, mother and father. In the villages of the Daezun, family was everything. If your brother or sister did take a home of their own, they were still close, and often one home became a central point for meals and laughter. He ate as he considered, and his father was content to leave him to his thoughts. As usual, Henrick seemed to eat an enormous amount of food, but his servants seemed prepared for this, given the amount of food laid out for just two of them. “Don’t people get punished if they kill a mage in their way?”
“Only if they are caught. No one looks too closely, except those that might have a shade of feeling for the one who was killed, and the Council only banishes those stupid enough to get caught red-handed.” Henrick took a sip of tea.
Alador stared at his father in disbelief. “How can a society...how can people stand living somewhere where murder is as common as rain? I’d think it’s a world of fear, when anyone might try to kill you for a place of power. How can someone always live in fear?” Alador asked. “Why don’t they leave?”
Henrick sat back with his cup of tea as he considered Alador’s question. “Not all Lerdenians choose to live in the tiers. Many have farms or other homes outside the cities. They may or may not have or practice skills in magic. Some have potential, but no training. Those that choose to live in Lerdenian cities are usually one of three types. They might have been born here and know no other way to exist. They would be just as astounded to see the villages of the Daezun as you are to see Silverport. What seems perhaps evil to you is seen as normal to them. Evil is always in the eye of the beholder. “
Henrick took a sip before continuing. “The Daezun see the Lerdenians as evil because they broke a pact made long before our time, and because we are willing to go through great lengths to harness magic. Yet they hate an entire nation for the few that experience higher than the third tier. For the most part, while Lerdenians can learn magic, few have a natural disposition to it or are born with innate skills. A country is judged by the actions at the top. Such is the way across the world. Nations are judged by their rulers, and not by those that live within the borders.”
Alador listened with fascination, considering his father’s words carefully. They had merit. If the Daezun were judged by men such as Trelmar, even Alador could see why the Daezun would be hated. “What are the other two types?”
“The second type…Those who have found no other way to live and see living in the city as a necessary evil. Those who live in the trenches or those in the first tier. Sometimes they are motivated by slips, and sometimes they are motivated by the need to survive. Both are powerful motivators,” Henrick answered, staring absently down the length of the table.
“The last are motivated by the need for power, for prestige, or recognition. These are the most dangerous, for they will go through great lengths to gain what they want and often have little conscience to hinder their advances.” He sipped from his cup then glanced at Alador.
“You live in the fifth tier…does that mean you fall into the last category?” Alador asked softly. He looked disappointingly at his father.
“That would be the usual assumption. However, I assure you that I live as I do strictly as a necessary evil. You will be in the Blackguard and that will be your necessary evil. We do what we must because we must do it.” Henrick put his cup down and pushed his plate away.
“What is it that we must do?” Alador asked as he spread preserves over a generous portion of bread.
Henrick pulled out his pipe and filled it before answering Alador. “What I must do, I am not ready to share, but it involves staying in my brother’s good graces for the time being. Your purpose has yet to be revealed. If your stone was a geas stone, eventually you will realize what it is you must do. The best way to prepare you for what a dragon might have pressed upon you is to ensure that you are capable of fighting. The best way to do that is to put you in the Blackguard –again, your necessary evil.” He lit his pipe and watched Alador with an expression that made it seem as if his words had just explained it all.