Skilled mages are the cornerstone of a family’s reputation. While they are arguable insane to talk to, they pull more than their weight for the greater good of society.
— Lanister da Dusen ho Gason
Galadin had to concentrate on his dinner for the first time. His mind spun furiously with all the rules of how to hold his fork, where to put his hand, and even where he was allowed to look. There seemed to be exceptions to every rule.
His mother had insisted on a formal dinner arrangement at home. Galadin could see how she held her utensils with exaggerated care. He suspected the last time she ate formally, it was before she married his father. More than once, he saw her reach for the wrong fork only to change her mind and pick up the correct one.
On the other side of the table, his father worked his way through his meal efficiently and without grace. He used the same fork and knife, shoving the rest of them to the side as he stared down at the table in concentration. His other hand moved in gestures that mimicked the symbols he used for his job as a civil mage.
“How were the lessons today?” asked his mom.
“Good.” He thought about Benard’s hand against his own. He could remember how the firm grip guided him from one step to the other, commanding but not demanding. He smiled.
“I heard the Tifin girls were sick.”
“They were. We had to use each other as partners.” He thought about Benard’s body next to his and found himself struggling with an erection. He cleared his throat and brought his hand under the table to adjust his napkin.
His mother’s grip on her fork tightened. “Really?” she said in a wary tone.
“Dame Dorin da Kasin watched over all three of us.”
His father stirred and leaned toward Galadin’s mother. “I thought there were only two boys and three girls in the class.”
His mother glared at him.
“What? I was paying attention,” his father said with a wry smile.
“There were.” She turned back to Galadin. “Who was the third? The dame?”
“No, um, his name was…” Galadin knew he was stalling but couldn’t let her know. “Benard kia Kasin.”
His mother’s face paled. “No,” she said. “Not him.”
Looking up, his father stared at the ceiling for a second before resuming.
“What?” asked Galadin.
“No, you don’t do that. Storan, he can’t do that.”
“Who? Take lessons with Benard? Why not? He’s a Kasin hero.” His father shrugged. “He just granted a commission. Something about saving a fleet from some fire mages? Made First Lieutenant on the spot. They’ve been talking about that for days down at the dock office.”
“That’s beside the point! Your son cannot dance with that man!”
Storan shrugged. His eyes glazed over and he began to trace imaginary sigils in the air.
“Storan! Don’t you dare drift away.”
His father ignored her.
Maran folded her napkin into her lap. “Then I’m going to pull you from those lessons. You are good enough for the ball. As long as you don’t stumble on your feet, you’ll find a wife.”
She took a short breath. “Besides, we need to get you fitted for a proper top hat next week. Tomorrow, your suit should be done. We will deal with that.”
Galadin fought back a wave of disappointment. Everything else reminded him that he was being forced into a role he didn’t want. Why did he have to go to the dance in a suit? Why did he have to find a woman?
Benard was the only thing he enjoyed about the day. His pulse quickened at the memory of feeling Benard’s palm against his own, the way the stronger man would twirl him around as they danced together.
His mother pointedly look at her husband. “Well?”
Storan didn’t look up.
“You are useless,” she announced before storming away from the table.
Galadin watched her leave, the edge of her maroon dress catching on the corner before being pulled into the hall. He remembered the touch of the fabric, it was rough but delicate at the same time, like how silk changed when he brushed it one way verses another.
He sighed. Tomorrow would be more of the same. He dreaded getting fitted for the suit as much as the idea of wearing it.
Galadin pushed himself up. “I’m going to bed.”
His father grunted and continued to draw in the air.
Dejected, Galadin left the plates for the cook and headed after his mother.
“Gal?” His father’s low voice stopped him.
Galadin turned to see him no longer drawing. “Yes, Father?”
“You can say ‘no,’ you know.”
“What? Say ‘no’ to what?” He was confused, but that described most of his father’s conversations. Being a mage changed how he saw the world.
“You’re becoming a man. No matter what your mother says, you are the one who chooses what type you’ll become.”
“I… I don’t understand.”
His father smiled. “I know. Just remember it. Whatever you choose, no matter what path you take, I will support you. Even against the furies of the storm itself.” He winked. “I’m talking about your mother, that is.”
Galadin stared at his father who returned to his thoughts. Nothing he said made any sense, yet at the same time, it felt comforting. He dismissed it as the musings of a mage who didn’t quite see the world the same.
With a muttered thanks, he returned to his room.