So you had the incredible luck of being born into a noble house of Ackarom. Congratulations! But what comes next?
The first five to seven years of your life will most likely be spent by your mother’s side, who will do her best to teach you the central values of most noble families – respect, restraint and responsibility – for you have the lucky chance of having inherited the Arcane Gift through your noble bloodline. This will enable you to tug at the strings of reality, weaving spells with your mere mind. This gift is the foundation of noble houses’ power and influence. If your mother has been deemed unreliable or disloyal by the house, you might instead be raised by the Lady Mother, the Lady who has been tasked with such a duty, and who is also the considered the house’s head in the majority of internal affairs.
Growing up side by side with you will also be many of your siblings and cousins. Although it is likely your father will raise you too, quite many noble children like you will grow up without their blood father, for he might be the Lord Father, the head of the noble house and a so powerful wielder of magic that his family and – most importantly – his wife, have allowed him to sire many more children with so called “kept women”, chosen for their powerful blood and young bodies able to bear children.
Between the age of five and seven, you shall be put through an important ceremony: the test of gift. Through this test it will be revealed whether you truly have inherited your bloodline’s Arcane Gift. Through centuries of controlled marriage and siring, the blood in your veins is very likely to grant you the Arcane Gift, but should it be revealed that you are one of the unlucky one in twenty who was born without it, your future might seem bleaker than hoped:
If you are born before the advent of the printing press – roughly 1300 years after the Great Sundering – you will be placed in your family’s scriptorium, where you will learn writing and reading and be put to work copying books your gifted family members wrote, as well as endlessly copying spells down on paper with special ink, so that they might be cast by, again, those family members, usually in battle, commonly with other noble houses, but also against a multitude of different threats to your houses supremacy.
The scriptorium is not an as wholesome place to grow up as by your mother’s side. Your siblings will no longer be allowed to address you as such and you will generally be only in the company of other members of your house as unlucky as you, forced to stay within the fortified walls, for you have knowledge of the most powerful spells of your family. Your desertion to or capture by the enemy might allow them to entice you with rank or luxury to sell their most precious secrets, which will lead to your house being utterly defeated in battle.
Have you been born after the advent of the printing press, then your diligent hand is not needed for rapid production of prepared spells, and so you are free to work as a clerk or administrator in your family’s lands, maybe even marrying into a rich merchant family to grant children to a commoner born with the gift. The chance of being born with the Arcane Gift without noble blood exists as well as that chance which left you ungifted despite your noble blood. The hope is to bring your partner’s gift into the family’s bloodline and in-line with the family’s loyalties. In the many centuries your bloodline has persisted, commoner-born mages often had challenged the nobles’ claim to power, offering a closer bond to the common people while fulfilling the same duties, if they also had access to the extensive knowledge required to wield the arcane (or somehow acquired prepared-spells from a printing press or scriptorium).
But if you are a member of the gifted nineteen out of twenty children of a noble house, then you are set on a different path. You will be taught each and every day to ensure you know all you will need as a member of your house. This includes things such as diplomacy, statecraft, sciences, naturalism, trade, art, and society, but most importantly of all: the arcane.
Should your house already have signed a pact of exaltation with an academy, then that last subject will not be taught by one of your house, but by a tutor sent by the academy, ensuring that the noble houses stay true to the pact and conserve peace and prosperity across the continent of Ackarom, preventing petty wars between families. If no such pact has been signed, you might only get an abbreviated education, destined not to be a wise sage but merely a frontline mage, handed a handful of spells prepared on paper and sent to wreak as much destruction as possible on the enemy’s army.
Should you possess slightly more talent than frontline fodder, or if you live in times of peace, you might instead be delegated to help the broader public and peasantry by using your powers to quickly perform otherwise taxing and bothersome tasks, like tilling an entire field in just a few minutes, thrashing the entire harvest of grain or cutting stones for construction projects. The people will surely be thankful for alleviating them of gruelling and loathsome work and it is most likely this what your ancestors have been doing thousands of years ago to earn the status of valuable ruler over the peasants.
If you live in times of widespread academies, you will instead be sent off to take the final step of your education and maturing as you near the age of twenty. To an exalted academy you will go, ensuring you can learn not just what magic is and where it comes from, but also how to wield it and craft your own spells, being formed into a powerful mage ready to serve your house and the people living under it. If you were born a boy, this education will likely be preceded by service in your house’s contribution to the academy’s armed forces, ensuring you learn the realities of service and war. If you were born a girl, you might enter academia right away, but with the duty to attend many dinners, dances and other social occasions, to make sure other nobles houses know of your youth, health and Arcane Gift. There, you will be courted and allured by many men of rank and status. If you take good care and pay attention, you might find a benefactor or suitor who will engage in negotiations with your family, potentially saving you from a dictated match with an uncaring or undesirable man.
Either way if you’re boy or girl, graduation comes and you are finally a full-fledged member of your house. But it does not mean freedom, on the opposite! If it hasn’t already, your house will now begin the process of finding a suitable partner for you, for just as your family’s noble blood has granted the Arcane Gift upon you, so shall you be a part of that empowering bloodline. Through a lengthy process of tracing your exact lineage, a member of your house called “the Bloodkeeper” will determine who will be a suitable partner with which you shall have many gifted and healthy children. Maybe that will be a distant relative from your own houses maybe even one of those you grew up with side by side, but it is also probable that the Bloodkeeper of your house will convene with those of other noble houses to stabilize the bonds of peace as well as ensure avoid inbreeding and stagnation of the bloodline.
If your house is gracious, you will be presented with a list of people to choose for yourself, hopefully a known name being among them, or you might even be allowed to bring forth your own suggestions, or it will allow a suitor to ask for your hand. If your house is less gracious or more desperate, your match will be dictated to you. As a woman it might very well happen to you to become a “kept woman”, affiliated with your male partner solely for the purpose of bearing children. A generous house will grant you a powerful position as a reward for your bodily services once they are over, others might leave you to your own endeavours with allowance and care depending on their generosity. If you are powerful, talented and rich in achievements already, you might just become the first wife of a powerful mage who will rise to become Lord Father of his house, making you Lady Mother, one of the most powerful positions outside the military. Entire lands and generations of nobles will heed your word and follow your commands. Do not squander such a gift by letting your new house fall into disgrace!
If you are a man, you might also face another period of armed service right after graduation. A battle without a mage is a lost one and so, many armies are mere padding for the line of wielders of magic that sow destruction amidst the enemy. Many a battle was won by two noble and honourable mages of each side agreeing to a duel over the outcome. In cases such a duel does not take place, your chances of survival sink dramatically. Some noble houses have risen and fallen purely by their ability to field more and more powerful mages in battle. Some might even have stooped to the disgraceful atrocity of fielding women or family members not of age to oppose a superior foe.
There are alternatives to the duties of war. As previously described, fields need tilling, wheat thrashing and construction erecting. An educated mage might also possess the knowledge to raise houses from nothing but provided building material, creating sturdy and comfortable shelter for large populations. Canal systems, temples, fortresses, all these things make a civilization strong and enduring, and for you, they are attainable through mere geometry and calculation on paper or in your head.
But say you survived battles, childbirth and just life in general. You are married to your partner and with some luck, you might even be chosen to fill a high role within your house. You will see many other family members be born, grow up and die in your lifetime. Your highest duty will be to keep your bloodline pure and strong by teaching the younger members about the power and the responsibility of noble blood.
Shall you ever have the audacity of siring or conceiving a child outside of the approved bonds, then you can even be stripped of all your ranks. Honesty and righteousness grant you to introduce the bastard child to the house before it is determined whether the child has the Arcane Gift or not. This may restore your honour as well as secure the child a future in prosperity and nobility, whether it is gifted or not. But for the case that you have unsuccessfully kept this bastard a secret past the age of for the test of gift, then you may not restore your honour. Stripped of your honours and titles, you are cast out, your name struck from the Book of Blood and forever tarnished, even in the eyes other houses and exalted academies. You may find work as a private teacher, a frontline mage or with an own business, but your sin shall not be forgotten.
A life of prosperity, duty and honour behind you, you may die as one of the most fortunate people on the entire continent of Ackarom, leaving behind a legacy of blood, power and tradition, succeeded by many children and grandchildren to your name. What a life it has been! Maybe you have seen new developments in the application of magic, maybe you have seen noble houses fall or rise, or maybe you might even have seen your own crumble into insignificance. Either way, it was a better life than anyone else can hope for.
Yet there is one more possible way your life might take. For this we shall return to your test of gift. Shall it be revealed, that you have the Mystic Gift, your life will take a completely different path. This much, much rarer gift is not granted by pure blood, but by something unknowable. The spirits? The gods? Mere chance? No source may answer this definitely, but what is defined is that you will be handed over to another institution, depending on the pacts and oaths your house has sworn; a church, a circle of druids, a tribal shaman or even a coven of warlocks and witches. But how exactly this life will fare you is a different part of the web of civilizations, faiths and societies that has existed for centuries on the continent of Ackarom.