Age, characters, and time passing


I got a great question on my Patreon post about what I was planning for 2024 over there, and I wanted to answer it somewhere more visible. (This post also contains the answer to “Will Claudio get his own romance?” and if so, when.)

wiedźma_florentyna asked in the comments whether magic extends life expectancy over what we would expect today (and mentions both Mistress of Birds and Richard still actively working at the age of 73.) And then what that means for some of my oldest characters who are bound to die eventually.

Short version: I don’t want to kill any of these characters I love due to old age, so I’m doing my best to avoid that.

The cover of Four Walls and a Heart has a bright red background with a blue door. Two men are silhouetted against the background, one of slighter build in a Victorian wheelchair, missing his lower left leg, the other standing and talking, one hand at his side. Both are wearing hats, and they are intently focused on each other. The cover is mounted in a frame, next to a globe and a cup of coffee.

Magic, Age, and Lifespan

Magic in Albion doesn’t make you immortal, people can and do die of all the things that we die of, including old age. However, being magical does tend to extend life modestly, thanks to the low-key effect on things like cell renewal, ability to use resources in the body more efficiently, and so on.

And of course, Healers have some different approaches for treating some things, or add a layer of effectiveness. If you find yourself with cancer in Albion, they don’t have modern chemotherapy (at least not without a tremendous amount of time and investment from a Healer). But they can make sure you won’t die from infection after surgery, and that the healing process from treatments doesn’t have complications.

This in general means that people with magic (especially people who are trained in and use their magic regularly) are likely to be active into their 70s or even 80s, and it’s not uncommon for people to live past 100 or 110. (And be at least somewhat independent in their life until near the end.)

Avigail Levy

Avigail Levy, Rathna’s apprentice mistress, is 118 when she finally dies. She’s declining due to old age when The Fossil Door takes place. That’s partly because she’s used to living in a mixed community, and also she doesn’t think the Healers could do much for her. They can in fact help her be more comfortable and deal with a couple of things that were draining energy and vitality. She gets another decade of life, able to be more active for a few years, before dying in 1932. (When her namesake, Avigail Edgarton, is born.)

Is she out doing remote portal work at that time? No. But is she part of her community, able to go out and talk to people, to help keep an eye on the London portals close to home? Yes.

Should she maybe have retired some years previously? Also yes, but she considers her work with the portals a vocation. Also, Rathna came into her life as an apprentice at a point when she might otherwise have considered retiring.

Mistress of Birds

Mistress of Birds has a character who lives particularly long – and without visible signs of aging. There are reasons for that, and they’re not common. The character gets away with it in large part because she is absolutely a recluse and doesn’t see many people.

The Cousins

Those descended from the Fatae – the Cousins – do age more slowly even than other magical folk. Not only do they have longer lifespans (200 is fairly common), but they look noticeably younger than their calendar age. It’s terribly annoying when they’re in their 20s. That’s part of the reason they don’t often attend any of the Five Schools – they’re in a different stage of development in some ways than their age peers.

They normally have a visible life in Albion until they start to look like they’re in their 80s or 90s, and then shift their focus to the Cousin estates.

Ages of characters in the 1940s

I use Aeon Timeline to help me keep track of everyone’s ages, which means I can easily pull a list of people in, say, the summer of 1945 and the end of the Second World War. Here’s a few of the oldest. I’ve linked to their pages on the authorial wiki if you want a reminder of what they’ve done with their lives.

In his 90s

Arthur Gospatrick : 91. He is actually retired, there’s no way for him to keep interacting with the non-magical Army contacts past about 1925.

In their 80s

Magni Torham : 88 years. He’s still active enough during the Second World War to be assisting with coordination for the Guard, freeing up other people for the field. If you’ve read the As The Ground Shifts extra, still duelling, though in a much more ‘stay in one place and let Gabe do the running around’ mode than in his youth. Age and experience still count for a lot.

Melusina Gospatrick : Also 88, doing some office-based consulting for the Ministry during the Second World War but no longer active fieldwork.

Gilbert Oxley : 85 and assisting Magni with desk work for the Guard, as well as his architectural magic consulting. (During the Second World War, a lot of that is ‘can we make sure this building won’t fall down?’ He would figure out the issues and other people would implement solutions.)

Mabyn Teague : 81 and an active member of the Council (though with an eye to retiring in the next year or two).

In their 70s

Agatha Witt (79) and Elizabeth Mason (about to turn 79) : Both still actively working as Penelopes, though more in coordination, problem solving, and lab work than in the field. (Are either of them ever going to actually retire? No. Just hand over more of the admin to other people.)

Cyrus Smythe-Clive : 77, and like Mabyn still an active member of the Council and also looking toward retirement. He and Mabyn do retire in 1946.

Rhoe Belisama : 76. Her position is not particularly magically demanding most of the time, and it’s by way of a religious vocation. Those are notoriously hard to retire from. By 1945, she’s in the “training up a successor” but not particularly looking to stop what she’s doing just yet. (Her husband Hugh is 72, and running the family business by this point, while contemplating who will take it over in a few years once the aftermath of the war has settled a bit.)

Alexander Landry : 74. He honestly would (by 1945) really love some time to do other things with his life than war, like teach the younger generation arcane magics. On the other hand, he still has things he wants to accomplish on the Council. He won’t retire from that until 1950.

Richard Edgarton : 73. Still active as a Guard (including, in a crisis like the bombing of Coventry described in Upon A Summer’s Day). Most of what he’s doing is coordination and desk work, however. Alysoun, in Three Graces comments that she’s quite sure he’s never going to actually retire, but she does hope the end of the war means he might have a more regular schedule again.

And a few other ages

For comparison, Geoffrey Carillon is 61, many of my protagonists with their romances in the 1920s are in their 50s, and Gabe Edgarton is 45.

All the POV characters have (or should have) their birthdates on the Characters Timeline, if you want to see them all in sequence.

Will I write past the 1940s?

I do have a book that will take place in 1950. That includes Alexander retiring from the Council and the challenge for his seat. However, that’s as far into the future as I’m planning to write. It should leave things in a reasonably tidy place without too many loose ends.

As I said above, I love these characters, and I don’t want to write about them dying of old age. I’d rather leave them drifting off into the future. I do have a number of thoughts about what happens, including with younger characters, but I have plenty of other stories I want to explore.

There’s also an aspect that the 1950s and Post-War period start getting into historical demands and issues that I find somewhat less interesting.

Working backward in history

I’ve got a lot of other history I want to play with, and I expect I’ll be working backwards instead. That includes both a trilogy in 1889 through 1890 (currently I’m finishing drafting the first book in that). These will be out later in 2024 (Mysterious Fields). I also have an idea for a romance duology that would take place in the 1850s, though no idea yet on when I’m going to write it.

In addition, I’m slowly working on research for a series set in the 1480s and the origin of the Pact. I expect this to take another two years or so before I can start writing.

As I’ve said in posts about this, I did do a degree in Medieval and Renaissance History, but for some reason it didn’t focus at all on what the land magic was doing in Albion. So I’m having to go back and look at a lot of things and figure out how that worked at various points leading up to the Pact.

And a word about Claudio

That 1950 book? That book is also Claudio’s eventual romance. I’m really excited to write this one, which will be the third in a trilogy of post-war romances.

  • Ursula Fortier‘s will be in 1947 or maybe 1948 (she’s the daughter of Thesan and Isembard).
  • Edmund Carillon (oldest son of Geoffrey and Lizzie) will have his during his time at Oxford and Oxford’s magical Academy in 1949ish.
  • And then we get to Claudio Warren in 1950.

There are some aspects I want to sequence thoughtfully around changes in post-War Albion, Council politics, and other details, so I can’t just jump ahead to Claudio. (Also, I’m looking forward to writing all three of them.)

The current plans have me writing Ursula’s romance in August 2024, Edmund’s in February 2025, and Claudio’s in August 2025, with them coming out in May 2025, November 2025, and May 2026. I know that’s a long time away, but I think the results will be worth it.

They’ll be alternating with books in the 1920s Mysterious Arts series, which include books about weaving, a night club singer (featuring Farran Michaels, Cadmus’s nephew, seen in Seven Sisters), and Gemma Smythe-Clive’s romance.

By Celia

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