Ancient Trust is the novella you can get by signing up for my newsletter. (More below on why I did that). You can unsubscribe after, if my newsletter isn’t your thing, I won’t take it personally. Just please, don’t mark me as spam!
It also is a story I wanted to tell since I had the opening scene in my head.
Ancient Trust takes place in 1922, when Geoffrey Carillon inherits the land magic from his brother. Carillon and his valet Benton are in Kenya, as part of a longer expedition between points in Africa, seeking specific materia (plants, minerals, and other items with magical potential) to bring back to Albion. He does it responsibly, but this period is toward the tail end of a massive exploration of natural resources that was not, shall we say, often managed well or sensitively.
I knew I wanted to write something that was toward the beginning of the larger arc of the Carillon family in this generation. There are in fact a number of of beads on this particular necklace, running from Bound for Perdition in 1917 through the upcoming Three Graces in 1945 (out in December 2023) that will finally bring out some answers to the question of what actually happened to Temple.
The Carillons are a longstanding family – Ytene, their landed estate, goes back to nearly the Norman Conquest in 1066. There’s a lot of complex history there. And of course, there are recent tragedies, beginning with the death of Geoffrey and Temple’s parents on the Sussex, which was torpedoed in the Channel in 1916. This is an actual historical sinking, and the history about it has a number of unclear aspects, including – regrettably – the total number of deaths.
In the course of the Great War, Temple is doing secret research with a number of other people. It becomes clear that some of that wasn’t good for him, on an extremely direct level – but Geoffrey has no idea what he was doing, nor is he in contact with anyone who seems likely to know.
Carillon and Benton
A second reason I wanted to write Ancient Trust is because I love Carillon and Benton together. (Not romantically or sexually, Benton would never. But in all the ways they’re absolutely chosen family for each other, yes.)
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Benton definitely falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but his life circumstances have given him clarity around what rules and expectations apply right now. He started out working as a hallboy and then a footman in a country house. When the Great War began, he served in the trenches, before being assigned as Carillon’s batman or soldier-servant when Carillon was assigned as an officer to their unit. When Carillon was pulled out for Intelligence work, he took Benton along – and discovered along the way that Benton was capable of learning quite a lot more magical technique and practical skills than he’d been taught so far. (You can see some of this in On The Bias, in 1925.)
By the point we see them in Ancient Trust, they’ve settled into a life of expeditions punctuated by a few months back in Albion. They’re always moving on into some new setting, but Benton is clear about what Carillon wants out of him, and which parts Carillon will handle. And Benton, of course, brings an absolute pragmatism and attention to detail to all his work.
I loved getting to write Ancient Trust seeing both of their takes on what was going on, and what information was and wasn’t available. Their mutual comfort with each other and trust in each other is an absolute delight to me.
Connections to others
The last part of this is what I knew I wanted to do with this piece. For authors, this kind of reader magnet is meant to be an introduction to your characters, world, and writing that hopefully entices people to try out more of your work. Obviously, this is going to work better (and honestly, also be more fun) if you can tie in more than a couple of people.
I’d been putting off writing this piece (despite having the opening scene in my head for quite a while, including Carillon’s comment:
“I fear, Benton, that we must accustom ourselves to a new mode of address.”
But as I kept nudging the outline, I realised that the timing of this allowed me to do some fascinating things with other characters. Ancient Trust overlaps with Outcrossing, my first book, which meant I could show Carillon’s meeting with Rufus (the hero of that book) from the other point of view.
I also knew that Carillon had been friends with Giles for quite some time, since before the Great War, and that one of the things he is quietly furious about is the sort of warfare that involves gas attacks, like the one that blinded Giles. What I didn’t entirely know – until I wrote Ancient Trust – was how the Edgartons fit into that.
When Captain Kate Lefton (newly married) and then Richard Edgarton showed up at the end of Outcrossing, I knew that these were people Carillon trusted, but also that that trust was relatively new and untested. I also knew he was very new to his title and had only recently returned to Ytene, so he’s not yet confident in his own connection to the estate and the land magic.
(Including, in this case, whether he could reliably pull off the soc-and-sac judicial magic, which requires the Lord of the land’s permission, and also someone who has the land magic connection and judicial magic knowledge to make it work. Richard Edgarton, as a Lord in his own right and also a magistrate, makes an excellent substitute. But of course, when I wrote Outcrossing, there was a lot I didn’t know about any of these characters yet.)
I loved having a chance to explore how Carillon comes into the Edgarton’s circle, why he trusts them as quickly as he does (largely because he trusts Giles), and he is absolutely clear they’re competent in their own areas of skill and knowledge.
Again, if you haven’t read Ancient Trust, it’s a novella (so a quick read) and you can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter. Enjoy!