Pre-Note: You can read the introduction or not, it'll help you understand some things more bluntly but everything that I've said here is told one way or another in the story (though maybe less clear). Also there's a character listing below that tells you who everyone is as well as the 4 duchies and dominions that make up Valoir. If not, you can scroll down to the first chapter of the CHRONICLES OF FLUTE.

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Introduction

There's a lot of a mixture of East/West in this fantasy story. The different languages spoken within the country of Valoir, in the different "states" was much like it was in China (and still is). Except unlike the different Chinese dialects, there is no correlation with the written language (which is the same despite different spoken tongues). Also, inheritance is different from most medieval countries/renaissance period. The heir or heiress is whoever is the first born from the ruling Duc/Duchesse or Comte/Comtesse. However, the monarchy of Valoir is different as it's a dual throne with the eldest son and eldest daughter ascending to the throne. But the eldest overall is the one that inherits both the throne of Valoir and the Duchy of Monevassia, which was the Royal House of Valoir's first seat before gaining the throne of Valoir.

You need to know that there are 4 main duchies: Monevassia (where the Monarchs of Valoirs are from), Ceylon, Lyonne, and Aislenn. All the duchies are nearly the same size. The dominions are smaller and there are four of them: Halldor, Agosto, Nobu, and Jovans. In each of the duchies and dominions, a different language is spoken. For example in Lyonne, Lyonnish is spoken and in Jovan, Jovanic is spoken. Make sense? Bah, the story pretty much explains how everything goes because Flute's pretty clueless. So read on!

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CHRONICLES OF FLUTE

1. Chosen by Luck

THE FATHER SAID I was cursed with ill luck. If my luck was ill, it chose not to be ill the day that Dante, the Lord d'Companions, came to search for any likely youths from the Wards of the State. Every year it was the same, only the best of the wards were chosen to stand in attendance for the man who had the eyes to see hidden potential. I was not selected as in the past three years.
In the fairness, I was not much to look on. I knew I had brown eyes and brown hair, and the rest was ill-defined. If given the chance to see my reflection in the washing waters, I always glanced away from the scrawny image my parents hadn't wanted. Unlike most of the other wards, I had not come to the State by an unfortunate accident befalling my parents. I had not been wanted, for there were too many mouths already to feed in my family. My parents had no choice but to leave me with the Father and his brethren to be fed and cared for by the merciful State.
It was a better existence than I would have had with them. I was never cold or hungry. In many ways, the wards of the State were privileged. From the moment we could walk we were taught to read, to write, and to fight. What the State provided us in care it expected returned in service when we grew old enough to serve. In whatever capacity we were capable, we served 'til our deaths unless we were given special pardon by the State. Such an occurrence has happened less than the count of two hands in over a century. Most died in service.
That one day in autumn, Dante did not find any likely youths in the selection the Father had culled. Dante's irritation grew double fold when he learned that a good number of wards were kept secluded by the Father when an irate brother had blurt out that some wards were kept hidden. It seemed that Dante had wanted to see every likely ward every year that he came to select. To hold back from his eyes was tantamount to treason to the State.
The Father was chastised and warned against doing this ever again as the rest of the sorry lot the Father had kept hidden were brought out. Compared with the better looking and quicker minded wards, we were on the whole an inferior bunch. Yet Dante took the time to search through us as if we were not marked with the poor standard the Father had given us. It was my luck that when he came to me he asked me to do the one thing I had true ability in. He asked me to see.
"Boy, describe the Father."
Even untrained to truly observe, I saw more than most ever will. I have a talent for visuals and it brought me notice of the Lord d'Companions, the title given to one who trained the best of the wards to serve as companions to Valoiren nobles. He plucked me from the obscurity and mediocrity I would have lingered in. What he saw then, I can only guess at.
"Stooped back that he hides in billowing robes," I began, "with craggy brows over his mud colored eyes that have lost none of their sight with his age. The staff he carries is more for symbol than need as he has more mettle than most of the brethren. His stance is proud and strong as he is the Father."
For him to have chosen me then to train as a companion was a huge risk as I was already eight winters old and there had never been a companion as old as me to train and succeed. Most companions were trained from age five until they were a tenth and two or three before being sent off to the noble houses of Valoir or, if they were especially blessed, bound for the Royal House. It took years of steady and intense training to be a companion, one who perfectly suited the one they sworn to serve in life and to death. To take up a student three years behind the rest was a risk other Lord d'Companions would have not taken, but Dante did.
"Your name boy?" Dante inquired his voice harsh but his eyes kind enough that I found myself trying not to shrink my body at the physically imposing man. "You do have a name, don't you?"
"Flute," I answered hesitantly. "They call me Flute."
I heard him mutter, "Interesting."
I didn't think that my name was any more interesting than Gray's, Pick's, or Cat's. We were all named after some characteristic that distinguished us from the rest. A brother called me Flute when I had picked the instrument up and inquired if I might learn it. Up 'til that moment, I had merely been known by the word boy as I had done nothing to separate myself from the others. The brother was reluctant to teach me an instrument that females were usually urged to learn, but my proficiency in it was far better than they had expected. Then again, they had never expected very much of me. Besides my mediocrity at the flute, the only other ability I had shown any aptitude for was the languages taught by the sisters.
"I assume you're good at the flute?" I nodded. "Besides the flute," he inquired, "do you have any other fortes?"
"Languages," I responded. "I can read and write several languages."

"An offset from his visual capacity, no doubt," he mused aloud. "What languages?"
He was staring at me now, making me exceedingly anxious. I was only looked at like that when the Father wanted to reprimand me for not succeeding in my lessons as I should. I tried to find my tongue, but it was hiding in the back of my throat. I could say nothing, only attempt not to shake too much as he waited with growing impatience for me to answer.
"Do you wish to try my patience, Flute?"
I did not. I sincerely did not. I struggled and managed to stumble out the extent of my knowledge, "I know Monevassin." He didn't make any derisive noise when I stated the obvious. Every citizen knew the common tongue that linked the States of Valoir together. "I also know Jovanic and Lyonnish," I added with a rush.
"Fluent in both?" he surprised me by speaking in Jovanic.
"Reading and writing," I corrected him, speaking in Monevassin to spare him my bad Jovanic accent, "the sisters say I am flawless. My accents," I blushed with shame, "are horrible."
"Not a surprise," Dante countered in Lyonnish, "when you do not speak with those that are native speakers, eh?" I nodded, not really knowing what to say. "Now tell me something, Flute, how would you like to join me at the Companion's City?"
I knew it was strange, the amount of attention that he had paid to me, but I had never imagined that the interest would turn out to be anything truly good. I had received notice from language teachers, who had said I had enough promise to train on. But their promises of one-on-one sessions never materialized. My skepticism must have shown on my face for he laughed, albeit harshly, but my expression must not have displeased him since his eyes held a modicum of amusement.
"Wary of empty promises, are you?" he murmured. "It is good that you are not eager to jump at the opportunity only bound by words. Would you feel better if I were to put it down in writing?" I bit my lip and my eyes widened with the shock that he understood my insecurities. "Do you prefer Monevassin, Jovanic, or Lyonnish?"
"What?" I blurt out.
"To write out the contract to take you up as a novice companion and take you to the Companion's City," he answered with a serious voice though his eyes held a glint of teasing. "So which language is your preference, Flute?"
It was hard to make sense of the many different emotions that this man emitted: the harshness, the impatience, the bemusement, and the rigidity all to the same man. I would later learn that Dante was the epitome of complexity, and to understand him was to know a great deal. How he came to such knowledge even despite his age amazed me. There was nothing, it seemed, that he did not know.
"Monevassin."
"So be it, then." He turned to where the brethren had been standing, waiting for him to reach his decision if there were any likely from the ragtag bunch that we made. "This is the final boy that I will take," he announced. "I need pen and paper to make it official, though."
I have never seen any of the brothers move as fast as they did to do as Dante requested. In no time at all, pen and paper found its way into his hands as further evidence of the power in his presence. In an elegant hand, he wrote down his promise to take me to the Companion's City and train me to be the perfect companion.
"Your signature is the only thing needed to complete the contract," he told me, sliding the paper toward me. I learned later that while it was unusual for him to have me sign a contract in front of the brethren, it eventually would have happened. The contract was a general agreement that bound him to take care of me as long as I fulfilled the duties given to me as a future companion.
Since my contract had been hastily drawn up for my benefit, it forewent all the necessary explanations of what the Lord d'Companions required from the companions and what he provided for us. When I found this out later, I would have thought Dante was annoyed that he had to go through this trouble for me. But the more I grew to know him, the more I realized that he appreciated a challenge, and considering his own untrusting nature, it impressed him that I was wary.
It was when I was handed the pen that it sunk in that I really was being selected to be trained as a companion. The stories I had heard told about them praised their perfection in all things. How could I, the unwanted child and possessing such ill luck as I did, be selected to be trained as a companion? "Why me?" I asked. "Why not someone else?"
"Because," Dante answered, not the least bit perturbed that I was questioning his judgment when no else did, "you have potential, young Flute. I can see it in you, and that is why I have selected you."
I was dying to ask him what potential he saw in me. It was my shyness and the firm pressing of his lips together that dissuaded me from pressing upon him the questions that were piling into my mind. Whatever he saw in me, I vowed to not lose and to improve upon. I had always imagined that if I was lucky, I would be able to journey and to serve the State that had cared for me in the brethren's custody. Only in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a companion.
It was the stuff of dreams when Dante took the paper I had signed back and folded it into his pocket. There was no turning back now; I had signed my life and my service over to him to be trained to become the perfect companion. There could be no regrets.

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Author's Note: If you like this, review it and tell me what you think about the characters, the plot, the world of Valoir, and whatever strikes your fancy. I'd really appreciate it. Also, I realize someone said this was a little similar to the Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey, but I came up with most of the backstory before I'd even read it. But I think the trilogy is fantastic ;). So if anyone wants to pinpoint why it's similar, I wouldn't mind knowing why. Thanks for reading.