It was the eve of Brannon's thirteenth birthday, approximately eight years before the end of the world.
The tradition in the Turner family, going all the way back to the founding of the House itself, was to present children who came of age with their own room in the manse. Up until now, Brannon shared a room with his younger brother Stephen; Stephen would now be sharing that room with their youngest brother Nicholas, who was graduating from the "nursery" though it hadn't been used for that purpose in some time. His middle brother would now fill the role he was leaving, as is the way of things.
Brannon practiced maintaining his best disaffected facial expression, but it was very hard to squash the bit of boyhood excitement that lingered behind the prospect of having his own room all to himself. He primped a bit in the full length mirror, making sure his hair was just so, his tie set at the appropriate angle. Appearances were always important.
Stephen sat quietly on his bed in the Northwest corner of the room, reading an astronomy book, paying no notice to Brannon's preparations. The middle brother was precocious in his studies, much more so than Brannon was at his age. He stared down at the tome through horn-rimmed glasses that were a bit too large for his face; Uncle Thomas always said he "wasn't doing a very good job of growing into them." But it's not like Stephen was the runt of the litter, he just liked to do things in his own time, and getting larger was surely as deliberate a choice on his part as any other task he undertook.
"Well? Am I ready?" asked Brannon - mostly to the mirror, but loud enough to get his brother's attention. Stephen's gaze never left the pages, but he murmured in a soft, slightly mocking tone: "I'm sure you are, big brother. You'll do just fine." Brannon prickled at the remark; sibling rivalry wasn't an issue, honestly, as the boys really didn't even spend much of their days in each other's company. With their busy schedules, they mainly saw each other at mornings, at dinner, and at bedtime. It was surprising to get even a mildly churlish response from the usually inward middle brother.
He decided not to dignify the snide remark with any reaction, not even with a huff, and instead walked smartly from the room with his head held high. Tomorrow was his day, the end of his thirteenth year in the world, and the beginning of becoming an actual grown up. He knew that his parents were proud of him, even if they couldn't be there in person on the actual day. Several of his aunts and uncles and cousins would be in attendance, and he would be properly doted on.
Tonight's dinner would be served in the first dining hall, and he decided he should start making his way there now, to be there directly on time for the start of service. His and Stephen's bedroom was located in the Southern wing of the House, on the third floor, while the first dining hall was all the way in the Northeast corner of the Eastern wing, on the first floor. He checked his watch - it was a quarter past six now, so he would certainly make it in time for the 7:00 p.m. service, he wouldn't even have to rush.
The Turner family was not prominent, not well known or famous in any way. As far as Brannon could tell, his family was simply very well off and preferred to remain private, left to themselves. His world, for nearly all of his thirteen years, was the House. He was cared for by many servants, he studied a myriad of subjects in the library rooms with visiting tutors who were experts in their fields, he never wanted for anything; he was content. The House and its grounds seemed vast and endless to a child, with all its rhythms and routines, and everything inside and out with its own place and purpose.
Brannon tried taking in all his surroundings with a fresh perspective as he walked through the halls and rooms on his way to dinner. He caught a maid doing her evening chores in one of the sitting rooms, and gave her a polite greeting in passing while she closed the curtains and set the heating elements to forestall any chilly drafts. She smiled back, but remained silent and dutifully on task.
Many members of the Turner family were artisans and craftspeople. He knew from the family histories - some of which stretched back hundreds of years - that every item in the manse was at one time handmade by a Turner, and passed down through the line, generation after generation.