Chapter 4 Part 10 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

No matter how vivid a dream might be, it could never match the book. It immersed Temmin so thoroughly he could not remember being anyone but a miserable pregnant girl running from her own father. The winter cold faded from Temmin's bones as he came back to himself. He shook out his arms to make his shivering stop. "If I were…being…a person in the book, and that person died, would I die too?"

"No, no," Teacher reassured him, "you would simply move to another vantage point in the story. Why, are you concerned for Lassanna?"

"No--well, yes, but it's more that I feel everything so very acutely--I forget I'm me. I'd forgotten how disconcerting it is." The shivering stopped to let a different cold creep in. "Could a father really kill his daughter for having a child out of wedlock?"

"Oh, fathers were within their rights to kill a daughter for burning the soup. Children were property. Children still are property, though killing them for one's family honor has generally fallen out of favor. Mother's Houses are somewhat to thank. If a girl in danger of an honor killing makes it to a Temple of Amma she is under its protection--no one can touch her. The Mothers then demand assistance for the girl's upkeep and that of her child in accordance with Pagg's Law, usually from the man who fathered the child. It became such a problem during the reign of Hildin the First that he helped found the first Mother's House here in the Capital. Within a hundred years every larger Temple of Amma had its Mother's House, and honor killings became rare."

Temmin realized he'd been leaning forward in his chair, wedging his hands between his torso and the table edge; he leaned back and flexed his cramped fingers. "I can't imagine it ever being legal for fathers to kill their children."

"It is quite legal now. Wives as well. Both under certain circumstances, of course, spelled out in Pagg's Law--I can find the correct citations for you, if you would care to read them." Teacher crossed the room to the bookshelves. "I believe your Presentation Day copy of the Law is somewhere in this room, though the writing is quite small and the jeweled covers have been removed for safekeeping. Those copies are made more for decoration than use--"

Temmin rose from the library chair. "No, no, unnecessary. What circumstances would make the murder of a wife or child legal?"

"Interpretation of the Law changes with the times, sir. Early in the Law's history a man might kill his wife, unmarried daughter or son not come of age for no reason whatsoever and face nothing more than a fine, the 'blood debt.' It was a fine large enough that a poor man might think twice and abandon a troublesome wife or cast out a pregnant daughter. Even so, I have known many cases over the centuries of men who were indentured for most of their lives to pay off a blood debt. The Fathers currently deem proven adultery as the only pardonable reason to kill one's wife. The blood debt must still be paid, but in all other cases, it is imprisonment or death. As for children, it is disobedience, though a great burden of proof falls on the father and the blood debt is high--higher than for the killing of a wife if the murdered child is a son."

"I suppose that's fair," mused Temmin, "a life still to be lived, worth more than a life that--no, there's nothing fair about it. Can a wife kill a husband or child?"

"Under no circumstances. It is death."

"No blood debt?"

"None. Death and denial of burial rites."

Temmin shook his head. "This is why I never studied the Law in depth. I don't like it." He gazed out the window; the struggling spring sun hovered low in the sky. "I want to go check on my mother--make sure she's eaten. Perhaps you can tell me what happened to this girl tomorrow."

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Comments

Clare-Dragonfly's picture

Supplicant

He can be an idiot sometimes, but he's pretty great here--Teacher didn't have to explain to him why the Law is unfair, he already knew.

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