The Deryni Series > The Legends of Camber of Culdi

Drafting convicts


Only taken me 30+ years to consider this, but no matter:

The Chronicles open with Imre wanting to engage in major building projects, and having 50 peasants in jail under threat of execution.

Is there are social/legal reason why Cathan wouldn't simply suggest that the peasants be drafted to work on the building projects? Understood if this would be one of the many things he is supposed to have tried before the action begins, but would there be a reason not to try it at all?


Well, it is explicitly stated that, under Festillic Law, the life of one Deryni is worth those of fifty humans, so the peasants who were rounded up after the death of the Deryni lord (whose name is escaping me and who seems not to have been a sterling specimen of a human being, either) were never intended to be detained or imprisoned for any long period of time.  They were intended to be executed until either someone disclosed the information regarding the murder of the Deryni or all fifty peasants had been executed.

So I'm not sure that suggesting they be put to work on the building projects would have been a suggestion that Imre would have entertained, both because that wasn't the point in the first place and because Imre could be a sadistic little so-and-so.

Also, if I remember correctly, both Coel (Cathan's brother-in-law)and Ariella were jealous of Cathan and part of the point of the punishment and the way it was carried out - including forcing Cathan to chose just one to be spared- was to make Cathan suffer as he was unable to protect or redeem his people.

KK was almost certainly thinking of our historical murdrum fine (from which we get our word "murder") that was first imposed by the Danish invaders upon the Saxons. If an unknown person was found dead, he was presumed to be a Dane and the village he was found in would be heavily taxed for his death. Later when the Normans invaded, they adopted the murdrum fine to impose harsh penalties on Saxons for any murders or even unexplained deaths among the conquering Norman aristocracy. Of course this would cause some of the Saxon villagers to try to hide any evidence of a Norman dropping dead in their village, even from natural causes, for fear of being blamed for the death or even suspected of playing a part because the murdrum fees were oppressive.

So given that Imre's penalty was the Festillic version of murdrum law, I can't see him waiving it to give what would almost certainly have been considered a more merciful sentence, when the whole point of murdrum law is to say "Don't even THINK of killing one of our conquering race, or there'll be hell to pay!" Not to mention that with the sort of building project Imre envisioned, he would almost certainly have needed skilled masons, stonecutters, architects, tilers, etc., and not simply conscripted farm hands pressed into service doing unfamiliar labor.


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