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Recap / A Thing Of Vikings Chapter 67 Kill With A Borrowed Knife

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Book II, Chapter 36

Prior to the Imperial Assembly Of Law, the North Sea Empire's legal system was a patchwork of numerous local codes, ordinances, and jurisdictions, in multiple languages, and with numerous cultural and religious outlooks. The purpose of the Assembly was to create a pan-imperial legal code that was acceptable to all peoples of the Empire, and, as with all compromises, it generally succeeded at making everyone equally unhappy, even as they recognized the validity of the compromises. Religious law was left in the hands of the specific faiths, making the code officially secular, which pleased no one and yet satisfied everyone. Other elements were picked from the component legal codes, including Eirish Brehon, Jewish Talmudic, Eastern Norse, Berkian Norse, Islamic Fiqh, Anglo-Saxon Common, and others, into a reasonably cohesive whole…

… the complex methods of Hooligan title inheritance, after some refinement, became the method by which titular inheritance was managed in the early and middle eras of the Empire, as the Hooligans already had influences from the Brehon, Alban, and Norse legal codes. Pre-Assembly Hooligan title inheritance was a complex mix of elements from all of these sources, an intricate system that can be described as Absolute Primogeniture mixed with Gaelic Tanistry and Norse Elective Monarchy.

Before the later refinements were introduced, the system worked as follows: Upon the death or incapacitation of the previous title-holder, the designated heir simply assumed the title (absent legal objections from their new subjects or suspicious circumstances), allowing for a smooth transition of power in most circumstances. The main conflict came with selecting the next designated heir. Heirdom was an elected position in Hooligan law, in line with Gaelic Tanistry, based on suitability and worthiness. Heirs, at the time of selection, had to be adults without physical or mental blemish, descended either from the current or a prior title-holder, and currently a member of the clan that they would be inheriting (Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III's selection at the age of seven years was an anomaly, initiated by his father Stoick to reinforce his statement that he would not remarry as a result of his wife's legal death).

Beyond those qualifications, the prospective clan-heir needed to be voted into the position by a majority of the individuals over whom they would rule (typically the members of the clan), with the precise degree of the majority needed depending on the heir's relationship with the current title-holder; a child of the title-holder's spouse needed a simple majority, while the child of a concubine needed six-tenths, and more distant relations needed greater pluralities. Furthermore, the elections were handled in rounds; first the spouse's children would be voted on, one at a time in order of birth, and only if none of them were selected as the clan-heir in two rounds of voting would the elections move to include the concubine's children, and even then, only with the explicit acceptance of the title-holder. From there, if the voting still did not find a suitable candidate, the pool would be expanded to more distant relations, with each voted on in turn until an acceptable candidate was found.

While this system functioned well enough for the Hooligan tribe when it was a thousand people or less, it quickly ran into scaling problems as the clans grew, causing fractures to grow, necessitating the various refinements …

Origins Of The Grand Thing, Edinburgh Press, 1631

Tropes That Appear In This Chapter:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Harald laughs at a joke Sigurd makes during a jailbreak.
    Harald: What's going on?
    Sigurd: Kristoffer will explain! C'mon!
    Harald: Give me the high points at least!
    Sigurd: Okay. Two days ago, the Emperor banished the Empress.
    Harald: That half-brained, quarter-wit—!
    Sigurd: Sir! Let me finish before calling me names!
  • Ax-Crazy: Sweyn, if his reaction to being told to kill a whole lot of people is any indication.
    Sweyn smiled dangerously, one corner of his mouth rising up in bloodthirsty anticipation.
  • Deadpan Snarker: This exchange shows that Elinor can be this.
    Hammeredge: Chief, I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's an issue—and it needs your attention.
    Stoick: What is it? I'm in the middle of something.
    Elinor: (looking at the pile of wood-shavings around Stoick's seat) Yes, Stoick, I believe that your input into these negotiations has been constant and invaluable.
  • Internal Reveal: Stoick is told of Henriksson's machinations by Yngvarr.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Bladewit brings up some valid points on why it’s not a good idea to give everyone dragons.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Bladewit all but explicitly states to Fishlegs that she had this moment after she learned the truth about the dragon's reasons for attacking Berk, disgusted and horrified that she had spent her life killing dragon’s who were little more than enthralled children, and has taken efforts to correct her mistake.
  • The Reveal: We find out Bladewit's reasoning for writing the restrictive law on who can be a Dragon Rider, see Thanatos Gambit below for more details.
  • Thanatos Gambit: When Fishlegs goes to confront his aunt, she reveals the actual motivation for writing the law as she did: She did the math and realized that humans in Berk's potential area of control far outnumber their dragon flock. That means if dragon-riding became a possible right for everyone under Berk's control, it would lead to the dragons being effectively enslaved, because they'd have no choice about being used for riding. So she wrote the law to keep them from being abused—and set things up so that the clans, including her own, would bloat with new members being adopted or married in to make them riders, also giving them a chance to assimilate into the tribe's ways of doing things. And then, when she and the other elderly clanheads die... the bloated clans, unable to choose successors, would fragment, but that would buy time for the dragons to build their numbers, but still keep them from being forced to adopt humans due to the population ratios. In short, in order to protect the welfare of the dragons, she set up her own clan to self-destruct on her death. Fishlegs is stunned to the point of going on an eating binge.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: During her and Fishleg's private discussion, Bladewit mentions this as being why she's against just giving out dragons; as it stands, there's no way of ensuring that the dragons aren't being abused that isn't flat out tyrannical.


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