Clan Fights, Blood Price, and Accidents

Ah, the complex world of honor, hair-trigger reflexes, and short tempered men without much of a sense of humor (notably Skender.) When is blood-price invoked within the Clan? The easy answer is “it depends.” Alas, that’s a bit too easy.

So. If the Hunters are out Hunting, and one is killed or mortally wounded by their prey, no one in the Clan is considered responsible. Sometimes it is foolish eagerness, or sneaky prey, or just sheer bad luck (as when Arthur slipped on wet grass or mud, and that let the abyssal thing get close enough to bite him badly.) These things are part of the risks, everyone knows them. The Hunters always kill what they catch, rather than sending it back the way magic workers often do, so the creature has paid a price*, so to speak.

Farm accidents happen, and unless gross negligence is proven, there is no blood price involved. The loss is unfortunate, but again, everyone knows that there are risks, some more foolish than others**.

When the Hunters are training, well, that’s when things get complicated. Fights are refereed, and are supposed to stop at first blood or when someone hits the floor. Guys being guys, sometimes enthusiasm and physics overrides the rules. If it is obvious to everyone watching that the survivor tried to keep excess harm from happening, or that the deceased was terminally stupid, then any blood price is at most token. The referee and older active Hunters will try to keep known antagonists from sparring with each other to reduce the likelihood of murder under the guise of “training accident.” (When the priestess and several other Elders show up to a practice, at least one Hunter is going to get counseled about proper behavior and how better to channel anger and rivalries.) There is always a Healer present, usually one of the older or already married women. That reduces the temptation among the youngsters to try to impress her with their skills and accidentally causing serious injury or death in the process.

Let’s look at Arthur’s/Boianti’s career as an example. He has killed younger Hunters three times that are noted in the stories thus far. The first and second times, the youngster jumped Arthur. The younger men wanted to prove that they were better than Arthur. In that case, especially the second time, so many people saw the idiot’s attack and Arthur’s automatic defense that the Hunters and Elders agreed. Stupid games led to lethal prizes, and Arthur wasn’t asked for blood price. Nature had weeded out the terminally foolish, as sometimes happens. The third time, when Arthur was working with a younger Hunter and training against Rendor and a third experienced fighter, Arthur (and his student) did have to pay a token price. Yes, the deceased should not have jumped into the fray unplanned and unannounced. But Arthur should have stopped his student the moment he realized the situation. He also should not have been so hair-trigger while training. Or so the referee and Elders determined. The punishment of temporary spiritual exile, so to speak, fit the failure of self-control, according to the other Elders.

So, what about Skender and the Hunter once known as Karol? Skender has almost no sense of humor. He also tends to be very sensitive to what he thinks is a challenge to his status and position. They’d been out on a hard Hunt, and Skender was tired, ached, and in no mood for anything. Neitehr were the other older Hunters. Karol should have read the group better, but no. He had a reputation for being impulsive, irritatingly so but not fatally. Yet. Karol mouthed off with what he intended as an irreverent joke. Skender took it as a status challenge and reacted. Karol’s apology fell literally on deaf ears, because Skender wasn’t hearing anything but the sound of his own heartbeats and breathing. He was going to kill Karol. The fortuitous lightning fire saved Karol, as did Boianti distracting Skender. When Skender, as clan head, declared Karol outside Clan protection, it made Karol fair game for anyone with a grudge. Boianti did what he could to get Karol out of the killing zone, so to speak. It was assumed that Karol died of his injuries. Skender paid a small blood price for his loss of control. After all, Karol had a history of folly, and everyone else knew better. Boianti, the Dark One, later the guardian, suspected that perhaps Karol had not died, a suspicion later confirmed. When Karol, now called Jude, ventured into River County to warn about the nosferitau, Boianti recognized him but kept his mouth shut.

It’s complicated, full of exceptions and special cases, and based on everyone knowing everyone else well enough to determine “That was an unfortunate accident,” vs. “You should have reacted with more restraint,” vs. “Dude, what did he think was going to happen if he did that?”

*Since the blood of Hunted creatures forms part of the Fruits of the Hunt, the blood-wine, the Hunters’ prey pays a literal blood price.

** When I worked in the Midwest, every harvest season had at least two fatal accidents in the region. Usually people were driving when exhausted and ran off the road or something. One memorable occasion involved a farmer who lost both arms to a combine, trying to clear a blockage in the throat of the combine with the mechanism still running. That’s often fatal, and there are supposed to be a lot of guards and weight-on-seat switches to keep farmers from being able to stick things into the feed mechanism when it is running. Alas, people get in a hurry, racing daylight and the weather and peak crop quality, and safety switches sometimes fail.


23 thoughts on “Clan Fights, Blood Price, and Accidents

  1. Not only do safety switches sometimes fail, but they’re often inconvenient and may be, er, encouraged to fail by creative application of wire, chewing gum, etc.

      • I’m finding it a fairly dangerous hobby, and I’m not facing the sort of git-r-done pressure a real farmer would have. When things go sideways, I have the luxury of backing off, pondering the situation, and maybe deciding that a particular task is beyond my abilities.

  2. The butt-in-seat switch on my utility tractor has a built-in override, because sometimes you need to run the PTO while standing near the tractor. I’ve seen tractor-driven wood chippers sold that would run that way, but that offends my sense of survival. A post-hole digger is dangerous enough if you have to be off the tractor.

  3. In a safety evaluation seminar I attended, the instructor stated: It is possible for a system to be “too safe.” If it is too safe, it will be unreliable. If it is unreliable, the operator(s) will “fix” the unreliability issue, the system will then become unsafe.

    • Ding!
      Ill-considered system design can be unsafe in itself, or indirectly unsafe because it makes the operator’s job too complicated.
      This includes paper systems; if the documented process is inconsistent with getting the job done, another, more practical, but undocumented process will be substituted. (Yes, I was on the sidelines of an ISO-9000 certification, or circusification. The people writing the process documents had no clue what the actual processes were, but the documents were all shiny.)

    • Lawn mowers hit this a lot– our daughter is careful enough to drive the lawn mower, and has been for at least two years.

      She doesn’t weigh enough to trigger the weight switch in the lawn mower.

      She FINALLY got heavy enough, and is still bouncing-and-turning-off-the-machine.

      The design let us teach her how to wedge her leg against the machine to hold down the seat– bypassing the safety by working *with* it, teaching her “you make it work by putting yourself in the seat.” THIS design makes it it work with the bypass.

      • My wife isn’t quite heavy enough for the operator presence detection switch on the tractor as delivered.
        After examining the situation, I bent the switch bracket slightly. Now her weight suffices to activate the switch, but the interlock is still functional, just in case anyone manages to fall off despite the seat-belt.
        Why the weight threshold on a small tractor was “moderately overweight adult” instead of “average rural teenager”, I don’t know.

        • If they cover the trigger too much, you can put those ankle-weights used for exercising on them and sometimes that’s enough, too.

    • Or if the safety feature keeps you from doing things you really need to do. There are a ton things you need the PTO for when you’re not sitting in the cab.

      Then there’s the problem that failsafes fail. If people have grown reliant on the failsafe, things get messy. Real quick.

  4. I suspect that Skendor had little choice but to woo Corava, since he needed children, and needed a wife who was not a close relation. I hope that the ways of the branch that Corava was torn from are close enough to Skendor’s branch that she fully understands what she has gotten into.

  5. Personalities always enter into the ‘fray’, usually for the worst… And y’all just HAD to mention ISO-9000 didn’t you… sigh…

  6. It is wise to understand the process without the safeguards, how the safeguards change the process, what risks are mitigated, what aren’t, and be disciplined about a) not disabling the safeguards b) before starting, safely confirm that safeguards are currently functioning c) behave in a way that would be safe without the safeguards d) encourage other operators to be likewise aware of safety.

    But, that awareness is expensive, so almost certainly you will have operators who haven’t learned it. In some circumstances, managers and instructors will be completely ignorant.

    If a field is filled with ‘reliable’ rote workers, or crooks who learned by rote, you will have the conditions for a great many horrible accidents.

    Which is to rave about the academics, carelessly pissing away generations of earned trust.

  7. Thanks for the clarification as to how flexible the Clans’ understanding of “blood price” can be.
    John in Indy

  8. I just want to say thank you for both the explanation and window into what for me is a different world.

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