Before I get to thieves, I want to invite those of you who live in the Nashville, TN area to the Southern Festival of Books this weekend (Oct. 14-16) at the War Memorial Plaza downtown. Lots of fantastic authors will be there, signing their books and speaking on a variety of fascinating topics. I’m scheduled to speak Saturday at 4:30 on the topic, “Fantasy, Murder, and Romance – First Books in Multi-Genre Series.” Copies of Breath of Angel will be available for purchase, and I’ll be available to sign them in the autograph area immediately after my talk.
If you’ve read Breath of Angel, you’ll know that Trevin lost the small finger on his right hand when he was quite young, and he can’t remember how it happened. Here’s an excerpt from Eye of the Sword, book 2 of the Angelaeon Circle novels, due out in March 2012:
Varic leaned toward Melaia, his voice soft but clear enough that Trevin knew he was meant to hear. “A friendly warning, my lady. In our country, taking a finger is the penalty for thievery. A man missing a finger is in no way trustworthy.”
So is Trevin trustworthy? Varic obviously doesn’t think so. Melaia has often wondered. And Trevin wonders about it himself. After all, he grew up robbing and has betrayed people more than once. In fact, he holds a guilty secret that haunts him.
Trevin robbed alone or with his younger brother, Dwin. He never joined a group like many thieves did in ancient times. Back then robbers often formed bands (thus the word “bandit) and stole for their living. They hid in ravines and caves and attacked travelers. That’s why most people never traveled alone but went in groups or caravans for protection. Many of them sewed their money or valuables into the hems of their clothes or waist sashes.
Caravans hired guides they called “eyes of the caravan.” The job of an “eye” was to watch for thieves. Some caravan masters would hire one band of robbers to protect them from another band. – which makes me wonder if they ever regretted it.
Cattle and sheep thieves also hid in hills, woods, and ravines, watching for an animal to stray from the herd or flock. They crept in and stole strays. But a thief might prefer to be a housebreaker. Since most houses were constructed of mud and straw or clay bricks, housebreakers dug through the walls.
Severe punishments awaited thieves in the ancient world. The captured thief might lose a hand. Or his life. In most countries banditry was a capital crime, punishable by death. The exception was in ancient Palestine under Jewish rule. The Jews limited punishment to no more than “eye for eye and tooth for tooth.” A thief was required to return the stolen property along with a penalty payment.
As you can see from the Eye of the Sword excerpt, nations in Melaia’s world are not as generous. They operate under harsh penalties.
Be safe and well and grateful!