On the old island,1 the people came to the palace to be married in the sight of the king and queen, and their union was hallowed by offerings to the gods. Only those married with divine blessing and royal recognition could hold land and pass it to their children. Rival suitors would be reconciled, debts between families settled, past misdeeds expiated; anyone who did not attend the ceremony had no further claim to redress. In this way, the nation was healed and renewed.

After the Desolation, the few who were left did not marry. The royal house was extinct, the gods were no more; the people were too close to each other, and debts and jealousy were not tolerated in those hard times.

On the new island, after the Relocation, the people chose to rule themselves, with their own laws. Ownership of land, inheritance, debts, crimes, all were subject to judgement, whether of citizens entering contracts or magistrates applying the laws, and they had built no new temples. Yet they started once more to marry. Beyond the private promise, beyond the public vow, beyond the legal commitment, beyond the rights and responsibilities they assumed, beyond all ties to living people and the sun-lit land, they sought the slender wire that alone connected them to the worlds they could not touch, the worlds of past and future: the silver wire that hummed with their stories. Tarnished black in places, elsewhere shining, this wire bore the meanings of their lives, and few people touched it more strongly than when they married and when they named their children.

  1. the phrase means specifically pre-desolation

Last updated 2021/09/07