Of Kings and Dragons
Weregild and Ransom
The people of the Linnorm Kingdoms hold certain rights sacred, and those who violate these rights are considered criminals and outcasts. Even the Linnorm Kings, whose words are law within their purview, are held to these rules—particularly that of weregild, or “humanprice.” Every life has a value in the Linnorm Kingdoms, just as every piece of property has a value. The blithe destruction of property or life is an insult that cannot be borne—one that most in the Linnorm Kingdoms are prone to answering with blood. The concept of weregild helps to prevent many such insults from growing out of control, for before the victim or her allies can respond to an incident with equal violence, the perpetrator always has the option to pay for the destruction. Death and damage as a direct result of warfare are generally held to be exempt from weregild, but secondary destruction and circumstantial death are not.
Weregild for hostages and prisoners taken during a raid constitutes a specific subcategory of this system. A hostage taken in the course of battle must be returned alive and in good health after the battle should the hostage’s allies pay an amount of gold equal to that hostage’s weregild. If a hostage is taken in battle and then executed, the allies are allowed to demand weregild from the hostage’s killer. The opportunity to collect a fee for hostages taken allows a victor to profit from the capture even though she eventually has to give up the hostages and their gear.
There is no alignment stigma attached to taking prisoners for the purposes of demanding weregild. The practice has a long and honorable tradition, and it’s not uncommon for hostages who are well treated to return home upon the payment of their weregild to spread kind words about onetime enemies. In this way, hostages serve as diplomats and ambassadors, and their safe return can foster peace quite efficiently.