them before the "years of cover" were completed, they were separated and sold as slaves.
Permission of all the parents was required for marriage by Public Law, whatever the age of the lovers. Consequently, even high-ranking guildfolk sometimes took their chances with Private Law, although most who tried it ended their lives threshing rye for the Lords of the West.
For example, Singwell and Gray-eyes....
Snubnose found such thoughts painful. He glanced at his sister and wondered how she could go on looking so cheerful. "But I suppose I look cheerful, myself," he thought. Indeed, he had the kind of face that couldn't look otherwise.
Snubnose followed his sister's eyes to the Candidate's stool; where Bump-arch, Proudwalk's lover and his friend, sat indolently, with his long legs twisted under him.
He wondered what Proudwalk and Bump-arch were going to do.
Certainly they weren't going to get married by Public Law. He winced as he remembered the furious screams of his mother every time Proudwalk brought up the question. Snubnose took his sister's side, but it seemed hopeless to win their mother over. And even if they succeeded, it wouldn't do any good. Bump-arch wasn't going to qualify for journeyman's rank, because he had stubbornly insisted on a demonstration that was sure to fail.
It was a crazy situation, Snubnose thought. Here he himself was a full-fledged journeyman, and here was his sister a full-fledged journeywoman, while a talented fellow like Bump-arch would remain an apprentice or become a guildless outcast. For that difficulty he had nobody to blame but himself, Snubnose reflected, in the virtuous way we meditate upon the mistakes of our friends.
Now the Grandmaster was introducing Crookback, Bump-arch's master, and as late as the previous Day of the Candidate, Snubnose's master as well. Snubnose looked at the old man more affectionately than he had while in his service. But he blamed Crookback for permitting Bump-arch to go ahead with his impossible demonstration. He was puzzled, as usual, by the motives of the old master physicist, born with a bent body and a clever, enigmatic mind.
A few formal words, a brief joke, and a couple of compliments—and Crookback presented the Candidate.
Bump-arch unwound his legs and stood before them. "Elder ones," he began traditionally, and Snubnose thought he caught a quick, impudent look. Bump-arch was young—the three of them were young together in their city and their time—but he was two years older than Snubnose and a year older than Proudwalk. He had started his apprenticeship a little later than was usual.
"I will say the thing. I will attempt the thing. Yours, elder ones, to judge whether the thing is done, whether I am worthy to sit among you." These too were traditional phrases.
"I will construct a chamber," he said casually, "in which I will go irreversibly from today, 155th-1712 DRC, to a day in the future, 155th-1717 DRC. I would be proud to claim this demonstration as my own discovery, but it is not; it is a restored experiment. I follow the directions I copied, while still a boy, from an ancient inscription in a vault outside the walls. The vault was afterward buried by the earthquake."
"And very conveniently too," Snubnose added to himself. Bump-arch had not admitted it, even to him, but Snubnose was convinced that the chamber was his friend's own invention.
"Reverence, elder ones," Bump-arch said and walked to the arched door of the meeting room.
"Time," said the Grandmaster.
Snubnose, rising, heard a conversation behind him, as two master chemists shuffled to their feet.
"Do you think the youngster will do it?" one asked.
"Well, there's a tradition about it," the other said.
"Yes, and there's a tradition about the elixir of life and a hundred texts as well, and you remember what happened to the young fellow who tried to make it."
There was a chuckle. "I remember, and he's not so young any more, and he's the best