10

In Divided Allegiance (part of the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy), Paks and Macenion encounter a snowcat. It clearly intends to eat them, and they manage to kill it with the help of Paks' magic ring holding it still. After it's dead, Paks feels:

I was wrong to hold it that way, and that's the worst thing I've done.

Further:

Later in the book, Master Oakhallow also agrees that it was an evil act: "I should hope you knew it was wrong. Wrong, yes: bitterly wrong."

To me it seems like killing it was necessary self-defence, and holding it still was necessary to achieve that. Why do the above characters not share that view?


Paks and Macenion's options seem to have been:

  1. Allow it to devour their souls.
  2. Attempt to fight it off without magic.
  3. Use the magic ring to send it away.
  4. Kill it using the magic ring's assistance.

Suffering a fate worse than death is not a reasonable thing to ask of anyone, which rules out option 1.

Option 2 seems to amount to the same thing, as Macenion explains earlier:

No. It is truly magical, Paksenarrion. It can spell your soul out of you before you could strike a blow.

Option 3 would have worked temporarily, but the ring's magic is only active when Paks concentrates on it. She wouldn't have been able to maintain concentration indefinitely, and undoubtedly it would have returned to a high-value source of prey once it was free of the magic. Though Macenion does state:

you could have laid a compulsion on it to avoid us.

... that seems to contradict everything else we know about the ring's powers. We see several scenes where Paks momentarily loses concentration and the magic deactivates for that moment.

So through elimiation, I'm left with option 4 as the only reasonable course of action. Regrettable that it was necessary, but not evil.


Killing of animals doesn't seem to be viewed significantly differently in Paks' world than in ours. Farmers exist, and Paks is the daughter of one. She herself compares the snowcat's killing to that of a farm animal, but doesn't elaborate on the moral difference:

It might as well have been a sheep trussed up, for all the courage and skill it took

If, on the other hand, the snowcat is considered to be more sentient than an animal, it would be considered evil, for attacking people without provocation and eating their bodies and souls. Killing evil beings (to prevent them dealing any further harm) is generally established as a good act in Paks' world.

1
  • Do you wanna kill a snowcat? It doesn't hav'ta be a snowcat...
    – Valorum
    Dec 21, 2021 at 20:38

2 Answers 2

5

One of the key things to remember about Paksenarrion is that she expected a great deal of herself from a moral and ethical standpoint. At this point in the story, she was already thinking like a paladin, even if she considered becoming one to be an unattainable dream. A normal person might find it difficult to imagine holding oneself to such an impossibly high set of standards.

Paks had no problem killing in self defense but Macenion's wanted to kill the cat in that particular way primarily out of greed (snow cat pelts being very valuable), and she had gone along with his suggestion without looking for an alternative or even trying to understand his motivation.

If she had taken the time to explore an alternative path, and not found one that was better - since it is very possible that attempting to lay a compulsion on the snow cat would have been beyond the capabilities of the ring - then her conscience would have been clear (or at least clearer).

While Paksenarrion had not actively done anything evil, she had allowed something that was morally and ethically questionable to occur, even if it was out of carelessness and ignorance - that was how she thought of it anyway.

2
  • I've not read the books, but is there not something about trails being marked out to help prevent casual encounters with these animals?
    – Valorum
    Dec 20, 2021 at 20:22
  • It's one of my favorite series and I've probably read it at least five times, so I could be wrong, but do not recall any mention of trails designed to avoid snow cats. Generally, travelers avoided the specific pass that Paks and Macenion were on though - they were taking a short-cut that most people would have considered to be stupidly dangerous. Dec 20, 2021 at 22:11
3

It seems to me that you have answered your own question, within the question.

You said:

Though Macenion does state:

you could have laid a compulsion on it to avoid us.

This appears to be a "canon" source that there was indeed another option.

... that seems to contradict everything else we know about the ring's powers. We see several scenes where Paks momentarily loses concentration and the magic deactivates for that moment.

Everything Paks knew about the ring's power, she knew from what Macenion had told her. So, if all she knew how to do was concentrate constantly to control an animal, this does not imply that there is no more that that she could do with the ring. Macenion apparently witheld knowledge from her in order to get her to do things his way; perhaps her greatest failing here was trusting him too much, and not asking if there was another option. After the fact, Macenion himself (our only source of knowledge about the ring's powers) confirms that there was another option, though he did not tell her how to do it.

In Paks' world, it seems clear from the wars in Aarenis that slaughtering the helpless is considered immoral, while fighting and killing soldiers in war is not. In the scene with the snowcat, Paks states clearly that this is what she sees as wrong here:

(Paks)"Kill it? But it's helpless -- it can't move while I --"

(Macenion) "That's right. Just keep holding it still. It's the only way I have a chance-- "

(Paks) " "But that's not fair -- it's helpless -- "

Afterwards, when they argue over Macenion taking the pelt, after Macenion had mentioned that she could have sent it away with a compulsion to avoid them, Paks says,

"You told me I had to hold it, or it would kill both of us -- and you lied about that"

As for why this is different from slaughtering sheep -- in this case they did not need the animal for food, and it is not a farm animal raised for eating. Perhaps, if they were trapped there with no supplies and starving, and needed to kill it to eat it, it would have been better. Even so, this is a free, magnificent beast, not a sheep, which they perhaps see as different.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.