Mirrored from Sythyry.
Actually, there was only one possible arrangement. The Noritts and Rounses had, ultimately, only two assets: their tiny sliver of the village’s lands and profits, and their labor. Only the mayor herself, of all the people in the village, had the money to pay what the Noritts and Rounses owed; and even for her it would not be easy.
So the Noritts and Rounses gave Gorsen everything they owned, save their house. Three strips of land in the rollward fields, four squares in the roll’gainst; eleven spots in the inward. Seven nut-trees, and four fruit trees. An annual share of hay: this year, badly diminished. A plow-cow; fifteen chickens. This and that else.
Not that the village of Dren Mafferhame would let anyone starve. As long as the Noritts and Rounses worked as best they could, they would have their shares of grain and salad and vegetables, and no one would begrudge them filling their plates and their bellies at the communal dinners that happened eight nights a week. But they’d get none of the village’s money, except whatever they could earn by extra work in their spare time, or gifts from sympathetic neighbors — the neighbors who had lost a barn. No money for rum and cinnamon oil for Ellie’s next birthday cake, nor for new clothes when zie outgrew the ones she wore. Nothing for a new knife when Allam’s knife broke. Nothing for medicine if anyone got injured — and that worry was quite fresh.
“I could sell myself into indenture,” said Tansy. “I deserve it, for all the ill I’ve brought us.”
“We’ll have no talk like that, my mari!’ said Allam. “It was ill luck, is all, and a bit of poor steering. Unfortunate it is. A crime worthy of indenturing it is not.”
Periwinkle took Tansy’s mid-hand. “And you work hard every day, taking care of every child that our Allam has sired, whether he got them on you or on us. If you went off and sold yourself, we’d be miserable and we’d be extra-busy.”
“We stand together, Rounses and Noritts, in the bad season as well as in the good one,” said Coriander.
“You’re a bunch of fond fools,” said Tansy, but zir eyes filled with tears and zie wrapped the arms of her family and her half-family around her.
(Anthropological note: The stereotype is that when one Herethroy man weds two pairs, the two pairs hate each other and compete for the man’s attention. This stereotype is as true as any: in more cisaffectionate Herethory families than not, there is at least some tension and discord between the two. It is also as false as any: in some substantial minority of families, the five people are as close as kinsfolk. In poorer circumstances — and the Rounses and Noritts were poor even before their troubles — it is often most practical to live as a single five-adult family rather than two 2.5-adult ones. So the Rounses and Noritts do not fit the stereotype at all, but they are hardly unusual in how they defy it.)
(And it is technically improper for the spouses from one side to have any sort of romantic liaison with those from the other, except of course for the husband, who is required by both. I have no idea if the Rounses and Noritts obey this propriety or defy it or what. In the absence of information, let us assume the best of them, and, if we wish, debate what “the best” may be.)