Rix’s hand is the first to go up once again, as Jaco scans the audience, hands clenched in his lap.
“I hope I may ask this without being unpardonably rude, but how many children does a family tend to have?”
That manages to elicit a smile from him, and his bow this time is as elaborate as his sitting position and chains allow. “You’re not being rude at all, Honored Lady, but the answer might be a bit complicated.
“So, generally, most families have three, maybe four children per husband. Sometimes a man outlives his first wife, or maybe his second. It happens — look how young little Fell is. He might get married again, then, as a retirement sort of thing. Lady Taisiya’s first husband was like that. Usually guys like that don’t have more children — but Orrig had two.
“Sometimes…” He rolls his shoulders and clears his throat. “Well, someone’s not good for anything so they get married, but they don’t sire any egglings. You know, they say ‘the shell was too thin on that one’? That sort of person.
“But, uh, generally…” He twists his lips up for a moment. “Three kids, maybe four a husband, averages about two and two-thirds kid when you figure in the thin-shells and the old guys.”
“Do you know and/or are you allowed to discuss why there are more men than women?” Rix asks. In turn, Jaco shrugs, all his chains jingling as he makes a show of the noise.
“What they say in history class is it’s a side effect of the egg thing. I don’t know. They said that when we came here, to this place, the creators had to do some modification to make us able to survive here. And one of the modifications, well, that made so the eggs usually come out male. Sometimes someone comes out with a theory — an academic, maybe, or a priest. Once my older brother was working on something, actually, to see if they could shift the balance. His funding got pulled and he nearly lost his place at the University.” He shrugs, short and jerky. “So that’s as much as I know.”
He flips through the cards from the audience, finally smiling — almost a grimace, really — at one. “Lady Kelkyag.” He bows in Kelkyag’s direction. “‘How long do egglings incubate?’ That’s a good one. They generally incubate for about six —” he glances at me for the word.
“‘Month’ is close enough,’” I offer.
“…about six months. And, urm.” He frowns back at the card. “Does one male mind the same eggling for the whole incubation period?’ Well, here, and in the house I grew up in, yeah. The father minds his own eggling. If he’s sick, or… something happens, the rest of the men will take turns minding the egg, or a man without an egg will take over, I guess. But in some houses, all the egglings, all the children, are considered children of the first husband, and everyone else helps him out.” He wrinkles his nose. “Onter’s not like that, and I can’t see the Lady putting up with it. But not all First Husbands are Onter, and not all Wives are our Lady.”
He takes a breath, and then stands up to stretch. “I’ve got to get some air. Go ahead and leave more questions, if you want.”
His chains jangle loudly against the quiet of the room as he steps outside.
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