A geas is a life-long religious taboo, or a transitory oath which is as strong, but of a limited duration. A powerful Orlanthi carries many geases of both types: vows which stay constant throughout his life, and short-term geases imposed upon him by his associates and enemies.
Breaking any of these geases brings bad luck, dishonor, and eventual death. The geas does not alter a person's will, but it destroys his honor and destiny if he declines to follow its terms.
Permanent geases are laid upon someone at birth. They forbid performing certain actions or interacting with certain persons or places which the person is likely to die from.
A seer from the Lankoring cult examines every child born into a family of consequence. If the seer envisions the child drowning in the Doskior at the Birthing Festival, he lays upon the child a geas "never to touch Doskior water during Sea Season." Because death may occur near Birthing Festival, the geas includes the whole season in which it occurs. The fatal water might be from, rather than in, the Doskior, hence the stricture against Doskior water in general. A geas must be as unambiguously phrased as a proviso in a contract, which, in a sense, it is.
Transitory geases are placed upon social losers by social winners. Having bested someone in war, in sport or professional competition, through a superior display of courtesy, or through sexual wiles, the winner has the right to take their life or alter it. Transitory geases require their subject to fulfill some limited goal ("elope with me") or obey a restriction for a fixed amount of time ("wear no armor for a year").
The only real advantage in having geases is that you know five or ten sure ways to kill yourself.
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