Back when I introduced the profession of armin in Daughter of Mystery, it was to some extent a means of creating a social context in which Barbara would make sense. It also became an aspect of developing Alpennian society as its own thing. Other societies had a dueling culture. Other societies had systems for guarding the virtue of young unmarried women. Other societies had personal bodyguards. But somehow in Alpennian culture those elements had come together in a recognized profession that acted as proxies for their employers in the public performance of "honor culture."
In Daughter of Mystery, we're introduced to the types of things an armin might be called on to do in a very immediate fashion through Barbara's actions and responses, as well as a passing reference to the consequences of a duel she fought on the baron's behalf. But in Floodtide, Roz hasn't had any interactions with armins on a personal level. She knows stories--probably the same sorts of stories that Iulien elaborated on in her fiction. But where Iulien (and the prior viewpoint characters) engage with armins from a superior social position as potential employers (or at least as the friends of potential employers), Roz comes from a different angle.
In the servants' hierarchy, armins are both very high and functionally outside the usual structures. Roz's first concern is to know how she's supposed to act toward them, her second, to avoid having to do so as much as possible. Because armins are perilous. They don't follow ordinary rules. They're allowed to kill people. And some of them seem like they might enjoy doing so.
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I didn’t know much about armins when I came to Tiporsel House—not about what they really did, just the old stories. The Fillerts hadn’t had an armin. Mostly folks didn’t. Just the titled folks, or maybe unmarried ladies if they were really rich like Maisetra Sovitre was and wanted an armin to protect them from the wrong sort of men. The wrong sort weren’t just rough men from the south side of the river. Sometimes they were men you weren’t supposed to marry, or men who wanted your father’s money more than they wanted you. You heard stories about that sort of thing and they weren’t the sort with happy endings. It’s funny how everyone says an armin’s duty is to protect your honor, but if you’re a girl that means not letting you marry the wrong man and if you’re a man it means fighting duels for silly reasons.
The maisetra’s armin, Marken, reminded me of my father. Papa never got in fights or arguments at the tavern, but he once made a vicious dog back down just by staring at it. I figured Marken would be like that. He’d never even need to draw his sword. He’d just stare at you until you felt foolish and stopped what you were doing. That was the sort of protection Maisetra Sovitre needed: just someone to keep silly men out of her way so she could get her work done.
Then there was Maistir Chamering—the downstairs folk called him Maistir Brandel like he was just a boy. He was the baroness’s cousin, and he wasn’t an armin for anyone yet, just learning. Because he was family, he lived upstairs.
Tavit was a lot younger than Marken and didn’t look much older than Maistir Brandel unless you looked at his eyes. There was something all tight and fierce inside him, like a wildcat you mistook for the neighbor’s tabby until it turned on you. That’s how Tavit made me feel when I bumped into him in dark hallways. Especially if he was all got up for working. It was like, if he picked up his sword he suddenly got even more quiet and watchful and he looked at you like he wanted a reason to stab you. Maybe that was what the baroness needed him for because everyone was still talking about how he’d had to kill a man for her in a duel at the New Year. The last thing I ever wanted was to have him look at me like that.