...And Justice For All

Stout's trial for solicitation of arson will not be for some time, of course, but the petty thief who has been troubling the docksides has no fancy lawyer to delay his trial. A number of the docksiders, including Ever, plan to attend that proceeding. Ever asks Folly if she would like to join him.

Folly will join him.

The trial looks rather rudimentary by the standards of judicial conduct that Folly is probably used to in Texorami. Nobody seems to have heard of anything like Miranda rights, the rights of the accused to counsel (he has none), protecting the evidence against tampering, or any number of things that Folly may be expecting. There's a limited amount of testimony, and the judge finds the thief guilty and pronounces sentence.

It's 10 lashes well-marked, and a period of indentured servitude not less than 40 years, with moneys earned going to restitution towards his victims.

Apart from the appalling human rights violations, is there anything about the proceedings that makes Folly suspect they were rigged or especially unfair? How do the docksiders react to the verdict and sentence?

Ever certainly thinks it's reasonable and fair, and the sense Folly gets from others she knows in the community is similar. The proceedings do not seem rigged or particularly unfair save that they lack safeguards that Folly probably considers important.

Lucas didn't meddle, so they were probably reasonably fair. =)

Baron Kaliq would like Folly's assistance in dealing with the Ambassadors, if she has time. Lady Paige does what she can, but she is overwhelmed with the work she has with the merchants. The Baron is looking a bit better now that his finances are more resolved, and his book of poetry has been published.

Folly is happy to assist however she can, although she confesses she's frustrated by the whole situation. She really feels for the Ambassadors, but she can't quite bring herself around to their point of view. "Some of them act as though getting them home should be our main priority, but we've got Royals gone missing, an economy gone screwy, and a universe that seems to be rearranging itself, for all we can tell. What do they expect us to do?"

"They either must believe that we will not help them or that we cannot. The former is infinitely less threatening to their worldview, Lady Folly."

"So the best way to be nice to them is to be mean to them. I can see I've still got a lot to learn about diplomacy." Folly gives the Baron a weary smile.

Vialle thinks Gerard is looking worse again, and would Folly please play for him? He's been so sad since Solange left, and Vere is a great comfort, but it's not the same as his little girl.

"I'll see what I can do," Folly says, "but lately everything I play comes out sad. Maybe it'll be easier if I'm playing for someone else.

"I don't know why anyone would want to live forever," she adds, a bit petulantly, "if you've got to spend the whole time watching the people you love disappear."

Rather than intruding on one of Gerard's bad moods like she did last time, Folly casually approaches him and politely offers to play for him. She makes it sound as though she's trying to cheer herself up as much as him.

Gerard is glad for the company. If Folly would rather not play the mandolin, he suggests cards instead, or some other pastime. It occurs to Folly that he may be as worried about her as she is about him.

Folly opts for cards. She distracts them both from their worries by making pleasant small-talk, trying to get to know Gerard a little better. She asks in particular about interesting Shadows he's visited and about what it was like growing up with so many siblings.

As a young man, Gerard spent some time in the Amber merchant fleet, and can tell interesting stories at length, although Folly suspects some of them have been edited for her benefit.

All of Gerard's siblings were adults by the time he was old enough to remember except for Julian, who was almost grown. So it was really more like having a castlefull of aunts and uncles in many ways.

Brita and Martin still have not returned to the City.

Folly looks as though she is not eating or sleeping well.

[This might be a good time to have that little chat with Vere about rights and government.... :) ]

Vere will be more than happy to make time for this discussion whenever Folly wishes. In fact, if she mentions it to him even in passing he will reveal that he has assembled several dozen fascinating texts which illustrate the somewhat illusive and ever changing nature of legal theory in Amber specifically in anticipation of this conversation....

Well, then.... :)

One evening about a week after the trial, Folly brews a nice strong pot of tea and meets Vere in the study. She pours herself a cup of tea, offers one to Vere, and settles on one end of the couch, her legs folded up into lotus position.

"So, love," she says once Vere has made himself comfortable, "before we delve into the fruits of your research, I'd really like to understand what you believe, and why, about the rights of the government and the governed. From your previous comments, it sounds like you believe the Monarch has the right to act at his or her whim. What, then, of the rights of the people?"

Vere sips his tea thoughtfully for a moment, and then says, "I think the source of our difference in philosophy devolves to that troublesome word 'rights.' To you it seems to imply that the party being discussed has certain intrinsic abilities or privileges that are an inherent part of its nature. I would say that the word is simply a convenient term to refer to the traditions and framework of laws regarding the relationship between the involved parties. Thus, in my view, there really are no such things as 'rights.' The Monarch has no 'right' to rule, the people have no 'right' to liberty or even to life. Rather, the Monarch rules because it is the nature of a monarch to rule, and within the framework of a particular society there is an established nature of duties, obligations, and privileges allowed to the populace."

He takes another sip, smiles slightly, and continues, "Actually, I have just had an amusing thought. I do in fact see a way in which the word 'right' can be used in this context with a meaning that I will accept, and that is in its sense of propriety. It is 'right' for the populace to have those privileges that they traditionally have in a given society, just as it is 'right' for a stone to be hard or for water to be wet."

Folly shakes her head. "That sounds like circular logic to me. You seem to be saying that as long as things are as they are, which they are, then they are as they should be." She wrinkles her nose as she thinks about it a little harder. "That doesn't seem to leave any room for change -- for betterment -- of the framework of a society. Do you truly believe that the only way to 'improve' a given society is to bring it more perfectly in line with the framework on which it is based, even if that framework involves, say, a violent ruler abusing his subjects? And how would you compare the relative value of two different societal frameworks?"

"Ah, here we are talking about an objective 'better' that exists outside a particular society. I have certain difficulties with the concept. I do not deny that it may exist, in fact I often find myself with feelings that lead me to infer that it does, but I know of no objective way to determine that what I personally consider to be 'better' is preferable to what someone else would believe. And if one chooses to believe that one has the right to make that final determination, that one can individually decide on how the universe should be designed...." Vere takes a sip of tea, "...well, isn't that exactly what Uncle Brand did?"

"Ah," says Folly with a grin, "but that's exactly why I find the concept of 'rights' useful, even if my definition is a little, um, squishy for your tastes. I think -- and this is just my opinion, mind you -- that 'rights' are what are maximized as society approaches ideal. I mean, what's the point of a society if it doesn't benefit its people? So you try to come up with a system where each individual can get the most benefit -- life, liberty, health, happiness -- without treading on the rights of others." Folly smiles broadly, as though the process of disagreeing with Vere has really helped her get some things straight in her own mind.

Vere is nodding as Folly says this, although more in an "I understand what you're saying" way than in agreement.

"It's interesting," she continues after another long sip of tea, "I understand the points you're making, about trying to be objective and all that, and yeah, it's a fun intellectual exercise -- but in the end, I think opinions are important, too, as imperfect as they are. I mean, even in mathematics, you've got postulates and axioms -- unprovable assumptions that affect the very nature of your system. I guess 'rights' are sort of... my postulate, and I can justify making that assumption because people are the part of the system that I value. If someone else wants to build a system that maximizes profit, say, then he may have no need of rights. From a purely intellectual standpoint, I can't fault him -- but on the other hand, he's probably not going to get my number, y'know?"

"I understand your point very well," says Vere, "And I agree to an extent. I certainly have my own postulates that I use in determining whether actions are proper or not, and they are founded on nothing so much as my own internal set of values. We could debate where those come from, of course, but I think we would agree on many of the basic assumptions that we're working from. The greatest good for the greatest number, freedom from pain and suffering for the innocent, and so on." Vere stares down into his cup with a small frown before continuing, "I actually think that I am being far more careful in how I approach these questions now that I see them as being more than mere intellectual exercises. The fact that we, as grandchildren of Oberon, can literally change society through our desires means that we have to be extremely careful about how we approach such changes."

Folly frowns, too. "So, do you get how that works?" she asks, "'cos I sure don't." She sounds a little frustrated. "I mean, is it just a Pattern-initiate thing, or can anyone...."

A strange look crosses Folly's features, a mix of puzzlement and amusement, and she adds suddenly, "Hey, you know those books your sister didn't write? D'ya think they could've written themselves?"

"An interesting conjecture, and one that I suppose is at least theoretically possible, although I think it unlikely. However, since we have evidence that someone was delivering these books to Drudge, I think it more likely that this person is working for an existing individual than that he was somehow invoked by a fluctuating probability field."

[OOC: Folly and Vere would make a pretty good Mulder and Scully -- well, except that Cambina is Spooky....]

Vere reaches over to the table and pours some more tea for himself, then looks questioningly at Folly to see if she would care for some.

Folly glances into her teacup, downs the remaining contents in one gulp, and hands the cup to Vere for a refill.

"As to the question of how reality manipulation actually works, no, I fear that I do not understand it. I have observed various of our Cousins doing it, and I have listened in to their conversations, and I believe that once I have walked the Pattern I will be able to put these observations to use. But it is all purely theoretical, and I fear that I do not understand the underlying principles."

Folly nods, a little absently. "Sometimes I think I've almost got it, but...." She sighs and shrugs, accepting her refilled cup from Vere. "No matter. As you say, eventually we'll walk the Pattern and it'll all start making sense.

"In the meantime, though, I guess I should try to educate myself without wishing too hard for things." Folly sips her tea thoughtfully for a moment, then says, "So, what've you learned about the history of legal theory in Amber? Any interesting trends?"

Vere answers, "The single most interesting thing is that the law is not so much a guideline to social interactions as a remedy for difficulties which have occurred. You should not view the law as an interlocking series of rules and regulations which define the society of Amber. In fact, the average citizen of Amber would prefer never to have anything to do with the law, and it would be exceedingly rare to hear someone make a statement similar to 'there ought to be a law about that'. Rather, there is a sense of the way in which society should operate, and when someone feels that there has been some sort of failure in its operation then the law is invoked, almost as a last resort. Primarily this involves questions of contracts and property rights. When dealing with criminal cases the law does not view an offense as having so much been against the victim, as having been a breaking of the Royal Peace, and thus a form of disobedience to the Royal Will. As I have said before, in Amber there is a very strong sense that criminal law is an extension of the Royal Will, rather a way of interpreting how Oberon would respond to a particular crime if he had the time or inclination to become personally involved."

"Ah -- sort of like, 'An ye harm none, do as thou wilt,'" says Folly, "so long as you don't piss off the Monarch. I've got no quarrel with the first part, but the second part -- law at the whim and will of a single person -- is still just weird to me. I mean, I can see some advantages -- 'Because I say so' is a damned efficient way to get things done -- but... ick." Folly makes a face not unlike the one Baby Hope makes when she wants applesauce but gets strained vegetables instead.

After another long sip of tea and a little more thinking, Folly looks at Vere with a sort of appraising look and asks, "You grew up under a system like that, though, right? How was that for you? What did you see as the major pros and cons?" Vere gets the impression that Folly is looking as much for insight into his nature as for insight into legal theory.

Vere considers her question seriously for a few moments before answering. "I suppose I would say that 'Because the Rightful Monarch says so' seems to me to be a better answer than 'because we have a law that says so'. It is more human. One can present a case before a monarch, attempt to change her mind, but when the only justification for something is that there is a law in place, then how can one argue with that? When the law has precedence over humans then I think the society has lost some of its humanity. Humans are social creatures, and most of us want to live in the company of our fellows. We are hierarchical creatures, we like to know our place in society. All of this seems to me to justify a system of interrelating obligations and duties, with an ultimate authority at the top. I can see the desire to replace the human factor with something less arbitrary, to make rules regulating the relationships between individuals for the protection of the weak, but does this not also have the effect of removing some part of the social aspects from these relationships, and turn them into an almost mechanized form of relationship? Human relationships must be more than mere contractual obligations, and I see an overdependence upon the law as fostering a tendency towards such relationships."

"Interesting," Folly says, and she means it genuinely. "I would've argued just the opposite -- that following a set of rules generated through consensus seems a lot more 'human' to me than following the rule of someone who may be in charge merely by dint of being born to the right person. And I see your point about humans wanting to know their role in society, but I don't see that it automatically follows that they'll do best in a sort of rigid vertical hierarchy. I think human relationships can be strengthened by the process of generating the rules, of arguing the points and trying to reach consensus.

"I mean, I always preferred being in bands where everyone had an equal say to being in orchestras where the conducter's word was law. To the outside observer, the orchestra probably ran a lot smoother, because there was such an obvious way to settle disputes: The conductor says so, so there. But the relationships I fostered in my band were always much stronger than those with the other orchestra members, because in the band, we were kind of forced to figure each other out in order to work together. As a result, I think we ended up being greater than the sum of our parts, whereas the effectiveness of an orchestra is often limited by the strength of the conductor, unless the players are willing to subvert his authority.

"On the other hand, I knew people who loved being in the orchestra because they could make a really nice noise without having to think too much, just as I'm sure there're people who are just as happy not having to think too much about the way they interact with others or how their government works. So maybe there's some sort of happy medium." As she returns to her tea, Folly gives Vere a "did that make any sense at all?" look.

Vere nods, obviously seriously considering her words. "I think," he says, "that in a small group I prefer your method. But in the larger society I feel as though there is not any real 'consensus' to the law. Most of the laws that will be formed over time will have been created by people who died long before the current generation, who find themselves bound by them. And if provisions are made to change and alter the laws to accommodate changing times, surely the rich and powerful will be the ones who find the most effective means to so alter them, and over time the laws will be used to give more power to the powerful, and less power to the weak. I don't argue that a monarchy is necessarily more fair, simply that it is at least more understandable, and therefore more acceptable. Again, I think my objection to 'the law' being held above everything is that an inhuman principal gains ascendency over human relationships. Perhaps my own personal feelings toward the tension between the two informs my opinions. And I assume that you have noticed that I have done nothing to interfere with your actions with the lower classes of the city; if they prove to give them more freedom and self determination then I heartily support you." Vere smiles slightly, "Despite the appearance I may sometimes give, I am as much a creature of emotion as any of the family, and as filled with internal inconsistencies."

"Oh, you don't have to tell me you're a creature of emotion, sweetie," says Folly with a grin. "I've heard you play."

She sets her teacup aside, unfolds her legs, and stretches. "You've really given me a lot to think about, cousin," she says. "I'm certain I'll revisit this topic with you in the future -- maybe after your sister gets home, so she can add a practical economic perspective -- but in the meantime, I think I need to do a little research of my own."

Vere nods. "I quite enjoyed this," he says. "I have prepared a list of many of the most interesting texts in the Library regarding legal theory, with annotations as to their level of complexity and the ways that you might apply them to some of the recent cases of interest here in Amber. I hasten to emphasize that I am not a legal scholar, I have merely an informed layman's knowledge of the subject, but I think these texts will lead you to some interesting avenues of speculation."

Folly smiles. "You're an odd bird, Vere," she says, but she obviously means it as a compliment. She eagerly accepts the list and puts it to good use.

If Martin has to shift any shadows to get Robin, Brita, and the merry band back to True Arden, he does not mention it to either of them, and Robin does not detect such. In a few days, about the expected time based on conversations with various members of the group, the Rangers reach one of the Ranger enclaves.

Robin can tell that the Rangers have not been inactive; there's a map of Arden with lots of pins in it that someone will happily decode (the level of Ranger literacy is low, but the level of smarts is higher) and everything has been kept clean. There are no signs of disuse or sloth here.

The word that Brita and Martin have returned with the lost patrol is quickly disseminated, and some newer Rangers are dispatched to other enclaves with the news. Older Rangers are all thrilled to see Robin, although many of them watch her with Brita and with Avid to get a sense for her behavior towards each.

Martin is willing to overnight at the Ranger enclave after their late arrival, but he plans to return to the city at once. He would like Robin to accompany him, since he believes that Prince Gerard would like to meet her and hear her story.

In a sleight of hand imposed by the GM, Brita has business to attend to in Arden that will take her exactly as long as Monica is on vacation to attend to. Afterwards she, too can go to the city if she wishes.

Brita will go to the castle as soon as her business in Arden is completed, which I'm sure included some dissemination of information to the patrols on areas that might need to be avoided in order to avoid getting lost....

Martin is an Amber Royal and a member of the government. Robin's not going to object. She does aver, tentatively, that the last she knew most of the Princes and Princesses of Amber were trying to kill each other.

"That's all done now, at least for the duration. Brand" and he reflexively scowls a bit at the name, "was behind most of the trouble and everyone else has lined up on the other side. They may fight over who rules afterwards, but they'd all rather have an Amber to fight over. In any case, the only Prince in Amber is the Regent, Prince Gerard. The other relatives -- cousins, and I have a lot of them, as it turns out -- have managed to restrain themselves from partaking of the family tradition of fratricidal violence." Martin's smile has more than a touch of wryness to it. "So far, anyway.

"But you may rest assured that you will come to no harm, Lady Robin. You're under my protection." And he really means that, as corny as it may sound.

"I thank you, My Lord," Robin says, sounding perhaps wary, perhaps confused, perhaps both. But she also sounds grateful, after a fashion.

She'll put some effort, before Martin conducts her castleward, into discreetly gauging how other rangers than the ones she fell in with feel about Brita's leadership.

Their feelings are mixed. Brita, Robin suspects, has control of the Rangers to the extent that they support her. There are a lot of things she doesn't know yet, although she's clearly striving to learn them. Many of the new Rangers are thrilled with her. The older Rangers seem to feel that she's very young and running the Rangers by wild-hairy-ass-guess, but many of them also feel that she tries hard and has big shoes to fill. A few, like Avid, would be happy to be rid of her.

Brita's support among the older Rangers, those of the Julian era, is there, but it's thin. It's possible that someone like Avid, or Robin herself, could sway them against Brita. But for the moment they seem inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. Martin, although he's passably woodwise for a non-Ranger, clearly isn't a factor in Ranger politics.

[Hey, just asking!]

[And speaking of just asking, Robin will buttonhole some rangers on just what they may have told Brita and her family about Robin, including ahem gossipy rumors about her, if they get her drift. (Meaning the wild-ass claims that she's secretly his daughter or something.)]

Needle and Thorn and Bay assure Robin that as little as possible has been said of her to Brita and Solange before her. Needle says he's been asked about her, but he thought she was, well, not coming back (Robin reads "dead") and didn't really have much to say.

No gossipy rumors have been spread, according to best information.

Also, the old-time Rangers are collectively all very glad to see Robin, regardless of politics.

Likewise. Robin evinces genuine happiness to be home. (Arden.)

On the ride in, Martin is courteous to Robin, but he seems a touch preoccupied. He does notice the quality of her horse, and asks where she found it, and about her adventures since she left Amber. Martin is generally willing to entertain questions from Robin on the situation in Amber, if she cares to ask any.

"I found the horse in Outer Arden, near one of the marked places," Robin says. "As for adventures... You'll think me coy, my lord, but I can hardly say what my adventures _were_. I followed the Black Road, per My Lord Prince Julian's orders. I got into a fight, with just a single other ally against what seemed distorted shadows of your family. In the middle of the fight I found myself having something of a fever dream. At the end, you fired a crossbow bolt at me and I awoke."

Robin lets that hang there for a suitably uncomfortable length if there is no response.

"Tell me, Lord Martin, did you have much experience of the Black Road?"

"Enough," says Martin, and there's an odd weariness about the way he says it. Then he smiles, and says "I don't recall meeting you on it, and I certainly don't recall shooting at you. And I can't imagine that meeting you wouldn't have made a memorable impression." He smiles, but his heart's not in the flirtation; it's reflex, Robin thinks.

"I'm just a Ranger, My Lord" Robin says, mildly. "Should I make courtesan demands for flattery on you, you should send me to gather firewood."

"I don't know the term 'marked places'," says Martin. "What are they?"

Robin takes the sort of time one would take if trying to explain a hazily-understood concept to someone smarter.

"It's ranger talk, Sire. Arden is - strange. You can set off in certain directions and never find your way back. Or something can find its way _in_, to you, and afterwards you can never feel that you've tracked its path all the way back to its origin. 'Marked places' are those spots in the forest that we know lead - away. Or - here."

"Of course," says Martin, "you mean the natural shadow paths."

He pauses to take in Robin's reaction.

"You know," he says mildly, "when Solange and I first heard the Rangers talking about you, I thought 'Robin' might be Julian's son. You're clearly not his son, but I've never heard that Julian was so careless of his Rangers that I think he'd send just anyone down the Black Road after what happened to him and Gerard. And you cut a reasonably mean shadowpath yourself; I was the one who followed your trail, so I should know."

Martin brings his horse around just enough to look at Robin. "If you have some reason for keeping quiet about your heritage, I'll honor your wishes, of course. But things have been rough in Amber since you left. All the shipping paths are gone, the economy's gone south because there's no trade, and the city has always been a net food importer. There's been no word from Benedict and the rest of the family in all this time. And the one person who's been able to lay any kind of lasting path disappeared a few months ago while shoring it up." Martin's knuckles tighten slightly around his horse's reins. "We need all the Pattern initiates we can lay hands on right now.

"Let me know what you want to do before we get to the city."

Robin rides for a moment in silence.

"The interesting thing is that you hardly ever heard about children of the Princes and Princesses of Amber. People do talk about that sometime, or at least they did before the war. Some have said, Lord Martin, that the Lords and Ladies of the Castle each loved mirrors so much they had no affection left over for younglings or anyone who would help make them. But let's face it, it doesn't require _that_ much interest in others to get someone or oneself with child. Now, many misbehaving children have been warned by their parents that a Prince or Princess would like to eat them, so that's another answer sometimes given. Some say that there must be whole orphanages of Royal brats around, but that any Prince or Princess who loved a child would keep him as far from his siblings as possible.

"What is _your_ notion on the matter? I believe you are the only child of a Prince who was commonly acknowledged as such beforetimes."

[Eric had a son and a daughter who were acknowledged during his reign, but that counts as "during the war".]

Martin may note that this last is the first time Robin has omitted honorifics when addressing him.

"A Prince who hid his daughter from his siblings would have been very wise; I have the scar to prove it. I'd like to think that with Grandfather dead, they'll all have grown up enough to give up their homicidal impulses, though. But I don't know what they'll do about the throne yet, and if there's another fight about that, all bets could be off.

"We have more than a dozen cousins that I know of. There are too many of us now; if we cover each other's backs, we should be able to stand up to any hostile relatives. As for the one relative who is known to be hostile to his nephews and nieces, he's dead. He just may not know it yet." And though Martin's still smiling, the smile's no longer nice. Robin has the sense of a predator whose attention is focused on her, although she doesn't feel that any malice is directed at her.

"Tell me about these cousins," Robin says. "For that matter, tell me about this hostile uncle!"

"Our uncle Brand is the author of our current misfortunes." Martin's hands are so tight on the reins of his horse now that he's white-knuckled. "He's homicidal, responsible for the Black Road, and allied with enemies of Amber. But that's a long story, and you asked me about our cousins, which is another long story.

"Gerard's the Regent, and he has two children: Vere, who's been working in the harbor, and Solange, who's been doing, well, quite a few things. She worked with the Rangers for a while until the mess at Wind Grove, which I'm sure someone told you about. She's out of Amber right now with Eric's son Jerod, who was laying the Shadowpath to Bellum, and they're overdue by months. Jerod has a sister, Cambina, who's been rebuilding the aqueducts and handling public works since the Sundering. She's got an assistant named Ossian, who's an orphan, but he's taken the Pattern, so we know he's one of us. There's another orphan, Folly, who's a musician, and we don't know whose she is, either, but Grandfather said she's one of us, and that's good enough.

"Then there's Paige, who's Bleys' daughter; she handled a lot of the property judgements and legal wrangling after the Sundering, but now she's at Court most of the time. You've met Fiona's daughter Brita already, and her tutor Reid turns out to be a long-lost son of long-dead Osric, whose story is so strange I'm pretty sure it's true. And Flora's son Lucas is married and has a little girl. Oh, and the rumors of Julian's son in the woods turned out to be, ahem, imprecise, unless you have a brother to tell me about.

Robin _heh's_ to herself. A brother _in the woods_ indeed!

"Those are the ones who have been in Amber. There's also Dara, who's descended from Benedict, and her son by Corwin, whose name is Merlin. They were both involved in Grandfather's counterplot against Brand. Both of them planned to meet up with Benedict on the field, but I don't know how that turned out yet, of course."

And he finishes with a flash of recovered good humor, "And you can tell your father I said so, of course."

Robin's brow wrinkles.

"Tell my father you don't know how the war turned out?"

Martin chuckles, as if Robin has said something particularly clever.

[Robin herself has no further urgent questions. Depending on how long the trip is, she'll just make small talk and pick up what there is to pick up.]

Back to Folly's main page

Last modified: 12 Jan 2002