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The Letter vs. the Spirit of the Law

[ Class Logs ] Treatise on Pernise Law ] Basic Law ] [ Letter vs. Spirit ] Advanced Law ]



November 9, 2002


And on Pern ...

It is afternoon of the twenty-fourth day of winter. It is the thirty-fourth Turn of the Tenth Pass. It is a winter afternoon.  The day wears on, gray and cold.  A fine mist falls.

Cloudscraper Lounge

Deep blue carpets the floor, cushioning tired soles and muffling footfalls. Several tables of dark wood, polished to a high gloss, are scattered across the room, surrounded by an escort of comfortable leather chairs. The walls are paneled in the same dark wood, occasionally sporting a jewel-toned tapestry or painting. A long counter stretches along one wall of the room, stone sides and brass accents gleaming from careful polishing. Glassware hangs overhead within easy reach, a rack of bottles stands behind. Glass-paned double doors let the sun in to light the room, reflecting off the gleaming wood and brass of the furniture before being broken up into thousands of tiny fragments by the... [look closer]

Liesana and Hynolonie are here.


Liesana is quite happily ensconced in one of the Lounge's collection of upscale-looking and decidedly comfortable leather chairs, holding down a seat at a large table otherwise empty besides the young master and a rather promising collection of finger foods on trays and pitchers of juice.  "Come in, come in... I see you got my note about where we were holding class today.  Have a seat, and get comfortable.  Oh.  And no notes."


Niara slips into the room, grinning broadly at Liesana before plopping to the floor, her hands scrabbling at the laces of her boots. Grunting with the effort, she pulls first one boot then the other off, flinging them a little ways to the side.  She pulls her socks up, wiggling her toes to gain another measure of cloth and then climbs to her feet, leaving her discarded footwear in a pile. Selecting a chair to the left of Liesana, she slips in, hands folding demurely on the table, freed feet swinging underneath.


Hynolonie snorts a little and shrugs.  "I really should have just followed you, knowing that you'd be teaching the class where ever you ended up, but... well, it would have saved me running around."  She grins a little and moves towards the fingerfood.  Well, she really is moving towards Liesana, but the constantly hungry Lonie is distracted by the food and is lured to it instead.  She smiles a little as Niara removes her footwear and pops something small, unidentifiable and yummy into her mouth.  She flops down in a chair next to Liesana and sighs, enjoying the comfort.  She really is starting to act like Yatyl now, and is beginning to slouch whenever possible.


"Exercise," notes Liesana to Hynolonie with an arch smile.  "Is good for you.  Besides, all you missed was a little more snogging, and then me running about like a thread-singed weyrling to make up for time well wasted."  she winks, before reaching over to snabble up one of the ubiquitous mini-sausage-roll creations found on hors d'oevre plates throughout history.  "Nia, mind kicking your boots under the table?  The drudges get awfully sniffy about such things."


Illata moves with an unconscious grace in through the double doors from the east hallway.


Illata curtsies. "Sorry I'm late."


The scene, for new arrivals:  Liesana and the coterie of class-goers already present (Niara and Hynolonie, to be precise) are seated in comfortable chairs around a table littered with plates of snack foods, and pitchers of juice.  Casual chatting is going on, as they wait for the rest of the class to find Liesana's note, and make their way here.


Niara wrinkles her nose and grumps goodnaturedly as she slides off the chair, taking the two steps to the pile-o-boots and snagging them by the laces. Returning to the table, she slings them under and reaches across the table to grab her own handful of yummies before sliding back into her seat.


Hynolonie raises an eyebrow.  "You're strange.  Kissing is now snogging and thread singed weyrlings do not run fast at all."  She smiles sweetly and tucks her feet underneath her as she finds a small plate to pile a few more of those appetizers onto before settling deep into the leather seat.  If there was food around, Lonie would eat it.  She smiles winningly at Niara as she complies to the politeness that Liesana requested of her before popping another bit of food in her mouth.  "You should really try the pink ones, Niara.  They are delicious, if not a little spicy."


Radel comes careening around the corner and through the door right after Illata. One might wonder how, but somehow he managed to be unaware of the girl until now and now is too late. He has just about enough time to dexterously wrap himself around Illata as they both tumble to the floor. Radel musrt be pretty good, because he does manage to twist around so he takes the brunt of the hit, then lays there, panting, too out of breath to even apologize.


"It is if you were born where I was,” replies Liesana with a beatific air.  "And since it suddenly occured to me that there /isn't/ anyone to yell at me if I use a little slang now and again, well...” she trails off to give Niara an approving grin, Illata a steadying wave, and pop another piece of finger food in her mouth, waving the two stragglers in with a grand gesture, and apparently unconcerned for the fact that they've arrived in a heap.  "Ah, the lost lambs have found their way back to the flock.  Stand up, sit down, help yourself to some food, and let's get started, eh?"  she inquires, pouring herself a glass of juice and Waiting with a twinkle in her eyes that bodes for an... interesting... lesson.


Illata hurries into the room, quickly slowing but still noticibly out of breath as she finds several people gathered around the table. She pays the price for this sudden halt as Radel rushes in right behind her overtaking her easily. The poor girl blinks a few times before managing to sit up, her face bright red as she untangles herself from the amazing flying apprentice. Well now, there's an entrance to remember. With a startled expression she climbs to her feet and offers Radel a hand as well. oh my.


Niara slides her feet up under her and leans forward to kneel in her chair, reaching across the table to sample the suggested treat. She pops it in her mouth and chews for a moment, her expression bland as she rolls it around her tongue. The collision in the door captures her attention at an inopportune moment, her face suddenly mirroring the sharp little exclamation of pain she utters. Her hand flies to here mouth and she glances around the table, her eyes watering.


Radel takes the offered hand and then just stands there for a moment, hands on his knees as he catches his breath before moving over to take a chair. Once there he starts to push gingerly at his ribs and tummy, looking around the table with a chagrined expression. "Sorry..."


Hynolonie waits for Liesana to finish with the juice before pouring herself a glass as well.  "Did you know that Kalikxyl in the mug has found a connection to get us the freshest juice even in the winter seasons?"  she grins a little and takes her juice back to her seat with her, scooping up more morsels before settling down again.  "I'm ready."  She bites her lip as she watches the last two come crashing in.  She smiles a little, but doesn't laugh so she's not rude.  "Oy.. Oy, too spicy, Niara?"


Illata slinks into a seat on the nearest bench and runs an embarrassed hand through her hair. "Sorry about the grand entrance, hello Master Liesana, everyone." The rumpled girl reaches for a few treats of her own, trying to cover the fact that she is starving and to not swallow them too quickly. She has already had enough excitement for one evening.


Niara shakes her head, her eyes squinting and watering as she gingerly sticks the tip of her tongue out to try and access the damage. "I 'it 'y 'ongue..." she explains, leaning back in the chair, her finger already carefully probing the injured area.


Liesana looks mildly intrigued by Lonie's statement, and is about to remark when Niara's troubles catch her eye.  Wincing, she nudges a glass of juice towards her foster-daughter, before offering a dry grin to Ilatta.  "No apologies necessary... we /are/ Harpers, after all, right?  Now, the matter at hand.  This is a class of philosophies, ethics, and practical applications of them.  This is a class about the philosophies behind rules.  This is a class for students that have demonstrated to me that they can handle living life guided by their own morals and restraints.  And this is a class devoted to one question:  Why."  She pauses to look over the little group.  "Any question you can pose that starts with Why is fair game... feel free to try and stump me.  Do you understand the guidelines?"


Hynolonie does start laughing almost uncontrollably at Niara.  The face she makes as she probes her own tongue is priceless.  "Oh... well.  So sorry to hear it."  She just giggles now, trying not to make the girl feel too bad.  Illata is waved at as she piles more food onto her small makeshift plate, not ashamed to be hungry.  She will let the tidbits feed her appetite as much as possble.  "Ok.  Here goes.  'why is slang so perverse to some people?'"  Lonie grins merrily and hugs her knees, careful not to knock over her plate.


Radel nods quietly, a pensive look on his face as he pulls on one of the food plates and pops a morsel into his mouth. Chewing slowly he gives Nia a small, apologetic smile, knowing that somehow her biting her tongue will end up being his fault in the end...


Illata nods uncertainly, her mind still whirling from her unexpected act of gymnastics even as she manages a grin and a wave to some of the others. "Do you mean guidelines in that any question has to start with Why? Or did I miss something else?" Illata takes the chance to gather a few more tidbits onto her plate as she resumes nibbling hungrily.


Niara gives a wavering smile as she pulls the glass of juice closer. She tilts it toward her mouth and, instead of sipping something in, she sticks something out.  Her tongue to be precise. She lets the tip of it swim in the cooling liquid for a moment before using the drink for it's intended purpose. Her eyebrow lifts as Lonie poses her question and she bites back (pun intended) her own response. "Is this an open discussion?" she asks Liesana instead.


"No, that's about it, Illata,” confirms Liesana.  "And yes, Nia. This is an anything-goes sort of class beyond the Why Rule, and vague attempts to stay on-subject... Hence the reason I had it catered."  She, too, does her part to cull the feral population of finger foods.  "And Lonie... I think it's because some people fail to realize that there is a time for proper High Pernese, and a time to relax and be casual in your speaking.  Now, the topic.  Let us say, for purposes of organization, that there are two basic sorts of rules.  Concrete ones, such as No Performing Handfastings While An Apprentice, which are fairly clear cut.  You're either breaking them or obeying them.  No grey area, no wiggle room.  The other sort is the sort that /we/ are interested in, where there exists entire vistas of grey, where intentions, reasons, and situations come into play.  Can anyone name some of those rules?"


Recent conversations with same Master pops to mind, and Nia blurts out, "No apprentice relationships. Who defines what relationships are and why does one have to wait to make journeyman before having one?" A blush creeps into her cheeks as she slumps back down into her seat, stockinged feet catching the edge of her chair so that her knees just might hide her face...mostly.


Illata tilts her head thoughtfully as she chews her way through one of the spicier meat pockets, reaching for her own glass of juice to cool the unexpected fire. Illata can't help grinning as Niara makes her pronouncement and she nods encouragingly, turning her face towards Liesana waiting for confirmation before she struggles to come up with one of her own. Besides, her mouth is full at the moment.


Ok, so he tried. He acted like a polite young man for just a second. But he can't stand the effort and thus, as soon as Radel swallows his first tidbit of food he just grabs a handful and stuffs it in his mouth. Struggling to both chew and think at the same time he looks positively relieved as Nia actually comes up with an example before he does.


Hynolonie wrinkles her nose as she watches Niara spring a head in the conversation with the most controversial and most commonly broken rules of apprenticeship.  She was just joking around with the first one.  She's been Liesana's student for a very long time.  If she hadn't picked up Liesana's Heresy by now, then she will never learn it.  She pops more food in her mouth and chews quietly.  "The next one I'd like to address is the drinking rule."  She nods appreciatively.  That's the next one she wants to flex a little.  Harpers love their wine, don't they.


Liesana beams approvingly at Niara.  "An excellent example."  she praises.  "Have a cookie, and let's all dissect this.  The No Relationships rule... the rule every lovelorn and hormonal apprentice loves to hate.  This one has a massive amount of grey in it, so let's try and look at it logically.  Going around the table, I want you to each answer the following Why Question:"  A pause and a grin as the Master reveals that she can play the game too, steepling her fingers contentedly  "Why do you think the No Relationships rule exists?  Why /shouldn't/ apprentices have love lives as tangled as the ranking Harpers?"

I don't know who that is.


Illata grins and knows the answer to this one. She has seen a few romances blow up into ugliness along the way. "Because we have other things we should be concentrating on, and it would disrupt our endless studies and required chores?" she asks helpfully.


Radel gives Illata a good long hard look as he works on chewing and swallowing his mouthful of food. When he finally manages that chore he turns around to Lies, shaking his head, "That's the technical reason an' yeah, it is very well applied to some apprentices. But others are just as easily able to manage their time well enough to be able to indulge in a romance. But is the difficulty romances tend to cause if the appies need to be separated for different assignments..."


Hynolonie wrinkles her nose and sighs.  She tries to remember her original opinion on the subject before Liesana started showing her the light, so to speak.  "I think its just plain easier to deny the general populace in a situation like this.  Some people can handle the work load as well as a physical relationship.  Some people go to pieces and fall behind when they find someone to put their attention on.  That's why it exists as a blanket statement.  I think it also makes people that are conscious of the rule act more responsibly in a relationship.  That, and its hard to raise a child while in apprentice classes yourself."


Radel shrugs, "The we could argue that the rule isn't necessary. Actually, its counterproductive. If'n you'll just make all aware of the results of an irresponsible relationship you'll have not only less relationships but you'll weed out those irresponsible enough not to maintain their classwork up to date or themselves childfree."


Niara wrinkles her nose. While she might be aware of certain heretical sentiments on the subject, it has helped /her/ any. "True, but you can hardly call it a blanket statement when people get into trouble over anything that might be /construed/ as a relationship. One-night stands can hardly be called 'relationships', yet they get apprentices into trouble. Even a kiss can be called on." And /has/.


Illata can't help nudging Radel for the piercing look he gave her and directs her next comment at him. "She asked us why we thought the rule was created. I wasn't stating my personal opinion on whether it is just or not." The girl rolls her eyes expressively.


Radel chuckles and smiles shyly at Illata over her nudge and comment. But he doesn't clarify what he was really thinking about what she said either. Instead he just looks around the table to see what the reactions to the last couple of comments, his own included, will be...


Liesana looks positively pleased to see the apprentices devolving into a knot of opposing statements.  She munches placidly on some fingerroot sticks for a few minutes, letting each get their say in, before gently steering the topic back to the course she wants it to follow.  "So, the general consensus, personal opinions aside, is that the rule exists because apprentices shouldn't be distracted from their work, and relationships can do that.  That is the reason behind that rule.  So if, say, one apprentice has a long-term relationship, but doesn't let it interfere with their work, and another apprentice spent six weeks mooning over the fact that they kissed a handsome Smith in the Gardens, both technically broke the rules, but which one is following the spirit of the rules?"


Niara slumps down in her seat even more, nearly defying gravity with the position. Folding her arms across her chest, she grumps out, "And what if neither happens, but the apprentice still gets called? Isn't there something wrong with a rule that allows for such wide interpretation?"


Radel shrugs and, unable to answer because of another big mouthful of finger rolls he holds up his index, indicating he thinks the first case it the one that's following the spirit of the rule...


Illata sighs softly, getting slightly mired in her own frustration about rules since so many of them seem unreasonably strict. "Well, if the reason for the rule is simply to keep the apprentice focused on the tasks at hand, then clearly the one who can handle her studies even /with/ the relationship is still abiding by the /spirit/ of the rule. She gives Niara a sympathetic glance, realizing this must have hit some nerve in the other.


Hynolonie wrinkles her nose.  "One night stands are irresponsible and can cause a large amount of distraction on the part of the apprentice."  She knows that for sure from personal experience.  "Besides, they can produce babies.  The reason why they can fit under the general topic of relationship is because it is a part of a physical relationship, no matter how distant and messed up it is."  She smiles a little, looking slightly tick at the turn of the conversation.  She's not mad at Niara.  She's mad a certain 'friend' of hers.  the jerk anyway.  She chokes for a moment and recognizes the story before coughing.  "That's how that happened.  Shards.  He's not that handsome."  She coughs again.  "Oh, the one that is still completing his work.  Though.. Aren't your examples one and the same person?"  She smiles a little and shrugs.  "I'd also like to say that the fact that Harper craft is now our family, and we are due to make sure that the younger members of our group aren't pushed into something too early because of communal living in a harper hall."


Liesana lifts a hand in a calming gesture at Niara, before twinkling at Hynolonie's big sister tone, but saying nothing more than  "Ah, now that's where it gets interesting, Niara.  I'd hope that all of you can recognize the spirit of the rules, but simply knowing that and letting yourself be guided by that isn't enough..."  She trails off to sip at her juice and let that sink in, before continuing.  "The rules are enforced so strictly because not all apprentices can be trusted to know themselves well enough, or to think hard enough to recognize the spirit when they see it.  So in addition to following the spirit of the law rather than the letter, you also have to exercise /discretion/.  Being caught in a compromising position in the middle of the dormitory lounge, for a random example..." she drawls, a tad teasingly.  "Isn't generally called discreet.  This is why Mynd was allowed to have his relationships as an apprentice, when Ranya and Keffin ended up on water rations."


Radel smirks a little bit at Lies' comment, casting a Nia a small, sidelong glance but saying nothing to her. Instead he grins at Lies and asks, "Why should we follow the rules then, if it's 'nough to disobey them and make sure not ta get caught?"


Illata chuckles softly, ducking her head as the past examples are named. "Discretion...” she mutters softly, “or some might call it luck, or knowing the right people…or not knowing the wrong people even." She shrugs, still irked with the natural frustration rules most likely inspired in everyone to some degree. "I do know a few people who could handle it effortlessly, until something went wrong. I guess that is the risk you take as well."


Niara gapes at her fostermum, eyes widening in disbelief. "Compromising position...?" she repeats dumbly, quite at a loss as how to respond to that. She nods at Radel's comment, adding her mute support to the 'Basically it's okay as long as you don't get caught?' question.


Hynolonie wrinkles her nose.  "Deliberately disobeying rules because you can get away with them is not following the spirit of the law.  What if you decide that you don't have to follow the rule that says you have to go to class everyday?   Then you'd definitely be outside of the essence of the law as you've said it was, to keep harpers concentrating and studying."  She purses her lips and remembers she has food on her lap and turns her attention back to that.  "And.. you usually always get found out.  I haven't met a person that could completely hide a relationship from every one, and Harper craft does produce excellent spies."


Liesana grins back at Radel, expression sly.  "Because, for one, no-one ever gets completely away with /anything/...  We of rank aren't nearly as blind as you might think us.  But to answer your question more thoroughly," she notes, expression moving away from sly, and back towards scholarly. "I believe that learning to follow rules grants personal discipline.  And while anarchy might seem an easier state, it's a state that has no future, and precious little chance for personal growth."  Hynolonie is given a smile.  "You've got it right there, mentee-mine.


Radel frowns a bit as Hynolonie uses a rather illogical example. Of course you'd get caught if you don't go to class. You wouldn't be there. But she does have a decent enough point on the rest of it so instead he addresses Lies' comment, "Well, then we go back to tellin' people what'll happen if'n they make mistakes. Then its easier how ta find out who really wants to be here by how much self discipline they develop without hard set rules, just guidelines."


Niara rolls her eyes and leans forward to snag a roll for herself, disciplining herself to stay for the moment.


Illata looks up from her plate where she had been pushing things around more than eating them. Sometimes playing with your food helps you think. She nods eagerly in response to Radel's suggestion and directs her next question to Liesana, "Isn't discipline more valuable when it is due to a devotion to the principles rather than blind adherence to a nameless rule?"


Hynolonie grins at Radel.  There was an inherent illogical idea to deciding not to follow the rules.  In illogical circumstances, anything is possible.  She has no need to defend herself.  She nods to Liesana.  "I should hope so.  I've only spent 8 turns of my life with you."  She fiddles with her food now and pops a few more bites in her mouth, making sure to keep quiet while she's chewing.  "It depends.  Sometimes, I think it’s easier to deal with people that simply adhere to the rules, rather than those who think.  Thinking is a dangerous past time, especially to those who haven't matured fully."


"It is," agrees Liesana to Illata.  "But I think both you and Radel forget that not everyone is at the same level of maturity when they become apprentices.  Different ages, different backgrounds... if we expected everyone to be capable of such feats of reason and logic the moment they set foot in the Craft... I, for one, wouldn't be here.  This is why the rules are generally enforced, and I take small groups" A handsweep takes in the quartet before her. "Aside and educate them about Spirit vs. Letter once they've shown themselves capable of moving past the childish stages of life."


Radel chuckles slightly at that comment but even so he looks quite proud at having been including in this gathering.


Illata nods quietly, thinking over all the silly decisions she has made in her past. Some things that seemed perfectly reasonable and justified at the time. A slight inward wince makes it clear how some of those managed to turn out.


Niara shuffles in her chair, tucking her feet to the side and under her, stabilizing the plate of treats she'd snagged earlier on the arm of the chair. Poking for a second at her tongue with the tip of her finger, she contents herself that the wound is not life-threatening and proceeds to /carefully/ bite into a sausage roll.


Logfile from Niara





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