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A Treatise on Pernise Law

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The laws of Pern are based on three simple principles which encompass most difficulties of law which are encountered by law Harpers. They are: Hold, Hall, and Weyr are autonomous; the Lord Holder, CraftMaster, or Weyrleader has absolute jurisdiction of their Hold, Hall, or Weyr; the HarperCraft serves solely as advisors and interpreters of law.

The first principle has guided Pern throughout the centuries and is the basis for the political status of the world. None of one can order the others around- only a Lords Conclave can remove a Lord from his position, only a Craft Conclave can establish a new Craft, and only a Weyrleaders Conclave can deal with important Weyr issues. These three main divisions of Pernese life are absolutely separate in decisions of law.

The second principal is the most important to the function of Pernese law. The only ones who can make absolute judgment on any crime is the leader of the appropriate area. That leader can pass that power to underlings, as most Lord Holders do to their Holders so that they need not deal with every instigation of crime on their lands. The only appeal that can be made against the leader of an area is to the appropriate Conclave, which has the option of hearing the complaint. Any word of the leader of an area is final and subject only to a reversal by a Conclave.

The final principal is the most important to the HarperCraft, as it dictates our position in Pernese law. As repositories of knowledge and known to be unbiased in their decisions, Harpers have been traditionally called upon to advise leaders for decisions of law. As such, Harpers have also tended to interpreting law and applying this to the basics of law around Pern. Only when called upon are Harpers to advise matters of law, and only when specifically instructed by the area's leader can a Harper actually pass judgment. Any crime committed in a Harper Hall, of course, is still under the MasterHarper's jurisdiction.


The chain of redress for an average man in a Hold is as follows: Holder, major Hold's Steward, Lord Holder, Lords Conclave. Should a man not agree with the judgment of one, he can continue to appeal to a higher authority. A Lords Conclave traditionally only hears major cases against the Lord Holder specifically. If attention is brought to a Harper about a crime committed, he is bound to inform the Holder of the location of the crime and his own Holder of the incident. Jurisdiction for Holders and Lords follows property lines, as established by the Lords Conclave. A man on a Lord's land is under that Lord's judgment solely. If a man committed a crime in another Lord's land and flees to a new Lord's land, the old Lord has no jurisdiction, but may seek redress with a Lords Conclave if the incident is significant.

If a crime is committed against or by a Crafter or Weyrfolk under a Lord's jurisdiction, the Lord still has judgment, but it is proper to invoke a Harper and a member of the involved Craft/Weyr for advice. Similarly, if a Holder commits or is the victim of a crime in a Crafthall or Weyr, he is under the CraftMaster or Weyrleader's judgment, but a Harper and a Hold representative are typically called for.


Crafts are similar to Holds in most cases of law, the major problem occurring when a craft hall is attached directly to a Hold. In such an event as a crime is committed in a crafthall and the individual returns to the Hold, Holder and Master have equivalent jurisdiction and a Harper is typically called in to officiate the judgment and aid in a compromise in judgment being reached. If a compromise cannot be made, the Harper is most commonly called upon to make judgment. If a crime is committed in a crafthall attached to a Hold and the criminal remains in the crafthall, he falls under the Master's jurisdiction solely, though the Holder is often invited to advise on the judgment. The level of appeals for a Craft is local Journeyman, local Master, Craftsecond, CraftMaster.  


Weyrs are frequently more difficult to deal with in terms of law because of the effects dragons have on their riders. The level of appeals for a Weyrfolk is Steward, Weyrsecond, Weyrleader, Weyrs Conclave. The level of appeals for a Rider is Wingleader, Weyrsecond, Weyrleader. One of the biggest problems in dealing with dragonriders is that they can fly wherever they like- which includes flying to a location, committing a crime, and flying back to their Weyr. Fortunately, most Weyrleaders are harsh on such Riders and don't let such a thing pass. Should the incident prove grave enough, the Hold/Craft where the crime was committed can withhold tithe as punishment (described below). This is almost never invoked, however, and the incident should be handled between the Weyrleader and the Craftmaster/Lord Holder of the area where the crime took place.

Another difficulty in dealing with Weyr crime is the affect dragons have on their riders. Due to the occasionally irrational behavior of the dragons, a Rider can become intensely emotional and cause harm. Adjudication of such events is best left to the Weyrleader who understands the dragon-human bond, with the assistance of a dragonsinger (if available).  


Some events may come to pass that are beyond a decision by a single Conclave or are so severe penalties much be placed against an offending Hold, Hall, or Weyr. Such events may include invasion, piracy, or a Weyr failing to perform its duties to Pern. In such cases, a Hall can withdraw its Crafters from a Hold or Weyr or close a Crafthall. A Hold may eject any Crafters serving it and, in only the most dire of situations, refuse tithe to a Weyr. An event has never even been imagined where a Weyr could remove its protection from a piece of land, but in theory this is a viable penalty. Such enormous conflicts should be resolved as swiftly as possible by the actions of the Harpers and the Conclaves. If an event comes to this point, the HarperCraft either hasn't done its job right or is dealing with purely irrational leaders.  


The greatest punishment which can be given out on Pern is exile. Execution is rarely decreed because of tradition. Only such crimes as murder or rape should consider exile, but general crimes against a Hold, Hall, or Weyr may also warrant exile. Lesser punishments include prison time (rarely given due to the strain on Hold resources), public works, or banishment from a Hold, Hall, or Weyr. Fines can also be levied against a perpetrator if a crime was solely monetary. In all events the punishment should fit the crime and is left to the leader of the area where the criminal presently is.  



Duels are accepted as legal on most parts of Pern, particularly in the Weyrs. Should two people agree to a duel (most commonly with daggers), and one be slain, the winner is not counted a murderer as the other entered in the duel of his own free will. The law does not apply negatively to the winner of a duel. If a duel is fought over an agreed-upon item (such as land or a decision the leader solely could make- such as moving a whole Weyr), the law upholds the rights of the winner of the duel and the item is given as agreed.  


Possession is an important aspect of the law. Anyone caught with incriminating evidence is most probably the prime suspect in a case involving the evidence. All attempts should be made to ascertain the criminal's guilt, however.  


No matter who happens upon a criminal, the criminal is still under the jurisdiction of the leader of the area in which he is presently in. Should a Hold's guard, for example, capture a criminal in another Lord's land, the Lord has jurisdiction and has the legal right to take the criminal from the guards. An appeal to the leader of an area must be made should another leader desire a criminal to be removed from the first leader's area. Property which previously belonged to a convicted and exiled or executed criminal falls into the hands of the next of kin. Should no relatives be surviving, the property is taken in by the Hold, Hall, or Weyr under which the area previously fell. A criminal imprisoned or put on a work party still possesses his property and may not have it seized save to compensate for damages or property loss which he inflicted during his crime.  

The above is attributed to Harper Journeyman Fletcher (And Ista Lord Holder), who may or may not still be reached at hofmeist@vetmed.wsu.edu.






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