This page gives the details of some specific laws in Amber.
Dueling is legal, but very tightly controlled. There are extensive and detailed rules and laws detailing the precise circumstances that a duel is allowed under. It can be confusing enough that one of the advantages that professionals bring to the table is the ability to navigate the details. Some noteworthy points:
- Only nobles have the right to duel. They may hire proxies from other classes, but the duel must be between nobles. On the flip side, the non-noble moneyed upper class sometimes hires petty nobles to do their dueling for them. This is sometimes an occupation of impoverished younger sons of the nobility, for instance.
- A duel must be witnessed by a legitimate authority. A sitting duke, baron, king or prince may do so, as may officers of the Army, Navy, Gulls, Hounds and Knights of clarity qualifies as legitimate, as do judges. Others may be legitimate under specific circumstances. A ship captain, for example, may oversee a duel on his ship at sea, but not on land. The exception to this is that a house may not oversee a duel with one of its own members - the witness, preferably witnesses, must be a third party. It is also important that the witness be of unimpeachable character - an improperly witnessed duel is a murder, and if there is a single witness and he dies or is found to have lied, been bribed or otherwise coerced, it will be treated as such. To this end, it is rare for a duel to have a single witness, and to do so invites questions of foul play. In situations where more witnesses cannot be arranged, an audience still provides some amount of legal protection should questions arise.
- There is never a legal obligation to duel, unless it is part of a judicial ruling. Otherwise, it is a matter for etiquette.
For all that the laws are specific and detailed, they are not always observed. Duels are often fought between soldiers, bravos and the like, and provided the fight is someplace out of the way and there's no body to be found, it is often overlooked, especially when the Watch is slipped a little silver.
Some Notes on Duels
- A duel should always be over some specific matter, usually an insult, where one party requires satisfaction. The duel, once fought, is considered to settle the matter for both parties involved - the same matter may not be used again as cause for a duel, nor may the duel itself be considered an appropriate matter. The duel itself serves no further purpose than to satisfy the honor of both parties, and the loser is expected to concede the position of the winner, whether in apology, acknowledgment or the like.
- While that is the formal scope, there can be additional stakes. Wagering is often a component to duels, where two parties may duel for specific stakes, or for terms over and beyond the settling of honor. This is considered a separate matter from the matter of the duel itself, and it is handled like any other wager, freely entered and agreed upon. Refusal to wager does not have any impact on the necessity of the duel itself.
- On the matter of champions, there are few concrete rules, but the following is good form: The challenged may always call in a champion, but the challenger may not. Instead, a challenger looking to use a champion should have the champion issue the challenge.
- The terms of the duel, specifically the time, should be set at the time of the challenge. This is not mandatory, but it is important since it demands champions be on hand, and it keeps matters immediate and above board.
Technically speaking, prostitution is illegal in Amber, but it is also ubiquitous, as one might expect in a port city. The enforcement of the law is haphazard at best.
There are a handful of brothels in the city which are, by popular tradition, under Oberon's Ban. These places were favored by Oberon at one time or another, and as a result of that, they tend not to be raided by the Watch. This has not changed during Eric's time as Regent or King.
Realistically, prostitution funds most law enforcement in the city, as it is the single most consistent source of bribes. The occasional attempt to legalize the act has been shot down once it became clear that doing so would necessitate increasing the Watch's budget substantially.
Troops Within City Bounds
There are numerous laws, precedents and exceptions to Amber law related to the presence of armed men in Amber City, but they boil down to two simple points:
1) People fully girded for war are bad for business, and will be expected to swim in their plate mail.
2) If you don't have an army in the city, it's much harder to invade the palace.
How, specifically, that's implemented can vary widely. There are laws on the books about what exactly girded for war is, and the exact numbers of troops based on title, but they're confusing and contradictory, and can generally be quoted to convenience.
In play, this means that the only military forces present in significant numbers in Amber City are the Hounds, the Gulls and any personal forces that the King (or regent) authorizes. Nobles and the wealthy can have house guards in numbers enough to be color in a scene, but not enough to significantly impact the city. Similarly, people walking around armed and armored to the teeth can expect that to be grounds for harassment, unless they're prominently wearing colors. This is somewhat contextual - a knight riding into town may not be harassed, but if he's crazy enough to armor up to go drinking, that's an invitation for trouble.
This is Not Modern Law
- Freedom of speech, right to an attorney and all that other cool stuff? Not so much. This is not to say that there are no rights, but the more important you are, the more rights you have. In general, the real measure of your rights is who will stick up for you when you get thrown in a cell.
- Similarly, diplomatic immunity is a matter of tradition more than law. Ambassadors who have been recognized by the crown have a certain amount of leeway, but they are far from sacrosanct. Ultimately, this is the same principal as normal law - it is simply that the person implicitly sticking up for the ambassador is the foreign government.