The Unseelie Accords
The Unseelie Accords
Regardless of their differences, all supernatural factions observe the rules of interaction laid out in the Unseelie Accords. Devised by Queen Mab of the Winter Court of Faerie, the Accords are a cross between the Magna Carta and the Geneva Conventions for the various supernatural factions. The Accords recognize major magical factions as independent political entities (or “nations”) with the right to defend, protect, and avenge their members. “Freeholding Lords” are also recognized: entities of power that do not necessarily represent an entire kind, just themselves and their supporters. The Accords lay out an important concept:
magical nations are responsible for policing their own. If they don’t do this, and let their people run willy-nilly, these activities can become a lawful grievance to another nation— even up to a justification for war.
The Accords also lay out other rules concerning such topics as the treatment of prisoners (though the rules do little if anything to protect them), setting prices on ransoms or prisoner exchanges, laying out procedures for negotiations between hostile supernatural nations, the establishment of neutral ground, rules of engagement and territory, a basis for diplomacy, and so on. Most importantly, the Accords establish several hard and fast rules that provide ancient customs of hospitality and honor with the force of law. If any two things are regarded as concrete by the supernatural nations, they are:
1) the binding power of sworn oaths; and
2) the obligation of a host to offer aid, comfort, and protection to his guests.
The Accords recognize that it is mutually profitable for the supernatural nations to avoid overt or large-scale conflicts; indeed, they provide a means of settling disputes between rival nations by means of a trial of champions— based on the Code Duello—presided over by a “neutral” mediator. Any member of any nation can be asked to be a mediator, but the choice must be mutually accepted. All in all, the Accords are extremely complex, and applying them generally leads to a lot of arguing rather than actually solving any problems (it is likely that this is what Mab intended). They do work, however—conflicts are often defused by the lengthy legal discussions. The Accords are supported by all sides, mainly in order to keep things from getting worse than they already are.
There Is No Spirit of the Law
The Accords were set up by one of the most notorious manipulators in the supernatural world; furthermore, the legalistic bent of the faerie mind, along with their important concepts of favor and debt, has a strong influence on the letter of the law. Much like the Code of Hammurabi, everything is spelled out extremely clearly. Vicious as it seems to us in retrospect to claim an eye for an eye or a life for a life, it prevents one supernatural tribe from murdering all of another tribe in response to a single death or other faux-pas. Also, nobody’s going to respect “the spirit of the law” of the Accords, because there isn’t one. (See above regarding Mab’s legalistic thinking.) The supernatural nations all abide by the Accords, because the possibility of all-out mystical warfare is so much worse—as the current Vampire War between the Red Court and the White Council demonstrates.
Getting Screwed By the Letter of the Law
In the ad hoc supernatural courts that judge these things, plenty of precedent establishes that there is only the letter of the law to protect you under the Accords, and each letter has a razor’s edge. It doesn’t matter what your sentimental excuses were, how many innocents were going to die, or that your true love’s life was on the line. If you break the Accords, then you are neck-deep in trouble. The best thing that you can hope for is that your side will try to find some loophole to get you out of it, or work a behind-the-scenes deal to persuade the other side to drop their reasons for offense. Unfortunately, the most likely thing is that you’ll be served up on a platter with a carefully worded letter of apology tied around your neck. There will always be people on your side who will consider their own continued peace and safety far more important than your skin. And after all, what is one man compared to the prospect of supernatural war?
These people may regret the political necessities, but that won’t stop them from gift-wrapping Accords-breakers and delivering them to the aggrieved parties. At times, the letter of the law can actually be helpful. There are cases where people use the legalisms to their advantage. It is a clear and definite fact that someone who reads the Accords and plans their actions before doing something precipitous (like burning down a houseful of bad guys) is the person who is most likely to get away with it.