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post Dec 21 2005, 01:12 PM
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Clan Trials

Nicholas was determined that civil war would not claim his new society. Instead of banning warfare, which he considered part of human nature, he created controlled conflicts through regulations and rituals. Thus, the Six Trials of Combat were established. Each trial begins with the batchall, the formal challenge, by which the aggressor announces to his opponent his intentions, his goal, and his fighting force.



Trial of Grievance (Honor Duel)
When disputes arise between individual warriors that neither they nor their immediate superiors can resolve, both warriors must petition to have their differences heard by the Clan Council (or the Grand Council if the opponents are Bloodnamed or hold important rank). Until the council rules, the disputants are bound by Clan law to avoid any unnecessary contact. This may be carried to the point of one transferring to another unit. If one takes aggressive action against the other before the council rules, or if he disagrees with the council's decision, he or she has committed a breach of Clan law punishable by expulsion into a lesser caste or out of Clan society entirely.


The parties may also call for a Trial of Grievance. The rules governing the trial are many and strict. If the combatants are MechWarriors or fighter pilots of different weight-class vehicles, the council must make the contest more even. Often, a vehicle type that is mid-way in size is chosen, and the disputants have several weeks to become accustomed to their new vehicles. If the disputants are from different branches of the warrior caste, then some kind of a middle ground, such as fencing with Medusa whips, is chosen.


The trial itself is judged by members of the council, who ensure that trial and combat etiquette is strictly heeded. A Circle of Equals is defined, anything from ten meters in diameter for a hand-to-hand trial to more than 100 kilometers wide for an air duel. No one but the combatants may enter the Circle of Equals unless invited, and leaving the Circle before the contest is ended is a shameful defeat. All trials are defined as to the death, but they usually end before either combatant is killed.


This system of decisions and regulations is designed to outlast the anger that sparked the trial, and that is usually the case. Some records indicate, however, that sometimes the anger between two warriors, or two sets of warriors, outlasts even the Trial of Grievance, degenerating into what we would call a feud. The most notorious and well-documented failure of the grievance trial system involved the Nicholas Pride sibko and the Blue Devil sibko of Clan Smoke Jaguar. The Blue Devil warriors maintained a grudge for several generations, based on an imagined slight during a Smoke Jaguar Council ceremony.


Other tales suggest that many Honor Duels are resolved less formally and more swiftly than official sources dictate. For example, a Trial of Grievance between two sibkin rarely draws the attention of the Clan Council. Instead, a Circle of Equals is drawn immediately and the two fight under the supervision of a superior officer until one is knocked from the circle.



Trial of Position
Trials of Position determine rank and honors. The Trial of Position determines whether a cadet becomes a warrior as well as whether a warrior deserves a promotion to the next level of training. The trial is a combat situation in which the candidate usually faces selected superiors one at a time with live weapons. The candidate's success determines how far he advances in rank and responsibility.


The use of live weapons for what is essentially an examination seems barbaric and wasteful of human life to those outside the Clans. An accident can easily cut short a promising career or life. It is one of the best examples of how little regard the Clans have for individual life in their quest for social supremacy.


Even if the goal is worthy, is it worth the cost in suffering and human life? When asked this question, a Clansman most often reacts with a blank stare. The concept of individuality is as alien to the Clanspeople as they are to us. Those who understand that it is a question of balance can answer easily. The cause is worth everything, the individual, nothing. If a warrior is unwilling to risk his life for the good of the Clans, he cannot claim the status of warrior and is of no use to the Clans. His fellow Clansmen would prefer to discover this in a test than in the heat of battle. Therefore, they see no point in using powered-down weapons when a warrior is training to face real weapons.


Throughout a cadet's training and a warrior's career, he continually undergoes Trials of Position. From the sibko on, a warrior must face many trials. The early trials would be familiar to us in the Inner Sphere as simple exams. The trials grow progressively harder, however, and the cadet's attitude and mental endurance is tested as well as his knowledge of facts.


The Trial of Position is also a cadet's final trial. During this test, two cadets face six front-line warriors with weapons at full power. Each candidate faces three of the experienced warriors, who attack one at a time. If a candidate attacks any of the warriors assigned to another cadet, they are free to return fire, and the combat becomes a general melee. To pass the trial, a candidate must defeat at least one of his opponents. If he does so, he becomes a warrior and enters active service. Defeat of two opponents earns the rank of Star Commander. Defeat of three, a rare accomplishment, ranks the candidate as a Star Captain. Defeat of four requires cooperation between the two candidates, in that one surrenders a potential kill to the other. On only one occasion has a candidate defeated four opponents in a Trial of Position. Natasha Kerensky accomplished this feat and earned the rank of Star Colonel upon her recent return to the Clans. A warrior can be required to repeat the Trial of Position at any time in his career, especially when his continuing ability to perform is in question, as it was with Natasha Kerensky's, or when he is in line for a promotion.



Trial of Bloodright
The Clans have approximately 760 Bloodnames. The name of each of the 800 warriors who joined Nicholas Kerensky and refused to take part in the Exodus Civil War is considered a Bloodname, less the 40 names removed when the "Not-Named Clan" was annihilated. Clan tradition dictates that only 25 living Clan warriors may hold the same Bloodname, and each must have a direct matrilineal link to the original progenitor.


Each Clan originally claimed rights only to the Bloodnames of the 40 warriors Nicholas Kerensky assigned to that Clan. This organization gradually blurred as Clans fought each other in Trials of Possession for specific warriors' genes to enhance their individual Clan. Even if warriors became abtakha (captured by another Clan), they still retained the right to claim a Bloodname belonging to their former Clan. In this way, more than one Clan could claim the same Bloodname. Additional cross-naming took place when two Clans were disbanded and their Bloodnames spread among the other Clans. There are still some Bloodnames, however, that are the exclusive property of a Clan. The Kerensky and Ward Bloodnames, for example, are still held only by warriors of the Wolf Clan.


Winning a Bloodname is a warrior's guarantee of Clan immortality. Not only is he honored with the right to use the Bloodname as his own, but he becomes eligible for high military and political positions. Most important to Bloodnamed warriors is the fact that, barring any subsequent action that would bring them shame, their genes will contribute to the gene pool for the next generation. The remains of most Bloodnamed warriors are returned to one of the 800 memorial chapels built by Nicholas Kerensky on Strana Mechty to honor each of the original 800 warriors. There, the ashes of each Bloodnamed warrior lie with the ashes of the other warriors of the same Bloodname in the ornate tomb of their honored namesake.


When a Bloodnamed warrior dies, a Trial of Bloodright is declared. The current Bloodnamed warriors of that name each select one nominee from the pool of eligible candidates. The Bloodname's leader nominates additional warriors to bring the number to 31 candidates. The 32nd slot is reserved for all other eligible candidates, those who were not nominated but who still wish to compete for a Bloodname. This group engages in a Grand Bloodname Melee, with the survivor being awarded the 32nd slot. The 32 candidates then begin a series of one-on-one duels that eventually result in one victor, who is awarded the Bloodname. This fulfills Nicholas Kerensky's requirement that a Bloodname be won by defeating all others who make a claim to that name.


Though winning any Bloodname is significant, it is interesting to note that considerable prestige is attached to certain Bloodheritages. Because lineage is traced matrilineally, each warrior is only qualified to compete for one Bloodname. It is not uncommon for an ambitious warrior to decline nomination for what he considers an inferior Bloodheritage, in hopes of competing for a better Bloodheritage later on.



Trial of Possession
The fourth type of combat trial is conducted when two or more Clans claim the rights to the same thing, be it territory, a warrior's genes, or even supremacy in a conflict of opinion. Nicholas Kerensky created this combat trial within a year of the end of the civil war. As a reward for their loyal support, Kerensky decided that each Clan should receive half of one of the colonized Clan worlds and small shares of the others. Strana Mechty would remain neutral. The Clans had to determine among themselves who would possess what area. If two or more Clans wanted the same piece of land, their claims were subject to a Trial of Possession. This policy resulted in many hard-fought battles to determine which Clans got the lion's share of the better worlds and how the remaining lands were to be divided.


A Trial of Possession is initiated when the attackers issue a formal challenge to the defenders. The attackers identify themselves, state their objective, and ask the defender what forces he will use. For example, Star Colonel Adler Malthus began the campaign against Twycross with this challenge: "I am Star Colonel Adler Malthus of the Falcon Guards. What forces defend this world?"


The challenge changes to fit the objective. If, for example, the challenge is over the rights to genetic material, part of the challenge might be stated in the following manner: "What forces defend the spawn of Dan Kryla?"


The defenders then state what forces they will place in defense of the objective. They also have the right to name the location of the trial. The defenders may increase the stakes by demanding a prize of equal or lesser value if they win. This option available to the defender is largely unknown in the Inner Sphere, but explains why Hohiro Kurita was able to bargain with the Clan commander at Wolcott.


The attacker's subcommanders then bid among themselves for the right to engage in the trial. The subcommander who bids to fight with the fewest forces wins the right and responsibility to make the attack.


Clans can keep prisoners taken during such trials to serve as "bondsmen" (laborers for the Clan), or else these individuals may be sent back to their original Clan, with little honor lost. Bondsmen must serve the Clan until the Clan Council decides to reinstate their rights as a warrior. A Clan can formally adopt captured warriors if the Clan Council considers them an asset to its forces. Once a warrior is officially adopted into a new Clan, he regains his warrior status.


Bidding and Trials of Possession both favor commanders who succeed using minimal forces. Nicholas used these methods to prevent all-out war and the catastrophic loss of industry and civilian life that inevitably accompanies it.



Trial of Refusal
The Clan Councils and the Grand Council, like any legislative bodies, vote on laws and actions that affect the community. Unlike Inner Sphere legislative bodies, however, any decision can be challenged and reversed by a Trial of Refusal. These trials afford the losing side the right to demand that the issue be settled by combat.


The forces used in a Trial of Refusal are determined on a prorated basis. The side rejecting the vote declares what forces they will use. The winning side can field a force equal to the ratio of winning votes to losing votes. If, for example, the contested vote carried by a three-to-one margin, those on the winning side of the issue can field a force three times the size of the force of those challenging the decision. The traditional bidding by subcommanders usually results in a smaller attacking force, however.


If this trial process is taken to its logical conclusion, it is possible that a subcommander might vote for a decision he actually opposed, and then bid so low that the decision could be overturned. My suggestion that a warrior might consider this course of action was met with shock and frozen silence. One Loremaster refused any further interviews, and another prohibited me from any contact with the warriors of his Clan. Such a breach of honor is clearly unthinkable.


An interesting variation of the Trial of Refusal is the Absorption Right. The Grand Council can vote to allow one Clan to absorb another, but only by a unanimous vote (excepting the Clan being absorbed). The council then determines which Clan will benefit from the Absorption. Naturally, the Clan to be absorbed would demand a Trial of Refusal. The Clan chosen to absorb the weaker Clan may also be challenged by others in a Trial of Refusal even before battling the Clan to be absorbed. The resulting trials can last for years. Wolf won the right to absorb Widowmaker in 2825, for example, but had to defeat three other Clans for that right.



Trial of Annihilation
A Trial of Annihilation is the most extreme punishment the Clans can declare. It goes beyond the question of right and wrong. A Trial of Annihilation virtually guarantees that the warrior will die and that his genes will be eliminated from the Clans' gene pool. This trial can only be invoked by a unanimous vote of the appropriate council, and only for the most heinous crimes against Clan society.


Trials of Annihilation have been declared against warriors, Stars, and even Clusters, but only once has an entire Clan suffered this ultimate punishment. Because any mention of the Clan involved in this Trial of Annihilation is punishable by a Trial of Grievance, no Clansman would reveal the name of the "Not-Named Clan." The details behind its annihilation were also impossible to discover. However, careful research into The Remembrance and artfully phrased questions point to the Clan Wolverine as the object of this Trial of Annihilation:



Clan Wolverine
Nicholas Kerensky's new society, with its formalized rules of combat was not completely accepted by all his followers. In 2823, Clan Wolverine rejected a Grand Council decision on the division of equipment found in a Brian Cache in Wolverine territory, claiming that the cache belonged to Clan Wolverine alone. They invoked a Trial of Refusal and lost. They did not accept the ruling, but shocked the rest of the Clans by declaring Clan Wolverine totally independent. ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky declared that Clan Wolverine had become "tainted by the old ways of lust for power." He urged the Grand Council to vote for a Trial of Annihilation against the rebellious Clan. The resulting vote was swift and unanimous, and Clans Wolf and Widowmaker won the honor of annihilating Wolverine.


Wolf and Widowmaker took the opportunity of the Trial of Annihilation to expand their prestige, each at the cost of the other. The long-time rivalry between these two Clans was fierce and bitter. The bidding between the two Clans for the honor of destroying Clan Wolverine turned the bitterness into hate. The Wolf Clan version of The Remembrance states that Clan Widowmaker deliberately drove the bidding down to dangerous levels, then withdrew, leaving the warriors of Clan Wolf facing the majority of Clan Wolverine at very poor odds. Clan Widowmaker was pleased when Clan Wolf suffered major losses in the battle, but their hatred was fanned higher by Clan Wolf's eventual triumph over Clan Wolverine. The warriors of Clan Wolverine were dead, and the Grand Council moved to purge its tainted ways from Clan society. The Wolverine Bloodnames were eliminated from the gene pool, all Wolverine lower-caste citizens were sterilized, and all mention of Clan Wolverine was removed from Clan documents.


Rumors among the Clans say that some Clan Wolverine warriors escaped and fled the Clan worlds. It is probably no coincidence that the "Minnesota Tribe" that attacked the perimeter of the Combine struck in 2825, a year after the annihilation of Clan Wolverine. This tribe was reported as using brand-new 'Mechs, fighting in ways alien to the Inner Sphere.



Tensions between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf escalated into a bitterly fought battle that would mark the end of an era for the Clans. Warriors from Widowmaker claimed Wolf had cheated in its victory that annihilated the Wolverines. Clan Wolf responded by accusing Clan Widowmaker of misusing the bidding system to deliberately place Wolf warriors in hopeless situations. This animosity lasted through a decade marked by vicious Trials of Possession that often skirted the limits of the Grand Council's rules of combat.


Death and Absorption
It was during a Trial of Possession between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf that the merchants of Clan Widowmaker lodged a formal protest against their parent Clan with the Grand Council. The cause of the tensions between the freebirth merchants and their Clan is unrecorded, but the warriors' response is well documented. Mass arrests and the execution of the protest's leaders were carried out with ruthless efficiency.


Emotions on both sides were running high, and they reached a flashpoint when Khan Cal Jorgensson of Clan Widowmaker publicly accused Clan Wolf of having agitated the Widowmaker merchants to rise against their Clan. Khan Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf vehemently denied any involvement. He countered by claiming that Clan Widowmaker's massacre of its own people invalidated their right to govern. Clan Wolf demanded before the Grand Council that Clan Widowmaker be absorbed.


Clan Widowmaker eventually lost the debate, but immediately invoked a Trial of Refusal. Clan Wolf competed for and finally won the right to defend the Grand Council's decision.


The trial took place on the Steitz Plains of Ironhold. Widowmaker was defending with a Cluster of ten Stars against eleven Stars from Clan Wolf. Off the battlefield, warriors from the other Clans watched the trial through a system of monitors and satellites. The Khans of the Grand Council, led by Nicholas Kerensky, officiated the duel to ensure that the rules of this bitter battle were strictly enforced.


The initial exchange was fierce, with both sides committing large forces to frontal attacks. Well into the battle, Khan Jerome Winson and Khan Cal Jorgensson mutually declared a Trial of Grievance. As the combat around them gradually died down, two Khans squared off. When it became clear that Khan Jerome Winson was about to disable the 'Mech of Khan Cal Jorgensson, a Star of Widowmaker BattleMechs leaped into the Circle of Equals and attacked the Khan of Clan Wolf. Whether they attacked orders or on the spur of the moment will never be known.


Nicholas Kerensky and the rest of the Grand Council immediately moved to defend Khan Jerome Winson from this cowardly action. A moment later, one of Khan Cal Jorgensson's large lasers discharged at point-blank range into ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky's cockpit. There is no way of knowing if the action was intentional. The melee came to an abrupt end as technicians and medics tried desperately to extricate the stricken leader from his 'Mech. By the time they reached him, ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky was dead.


In a fit of rage, Clan Wolf attacked Clan Widowmaker full force. The battle, which lasted for three days, was marked by uncompromising brutality. The Wolf Clan warriors, with the aid of the other Clans, tracked down and captured or killed all warriors of Clan Widowmaker. Clan Wolf emerged victorious and the Grand Council unanimously granted their demand to claim all Clan Widowmaker's resources.


The Widowmaker symbol, a red hourglass against the abdomen of a black widow spider, was removed from Clan records. It became synonymous with disregard for Clan rules and traditions. The bandit caste frequently uses the symbol as a sign of its independence. More recently, Khan Natasha Kerensky has adopted the symbol as her own, not because she is associated with the bandit caste, but because she believes that many Clan traditions hinder rather than help the Clans.



Right of Forgiveness
Recent discussions with members of the Third Battle Cluster revealed some curious insights into Clan honor from their reaction to the Invasion vote. The Wardens in Clan Wolf, those who disapproved of the invasion, were eager for the chance to show their extreme displeasure at having been outvoted, which I understood. I found it surprising that the Crusaders within the Clan, those who agreed with the idea of invading the Inner Sphere, were just as eager to accept punishment as a way of atoning for their Clan having dared disagree with the Grand Council's decision. This instance of desiring to atone for disagreeing with authority was not unique. My research into Clan literature has uncovered many poems, by warriors and lower castes alike, describing the joy and pride with which the poet willingly endured punishments that we in the Inner Sphere would consider beyond the realm of human decency. All dissent is subject to the Right of Forgiveness. This holds true from the highest level (Clan against Council) to the lowest (laborer caste against warrior caste). In the latter case, however, proper atonement does not guarantee that the warrior will spare the laborer's life. I am not aware of an equivalent among Inner Sphere societies and governments for what the Clans call Surkai, the Right of Forgiveness.
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