A question for the medeval legalists in the forum...
A young serf girl has become pregnant. Laywrite and childwrite (fines on adultry and unmarried pregnancy) are owed. The father is unknown. The girl claims he is a nobleman, but he is unknown to the community. Who owes the fines? Is it the girl's family? If the nobleman can be made to appear and acknowledge the child is his, does he owe the fines? What if the "nobleman" is actually a faerie?
The girl, personally, does. She has reduced her own value to the lord.
A nobleman isn't part of the manor and so I don't believe he can be made to appear in the manorial court. It varies from place to place, but basically if a lord has a claim against another lord, he should take it to their mutual overlord, not take it to the osrt of court a peasant would go to.
If the nobleman can be found and acknowledges the child as his, then he will be taken to the cleaners when he tries to buy his child unless there is a customary price in his area either for the purchase or the manumission of serfs. Depending on where he is, he also loses his noble status and becomes a serf of the nobleman (that is, serfdom is sexually contagious in some kingdoms). Does he owe the lord? Technically, no: the girl owes the lord, although local customs vaqry a lot. If he had raped her, then sure, but basically, no, the girl is the person who gets charged, because she's the one who can be caught.
If he's a faerie then, it depends on the court, but most courts will refuse to try him either because he's non-human, he's from somewhere else, or because they have no capacity to punish him. THe court's a really practical community instrument: it doesn't try people it has no capacity to punish most of the time, because its futile.
I'm trying to build an story out of the Faerie Kidnapper story seed in Lords of Men (page 100) that also looks at the mundane consequences to the peasant girls... which will help me tie it the story in to the personality flaws for one of my magi.
It's not a matter of excuses, its a matter of resources. There are a lot of manorial courts which just don't bother chasing people even into the next county. Who is a group of peasants going to send to the faerie king to demand his Lord of Ice and Pain be sent to pay thrippence a year for the upkeep of a baby?
Now, the fines the woman also pays to the ecclesiastical court, sure, they might be followed up because the bishop can just go "Brother Fred, you go, God will protect you." so there, sure...
I think you may be over estimating the formality of a manorial court. You're really just talking about the lord of the manor or his bailiff sitting in judgement. It's not like there's an administrative framework that's going to try to serve a writ on the King of Elfland.
Sure, if they think it is beyond their capacity the manorial court won't bother serving a writ on the King of Elfland.
On the other hand, it is no more problematic than serving a writ on some distant mortal noble. Where "distant" might be the next county, the next duchy, or the other side of Mythic Europe.
If the manorial court knows about the faerie court there is no reason why it wouldn't have a go. In some circumstances, the court might conclude it is all too much bother. But other times they might send somebody on a quest. This is what knight errants are for. Or magi allies. Thus we have a story.
Note that the faeries are going to play along too. They want stories too. So they will make sure it is possible for, say, a knight errant to serve a writ on the King of Elfland. Even if the king doesn't necessarily respond favourably to the writ itself.
Just so... and in this case, we don't have to go as far of the King. There is a faerie nobleman who treats the nearby faerie woods as one of her "manors." One of the things I want to do is have the adventure start in a mortal manor court and climax in a faerie manor court.
Sure, that'd be a great story. I wouldn't expect it to be in the form of an officer of the court delivering a writ -- I doubt much in the way of formal documentation would be kept by the court for something like this -- but rather in the form of a really stubborn relative of the girl in question, wandering do-gooder knight or monk, maybe the soft hearted son of the lord of the manor, or best of all player magus who's somehow roped into being the envoy to Faerie.
Lucius already has such maga on hand, and so the story beguins I can see the fae responding favourably to a cry-inducing final speech by the defender of the mother (or the mother herself). Maybe throwing the defender out of the forest with a defeat in his belt, but returning to find the mother fairly better off, having found that her garden suddenly grows vegetables at 3 times the regular speed.
Nice story, BTW. a few of our characters have been the noble. And sometimes they have pretended to be faeries themselves to avoid problems. It did not work always, but when you have the Curse of Venus you come up with all kinds of underhand tactics to avoid retribution.