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Law and Society in Selhomarr:by Geoff Gander
"Your education can hardly be complete, my dear Anslin, without knowing at least a little about the laws that govern Selhomarr, as well as the structure of society. You have learned much in your weeks here, and in many ways you are no longer truly lara. Let me tell you about our laws, and what is expected of you."
The Legal System:
The legal system of Selhomarr is one based on precedents - thousands of years' worth of them. In any given case, there is almost always an example of such an event happening at some point in the past. As such, most trials basically consist of reading the accusation, hearing any extra information the plaintiff has to give, and then commissioning imperial scribes to research the legal annals to find a similar case in history. This process can take weeks. Once the precedent is found, the judge reads it out, and then interprets it in light of the current case. In most cases, minor nobles are delegated judicial authority by the reigning prince in a given province, who often hears only the most important cases, or is simply too busy. In some cases, priests may be called upon to render judgements, especially where the defendant has been accused of worshipping evil beings.
As far as nations go, Selhomarr's laws are relatively lenient. The death penalty of hanging is reserved only for the worst crimes, such as worshipping the Outer Beings, or evil Immortals such as Thanatos. Most other crimes are punishable by fines, physical punishment, imprisonment, or exile. The DM's guide has more details on this subject; consult your DM for more information.
This brief section will review the various social levels in Selhomarrian society, from top to bottom. The social ranks below are those considered to be part of Selhomarrian society. Druids are not listed below because they exist outside of society, and have little to do with the nation as a whole.
Emperor (or Empress) : The centre of Selhomarr's society, the ruler of the empire is considered to be the embodiment of the state itself. The ruler conducts relations with foreign powers, declares war, sets the tax rate, raising people to the nobility, drafting legislation (with the aid of advisers), and many other tasks of an administrative nature. The ruler also has the job of balancing the interests of the people, the priesthood, and the druids, aided by information and briefings from each of these groups. The ruler also consults with the regional princes to determine how the empire is doing as a whole, and what is needed. This position is hereditary.
Prince: Below the ruler are the ten regional princes of the empire, each of whom govern a province in the ruler's name. The only exception to this is the Ilarnnian Autonomous Region, which is administered by a local council, which has the same political power as a regional prince. Technically responsible for administering justice and running the province, most princes are too busy touring their domains and supervising their armies, and therefore many of these more mundane tasks are left to local lords and ladies, as well as officials. Despite this, many do find the time to act as a mobile court, judging legal cases between their subjects. Princes must also regularly meet with their subjects, in order to stay in touch with the people. Once a year, all princes must visit the ruler, and present him or her with an official statement as to the battle readiness of their provinces, how their industries are faring, and so on. The princes also appoint deserving citizens to be lords or ladies. This position is also hereditary.
Lord (or Lady) : Appointed by the regional prince, these lesser nobles often perform those tasks their princes do not have the time to do, such as administering justice in remote regions of the province. This is a hereditary title, and in function also serves in infuse fresh blood into the nobility, for princes and rulers may not marry common citizens. Currently, there are about 200 of these lesser nobles in Selhomarr. One important task of these nobles is to assist the princes in furnishing the province's military, as well as helping to provide suitable commanders.
Priest (or Priestess) : The highest social rank to which a common citizen may aspire without being raised to the nobility is that of a priest or priestess. The priesthood of Xeron is very powerful in Selhomarr. Not only does it have the task of safeguarding the spiritual well-being of the nation; it is also the organisation responsible for educating the populace. All of the schools in Selhomarr are run by the priesthood. This is a task they do not take lightly, and only the best priests and priestesses are entrusted with this task. The priesthood also forms one of the pillars of every community - each settlement, no matter how small, will have a Temple of Xeron, in which at least one local cleric will administer religious services, provide guidance to those who seek it, and help out where needed (such as assisting farmers in harvesting their crops).
Official: These are citizens who have been appointed for life to their positions by a noble, often a regional prince. Such people include senior bureaucrats, policy advisers, seneschals, as well as the mayor of Calimnis, the capital city of Selhomarr, who is appointed by the ruler. Generally speaking, these people interact with nobles on a regular basis, and carry instructions down to the functionaries.
Functionary: These are citizens elected by their fellows to perform administrative tasks at the local level for a set term of office, usually five years. This group includes mayors, town councillors, tax men, and other public officials who deal with citizens on a daily basis and who do not directly interact with the nobility. These people receive their instructions from the officials, and are the ones who actually carry out the various policies of Selhomarr.
Citizen: The largest social stratum, citizens enjoy freedoms seldom seen in other nations. All citizens have the right to own property, to vote for their functionaries, and to keep what they earn, less the amount owed in taxes. Anyone, whether they are male or female, who is born in Selhomarr, and whose parents are citizens, is automatically a citizen themselves. There is no property restriction on citizenship, either. Citizens have the freedoms of association, expression, and privacy, all of which are subject to the will of the ruler and may be suspended if the need arises. For this to happen, something threatening the stability of the state itself would have to be present. Among citizens there is a gradation of prestige. At the top are scholars, minor politicians, priests, explorers, lawyers, soldiers, and shopkeepers, as well as the elderly. Beneath these are farmers, fishermen, and miners. Though there is a difference in prestige, this only shapes public opinion and chances for advancement later in life; it does not confer extra powers on a citizen.
Unlike many other cultures, Selhomarr does not practice slavery. While there is such a thing as indentured servitude for servicing debts, those who are indentured are still considered citizens before the law, and still have the same rights as any other.
Life and Death in Selhomarr:
Just as the people of Selhomarr revere light and life, they shun and fear darkness and death. Both Lhomarrian and Ilarnnian culture view life as a cycle, beginning in darkness, and then being brought into the light through birth. In later years, the flame of life dissipates, and darkness reigns once again, only to be forced back once more by another birth. Thus, death is understood as another stage in the grand cycle of existence, but this does not make it any less tragic.
Births are festive occasions. For a week after a birth, relatives will lavish gifts on the newborn child - things that they believe he or she will need later on in life - and feasts are held in the home of the new parents. After the feasting is over, the gifts are carefully stored away in a chest, and this is kept aside for the day after the child finishes his or her Wandering, after which he or she is recognised in Lhomarrian society as an adult.
Childhood in Selhomarr is relatively carefree for most. Both Lhomarrian and Ilarnnian children attend school for at least part of their youth, thereby gaining a basic education in mathematics, history, geography, language, literature, as well as general exercise. After schooling ends, usually around the age of 14 for most, the youths often enter an apprenticeship for a couple of years, until the age of 18, and the Wandering.
Every Lhomarrian is expected to go through the Wandering, in order to be considered a full-fledged member of the community. Ilarnnians do not practice this tradition, but some enterprising youths do so nonetheless, to prove themselves to the world. Every Arristar 14th, every Lhomarrian who turned 18 within the previous year must embark on a year-long journey in which, it is hoped, he or she will find him- or herself, and learn something about the world. Although solitary journeys are encouraged, it is not uncommon to see several youths wandering in a party. The only rules are that a youth must not stay in one place for more than one month (as measured by the floating continents), and he or she must try to learn the basics of at least one trade other than those already known (this rule does not necessarily apply to player characters). Not everyone completes their Wandering having learned another trade, in which case the youth must prove that they have learned something of the world. Once the year has passed, those on their Wandering return home, and are joyously welcomed as adults into their families. Over the next couple of days, there are many feasts, and opportunities to share what has been learned. It is during the days following the end of a person's Wandering, or at the age of 20 for Ilarnnians, that young people in Selhomarr seek to join the priesthood of Xeron, apprentice to a wizard, or join the druidic circles, if that is their wish.
In both Lhomarrian and Ilarnnian society, adulthood is the period in which one takes part in one's own community, and finds a path to follow in life. Social norms in Selhomarr assume that everyone will marry and have a family, and take up a trade of some kind. Those who do not follow this norm are viewed oddly, as though they are not truly part of society, if not a little strange. The main exception to this are the clerics of Xeron and, who are assumed to have a divine calling that transcends mere social norms. Regardless, adulthood is viewed by all as the time in which the individual gives his or her best effort to attain mastery in his or her chosen craft, in order to benefit society as a whole. Those who do not do so, such as thieves (who work only for their own betterment to the detriment of others), or laggards, are viewed as not pulling their weight in society, and tend to be ostracised somewhat by their peers.
Once the years of adulthood have passed, people in Selhomarr pass into the revered stage of being elders. Senior citizens in Selhomarr are respected for their acquired wisdom, as well as their generally more balanced perspective of life and the world in general, which comes only from a lifetime of making mistakes and reflecting on them afterwards. Many elders assist the clerics of Xeron in educating the young, as well as providing advice to those who wish it. As a rule, elders are not expected to work, but many do out of a desire to have something to do during their final years, as well as out of a feeling of love for their communities.
The closing of the Selhomarrian circle of life comes with death, the return to darkness. As was mentioned earlier, deaths, while accepted as part of the natural order, are still viewed with great sadness. The family of a deceased person will usually hold a remembrance ceremony for three days following the death itself, in which relatives and friends express their admiration for the departed, and the person's good deeds (if any) are lauded by a cleric of Xeron, who, at the end of the third day, presides over a prayer to Xeron to guide the departed to the next world. The body is then placed in a family tomb, if the family has enough money. Poorer families often cremate their dead, believing that the flames themselves are Xeron's personal messengers carrying the soul to the next world. Clerics of Xeron, no matter what their rank, are always cremated, and, because of their devotion to Xeron, no ashes ever remain. Druidic circles bury their dead in a central grove, where the departed may join the land they served so well in life.
Most people in Selhomarr believe that after death all good people go to Paradise, the personal world of Xeron where no one needs to work, and all things are plentiful. Those who were evil are cast into eternal blackness, where their souls fade into oblivion. Lhomarrian philosophy holds that some people end up in between; these are sent back into the world by Xeron to live again in order to prove themselves once more.
An extremely important element of society in Selhomarr is religion. One can see this in many ways - from the importance of the priesthood in society, to the prevalence of temples throughout the empire. Almost all of these clerics and temples are devoted to one Immortal - Xeron, Father of the Eternal Sun, Bringer of Light and Fire, and Protector of the Faithful. The people of Selhomarr believe that Xeron brought them to the world in which they live, and that he created the sun which shines upon them at all times. So central is Xeron to Selhomarr that many believe that the empire itself exists because he wills it.
As a result of Xeron's influence in the minds of many people, and of the incredibly long history Selhomarr has of worshipping him, Selhomarr is officially monotheistic - the only worship officially recognised by the state and the priesthood is that of Xeron. This does not mean that worship of other Immortals is forbidden; other Immortals are just not officially recognised. Temples to Diulanna, Patroness of Will, have been increasing in number during the past few centuries, and in fact she commands the second-largest congregation of worshippers, though her flock is dwarfed by that of Xeron, whose adherents constitute about 90% of the empire's five million people.
So important is religion that the temple is widely seen as the true centre of any community, rather than the town hall. It is in the graceful quartz temples of Xeron that both Lhomarrians and Ilarnnians pray at least once a day, often just after waking up, and it is in temples that community gatherings are held, couples are married, and people seek guidance. In most communities, the local clergy will know everyone who lives in the area, and will be so involved in what goes on that they are widely viewed as trusted confidantes.
The Teachings of Xeron:
The priesthood of Xeron, in addition to providing a focus for the community, and educating the young, are also responsible for the moral upkeep of society, and the maintenance of its traditions. It is through the priesthood, as well as the legal system, that social norms are reinforced. Below are the general rules of Selhomarrian society, as interpreted by both the law and the clergy:
1. Do nothing that is unkind to another, lest that unkindness be sent back to you.
2. Be the best you can be at everything you do; you will be doing a great service to your community.
3. Always think of the needs of others before your own.
4. Love and cherish your family; it will be your support when you need it.
5. Love Xeron, and respect his will.
6. Always uphold that which is just and honest, for in darkness there is only strife and doubt.
7. Learn as much as you can about the world; knowledge is an ally that will never abandon you.
These teachings constitute the foundations of the legal system of Selhomarr, as well as the standards by which most people conduct their daily lives.