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Government and the Lawby Geoff Gander
“General Shariss! Come to me!”
The lizard man commander stepped away from his officers and approached the sorcerer king, carefully avoiding eye contact. He knelt on the ground at the appropriate distance, and removed his crown.
“Master, I present myself to you.”
“You have much to explain! I left the defence of Theliir to your garrison, but the city was besieged not once, but twice! On the second occasion, I am told, the Taymorans were nearly victorious!”
“Master, our intelligence was faulty; the Taymoran force was twice the anticipated size, and we suspect they had support from local bandits, who, as you know, are largely comprised of escaped slaves. I can-”
The sorcerer king struck the general with his staff. “Silence! I do not care how many bandits were involved, or what they did! That, general, is your problem. Your failure is inexcusable! You have shamed our people, shamed the nation, and you have shamed our forefathers with your ineptitude! You shall be thrashed, and then,” he paused meaningfully, “the white rod.”
Shariss’s eyes widened, and he prostrated himself before the sorcerer king. “I beg of you, spare me the white rod! I shall take any other punishment gladly. Throw me into the arena! Assign me to the temple! But please, not the rod!”
A black-armoured troglodyte kicked Shariss in the ribs repeatedly until he lay whimpering. The sorcerer king halted him with a raised hand. “No, Shariss the Shamed, it shall be the white rod for you; I have spoken! Felss, gather four of your strongest warriors, strip him, and beat him for an hour. Do not kill him. Once you are finished, send for me.”
Without another word the sorcerer king retreated to his tent, while the troglodytes went about their work with relish. Shariss’s wails and groans echoed throughout the camp until, at the appointed time, the sorcerer king was called to administer the final punishment. Upon seeing his master, Shariss struggled weakly in the arms of his captors.
“Shariss the Shamed, from this day forth you are dead to us. Nevermore shall you reside in Mogreth, and nevermore shall you enjoy the blessings of your race. Hereafter you will bear only a dagger and whatever you may hold in your hands. I command you now, bearer of the white rod, to wander the lands of our enemies until such time as you die in misery. The mark of the white rod on your brow shall forever mark you as accursed, and death awaits you should you ever return to our lands, or name yourself as you once were. Even the slaves shall look in your eyes, and see your failure.” The sorcerer king leaned forward, pressed a small white rod of crystal against Shariss’s forehead, and uttered a guttural word. The crystal glowed brightly, and Shariss screamed in agony. The stench of burning flesh filled the air. When the master stepped back, everyone present could see that the softly glowing rod was now embedded in Shariss’s forehead.
Without another word, Shariss staggered to his feet and donned a black robe that lay before him. He strapped on the belt and dagger that lay beside it, and departed for Taymor without another word with his head hung low, while his father watched impassively.
Mogreth is ruled by five lizard man sorcerer kings, collectively known as the Circle, who determine all matters of law and policy. No decision is made without their involvement. The Circle meets regularly, in secret, to discuss pressing matters and to debate one or another sorcerer king’s proposals. Such meetings often take the better part of a day, during which the most powerful member – known as the First of the Circle – remains silent. He or she will speak only to resolve deadlocks. Decisions are made by consensus, and once three out of five are in agreement, the remainder must support them.
Supporting the Circle in its deliberations is an extensive bureaucracy of lizard man clerks, record-keepers, and advisors who translate the decisions they receive from their masters into laws and policies. Almost all of these officials are well-born.
The Legal System of Mogreth
The legal system used by Mogreth is based on that used in ancient Y’hog and the First Empire of Mogreth. In that system, the carnifex were considered to be flawless beings, who only rarely made mistakes. All errors or crimes were attributed to the flawed natures of the races who served the carnifex, who, being imperfect, could not be expected to execute their duties to the level required. As a result, a system of punishments was designed to encourage and coerce the lesser races to improve their natures and live in accordance with their masters, or be destroyed. While it served the powerful carnifex very well for millennia, it increasingly highlights the imperfections of the lizard men who currently rule – a difference that has not gone unnoticed among the lower classes.
Whenever a law is broken, or an accusation is made, the plaintiff and defendant are brought before a clerk of a sorcerer king (almost always a mid- to upper caste lizard man), who hears the case on the spot and makes a decision. Once the decision is made, it cannot be appealed. Assigned punishments are carried out immediately.
The severity of punishments is largely determined by the race and caste of the guilty party. Generally speaking, lizard men receive the most lenient punishments except in cases where they have committed blasphemy, but lizard men of lower castes may find themselves on an equal footing with mid-caste frogfolk, as well as troglodyte servants of sorcerer kings. However, what is considered lenient varies. Lizard men are keenly aware of their elite status, and to them the loss of that status is often more crippling than mutilation or death, as they will have lowered themselves in the eyes of society – possibly permanently. Other races know they will never join the ruling class, and so physical punishment – especially that which would impede their ability to earn a livelihood – is most feared.
The most common crimes, and their punishments, are outlined below:
Theft: Loss of hand (slaves and lower castes), branding (middle castes), fines (upper caste).
Assault on Upper Caste: Death by scourging (slaves), enslavement (lower castes), forced labour or mutilation (middle castes).
Assault on Equal or Lower Caste: Arena (slaves), whipping (lower castes), fines (middle caste), fines (upper caste – only if assault committed against other upper caste members, otherwise no punishment).
Murder of Upper Caste: Death by scourging (slaves), arena (lower castes), enslavement (middle castes), whipping (upper caste).
Murder of Equal or Lower Caste: Arena (slaves and lower castes), death by scourging (middle castes), white rod (upper caste – only if committed against other upper caste members, otherwise no punishment).
Blasphemy: Death by scourging (all castes).
Treason*: Arena (slaves and lower castes), death by scourging (middle castes), white rod (upper caste).
*The notion of treason in Mogreth also encompasses failing in any duty to the nation that has been entrusted to a person. This includes any quest assigned by a sorcerer king.
The White Rod
The most feared punishment among the upper classes is the white rod, which entails a permanent loss of status, and the designation of the recipient as a non-person. In this punishment, a piece of softly glowing magical quartz crystal is embedded in the forehead of the criminal. Any attempt to remove the crystal will result in the immediate death of its bearer. Bearers of the white rod are exiled from Mogreth forever, and no citizen of Mogreth may speak with them, or they will face the same punishment.
Those condemned in this manner are compelled by a powerful geas to wander forever. If a bearer stays in one place for more than a day, the rod begins to heat up, causing unbearable pain but no lasting damage. Furthermore, they are forbidden from owning anything more than what they can comfortably carry in both hands – otherwise, the crystal heats up. All who are sentenced to the white rod are given a small dagger – this is provided so that they may end their own lives.