There are two basic groups of humans in the jungle. In the ancient past a vast civilization explored and settled all through the jungle building vast flying cities and possessing incredible magical powers. Their gleaming white cities boasted huge ziggurats that poked above the canopy and tall, thing spires going even higher into the heavens, with long arched paths coiling all around. For various non-catastrophic reasons, their civilization crumbled over time. The population dwindled and lost the vast majority of its magical prowess. The descendants live in isolated pockets and ruins. Just as their predecessors, these groups all refer to themselves as “The People” as for thousands of years they were the only people they knew about. For convenience they have been broken into two groups, the Ancients, and Natives.
The Ancients had a society based on magical power. To be a citizen one must have the ability to wield magic, even if only a cantrip. Magical items are fairly common, but this is mostly due to the creation of powerstones which are essentially, wireless magic, and allow for the creation of cheap, mass-produced items. The downside is that the range is very short—travel too far from the city and its stone, and your item becomes mundane.
Due to the use of magical healing, wishes, and other magic the Ancients regularly lived active lives well past the age of 100. A few of their elders approached a thousand years of age. They delved into the astral and many of its pocket universes, exploring the multiverse.
There was never a big catastrophe, but over time, their society simply began to fade out. They had fewer and fewer children. Ego and pride became a significant problem even among the leaders. Issues that before would have been solved via council discussion became reasons for whole provinces to shun each other. Events in far-flung parts of the astral became important to whole groups of the Ancients, often to the extent that hundreds moved out or launched crusades. The population dwindled. Without support infrastructure, most of the flying cities were abandoned. The villages and cities were swallowed by the jungle, and the society slowly degraded. Eventually, all but one of the flying cities fell, or were carried away by wind and storms. That last city, Rising Sun, happened to be the old capital. Because it was floating over the largest city on the ground, it had a tiny population for a long time. As generations passed it became a place of pilgrimage for spiritualists, historians, and treasure seekers. For thousands of years it was a slowly decaying reminder of the great civilization that faded away.
Then, one day, it was inhabited again. In just an instant the faded rock was replaced with beautiful gleaming marble. Empty rooms had clothes and books. The “empty” city had over 45,000 of the Ancients waking up to the dawn and a bizarre case of amnesia. They rediscovered, slowly, who they thought they were. They communicated with the locals on the ground and spiritual guides and allies in the astral and learned that they shouldn’t exist. No matter what they remembered no such group of Ancients had ever gone missing. No giant block of souls were missing anywhere in the astral. They had no origin, and no past. But they remembered one. And what they remembered told them they were the lords of the jungle. So they set about reclaiming their lands. With the vast magical powers of the Ancients awakened, the Natives were no match. But one city, no matter how powerful, is hard pressed to rule such a vast land. And the lingering question on everyone’s mind remains, “who am I really?”
Names are all words, usually nouns. Places are almost always in the form Adjective-Noun, or Noun-Verb. There are no real rules on male vs female names. Warriors may be named after songbirds and never get taunted about it. In play this is never represented as “My name is Juzzail which means warbler in my language”. Instead, everyone would just say, “My name is Warbler”. For those who speak to fey, outsiders, lizardmen and sea devils, they don’t understand why one would give preferential treatment to the sound over the meaning. In other words, they are named after the warbler, not the sounds the word “warbler” makes in their language. So they would translate their name as well.
The vast majority of the Ancients live in Rising Sun and Shadow of the Sun. Neither settlement is self-sufficient yet but they are working hard to achieve this. With the extended farmland from the great burn sweeping the Imperial Province, the two cities are at least able to feed themselves, but they rely on the surplus from hundreds of villages to do so.
Externally, they have just a few settlements in each province, typically one or two noble estates and a fort. They have conquered a few cities and villages and incorporated the locals as slaves. In a few other areas they have tracked down old ruined cities and begun renovations. The first goal of each of these settlements is security. Secondarily they seek to become self-sufficient and last to spread the authority of the empire. The populations are nearly entirely soldiers or military. However that is somewhat mitigated since the Grand Council have declared a state of emergency and militarized the entire population. Of the Ancients, right now 18,000 are serving in the armed forces in some direct capacity.
The economy is driven primarily by a combination of magic and slave labor. The Ancients use a great number of elementals, summoned outsiders, constructs, and permanent enchantments combined with the brute force of tens of thousands of enslaved Natives to drive their society. In just the six months since the Awakening they have conquered nearly the whole Imperial Province, and some 5% of the rest of their old lands. They have nearly established a monopoly on long-distance trade simply because all the nomad and caravan merchants would have to be morons to pass up the opportunity to get early access to Ancient goods and sell them to Native towns. Thus any settlement the Ancients make is guaranteed to become popular with the local merchants and nomads.
Rising Sun exists in a state just like out of the old days, with hordes of magical servants (the aforementioned elementals, outsiders and constructs) supporting a large population that is otherwise spending time indulging itself rather than “working”. Most of this indulgence currently is the creation of more magical servants, tools, weapons, armor, magical transportation, and so forth as they seek to reestablish their accustomed lifestyle in all of their settlements. Shadow of the Sun is a bit of a hodgepodge where many Natives live in luxury compared to any other town, but still are third-class citizens compared to the Ancients. Once you get to the outer provinces, or even most of the villages and towns in the Imperial Province, even the wealthiest Ancient has some amazing magical toys, but is not drowning in luxury, and pretty much has to spend a fair bit of time actually “working”.
A great deal of coinage reappeared with the population of Rising Sun, and they have rebuilt the minting facilities in Shadow of the Sun. Thus far only two caravans have brought new ore to the city so the newest print run of coins is smaller than their needs. Thus Native tradebars are in wider circulation than coins everywhere except Rising Sun itself, and even there they are common. Interestingly enough the Ancients are quite taken with the concept of tradebars and especially the lizardmen’s enchanted rune-sticks and there is a good chance that coins will be slowly phased out over time.
There are at present only 8 Ancient merchant families “still” in operation. None of them had any wagons or much in the way of goods on the day of Awakening since only the flying city reappeared and most of that would have been kept below in Shadow of the Sun. Thanks to their magic, skills, and the Council’s emergency decrees mobilizing them as the organizing force behind the military push to feed Rising Sun, all of them are now well on the way to restoring their old wealth and power. Unlike their Native counterparts their caravans can travel between 12 and 24 hours a day using rotating slaves and beasts of burden, if not outright magical locomotion. Wagons are commonly enchanted with spells to increase their speed. Two of the families have setup spaced estates from which they can send small groups out using rituals that allow speedy travel through The Dark. The end result is that while Natives can travel 30 to 40 miles a day, these families can move goods 90 to 150 miles a day. While some Natives are reacting with jealousy and fear, more are seeking to make alliances or at the least to coordinate trips and take advantage of this amazing transit in return for food and raw materials that the Ancients need so much of.
As non-magicians, the Natives only way into society is as slaves. Some join willingly, some are taken by force. Most are being trained and used in the military, sent primarily to Crocodile, Sandyhome, and Moorstone to blunt the lizardman offensive. The next largest block are used on the farms and estates to grow food and be personal servants. A minority are used for random other tasks such as craftsmen, assistants, miners, loggers, and beasts of burden. As time passes the Ancients are turning more and more toward constructs and summoned magical creatures over slaves. Not due to any moral quibble with slavery itself but rather because these are more efficient tools on the one hand, and magical on the other. Both of which are powerful motives to the Ancients.
The Ancients are particularly fond of impractical buildings. Many extremely tall towers and huge, winding stairways with long external ramps fill their cities. Due to their longevity and wealth, the Ancients rarely, if ever, feel rushed. Long walks and patience are so ingrained to society that the main entrance to most buildings is on the top floor: ramps lead up and around the outside of a tower to a door at the top. Inside, stairs lead down to living quarters. Aqueducts and other “overhead” structures are also popular, making the skyline of a typical city very busy.
Towers are more like spires. Typically a hundred or more feet tall, with only a small room on each floor, they rise like bamboo and appear completely incapable of surviving a strong breeze, much less a monsoon. And yet, they are very safe, rarely even swaying in the fiercest storms.
Settlements all center around an open “square” (rarely actually of that shape) called a Zocalo, filled with fountains and ponds. Surrounding the Zocalo are the major temple ziggurats, and the council halls. The Zocalo itself is primarily used as an open-air market. Council halls are usually built to resemble smaller ziggurats with statues of people, rather than deities, though functional square buildings are also popular. At night, large braziers burn with magically enhanced flames to light up the plaza.
Water is found everywhere. Fountains, aqueducts, ponds, and diverted rivers fill most open areas of every settlement. Between magic and simple machines artificers have filled the world with beautiful arcing water displays. Plumbing is installed in most upper-class homes and nearly all civic buildings. Heated showers are available to the very wealthy, but by far the most popular are public baths with enormous (several hundred feet on a side) heated pools.
Many animals are raised in these ponds and pools. Quite a few magically altered animals are popular, as well as custom bred fish with bright colors. Dangerous animals are not at all uncommon with magical or mundane restraints keeping them at bay. Typically a guardsman or two are on hand for particularly cunning critters.
The most common building materials are limestone and marble, as the Ancients are fond of the bright white color. Their cities positively gleam in the bright sun. Tiled Mosaic is the primary form of decoration, and deeply saturated, rich colors are the most popular. If they could use neon, they would. Pastels are a fad that comes and goes from time to time, but soft, earthy colors like browns and dull reds and khaki are always unpopular.
The Ancients actually wear very little due to the climate. What is worn tends to be white with bright accents, or leather. Dresses and robes are common, typically very flowing and of light fabric. Headbands and similar decoration is popular, hats and covering is not. Sashes and similar flowing cloth strips, usually of bright color are quite popular with men who wear them over the shoulder and balanced on one arm. For reference, see any traditional Indian art, especially of the time period of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata epics.
Both men and women wear jewelry equally. This includes ear rings, necklaces, bracelets, armbands, rings, and hair decoration. Only women wear nose rings and anklets. Men often have very wide armbands, much like bracers. Silver is particularly popular for these, and they tend to have elaborate engraving or embossed surfaces. Women tend to wear lots of smaller bracelets that jingle when they move. Feminine armbands are typically spirals on the bicep of thin metal. Gold and brass are more commonly worn by women than men, but both sexes wear silver predominantly. Delicate work, like chain links, are popular among the upper class. Women often wear very fine chains connecting an earring to a nose piercing on formal occasions (one side only). The bracelet design that has several strands and gemstones over the back of the hand connecting a bracelet to rings is also popular on formal occasions.
Necklaces are often cumbersome, 5- to 10-feet long and wrapped around the neck several times draped down to the sternum. Fancier necklaces have a clasp and weight in back with 3 to 8 strands in the front so they look like they wrap, but in reality there is only one clasp and the whole can be put on or removed easily. Beads are made from ceramic, scales, bone, glass, nuts, wood, gems, stone, and a nearly limitless supply of materials, but by far and away lacquer, metal, and semi-precious stones are the most common. Shiny, opalescent colors never go out of style.
Spell casters, in particular divine and psionic, wear the dried seeds of a particularly rare tree called Rudraksha Seeds. They vary in size from that of a green pea to 1-1/2-inch in diameter, and come with between 1 and 6 “sides” all of which have a unique pattern of swirls. The larger seeds are extremely rare and a given tree only drops a single one-sided seed per 3 or 4 years. The larger and fewer sides the more valuable the seed. They are always a deep, almost blood red. Spell casters wear them grouped into armbands, headbands, necklaces, and as prayer beads.
Earrings are usually simple but large. Single beads larger than a thumbnail or hoops 2-inches in diameter are very popular. Trends do not come and go very often, and it is common for a child to wear his or her great-grandparent’s jewelry without feeling any shame.
The Ancient men enjoy long scarves draped over the shoulders and around one or both arms. They are typically the same color as one’s robes but with a simple colored trim on the edge. Men like making dramatic gestures with them, such as tossing them in a huff, fiddling with the edges while nervous, re-wrapping them around the wrist when looking formal, and so on.
Linens are virtually all of plant origin. Palms, bamboo, and other fibrous stalks are used to weave cloth. Bamboo in particular makes sturdy and non-rough material. There are a number of areas that work with both spider and moth silks as well, though these are extraordinarily expensive if one is not in an area where they are crafted. Several plants make cotton-like puffs that can also be woven, but these tend to be coarse and scratchy. Leather is a very popular clothing material and comes in a great variety of weights and colors. Serpent leather can be very thin and soft, while drake leathers are best suited to armor or boots. Decorations come from quills, bones, scales, teeth, and feathers as well as gemstones and metal.
There are a few rare materials as well. The artisans of Haven, 59-hands, Elwood, and Nightmare’s End all know techniques to work layers of leaf into a cloth as sturdy as leather but significantly lighter. This is used both for armor and for clothing. Shadoweave is a form of silk that is imbued with the essence of the demiplane of shadow giving it the unnerving ability to blur itself and make any shadows appear darker than they are. Glitterweave is a glassy cloth with constantly shifting colors much like a sheen of oil on water but more vibrant. Precious metals are often used as well, with thin threads of gold and silver being woven to form thin cloth. A great advantage of Goldweave in particular is that it is exceptionally cooling, unlike steel which holds heat and can become too hot to wear in the sun. Coldweave is a silver, silk, and asbestos cloth that is incredibly white and reflective, it can become uncomfortably cool indoors or away from a heat source, and in the sun it is almost as reflective as a mirror.
Masks are a whole subculture of their own. The concept of a “masks” is semi-sacred and in a very real, and even legal way, donning one means that the wearer is not him or her self. The idea is that you symbolically become someone else, so all of society accepts you as what you are become. On the other hand, the deliberate concealment of one’s identity is just about the greatest sin in society. To actually deliberately attempt to deceive via identity is so repugnant that most society would shun the individual if not agree to a formal banishment. Because of the functional and personal knowledge of the fate of the soul after death, this concealment of identity is considered more severe than murder, and a sign of an incurably sick mind.
War is pretty much a ceremonial thing. Cities do have arguments that they simply cannot settle. At which point, blood is often shed. Typically, an army is composed purely of professional soldiers. They surround the target, and there are a series of duels. Actually invading the enemy city is considered a breach of civil law, until such time as the defending army has actually been defeated. But if the defending army will not sortie out, then they are essentially giving permission for the attackers to move in and claim the city. All fighting stops at sundown.
Things work a bit different with regard to the flying cities and in the sky, battles are particularly fierce. Because they cannot be laid under siege except by the size of a fleet that the entire civilization does not possess, attackers go straight for the Zocalo and council hall. This often leads to the uncomfortable result of heavy civilian loses and collateral damage. Levies are drawn up from the able-bodied populace only under quite extreme circumstances, and assaults on the flying cities were by far the most common reason.
The skyship captains have a very formal honor system, and they will absolutely not tolerate misbehavior among their crews. No attacks against a ship with a flag of truce. No attacks against a merchant ship unless it is a confirmed pirate vessel. When an enemy ship is going down, you don’t keep firing on it, and you rescue anyone who falls over the side, regardless of which crew he belongs to. When taken prisoner, you behave yourself and don’t try to escape until after you are on the ground.
There are two primary orders of knights that are aligned with the government, and a near infinite number of smaller warrior traditions. The guards and others who are primarily dedicated to social harmony are more likely to join the Order of the Sacred Blade, which had keeps in every major city, now only Rising Sun and Shadow of the Sun. Those who simply wish to master the combined arts of magic and war tend to become an apprentice under an Arcane Knight (despite the order’s name, all forms of magic are taught).
Because of the extreme level of magical use among the populace there is a very highly developed spirituality as well. Divination makes most attempts at secrecy pointless, at least in the long run, and lower astral entities can be proven to be such by the simple test of traveling to their home realms. Celestial beings are rarely worshipped as such (the vast majority of the time because they will politely ask you to stop if you try), but rather treated as a valuable teacher or guide.
In general ancients don’t consider gods as anything special. They claim that gods are merely beings of great power, and strongly emphasize the fact that mortals can become gods. Actual knowledge of the process is quite lacking, but that doesn’t stop them from focusing on it. They are much more likely to worship God than any deity, but will often find themselves drawn to one specific patron with whom they form a spiritual bond. Attempting to physically travel to that deity’s realm while still alive and enter into its service is not uncommon, but rarely successful. Mystics eventually find that they don’t fit into the normal religions and usually become hermits. These tend to focus on a personal relationship with a god, then turn more and more to the experience of God within. This is the point that causes such friction with religions.
Ancients virtually all recognize that there is some form of unified omnipresent field binding the universe in a metaphysical sense. They call this “God” and do worship it. They do not view this field as having a form or personality. Worship is for the benefit of the worshipper, not the benefit of God. Except for mystics, they primarily give lip service to God-immanent, while believing primarily in God-transcendent.
Group rituals are very big part of daily life. Meals always involve a prayer. Guests are greeted with folded hands and a bow, to honor the presence of God immanent. Major events, such as new buildings, or a great piece of art involve a group feast at the least. The primary concept is that rituals are based around the concepts of thankfulness and celebration.
Formal organized religion is prominent and typically focused on providing group support, and a sense of community. It is more like a self-help group than a church, though virtually always based out of a temple. The theory is that the individual has a personal spiritual path they explore in private. But the group has a communal path they walk together. The purpose of a formal religion is to support that growth as a group. So the person seeks to experience God within, while the group seeks to serve the God without. Note that in contrast to how the Ancients practice religion, the vast majority of Earthly religious rituals are recreations of historical events, or attempts to prevent social change by codifying a given ethnic tradition, moral, or value. Instead, the Ancients focus on shared experience. Examples are silent retreats, discussions (as opposed to sermons or lectures, and arguments might be a better term than “discussion”), divination on a conflict of importance, travel to an astral plane that ranks at the level of a specific issue or problem the group is dealing with, charity events (dedicating time as a group to perform a task for a particular unfortunate or the community as a whole is most common by far), and group meditation and prayer (both silent). Last is the experience of Darshan, or sitting in the auric field of a highly evolved saint (typically only something disciples get to experience).
Noticeably absent are deities in a physical form, dogma, taboos, blame, or authority. There are people that take the role of priest, or minister but this is voluntary and quite informal as there are no authoritative “church hierarchies”. Individual priests have a level of social power that derives purely from the amount of respect they earn, not from a central source or hierarchy that gives out appointments. That said, there are different titles, some self-claimed, some given by peers. And there are widely recognized priests whose words carry more weight than most.
Many priests focus on one celestial entity whom they serve, and they treat that entity as an embodiment of God. So if they pray to Odin patron of wise kings, they are really praying to God embodied in Odin. This subtlety is lost on many of the people, and many of the priests truth be told. The result is that the populace tend to think that priests worship the gods, and that they are hoping to become elevated to godhood as part of this service.
A few monastic traditions exist. These vary widely. Some do have ethnic and historic rituals that are exceedingly different from the religious practices of the community as a whole. Virtually all require allegiance to a specific set of ideals and behaviors. The primary function is to provide an environment of peace and serenity in combination with a structured lifestyle for renunciates. Physical mortifications and other forms of pride-based degradations exist but are quite rare.
Despite the vast amount of magic floating around the populace, pure spell casters are actually quite rare. Most people have a little bit of formal magic training or even just the innate ability to manifest a single power. The most common classes are divine casters and psions or innate arcane casters. Scholarly arcane casters are moderately rare because the study and exploration of magic as an external force goes against the grain of a society that views magic as a birthright and unifying principle of the universe.
That said, the majority of soldiers and professional fighters blend combat and magic and have been trained to do so in a very scholarly manner. Those who do devote their lives to the study of power tend to be extremely successful at it and find they are supported by the highest tiers of society.
The Ancients refer to their society as an empire, but for all practical purposes it is really a Republic. They never did have an empire as such, no royal families, no nobility. The oldest oral traditions refer to councils holding power, and they still do. But somehow, the idea of a central unified purpose and leadership has always appealed to the Ancients, and they talk as if one exists.
There are essentially three levels of authority: Local, provincial, and ruling. Each settlement, and sometimes a cluster of settlements, has a local council. These are a completely mixed bag with some being inherited, some elected, some volunteer, and some appointed, occasionally all in the same settlement (though that is rare). The vast majority are a combination of volunteer and elected. Elections are simple affairs where anyone who wishes a post shows up, and whomever the electorate are cast votes via placing stones at their choice’s feet. The larger pile wins. There is no debating, or campaigning. Appointment is typically by either the next higher council, or by the same council to fill a vacant spot, and that is typically done by a simple yea or nay count. Again, there are no debates or campaigns.
Local councils, in truth, have the most power as they are the ones physically present and the ones who handle 99.99999% of the issues. Provincial councils basically exist to resolve disputes between settlements and prevent battles. They tend to be 8 to 12 people and are almost always elected (for life or until removed by a decree of the ruling council) by a body of the local councilors. From the provincial council, one is sent to represent the province in the ruling council. This position is usually inherited, but two of them (God’s Altar and Sandy Home) are by election of their respective provincial councils. This councilor spends the vast majority of his or her time traveling around the province and settling disputes as well as planning new settlements, visiting noble estates, and so forth. This person is also the official leader of the province’s military. When not in the field, they are in the capital city discussing matters that affect the entire civilization, very few of which are half as important as the people bringing them up think they are.
The Grand Council, sometimes called Supreme Council or Ruling Council, has only two special posts, all other Councilors are equal in all ways (officially, some are better respected than others and thus their word is more persuasive). Each year, in a rotation, one Councilor becomes the Consul, or head of the Grand Council. This position is known as “First Speaker” in most provincial and local councils. In the case of a tie, the Consul may vote twice. Note that this is not the same as having the Consul’s vote count as two, because it is very common for a Consul to vote both ways for various reasons, or to abstain one or two times. Each of the two votes is taken on its own merits and the second is not always used. The Consul determines what order business is handled in, thus can stonewall an issue by never allowing it to come up for a vote (this would also require NEVER asking the question “is there anything else?” or any similar variant that would allow an opponent to bring it up). Finally, the Consul may, once per decision, veto any vote of the council. When (if) the vote is taken a second time, the Consul is automatically recused from the vote, but may use the “second” vote as normal in the case of a tie. The Consul may not veto the item a second time. The second position is the Field Consul, aka Grand Marshal aka General. This position is by appointment for a specified number of years. There is always a Field Consul, and the Consul and Field Consul may be the same person. This combined position is known as Dictator, though without any negative connotations. Without an emergency in progress, the Field Consul position rotates once a year just like the Consul. The Field Consul makes most military decisions and just presents them to the Grand Council for their knowledge and input. The Grand Council does have the authority to challenge the Field Consul’s decisions, but the Field Consul may veto such a vote one time requiring them to argue it out again. Also, in any normal issue that comes up that involves the military, the Field Consul gets two votes instead of the Consul, these two votes follow all the same conventions as the two the Consul normally gets.
As of a few months after the Awakening, there are two honorary positions on the Grand Council taking the total number of seats to 14. These two may not vote, but may be present for any vote, and have full speaking rights as if a councilor. One was granted to the representative of the Spirit Wood. The position is called The Voice of the Wood. The Spirit Wood’s councilor is a tree spirit using the name of Frost. She invited an angel to come speak before the Grand Council, and the angel was offered and accepted a similar honorary seat. His title is Voice of Light. He holds this same position on the Spirit Wood’s own Grand Council, and is rarely in Rising Sun to participate in meetings. Though he has spoken twice, and observed several other sessions. He has asked to be called by his position’s title rather than any name, and is a particularly tall anthropomorphic dog, fond of silver-trimmed white robes. On formal occasions he carries a two-handed sword made of some golden metal with white opals in the hilt and guard.
Religious leaders, interestingly enough, hold virtually no political power. They are occasionally asked by councils to provide insight or advice, and it is not uncommon for a priest or monk to have enough respect to earn a place on a council. But outside of that, they tend to have so little concern for material issues that neither they, nor the populace consider them the right people for a leadership role. On the other hand, they do have a great deal of social power, as they are considered the primary authority for moral issues.
The exception to this separation of spiritual and material leadership is the paladin. While all divine casters function as a bridge between the material and the spiritual, paladins are particularly affiliated with the material side. In essence, they are divine tools which function in the world of men. They are very famous for standing down entire councils, ferreting out corruption, and championing causes that are unknown until that point. While they have no official authority, and it is exceedingly rare for paladins to sit on councils, almost no council will directly oppose one, and should one demand to speak it is a rare council that would have a moral reason to deny that request.
Crime and Punishment
The Ancients forms of law can often horrify outsiders. In general, they do not recognize a right to privacy. Information gathered, regardless of method, is equally as valid as any other form. Courts and judges do not exist. Laws as such, do not exist. There are guards, and they have extraordinary authority to act. They can enter a home, confiscate whatever they deem necessary, arrest, detain, issue fines or other punishments and so forth all on the spot. Many guards are not only dangerous warriors, but also have a bit of divination magic which they use freely. Resisting an official mental probe is legally defined as an admission of guilt.
In general, punishment is the lowest concern of the authorities. They are more concerned with ensuring the victim is taken care of. The guilty party will eventually be found, and even if no mortal agency deals with the person, the universe will. When punishment exists it is usually with the intent to repair damage and prevent a recurrence. So a person who vandalizes is usually sentenced to community service that begins with repairing the vandalism, and extends into new construction or other repairs. One who assaults a citizen typically becomes a servant or even a slave. Fines and loss of property can be used as a deterrent and a way to make amends. Periods of imprisonment are reserved for those who show that they are dangerous, but might benefit from some soul searching. All imprisonment is solitary confinement. Those who are likely to never reform are occasionally locked up for life or exiled.
In the case of one who travels from settlement to settlement, escapes from imprisonment and will return after exile, capital punishment is an option. Anyone who feels that a guard has treated them unfairly may protest to the guard’s superior officer. If they are unhappy with that result they may speak to any council member for their settlement. If they are still unhappy, they may request a hearing before the whole council. In an extraordinary situation, one who still feels slighted may approach his or her provincial councilman who may refer the case to the Ruling Council instead of taking it alone, but either way this level of decision is final. Those who are found to be abusing these rights are likely to be punished by the settlement council and ruling council for wasting their time, thus appeals at the higher levels are relatively rare.
Guards get involved when a complaint is lodged or when they observe violence or other suspicious activities. There are no hard and fast rules, but in general assault, humiliation, and harassment are all unwelcome. One important note is that vigilantism is a bit of a mixed bag and tends to be judged on a case-by-case basis. If the family of a murder victim kill the murderer at the scene, they are all but guaranteed to be forgiven for it. If two years after the fact they track the person down and torture him, they are in serious trouble. Bounty hunting is a moderately lucrative field, and one that can get the hunter into trouble if they are not very careful to act with integrity.
Dueling is popular and may very freely be to the death provided both sides agree. A duel requires a clearly defined area (typically scratched into the ground with a dagger by the official witness), a witness, an official judge (any elder, priest, or guard will do), and if either party has a second both must. Other than that terms are as the combatants declare. Violating the terms of a duel is considered illegal. A duel to first blood ends on first blood. A second cut is considered attempted murder (murder if it is successful), and a violation of the dueling laws. Death within the bounds of a formal duel is not illegal. Holding a duel without the formal requirements of a witness, seconds, the circle and a judge, is considered ill-mannered and unprotected. That is if it is to first blood and everyone accepts the outcome, then no worries. But if anyone dies, even if the terms were “to the death”, then it is murder simply because the rules were not obeyed.
Group duels are not unheard of. Indeed, it is common in duels to the death for the seconds to simply begin fighting after the third pass among the primary duelists. In general, all the rules are the same, except that the party throwing the challenge may not have more fighters unless there is some reason why they are the underdog, or at least equal. The circle is not necessarily used in this case though for formality it is still drawn. There needs to be at least one witness per 4 combatants, and the judge really ought to be someone with authority such as a noble, councilor, or guard.
Among the nobility the use of champions is common so as to prevent assassination attempts via duels to the death. When it is a matter of true personal honor, usually both nobles will fight themselves rather than use their champions. But nearly all nobles have a champion on call just in case someone they have wronged decides to hire a master swordsman and pay him to insult the noble until a duel begins.