Salvation Government
Overview

Salvation is a theocratic city-state exerting hegemony over much of central Rekkuris and the northern reaches of the Lediri Desert. It is nominally a theocratic monarchy, with an appointed head of state in the person of the Successor of the Faith, styled the Radiance or the Rightly Guided. In practice, however, the Successor's authority is mainly symbolic; active political power is exercised by the oligarchic House of the Judges, a body of religious and political leaders associated with the most powerful groups and individuals within the region.

The House of the Judges

The Judges currently number twenty-four, serve for life, and share no common style; their chief purpose is to interpret religious law, but they also direct the temporal branches of the government and singly or in common decide justice in cases too prominent or politically delicate to be handled by lower authorities. Thirteen represent familial or tribal groups, the Honored Clans, and are styled Patriarch or Matriarch accordingly; these posts are sometimes hereditary in practice. Six represent sworn orders and are addressed according to their captaincy; three represent religious sects and are styled Master; and two are individuals of private authority and have no formal title.

New Judges are admitted by acclamation. While this can be little more than a formality when applied to leaders of the most powerful groups, the acclamation of a private individual or the representative of a lesser group is occasion for ferocious debate and not infrequently violence; at times, new Judges have been acclaimed only when their armed supporters physically surrounded the House. All Judges must theoretically be followers of the Way of the Faithful, proven as religious scholars and of sufficient age to possess wisdom, but in practice the force of this requirement varies.

The House of the Judges itself is a rock-cut temple-fortification above Salvation's central square. Meetings of the Judges are carried out behind closed doors; decrees are pronounced and judgment handed down from atop the long steps leading to it, at the feet of the statue of Shilalein between its doors. If judicial punishment is called for, it is carried out at the foot of the same stairs.

The Successor

The Successor of the Faith, meanwhile, is the nominal heir of Shilalein Morningstar. Revered as a living symbol of the faith (though not as a goddess), but secluded in the House of the Morning Star and kept separate from most political power, she presides over ceremonies, sanctifies the House of Judges' decisions (though the blessing is never withdrawn), and accompanies the most important visitors.

Each is selected as soon as possible after the death of the previous Successor, always from Rekkuris' menhit population and usually from an outlying tribe or village rather than the city proper; the precise selection criteria are a closely held secret, but are known to include great beauty, great piety without exclusive dedication to the dictates of a particular Path, and certain other attributes of mind and body. All are female. Most are in their early teens when selected, but some have been as young as eight or nine.

Other Powers

Most of the day-to-day governance of Salvation, like the rest of Rekkuris, falls to band and clan leaders or is settled between individuals. The form and style of leadership varies between groups, but a religious patina is usually maintained; the body of sayings attributed to Shilalein and her followers collectively covers most of daily life, but scope for interpretation exists.

Sworn orders — societies of mutual loyalty complementing the familial bonds of clan and band — are common to much of urban Rekkuris, and especially to Salvation. Almost all keep their inner workings a secret, though many are known to hold esoteric interpretations of the Way; they therefore share a strained relationship with the religious mainstream, although many are powerful enough to hold seats in the House of the Judges. On the other hand, some act at times as informal arms of the government, acting in the place of soldiers and inquisitors in a society where standing armies as such are unknown.

Crime and Punishment

As personal offenses are generally settled by extrajudicial means, crime in Salvation is typically a matter of offenses against groups: clan, sect, religion, or the city as a whole. Trials are inquisitorial, presided over by one or in exceptional cases several religious scholars. Plaintiffs and defendants normally represent themselves, although an advocate for the prosecution (normally an expert in religious law) may be consulted in subtle cases. If the accused is of much lower social status or of poor moral reputation, their testimony may be taken into account only under duress. Children, the mentally incapable, and nonbelievers may not testify. Rules of evidence are informal.

The sayings of Shilalein proscribe lengthy imprisonment as wasteful and collective punishment as unjust (though retribution against the allies, including the family, of a criminal is permitted) and allow banishment only in the case of crimes against decency or public morals. Satron warns against excessive mercy, and Magja against secrecy in judicial matters. Punishment is immediate, severe, always public, and most often protracted. A member of the religious establishment must be present for the punishment to be legitimate, as must a representative of the criminal's clan or band if any can be found.

Fines may be levied in cases of property crime, but are normally accompanied by corporal or capital punishment. Minor offenses may merit a beating with a wooden rod, or with a thick bundle of reeds for children. Middling crimes such as theft merit mutilation: removal of a hand, foot, nose, or eye, or occasionally docking of the ears, according to the crime. High or repeated crimes are punished by death, usually death by torture: flaying and slow cutting are preferred methods with several variations, although crimes against the community as a whole may be punished by stoning. If the culprit was previously of good reputation or performed services for the community, clemency in the form of beheading or forced suicide may be extended.

Jails are uncommon. If a trial cannot be conducted immediately, the accused are likely to be kept in any expedient structure or simply held under watch.

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