Question: Are intra-house alliances thematically appropriate? The idea of secret alliances that could create WW1 style detentes seems like the ultimate result of alliances outside of fealties. What kind of wording would be appropriate to make sure that an alliance does not conflict with existing oaths of fealty? How are alliances like these enforced by Limerance's representatives? Are private alliances considered a Lycene only practice?
Answer: In short, yes. Massive chain-reaction wars start in the Compact, and even some of the most mild of brushfire conflicts in the past between two houses have spiraled into wars between entire great houses due to chains of alliances from marriage. This is a large reason why lieges often decline to involve themselves in the wars of their bannermen, due to the fear of it spreading to a far larger war. It's also a reason why many of the older, more powerful houses have been very difficult to dislodge- there's deep connections that stretch across fealties, and even a powerful ducal house won't try to overthrow a great house if that great house is linked by marriage to two other great houses, and could probably call on several times their immediate forces.
Question: Staff has previously clarified that the Inquisition and Iron Guard do not have authority in the Wards controlled by the Great Houses. As a follow-on question: Who has authority over the noble houses located inside of the Wards of the Great Houses? For instance, does Victus have authority over Darkwater Reach such that Thrax guards can bust in and arrest someone? Or do the individual houses fall within the demesne of the House that owns them, such that the normal rules regarding liege-vassal relations apply?
Answer: This is one of those cases where everything is by tradition rather than codified law. The inquisition, iron guard or other crown entities do not have authority in the wards of great houses, nor do they have it in manors in those wards. Traditionally, the authority of the heads of houses in the manors in the wards is respected, but unlike their own demesnes where they have absolute control, the wards are seen as the land of the great house. In other words, someone is living in a manor and house guards of the great house would traditionally not enter without permission, but the highlord could deny someone the rights to -build- a manor, or even forbid them entry from the ward entirely even if their manor is on the ward. So there's a great deal more practical power in highlord's hands, as their manor is effectively built on land that they do not own, even if their authority inside it is respected.
Question: How often is banishment used as a punishment, and what is the general opinion of the practice in Arvum?
Answer: More rarely than execution. It is considered more extreme than execution throughout the Compact, generally.
Question: Hi! Thematically speaking, how would a court/defendant go about getting a champion for a trial by combat? How would this play out in a House's demesne and in Arx proper?
Answer: It is not unanalogous to a lawyer but for far higher states. Mirrormasks, as part of their training, often defend someone they believe is guilty as a contrarian aspect of the Faith's worship of the 13th, but a Mirrormask would seldom act as a champion for trial by combat. Instead, a champion would be expected to firmly believe in the innocence of the defendent in order to honorably defend them, and so representatives of the charged often would try to sway a champion to fight on their behalf. For capital offenses, it is understood then that fights will often be to the death, and the Champions Guild has no expectation of acting as champions in those cases- that goes far beyond what is considered gauche, in acting as a champion for a defendent while not being a member of the guild. It should be noted that the person charged is imprisoned, and those holding them have no obligation of allowing them any way of speaking to those outside. Messengers, or the ability to pen journals is completely the discretion of those holding them, if the accused is seen as dangerous. Nor is the right to trial of combat guaranteed, if the weight of evidence is considered overwhelming (such as someone caught in the act). So generally the times it is most honored is when the evidence is strong but not overwhelming and there is strong doubt, and someone is willing to risk their life on behalf of the accused to prove it.
Question: Hi! Thematically speaking, how would a court/defendant go about getting a champion for a trial by combat? How would this play out in a House's demesne and in Arx proper?
Answer: For a defendant, they can name anyone that is willing to stand for them, or choose to represent themselves (if no one else is willing).
For the accusers, it depends. For a capital case, if the victim was a peer, almost certainly the House Sword of the victim's House would offer to represent them, as its a matter of House honor. In case when it was a commoner, if the court agrees to a trial by combat, then the house sword of the lord trying them in a local domain would often offer to stand if their lord requested it, or a representative of the Faith would be common, one of the local templars.
In Arx, the Court would often petition asking for someone who would champion the gods, and typically there's not a shortage of templars wishing to prove their worth, or alternately they can ask for aid from the Iron Guard, or Inquisition, who might generously offer to have one of their own swords represent the Crown. If the victim was someone of special merit to the crown, such a favorite of the king, the champion could be none other than the Lord Commander of the King's Own. But the court does not have the authority to force anyone to fight for it, and it is always in a position of asking.
Question: Within Arx as a setting what kind of crimes are considered realistic per theme? For example do unscrupulous merchants or captains dispose of hired help to save money? Are shop owners threatened to pay protection fees? If they are what level of retaliation would they find for failure to pay or attempts to report it to the local guard or noble family? Would con-artists be willing to sell you a vial of blessed water/spirit fertility charm would the people of Avrum even buy such things?
Basically how hardcore are your average criminals throughout Avrum?
Answer: Most crimes focus around threat of violence, violence itself, or the threat or destruction of property. There is a high presence of the Iron Guard throughout the city, who exist to keep order and defend the city, and to arbitrate offense. For example, someone that is committing assault typically is not arrested unless their victim was important, but would often just be beaten on the spot by Iron Guardsmen. Extortion does happen, and Iron Guardsmen would often just beat whoever was accused of committing extortion, or if it's a repeated problem, possibly murder them. Bribes to look the other way would be common, which then brings in the Inquisition, who investigate all crimes that usually go beyond immediate security or threat, and this is relevant to things like fraud, as the Iron Guard could not care less about fraud- they are not an investigative body beyond just an individual guardsman's motivation, that would entirely be the purview of the Inquisition.
Now about con artists, the population of Arvum is INTENSELY skeptical about the supernatural. It would be significantly difficult to sell something that was blessed by the hand Mangata herself and glowed, or a charm that contained a spirit, and not have people laugh it off, let alone something that is a fraud. However, con artists relying not on Arvum's largely non-existant superstitions do quite well. Like say, trying to sell nonexistent ownership, or priceless antiques that are quite worthless. Those are the sort of things the Inquisition would often have to run into, while the Iron Guard is not particularly involved aside from telling people to be careful what they buy.
Question: What authority do courts have?
Answer: Inside their own domains, a lord traditionally has complete authority. Courts as they exist are NOT a check and balance against the authority of the executive, like they are in modern societies in the real world. Not at all. They exist to carry out the will of the ruler of the domain, and judge as they would, because no lord has time to oversee every minor dispute. This doesn't make courts powerless, as few lords wish to have the embarrassment of overruling someone that they themselves appointed and theoretically have their authority, because it makes them look incompetent and weak, but courts also have to be extremely careful about not ruling in ways contrary to the opinions of the lord of the domain, because they would immediately be replaced. This does get muddled when some lords, for difficult political decisions such as two vassals squabbling over an issue that want arbitration, intentionally allow one of their judges to rule on it, see how much blame they get, then overrule it if it appears the other way might be advantageous politically.
Question: Who, if anyone, argues for an accused individual to be found guilty in a trial?
Answer: The prosecutor depends upon the crime, particularly the injured party. If the crime was an offense against the Crown, then this would be a crown prosecutor, often selected from one of the Court's magistrates. If the injured party was not the Crown, but against a noble house or its vassals, then most often an individual would be tried upon their lands. But there are two cases where that is not true- if the noble house elects to have the crime judged by the Crown, often to lend an air of impartiality, or if the accused allegedly commited crimes against multiple houses. Then the Crown can elect to sit in judgment over them, and name a prosecutor of its chosing.
Sometimes, the prosecutor will, in fact, be the house sword of noble houses, as they are a representative of the House's honor. This often is a terrible idea, as many of the house swords have no legal training whatsoever, and the crown gently discourages that to prevent embarrassing fiascos. Besides, if the accused insists on trial by combat, and the court agrees, the house sword is more than capable of acting as the representative then.
Question: Q: What's the theme surrounding sueing people ine the Crown court in Arvum? Is this something restricted to certain classes, unheard of for certain criteria, or generally not done? Similarly, are there certain restrictions on who can be a lawyer? Are there any notable cases in history? Lastly, would it be unheard of in theme to buy someone's debt owed to a collector and pursue it separately?
A: If it's a matter of low justice and a purely civil matter, anyone can bring a complaint before the Crown court, and seek a legal remedy from the Crown. For crownsworn, this can have extremely broad latitude, and the magistrate can largely decide whatever they please for any Crownsworn residing in Arx, who could find any and all belongings forfeit as a result of a ruling. For those not crownsworn, it's trickier. The Crown could pass a recommendation on to the liege's house, but for major disputes if they find against a party of another fealty, typically they would place a levy against them, where any funds made or goods transported to Arx or passing through the Crownlands could then be taxed until the injured party is redressed. More often than not, a liege would simply seize the assets on their own lands and pass it over. A commoner cannot directly bring a complaint against a member of the peerage before the Crown courts. A peer must do so on their behalf or sponsor their complaint, to avoid wasting the Court's time. Proteges of peers are typically assumed to have their patrons backing for any complaint before the court.
Lawyers can be appointed by any noble house or the Crown to see to legal matters on their behalf, and can keep the ability to practice law after their departure. So much like being knighted, it is simply a matter of at least one person at one point vouching for someone. Losing the ability to practice law is just a revocation of someone's right to argue before that particular court, which is more significant than it sounds. If a lawyer wastes the Crown's time and they say they are no longer welcome before the Crown's Court, that effectively bans them from practicing law in Arx, and it would be unlikely anyone outside of Arx would wish to retain them.
Covering debts isn't all that rare, though the Court might be unsympathetic to someone routinely buying debts and then demanding help in collecting on them. They'd see it as imposing on their time, and might deny Iron Guard help in collecting.
Question: What are the responsibilities of Grand Juries and how are they selected?
Answer: Grand Juries were created by House Grayson as a safeguard against oppressive, unfounded prosecution, a reform that came into being immediately following the Crownbreaker Wars, as the Inquisition was used as a powerful political weapon during the period. The make up of a grand jury must always exceed thirteen members, and no more than 39. The Crown's Court of Arx, supported by the Faith, maintains a roll of honor of prospective jurors, with dozens of individuals with knowledge of law drawn from each of the five great houses, the crownsworn members of the Inquisition, Iron Guard, King's Own and Faith of the Pantheon, and the Court magistrates. When a grand jury is requested, names are drawn by lot, but a juror must the same social rank or their social superior in order to sit in judgment of them. Highlords are, of course, considered above the law.
When one is seized in the act of a crime by the Iron Guard, or one is arrested upon suspicion by the Inquisition, either organization is required (in theory) to inform the court if they have arrested a peer of the realm, or a commoner with legal representation. Any peer would automatically have a grand jury enpaneled to weigh whether the evidence justifies a trial, and a lawyer representing a commoner can request one was well.
While a grand jury decides if the weight of evidence justifies the arrest, the guard and the Inquisition is (in theory) forbidden from questioning the prisoner. This is a protection against ordeals, and specifically Trial by Ordeal, which attempts to obtain a confession by torture. Under the Thrax Dynasty during the Crownbreaker Wars, a majority of prisoners never survived their arrest- and most of the confessions were extremely suspect. If a grand jury agrees there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, often now they provide stipulations under what exact ways the Inquisition is able to question a prisoner, and whether subjecting them to ordeal is merited. If a grand jury disagrees that the evidence is sufficient, the accused is released, and cannot be arrested again without significantly more evidence coming to light.
Of course, this was hardly fool proof protection. Under Master of Questions Shreve Tyde, the last head of the Inquisition, he simply declined to inform the Crown know when many of his targets were arrested, and conspicuously lobbied behind the scenes to stack the rolls of honor with men and women very amenable to him, who he could rely upon giving him permission to torture to death individuals that were not politically connected and would not be missed. During the reforms by Laric and Alistair, those individuals were purged from the rolls of honor, and grand juries have largely returned to their oversight roll in day to day life.
It is important to note that jurisdiction for crimes is meaningful- if a crime is committed against the Crown (Arx property, crownsworn victims, the Crown itself), it is proper for the individual to be judged by the crown. But say, if a crime is an injury against a peer of another great house's property or people, then a grand jury would often just decide whether the Crown can justifiably turn over the accused for judgment by that great house or if they wash their hands of it and judge the accusation without merit.
Question: I'd like it if the distinction between the Iron Guard and Inquisition's duties can be clarified here so that it gets asked on a less daily basis. That is, the Enforcer vs. Investigative thing.
Answer: The Iron Guard keep the peace, both as a military force under the command of a crown for Arx's immediate security, and maintaining law and order in the streets. They are the equivalent of beat cops to modern sensibilities. If they witness a crime, or a crime happens while they are around, they will pursue a criminal. If it is at all vague who is responsible, and there is not a clear indication of who the guilty is, then it goes to the Inquisition, and the Inquisition decides if it is worth their while to investigate.
For commoners to be arrested on suspicion, one of the protections is the equivalent of a grand jury if they have any kind of lawyer recognized by the Crown as representing them, in the classic medieval sense rather than the modern one. IE, that a lawyer makes certain that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial and make the accused go through the ordeal (which in the Inquisition, can have context of 'ordeal' as in 'trial by Ordeal', ie torture). Torturing or arbitrarily jailing someone or executing them when the accused has a crown representative can be seen as disregarding a crown mandate, which would in turn be treason, and can get someone executed themselves. That said, relatively few commoners keep a lawyer, which gives the Inquisition de facto power to arrest largely whoever they want whenever they want, since there's no one from the crown telling them otherwise, and there's been quite a few cases of powerful merchants' retained counsel suspiciously saying they had zero problems with the charges being brought up, or magistrates saying even the flimsiest charges could go forward.
It becomes far more complicated for nobles, as peers of the realm can only be tried by their peers- ie, to even arrest a noble, it typically falls to other nobles to do so, even assuming they are in the ward of the crown. In theory all iron guard or inquisition are crown representatives, in practice nobility in the institutions are prized simply because it gives them the authority as a peer to hold other peers suspected of breaking crown laws while in the ward of the compact or crown or boroughs (iron guard and inquisition have no authority whatsoever in the wards owned by the great houses).
tl;dr- iron guard only hunt for known criminals and do on the spot arrests, typically. Inquisition for all deeper investigations or turning up known suspects. Crown recognized lawyers are a thin protection for commoners. Only peers can arrest peers.
Question: Q: Does the Inquisition have jurisdiction for crimes committed on lands outside of Arx? Is trial by combat a universal right? What rights do commoners have?
Answer: It depends.
It matters quite a bit on the nature of the crime, who is the victim of the crime, where the crime took place, and who is accused of the crime. In theory, the only one that has the power of High Justice (the ability to pass a capital sentence), would be the crown, but in effect that's practiced by any lord in their own domain, and if the accused is one of their own vassals and the crime is against one of their vassals and it happened on their land, no one will gainsay their right to try and conduct justice however the domain holder pleases. When those circumstances are different, that's when it gets complicated.
Trials for crimes typically happen in the domains where the crime was committed, particularly if the victim was sworn to that domain. And traditionally, verdicts from those trials are honored, but there is not any formal laws prohibiting double jeopardy, nor is there a unified code of law- this is entirely tradition and respect and deference shown from one peer to another. The issues arise when the victim is not sworn to that domain and/or the accused is no longer there. Then it gets complicated.
There is no formal system of extradition, and the authority and jurisdiction between different domains is not clearly defined. If a crime is a 'low crime', meaning something that is not capital and cannot result in execution or banishment/outlaw from the Compact, then generally the consensus is that someone will face justice if they return to the lands they committed an offense, but there is generally little interest in pursuing a criminal except as a matter of courtesy from one lord to another. For example, a crownsworn vassal accused of stealing Mildred the Cow from the Barony of Noonecaresville and now in Arx is unlikely to face even token harassment from the Inquisition, until and unless they are accused of something else. In fact, it's more likely to just be used as a threat to pressure them, unless Baron Von Pompous protests loudly to the Inquisition and demands the filthy cow thief is returned to him or forced to pay the full value of Mildred or have assets seized. In theory, this means the Inquisition has enormous power to stomp down on anyone accused of having a dark past of chicken thefts and have their assets seized as justice for their victims.
Crownsworn commoners are, in theory, entitled to a trial if they are accused in Arx. Once they are formally accused and arrested, if they have a lawyer that represents them, the lawyer can formally request from a crown justice that the accused has sufficient reason to doubt their guilt that they are spared any ordeal, or possibly released with bail or released on their own recognizance. If the formally accused does not have a lawyer, or one willing to represent them, it's not fun times for them, because the Inquisition then has the right to question them... including by ordeal (torture). Lawyers' power to 'spare someone an ordeal' is a very big deal. For Peers, they are always entitled to doubt, as long as their liege vouches for them. In the good old days of Shreve's inquisition, few trials were necessary, as the accused was tortured, confessed, and thus convicted. It was a very tidy system. And often they didn't bother with accusing someone at all, and just snatched them off the street. Or admitting whatever happened to people that were disappeared. The inquisition has some lingering bad feels towards them for this.
Now for high crimes (those that can result in execution or banishment), in theory only the crown has the ability to sentence someone to execution, or a lord in their own domain, and these are (in theory) supposed to always come under review, and were in the time of Alarice the Great as one of her reforms. In practice, few lieges want to go to war with a crazy vassal that hangs commoners for stealing cows, and tries to pressure them off it for short of war, but it does still happen, and usually the threat of intervention is enough to keep even despotic lords on the straight and narrow. Commoners are entitled to a trial for this, though typically requests for trial by combat are only honored if, and only if, the Faith and justices agree that there is sufficient doubt on the part of the accused to justify this, and requests for a trial by combat can be denied if a godsworn representative of the Faith agrees the evidence is overwhelming. Peers however can request that they only be tried by peers- meaning someone of equal social rank or better, including a jury of peers. Peers are far more likely to be afforded trial by combat at their own request.
tldr- The inquisition does not try anyone, though they can question people and hope for a confession if the individual doesn't have a lawyer that spares them for ordeal. If there is sufficient evidence to arrest, then someone is seized, and awaits trial for a high crime, or is bailed out for a low crime.
Question: When it comes to contentious areas largely inhabited by Abandoned, such as the Shadowood and similar areas, who actually 'owns' the land? If House A claims they own the land, and forays into it require their permission, and House B believes the land isn't owned by anyone at all, or is perhaps even owned by House B, how is this handled? Especially in cases where one could say neither realistically controls the land, due to the numerous hostile Abandoned that reside within?
Likewise, how does land ownership work with vassals and lieges? If House C is a March, House D a County within that March, and then House E is another County within that same March, could one also construe that House D's and E's holdings are technically parts of House C's holdings as well?
What would the prevailing opinions of most Compact Houses be for both situations?
Answer: The Crown owns Arvum, and all land is in the keeping of its vassals as parts of the Compact. That is a simplistic way some commoners say how it works, and it's not entirely wrong, but it misses some nuance.
Before the Reckoning, the five different regions were independent kingdoms, with the Northlands not having a great house and being made up of warring clans, and the Lyceum not existing yet and being warring city-states without a dominant unifying force. Land was largely accepted as being owned by whatever local ruler could defend it, and fealty developed by granting fiefs in permanent custodianship by vassals who could rule their own subjects in turn and support their liege in war.
Borders were usually not particularly well defined, except so much as a house controlling everything to a natural barrier, and it was accepted that land was really only owned as long as it was actively patrolled and defended. Land could be -claimed- based on having owned it firmly before, and then it slipped from control, with the intention of reclaiming it after they had another generation of men and women grow up to be soldiers to make another push at it in a brand new war, but claims are seen as basically the intent to try to reoccupy a region eventually.
So it goes now. The problem with the 3 different collapses of Arvum in the Reckoning, the Elven War, and the Crownbreaker Wars is there are a LOT of claims. A lot. An overwhelming number of Abandoned groups are created by houses that very much believe that an active Compact house is on their land, and asking them to bend the knee is essentially asking them to surrender their claims and attempts at reclaiming their ancestral homeland.
This does mean that conquering lands from Abandoned probably does mean at least one, and likely more, Compact houses have a claim of the land that dates back a few generations. Most would optimistically hope that Player Characters do them a solid and then turn over the now nicely cleared of Abandoned lands over to them. That is unlikely to happen, but could mean in a generation or two, if the PC domain is looking weak, they might find a pre-text for war to try to reclaim what they see as rightfully theirs. In the short term, generally higher social ranks do not interfere in lower territorial squabbles, but this can be where marriage alliances are rather important. It wouldn't be uncommon for a barony trying to expand at the expense of Abandoned clans then is pointedly asked to surrender the lands to a neighboring barony that just happens to have a family member married to their ducal house, and would be happy to back their claim militarily.
Question: What exactly /are/ the laws on land ownership? If a house owns land in one fealty, then changes membership to another fealty, do they get to just take that chunk of land with them to the new fealty, or do all the lands revert to their former liege to redistribute?
Answer: Land ownership is a misnomer, in the feudal system of Arvum. Everyone will think in those terms, but it really is more in the keeping of the liege above, all the way up the chain to the crown who very technically owns all land of Arvum. Very technically, in a way that even the peers don't really think in those terms, much less the crown, as there is a very deep seated respect for others' demesnes and it goes way beyond the pale to ever seize anything without an extremely well justified war or other event. But this does mean that respect for those land is based on traditional respect and not something truly binding, so it would be unheard of for land to pass to another fealty unless they sit on the border, since how can that possibly be defended? If a minor barony sworn to Redrain decided they wanted to be a vassal to Fidante, that's great, but they are surrounded then by tens of thousands of soldiers that have no reason at all to tolerate that, except for their good nature, and most lords are just not going to trust to the non-existant benevolence and permissiveness of their lieges for anything smacking of disloyalty. So while it has happened, those tiny islands usually last no more than a generation at best before the reality of holdouts are swallowed up again- and in fact quite a few Abandoned houses come from this, where they rebelled against their liege, are largely cut off from the rest of the Compact, and just eventually become an isolated island to themselves no longer recognized by anyone that is slowly picked apart over the years and fractures. A few rare cases have resulted in one house swearing to a new fealty and being granted new lands and a new peerage, while surrendering their own to their previous lord, as a result of extremely high level negotiations usually with the highlords and the crown in attendence to keep it from devolving into a really messy war. But yeah, anyone wanting to switch fealty has no good way of holding onto their own lands, so it is very, very, very rarely done except for border lands, which is why marches tend to be so significant.
Q2: What's the status of land ownership when it comes to commoners? It's been previously held that some notable families have land -- vinyards, lumber yards, etc. -- within their fealty. Is that land some they own outright akin to noble houses (and thus under the rules of whatever the answer to Q1 is), or is it land they hold in trust from the house whose territory it's in?
A: Commoners are in even more precarious spot. In terms of vows of fealty, commoners are granted freedom of movement as one of the reforms of Queen Alarice the Great to prevent serfdom from being much like slavery and allow commoners the right to leave the lands of their lords. This, however, doesn't address possessions at all. All commoner land that's 'owned' is really leased at the tolerance of their liege, and while commoners can have sellswords, they can't take vows of fealty themselves, meaning that their ability to defend any land is extremely questionable, particularly since it is very unlikely that all the lands between whatever new fealty they proclaim and their own lord's lands will just happen to allow armies of mercenaries free passage to set up in some vineyard somewhere to defend the claim. Typically in these cases, commoners would bargain with their old lords for a fair market value for the land they 'owned' before switching fealty, relying on the lord not wanting to look tyrannical or cheap and hurt their trade with other merchants to be fair. But that is purely about perception, and the ability to petition to higher authority here is extremely limited. Lieges of lords in question VERY RARELY intervene in such matters, and even more so the crown, since there is basically no incentive whatsoever to piss off a powerful vassal in order to placate a commoner that means nothing to them, and risk a war over some damned vineyard that is sitting on a vassal's land. So the odds of a merchant family keeping lands in a previous fealty's demesne is extremely slim, without some kind of contract that makes it worth the while to the old lord- there is not much hope of appeal here unless other powerful lords lean on both parties to seek neutral arbitration in court of Arx, in which case it almost always will just be some agreement about the sale of the land for something deemed fair, since most lords wouldn't want to risk alienating all other merchants by something as heavy handed as seizing it. On the other hand, if they are pissed off enough, that would be precisely what happens.
Answer: A commentary on the Laws of Limerance, or the so-called Rules of Fidelity, by Scholar Tobias the Dubious.
All of our ancient laws are tied in some way to Limerance, as the god of fidelity demands that we keep good faith in all of our dealings, and merely living within the Compact's protection indicates we have agreed to honor our obligations. The Abandoned are oft called 'the unsworn', even though it's not as if any nameless urchin in the Lower Boroughs has ever sworn any vows, but that they live under the crown's protection is reason enough to see them as vassals.
"1. The oaths between liege and vassal are sacred. This is the fidelity between Limerance and Gloria." It is simply put, but the long version is more worth noting. A lord guarantees protection and justice, and is to never demand a vassal perform any action that would stain their own honor. In return, a vassal must promise their loyalty and is obligated to perform any action, and is only free to break service at the lord's leave. That last part is seldom enforced, since in practice anyone breaking their fealty to become crownsworn is in effect asking their lord if they can serve their liege in turn, and what lord but a rebellious one would ever say no? It shows a dangerous lack of faith in the crown and Compact, and traditionally is never denied. Entering the service of another peer is, however, a different story.
"2. Marriage may never be forced. It is the ultimate show of fidelity between two lovers, and honoring their commitment. This is the fidelity between lovers and Limerance." It's a simple statement but with complicated nuances. There is, in effect, what we call 'high marriages' and 'low marriages'. A low marriage between the commons is as simple as agreeing that they are wed, and that's that- their understanding of the marriage, whether they permit lovers outside the bonds or no, is completely up to the agreement of the wedded couple, and they may break the bonds at any time. After all, it is their agreement on the marriage that represents the bond, and if they are in disagreement, it can be dissolved. High marriages, those between nobles, is more complicated. In that, it's no longer seen as the fidelity between two individuals, but between two noble houses, representing the bond of their families. While the law is firm that one cannot be compelled to marry without their agreement, this ignores the fact that any son or daughter of a lord refusing to wed where and when they are told will quickly find themselves removed from the family and living as a commoner, and more than one second or third child has found themselves living the life of a sellsword or the like because they refused a match. Similarly, a high marriage is not so easily dissolved, as it requires the concurrence of the lords of the houses, and that of the Faith of the Pantheon.
"3. While within a demesne, one must obey all laws set by the demesne's lord. This is the fidelity between Limerance and Gild." The Compact, as such, has no unified code of laws. Arx is the demesne of the crown, and the Sovereign of the Compact is free to enforce whatever laws it desires within its confines as carried out by the Inquisition and Iron Guard, but lords still rule by fiat within their own domains. While technically any liege has authority to intervene and countermand the authority of a vassal, this is seldom if ever done- a harsh lord may decide that hanging is appropriate for theft, while others decide simple beating and restitution is appropriate, and it's not as if the family of a hanged thief complaining to a higher liege will return him to life, so little ever comes of such. Our King Alaric IV has a soft heart, and leans towards the gentler and fairer touches within Arx, much to the dismay of flinty eyed houses such as Thrax- (though that is more perception than fact, as the magistrates of Thrax and its domains are a woman's occupation, and they tend to be more pragmatic than brutal).
"4. Dealing with those beyond the Mirror brought the Reckoning. Magic from Abyssal sources, or traffic with Abyssal beings or their servants, must never again be permitted. This is the fidelity between men and the gods." While none save the most superstitious believe in magic or demons or the like, this still is sound. There's the madmen shav who perform unholy blood sacrifices to dark gods, and that sort of Faith is destructive to civilization, and is understood it must be blotted out wherever it is found. Even though the idea that it grants those who perform it some sort of power is nonsense, it's a dangerous idea, and the occasional lunatic that murders others for 'magic' must be made an example of.
Question: What is the minimum legal age for drug use in Arvum, 18, 21? Or does it vary by region, such as Redrain or Thrax lands starting earlier due to the harsher environment/culture where Grayson and valardin lands are later due to the more reserved culture?
Answer: It can always be assumed the legal age for everything is 18, however most would see drinking or use of lower grade narcotics as more the call of whoever is responsible for the children.
Question: In the event that fealty to a House comes into conflict with duties as an Inquisitor, which takes legal dominion? For instance: Say Lord Bob Purple joins the Inquisition and House Purple is a vassal of Great House Ebony (and, in turn, sworn to King and Compact). If Lord Bob finds out something nefarious is going on in House Purple or Great House Ebony, is he, by oath, expected to report said nefarious activity? Or is the Inquisition more loose-and-freewheeling, by nature?
In tandem with this: Is there / would there be an oath-taking ceremony, and what would be in it?
Answer: Family comes first, virtually always. This is why the overwhelming majority of crown servants are in fact crownsworn, to specifically avoid those sorts of conflicts. However, there's very few formal oaths that typically would demand this. For example, a liege could swear someone to secrecy about a matter in a formal oath, and if that person broke that oath, they would be an oathbreaker, even if they had a conflicting oath that required them to report anything dangerous to the crown. Oaths are never canceled out- if someone has conflicting ones, they are an oathbreaker, and it is largely seen that they were careless to put themselves in a position where it conflicted. This is also why specific oaths that could do that are relatively rare, and most people tend to be extremely explicit about what they are sworn to and why.
Question: Long term incarceration does not exist thematically under most normal circumstances. Typically, anyone accused of a crime is held until a trial for no more than a period of several weeks, with a date immediately set, but even then most highborn or notables who aren't deemed a flight risk would be paroled with terms set, and in some cases, assigned guards to guarantee compliance and return them for trial. For the guilty, extreme crimes are usually met with execution (by hanging is most common), or exile, or outlaw (as a variant of exile), with crimes below that being given heavy fines, public physical punishment (flogging for example), or forced labor but not confinement. Madness, where someone is deemed a constant threat to themselves and others, is one of the only case where long term confinement might commonly result, under care most often by the Knights Solace and Mercies if the ill has no family to care for them.
OOCly, long term incarceration is a modern punishment, and doesn't really fit theme, but even if it did I wouldn't have it in the game, because it's too easy to have characters effectively killed off for minor crimes as a result. This also means that any PC should not be confined for more than a couple weeks at most, and even then only if they have a set trial date going into it. Even then, most PCs should be paroled while waiting trial unless the character is a very clear, unambiguous risk.
Question: Q: How many magistrates and staff are employed by the court? Are the bailiffs provided by the Guard, or are they Court employees as well?
A: Several hundred. A squad of Iron Guardsmen are usually on hand for peacekeeping at any trial, under the control of the Iron Guard. Accused that were questioned by the Inquisition are usually escorted to the court by confessors. The court does not have any armed retainers under its own control, but Iron Guardsmen at the court typically would follow instructions from any magistrate within reason.
Q: Are magistrates peers by necessity, or are there commons among their ranks?
A: A judge may only sit in judgement over their social equal or inferiors, never their social betters. In other words, a judge is expected to always be equal or higher social rank than those they sit in judgment over.
Q: The only 'court-related' building I know of on grid is the Commoner's Court. Are all of the Court's functions housed there, or is there another building I'm missing?
A: For low and medium justice, yes. High justice would usually be handled at the Assembly of Peers if it was sitting judgment over a peer, or at the judgment greens for a commoner for high crimes. The palace throne room would also be a place for high justice at the discretion of the crown, and for faith trials, the star chamber at the top of the Rectory for their internal conclaves.
Question: Q: 1) Previous theme posts have said any noble house can execute cow thieves on their lands and at best there can be pressure from their Liege or the Faith to alter that behaviour... What limitations are their on punishing/executing a noble? Example: Arik gets drunk and takes a whiz on a shrine in the Oathlands. Is he entitled to a trial? Can he demand a duel? Can whatever House runs the land he is on summarily do whatever to him?
A: They can do whatever they want with him... if they are willing to risk a war. There's no firm laws on this, only traditions and expected behavior. If a noble committed an offense that would bring shame on his house, and he was summarily executed on another house's lands, it might pass without comment. Or, it might be seen as an outrage and they go to war even for daring to hold someone for trial. The traditions would usually be for any capital offense, it is expected that judgment involves a trial involving at least a representative of the Faith, but most nobles would immediately have witnesses from the offender's family, the crown and respective lieges, because they would want the proceedings to be as unobjectionable as possible to avoid justifications for war. For anything less than a capital offense, generally an offender would be paroled to their own family, or banished from their lands, or both. Trials by combat are traditionally granted if there is a lack of any hard evidence and sufficient doubt in the minds of the judges and the attending seraph to justify it.
Q: 2. How does the Compact/Faith reconcile rebellion and fealty oaths? Is it a situation where the rebelling House offers a justification and claims their Liege has violated their duties as Liege or is it purely case by case? Are rebelling houses treated as oathbreakers?
A: Oaths of fealty are sworn to a house, not to a person, so if there are civil wars most would consider themselves still serving the oath loyally by choosing one side or another. And no one is required to follow an oathbreaker, if a liege has broken their oath to ask for no service that would dishonor them. And the faith can declare an oath invalid, if it is seen as in bad faith. This is a very tricky one and I'd usually consult staff if there's any vagueness.
Q: 3) Is it considered rude, inappropriate, a subtle sign of something if someone introduces themselves or signs their letters with nee surname... Example: Lord McMuffin Pig nee Boar instead of Lord McMuffin Pig
A: Might come across as odd in situations when it's not relevant to know their birth family, it would be considered a very formal long form used mostly in family trees and the like.
Q: 4) In Investigations people talk about searching the archives and finding writings from Py. Are these white journals? Are these books? Are these theories? How would a player that wanted to be as cool as Py emulate mechanically what the NPC did?
A: Books, journals, there's probably tens of millions of white journals from the past few decades alone and the archiving system for the Great Library often changes every few Archscholars making re-cataloguing things a constant struggle. Someone could become an author, sure, and have a ton of books.
Q: 5) Are commoners generally accepting of nobility that eschews their titles/privilege? If Lord McMuffin walks into a bar and goes, call me McMuffin, don't bow to me, I didn't earn being noble, I was just born to it. Etc etc. How would they react?
A: Depends on the person and commoner, but now they aren't their social betters, so some might think they are dumb to give up their rights, some might respect it, some might beat them up and take their stuff, some might be intensely sympathetic, etc.
Q: 6) The Queen is a Nox'Alfar does the general population know/believe that? There's an embassy to the Nox'Alfar and technically one to the Marin'Alfar do people just think these are weird foreigners or are elves one of the mythical things they generally accept as real?
A: The common people think the Nox'alfar are another shav tribe and that it's odd they are giving shavs an embassy and that the king married a shav. Elves, to them, are nonsense.
Question: How much will it cost to provide pensions to the families of those lost at the Battle of Arx?
Answer: Approximately 10,000 dead at the battle of Arx, though this is spread through the different fealties. The question depends upon how generous the pension is. Say 10 silver a month would be solid, and if someone is cover that for 10 years, that's 1200 per dead soldier. Approximately 10,000 dead from the Compact at present, but pretty spread. So looking at around 12,000,000 to set all the families of the wardead for life, with any resources being able to count towards 500 of that. Which sounds like a lot, but I don't think any houses couldn't cover it out of immediately available funds for their own losses.
Question: Q: I was wondering, what is the legality on all three facets of poison? Their creation, their sale on the market, and also practical use in a non-Academic and Academic manner?
A: It's not, by and large. There wouldn't be anything advertised or sold as a poison legally (if you have problems with rats, buy a cat), but there would be some that can be used as poisons that have other valid, legal uses, such as herbal medicines that in small doses are relaxants, and large doses are fatal, or different cosmetics that are seriously not good to ingest. It is pretty much going to be entirely the purview of apothecaries from a coded standpoint, but for practical purposes just about all poison mixtures will fall under +crime and be illegal, and it will not be possible to make or use poison legally.
Question: Are there any notable differences between the duchies in how trials are conducted?
Answer: Heavily. There's no unified code of law for the Compact at all, only shared principles that are guided by the Faith of the Pantheon who act as moral arbiters. Only a few general crown laws, like a formal ban upon slavery, is allowed, but even then it's just understood that every domain still has their own version of that law. For example, if a duchy in Thrax found someone guilty of slaving instead of thralldom, they might have them hanged. Another duchy might sentence the guilty to thralldom. And a third might banish them. So even while illegal, there is no shared code of law for the offense, and the trials vary wildly.
For some domains, 'trial' is a misnomer, in that arbitrary justice is just given out immediately. Someone is accused of a crime, and the lord or their representative judges and sentences them then and there, and the local lord sees evidence and the like as a waste of their time. Other domains, particularly the Mourning Isles with its deep seated tradition and formality, has very elaborate court systems (which in Thrax are overwhelmingly female dominated), with long procedures and a hefty body of law. While in the Northlands in particular, formal courtroom trials are an exception rather than a rule, and informality dominates the majority of domains.
Question: Q: I've read twice now that in Arx/Arvum there is a Statute of Limitations wherein you can't be charged with a crime if it was comitted a year+ ago. Is this true? Can I have some clarification on this? Thank you!
A: For the legal nerds, and I'm looking at our lawyers among our players, Arvum follows the medieval concepts of low justice, middle justice, and high justice, even if I don't explicitly state it to avoid confusion.
For low justice, which means petty or trivial offenses that are typically punished on the spot by the Iron Guard if caught in the act, the Inquisition typically will not pay notice to the most trivial of offenses past 13 weeks ('Bob punched me in the face'), or to the slightly less trivial for no more than 13 months ('Bob stole my chicken, Henrietta Clucksworthy. I want her back.')
For middle justice, more serious offenses that do not fall into capital punishments, exile, or outlaw, this is not taken notice for more than thirteen years, but this varies extremely widely outside of Arx as there is no uniform code of law, and every single domain holder enforces things differently. If a local lord hangs Bob for stealing Henrietta, there's not a lot that Bob's family can do about it.
For high justice, there's no statute of limitations, and in the Eyes of the Sentinel, these are offenses that justice must be brought, and the scales need to be righted. Always with formal trial. In theory, the right to capital punishment rests only with the Sovereign of Arx, but in practice this means anyone empowered by the crown to make decisions on their behalf- Shreve definitely interpreted that very broadly and followed proscription, signing death warrants left and right.
Question: What are the thematic norms and/or laws regarding the wearing of laurels, crowns, diadems, coronets, circlets, etc? Is only the king allowed such ornamentation? Can High Lords wear them? What about all landed titles or all nobles? Are certain features limited to certain ranks? Only the monarch is allowed to have arches or is the only one allowed to have previous stones in their headwear for instance.
Answer: There's no laws regarding them, or sumptuary laws in general, as I don't believe those quite thematically fit. There would, however, be quite a bit of unspoken societal conventions on what would be appropriate. The king/queen of the compact definitely have an heirloom crown (since the time of the crownbreaker wars, since the crown of alarice was lost in the chaos and the crown of King Alarius was shattered), and each of the 5 great houses have an heirloom crown, which I might design eventually, but circlets or tiaras or the like would probably be seen a fine for the upper echelons of nobility, where it might be seen as ostentatious or putting on airs for lower rank nobility. We might do something with this with +fashion eventually.
Question: The Thrall Reforms adopted by House Thrax were a big deal to a lot of players, and reflected a shift in the direction of Thralldom. I've had people say to me Thralldom is dead because of them, but others point out the lower houses did not have to accept the reforms, and believe many did not. Then there were child thralls being freed and so on so forth and it has left a degree of confusion. I'd really love to have a clear picture of where Thralldom stands today.
Answer: Victus passed a number of sweeping reforms (this is viewable under his character's past actions off the webpage), that outlawed in the Isles many of the worst abuse cases, such as passing down debts to children. It was however vaguely worded enough to not offend traditionalists very much, and they interpret it pretty loosely, so new thralls are still being created in NPC lands and that will continue until and unless thralldom as an institution is completely removed. The reforms didn't free anyone, thralls were effectively grandfathered, and characters like Alarissa's massive donations towards Thrax as an org is a representation of buying up child debts and the like. Characters wishing to directly pay off thrall debts can do so by using the donate command towards any house with thralls.
Question: Silent Reflections, similar to Thralldom, involve servitude as punishment. While Thralldom involves a debt as the basis for the service and the intent of the person paying off that debt, Silent Reflections do not have a debt that can be reduced or eliminated. It appears to be a lifetime sentence of service. Recently the practice of Thralldom has been likened to slavery by many, but what is less clear is what excludes Silent Reflections from the same criticism. Is it merely a matter of the Faith being the ones who levy the punishment, rather than members of the peerage? Is there some distinction between the two being missed?
Answer: Most of the Compact would find the comparison moronic because thralldom as a punishment of enforced service is done often capriciously under extremely immoral circumstances, often including to individuals that were not part of the Compact to begin with, such as Abandoned grabbed in raids to attempt to get inexpensive labor. The Silent Reflections on the other hand is for violating the most sacred of oaths, and is as potentially a fate worse than death, so someone can attempt to perform a penance for a terrible spiritual wrong they have committed against the gods. Becoming a Silent Reflection means a complete loss of identity, as someone is no longer worthy of having one, and their past must be eradicated as part of their penance. The actual service they perform is largely irrelevant, as there is ample actual labor available from discipleship, and their presence is specifically a warning against straying from the gods and serving as a living example. Thralldom, by comparison, is a commoditization of criminal punishment, and making a profit from arbitrary punishment, while there is no such element inside the Silent Reflections.
Question: What is treason, what is treasonous, how does fealty affect treats? If a Barony moves against a Duchy can they be involved in treason or is that an act of war? Can you committ treason against someone not your liege?
Answer: Treason, generally speaking, is overused as a term and only applies to a very narrow subset. It usually only means a sworn subject of a liege attempting to actively replace the liege with another ruler, or taking an action that would in effect make it impossible for them to rule. For example, if a commoner in the whites saying that Alaric was a bad leader, that could have unpleasant consequences for the commoner, but it wouldn't really be considered treason. However, if the commoner in the whites said that Alaric was clearly a pawn of the Nox'alfar shav tribe, had no business ruling, and he believes Alaric must be overthrown and replaced by a new Queen from the Lyceum, that would qualify.
Similarly, even war doesn't necessarily mean treason. A barony, -even in the same fealty-, is only sworn to their direct liege, that county. If the county calls their banners to fight against their banner-duke over a dispute, it could be considered oathbreaking for the barony to not assist the county against their own banner-duke. Their first loyalty is always to the one that immediately holds their own oaths. Interestingly, if a commoner subject of that barony said the duke was illegitimate and should be overthrown, that's not technically treason as the commoner has no direct oath to the duke. But unless the baron wants to be crushed by a ducal force, they almost certainly would hush up their own commoners, and more than one commoner has been hanged for unfortunate statements that could get their liege in trouble with a more powerful ruling lady or lord.
Question: What would happen if you have two non head of household members that are married and one is denobled? What happens to the spouse? Is the marriage contract dissolved? Is the spouse denobled too? Do they exist in a weird limbo?
Also, is denoblement viewed as a temporary thing where the denobled are simply expected to redeem themselves, or is it seen as typically pretty permanant thing? How common is it to be re-ennobled after something like that? Are there any lingering stigmas (like propriety mods)? Speaking of those! Are there/will there be propriety mods for the denobled, or should we expect to rather see a propriety mod that reflects the reason why they were denobled?
Answer: Overwhelmingly, noble marriages are to create a bond between two houses as a commitment for a formal treaty, with the children from the marriage seen as a guarantee of future stability between the two houses and a living embodiment of the alliance. If a spouse is disowned, it matters quite a bit whether they already have children. If they do not have children yet, then traditionally it's annuled, with much of the blame being placed upon the new commoner who was responsible for getting themselves disowned. This varies quite a bit on case by case, as it's effectively the treaty holding domain tearing up a treaty by saying they couldn't uphold their end of the bargain due to their offspring being incapable of conducting themselves as a noble. That doesn't look great, but the other house typically doesn't want to make matters worse by blaming their former ally, and allows the Faith to annul the marriage and move on.
If the couple does have children, then the children are still largely seen as a guarantee on the stability, and the common practice would depend on whether the denobled spouse is in the process of trying to reearn their status from their family or if it is irrevocable. If the denobled spouse is seen as being able to re-earn their family's good graces, then the marriage would go through a trial separation essentially as they do so, but they'd remain married, and the still nobled spouse would go through the humiliation of being married to a someone who got themselves thrown out of their family and is now a commoner. Typically the separation is pretty firm, and they would not associate with one another except to help them regain their family's approval and be made noble again. Otherwise, if it looks irrevocable, then the Faith grants a divorce, the alliance stays, and the nonoffending spouse that married in stays in the family. Mind you, denobling a noble that married into a house isn't really how things are done. They would be divorced for cause first, and then it would be their birth family that decides what to do with them, as they have nobility by virtue of their birth family, not the marriage.
As for love matches, well, if someone married for love, why would they stay in a noble house? Of course they'd follow their one true love into a commoner life with them, as they already said how their love was more important than duty to family. Why, it would look utterly selfish to stay a noble under those circumstances, so they wouldn't, would they?. (Most get divorced and stay noble, and the peerage tends to not hold back in their opinions on someone that was already bucking tradition by seeking a love match).
Question: Q: While obviously this is a dangerous and violent world to be living in, I'm curious to know what sort of conventions -- if any -- are considered 'beyond the pale'. I recall hearing that burning people alive is equated with 'shav barbarism' -- with flaying, mutilation, the gruesome killing of children/elderly/non-combatants, infecting people with plague to kill indirectly by the thousands, etc, how would the NPCs react to that? What are the expectations of members of the Compact in how they conduct war with one another and with the Abandoned? Where's the line where people begin to go, 'whoa, that is like, demonically and/or seriously evil'?
A: Wanton sadism is a big one, that most would find morally repugnant. Torture ostensibly to get information (even though it doesn't really work, and the Inquisition uses it as an excuse to get the confessions they want) would be given a pass, but torture to 'punish' an enemy would be seen as the sign of cruelty. Generally most will be given a pass if it falls under military necessity, but only up to a point- Donrai Thrax for example was extremely brutal, and he was feared, but he was disliked in both the mourning isles and without, and it was largely only tolerated because he kept his brutality to the Mourning Isles and the rest of the Compact never had to deal with it, so it was largely seen as the Isles' problem and not theirs. Wanton destruction and a clear disregard to chivalric combat -does- offend Gloria however, and most of the Faith would say so. There's a clear chivalric ideal in how to conduct warfare virtuously, and this is why thematically Thrax has so few knights particularly in religious orders- brutality just is not considered honorable combat, and someone that flays men and women to make an example to rebellious factions is just not held up as a paragon of knightly virtue and the Faith would refuse to annoint anyone that participated in that. Similarly, most objections would come in the context of just what would be considered dishonorable, and make anyone participating in it extremely suspect. They won't pick a fight with someone that is sending smallpox blankets to shavs, since shavs are the enemy, but they sure as hell wouldn't trust anyone seen as that far from chivalric ideals, and quite a few nobles would refuse to have anything to do with them.
tl;dr, most people would feel profoundly uneasy and distrustful of anyone participating in barbarism against an enemy, and clear cut sadism would draw reactions and condemnations if it can't be justified. Even justifiable atrocities would make most honorable peers acutely uneasy, and they would want to have very little to do with them, even if the mad dog is essentially on 'their side', but on the other hand very few peers would be willing to go to bat for shavs, who are seen as the boogeymen of the Compact, and there will always be a significant percentage of the Compact who will be unsympathetic towards any plight of shavs as a result.
Answer: The accused of a crime may ask for a trial by combat. This combat can be fought by the accused herself, or a Champion she secures. For petty crimes, these can be considered regular honor duels, but for serious, capital crimes, the rules are different.
In these serious cases, the duel is to first yield/incapacitation. If the accused yields, it is a death sentence, for her guilt is proven. If her Champion yields after a minor wound, that Champion might be ruled dishonorable by the Champions guild and prohibited from taking part in future, sanctioned duels.
As with any duel, failing to honor a yield is treated as murder, even if the murdered party is accused of a capital crime and their life is on the line. Champions are not executioners, even in trial by combat.