Law in the Ravnivori Empire

A little more insight into the color/fluff/story stuff in my Homebrew setting.  It’s so hard to find a good word for this sort of thing.  Even all the ones I just used make it seem inconsequential when it is often far more important than the mechanics.  In the end, the mechanics are just rolling dice and comparing numbers but this sort of thing is what creates the story.  Not that I’m a hardcore story guy, but without this sort of thing, you might as well be playing craps or the game of Life.

Anyway, some laws of the Ravnivori Empire and their repercussions.

Marriage

Marriage in the Ravnivori Empire can be both a simple and a complex thing. A sentient being is allowed to marry any other sentient being who will agree to it. Inter-species marriages are not uncommon at all. Likewise, homosexual marriages are relatively common.

However, the complexity of marriage laws in the Empire begins with the fact that multiple marriages are also legal. A single individual in the Ravnivori Empire may be married to as many other individuals as will agree. It is important to note that everyone in a marriage is married to everyone else. For example, if a man wants to marry two women, those two women must agree to marry each other as well. Likewise if three men and three women are married, all the men are married to each other and all the women are married to each other. The same is true if a new spouse is added to an existing marriage. Everyone currently in the marriage must agree to marry the new person and the new person must agree to marry all the people already in the marriage.

Divorce is legal in the Empire and can be both as simple and complex as marriage, unsurprisingly. At any time, any single member of a marriage may legally leave it. However, the individual must divorce everyone in the marriage. The person getting the divorce becomes single once more. The person getting a divorce receives an equal share of the property and money of those in the marriage. Another caveat of divorce in the Empire is that you may never remarry an individual that you’ve married before. Thus, if there is a large marriage and two people want to be married only to each other going forward, they must convince the other people in the marriage to leave it to remain married.

Crime and Punishment

All crimes in the Ravnivori Empire are punishable by either fines or slavery. The idea of leaving able bodied people locked in a cage doing nothing is alien to the Imperials. Far better to put criminals to work and get something useful out of them. Most cases are tried before a judge with a lawyer representing each side in the trial. These lawyers are not hired by the participants in the trial, rather they are paid by the state and chosen by random to serve one side or the other. Trials are adjudicated by a jury of 9 citizens. Unlike our legal system, a unanimous decision is not needed in a Ravnivori trial, only a two thirds majority.

The only exceptions to these rules are capital cases. Any crime whose punishment is Life Slavery is automatically tried by three Ki’Li’Lee. No man has ever been discovered who could hide a secret from a trio of Ki’Li’Lee working together. By the same token, no one has ever caught a Ki’Li’Lee lying. While they might remain silent, the idea of lying baffles them. Thus, anytime the ultimate punishment is a possibility, the Ravnivori do not leave anything to chance. They know the truth will come out. In a perfect world, all cases would be decided using this method and occasionally, other cases are tried with the Triad method, but there simply are not enough Ki’Li’Lee to try every case this way, especially as their abilities to communicate over massive distances makes them as important to the Empire as communicators as they are judges.

Following are several crimes and their punishments. When there is a question as to the value of an object, a third party expert sets the price of the fine. Anyone caught committing the same crime twice must pay twice the fine. A third time triples the fine and so on. It does not take long before repeat offenders are broke or enslaved.

Theft: A criminal convicted of theft must return the object stolen and pay an additional fine equal to the value of the object. If the thief no longer possesses the object, either because he has sold it or it has been destroyed, he must pay a fine equal to twice the value of the object.

Assault: This crime is one of the few that is up for interpretation from the judge. It is the judge’s duty to decide how justified an assault is and how much damage was done to the victim. The latter portion of the crime is often determined by how much it costs to have the victim healed. The assailant must pay this fee, of course. Any assault bad enough to cause the victim to miss work automatically forces the assailant to pay a fine equal to those lost wages in addition to any other fines.

Trespass: Breaking into a person’s home or being caught on their land without permission is subject to punishment by a fine equal to two months worth of their wages.

Rape: One of the biggest crimes in the Empire, rape is one of the few that is punishable by life slavery. As such, it is always tried by a Ki’Li’Lee Triad. Both the perpetrator and victim are scanned and if the rape was one of intent then the criminal is automatically consigned to life slavery. If, for some reason, the perpetrator believed the intercourse to be consensual, then the criminal is instead convicted of assault and must pay the fines associated with that crime.

Treason: Perhaps the biggest crime in the Empire, treason is the second infraction that is punishable by life slavery. This is, perhaps, the vaguest of crimes. It includes anything from actively fighting for an enemy of the Empire, sabotaging Imperial supplies, passing information to enemy states or even pledging loyalty to a nation other than the Empire. As with any crime punishable by life slavery, it is tried only by a triad of Ki’Li’Lee, though intent matters much less for treason than for either other capital crime.

Murder: The last of the big three crimes, murder is arguably the worst. While killing in combat and causing the deaths of life slaves through work or violence are hardly commented upon in the Empire, killing a free citizen of the Empire is considered utterly abhorrent. Tried by Triad, the intent of the perpetrator is taken into account when determining guilt for murder. If the murder is completely accidental, the culprit must pay any surviving members of the person’s family a fine equal to 5 years of the victim’s wages. If the perpetrator intended to do the victim harm but did not intend their death, then the charge is reduced to assault and the criminal has to pay a fine equal to 10 years of the victim’s wages. If the perpetrator intended, in any way, to kill the victim then he is automatically made a life slave.

Slavery

Slavery is legal in the Ravnivori Empire, although it is carefully regulated through a number of laws and traditions.

The first of these apply to how a person may become a slave. First, no person can be born a slave. Even the children of slaves are not destined to become slaves themselves (although because of some of the other causes of slavery it is fairly likely.)

There are three ways that a person can become a slave. The first is that he or she can be sold into slavery. A person can either sell themselves or in limited circumstances be sold by others. There are a number of reasons why a person might sell him or herself into slavery. First he or she might need to pay off a debt. In fact, any time a person defaults on a debt they are sold to their debtor or someone willing to pay off the debt for a length of time sufficient to pay off the debt as well as a slight handling fee.

Second, a person might want to raise a large amount of money in a short amount of time. Slaves are given a great deal of money, significantly more than they could earn as a free person for their services. This is because they are completely at the whim of their employer who can order them to perform almost any service and punish them for disobedience essentially at whim. In return for this loss of freedom, the slave is paid more. Additionally, the slave is paid their full salary at the end of their term of service in one large, lump sum.

Finally, a child might be sold into slavery by his or her parents. Until the age of 15 children are considered the property of their parents, who can do with them as they wish. Both parents must agree to this, though a woman may sell her child alone if she can prove that the father is unknown. Likewise, if only one parent remains alive, or only one cares for the child, he or she may sell the child alone. If both parents are involved in the sale, then they split the profits, and it is not uncommon for parents to sell their children in order to avoid slavery themselves or buy out the end of their own contracts. Children under the age of 10 are always sold for life as they have little value as slaves before this age and there is no guarantee that the child will survive long enough to be valuable. Any child over the age of 10 can only be sold on a contract basis. The contract can not have a term longer than the number of years until the child’s 15th birthday. At the age of 15, all of these children become free. Of course, he or she can immediately sell him or herself back into slaver to the same or a new master. In this case, any profits made off this sale go to them rather than to their parents.

The second way that a person can become enslaved is as a punishment for a crime. All violent crimes in the Empire carry slavery as their punishment. Rape and murder always entail lifelong enslavement (though, it is important to note that it is not illegal for a master to rape his or her slave.) Less violent crimes call for less harsh punishments ranging from a year to 20 depending on the savagery of the crime and the amount of pain inflicted.

The final way a person can become a slave is through being captured in war. These people are always enslaved for life. This law applies to both soldiers defeated in battle and civilians in conquered lands. Thus, there have been times when entire nations have been enslaved. It should be noted, however that if a person surrenders and pledges allegiance to the Empire, then they become an Imperial citizen rather than a slave. The Empire goes to great pains to ensure that all in their path realize this.

All slaves are originally the property of the Empire. If they are contract slaves they remain the property of the Empire for the duration of their contract and they are leased to anyone willing to pay for their services. Thus, any permanent damage done to these slaves is damage done to Imperial property and carries the same punishments. If they are lifelong slaves, they begin as possessions of the Empire and then are sold completely to their new owners, becoming their property to be disposed of as they wish. Thus, there are no repercussions for injuring or killing a one’s own lifelong slave.

Contract slaves are divided into four categories when they are made slaves. These categories are: Common, Expert, Combat and Pleasure slaves. The category a slave falls into is determined by the Empire at the time of enslavement based on the slave’s abilities. Contract slaves can also request one of the categories, though they will not be placed in a category that they are not suited for. A contract slave remains in his or her category for the duration of his or her contract and cannot be forced to perform tasks outside of it.

Detailed descriptions of these categories follow:

Common: This is the catch-all category for any slave who does not fit in the other categories. The people who fall into this category are generally used for the most menial, back breaking jobs. They are commonly farm hands, dock workers, rowers, ditch diggers, or pack bearers.

Expert: Expert slaves are those who have some sort of professional or technical skill. This includes everything from blacksmiths to accountants. Most people who can read and write can be considered expert slaves.

Combat: Combat slaves are used specifically for battle. These include those who are contracted for gladiatorial games, bodyguards and troops of various sorts. A combat slave must prove his or her abilities with one or more weapons before being put into this category.

Pleasure: Pleasure slaves are used for entertainment. This can range anywhere from a musician, artist, dancer, or actor to a skilled masseuse to a sex slave. Most slaves put into this category are young and attractive, but it is not unheard of for someone of plain features but exceptional ability to become a pleasure slave.

Each category of slave has a name in the Ravnivori language. The “zya” suffix means slave in Ravnivori and is added onto the root word that describes their function. There is likewise a name for the master of each type of slave using the suffix “ko.”

The word “cha” in Ravnivori means common so, general slaves are called “chazya.” Their masters are called “chako.”

“Kel” is the word for a craftsman, so expert slaves are called “kelzya” and their masters are called “kelko.”

The word for battle in Ravnivori is “kaz,” thus a combat slave is a “kazya,” while he or she refers to his or her master as “kako.”

A pleasure slave is known as a “purzya” while the master of such a slave is his or her “purko.” The word “pur” meaning “mating,” or “sex” in Ravnivori.

Lifelong slaves are in a different situation. The owner of a lifelong slave can force him or her to perform any act or job they please at any time.

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