Mar 8, 2012

Wards of the Orthocracy: The Spire of the Screaming God

From time immemorial the Screaming God has served as the utmost punishment possible for traitors, arsonists and those who would attempt to spread the secrets of soul-forging. The kings of High Kaddish fed their opponents to it, while more than a few murders have been committed by "accidentally" knocking someone into its pit. The priests of the Screaming God are really its attendants, who ensure that it is fed on a regular basis. They are one of the oldest and most respected cults in Kaddish, serving as the voice of tradition and conservatism in a culture otherwise mad for the new.

The district is one of the safest and most orderly in all of Kaddish. It radiates out from the Spire of the Screaming God, a 100m tall obelisk made of obsidian engraved with metal runes in the language of the Dawnmen. The obelisk lists the "Old Crimes" and their punishments, being one of the only two existing copies of the law code of High Kaddish, though it no longer has any force, having been abolished with the revolution. 50m north, at the other end of the plaza that has grown up around it, is the pit of the Screaming God, an open, stone-lined hole in the ground without railings or markings. The rest of the plaza is a market, one of the safest in Kaddish, for the presence of the ancient god dissuades thieves, who are often thrown summarily into the pit when caught.

The Screaming God itself lives at the bottom of the pit, about 50m down and unconnected to the Orthocracy's sewers. The exact extent of the pit's lowest chamber is unknown, for sometimes the god can be seen and sometimes it is absent. The Screaming God itself is an amorphous mass of mouths, tentacles, suckers, stingers, compound eyes and pulsing, veinous purple-black flesh. It does not speak or otherwise make noise, except for a slithering sound as it pulls itself along. It receives its name from the sounds those thrown to it make in the few moments they have before the Screaming God devours them. Proper form in the eyes of the cult is to tie a rope around the victim, hand them a lantern and lower them down, so that the fall does not kill them and so that their death may be observed and recorded, but summary executions by amateurs often involve simply pushing the offender in.

Outside the plaza, the rest of the district features low-rise concrete tenements interspersed with taverns, teahouses, defensive barricades, mansions, and various small artisans constructing the clever and wonderful luxuries which Kaddish is known for. The district is known for the many heads of clans who live here in fortified compounds, and is the preferred home for rich merchants.  The edges of the district are bounded by no canal, but the residents place the black print of a hand with the fingers spread on their doors to represent the patronage and protection of the Screaming God and its priests, and the streets are barricaded and watched at all times by the Traitor Slayers, the local college.

Crimes, Justice and Government in Kaddish

From the Dawnmen to the revolution the code of the Old Crimes prevailed. Magistrates were appointed by the king. They traveled the city and the hinterland, hearing cases and dispensing justice. Laws were easy to break, and punishments draconian. The old warrior-aristocracy had special laws governing their behaviour, which allowed them to exercise a reign of terror over ordinary people. When the revolutionaries came, they burnt all the old laws, executed the magistrates, drove out the old warrior-aristocracy (who became the Kadiz nomads) and instituted the Freedom of Kaddish, where nothing is formally forbidden except for three things: Arson, treason (trying to become king), and injury to others (assault, murder, theft, rape, etc.). All three are punishable by death, though in actual practice a system of restitution covers almost all crimes.

There is no police force and no formal magistracy in the Orthocracy. The Assembly of the People has not convened in a hundred and fifty years, and it is unclear who should belong to it. To resolve the ordinary disputes of everyday life, the Kaddish rely on two systems:

The first is simple mob justice. Someone who has been wronged simply confronts the person they believe wronged them with their demands. Those nearby inevitably intervene to provide their opinion or back one side or the other, until one side prevails and enforces it will on the loser(s). This typically leads to a riot, until the local college(s) come into to crack heads and disperse them.

The second is the system whereby the Orthocracy gains its names. All citizens have orthocrats, persons they have agreed to let arbitrate their disputes. These typically involve cult leaders, clan heads, the leaders of local colleges, powerful gnostics, and anyone else strong enough to enforce their decisions. Plaintiffs and defendants who share allegiance to an orthocrat will go to them for their decision on the matter, which is usually more lenient than mob justice would be. Complainants who don't share orthocrats will often ask them to convene with one another and decide on a mutually acceptable compromise. "Orthocrat shopping", searching around to find an orthocrat who will give the most lenient (or severe) sentence possible, is extremely common

Orthocrats are also expected to be able to enforce their decisions. If one side does not appear for the decision, or flees justice, or does not provide adequate compensation, all the various organisations the victim belongs to are expected to help bring the perpetrator to justice. This can cause a simple manhunt to snowball into a massive citywide investigation by multiple cults, clans and colleges, which is surprisingly effective when it does not lead to minor civil wars between competing factions.

New Use for Culture (Own) When One is From the Orthocracy of Kaddish

Find Convenient Orthocrat

The most important part of settling any dispute in Kaddish is finding an orthocrat who will agree with you on the obvious correctness of your position. Most citizens of Kaddish fall under the purview of multiple orthocrats and the challenge is to remember the cares and quirks of each one so that one presents opinions they will agree with.

A critical success means the tester knows the name, organisational affiliation and concerns of an orthocrat who will be extremely favourable to the position the tester advocates, or to the tester themselves, possibly even to the point of summary judgment or support in an armed struggle. The orthocrat has jurisdiction over the individual.

A regular success means the tester knows the name, organisational affiliation and concerns of an orthocrat who will probably be sympathetic, at least if the case is presented well. The orthocrat either has jurisdiction over the individual or jurisdiction can be obtained easily.

A failure means the tester can't think of any orthocrat whose jurisdiction they fall under who will be well-disposed, nor do they know of any easily joined factions who would support them.

A critical failure means the person is mistaken, and believes an orthocrat will support them when in reality they are strongly opposed to the position or the person.

Common modifiers to the roll include:

+50%: Looking for support on a widely held position like killing in self-defense not being murder; A member of a cult looking for support on practicing the unwholesome and bizarre rituals of that cult

+25%: Advocating a position held by the dominant college or cult in the ward one is in; Justifying an action that is politically convenient for one or more of the factions one belongs to

-25%: Advocating a position opposed to the ones held by the dominant college or cult in the ward on is in; Justifying an action that is politically inconvenient for one or more of the factions one belongs to

-50%: Looking for support on a bizarre and aberrant belief like abolishing slavery or ending human sacrifice; An apostate or heretic looking for support from a particular cult on the beliefs that caused them to be thrown out