Law and Order
The overseers of the law in the Empire of Splendour are the Magisters Judiciary, elected to their posts through a rigorous program of tests and examinations. To qualify for the ranks of the Judiciary, a person must first ascend through the five ranks of Administerial Clerk, whereupon they may the choose to continue in the Administrative branch of government as a Magister Administory, or join the Judicial branch as a Clerk of the Five Scrolls.
Clerk of the Five Scrolls
Depending on the aptitude of the candidate, this post is usually occupied for two years, and involves performing paperwork and other administration under the tutelage of a Magister Judiciary. When the candidate is deemed worthy, he or she may apply to the local examination school to be tested for the ranks of Magister of the Succulent Gourd.
Magister of the Succulent Gourd
A Magister of the Succulent Gourd is assigned to an administrative subdivision known as a "ward". Wards vary in size - they may be a part of a city, a whole city or even a collection of towns and villages in the countryside, generally covering 100-500 people within their jurisdiction.
They are empowered to try any civil case brought before them - land disputes, divorce hearings, inheritance etc. They are also required to ratify the paperwork for such cases even if there is no dispute, but in this they are usually assisted by at least one Clerk of the Five Scrolls (Magisters attending more prosperous wards often have a team of clerks working for them). Most Magisters of the Succulent Gourd make regular travels around their wards, so people know where and when to find them. They can also be called for in emergency circumstances.
Decisions made by a Magister are deemed legally binding, but supplicants may apply to a higher grade of Magister if the decision is in dispute. Many people do this purely to drag out a case for longer. Magisters of the Succulent Gourd are also not empowered to deal in criminal cases, with the exception of sartorial crime (see sidebar). They are required to take details of the situation and then notify a Magister of the Longing Star or higher. Magisters of the Succulent Gourd tend to remain in their posts for 3-4 years before taking the exams to become a Magister of the Longing Star, but there are some who remain in their posts for their entire lives and, at the other end of the scale, whiz-kids who zoom through the hierarchy.
Magister of the Longing Star
A Magister of the Longing Star oversees a "district", which can be a single large city or several medium rural towns. Like Magisters of the Succulent Gourd they make regular journeys around their district to hear cases. However, Magisters of the Longing Star are authorised to hear criminal cases, as well as any disputed civil judgements, but they are unable to try capital cases (murder, rape, destruction of government property, treason and use of destructive magic).
A Magister of the Longing Star acts as judge and jury in criminal cases, and they may call judgement and issue punishment as they see fit. There are guidelines covering the kind of punishments that may be dealt for each crime (The Classic of Just Retribution), and in order to be able to issue a conviction the Magister must be presented with four pieces of evidence. The evidence, however, does not need to be particularly solid. Eye-witness accounts and supposition count as much as physical evidence.
After serving 5-10 years as a Magister of the Longing Star, the typical candidate will take the exams to become a Magister of the Six Winds.
Magister of the Six Winds
Magister of the Six Winds is in charge of a "nome" - a subdivision of a province
that typically covers several large cities and the associated rural areas. A Magister of the Six Winds does not generally travel, unlike the two levels of Magister below him. They are usually to be found in the capital of the nome, and plaintiffs must come to him.
Magisters of the Six Winds are allowed to try capital cases, except treason. They have the power to hand down the death sentence to those that they find guilty of capital crimes. Unlike criminal cases, however, capital crimes require that the Magister be satisfied on six pieces of evidence, but again these are sometimes spurious.
As well as capital crimes, of course, the Magister hears cases brought by Magisters of the Succulent Gourd and Longing Star within his purlieu that have been contested. Furthermore, a Magister of the Six Winds is responsible for overseeing the actions of lesser Magisters within his nome, and is expected to see that they are not corrupt or unfair. A Magister of the Six Winds can be found guilty of treason if they are not diligent in this respect.
The typical time period before a candidate is deemed worthy to take the exams to become a Magister of the Silent Earth is 7-8 years.
Magister of the Silent Earth
Magisters of the Silent Earth oversee Imperial Provinces - for example, Ut'Bharma or Vorsheeva. They are able to try any crimes that have been handed up from below, and they are also able to try treason cases. Magisters of the Silent Earth usually remain in the provincial capital. Because it tends to be rare for them to preside over an actual trial, they are usually more interested in making sure that the Magisters within their province are conducting their jobs fairly and without bias.
The final step up the ladder of the Judicial hierarchy is to become a Magister of the Twelve Rivers. Although there are examinations to test a candidates suitability, they are only ever taken at the invitation of the Imperial Court. A Magister if the Silent Earth may occupy their post for anything between 5-20 years before coming to the notice of the Imperial Court. Some are never invited.
Magister of Twelve Rivers
These are the law lords of the Empire of Splendour, with the power to create new laws. They are also the final authority to whom an Imperial citizen may appeal, except the Emperor. Good luck in getting a response. All Magisters of Twelve Rivers nominally oversee the entire Empire, but in practical terms they rarely leave the Imperial Palace.
Guard of Unswerving Vigilance
All levels of Magister have full power to subpoena witnesses and deputise agents from amongst any citizens who aren't insane, a known criminal or "deemed to be under the influence of supernatural forces".
To help with arrests, and to act as peace officers, the Magisters Judiciary are given a grant to help pay for the recruitment and upkeep of the Guard of Unswerving Vigilance. Although all Guards are made to swear the same oath of loyalty to the Emperor, and face harsh punishments for bribery and corrupt practices, the exact numbers, arms and training of the Guards vary from place to place.
They are most usually armed with non-lethal weaponry - clubs and staves are common - and Guards are quite often recruited from local martial arts dosha. Armour is light, nothing more than a quilted pentesh or leather jerkin. One should not make the mistake of thinking, however, that the lightly armed nature of these patrol guards makes for weak law enforcement. Reserves are held for high threat situations, with access to bows, metal or lacquered armour and lethal weaponry. A jiunsami magician may also be allocated to the squad.