Forms of Government

Tomosic government is a representative democracy with limited suffrage. Voting requires that one be a literate freeman; initial registration requires a $100 payment (often beyond the means of a poor farmer) as "proof one is not indigent" and a short excerpt of reading material is presented. Given the Tomosic educational system, in practice this works out so that a voter is almost certainly a male with at least a secure income. Once the fee is paid and the literacy test is passed, citizenship is recorded by name and place of residence, and citizenship is for life. Voting rights may be temporarily restricted if one is made a slave (see "Justice in Tomos" below), but are theoretically re-established when one is released.

The island of Tomos is divided into 55 provinces, many of them based on the multitude of pre-democracy kingdoms that apportioned the island. Unitum comprises two provinces itself, and the other major cities all have one of their own. Each province elects a Convener, a representative to the one-house legislative body, called the Convention, which meets in Unitum and serves for a period of four years, and votes in a nationwide election for an executive, the Executor, who serves as head of state. Elected officials must, of course, be citizens. The veto does not exist; the Executor carries out the will of the Convention. Friction has sometimes arisen when the Executor has disagreed with a decision of the Convention, but coup attempts have rarely succeeded for long.

Originally the Caller of the Convention was a ceremonial post, charged with confirming local election results and verifying in each meeting that a quorum of Conveners was present. Over the centuries, the post gradually added more control over the schedule of the Convention, so that the Caller is now in substantial control of the Convention's agenda for his term. Political parties have yet to come into existence in Tomos, but informal coalitions surrounding skilled politicians and popular issues form, break up, and reform over the course of a term. The internal election of the Convention for the Caller is as important as the election of the Convention itself.

Campaigns are usually no more than a few months long, held in the dog days of summer in the year of an election when work in the rural areas is slow. The election itself is held a few weeks before harvest gets underway. Since long travel is so difficult, however, despite these considerations to the contryfolk it is the city voters that get the most campaigning aimed at them. Rural voters are more likely to care about their Convener than the Executor, and will probably vote for the Executor candidate their favored Convener recommends.

Province-level and more local elections are much less complex; a province elects provincial Convention of as many representatives it cares to pay, and instead of having a full Executor this Convention usually operates through local mayors elected in the cities, towns, and villages. These local officials perform the day-to-day functions required of Tomosic government, filling the shoes of everyone from watch captain to constable to city clerk in the small towns and villages. Larger municipalities will give the mayor the power to appoint these officials and supplement national and provincial law with decrees should the need arise.

Judges in Tomos are elected for four-year terms and are expected to answer to the public for their decisions; Tomosics would regard a lifetime appointment as going against the whole point of government. On the other hand, they are given considerable latitude in interpreting the laws. A judge is not permitted to strike down a law directly, but rather may allow considerations of morality to enter into his decision. If strictly applying the law would result in a travesty of justice, he exercises this privilege and disregards as much of the law as he pleases. A law which numerous judges agitate against is sure to come up for review in the Convention, especially if the judges are re-elected after flouting them.

Justice in Tomos

Crimes defined in Tomos consist, in the main, of the usual: variations of theft and assault with a spectrum of severity, with acts like fraud, kidnapping, and impersonating a government official rounding out the list. For a pre-printing-press society, Tomos is extremely lenient in the range of expressions and behaviors permitted to its people. Varens and even other foreigners who travel to Tomos, especially the cities, find some of the more extreme acts committed under the influence of wine or the passions of youth to be disrespectful or positively lewd.

Arrests take place when the situation escalates to physical injury or property damage. In cities, the city patrol takes the miscreants to a temporary holding area to await a trial, usually no more than a day later. Anyone injured in a fight is treated by a doctor on call for the patrol. A prisoner can expect drinkable water, but a meal or a clean cell would be a surprise. Arrestees in rural areas may even have it slightly better off, in that sense; the judge will probably be found and the trial commenced immediately.
The Patrol

The typical patrolman in Tomos is either a soldier in time of peace, or a slave doing work for which his master is being compensated. The soldier will be armed with a spear and armored in scale, both of the expensive and strong orichalcum (normal weight, triple strength armor). The slave will most likely have a staff. Both are trained, and the slave may be the more experienced of the two (though never in charge unless the entire group are slaves). In times of unrest, either may be armed with a shortsword and shield. Missile weapons are rarely used in the city, where a stray shot that hits a bystander can cause significant political problems for the Convention, but they are available for emergencies.

However, patrolmen would much rather avoid having to use their weaponry. Their primary weapon is presence. A patrol in the city typically consists of five men, more than enough to overpower a would-be thief, and the Patrol has enough men to send a patrol down every street within the city limits multiple times a day as well as keep a dozen or more men stationed by important sites, such as the central market, the docks, the Convention Hall, and the residences of the Executor and the Caller. If anyone calls loudly for the Patrol, roll 1d-1; this is the number of minutes away the Patrol is at a sustainable run, with a 0 indicating that the Patrol were practically around the corner and a 5 indicating that the Patrol was too far away to hear.

A defendant brought before a Tomosic court will hear the charge against him and be asked to respond with a declaration of guilt or innocence. Tomosics love a good argument, and over the years case law has developed intricately, with formalized methods of prosecution and defense. Professional lawyers may be retained by either side, though for minor crimes typically the arresting officer will make his case himself.

The standard of evidence is low for minor crimes, so that something as little as a pickpocketing or a scuffle in the street may require for conviction only the word of two officers against the defendant's, while murder trials have elaborate rules of evidence and multiple burdens of proof for parts of the arguments. Prosecution and defendants may both request that the court call forth witnesses (friends of a defendant may have arrived as court began that morning anyway, since the criminal courts have no backlog), though witnesses called may refuse. The use of magic to obtain evidence or examine testimony is permitted, but no mage is on retainer at court -- the requester must pay the mage's fees -- and the opposing side must agree to the mage's veracity. There is some social pressure to do so, since Communication & Empathy mages, the ones most often called, derive considerable labor value in their trustworthiness as a group and will remember someone who suggests that one of their mages would perjure himself.

If the defendant is found guilty, options for sentencing are restricted. Jails are far too expensive for a society like Tomos to maintain. Punishments for theft in its various incarnations always include restitution to the victim, and usually an additional levy of the same value again to be paid to the state. If the debt cannot be paid, market value is placed on the defendant's time as a slave and he is taken under ownership by the state for his time of service. Assaults almost always involve time as a state slave, from a week for a street scuffle to ten years for ransom kidnapping and twenty-five -- a virtual life sentence for most adults in Tomos -- for assault with intent to kill. The death penalty is exacted for rape of any kind, treason in time of war, or murder of a free person.

For those who are already slaves, the law is simpler and harsher. The word of a freeman is sufficient for conviction, and the burden of proof is on the slave. As a slave cannot incur debts, fines are assessed to the master, and any punishment that would involve additional slavery is grounds for execution. The murder of a slave is legally destruction of property; freeing a slave without the master's permission, or running away, are theft.

The legal treatment of slavery is one of the points of heated debate in Tomos. On the one hand, jailing options would be unworkably expensive for the society; on the other, the harsh justice afforded to slaves offends an abolitionist's sense of morality.

On the civil side, Tomosic contractual law is equally exacting, and hiring a legal specialist is recommended when doing business in the nation, giving Tomosics a reputation as word-twisters. The civil courts in the cities are backlogged, usually to several weeks. A litigant who wishes a case heard will pay a nominal fee to the courts and bring charges, almost always based on breach of some contract, or property damage. Libel is extremely difficult to prove, since the burden is on the complainant to show that the statements were uttered knowingly false. Divorces are as rare as a successful libel charge, and require proof of abuse, which is simultaneously regarded as a criminal assault charge. (Settlements afterward are on a case-by-case basis, since precedent is so sparse.)

As the region gets more rural, most of these processes become less and less formal and reduce infrastructure. In the smallest towns, the functions of both constable and judge are probably performed by the mayor.

Judges in courts at the lowest level cover a defined area: rural judges hear all manner of cases within a region covering a few towns, and judges in the cities divide responsibilities by type of case. These courts hear cases quickly, and most cases end there. Losing parties may appeal to regional or citywide courts that hear all types of cases, whose judges are usually experienced, popular jurists. A good reason will be required for the case to be heard. Appeal goes from here to the Tomosic Supreme Jurists, a body of five judges who are appointed for staggered five-year terms by the Convention. The Supreme Jurists only hear cases of import to the nation, and their decisions become defining precedent for lower courts. They take their time, often hearing arguments, deliberating, and recalling litigants for questioning and debate.

Hot Political Issues

An active democracy creates and attracts issues of widespread interest. Currently, the topic of hottest discussion is slavery. An abolition movement is underway and gaining momentum, with resistance developing equally fast. A candidate for mayor, judge, Convener, or Executor will certainly have to declare his position on the issue. At the moment, abolitionists are a tiny minority in the Convention, but their influence is growing. A few abolitionist judges have been elected, and their criminal sentences are ranging from the creative to the barbarically violent. Abolitionists are sometimes suspected of being Varen sympathizers, as slavery is illegal in the Empire.

In some small towns, the arresting officer is also the sentencing judge, and even in larger cities the judge and officers know each other much better than the judge knows many other citizens. The inequity of this system has drawn notice, and the solution of jury trials has been proposed. The idea has not been formally implemented anywhere yet, but a few provinces are mulling the idea over.