The Laws of Asmodeus

The laws of Cheliax, called the Asmodean Disciplines, are based on the primary religious text of the Church of Asmodeus, and are thus byzantine and myriad, weaving in and out of one another like a tapestry. Prohibitions and regulations reach into every corner of life, and though most of these laws remain unenforced (some might even say unenforceable), they remain an effective way for Hellknights and more mundane police forces to remove undesirable elements from society: either as an exaggeration of a perceived violation, or as an incentive for ordinary citizens to report to the Inquisitors about their neighbors’ suspicious activities.

The Inquisitors are a branch of the Church of Asmodeus. Their charge is to root out corruption and disease in the tree of the unholy in order to maintain orthodoxy in the Church. In their iron masks and black robes, they are the country’s secret police, charged with creating and developing informants. Their network of spies stretches across the country, encouraged by rewards of coin, prestige, position, or influence. Thus it is that the citizens turn against each other in an atmosphere of incrimination, backbiting, and fear. This poison is most prominent in the cities, where few of the citizens know their neighbors well; it is far less common in the smaller villages, where they keep a closer eye on their compatriots and issue their own brand of rough justice rather than draw the iron eyes of the Inquisitors to their homes.

Police and guardsmen, sometimes called dottari, are the primary law enforcement for each municipality. Some towns are small enough to require volunteer militias, rather than full-time enforcers. The law gives these city watchmen power only to protect, defend, and detain; the judges and lawmakers jealously guard their prerogative to hand down decisions of justice. The feared Hellknights technically exist outside of the legal system and Chelish control entirely, their charter approved by House Thrune itself, and may act as guard, judge, and hoodsman when they see a violation of the laws. In the lesser towns, the mayor or headsman acts as the judge for the criminals brought before him. In the larger cities, the judges are both constrained by the law and freed by it. They are invariably clerics of the Church of Asmodeus, for they are the only people with the deep knowledge of the Disciplines required to understand the complexities of the law. In principal, they are incorruptible, above bribes and other temptations to alter the law: their reward comes from the power of the Lord of Darkness. In reality, as they are experts in the legal code, they know how to ask for and receive bribes, play favorites, and improve the lots of their friends—all under the blessing of the law.

Though the Inquisitors are charged with protecting against actual corruption (the breaking of the letter, rather than a violation of the spirit), it is rare that they investigate judges, and even rarer that they remove one. The most recent case was that of Alaster Wolfstongue, Senior Prelate of Kintargo, who was removed from office, defrocked, scourged across his face and back, and set loose in Devil’s Perch to die. He did not die, the stories say—he now dispenses justice and vengeance along the caravan routes, and has become a blight to the Hellknights and priests of Asmodeus.

The law constrains judges to sentences in accordance with the class of crime, allowing discretion for the severity of the crime and its effect on the city; the law provides a complicated formula for sentencing, but many of the lesser judges simple ignore these mandates rather than try to make sense of these complex if-and-butotherwise statements. Punishments range from censure, such as the stocks or branding, to excruciations in the city center. The Church prefers to avoid quick and private executions, except in cases of enemies of the state who must disappear efficiently and quietly. House Thrune believes that a public morning excruciation is a better deterrent to crime and revolt; its memories linger throughout the day, serving as a telling reminder of the perils of lawbreaking.

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The Laws of Asmodeus

Cheliax: In the shadow of Devils. Worgun