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Elminster Speaks - Part 4
By Ed Greenwood
Justice and the Law
Once openly hated for his heavy-handed extortion of property and money from both locals and any passing caravans he judged lightly defended, Buorstag (through Zhent suggestion) has recently become far fairer and subtler. He no longer openly seizes goods or demands protection money, though he does levy a fee for armed escorts requested by anyone, and holds to a far more consistent interpretation of justice. Elminster believes this good behavior is rooted in Zhent desires (particularly in their time of weakness, following the destruction of Zhentil Keep) to give Maalthiir of Hillsfar no acceptable-to-Sembia pretext for seizing Voonlar. High taxes yield higher prices, as much as 30% higher than the norm elsewhere, which have replaced random acts of extortion. This higher take has made Buorstag see the wisdom of the gentle gauntlet approach.
The law in Voonlar is whatever the Bron says it is, but visitors and citizens alike can take comfort in the fact that the underlying principle of Voonlarran justice is now based on profits. In practice, the clergy of Cyric, Zhentarim, the Bron and his deputies are above the law and can act as they like in Voonlarran territory with complete impunity. All others are safe as long as they are careful and avoid being seen as public enemies.
Buorstag levies high taxes on both citizens and visitors, but in return keeps Voonlar safe. He dispenses harsh but fair justice to citizens and travelers alike so as not to harm the flow of trade. Red Plumes in uniform and anyone suspected of being a Harper or agent of Hillsfar are deemed a public enemy and can expect to be attacked on sight. The guards work to take such enemies alive, though many might wind up seriously injured or disabled during an attempt to resist. Once captured and sent through "attentive questioning" (torture), many public enemies are executed. In cases of mistaken identity, only Zhentarim able to call on immediate magical aid are released; all others are slain, with the bodies hidden to prevent repercussions.
Executions are performed at the Throat, usually by slow dismemberment; a limb an hour. The miscreant is strapped to an X-shaped frame of logs that spreads the arms and legs, and left to bleed to death with the torso and head intact and facing Shadowdale, as a warning to travelers on the road.
Only wizards are beheaded, and this is done for public safety. Buorstag maintains several scrolls of impressive false charges that he can read aloud to justify any slayings he pleases. Adventurers who do battle with a deputy can expect to be deemed Harpers and slaughtered forthwith.
All goods and property of an executed criminal are forfeit to the Bron, who maintains the public purse. He claims to spend such monies for patrols, road repairs, and the cleansing of public wells. An honest Voonlarran, speaking in private, admits that not much in the way of repairs or well-tending gets done.
* * * * *
The Adventure of a Lifetime:
A group of adventurers arrived from Shadowdale and were arrested for spying for Hillsfar. The mage was beheaded for casting a sleep spell during a bar fight, since she was obviously a Harper spy. The priest of the group, a devout servant of Tymora, was executed by slow dismemberment. The remaining party members are being held in the Locktower, and its unsure what the Bron plans to do with them.
Enter the Zhentarim:
A Zhentarim agent visited town a few weeks ago, taking great delight in having the Bron jump at his every utterance. After a particularly wild night of wine, women, and song, the Zhentling disappeared. While the official story is that he left town, many of the citizens believe that the Bron and his deputies visited him. The popular tale is that the Bron had him tied, gagged, and buried alive somewhere outside the city.
The dating habits of Marsara Storntil, one of the Brons deputies, have been the hushed speculation of many of the town gossipers. Every few weeks, a Zhent wizard by the name of Tamelia (NE hf W7) visits Voonlar and spends a great deal of time with Marsara. A drunken suitor once accosted the deputy when the issue arose, and Marsara so soundly trounced the farmhand that no one has ever broached the issue in public again.
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