Monday, July 10, 2017

More on Fokari Law.

"Khayyam Arshad-parh. Using the dire authority vested in me by your Seer, elders, and tribe, I strip you of your past and your future beneath the patchwork tent. You are Kha'en. You will slit your cheeks at dawn. May the Eagle judge you more mercifully."
- Tosht Shad-parh, Speaker of the Sheyhan Tribe.

The legal system of the Fokari is surprisingly consistent across tribes and even dialectical groups. In theory each family is self-regulating, seeking settlement and appeasement of disputes through nonjudicial means as a first and most preferred option. While there is no shame attached to being brought before tribunal--for defendants or for plaintiffs--the entire affair is often considered to be disruptive enough to daily life that it is prudent to avoid the process when possible. But like any people, the Fokari periodically find that matters must been taken up with a recognized higher authority.

For this, the mish'khiltah is brought together. Literally meaning "lesser council" to set it apart from the khiltah council of elders which guides the decision-making process of an entire tribe, the lesser council is not elected publicly. Instead, it consists of one representative drawn from each major family which makes up the tribe. Generally the family head has final word on the delegation of the family's council membership slot, but appeals to dispute this within a family do rarely occur. The membership dispute is instead brought before the khiltah, the members of which are exempt from mish'khiltah membership for the duration of their office with the exception of hereditary chieftain- lacking a vote in the mish'khilah, they maintain order and flow of testimony not unlike a judge.

When the conditions for a lesser council are met, typically by virtue of the grievance having the potential to otherwise instigate familial strife significant or longstanding enough to disrupt tribal well-being, a date is set according to the calendrical and astrological predictions of the Seer. The Speaker officiates the trial, opening and closing it, but neither take a direct role in the matters of court. Each family representative swears an oath to their impartiality and uses a small knife to shave a patch of hairs from their right forearms. The hair is then gathered up and cast into a brazier by the chieftain (while standing upwind of it, of course). This brazier, commonly emblazoned with the image of an eagle, linked ram's horns, or a wheel, is often one of the precious few pieces made entirely of wrought metal in a tribe's possession.

Excepting outliers (such as a near-mythic case in which a Fokar with the cunning of a fox granted to him by a totemic compact was able to win a dispute with his grandfather and then become the representative of his family in his own trial for the accusation of goat rustling), this system works for most Fokari affairs. Only two crimes require the direct intervention of a tribe's higher council- murder, and the deliberate defacement of a tent or hut's interior ceiling. Murder's severity is relatively straightforward to understand, for it causes suffering and anguish as well as damages the pool of skill and mutual support integral to Fokari life.

Defacement of a ceiling is somewhat more symbolic. Each family keeps a lovingly-crafted, highly religiously-themed piece of artwork upon their ceilings. With the passing of seasons or the occurrence of great events, new images and designs are integrated into it until it tells the family unit's entire history. And at the center, either just beside the smoke hole or carefully stretched around it, is a piece which was originally taken from the tent of that family's grandparents. When the children who grew up looking up into this mosaic of unfolding history day and night for their entire lives mature and finally marry, they take a piece alongside a dowry in order to begin their own family tent.

The proven guilt of murder earns one a deep, preferably self-inflicted gash across the left cheek, starting about an inch below the eye and traveling diagonally across to the jawline. Defacement earns one the same, but mirrored over the right cheek. These cuts, in addition to being terribly painful and quite likely to become infected, scar over in such a way as to brand the individual with their crime forever after. The resulting loss of face (literally and figuratively) is the true punishment. Though they are not required to, the families of murderers or defacers will often take some of the guilty party's shame on as their own burden by integrating a stylized gash somewhere into their own tent ceiling- a brand new one, in some cases, if the defacement in question was of one's own history. But this is as rare as it is an awful and unthinkable deed for most Fokari.

If one were to, by some hideous abomination of thought or cruel twist of fate, commit both crimes at once, they suffer these, and worse. A small, shamefully blank tent is erected for them at the far edge of the tribe's camp one evening, where they are kept under guard until the first light of dawn. Then, often but not always while under the eyes of Seer, Speaker, and at least one of the elders, both cheeks are cut. Then, one and all turn their back upon the lone Fokar and break camp to travel until they are out of sight. The bleeding loner is from that point forward an exile from home, as well as a pariah among all other tribes who recognize such branding. Beside the tent, some bare necessities for one or three days of travel may be provided as a show of pity, but the expectation is that the exile will die soon without their people. Some tribes even pronounce the Fokar legally dead and hold a funeral for them, either just past the horizon, or while the exile-to-be is still present, ignored and treated like a lingering ghost.

Fortunately, this punishment is so rare as to be nonexistent in the living memory of most tribes at any given time.

But time and space are subject to the same nonlinear, dualistic tendencies as most everything else in the Fokari worldview.

What once was cast away may eventually find its way back.

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