Shadow of the Tribunal
In the wake of the Desecration, a wave of anti-magical sentiment swept the country of Semarq. The new Elector, Veran Seraph, acceding to the demands of the Threefold Clergy, commissioned a body of Church-affiliated scholars and agents to investigate magical dealings within the Kingdom.
Organisation and Membership
There are about fifteen branches of the Tribunal, with around a dozen centred on major towns and cities and having jurisdiction over the borough, and the other three being concerned with the isolated and wilderness regions of each of the electoral states. Each is headed by a Tribune, and all of them answer to the Grand Tribune, Cyralin Pharess, who has an honorary position on the Triarch Council in addition to his position as head of the Semarque City branch. Each branch acts independently of the others, with the Tribunes having complete oversight over their own operations, though all of them ultimately answer to Grand Tribune Pharess.
The Tribunal’s duties include:
- Registering and sanctioning arcane spell-casting
- Regulating magical artifice, and the trade of magical items
- Locating, isolating and responding to arcane or magical threats within the borders of Semarq.
Tribunal operatives are known as agents. At first, they acted as specialised observers and researchers in arcane matters alongside local watch forces. However, in many cities, the Tribunal has secured the legal clout to make its own independent investigations, often superseding local authority, issuing their own warrants, and even maintaining their own holding cells. About half of the Tribunal branches now have effective authority over local watch forces, and in Lochfield, Splinterdock and Farfeld, they have even secured the right to raise local militias of “concerned citizens”.
The Tribunal does not just investigate and censure rogue wizards, though. In the early days of the Tribunal’s existence, it was argued by many leading arcane scholars that mages needed to be free to pursue their own studies and research in order to help detect magical threats to the kingdom. The Tribunal has since taken this set of operations under its wing as well. The sanctioned researchers at the mysterious Quiet House have developed a number of spells in the divination school that have made Semarqian Diviners some of the most accomplished truth-seekers across the two continents.
Any arcane practitioner who wishes to act within the borders of Semarq must sign the Sanctions, thereby becoming a legal Sanctioned arcanist. The Tribunal needs to know where they live, how they intend to practice magic, and take a complete audit of any resources used to assist them (magic items, practitioners tools, spell foci, et cetera).
Every arcanist also needs to provide a copy of their spell-book to the local Tribunal, and keep it updated as they learn or use new spells. No spellbook, no Sanction License. In addition, prospective sanctioned arcanists need to provide a reference, preferably from another Sanctioned arcanist, preferably from the one who trained them. Foreign arcanists travelling through or living in the country for a short while can sign an agreement that works in lieu of a sanction for an agreed period.
There are additional taxes on arcanists who wish to create and sell magical items. These are normally covered by the guilds, but it means that legal magical items are much more expensive in Semarq than elsewhere.
NB: In practice, this means that anyone who is not a guild-sponsored Wizard (see Classes in Semarq) gets shafted. Sorcerers, Warlocks and Bards can make do if they make a spellbook to hand in and someone to vouch for them, but until the moment they do so, they are considered criminals by default. The sanctions are expensive to operate under, and many of the public houses of arcane learning have closed down, leaving only private, sanctioned tutors. In addition, those that remain are often Wizards themselves, and can only help other Wizards. Sanctioned Sorcerers, Warlocks and Bards are exceptionally rare.
Should an arcanist cross the bounds of the Sanctions, they will be punished. This is also known as sanctioning, and the official documentation does not distinguish between approved sanctioned arcanists and condemned sanctioned arcanists. In common conversation, criminal arcanists are referred to as “truly sanctioned”. The true Sanctions can be doled out on the spot, or handed out via a trial from a magistrate who specialises in sanctions. These are all current or former senior Tribunal agents. The true sanctions can include:
- confiscation of magical paraphenalia (foci, tools, books, items, et cetera)
- imprisonment in the Quiet House
- the Veto – a parade in chains and gag through the city streets, followed by the public removal of the hands and tongue.
- execution; either summary, by whatever means necessary or public, via dismemberment and cremation.
Theoretically, Divine casters are subject to the sanctions as well. Clerics of the Threefold path and members of the Tribunal are automatically exempt. The few Druids or Rangers who spend any length of time in a city openly practicing magic will have to sign something eventually – but this doesn’t happen often. Paladins have a tendency to die violently before the sanctions come into play, or end up sanctioned themselves. Clerics of non-threefold deities have to sign the sanctions as well, but they have an easier time of it.
As a result of the true sanctions, many magical items and funds have been confiscated by the Tribunal. There are repeated rumours that elements of the Tribunal are engaged in the smuggling and profiteering of magical items, both outside and inside the country.