Saturday 17 June 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #168: Judgments of Aish Mashuila: Wisdom of the Crocodile Judge

Eleven hexes north, three northwest of Alakran.


The ascension of the reptilian Korth to the Judgeship of the Balance led many to whisper, with some awe, of the wise rulings attributed to the legendary Crocodile Judge.  This judge was a Subek, a crocodile-person of the same species as Hebat whom we have already met. Their proper name and gender are not generally known but surely can be found in the temple rolls.

The most popular story concerns a fish. After gaining a reputation for deduction and encyclopedic knowledge of the law, the Judge faced a case that depended on insight into the human character, which was not so easy for a crocodilian. 

A husband and a wife of Shasari accused each of the infanticide of their second son. Both seemed sincere in their denials, both spelled out a tale of why the other would want to do it. The reasons were personal and neither family members nor servants could shed any light.

"In times like this, in my city," growled the Judge with a throat ill-suited for human speech, "we seek the aid of a magical fish, who can smell lies on a person's fingers. Go home, return in a week, and I will have fetched the fish from its home."

The next week, the contending couple returned and found a bronze bowl filled with water before the Judge's seat, which rippled and bubbled every so often. 

 "This is the fish Abtu who swims in the sacred pool," said the Judge, and proceeded to demonstrate by asking the bailiff to tell the truth, and thrust his right hand in the bowl, then a lie, and follow with his left hand, which he withdrew bleeding.

"Now each of you say, 'I did not kill the child known as Red Grass Garland', and put your hand in the bowl."

So the husband did, and came out intact; but before the wife could be tested, she broke down crying, and confessed to the crime.

The following year, the fish was brought out again, for a case in which a golden urn had disappeared from a house. All the servants denied the wrong, though they were questioned severely, as servants might be. "One of these must be an expert liar," said the Judge, "for either one has stolen it or the night watch has allowed it." This time he put the bowl behind a screen, and bid each of the dozen suspects proceed behind and present their hand to the fish.

"Your Honor," said the bailiff when all were done, "the case remains a riddle. None of these people has  blood on their hands."  

"Look again," rasped the Crocodile Judge, "look carefully to see whose hands are dry."

And so the culprit was caught, and seeing no recourse, confessed in hope of mercy.

After some generations passed, the nature of this magic fish became clear in the retelling. Despite the cleverness of the Judge, who had asked the bailiff to cut his left hand with a shard of glass that lay in the bowl, the high court of the land no longer could trust that a magic fish, or a magic bell, or a magic doll, or magic sticks, could be used to discern one guilty person out of several. 

And yes, zone of truth is banned from the campaign, as it should be.


No comments:

Post a Comment