I'm new to this forum and relatively new to Ars, and am just wondering something. Recently, two of the mages in our Covenant did very bad things, and I want to know who has committed the greater Hermetic crime. I'll try not to be biased in my report as one of them is my mage.
Santiago Ex Flambeau (an Elemental Mage), along with his Sodalis, had got themselves involved with a plot by Tytalus (yes, THE Tytalus) to weaken the Dominion. Tytalus instructed Santiago to ravage the town of Chester with a week long barrage of thunderstorms. A task that Santiago unwillingly did for the simple reason that Tytalus is considerably more powerful than him and not a guy than you say no to and live to tell the tale. Even though this was done under duress, it doesn't alter the fact that Santiago has committed mass genocide and put the Order in jeopardy with his actions.
Ryce Ex Bjornaer, upon discovery of a decimated and ash covered town, flew over it to get a better look. He discovered that in the very centre was a pentagram protected by disease spirits. As they headed towards him with obvious hostile intent, his response was to cast one of his more eccentric spells in defence: he dropped a herd of dead elephants on the pentagram. Said herd of dead elephants broke the pentagram and released the Bubonic plague on England. Although not a malicious or deliberate act, he has caused the death of millions and put the Order in jeopardy with his actions.
So my question is who has committed the greater crime?
Also, do either of them got a cat in hells chance of getting out of this one without being executed by the order?
It's not a crime to release the plauge on England. The Code does not force magi to be nice to people, it forces them not to tick off those powers that could do the Order harm. There are no witnesses to the elephant thing, and even if there were, if you killed every magus who fell into an infernal boobytrap you'd soon be out of mages. Santiago, on the other hand, personally destroys a major town. He isn't "unwilling" under Hermetic Law, because he conciously did what he did, knowing it to be a breach of ther Code.
Elephant guy is going to get hammered by the politics of ther thing, but the law side of it is OK. Santiago may have some chance to prevent his own death with a sympathetic tribunal.
I would also say that pleading that you were scared of another magus doesn't constitute duress, as you are protected by the code yourself. It depends how you described Tytalus to the players but unless he has a wide reputation for breaking the primary act of the code and murdering other magi without cause then it was the players choice. He was protected by the code, another magus can only force him with mind control spells, and saying that he thought another magi was about to violate the code without proof isn't going to win friends at his trial.
As for the elephants (nice spell) I agree with Tim, no witnesses, no breach.
As for how to get out of the execution, I have always been in favour of bribing first, bribing more, blackmailing, begging for favours in return for future favours, countercharging/smearing the accusers and generally getting a majority of votes on your side by any means possible. It doesn't matter that everyone knows you are guilty as long as you are found innocent. You might have to spend the next 30 years working to pay off debts incurred, but better that than death.
Duress/self-defense in a crime that results in felony murder can be a defense to a murder charge, the true question is did you believe the harm to be imminent (did you believe you could get away, seek help), of course a jury or judge(s) will make the call on the defense so the subjective standard of what Santiage believed probably won't help him and the jury or judges will likely apply a more objective standard (the theoretical reasonable man). If no imminent harm, no defense, and are open in conviction. Considering the harm done and the story, he seems to have pretty bad facts. Whether Common Law or Continential regimes Santiago is probably under a sentence of death. As it exposes the Order of Hermes to extreme danger he should be packing his bags and get out of town.
The bubonic release at best is involuntay manslaughter - possible recklessness or gross negligence leading to the death of another. Would do time, face fines, but no execution (although the death of millions? would be a hard one not to impose an extreme penalty) If one could sell the judge on that this was a reasonable response, then no manslaughter claim. That would be a modern court based on the common law tradition.
From a prosecutorial point of view I could make an argument for his death or march. 1. Recklessness leading to an injury to the order - killing one of every three people with the rapidity of the bubonic plague's spread would like overwhelm cities, towns, castles and covenants. Grogs, companions and likely less experienced magi dead. The hermetic infrastructure in chaos as redcaps fall victim. Pastoral grogs no longer providing their agricultural surplus to support the covenant. Blackthorn may be able to survive but city covenants, less powerful covenants, and spring covenants probably greatly injured. Huge expenditures of creo and corpus vis to stem the infection among covenants' population. Potential apprentices killed greatly injuring the future of the order. Given the vector of the disease is spirit rather than just a bunch of rats and fleas, the Order may need to expend significant resources to save themselves. 2. Make an analogy to waking a sleeping dragon dwelling just outside an established covenant and made the mistake of destroying its offspring b/c I was threatened. Would a wise, thinking mage act in such a reckless way, how could he not realize the harm that this would bring.
In his defense of course we have didn't know and right to defend one's self. Also, no intent to cause harm to the order and didn't interfere with mundanes (at least directly).
I think Ryce may be able to escape the judge(s)' calling for a march, but a fine for restitution would seem to be in order. Then of course, the magi that did survive but where greatly damaged, I'm thinking next chance they get, Ryce will be marched upon. Although the Wilderness arm of the Bjornaer may give him some help...
As I suspected would be the case, they're both in trouble and Santiago is more so.
In Santiago's defence, he was on his own with a more powerful mage, and he did indeed believe his life was very much in danger. Also, the only witness to his genocide was Tytalus, who is unlikely to testify (until his ghost is interogated).
Ryce's error, unfortunately, is known to a mage outside of the covenant.
So all in all, our mages are in serious trouble and our version of Mythic Europe is hideously ravaged!
There's no formal standard of reasonableness in Hermetic law.
I'd argue that even in the case of imminent harm, the Code provides no defence for people breaking it under these conditions. You are expected to fight and likely die in this case. The Code quite clearly suggestes that your prefer death to breaching the Code, and asks your sodales to kill you if you do, to prevent your further futher degredfation and infamy. The Code is not a friendly, modern document.
I'd point out that harm is only done if mundanes can establish that this was a maggical act, not, say just a freak storm. The Code's quite clear here: harm to mundane peasants doesn't matter except insofar as this has the potential to rebound on magi. The Code is not a moral instrument. It doesn't fobid you torturing peasants to death on a regular basis.
This is the only serious defence: that the magus can cover his tracks too well for it to cause his dsodales harm. Otherwise, toasty.
A crime not found in the Code...
Again, not a recognised offence...
Again, not the concern of the Code...
I agree this is a lot better, harm to magi -is- punishable in the Code. Harm to mortals, not so much.
I'd also say for Ryce, he can state quite truthfully that he has no idea whether the pentagram would have been broken, the plague released no matter what he did.
It was actions of the infernal that lead to the creation and unleashing of the plague, no matter that he might have triggered it prematurely and before the diabolists responsible had made it powerful enough to wipe out every living soul in europe. Ie he saved the lives of all survivors.
With a little bit of thought you can twist most facts to your advantage.
So our best argument (in both Santiago and Ryce's case) is that we didn't breach the code as no-one outside of the Order knows the plague/ freak storm was our fault, and the mundanes haven't blamed us/ the Order?
Ah, Pride, lust, pacyderms, these things lead to the Dark Side.
Why is it we all choose elephants? For a long time I thought I'd invented that spell...but I think its that something, somewhere, says to us "Dude, an elephant is just the funniest damn thing to drop on someone." and so we all invent it, at different times and places.
I agree that for the most part, mundanes can be abused at will as long as it doesn't bring harm to the order. My point was to contrast the common law (modern take) with hermetic. I wouldn't be entirely sure that intent and reason wouldn't be a factor in Hermetic law. If it is modeled off of Justinian's Code or off of whatever passed for whatever nonRoman traditional law was incorporated within Guernicus-led code, intent would likely be adopted for Hermetic crime. The only real difference I can see between a Hermetic Code and the law, whether continental or common, in terms of injury to the persons is that one can formally declare one's intent to murder another (Wizard's march) whereas murder under mundane law tends to be frowned on, previously indicated or not.
Also, are we sure about penalties imposed. Looking at some of the secondary code and tribunal rulings - killing the familiar, taking vis, exile,... I don't think it would be too far afield to imagine a period of forced servitude of an offending magi for an injured party. Didn't mean doing time as prison, although for any party in the period, they would be best able to impose it at low cost (turn offender to stone for 10-20) Not really a comparative law guy, but if Hermetic law develops from Guernicus just like his concept of Hermetic oganization he would probably have used a blend of Canon, Justinian's Code and maybe some Germanic traditions, he could have an equivalent of slavery imposed as a punishment. Probably not permanent, but who knows.
Time for me to weigh in I think as I'm the ASG in this saga.
Santiago, wuss that he is, did the bidding of Tytalus and was possibly observed doing so (if kingghidorah123 remembers, he and Tytalus were 40 feet up on a pillar of rock that Tytalus had created so as to provide a good view of the town) Its possible that many locals saw him up there waving his arms around and spouting weird latin phrases.
However, the only Magi that know are the three magi of the covenant and Tytalus himself. Tytalus is still "officially" dead and so is unlikely to waltz into tribunal to grass Santiago up. However he is allied with other magi who could do, if it became in Tytalus' best interests to do so.
Ryce on the other hand has a well deserved reputation amongst the magi of Stonehenge for arrogance, recklessness, fighting the infernal and killing other magi (legally, they were under a march, but he has waxed a fair few now). This does not endear him to the tribunal. Even his infernal hunting stints are a little to regular/common for the quaesitors approval.
The only magi that knows of Ryces blunder (outside the covenant) is a wily old necromancer who has previously been an ally of sorts to the PCs.
So your victim won't even know he is in danger. Ha!
Which gives you blackmail info on the quaesitor for the next tribunal, he allows the sentence to go ahead you reveal he is culpable of betraying his oaths and conspiracy to murder. He helps to sway judgement away and nothing more need be said.