Slavery Across Ereb

"As Cetoilais, we find the practice of slavery despicable. The deprivation of freedom, unless entered into by mutual consent or for the purpose of justice, goes against what we stand for. Examine your reaction to the concept of slavery -- how much of it is rooted in your beliefs and experiences? Slavery is illegal in Cetoile, and we have many laws that protect individual freedom. How does one define slavery? Is it strictly the treatment of individuals as property? What of livestock? And what of work with no compensation? What of those who work tirelessly and pay taxes that bureaucrats then take as pay?

"In these lectures, we will not advocate for slavery, but seek to understand how it is defined in other cultures. We will examine the contemporary and historical justifications for the practice of slavery and the sociopolitical structures that protect and propagate it."
— Notes from Barteau's Lectures: Cultural Morality


Illegal Legal Legal in Most Regions Unknown
Aragonia Bhaltír Alramal Alkhafiya The Plainlands
Cetoile The Ghandaran Empire Fidira Skadi
Karthain The Jade Empire Vralach
Lymia The Hundred Principalities

Cultural Understandings of Slavery

Alramal Alkhafiya considers bonded labour in service of debts valid, but this bond must have an agreed end date. Rarely are lifelong periods of slavery permitted by Alkhafi law. There are dispensations for such life debts in the case of reparations for serious crimes and large debts. According to Alkhafi beliefs, a woman is the property of her family until she is married, at which point she becomes the property of her husband. This is not considered slavery by the Alkhafi, but western nations assert it is another form of chattel slavery.

Aragonia and Cetoile, perhaps because of their close proximity, consider any form of slavery illegal. Forced labour is permissable for those convicted of serious crimes, but this labour must only serve the public good, not private profit.

Fidiran society generally considers slavery an affront to moral sensibilities. This is presumably because of the influence of Aragonian-Cetoilais philosophy. Despite this, it is socially acceptable for the upper class to have bonded servants, and forced labour or servitude is common punishment for criminals. People are able to sell themselves or their children against debt. Fidiran people with no prospects visible will sometimes sell themselves as slaves. The trade of slaves is tolerated in larger cities, but is regulated. It is illegal to take children from their parents in order to sell them as slaves. An unfortunate loophole is that orphans and children who are not with their parents when they are kidnapped by slavers are considered legitimate slaves.

The society of Ghandara is highly stratified. Slavery has been a key part of the Ghandaran Empire's expansion and economy since the empire's early days. The Ghandarans believe the gods weave the fates of all mortals. Thus, a slave is a slave by the will of the gods. A person who is captured by slavers is caught by the will of the gods. A child born to slaves is born as a slave. To show pity to a slave for their plight is to show disdain for the gods, to question their wisdom. An owner may free a slave as an act of generosity, but this, too, is seen as the work of the gods.

The Jade Empire has a unique take on slavery. Among the clans of the Empire, battles break out often. In these battles, prisoners are taken. These prisoners are usually made into indentured servants. This servitude lasts for a year and a day. During this period, the servant is treated well. It is seen as a chance to foster diplomacy between clans, and an honourable exchange. The servant serves the warrior and clan that bested them in battle, and the warrior and clan treat the servant with honour. It is not considered dishonourable to lose in battle, but it is considered dishonourable to attempt to escape the year and a day of servitude.

In Karthain, human life is another commodity. It is legal for a magi to force any criminal into bonded servitude. Slave traders are welcome in Karthain, and so long as they peddle in slaves from nations other than Karthain. A Karthani may be enslaved if they are unable to pay their taxes, default on a debt, or commit a crime against Karthain, the Tower, or a magus. In the stead of the criminal, a member of the criminal's family may instead be enslaved. Slaves in Karthain are marked with a magical brand, which allows the Tower to track the location of every slave registered in Karthain. The range of this magic is unknown.

Lymian and Rumain thought on slavery arises from the notion that individuals are born to a certain nature, and that this nature is part of their fate. Those people who are born with the nature of a slave are made slaves. Those with the nature of a ruler are rulers. Deterministic philosophies are contested in both nations, but slavery remains an embedded institution. The Lymian and Rumain empires relied on slavery for their expansion and function. A person who is a slave is usually purchased at a market. Slaves are slaves for life, and are branded on the left wrist by their first owner (or captor). The trade of slaves is largely unregulated in Lymia and Ruma.

The unstable borders, the constant tension and the fragmented nature of the Hundred Principalities mean that each principality is responsible for codifying the law within its borders. Slavery is common, either as a result of defeat in battle or pillaging. Larger battles between principalities will often have treaties drawn up with provisions that detail who may be taken as slaves, the conditions of ransom, and so forth. Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for mercenaries join the forces of princes largely because of the prospect of looting and taking of slaves. Because of this, the treaties of the battlefield are often considered loose, weak bonds. Slaves in the Principalities are generally viewed as property of the principality rather than any particular individual. The exceptions to this are slaves taken by mercenaries whose contracts stipulate the right to take slaves, indentured servants of ruling families, and the slaves of individuals who have distinguished themselves somehow.    

The Rights of Slaves

Under Alkhafi law, slaves are both person and possession. A slave is entitled to receive sustenance (being food, shelter, clothing and medical attention). This sustenance must be of the same general standard as the owner's. If an owner fails to provide adequate sustenance, a slave may complain to a judge or any other person serving in a legal capacity. A judge may then penalise the owner through sale of the owner's goods as necessary to provide for the slave. If the owner has insufficient wealth to cover the care of the slave, the owner may be ordered to sell, hire out, or free the slave as ordered. A slave has the right to seven hours of rest per day, which includes meal times, and rest when they are unwell. The slave has the right to rest if their owner deems it is too hot to work. While Alkhafi law codifies more rights for slaves than other lands, Alkhafi slaves are not necessarily safe. The murder of a slave by their owner is not considered a crime, but the murder of another's slave is considered property destruction. At the same time, since a slave is only half a person, they have less legal responsibility, and receive only half of what a free person would receive in punishment. A slave may marry only with the permission of their owner, and their owner has the right to know the identity of the person or people they wish to marry. A slave's owner may compel them to marry an individual of their choice. Slaves may not give evidence in a court of law. The owner of a slave is considered to have a heavy responsibility for their slave. The shortening of another's freedom is not a light matter. If a slave's owner says they are free in any way, be it a joke or slip of the tongue, the slave is free under the eyes of Alkhafi law.

Fidira has been influenced by strains of Aragonian and Cetoilais thought. Because of this, Fidiran slaves are relatively protected. Slaves must be clothed reasonably, provided with tools necessary for the work they are expected to do, be fed and sheltered appropriately, and be permitted at least six hours of rest per day. Slaves that are not criminals are permitted private property, but not anything that could reasonably be considered a weapon. Slaves who are not criminals have the right to be treated with respect regardless of their social station, similar to other citizens of Fidira.

The Ghandaran belief that a slave is experiencing a life ordained by the gods means that they have all the responsibilities of Ghandaran law, but few of the rights. Slaves are considered inferior beings morally and physically. Beyond a basic right to be kept fed and sheltered in exchange for service, a Ghandaran slave's owner determines their rights. It is illegal and impious to intervene in a matter between a slave and their owner so long as decency is maintained in public. With the exception of certain slaves of the upper classes, a slave may not hold a bladed weapon in the Ghandaran Empire.

Slaves in the Jade Empire have a right to be treated with respect. This means their owner is to provide them with proper clothes, shelter and food. The owner may confiscate any belongings the slave has when they are taken a slave, but these are to be returned to the slave in the same condition when the slave's period of servitude ends. Any item given to an individual during their year and a day of servitude remains their property when it ends. Beyond these rules, each clan sets their own standards.

In Karthain, slaves have few legal rights. The only personal property they are permitted by law is one set of clothing. Beyond this, all responsibilities of the slave and owner are written into a contract. This contract is enforced through magic. Should the slave break the contract, the slave will be subject to torturous pain until they are brought before Tower authorities. Should the slave owner break the contract, the Tower is informed via an arcane alarm. The slave is repossessed by the Tower. Rarely are slaves freed in Karthain, though they may be freed by the removal of the arcane marks that allow the Tower to track them. This has only occured when a slave has performed some great deed in service of Karthain or the magi. There are outlaw groups within Karthain who seek ways to remove the tattoos. The tattoos are a peculiar magic. The methods which dispel them are presently known only to the Tower.

Lymian and Rumain law forbids any free, intelligent individual from being forced into slavery, but this law makes no concrete definition regarding free and intelligent. Should a slave have a child, that child will be born a slave. If only one parent is a slave, the child will be born a slave. This law was designed to discourage relations across social divides. Slaves may be freed if the slave pays their owner what the owner paid for them. This is a difficult feat to achieve; the law considers any money earned by a slave to be property of their owner. In effect, an owner must grant their slave the money to free themselves. Slaves have the right to be dressed respectfully in public, or in attire appropriate to the task they are directed to perform. Slaves have the right to shelter and two meals a day. A slave is to be adequately equipped to perform a task given to them. The Principalities are a loose, fluctuating conglomeration of city-states. The constant state of war ensures a steady stream of soldiers of fortune. Despite the Principalities' endemic chaos and violence, there are unwritten agreements between most of the land's princes. Nobility, especially members of a Princely Household, are to be ransomed and treated with respect. Similar to the Jade Empire's views regarding captives, the Principalities view the capture of an opponent as an opportunity to foster diplomatic ties. The aforementioned fortune hunters are treated with less respect; if they are able to be ransomed, they usually are. The ransom will usually come out of the agreed-upon fee for the service of the ransomed mercenary. Mercenaries who do not have such agreements in place are at the mercy of their captors. It is largely from this unhappy lot that the slaves of the Principalities are drawn. There are times when the enmity between two Principalities is so great that pre-battle overtures are discarded. During these times, mercenaries are given the right of pillage -- they may take what they can carry from the captured territory, and may take as a slave any who make their home there. The right of pillage is not only given to mercenaries in these conflicts; soldiers of the Princely Households may likewise take slaves. As with most things in the Principalities, the period of servitude comes down to cunning and power -- a slave remains a slave so long as they are seen to be one.
This article has no secrets.


Please Login in order to comment!
Powered by World Anvil