The Heavenly Jury
...it is said of the peoples occupying the Volantic Kingdoms at the far western peninsular of the temperate regions that they believe not in a singular Heavenly Judge, as we do, who judges (or will judge, or has judged...) all men, but rather in an entire Jury who do something similar. Let there be no mistake: this is no panel of magistrates but most certainly a Jury, who merely cast their lot for Innocence or Guilt. It is unclear to what degree an accuser or defending counsel exists, or indeed if the entire structure of a court of law as we understand it attends upon them. What is certain is that punishment and reward wait upon the word of the Jury.
As to the disposition and nature of the Jury, many schools of thought exist: are they perfect observers, willing to consider the evidence without bias? Most would say not. Members of the jury are characterised very differently. Some are inclined to mercy. One will look favourably upon audacity and daring; another may reward the truly penitent. Some may take into account the circumstances of a man’s sins; they are opposed by those who hold the principal of the law into account above all others. The letter of this law is not spelt out. Most Volantic theologians generally feel it aligns rather well with human laws and ethics, or at least acknowledges the worth of such codes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but what we should make of a legal system that fails to inform any of those under its rule of the statutes it enforces?
Such a question is of purely scholarly interest to Volantines. Believers generally make no attempt to avoid largely unknown pitfalls, but rather but faith in the strength of their characters. No man may live an entirely blameless life. A Volantine will select seven or more Jurors (a majority) as their patrons: as sources of protection and inspiration. They will build their case around two or three Jurors in particular (“My Major Jurors are...”), and then widen their scope to achieve a majority (“My Minor Jurors are....”). It depends rather on the canon a believer adheres to which they pick, but pick they do. This selection has rules: it is considered foolish in the extreme to pick opposing jurors for one’s Majors. To pick such a pair, or even, in extreme cases, all Twelve as icons is a distinctly uncanny move: it may well result in an unsteady character or a poorly presented case. Some spectrum of difference is acknowledged – for instance between the Juror agreeable to extenuating circumstances and the Juror of strict legalism – though it is the extremity of such a scenario that is held to cause spiritual turmoil in the next world and an unbalanced mind in this.
Of the origin of the Jurors themselves, little is made explicit. Some hold them to the different parts of the universal spirit of humanity. Sometimes they are grouped into opposing factions, or aspects of the characters of opposing beings. Nor, it should be mentioned, it this strictly dualistic. Many compete to determine the fate of man. Nonetheless, all the Jury are held to be separate identities.
Quite what will become of The Jury once the judging has concluded is unknown to me. Perhaps it shall move on to judge the souls of other beings. It would be nice to think that it might hear appeals.....
The Juror’s themselves:
2. The Juror of Generosity. Give of yourself without stint and I will be merciful.
3. The Juror of Penitents. You could not always follow the rules, yet you followed them when you could and I will be merciful.
4. The Juror of Protocol and Appearance. Present yourself in a fitting and charismatic fashion in all interactions and I will be merciful.
5. The Juror of Truth. Dilute not the truth in your heart, nor seek to conceal it and I will be merciful.
6. The Juror of Ambition. Ever strive to better yourself and I will be merciful.
7. The Juror of Dominance. Do as most others in your culture do and I will be merciful.
8. The Juror of Servitude. Your people were few in numbers and surrounded by strangers, yet you were true and I shall be merciful.
9. The Juror of Followers. You were obliged in life to take orders, not to give them; for bearing this burden, I shall be merciful.
10. The Juror of Leaders. You were obliged to look to the welfare of many, not just your own; for bearing this burden, I shall be merciful.
11. The Juror of Means. Your practices were benevolent, whatever the result; so I will be merciful.
12. The Juror of Ends. Your ends were noble; however you pursued them, so I will be merciful.
Some Jurors are in opposition. This does not always preclude an appeal to both, but it makes it more difficult. Consistency is always better than variation; one might appeal to Ambition until one has riches, then be generous. But this would be unwise. Ambition should not cease and the Petitioner should always have been generous, not infrequently.
Sometimes this sort of thing is out of one’s control. A common soldier might be promoted; Follower becomes Leader. In this case, the Petitioner’s conduct towards other Followers or Leaders might be considered.
It must be asked what the Seventh Juror considers a dominant culture. This varies, and belief in the Jury is multinational. The answer is “Our Culture. The one that makes up 70% of the population,” for many. The more international and open-minded theologians must reflect that the Seventh Juror represents cultural dominance on a case-by-case basis, even where a dominant culture is ascendant over a different dominant culture. Yes, this looks confusing and inconsistent. What else did you expect from a Divinity?
[The Seventh Juror is a canonical xenophobe. Unpleasant, but not too much of a clash with more ethically palatable positions: “If you live in Ruritania, you should speak Ruritanian,” not “If you live in Ruritania, you can beat, steal from and enslave non-Ruritanian persons within your borders.”
Likewise, the Eighth Juror doesn’t compel acts of separatism, revolution, non-interaction with Dominant cultures, &c.]
The Juror of Protocol isn’t just about appearance and fine speech. It’s about getting along, diplomacy, compromise. Yes, there is a charismatic element – but think of it more like a Host keeping the mood of a party happy rather than a swaggering ego. Not that this Juror can’t be enticed, as it were.
A Table of Oppositions
The Governor of the 15th Prefecture
Major: Leaders, Generosity, Legalism. Minor: Protocol, Dominance, Ends, Ambition (“The more influence I have for myself, the more I can give to my people.”)
The Commander of the Army of the North
Major: Leaders, Ends, Penitents. Minor: Ambition, Truth, Means (“There is a time for chivalry. I wish it were more often,”), Servitude (“How did an Outlander reach this rank? Perhaps I shall tell you one day.”)
A Freelance Thief of the Scum Quarter
Major: Protocol (“Aren’t I a charming rogue?”), Penitents, Servitude. Minor: Followers (“Even if I don’t work for anyone on a permanent basis, I’m clearly not a leader, am I?”), Ends, Ambition (“That next big score!”), Truth (“At least I admit I’m a thief.”)
A Tenant Farmer of the Southern Levels
Major: Followers, Means, Legalism Minor: Truth, Dominance (“ ‘e’s not even from round ‘ere!!!”), Ambition, Protocol (“Good fences make good neighbours.”)
A Trooper of the Civic Garrison, Capital of the 4th Prefecture
Major: Followers, Ends, Legalism. Minor: Penitents (“Don’t let it happen again”), Generosity (“I’ll let you off this time.”), Truth (“It was you what did it, wasn’t it?”), Leaders (“Community Policing.”)
A Scholar of Divinity of The Most-Blesséd and Eminent College
Major: Truth, Legalism, Means. Minor: Ambition, Followers (“I do my bit for the College,”), Protocol (“We have some rather fiery debates,”), Servitude (“It’s a rather uncommon approach to the Celestial Jury; not everyone sees it’s merit.”)
A Merchant, far from the Lands she knows
Major: Protocol, Servitude, Ambition. Minor: Dominance (“One day I’ll go home, away from these strange folk.”), Legalism (“Fair exchange is no robbery.”), Leaders (“Got to set a good example for my employees,”), Generosity (“I give generously, when I feel I can.”)
An Exile, far from Home and unlikely to Return
Major: Servitude, Truth, Followers. Minor: Penitents, Ends, Protocol (“I won’t bow the knee, but I will play their games,”), Ambition