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Tales of Virtue: Table of Contents
Stories taken from the official Ultima Ascension site
You know that the fellowship of the Druids is dedicated to the Virtue of Justice, and that Druids are from ancient times the custodians of the High Court of the land. It was also the custom, in bygone days, for Druids to wander the land in the King's name, acting as circuit judges and agents of the high court. It was their lot to adjudicate those cases that did not require the attention of the high court. At the time of which I speak, Jaana was such a Druid. She was a strong young woman, with no fear of a life of travel, and so it pleased the elders of her order to give her a large and wild portion of the land. She traveled about between nearly a score of small towns and villages, visiting each two or three times in a year.
Now it happened that one of the larger towns in this region - a walled mountain fortress - was engaged in a fierce and ongoing battle with a tribe of goblins that lived in those parts. The object of this contention was the control and security of a nearby mountain pass, which brought trade to the humans and plunder to the goblins. The chief engine of this conflict's continuance was a goblin chieftain of exceptional wit and ambition, who for years bedeviled all humans who passed through his territory.
One day it came to pass that a patrol of men from the town happened upon a small band of lightly armed Goblins, whom they immediately engaged and quickly vanquished. Much to their surprise and delight, at the end of the battle they discovered that very chief of the goblins who was the source of all their tribulations, still living and helpless in their custody.
They bore their captive back to town amidst great rejoicing, for they knew that without their leader the goblins of the mountains must soon fall, and the pass would once again be safe and in civilized hands. So when the goblin chief was brought to their town, the people immediately commenced a great feast, where much food was consumed, and far more strong mountain liquor than food.
Amidst all the revelry, the chief topic of discussion was how to best dispose of the captive enemy of the people, and as the impromptu festival continued, the plots for the goblin's demise became ever more elaborate and impractical.
It was in such a mood that Jaana the Druid was seen approaching the town. And certain wags took it into their heads that it would be greatly amusing to set their bestial captive to a civilized trial, and execute him formally under the King's justice. And thus before Jaana even reached the gates of the town, it was determined so to do.
When Jaana arrived she was immediately confronted by a grinning and redolent mob, which informed her with slurred mock solemnity that a notorious murderer had been captured, and was to be brought to Justice before her.
Jaana found it a bit annoying that the while the entire town was obviously far-gone in merriment, she was being asked to mete out high justice before she was even offered a cooling mug of small beer. Nonetheless, she singled out a townsman who seemed more in possession of his facilities than his compatriots, and pressed him for a summary of the case.
When she had learned the nature of the case Jaana tried to dissuade the people, saying, "Look you, there is no call here for the King's Justice. This creature was taken in war, and war is governed by Honor and Valor, but Justice has no part in it. Had you killed your enemy in battle, that would have been an Honorable deed. Even now if your city fathers choose to put him to death on their own recognizance, that would be an act of Compassion, for it would secure the safety of travelers, and the children of this town. Do what you wilt, and I will tell you if your course is lawful and Just, but there is no need for any trial of this creature, and I will not demean my station by holding one."
Some were moved by the sense of Jaana's words, but many others, addled by drink, were incensed to be deprived of the sport of a trial. And some young rabble-rousers in the town made it their business to put it about that Jaana was refusing their community their lawful right to protection under the King's Justice. Therefore, only a few minutes after her first statement, Jaana was again confronted by a mob, far larger and angrier than the first, and they demanded that the goblin be tried under the King's Justice. Jaana saw that further argument would be both dangerous and fruitless, and furthermore she knew that while more appropriate solutions could be recommended, the King's Justice, once demanded, could not lawfully be refused to the people. So she drew her hood of judgement over her head, and ordered the goblin brought before her, and when he was there she said, "This creature has been rendered up to the law, and its life now rests in the pleasure of Justice. Therefore let no one raise hand against him until lawful judgement is rendered." And she had the goblin moved to a strong room, and set the most sober and severe guards she could find at the door, and the trial was set for the following morning.
The next day the creature was brought before Jaana, and she called the King's Court of Justice to order. For many hours she sat and listened silently to evidence, as the people of the town recounted the many townspeople slain and plundered at the claws of the goblin and his tribe, and it was a terrible catalog indeed. When the goblin was asked if it wished to testify in its own defense, it only spat in fury, and none of the townspeople chose to speak up for it.
At last Jaana raised her hand in token of binding judgement, and pronounced, "This creature has broken no laws. It pursued a course of warfare against your town after its nature and the custom of its folk. This is not an act that can be condemned under Justice. It must be freed."
The people were amazed, and also greatly angered at these words, and began to shout out condemnation of Jaana's ruling, and to call for the summary execution of the goblin despite the judgement. But Jaana stood up and threw back her hood, and such was the gravity of her wrath that the crowd fell silent before it. "There will be no lynchings here!" the Druid proclaimed. "I gave you a choice yesterday to put this creature to death lawfully, but you would have your show-trial, and so you submitted it to Justice. Now it belongs to Justice indeed, and if it is in any wise harmed in contravention of my word, the full weight of the law shall fall upon this place. Worse, the blessings of Virtue shall be forfeited."
Now at this some began to call for Jaana's neck as well, but other of the townsfolk had sobered up over the night, and they began to see the shape of their impiety. So at length obedience to law and Virtue won out over passion, and it was agreed that they must abide by Jaana's judgement. But there was great discontent, for it was obvious to the people that the release of the goblin king would only occasion the renewal of the old war, at further cost of lives and property.
So Jaana had the goblin taken in chains to the mouth of the pass, and she had the key to the chains delivered into her own hand. Then she ordered all the people to withdraw to a distance of five bowshots from where she and the captive stood, that none might contrive an assassination when the creature was released. And when the folk withdrew, Jaana unlocked the goblin's chains, and gave it a good dagger (for it would not be lawful to release any creature into the wilderness unarmed), and indicated by signs that it was free to go.
The goblin began to lope away, and below the people cried out in grief. But after a few steps it stopped, and looked back at Jaana with an expression of malice on its face. And seeing only a lone, lightly armed young woman, the goblin was overcome by its hatred for humanity, and it attacked Jaana viciously. The Druid drew her own blade, and there she killed the goblin in single combat, in lawful self-defense, though she took a formidable wound in the process.
And when she came down from the high pass, she did not speak to any of the amazed townspeople, and she did not even return to town to tend her wound, but instead strode down the king's highway, past the town, without a word. And when next a Druid came to that town to offer judgement, it was not Jaana.