Inducements (Bribes) and Shamtla (Blood-money)


Bribery and blood-money (called "shamtla") are fundamental parts of Tsolyani society. It is entirely licit and expected that officers and administrators must be provided with "inducements" in order to get them to do anything. Bribes are the lubrication that allows Tsolyani organizations to run smoothly.

Similarly, crimes that are not against the Empire, or within the domain of the temples, are often resolved by payment of shamtla. A person who has been assaulted, or even just sufficiently offended, can demand shamtla from the offender, and usually, their respective clans will negotiate a settlement. If a mutually agreeable settlement cannot be reached, the matter may go to a civil court, but this is a time-consuming and expensive affair (see inducements, above).

Theft, even petty theft in the marketplace, is brutally punished, often by impalement. Crimes against the Empire (assaulting a soldier or official, theft of Imperial property, interference with Imperial agents) are also harshly penalized. Convicts are frequently impaled, only occasionally imprisoned and set to hard labor for years. If a convict escapes and flees, his family is punished in his place.

In principle, all land, goods, and chattel in the Empire is the property of the empire, and the clans and temples hold land only as leases. Consequently, an Imperial official of sufficient authority can confiscate anything, at any time, and have resisters impaled. In practice, the temples and clans have sufficient influence as to prevent overly greedy or arbitrary use of this authority, most of the time anyway.

There is a separate Ecclesiastical Court system for dealing with offenses by priests against their religious rules, and resolving conflicts between temples.

There is also a dueling code, sometimes preferred by warriors and those who value prestige and honor highly. Duels are fought in the city's gladiatorial arena (every town and city has one). The participants choose the extent of the conflict (to first blood, first one down, to death), and the challengee gets choice of weapons and armor. The winner claims only the items on the person of his defeated foe, and if he wishes, may take his opponent as a slave (with the understanding that the loser's clan can ransom him back for a reasonable fee). Additional arrangements between the combatants ("if I defeat you, you must give me your gilded houseboat") are not allowed, and considered ignoble.

A couple of additional observations to keep things in perspective. The nation of Tsolyanu on the planet Tekumel is much like India from many perspectives. Having visited that part of the world, a small gift will place you at the head of most lines and result in any number of benefits. The average family might make 200 Kaitar (gold) a year with the poor well below that. There is almost an inconceivably vast economic difference between Very High clans and Very Low. Being Nakome (clanless) and, arguably Very Low, is much like being an Untouchable. At first level, and given your beginning salaries of around 15 Kaitar a month, a gift of 50-100 Kaitar to your boss might be a good investment in your future.

As is generally the case, money is a much more powerful demotivator. By this I mean, if you don't get a salary raise, you're more likely to be demoralized radically degrading your performance than that you'll work much harder for more money. Most people won't. In game terms, it would be much worse not to give expected compensation than to give a huge gift. The up-side is limited. Much though is based on expectations. As an example, a much more substantial gift would be appropriate to influence someone of higher rank or status.

Tekumel