Is This Justice?
(The Crossing, Zoluren: 92 Lirisa 351)
I had just gotten caught in the blast from a naptha box as it was set off a few moments ago. My body ached, I was sore, and my wounds were plentiful. However, my empath friend Tigerbalm was more than willing to help me whenever I was so wounded. I set off to find her, finally catching up to her near the Carousel Square.
I relaxed as Tigerbalm healed me, and a young bard, named Glowhands, played music to sooth us both. For a while we were at peace, forgetting our troubles…until a young thief fled into the room. He spun around, a look of barely surpressed panic on his face, as if certain he would soon die. Some familiars of other warmages soon followed, and he looked at them with a sigh.
"I give up. I can’t run anymore," he panted to the animals.
Tigerbalm and I exchanged bemused looks. It was nothing new, seeing thieves being chased, especially youngs ones like this one. Soon a barbarian by the name of Viggi came in the room, demanding the young thief’s surrender.
"How do I surrender?" the thief asked.
"Lay down and stay put," Viggi replied. "If you surrender you won’t get hurt."
Ah, they were going to scare the young one, I thought. However, I was soon to find that I was very mistaken. Tigerbalm and I watched as Caraamon and several others came into the room, ignoring us, their eyes only for the young thief.
"Surrender, thief," Caraamon practically spat.
"I surrender!" the young theif agreed. "Just don’t hurt me."
"You won’t be hurt," Viggi repeated. "Now that we’ve caught you, we need to decide on a fine."
Tigerbalm and I blinked in confusion. Since when did citizens impose fines upon thieves? That was the work of the guards to capture, and city officials to impose fines. We listened to them for a while longer. Caraamon seemed to be some sort of speaker or leader for what they called the Crusaders of Justice. He refered to himself and his friends in this manner many times before he finally decided to set the "fine".
"One gold," Caraamon told the thief. "If you can’t pay it you have three days to raise it, or else."
Tigerbalm glanced at me and I nodded slightly at her, and stepped forward. "Wait a minute," I told them. "You don’t have the power to do what you’re doing. The city does this."
"We can do anything we want," came the reply.
"This is a novice, and you expect him to pay you a gold? What did he do to you anyway?" Tigerbalm demanded.
"He tried to steal from me…twice," Viggi replied.
"Did he get anything?" I asked.
"No, but he still tried," Viggi growled at me.
I looked from one barbarian to the other, then laughed at they wryly. "Two barbarians and all these others going after one novice thief because he TRIED to steal from you. Now you impose a fine he cannot possibly pay, or raise?"
"If he can’t, he dies," Caraamon told me.
"Sounds like extortion to me," I told him.
"I can’t afford a gold! I can’t pay it," the young thief cried. "You might as well kill me cause I can’t."
Caraamon drew his weapon, and Viggi followed suit. Tigerbalm acted, slinging her shield off her shoulder and guarding him. I guarded a second later, unwilling to let a young theif be murdered mearly for doing what he was raised to do.
"Will you attack an empath to kill him?" Tigerbalm demanded.
"Tigerbalm, step aside. This doesn’t concern you," Viggi growled at her.
"He was only doing his job!" she protested. "And now I am doing mine.
"Let him be," I supported.
"Stealing is against the law," Caraamon rumbled. "For breaking the law he has to pay the price!"
With that he advanced on the young theif, who stared in dumb surprise. But it was me Caraamon came against, tho my blade remained sheathed, and my crossbow slung. My hands were empty, and I raised them to show Caraamon just how empty they were before lowering them again.
"I am unarmed. But you will have to kill me to get to the young one."
Viggi then engaged the thief, but came up against Tigerbalm, who remainded just out of reach. "Tigerbalm get out of my way!" Viggi screamed. "He tried to steal from me!"
"No," Tigerbalm snarled…very tigerlike indeed.
Others had stopped to watch this new show, many took sides. Most said the theif should be killed there and then, but others, those who were wiser, said let the city officials do their job and deal with the young thief. Meanwhile, Tigerbalm and I faced the possibility of death. Neither of us armed, and Tigerbalm unarmored save for her shield.
"We are the Crusaders of Justice!" Caraamon told us, his face darkened in rage.
"Justice??" I glared at him. "You call this justice? Threatening to kill a novice thief if he cannot pay you within three days? Demanding money from him in the first place? He can’t even attack you!"
Tigerbalm and I argued with them for a long time. Finally, perhaps convinced that they would not get by us and our friends in defense of the young thief, they left…a group of 5 or so, but swearing that the young thief would eventually die for what he did. An older thief harshly scolded him for stealing from guild members so early. He left with a heartfelt thanks in our direction, and left.
But I was left with a thought. These people who called themselves the Crusaders of Justice…what were their motives anyway? Who would this money have gone to had the young theif been able to pay? Split up amongst the group, no doubt, or even kept by whatever "leader" they had as personal profit. I couldn’t help but wonder as I talked to Tigerbalm and others later that day, how many groups are there like this?
These people are bullies, and might have actually killed us if it had not been for so many friends that stopped to watch what might happen. And through it all, young Glowhands the bard kept weaving his healing songs to sooth the pain of Tigerbalm and myself, adding a stinging remark or two of his own. And later I was called coward by a member of my own guild for not killing the offenders outright. Why should I? What purpose does killing solve?
Today my friend and I saved a person of dubious charactor, a stranger, simply because it was right to do so, and wrong of the others to demand money they knew he couldn’t pay. And their attempt to attack someone who could not fight them back was disheartening, simply because they demanded "justice". In closing I give you this question. Is this really justice?