the marks, the reach
here is no central government that rules over Ostia, hence its labeling as a federation. It is a loosely organized group of city-states and territories that identify as similar enough to count themselves as allies (the majority of the time). Instead, each city-state is governed by a figurehead bureaucracy that is backed and controlled by the powerful families that inhabit the city. In recent decades, a single family has emerged as the single-most influential Ostian family, effectively deeming them royalty without the title. Now, the different branches of the Ruadh family control the three largest city-states and the surrounding client territories through guile, nepotism, and wealth.
Upward mobility in the Marks is theoretically possible but practically unlikely. The vice-like grip that the elite merchant families hold on the region is unrelenting. There is little power to be eked from them save for in the form of serving them as one might serve a monarch. Government service or a small slice of the economic pie are all one not born to wealth can hope to achieve in Ostia.
Trial & Punishment
Trials in the Marks are short affairs. Any citizen can bring their grievances before a judge, and if they’re deemed worthy of review the judge will set a date for the trial to be held. At the trial, both the plaintiff and defendant present their cases before the judge, as well as any volunteers willing to support either the prosecution or the defense. If the defendant is absent on the court date, then they will be tried in absentia, although volunteers are still able to support the defense if they are so willing. Once both cases are heard and all testimonies considered, the judge has full authority to render verdict and sentencing as the judge feels is appropriate.
Hanging is the only legal means of execution in all of Ostia. About once each week criminals on death row are lined up on the gallows before a crowd, who view such executions as entertaining spectacles. Capital punishment is a common enough sentence that there are usually anywhere up to a dozen criminals at once on the gallows, put to death before the crowd.
There are no state militaries in the Marks; instead, there are many independent free companies and mercenary bands of various sizes. Of course, they don’t have the power to press others into service, so they are made up entirely of career soldiers and captains who fight for coin and carry out most any task given to them, with the most famous receiving exclusive contracts from wealthy patrons. The lack of organization dampens their ability to project military power, but a long history of internal conflicts have created armies of seasoned troops that make an invasion of the Marks a daunting prospect.
The leaders of free companies typically have many mercenary captains serving under them, although the number of soldiers and officers is unique to each free company based on its size. Most commanders are those who’ve risen through the ranks of the very company they command, chosen by the previous commander to succeed them.