Guardians of the Realm
The Guardians of the Realm, colloquially known as the Black Helms, are a division of the Thousand Scales, under the aegis of the Honorable and Humble Caretakers of the Common Folk. They are responsible for much law enforcement within the Realm.
Role and Duties
Guardians serve both a police and judicial function. In the latter role, they determine blame and issue punishments for offenses considered minor such as petty theft or brawls, perpetrated by citizens or peasants, though they have no right to convict patricians or Dynasts. Crimes with major penalties or perpetrated by those classes must be referred to the local prefect or the Imperial Magistracy.
In the former role, the Guardians patrol the streets of the Realm’s cities and stand guard at the gates of its urban wards to deter criminal behaviour, they provide manpower to provide a threat of force useful when the tax collectors of the Humble And Honest Assessors Of The Imperial Tax work with disgruntled villages and to help Imperial Magistrates carry out their duties. They also assist local governors and prefects in carrying out the functions of government as required.
The Guardians are not Legionnaires, but they still sometimes take to the battlefield, when urban riots or peasant rebellions necessitate a military response. In the case of major uprisings (or, theoretically, facing invasions of the Isle), the Guardians are folded into the Legion chain of command with the issue of an Imperial edict, serving as elite auxiliaries.
The equipment of the Guardians is standardized across the Realm, though manufacturing differences between localities mean they do not always match up. Each Guardian wears a distinctive black buff jacket and a laquered black helmet which gleams in the light, the source of their ‘Black Helms’ moniker.
Each Guardian is armed with a club, also lacquered black, and a light shield. A typical manoeuvre sees the Guardians form up shoulders together across a street and bang club to shield as they advance, terrorizing rebels and criminals.
In wealthier areas, or where unrest has been identified, they may also be issued short swords. In many areas, Guardian units include members equipped with bows and fowling arrows. In the largest urban areas, some Guardians units even have access to magitech weaponry for crowd suppression.
The Guardians of the Realm use a number of ranks and formations derived from those of the Imperial Legions, though they have numerous differences.
At the bottom of the guardians are the Deputies, peasants who are trained in the job in the cities then sent out into the countryside and paid a stipend so they can provide local law enforcement in addition to agricultural work. In addition to being unable to convict or detain Dynasts, the powers of deputies also do not extend over patricians, and in cases where either class commits crimes the only recourse is to send a report to the Imperial Magistracy requesting their intervention. Ideally each village will have a deputy, sometimes several depending on size.
Above the deputies are the regular Guardians, employed full time and based out of urban settlements. The smallest formation of the regulars is the Guardian fang, which contains three Guardians, two to hold the line against trouble and cover each other’s backs, one to depart as a runner to alert superiors of issues the patrol cannot overcome on its own. Where a few fangs are stationed, they will be put under command of a wardlord, who coordinates with prefectural command and carries out administrative and payroll functions.
Guardians are further organized into dragons, consisting of between 400 and 600 Guardians and under command of a dragonlord. The largest cities contain several dragons.
The Guardians do not have a central command structure of their own. Each dragonlord is answerable to local prefect directly, and to the governor if located within a city. Each dragonlord is selected by the local prefect, but must be approved by the Deliberative before they can accept the appointment. Individual Guardian units can also be commandeered by Magistrates who require assistance in their duties.
Recruitment & Funding
Guardians are recruited and officers selected by the local prefect, with funding for their operations drawn from the prefectural budget. Funding cutbacks have taken place across the Thousand Scales, with some layoffs amongst the Guardians, but the Scales does not seem about to close or privatize the Realm’s police just yet.
The Black Helms are not well regarded within the Realm... they are, sometimes fairly sometimes not, viewed as the thugs responsible for enforcing all the ills and awfulness of Realm rule, contrasted with Imperial Magistrates seen as champions of good and justice. Deputies tend to have much better repute in their areas due to their closer interaction with the peasants living there.
To the Dynasty, the Guardians are often viewed as unimportant… militarily lacking the potency of the Legions and with nearly no Exalted members outside the Imperial Force, along with the fact regular Guardians have no authority to involve themselves with Dynasts, means there are often more valuable areas for Dynastic attention.