Queen Amber of Vallermoore allways had a weakness for minstrells, when she was a young princess, during her unfortunate stint standing in for Princess Crysta, and then as Queen in her own right. So much did she like them, that she decided that those criminals for those crimes that were not hugely severe, would have a chance to sing their way out of severe punishment.If they could not or would not do so, then they would sing a different tune as they were flogged and beaten by the guards. And so the Songpit was created…..
The Songpit is a pit that has been dug down and carved out of the ground.On the outer rim are the cells with beds of rushes and straw. In the center is the gallows and ten whipping posts.Entry is by a metal cage that is wound down into the pit. At night all the prisoners are locked in their cells and a lattice of iron bars is placed over the pit itself and padlocked in position.
By day those prisoners to be punished for non death-penalty offenses are dragged out and chained to the whipping posts. Then the guards pick up their whips and batons and three cleaks and one of the Royal Bards take up position. The prisoners are told that they can either sing or scream.
For the small offenses (such as carrying a weapon within the city limits) they may be able to get away with singing an existing song and escape with mild humilation, or if they refuse to sing a few swipes and thumps. But for the more severe offenses such as armed robbery, burglery and complaining about Her Majesty, they must make up a totally new song and sing it well. If they hesitate they get a swipe from a cane or a whip.
If they refuse to sing or cannot think of a song, they are beaten and whipped until their bleeding bodies pass out from the pain. (if you have ever seen the real life film “The Passion of the Christ” that gives you an idea of the violence that these guards are willing and able to dish out.)Singing satirical songs against Her Majesty is not reccomended and will only earn the singer painful punishment.
How long they are kept there varies according to the offense committed (the average time is only a day or two but some unfortunates have been locked up there for weeks.)
For those who do sing well enough to escape being beaten and flogged, the songs are written down by the clearks and the copyright passes to the Crown.
It is not unheard of for certain prisoners whose songs are good enough and whose crimes are judged severe enough,to be marched around the country and spend their days singing in arenas to entertain the masses and their nights locked in the County Songpits but with proper bedding. Those who want to hear them must buy tickets, and the money gained goes partly to the Crown and partly to the victim/s of their crime/s. Such groups are given names, such as the Sugabrats, Wet Wet Dry and U3 and are set free after a certain number of years. A number of great songs and odes such as “Emma’s Resturant” have been composed in these pits.
People have also been known to be beaten to death in them, and the floors are a dull reddish brown with the dried blood of those prisoners who did not make the grade.
For murder or high treason the prisoners are put on the gallows and told “When you run out of decent songs, you will be executed.” The longest survivour is known to have sung for five full hours before his voice gave out and he was hanged.