The Royal Houses of the Great Kingdom
As a thumbnail sketch, the major royal houses of note are:
Naelax: Ruling Royal House, major landholders, noted for their penchant for building large-scale, formidable castles and fortifications—and for their vanity.
Rax-Nyrond: The Rax line is officially extinct, but there are some illegitimate descendants of Nasri who claim a line to the malachite throne, and historically the house is of major importance because of its junior branch and the foundation of Nyrond.
Torquann: An Oeridian-Flan-Suel mix, this house has dominated commerce and trade along the eastern coastal provinces. Traditionally aloof in politics, this house has a long, long history of dour, hard, depressive rulers whose lands suffer heavy taxation and repressive laws.
Garasteth: The House of Garasteth is feared for its mages and sages, and for its inscrutablity and arcane knowledge. The house is not much given to temporal power, but sees itself as a guardian of true Oeridian culture and wisdom. The house is increasingly influential among local rulers given the threat of the Suloise Scarlet Brotherhood to the south (and in the Lordship of the Isles). Garasteth rulers are hard, cold, cruel individuals, but they are to be feared on account of their devotion to learning and their formidable intellects.
Cranden: Once the royal house, the Crandens have dominated Almor and Ahlissa for centuries. A worldly, urbane aristocracy, their prestige plummeted with the
secession of Almor and the abortive attempt to ally South Province with the Iron League. The House of Naelax moved swiftly to remove control of these provinces from Cranden, but the other houses were not prepared to see Cranden wholly destroyed and exerted pressure which even the overkings could not wholly resist. The House of Cranden is important because it resists the more insane evils of the overking, and the old affinity with the Iron League is not completely lost. Irongate and Sunndi have friends they trust among the lesser princes of this house.
Darmen: Often thought flighty and trivial by the more powerful political houses, the House of Darmen has devoted itself to trade and commerce and found its niche there. Easily the richest house, Darmen has massive landholdings from eastern Ahlissa through the central provinces with their rich and fertile plains, even as far as North Province. The House of Darmen believes itself fated to be the next Ruling Royal House, with its ambitious young Prince Xavener employing a sensible long-term strategy. Xavener has no intention of wasting his armies assaulting Rauxes. Instead, he bankrolls mercenaries for competing houses elsewhere. Often, he bankrolls both sides. That way, he is certain to back the winner—who will owe him a very large favor. When the time comes, with everyone else’s armies decimated, Xavener will call in those favors and march on Rauxes. Such is his plan, at any rate. However, not all in the House of Darmen support him.
There are no formal heads of houses. Power, more than seniority, – except in the case of the House of Garasteth – brings deference. Still, with major princes owning lands so far apart and so extensive, it is difficult for any one to truly dominate the rest.
There have always been land struggles, intrigues, and rivalries between and within these houses, of course. The most bitter between-house rivalries are the Naelax/Rax-Nyrond feud, and the Torquann-Garasteth feud. Where these are important, they are described in the gazetteer chapters. However, the houses have historically avoided their intrigues breaking out into war, with exceptions such as the Turmoil between Crowns – but that was a war over the Throne itself. They have done so in two ways; through cross-fostering, and dynastic marriages.
Royal Fostering in the Great Kingdom
Marriage and Property in the Great Kingdom
A special note must be made of these monsters. Individual rulers are described in depth later, but a general point which must be kept in mind is that their troops, and subjects, are generally terrified of them.
It is one thing to serve an evil, cruel, cunning ruler. It is quite another to serve an inhuman monster with no need of rest or sleep – with cold rages incapable of human comprehension, which can bring men to their knees with but a wave of its hand.
The dread these creatures inspire explains much behavior which might otherwise seem hard to understand.