Part of a series about the Noble Houses.
Once a dynamic and active force in the nation, the nobility has gradually devolved into a terribly complicated feudal system held together by obligations of vassalage, blood ties, marriage alliances, and the odd bit of outright bribery and extortion. Nonetheless the noble houses collectively own most of the land in Arginet and as such are the wealthiest and best-established of the three great factions. They also have a lot of support from the more traditional branches of the priesthood.
The hierarchical structure of the nobility is headed by a small number of powerful dukes, below which are counts, barons, and hereditary knights. Their power is gained by inheritance, with the title passing to the firstborn child on the incumbent’s death. Younger children may be granted lesser titles by will, but are more often married off to other families, kept on as retainers, or sent to make a living in the priesthood or the Armies.
The nobility contain a high proportion of fay. It was once believed that this was due to their shared descent from King Estienne, but these days it is known to be the result of resonances from their estates and their deeply ingrained traditions and spiritual observances.
They are the faction worst hit by the Breaking, as previously rich lands have become unproductive or uninhabitable, and tenants have demanded extensive (and expensive) protection from monsters and other horrors. They have a lot to lose and face plenty of threats.
Five things about the Noble Houses
- Stand for your liege. Each noble owes homage to someone more powerful - a greater noble or the Crown - and is expected to know their duties to those above and below them.
- Family is everything. Power in the nobility is inherited, and each house is based on an unbroken bloodline. It is very rare for a commoner to be granted a title.
- Guardians of the old order. They have upheld the social order in Arginet since its founding, and stand opposed to anything that might upset that balance.
- Empowered by the spirits. The noble houses have a high proportion of fay, and their traditions connect them to the ancestors and the elements.
- Great riches, great risks. The treasures and estates that make up the wealth of the nobility are extensive, but under constant threat from the Breaking.
What the nobles will never do
No noble would ever countenance an attack on their tenants. Playing rough with one’s peers is acceptable; harrassing the peasantry is dishonourable in the extreme, and a tyrannical landlord may find themselves stripped of their reputation or even their title.
The five Dukes of the realm are guaranteed seats on the Council. As with all noble titles, these are inherited.
- Duke d’Accolon - a Wood-aligned house
- Duke de Paluc - a Fire-aligned house
- Duke Cavall - an Earth-aligned house
- Duke Ryence - a Metal-aligned house
- Duke Garanhir - a Water-aligned house
The garden looked amazing for the wedding; an ornamental arch of roses wound in and out of iron filigree wafted scent over the crowd, the family’s Master of Rites standing slightly behind. A slight breeze drifted through the garden and caused the dresses of the brides to dance like leaves on water, white and green mingling pleasantly in the morning sunshine.
The food was ready, the most important guests in front, everything carefully arranged so that her cousin’s new paramour everyone hated was as far away from the grandparents and the branch family it turned out they’d offended three years ago as could be feasibly done. Her nephew had been given something small and shiny to fiddle with so he wouldn’t scream and the heirloom Summoning Wand had been polished until she could see individual rose petals in the reflection.
Ariadne Fordell’s hand tightened round her soon-to-be-wife’s as they stepped up to the archway and faced each other. Half nervous, half excited, entirely beautiful. Ariadne’s eyes glittered, her smile slightly widening to tell her love that it would be fine, they would pull this off, she didn’t need to be worried about what the Fordells might say about Viola’s family. Viola relaxed slightly and once more Ariadne wished the ceremony could be a little shorter. No, patience, patience. She’d have - they’d have all the time in the world later. Enjoy the moment, think of Earth.
“We call forth the ancestors to ask them to give their blessing to this union. Five questions shall be asked and five answered. By the power vested in me and those who witness this ceremony, I call you forth, Dianne Anaestra of House Fordell!”
The entire crowd gasped as one as something stepped out of the archway, a translucent figure of mist and leaves that took a clearer shape as they stepped forward, resolving itself into a tall woman in a glittering dress to match the roses woven into her hair. The brides smiled and bowed in perfect unison, the crowd behind them scrambling to do the same not nearly so gracefully, a buzz of chatter already growing at how what why?
Ariadne’s bow hid her fierce grin. Ha! Let’s see them talk about her dear Viola’s common ancestry now.