Convocation of Nobility
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The Convocation of Nobility is that body which is the ultimate arbitrator and ultimate power in the Empire. Whilst it is true that they tend to leave the running of the Empire to the Empress and her Senate it is within their power to unseat the Empress and to dissolve the Senate should they so choose but such would be very rare and a most unusual action. The structure of the Convocation of Nobility is such that it is divided into the four Halls of Nobility, political parties if you will, each with their own belief as to what makes the Empire strong and viable and each Noble who wishes to be represented in the Empire must belong to a House that belongs to one of the Halls of Nobility.
The means by which the Nobles of the Empire decide on a matter is through the calling of Tithes where they express, for want of a better term, a vote. However this is no democracy and each Lord’s vote carries a different weight depending on the power of his House, a goodly proportion of which is often determined by just how much and what parts of the Empire fall under the sway of that Lord for the Empire is made up of land.
All land is owned by one Noble or another and it is illegal for any to claim ownership of unless they are a Noble. Dependant on the nature of the land possessed, usually judged by strategic worth, ownership and successful custodianship of that land will grant a title as such to the Nobles land is power and those who crave power often crave land.
The Nobles of the Empire are predominantly Nobles of the Blood, descendants of the Sallow Princes, however there are some, known as Nobles by Deed, who by their actions have been rewarded with title and land. Those Nobles of the Blood are, on death, permitted to pass on their lands to their heirs whilst those lands held by Nobles by Deed on their death returns to the throne that they may be passed on to others in favour with the Emperor or Empress. Only being of the Blood confers the right to pass on to ones heirs.
Types of Nobility
There are those within the Empire who have a responsibility for the welfare of the people of the Realm of Glass. It may have been that they assumed their position, or that they were different to begin with, and rose to this particular role, but these nobles are an influential factor in the survival of Primus. A Nobleman or woman has a responsibility to enforce the Great Freedom, either actively, correcting social ill’s and guiding his lands with a careful, insightful and meaningful fashion, or passively observing for the worst case situations to unfold, then stepping in and acting spending the majority of their time instead amassing the personal power and wealth traditionally associated with the perception of their role by the less learned commoners.
There are several grades of nobility, different breeds as it were, each charged with the duties but different in the same way tigers and lions are similar but different.
Noble by Blood
A noble by blood has been born into one of the Noble houses (either a Major, a Minor house or a Vasal House). These houses are old, very very old often with associations to the old Republic and the mystical families who controlled the seven Magiocracies and have a reputation for great hidden knowledge buried within family vaults about the times before. Records which survived the Night of Levity and only coming to light following the High Final Dawn seem to indicate that to qualify as a Noble of the Blood a person would need to have Nobility of the blood for both mother and father.
Since this pre-requisite is not one artificially imposed but seemingly a fixed natural law, a Noble of the Blood resident on Primus in the Third Age had, by definition descended from a long chain of where every parent, every grand parent, every great grand parent were also Nobles of the Blood, and for them too, every parent, every grand parent, every great grand parent were also Nobles of the Blood. If it were possible to trace this lineage back to the beginning of the Second Age it would soon become apparent that this has always been the case, and that all Nobles of the Blood possess some kind of kinship with all other Nobles of the Blood.
It is not possible to be fully adopted by a Noble family and become a noble of the blood. Whether someone is ‘Of the Blood’ is determined at their conception. Since earliest records indicate that the oldest documented ancestors were all human, and considering the breeding structure to qualify, there are no half breed Nobles of the Blood, no half elves, no half orcs.
Noble by Deed
A Noble by Deed is one who received his or her title through their own personal merit and actions, and was recognized by the Emperor or the Convention of Nobility. A Noble by Deed has the same political rights and responsibilities as a Noble by Blood of the same rank, just as a Minor House has the same basic rights as a Major one.
Noble by Vision
The Imperial seers have been considered odd and exceptionally powerful by many Heroes who live within the Empire. It is known to some that to be an Imperial Seer requires that you be born into their families but it is only with the release of certain scrolls which seemingly survived the Night of Levity far to the south in the Barony of Wallastovia.
There is always some who lose out, Noble families who became bankrupt and lost their lands, Noble Houses who have none to govern, or that succumbed to darker forces, or discovered religion, or who lost their heirs. The list could go one for an awfully long time, but in summary Noble Repudiare are those Nobles who may have had the title, but nothing of the authority or respect which go along side it. Their House would not be on the Rolls of the Convention of Nobility, having been truck off for whatever embarrassment or offence the ancestors of the current descendants performed. This type of Noble might feel embittered about the governing system of the Empire. Noble Repudiare are not outlaws as such, but they are an anathema to the reigning Noblemen, and will be known by surname to most, and distrusted.
There are many tribes resident within the Empire, both nomadic peoples and settled, who seem to show little regard for the Nobles who seem to claim that the land belongs to the Empire, rather than the man who is standing upon it at that time. These Barbarians have various claims as to what history has taken from them, and within those peoples there are a number of natural leaders, lore keepers and wisekin who care for their tribe, and in many cases seek good rapport with the tribes they meet. Occasionally at the birth of one of these, the Shaman or the Witchdoctor, or even the midwife will hold the child up on high and proclaim Noble Antiquus has rejoined them. Each tribe has its own name for such a birth, few actually use the words created by the Imperial Nobility, but the position such holds is quite similar in any of the tribes. Noble Antiquus tend to be strong, often warriors, able to inspire the tribe and other barbarian tribes by their leonine manner.
Though unwritten, the principle of the Great Freedom stands firm with these people just as much as the Imperial Nobles, they may have different names or differing consequences for failure, but the idea of the strong protecting the weak, the wise leading the unknowing and the reciprocation of obedience for service stands firm. There a number of explanations for such a person being born to a tribe, and it seems that all are equally likely and probably equally correct. Some say that the Barbaric Nobleman is a natural evolution, that in every thousand births one will rise who has the blessing of the correct totems, born of a strong body and bright of eye and mind. Others say that when some of the tribes settled so many years ago, they became ‘civilised’and this was the source of the Old Republic and it’s Nobles of the Blood. Of course Imperial scholars deny this, but there is little enough proof of anything so many hundreds of years ago, that it cannot be conclusively proved either way. Were this to be true, this means the Barbarian and the Imperials nobles would be kith and kin. A concept which scares and potentially embarrasses many on both sides.
The Ranks of Imperial Nobility
The Lesser Estate
Not to be confused with a Knave (one who serves a Knight) the Squire is lowest rank of the Nobility. Formerly one who rode at a Lord’s side in battle and often carried his banner, squires increasingly those who either saw to small estates on behalf of a greater Lord or tended to a village or town in their own right. Normally a rank readily achieved by a commoner who does some great service the title is often applied directly to a particular place which, though they cannot own (as only Nobles of the Blood can truly own land) they administer and rule as they see fit.
Many forms of such a title exist, including being used as a self-given title by Guilds and warbands throughout the Empire. A Knight of one of the Imperial orders is made so by the Empress herself and traditionally acts as either an agent of the Throne or more commonly is gifted so with the title as recognition of having done such deeds as to defend or serve the Empire more widely. Knights are not often landed and often serve a richer Lord as his agent or factor in his absence. Obviously a rank attributed to war, a Knight was first a title given to a Noble that served another in battle, much as a Reeve does now to a Master in an Imperial warband.
A Baron is a title specifically tied to a certain keep, small estate or other scrap of land. Typically on the borders older titles show where such borders once were. A Baron is most certainly expected to defend the land, taking such tithes as his own but thereafter keeping it safe from a foe of any kind. Whether he does this himself or hires adventurers so to do is irrelevant, his word is absolute in his demesne other than to that Earl or Duke who might have a wider remit over many such Barons. Obviously a title more commonly found in the South the title has dwindled in the Empire where the borders are not so wild as perhaps they once were. A Baron of course no longer has the final say over matters of law as there will be a Magistrate in the nearest city to decide such things but most judge their such local cases without a long trip to the nearest settlement.
It is still however important that a Baron defends his land from aggressors. As such he may recruit freely from amongst his Barony for his own warband – but only his own warband.
Lord (Landed) (Lady)
Most commonly the title owned by the rural Nobility, a Lord of this kind typically has land either larger than a Barony and thus two or more Barons under his rulership or a rural estate of varying size that is not in a border of marcher land. The quality of such estates varies greatly and in these times of limited common folk most are much reduced. Nonetheless, Lords of this kind often have a decent income have they the wit to use what they possess and therefore servants, factors and guards of their own. The responsibilities of a Lord are effectively the same as a Baron but on a larger scale.
A Lord has one important power in that if a Vassal Lord, even the Empress, demands of him fighting or ritual service then he can pass on such to any Barons he has under his dominion.
Lord (Of House) (Lady)
Each Noble House has a single ruling Lord and whilst they may, or may not also have land the fact that they can decide to cast all the votes for others in their House makes them considerably more important. Obviously most are also landed Lords but a Lord of House certainly outranks one merely of land. Each House has its own traditions as to the power of the ruling Lord – a few having absolute control over its members such that the Lord decides everything from marriage to even where such may dwell. Though such changes from House to House no one interferes in the traditions of another House and as such there is very little a member of such may do. The Lord of the House does often rule absolutely over his or her siblings and often the only way to change that is through a quiet assassination.
The Grand Estate
An extinct title, Counts were once the law-makers of the Land. Always a Lord in their own right it was a Count who administered justice to those Lords in a given area. Such titles do exist amongst the older Houses, and whilst useful for outranking Lords they otherwise are just pretty attachments.
A Count is nonetheless part of the Grand Estate of the Nobility. Though officially the titles in the Grand Estate do have social rankings they nonetheless do not realistically give power over one another. A Count speaks with a Duke as an equal, even though strictly outranked. None of the titles of the Grand Estate are hereditary, but are rarely not conferred to the heir by the Empress without exception.
A title given to the war makers of the Sallow Principalities, the name actually derives from a name once given by certain tribes to their own High Chieftains (Eorls) that opposed the Princes – but one that has not continued with those that left for the Far North. Earl’s are powerful figures, always Lords of House and most often Land. The title is not strictly to do with war anymore but carries a great deal of weight to it – primarily as the person with the title is someone of substantial power. Traditionally it was Earl’s that led armies and dealt with matters of import in distant places.
In effect the highest Noble rank achievable, a Duke is on a par with an Earl, but their title denotes that they are related directly to a current or former Master or Mistress of Primus. Dukes were those who ran cities in the old days whilst the Earls rampaged about the countryside with sword and spell. Always powerful figures, Dukes used to run the Principalities whilst the Prince indulged themselves and so they in effect ruled. Strictly speaking there are as many Dukes in a realm as there are territories (cities) but in actual fact the number is but twelve and the title no longer refers to land at all. Still, Dukes are often powerful, political figures and there primary duty is to take on the leadership of any city, sphere of government or domestic task as appointed by the ruler without hesitation or complaint.
Grand Duke (Duchess)
The actual title of the Emperor or Empress is that of Grand Duke of Halgar. Amora decided this sounded too much like something the Baronies would adopt and so Emperor it was. Still, Grand Duke/Duchess is the highest social rank of history and so it is still adopted by Truic when the need demands.
The Rolls of Nobility
Within Halgar are kept the Rolls of the Nobility. These are readily and frequently updated, especially now that the scribes have been empowered by Chancellery, Inquisition and Bastion. Here are the tallies that record who owns what part of the Empire – for every scrap of land is owned by a Noble of the Blood in the nation. Such may be leased to anyone the Noble desires for whatever he can get for such – but such can be readily overturned by the Empress if she so desires.
Similarly, many Nobles have many titles. They can bestow, gift or sell such to any other Nobleman they like (even those by Deed, but not Repudiare) with the exception of being Lord of House. Again this is within their power but also again such can be overturned by the Empress if she so wishes. Truic never has – after all she made a lot of capital (or all kinds) when she was simply Lady Baddrass as the foremost title broker of the Empire. But she could if she so wished. Or the Senate asked her.
The Great Houses
Certain of the Noble Houses of the Empire are those that have attained such power or prominence since the rise of the Empire (and just as importantly have maintained it to the present day) that they are described as the Great Houses. Such Noble Houses tend to hold extensive swathes of land in one part, or many parts of the Empire. Vassaled to no one and typically with other Houses Vassaled to them, the Great Houses are those that enjoy the most respect from their peers.
It is certainly true that they are the only Houses whose titles, beyond House Lord, are theirs to do with as they will. Another House may sell or grant land to others (with their Ruling Lords permission) but if such comes with a title (typically Baron) then only with the blessing of the Empress does such convey to the new owner. It is just about possible for one not of a Great House to gain a title from the Greater Estate but such does not convey to an heir, or can be sold or passed on. Such is the preserve of the Great Houses.
It is a thing of status and respect to be a Great House. For the most part it is not something gifted, or even a tangible social mark at all, but rather a House becomes such when its power in one area or another rises to the extent that it acquires vassals and the other Noble Houses simply begin to regard it as such.
The Vassal Houses
Most of the Noble Houses of the Empire are Vassal Houses. There is no shame in this; indeed it is the nature of the Empire that most of the many smaller Houses have sworn fealty to a larger. For most it allowed them to continue after the Dissolution of the Nobility and to this day the once powerful still exist as sworn vassals to Houses that might have previously been once their lesser. Given that Cerus Amora dissolved every title, took in every estate and took upon himself every scrap of land and then parcelled out such anew it is entirely possible that even the smallest House now once boasted a Prince or Master of Primus in its heritage.
The responsibilities of a Great House towards its vassals, and vice versa is as follows:
That the Vassal House may expect protection from another House, or other threat not derived from an individual within the Empire. Personal squabbles or attacks are a matter for the individual.
That the Vassal House takes up such rents and rulership of that estate which grants it status, but that it take up such industry and force of arms as dictated by its Ruling House. The ruling House will pay for such if the Vassal is too poor to supply such as demanded. But then the possession of that created lies in the gift of the ruling House, a gift that may be retaken at any time.
That the Vassal House may exert its tithe as it decides in the Hall of the Nobility only under the permission of the Ruling House. Each vote is not inspected, but when the Ruling House decides it may cast the tithed vote as it sees fit in the name of its vassals.
The Vassal House may not dispose of its lands in the normal manner, they are held in keeping by the Ruling House.
The Vassal House may expect the Ruling House to represent it to other Great Houses and the Emperor/Empress.
A Vassal House that seeks to overthrow its Ruling House gives up all claim to land and title and loses both entirely to the Ruling House.
The Vassal House may only form a union, whether in war, trade or marriage with another House with the permission of its Ruling House. If such is not sought then any profit or produce becomes the property of the Ruling House.
Demands from the Emperor/Empress to a Ruling House may be delegated to one of its Vassals. It is still the responsibility of the Ruling to ensure such is done. It is not uncommon for a Ruling House to appoint one of its Vassal Lords to lead spears in battle, to deal in trade or convey messages in their stead.
These are the traditions, but in reality the power the Ruling House exerts is very much dependant on the nature of that House. It is rare that a Vassal is treated as anything other than a dedicated ally. Often they are nurtured and increased in their own power so as to become an asset to the Ruling House. It is possible for a Ruling House to have one of its followers released from its Vassal status, though this is a matter for Tithed vote. Vassal Houses are often without exception loyal to their Ruling House – they prosper in sympathy with their Ruling House after all and share a greatly reflected glory.
Most importantly for Vassal Houses is that they share some measure of the status of their Ruling House. They are listened to and have much greater influence than they could possibly expect otherwise, as they are in effect ‘part’ of the Great House to which they have vassaled themselves. It is far from unusual for a small House, or one that has never risen after the Dissolution, to willingly seek the patronage of another. It is often the fastest way to rise again.
Almost without exception there is only one title to be claimed in a Vassal House, that of House Lord/Lady. This is most often held by the eldest, but this is not always the case. Needing to gain the most out of the vassal status, and only having a single title, the elderly or infirm head of a Vassal House is perfectly at liberty to announce another of his or her Blood as the holder of the Lordship.
It is important to note that there is nothing degrading in being a Lord, or other scion, of a Vassal House. The title is not ‘Vassal Lord’, it is ‘Lord’ and there are several such Houses that have more power than even some Greater Houses. Their Ruling House might be far more powerful than the first, and the Lord of that House is so trusted and rewarded that he might as well be a titled member of his Ruling House for all intents and purposes.
The Marcher Nobles
Just as those that went to the Marcher Lands that became the Baronies, there are those of the Blood who have no titles at all. Whilst still members of the Nobility they either have no lands or are without the wealth and influence to work them. In the wake of the Magiarchal Wars, with the population reduced by nine out of every eleven from when the Republic died, there are nowhere near enough common folk to work even a fraction of the acknowledged estates. Much of the Empire away from road and river is wild and though owned by one Noble or another has not been worked in decades.
Marcher Nobles are often so dispossessed. The greater proportion of these dwell in Thimon (but can commonly be found in the ‘Rest and Bildteve) and are often warlike, earning their way as adventurers, or mercenaries in the Baronies. They do not have land, power of influence to vassal and though work can often be found from Vassal Houses their status is very much that of a poor cousin, just barely one step above the common herd and most often much lower than that enjoyed by a Master or Sire. Rarely able to marry well, their Blood dies out over a generation or two unless they can find formal adoption into an estate of a more fortunate Lord. it is not unusual for a House or Ruling Lord to seek out those of Marcher Blood to act as their closest retainers. Often such a position is the best that can be had for such folk, and they can reclaim much of the life they might perhaps have otherwise led in such service.
Indeed, though most of these remnants of former Houses dwindle and diminish with each passing generation the very bias the Empire has always had towards the mercenary caste ensures that they can rise again. It is rare, but not unheard of, for the scions of even a disgraced House to gain lands, and even a new name, and so restore themselves in the hierarchy of the Empire.
Adoption, Bastards and Name
The Lord of a Ruling House, or that of a Vassal House with the permission of his Ruling Lord, may adopt another possessed of the Blood into his House. Whilst not nearly as common as it once was it is still perfectly allowable. The adopted son or daughter takes on the name of the House and is, in all ways, born and belongs to that House. There is no difference to one adopted to one born to a House – though what status they enjoy within the House is of course debatable.
Bastards of the Nobility have little to do with wedlock. Marriage is simply not as important to the Nobility. Rather, it is, but marriage is most commonly seen as a political thing used to unify House or seal alliance of treaty. Children can be born of the Nobility outside of such and frequently are – and are commonly named to one House or the other. Those born in political marriage most commonly have the power and position though. Their very existence achieved an end and by their very presence often unify two Houses, their own and their paternal/fraternal House in which they are of course well regarded.
There are occasions when a child is denied by the House Lord – such as a young and impetuous member of his House running off with another for love. It is the House Lord’s decision whether to accept the offspring or not, and if such is denied then the child is commonly passed away to grow up in a family or (more often) a Guild and unknowing of their heritage. Many of course manifest the Blood of the Nobility which can lead to adventures all their own. Some Nobles genuinely love and foster their bastards – watching them protectively in their lives through factors – ensuring they have wealth and less Noble status through their quiet influence. Others are denied completely, ignored or forgotten. It is a view of the Glass Blowers that those of ritual talent, but without Noble Blood, have an ancestor who came into the world in this way.
Children born from more common blood are rarely accepted. There are certainly instances where a Nobleman has married a commoner. In such situations there are said to be rituals that ensure they carry the Noble Blood within them. The name continues but often the (commonly ritual) potential in the child is greatly decreased.
Having children, continuing the line, is of utmost importance to the Nobility. Even the most gadabout of House scions often find ways to have children early. Such a responsibility discharged they can often live their more wastrel lives in relative peace from the demands of their House Lord.
It should be noted that things are very different in the Baronies. There is no concern about someone’s Blood or heritage and their titles by nature are based upon land and war. A Baron is anyone that can hold a Barony and whom swears oath to the Graf. It is the Graf that owns the land. It is true that many whose family hold land often continue to do so, that many a Baron comes from Baron stock. This is typically because they have been brought up to do so, to have the skills at arms and leadership, to have access to the wealth and with the background to have gained their reputation.
The Graf have more power than the Great Houses of the Empire within their own lands. They can appoint, have removed or even killed a Baron beneath them. Only their Waldgraf, King’s in all but name, have more power and then again arguably less – for they must always balance their Graf against one another, but for the greatness of the Waldgrafine. Though both nations acknowledge one another’s titles names means almost nothing south of the Brandins.
Especially since most of those possessed of the Blood are more typically to be found in The Circle. So cannot claim material power or station. Mostly.