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23 November 2011 @ 06:13 am
Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire Part five - Noble Houses  
Long time promised, finally delivered. Here's the next installment of the Fictional Facts of the Phoenix Empire - this time detailing the major noble houses of the Empire, shedding some light on the lords and ladies who hold the power. 


Introduction

The nobility of the Phoenix Empire is far from being a united front against the masses of commoners and slaves. Deep, cultural and political rifts run through the ruling class, and the faultlines of this dispute outline the different Noble Houses.

Originally referring to a single household or a single family related by blood, these days the noble houses are legal constructs as much as blood relations. Unifying characteristic of all the houses, though, is the fact that they are strictly organized by hierarchy, from the Prince of the House down the lowest knight, with each single person being assigned to a number in the line of heritage to all the titles the house holds.

Of course, not all houses are alike in power, and this is also where the first major distinction usually is made. There are only five houses in the Phoenix Empire that are oathbound to no one but the Emperor himself, each of them claiming a right to the throne in case it ever fell vacant. These houses are called the Major Houses or Royal Houses, the latter expression only used when trying to remind of the fact that House Dracon wasn’t the only contender to the Throne during the Second Succession Wars.

Beneath the Royal Houses, there are the Minor Houses. Not necessarily less numerous, wealthy or powerful as the Major Houses, they are none the less politically second class players, as they are all beholden to one of the Royal Houses and thus not entirely free to decide their own fates.

Almost all nobles of the empire will belong to either a Major or a Minor House. The only exception to this rule are the Imperial Nobles, who are sworn to the Emperor directly, most of them having been knighted by the Emperor. With no families around them to offer political firepower, those nobles usually are considered irrelevant. But the Phoenix Knights, with all their legal privileges and superior popularity, are Imperial Nobles as well, their lack of attachment to anyone but the Emperor making them rather dangerous players in the political arena.

Another group that should be kept in mind here are the Extinct Houses - noble houses that have died out, either from lack of heirs, assimilation into another house or from being hunted to extinction by their enemies. Obviously, they are no longer relevant to current politics, but sometimes their reign has left deep impressions in their subjects, for good or bad. Those shadows can sometimes pose problems as real as any of the living houses today, and knowing the history of dead houses can sometimes shed a lot of light into the murkiest workings of the empire.

On the following pages, I will detail the most important characteristics of all major and some minor houses. Please bear in mind that this is always a cliched and simplified version of the truth, and that there are always at least as many exceptions as there are rules. For ease of understanding, I’ll explain the individual bullet points before talking about the houses individually.

Motto: The ‘official slogan’ of the house. (If there is an inofficial or secondary one, it’s named in brackets.)
Coat of Arms: The blazoning of the House. (With the description in plain words in brackets.)
Colours: The colours associated with the house, usually also the colours a member is supposed to wear in public.
Dress: As a noble house represents a very valuable brand, all members have to visibly show their allegiance, with each house having a certain set of traditional guidelines. It is not only expected to visibly show their house’s crest in one or another way, but each house also expects a member to adhere to a certain ‘dresscode’.
Demeanor: A short outline of the typical, cliché character the house is renowned and notorious for.
Politics: A very brief summary of the most important political developments and entanglements of the house.
Appropriate hobbies: No Noble worth her title will ever fall as low as to admit that they have a ‘day job’ that generates a regular income. But they might have ‘hobbies’ they make some money with, and the choice of ‘hobbies’ a house considers appropriate tells a lot about them.
Favoured arts: All houses vie for prestige, with the arts being one of the favourite battlegrounds. Each house considers other arts worthy of patronage, telling a lot about its values in the process.
Famous Holdings: Some planets owned by the house, far from comprehensive. A detailed description of planets will appear in one of the following Fictional Facts.


  The Royal Houses  

House Dracon
Motto: He who survives, inherits. Supersum adire hereditatem. (Only what you do not know can hurt you.)
Coat of Arms: sable, a dragon gules enroule (a coiled red dragon on black)
Colours: Black, rarely accented red
Dress: House Dracon sports simultaneously the loosest and the strictest dresscode of the royal houses - anything as long as black. While other Houses may see their dresscodes as guidelines, the Dracon uniformly and unerringly adhere to theirs.
Demeanor: Dracon act unrestrained, are are even more allergic to other people’s rules and opinions than other nobles. While easily the most aggressive of the houses, they are also the most flexible. They were the first to embraced the nascent Aroona and were the earliest supporter of the Psions’ Guild. The Dracon are wild, curious and prone to accidents and infighting.
Politics: Since the end of SW II, the Emperor has been of House Dracon. And while other Houses still hiss and quibble at the fact, their rule is pretty much cemented, even if under constant assault.
For many generations, House Dracon has been defined by being the polar opposite of their mortals enemies of House Habichtswald. With the death of the last Habichtswald marking the end of SW II, House Dracon needs to re-define itself. So the most interesting political challenge for them currently is an internal one - the dispute between the ‘old school’ Dracon who still long for the scorched earth attitude of the antebellum days and the ‘new school’ Dracon who are slightly more cooperatively minded.
Appropriate hobbies: supplying friends and acquaintances with drugs, poisons, unique weapons and pleasure slaves
Favoured arts: couturiers, cybernetics, cosmetic surgeons, drug-designers
Famous Holdings: P2, Serin, Yaiciz, Malicorn, Pandora, Leichnam


House Jehanni
Motto: Each good Thing in its own good Time.
Coat of Arms: argent, a coin Jehan or (a golden sigil coin on white)
Colours: gold, accented white or inverse
Dress: Jehanni are expected to dress loose and flowing, with a penchant for robes, pantaloons and the like. They prefer precious, beautiful fabrics with patterns or embroidery in all graduations of subtlety. Women appearing in public have to be completely covered and veiled, with only one exception for women serving in the military who may substitute their uniform.
Demeanor: Highly educated and flawlessly mannered, the Jehanni are the least obviously aggressive of the royal houses, and culturally surprisingly diverse. Ranging from the colourful merchant princes of Agrabah to the austere and pious sages of Kismet, they are united in the preference of sly wit over blunt violence and a penchant for long-term and intricate plotting. Slave trade, misogynism and religion are a common denominator on all of their worlds.
Politics: Some parts of House Jehanni are still grateful to have survived SW II, while other parts still grumble about their lost chance at becoming the ruling House. So far, the Jehanni have remained demure and seem to seek cooperation with the other Houses, but this may prove but a lull before the storm.
Favoured arts: calligraphers, silk-weavers, dancers, jewellers
Famous Holdings: Kismet, Agrabah


House Castella
Motto: Passion in Love and War
Coat of Arms: argent, a castle gules (red castle with two towers and an open gate on white)
Colours: red, accented white or inverse
Dress: House Castella has a strong military and athletic tradition, and regardless of gender, there are only two optional ‘styles’ considered appropriate. Either you are a soldier and dress in uniforms, armor, riding or sport outfits. Or you admire soldiers, then you wear ruffled billowing gowns with plunging necklines or fancy coats, and try your best to look as if you need a strong arm to cling to. Those roles are predominantly seen as male / female stereotypes, but no Castella will think less of a woman general or giddily fawning boy-toy as long as they adhere to their chosen role. While acting out of synch with your chosen style is strictly taboo, swapping styles (and with them social expectations) is possible, although considered somewhat crude.
Demeanor: The Castella in general strive to be visibly passionate and dramatic, as they believe that only deep-felt, intense emotions will inspire others to follow them and accept them as their inspired leaders. They are operatic beyond words and, once incited, show incredible perseverance but little common sense.
Politics: Since gaining the title of a Royal House at the end of SW II, the Castella seem surprisingly content with the planets they own, apparently concentrating their energies on deciding on their internal structures and future goals. While they are on friendly terms with Houses Dracon and Cournicova, their relations are understandably cold with the Jehanni and van der Meer as their temperaments couldn’t be more different.
Favoured arts: weaponsmiths, writers, ‘serious’ actors, fencing trainers
Famous Holdings: Tosca, Nabuco, Aida


House van der Meer
Motto: Seamlessly, the Water merges.
Coat of Arms: cendree, a fish argent hauriant (a white jumping fish on grey)
Colours: All shades of gray, charcoal, steel, dove, ash of roses, etc.
Dress: Sporting one of the more complicated dresscodes, members of House van der Meer are hard to describe but still instantly recognizable. All outfits are expected to be ‘appropriate’, expensive, flattering and as plain as possible, elevating the art of understatement to a whole new level. Van der Meer invariably dress sharp and neat, often with pantsuits, slacks, snug turtleneck pullovers or even cheongsams.
Demeanor: Most political of all houses, the van der Meer do not make a secret out of their two only passions - accounting and assassinations, both pastimes best undertaken without any interference by outsiders. Outwardly a peaceful house of impeccably nonchalant bearing, the van der Meer are just about as violent as any other house - they just make a point of not showing it. Also, House van der Meer is well known for having a notoriously long memory - debts will always be repaid, either in three days or in three generations.
Politics: House van der Meer prizes nonchalance over anything else. Consequentially, they never make big headlines - politics happen silently around the Gray Lords, as a natural progression of inevitable outcomes.
Most planets governed by House van der Meer have been Habichtswald domains prior to SW II, and the next decades will show if they manage to imprint their style onto their planets or if it will happen the other way round.
Favoured arts: painters, book-binders, scribes, architects, mathematicians
Famous Holdings: Espen


House Cournicova
Motto: Like the Wolves
Coat of Arms: vert, a wyldebeest rampant proper, claws and fangs gules (a charging brown wyldebeest with red claws and teeth on green)
Colours: earth and autumn colours, accented white
Dress: Cournicova women dress practically and to show off their military prowess and capabilities as providers. Armours, leathers and occasionaly fur, Cournicova outfits are always martial and show deep pride in the skilled craftsmanship of their people. Cournicova men, on the other hand, are dressed to please their mistresses - mostly tight pants and open shirts without buttons for the handsome ones, and unoffensive trousers and tunics for the rest of them.
Demeanor: House Cournicova (occasionally Kournikowa or variations) is the only Royal House that strictly clings to a matriarchal line of heritage, claiming that men are too easily controlled by their impulses and any man holding any responsibility is an open invitation for disaster. Thus, Cournicova men are held separate from all ‘important’ dealings and are trained for obedience and beauty from early childhood on. Cournicova women, on the other hand, appear passionate and fierce in public, warlike and unafraid of any challenge. They cherish ‘real’ combat experience and personal skills more than any other house, and a Cournicowa baroness claiming she killed at least a thousand warriors is probably just telling the truth, if not underplaying it to be polite.
Politics: Too honest for a true political career, House Cournicova is the only House that can count on true internal assistance if trouble threatens to grow out of control. Fiercely proud of their hard-won independence, their main political motivation is to keep them free of any new ties that would drag them into another bloody war. Their hard-working, hands-on attitude has gained them respect among many new-school Dracon, while most other Nobles still consider them second class barbarian nobles.
Favoured arts: hunters, weaponsmiths, architects, vintners, cooks


 Minor Houses 

House Windsor
A peculiarity in many ways, House Windsor is the only House claiming holdings on Earth, despite the Imperial church holding the planet as a whole. Also, it is the only house tracing its claim of nobility back to the time before humanity settled the stars, though this is usually considered a quaint and irrelevant anecdote by other nobles.
Little is known about the members of House Windsor, except that they are extremely well educated, travel widely and marry for genetics more often than for any other reason combined. It is widely rumoured that Members of House Windsor have lived for several centuries, even without extensive medical care.

House Eder
A small House from Shiraz, House Eder is best known for for the riddle they pose to young nobles all around the Empire at some point in their tutoring. As a former vassal to House Habichtswald, they swore allegiance to Emperor Hyperion after SW II, as opposed to House Dracon. Whether that makes them a Royal House, a Minor House beholden to the Emperor or a Minor House vassal of House Dracon is unresolved yet.
Apart from this academically interesting fact, House Eder is entirely irrelevant to the politics of the Empire. They own a few picturesque valleys on Shiraz, yet none in the regions coveted for its precious vinyards. Like most nobles on Shiraz, they make the lion’s share of their income from tourism and the export of luxury food, and the Eder valleys are renowned for their mushrooms and rare truffles.


 Extinct Houses 

House Habichtswald
For many centuries, the haughty but honorable Habichtswalds were the sworn enemy of House Dracon. Their values of family, honour and propriety were diametrically opposed to those of the Dracons, and even today, stories of their clashes make perfect entertainment.
Having fought the Dracon in SW I, House Habichtswald were the first to submit all other Royal Houses, with Alexander Habichtswald being crowned the first Emperor of the Phoenix Empire. His sweeping reforms laid the groundwork for the prosperity and security the following generations are enjoying even today. But a few years into his reign, Emperor Alexander disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
As by his last will, the unmarried Emperor’s crown went to his mother, a move that was hotly contested by House Dracon. The barely healed wounds of SW I erupted again, and a second war for the succession of the Phoenix Empire began.

While the Habichtswald were able to secure much of the Imperial assets for themselves, the Dracon could count on the support of the newly founded psions’ guild and the Aroona. The final blow came when House Habichtswald misjudged the pride of their Cournicova vassals. Having warned their masters several times that they would defect if the Habichtswald continued to use their Warrior Princesses as expendable shock troops, the whole of House Cournicova left as one and offered allegiance to House Dracon.
Without their crucial ally, the support for House Habichtswald began to crumble. They lost battle after battle, the surviving members of the House being hunted down like rabid dogs.

The publicly televised decapitation of the last living Habichtswald marked the grisly end of SW II and the end of House Habichtswald.

For their courage and valor in battle, House Cournicova now holds the seat as one of the five Royal Houses that previously had been occupied by their masters.


House Andragor
Before SW II, House Castella was but a branch of House Andragor, which in style and tenets was only marginally different. Most distinctively, though, was that House Andragor as a whole was a close friend of House Habichtswald, based on their similar understanding of honour. The Castella branch, on the other hand, valued passion over honour, and thus could rather relate with the hot-headed antics of House Dracon.

With the disappearance of the first Emperor and the outbreak of SW II, House Andragor instantly allied themselves with their old Habichtswald friends. Naturally, the Castella branch didn’t agree, and soon enough, the internal strain proved too much - the Castella split, declaring themselves a proper Royal House of their own.

House Andragor continued to fight alongside their Habichtswald allies and was reduced to insignificance with them. The few survivors either fled, seeking a new life under new names or were welcomed back as minor members of House Castella.

As no one claimed the seat of House Andragor at the end of SW II, House Castella was recognized as their rightful successor by Emperor Hyperion I and installed as a Royal House.


House Wu Tzun and the Medina
Longtime friends and occasional favourite enemies, House Wu Tzun and House Medina (usage: The Medina) were both less powerful in military terms then either the Habichtswald, Dracon or Andragor, but both rather mercantile and filthy rich. Both Houses valued education and spirituality, but while House Wu Tzun emphasised austerity, the Medina reveled in savouring and showing what they had.

With the beginning of SW II, both Houses refrained from allying themselves with either the Habichtswald or the Dracon. Instead, they entered a pact of mutual assistance, hoping that the other Houses would weaken each other enough to become easy pickings for them in the end.

Unfortunately, the Medina holding of Agrabah became one of the most heavily embattled systems of the war, as it is a connecting hub for several of the most important jumproutes, especially the shortest connection between the Dracon worlds and P2. Both the Medina and the Wu Tzun suffered heavy losses in defence of the system, reducing their numbers and assets to the point that they couldn’t have possibly survived as Royal Houses.

Faced with the prospect of insignificance or extinction, House Wu Tzun and the Medina reached an unprecedented agreement - they would merge as equal partners and become a new Royal House, House Jehanni.
As peace offering to the new Emperor, they sacrificed several of their less valuable planets, thus ensuring both the benevolence of the Emperor and their own viability as a Royal House by concentrating their resources.

So while technically not extinct, they no longer exist as separate houses. Even to this day, the different mentalities of the Wu Tzun and the Medina can explain many of the internal struggles of the Jehanni.

 
 
 
triptyxtriptyx on December 25th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
Heee!!! This is sooo interesting! :) Thank you!

I am intrigued, in your story 'Crayfish and Auras' Leesha exclaimed in his best ‘haughty Habichtswald’ accent, only partially playacting, are all the Habichtswald nobles dead or do they still alive in marriages with Dracons (Leesha's father or mother being a Habichtswald?)?

And Emeperors tend to "mysteriously" disappear dont they? Its now Alexander from the Habichtswald House and a Dracon Emperor also ~disappeared~ or didnt I understand that well?

I love these very informative posts about your Universe! Thank you!
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on December 30th, 2011 08:13 am (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting!

Actually, most Habichts have been killed. There is only one Habichtswald known to have survived by marriage - Emperor Gregorious' consort Amadeus.
Leesha here is putting on a 'Habichtswald' accent much like a kid in our world would put on a fake french accent to sound like a haughty chef or fashion designer.

And about the Emperors - no, it's only been the one Habichtswald Emperor who mysteriously disappeared. *headscratch* I really have to get around and write a proper history timeline of the Empire.... *puts yet another paper on his 'to write' pile* *cries*
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on November 23rd, 2012 08:28 am (UTC)
History timeline's here: http://osirisbrackhaus.livejournal.com/18785.html

Edited at 2012-11-23 08:30 am (UTC)