Noble Houses are the foundation of life on Nova.
Great House Articles: House Darry, House Felicin, House Mac Deuwel, House Ordon, House Rhinette, House Ronnel, House Vaar
Lesser House Articles: House Adamantius, House Darhel, House Daroline, House Darras, House Darren, House Dolor, House Sanders, House Selerius, House Vener, House Vertius
A noble House is defined as the descendants and descendants by marriage of a man of the brotherhood who owns land at the sufferance of a great House, is the eldest living male of his line; and that man’s siblings and their families. This man is known as that House’s lord, and his wife as its lady. Novan custom does not permit women to rule a House, except for House Felicin, which recognizes a lord’s widow as his successor and a lord’s wife as his joint co-ruler.
All land on Nova Primus is owned by one of these seven, and Novan custom recognizes only the great Houses as true landowners. Lesser Houses may be said to “own” land, but in reality they only own the indefeasible right to dwell upon and exploit the resources of “their” land. A lesser House cannot, for instance, sell a portion of “their” land to another House to own, or even sell their right to dwell-and-exploit. In this way the great Houses maintain some control over the lesser Houses, and ensure their own long-term primacy on Nova.
Each great House has a number of lesser Houses that are subordinate to it, bound by ties of land and feudal vows. Originally, these lesser Houses were mere steward of the great Houses’ vast holdings. In time, however, they came to be powerful entities in their own rights. A great House cannot practically interfere in the affairs of all of its lesser Houses, so in practice, a lesser House rules supreme on “its” land.
Lesser Houses come into existence when a great House grants the use of land to the head of a household of the brotherhood. Although it is technically possible for a man to a brother, head of a household, and not own land, the lords of Nova are careful to see that this does not happen. In practice, all members of the brotherhood belong to a greater or lesser House, and nobody is elevated to the estate of brotherhood without also being granted enough lands to maintain at least a minor House.
A very few Novans are true landowners yet not lords of a great House (though in point of law, not even a great lord owns land in his own person; the actual landowner is the great House itself, which merely acts through the person of its lord). These freeholders are created when a great House grants title to lad itself, a very rare occurrence. Because large freeholds could threaten the entire structure of feudalism, freeholds are typically only large enough to support a single family.
Freeholding is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, a freeholder pays no rent for his land and enjoys the full fruit of his labors. On the other hand, he has no overlord to protect him, or feed his family if his land should fail him. For this reason, freeholds are rarely sought-after rewards. Most often they are granted in situations where a reward must be given but the gift-giver desires not to give a traditional reward for some reason.
A House’s status as land-owning (or at least land-renting) makes it one of the central facts of life on Nova. All Novans owe the land they farm or live on to their House. This makes a House much more than the single family that comprise its legal members. Most tenants are genuinely proud of “their” House. Even disgruntled tenants tend to close ranks when an “outsider” criticizes their House or slights its honor; House business, most people feel, is to be kept within the House.
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