A lord is the head of a noble House. Nova has only a few hundred lords, much less than one percent of one percent of the human population of Nova.
A lord is the eldest living male, a member of the brotherhood, who owns land at the sufferance of a great House (or as the eldest living male of a great House). Lords are almost always knights, though they need not be.
The female equivalent of a lord is a lady, a term which applies to the senior living female of a House. The definition of a lady is therefore somewhat more flexible than that of a lord. A lord’s wife takes precedence over all other females in the House. Most Houses give the eldest female precedence over a lord’s widow; some lesser Houses vary this custom by giving an elder sister of the lord’s generation precedence over his mother, or vice versa, or preferring blood females to those related by marriage. Only House Felicin recognizes the precedence of a lord’s widow over an elder female of her family.
A lord’s defining responsibility is to act in the name of his House. Many important Novan rights attach not to individuals but to Houses, such as the right to own land. When a House must take action to exercise these rights, it is the lord (or, in the case of House Felicin, the lord and lady jointly) who decides what the House will do.
Almost as important, however, is the lord’s responsibility to act as the ultimate feudal overlord of his House’s territory. As overlord, it is the lord’s responsibility to defend his lands and see to their security. This means establishing laws and appointing justices and chancellors to enforce them, repairing important infrastructure such as bridges, and ensuring that all castles are properly inhabited. A new lord must make and receive oaths of fealty from all of the previous lord’s vassals, including his family members and knights (many of whom will be family members), the lords of other Houses associated with his and their vassals, and so forth down the feudal chain. This is usually an occasion of great ceremony that can last a month or more, and serves as an opportunity for the new vassals to see and get to know their new lord.
Lords and Kings
While custom gives a lord extensive powers of justice within his lands, and feudal vows may give him great power, lords are not kings. In ages past, Nova was rules by kings, who acted as first among equals among the lords of the great Houses. The main difference between a king and a lord is that the king of Nova was owed a certain degree of fealty by all Novans, even in the absence of an explicit feudal vow. In practice, the crown was a largely religious institution, responsible for defending and upholding the Ecclesiarchy and giving assistance to the Black Sisters.
The last king of Nova was Kaddar III Vaar of House Vaar, whose reign ended three hundred years ago. Kaddar III was overthrown by his fellow lords after instituting a wildly unpopular head tax to fund lavish sacrifices at the Spire. The revolt destroyed the monarchy and was a watershed event for the Ecclesiarchy, which has largely refrained from meddling in the Houses’ economics affairs ever since.
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