The Three Estates
Novan society is divided into three “estates,” or classes, which roughly correlate to social power and prestige and establish certain rights under Novan law.
The estate of brotherhood is the highest of Novan estates. This estate is the highest of Novan nobility. Although a lord need not belong to the brotherhood, most lords do. A member of the brotherhood (sometimes simply called a “brother,” particularly by other brothers who wish to emphasize their class solidarity) may exercise the powers of law and chancery and exercise the powers of low, middle, and high justice on his own lands, establish a noble House, and build a network of feudal obligations among scouts, serfs, and other brothers. A brother may also raise a serf to the estate of scout, and a conclave of at least seven brothers may elevate a scout to the estate of brotherhood. A woman of the brotherhood (sometimes called a “sister,” though less often than men are called “brothers”) may own land in her own name.
Though estate membership is no guarantee of wealth, most brothers and sisters are comfortably landed.
The estate of scouts is the second highest of Novan estates. Originally, scouts consisted of knights sworn to the service of lords of the brotherhood. In modern times, however, the estate of scouts contains the landed and unlanded, knights and merchants, priests and farmers. A scout may exercise the power of law (but not chancery) and the powers of low and middle justice on his own land, serve and rule as a knight, and build a network of feudal obligations among serfs. A scout may raise his patron serfs to the estate of scout.
The estate of serfs is the lowest of Novan estates, although not necessarily the poorest. Serfs are barred from owning land (except in rare cases as freeholders), establishing or enforcing law (except in another’s name, as an appointed justicar) or justice, may not become knights, nor accept vows of feudal obligation. However, serfs may acquire considerable economic power. Serfs may be merchants or bankers whose wealth beggars that of many a scout or even a brother.
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