The King and His Heir
This is a land in which history is constantly rewritten, powerful families of a thousand years can be Ghosted and removed from knowledge. This removal, and new truth, is instantly pushed out and accepted in the world through the whim of their King. Those with the ring of Vartanadel have the power to destroy, build or change life as they know it with only a word. There are only two royal rings known, one is worn by the King and the other is given to the head of the top royal family in the land, and the heir to the throne, one of the true bloodline.
Vartanadel has a single King of a single royal bloodline. This “single bloodline” is another very loose term as it is determined by the King’s word. So, while any Vartanadel will fight you to the death if you say that the current king is not of the original ruling blood, in every circumstance you would be correct. Nobody cares about science or true bloodlines, if the King chooses a heir then that heir is of his bloodline. This word is irrefutable and history is rewritten to make it so.
When it comes down to it, the King is as much a pawn of the politics of Vartanadel as are the Noble Houses. Since it is an unacknowledged fact that the King is simply made King, then all Houses have the chance that one of their own may be chosen as the next King. And since the King is made, if a powerful House has enough backing, the current King could be Ghosted by the heir. Once again, history has been rewritten. That is a delicate thing but is not unknown. Actually, it is unknown because nobody would ever speak of it and there are no written records of it ever happening. That small risk forces the King to continuously work the Houses and play them against each other to maintain his fragile position. In this way the politics play out year after year.
The Naming Ceremony
Every year, the king holds a grand Naming ceremony when he thanks the houses for the year of patronage in direct order of precedence. It is this main two-day holiday that is celebrated (or feared) in all of Vartanadel as it is the day that the future of the royal families and Houses are released. The king constantly tracks the noble families (and other families of rising wealth and persuasion) and ranks them all in their loyalty to the crown. Their ranking during the Naming determines their rank and power for the rest of that year. To be Named at any level is a great honor. The day difference in the announcements separates the two Named sets of houses into distinct castes. The first day of announced Houses are “Noble Houses” and the second day are simply “Houses.” All other families remain unnamed and don’t get the title of House.
It is an intricate game of favors, authority and benefits depending on where each family falls in the Naming. Those nearer the top get more privilege and responsibility and wealth. To be near the top gives them unimaginable and unquestionable authority of most things. The higher they go the more absolute it is. However, these are also the ones that are tasked to do the king’s bidding…and have the very real possibility of failure.
The first day are the main Noble Houses that hold the most power. There are 50 openings for Noble Houses who are called out in thanks by the King. The first Noble House called is normally the one that holds the heir to the throne. Then, in decreasing order of precedence, the rest of the Noble Houses are called and that is their ranking of importance and power.
The second day the rest of the Named Houses are called. There are 25 ranks available. Unlike the Noble Houses with only one family per rank, these Houses have no limit to the number of Houses that can be put in each rank. There is also a lot more movement up and down between the ranks. In some of the low to mid ones there can be ten or more different Houses at the same rank, all of equal standing jockeying to get noticed and move up. As the rank gets higher, the number of houses that share that rank decreases. The more houses in a rank, the more diluted the power so it can be a strategy of the King to put many houses together forcing them to maneuver and, in many cases, destroy the weaker houses.
Prior to The Naming there is general knowledge of who has lost the king’s favor and those that have gained it. For the highest of families that fall only a few spots to their rivals, it may only be a small change in station and a great embarrassment. For others that fall fully from the graces, and in the rare case are taken out of the Naming completely, it spells their doom and they may lose all, to include their lives. If they have enough allies, they can bide their time and attempt to rise up the ranks again or, if they had many enemies their house may simply fall or be Ghosted. The higher Houses rarely play a obvious hand in the ruining of a fallen house, but they often are the architects of the pillaging and destruction that comes with it. Lower Houses won’t normally act without approval of a patron Noble House..
Lord Froth of the 13th Noble House Ryast looked on with the fingers of his left hand resting inside the golden buckled jacket. His chin was slightly raised as he looked over the other Nobles gathered for the Naming. The Noble House Lorintand was left unnamed as predicted. Lady Lorintand’s knees nearly buckled when the last House was called and it wasn't hers. That weakness is exactly why they have fallen.
Lord Froth nodded to one of his Guarshan who quickly moved to escort Lady Lorintand out of the hall. The poor noble had no idea what was going to happen to her house. Their House’s latest failures have been too much and the other Houses are tired of dealing with her incompetence. A large donation to the king gave them them the approval to enact the Ghost. A true Noble House hadn't been Ghosted in over 40 Namings, this is a big day. Lady Lorintand looked around absently as she was escorted out. Must be in shock still or she would have noticed that it wasn't her Guarshan that grabbed her.
Lord Froth followed them out into the hallway just in time to see Lady Lorintand slump into his Guarshan’s arms. The Guarsham looked up and quickly widened his eyes while he swept his hand to the side to express his lack of choice in what happened. She must of soon realized what was happening. Her House may be weak but she never was a stupid woman. Too late for her now, two more of Lord Froth’s Guarsham appeared and they quickly carried the once powerful lady away.
At the same time, at Lady Lorintand’s palace, three other Houses raided her home and killed off those that were not forewarned. Lorintand’s Guarshan posed no threat, they were above the petty disputes of the Noble Houses so their allegiance and honor remained intact as long as they served faithfully till the end. This was the end of the Noble House Lorintand and their oath would move to the best offer.
The fallen Houses that have been chosen to be Ghosted have their name is stricken and nobody is allowed to mention them again. The House’s palace can either be remade for another or it could be completely destroyed. Much depends on the orchestration, agreements and donations for approval that were made. Because of this yearly change of fates, the city of Tanand is a confusing maze of beautiful palaces and destroyed estates.
The Houses of Vartanadel are rich and powerful but they shoulder great risks. Sometimes it is safer to remain a wealthy merchant whom the Houses can depend and owe favors. But often it is not a choice to be Named as the tides of politics and the maneuvering of the Houses envelop all in Vartanadel.