The Elven Houses

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If an Elf wants to get an impression of how influential another Elf is, she need only ask him his surname, or "House". The Elven Houses form the backbone of Elven society, particularly in Arborthost. Elves who are in powerful, influential Houses strive to maintain their House's honour, while those in lesser Houses strive to better the stature of their House. A House's status in Elven society is a reflection of the actions and achievements of its members. There are two kinds of Houses: Noble and Common.

The Noble and Common Houses

There are twelve Noble Houses, one of which is the Ruling House, also known as House Harnanosse. The eldest member of House Harnanosse is the rightful King or Queen of Arborthost. The succession can pass between the Noble Houses, depending on marriages and other political dealings. When a sovereignty is inherited by a member of a Noble House which is different from the former sovereign, then the title of House Harnanosse passes from the old House to the new.

Houses other than the twelve Noble Houses are referred to as Common Houses. There are hundreds of Common Houses spread throughout Dremlin, though most Elves who were not born in Arborthost do not place nearly as much importance on matters of House as their homeland counterparts do. Some Common Houses are viewed as more prestigious than others, based upon the achievements and accomplishments of their members.

The House Sintarra

Regardless of whether a House is Noble or Common, each House is known for a particular area of knowledge or expertise, known as its sintarra. Most members of the House will have at least rudimentary training in the House's sintarra, and many choose to further develop these talents further so as to bring greater prestige and status to their House, thus increasing its standing in Elven society. There is no pressure imposed upon Elves to study anything more than the basics of the sintarra, however. The desire for personal freedom is understood and encouraged by all Elves, so there is no shame in departing from the House's traditions so long as the departure does not bring shame to the House. An Elf choosing to become a great carpenter when his House's sintarra is that of magic is not shameful, but choosing to worship a dark deity or live a life of crime is.

House Membership

When an Elf is born, he is accepted into his parents' House if they were married. Children born out of wedlock are given the more powerful of their parents' Houses. This may be the Elf's House for life, or he may move into a different House later in life via two avenues: marriage or adoption.

When Elves marry, they choose which of their two Houses they will marry into. This is the House that the couple's offspring, if any, will belong to, so House status is usually the main factor that is considered when making this decision. It should be noted that, unlike other civilized races, it is just as common for a male Elf to take his wife's House name as it is for a female to take her husband's.

Elves often adopt children who are either orphaned or show great potential in an area of knowledge other than their birth House's sintarra. An Elf child might be raised by members of a House for years before he or she is finally officially made a full House member, but this decision, which is made by the Head of the House, is seen as a mere formality, and such children are generally not treated any differently from other children of the House.

Adoption is not only reserved for children, however. Adult Elves who have accomplished great things may be adopted by other Houses. This is especially true of Noble Houses, who will reward high-achievers among the Commons with membership in their Houses, granting full noble status and all rights, titles, and privileges that accompany this, including possible future succession to the Throne of Arborthost. This also helps to further the prestige of the adopting House, and helps to prevent in-breeding among the Noble Houses.

It is uncommon, but there have been instances where new Elven Houses have been created when certain bloodlines within an existing House become far more known for a set of skills or knowledge that is unrelated to the parent House's sintarra. When this does happen, it almost always happens among the Common Houses. The Head of a Noble House has the power to create a new Common House, while only the King or Queen of Arborthost has the power to create a new Noble House. A new Noble House can either be created out of a sub-lineage of one of the existing Noble Houses, or by ascending a Common House to Noble Status. This only happens when an entire Noble House has died out, which has not happened since The War of Redemption ended.

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