Keeping the Houses in Order

Those of you who are familiar with the Cat books, or who have read part of the WWI novel, are familiar with the Houses. For newcomers, they are a system of organization based on descent (usually), rather like the Scottish Clan system (most of the time) but initiated by the True-dragons and HalfDragons a long, long time ago. Azdhag Lineages are considered Houses by the True-dragons living on Drakon IV, and Rada Ni Drako is comfortable with the Houses on Earth, even those without any non-human members. Not all True-dragons and HalfDragons belong to Houses, but every House can trace its founding to a True-dragon or HalfDragon if they go back far enough. No matter where they are or how they function, all the Houses share a few commonalities when leadership is concerned.

If you ask Rada, she would tell you that every House has a Head and war lord. Joschka would add “and a Guardian,” because he’s been on Earth so long that he’s forgotten that most Houses don’t have Guardians. Zabet rolls her eyes and informs them that they are both wrong, because all Houses have a Head and healer, and probably a finance officer.

All Houses have a Head. This is the individual who acts as the chief executive for the larger House, is the face and voice of the House for diplomatic purposes, who leads the House council if there is such a body, and who manages the overall business of the House. How this individual becomes Head varies from House to House. Trobak uses primogeniture unless the candidate is 1) obviously unsuited for the role or 2) he or she renounces the position. Although Joschka claims to have been the spare’s spare, since he’s the youngest of four well spaced children, he was trained for leadership just like his siblings, because accidents  and abdications happen.

House Nagali, Zabet’s birth House, elects its Head. The Azdhag lineages usually select the eldest competent, acknowledged male offspring of the Head. Although fate and the Pack have been known to intervene. And Heads have disinherited their designated Heirs, in one case leading to a civil war on Drakon IV ( A Double-Edged Wish). And sometimes the larger House selects the Head by testing candidates until the right one is found. This can be disconcerting, to say the least, as István Eszterházy would tell you. House Drachenberg selects through testing, although usually not quite as dramatically as some Houses.

The position of war lord is found in 80% of the Houses. Nagali is a little odd in not having a war lord, at least not during Zabet’s lifetime. The war lord is just that, the individual tasked with defending the House and House’s interests. He or she may or may not be a member of the planet’s military. For example, House Nagali has a militia and operates under the aegis of House Dimartine when House Nagali members travel and do business off-world. The Lord Defender of Drakon IV is the war lord for the Imperial Lineage, which would put Rada in an awkward spot if she ever thought much about it, as she is war lord of Ni Drako as well.

What about Guardians and Healers? Most Houses have a medical professional who is the senior medical expert for the House. They are true Healers of one kind or another most of the time, but not always, especially in pure Human Houses. House Drachenberg will not have a designated Healer until Joschka’s step-great-granddaughter takes the position, followed by Joschka and Magda’s great-great-granddaughter (who is also Archivist. But that’s a tail, or rather a tale for a later time).

The Guardians are different creatures again, in that all Guardians are part of Houses (mostly) but not all Houses have Guardians. Despite what one might think, Guardians are exceedingly rare, because the Powers are rare. And Powers that choose to ally with Houses are even rarer. Most Powers on Earth remain aloof from humans. The majority of those that do affiliate with Houses or individuals are weak. Logres and Pannonia are exceptions, and Rada seriously wonders what Logres gains from having two Guardians serving it. Pannonia is almost as amoral in its own bloodier way. There’s a reason why, by Rada’s time, there is no Guardian for Pannonia, although a member of House Habsburg remains in contact with the Power. Within the House, the Guardian usually works with the war lord, since the land sense granted by most Powers is a very useful tool when it is necessary to defend the House’s holdings.

Vanishingly few Houses have one individual serving as Head, war lord, and Guardian. Rada does, and not just because she is “Head of a two member House.” In a way, she was bred to be Head, war lord, Guardian, and Healer. Joschka manages because he’s learned to delegate and because his wars are fought away from Drachenberg lands. And because he had two very strong Ladies who could do much of what he was supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis.

Ah, the House Lady (or consort). In some Houses it is a position as critical as that of the Head, and in others it is simply the title of the mate of the Head. For Drachenberg .  . . well, let’s just say that the way Joschka thinks the House functions and how it really functions are not quite the same. Not that it matters . . . right now.