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Alstalain Noble Houses

Alstalsia's ruling system is a High Council whereby important issues are ruled in favor or against via majority. The High Council itself consists of the heads of the nine most powerful noble houses in Alstalsia, which are listed below. Being a proud race, Zeran politics are usually hard to detect from outside of the country, but when you have so many egos running around with power, there are bound to be conflicts, be they subtle or blatant. The nine houses that make up the High Council are as follows (position on the list does not reflect power ranking/etc):

1. House Tyrmela
2. House Kaulyn
3. House Orin
4. House Zelag
5. House Arkime
6. House Tunnin
7. House Echor
8. House Domraye
9. House Suran

Sigil: A pair of hands or claws with Zeran horns for fingers reaching towards each other. House Tyrmela's sigil symbolizes several things; their 'reach', politically speaking, as well as their willingness to join hands with others. House Tyrmela has grown strong by joining forces with many. Despite this positive message, many find the Tyrmelan sigil intimidating.

Colors: Blue, gold, white.
The dazzling, clean colors of House Tyrmela catch the eye of many, and are even often used as part of interior decorating in Tyrmela owned social buildings (bars, inns, etc.) The colors symbolize how the Tyrmela's success has been made; having friends across the blue seas, even in places of Gold, and covered in white snow.

Heirloom: The Given Word
A stunning golden ring with a polished black shard of Zera's carapace in the middle, engraved with the symbol of a claw. It is both a beautiful piece of jewelry and a sigil stamp that is used to mark documents and contracts with House Tyrmela's 'signature'. It was carried by House Tyrmela's heir apparent, but after the assassination attempt on them, both the heir and the heirloom have not been seen in Alstalsia.

Karen Tyrmela, the Zeran head of the house, wears a similar looking replica on her finger.

Size: Massive
The Tyrmela are everywhere, although in terms of size on their home continent, they barely rank in the middle. The true size of the house lies outside of Alstalsia, with them having many investments and businesses on every continent you can imagine, although many are not immediately obvious. The actual size being spread out make them one of the most difficult houses to judge in terms of power and wealth.

Stronghold: Highrock
Located in the capital, where the central military forces are garrissoned, House Tyrmela use this ancient castle as their home simply because it is the most convenient way to stay close to the council chambers where they do a lot of business. There are few pleasures such as your political rivals being forced to travel long distances when you only have to walk as far as your backyard.

House Tyrmela is a very hard house to grasp the values of. On the one hand, they favor stability and avoid pointless conflicts, and strive to guide the other houses to do the same. On the other hand, for that reason, they can also be very controlling, often interfering with the affairs of other houses uninvited. Many also question the Tyrmela's motives, thinking that they only do so in order to grow their own power.

While they are not overtly questionable, morally, as some believe House Suran is, they are nonetheless not treated very warmly within Alstalsia by the other noble houses due to this.

House Tyrmela was originally a small house with little influence. Because of that, many of its members sought greener pastures outside of Alstalsia, and over time, this built up a base of support that almost no other noble house had, as many of them operate only within the confines of their home continent. When Karen Tyrmela became the head of the family at age 19, House Tyrmela's position would begin to rapidly rise.

Often praised for her cleverness, by this time, Karen had already been married to an influential foreigner as part of a bid to expand House Tyrmela's external influence. Harland Manwell, who took on his wife's family name, became Harland Tyrmela. Although many consider his wife Karen to be a much more intelligent person, Harland is no fool, and his ability for debate is legendary.

Thus he was given the House's seat on the council, where he has on more than one occasion made the other noble house heads look foolish, something the prideful Zerans tolerate even less due to it coming from a foreign human. This is often cited as one of the major reasons why Karen and Harland's human son was targeted for assassination.

One evening, an intruder had managed to sneak into Highrock, and found its way to the heir apparent's chambers, where he was studying some magical formulae. Shocked, he could barely defend himself against the assailant, but through some miracle his would-be assassin's footing was lost and they fell through the high tower's window to their death. Their son's disposition apparently changed after this, understandably, given his life was at risk.

Fearing this would happen again, the son was moved to the safety of one of House Tyrmela's allies outside of Alstalsia secretly. However, they have promised retribution in kind should they ever learn the identity of those who hired the assassin...

Sigil: A yellow vase with a skeletal face in its body, looking towards the viewer, with handles raised up and curved like horns.
House Kaulyn's 'macabre vase' serves as their sigil, as well as the design of pottery commonly decorating the homes of its members. While foreigners may find it disturbing in its grim design, the truth of the matter is that artistry born from death is celebrated in Alstalsia in many ways, in no small part due to Zera's dying decree to utilize his remains.

Colors: Yellow, grey, brown.
Kaulyn clay often comes out of the ground in a dull yellow sheen, which is the main point behind the colors. When worked, it becomes grey. While the Kaulyn use other materials, such as porcelain, and given the memorability of House Kaulyn's porcelain masks, one might think they should take the forefront of representation for the noble family, but Kaulyn's origins lie with clay.

Heirloom: Masqueran
Made partially from Zera's remains, this heirloom is a large adornment made in the image of Zera, literally. A detailed, hand-shaped sculpture that shows the great demon god's face, its quality and craftsmanship is impeccable, and would any live today that could verify it, they would say it is a very accurate model. It is better protected than a simple clay statue, however, being glazed, reinforced with magic, and placed in a thick glass case for safe keeping.

Size: Medium
Art can be practiced by anyone with the talent, and given that artists are what House Kaulyn is mostly comprised of, their numbers reflect that accessibility. They serve as a valuable, living cultural artifact of sorts. However, since Alstalain politics have proven to sometimes be bloody in the past, they do have a force of elite soldiers just large enough to protect the House's members and lands, called the Masked Men. Named for their metal-reinforced porcelain face masks that look better suited to masquerade balls than battlefields, they are mostly skilled duelists and skirmishers, and despite the name, also include the fairer sex in their ranks if proven able fighters.
Stronghold: Bycoast
Located on the left-most island south of Alstalsia, the House Kaulyn domain of Bycoast is not far from the southern shores of Alstalsia, hence the name. It is a land rich in clay deposits and other minerals useful for crafting. Bycoast also holds on it one of the three great lighthouses, serving as a beacon for ships as well as a lookout. House Kaulyn themselves reside in a simple castle called Bycoast Keep, the battlements decorated with sculpted soldiers in armor who watch those over the walls day and night. It is a rather unsettling sight to many.

House Kaulyn's penchant for masks goes beyond just aesthetics, as they are the sort to utilize outward appearances as ways to hide their true intentions. While their ability in creating sculptures, masks, pottery, and other forms of shaped art is undeniable, they have a reputation for being deceptive schemers, and over the years have gained the suspicions of many. 'Never trust a man whose face you cannot see.' Many have suspected they and House Arkime have engaged in plots to steal and smuggle goods headed to and from Alstalain shores, and have hidden things such as stolen goods within the pottery and sculptures they make, which they then sell in secret under the guise of fair business.

For the most part, these suspicions are right on the mark, but House Kaulyn has been careful enough to where they are hard to catch or prove, and any engaging in such actions have been exiled from the family and punished. Therefore, in the eyes of the law, House Kaulyn itself is law-abiding and well-meaning, with a few bad apples every now and then, just like any noble family. They are not easily trusted, but to them, this fine; deceptions and problems are best solved as elegantly and creatively as possible.

House Kaulyn was originally a minor house, but their position was elevated after the construction of the three great lighthouses, one of which is on Bycoast and maintained by the family, as recognition for their immense contribution to the culture of Alstalsia. Kaulyn art was highly coveted by the natives and overseas alike for its quality and uniqueness, which made them wealthy and influential, earning them a place on the High Council. They have managed to remain well out of the spotlight of history in terms of conflicts, although many have suspected they held a distant part in some plots; for example, the assassination attempt of the House Tyrmela heir. However, none of this has been proven.

What has been, however, and is still shown today, are the artistic contributions of House Kaulyn. They are still as highly valued and unique as they were in days of old, and a well-made Kaulyn piece will fetch a high-price... for one reason or another.

Sigil: A black wyvern's head with golden reins around it in the shape of a crown.
Unsurprisingly, House Orin's sigil proudly shows the pitch-black wyvern that the house is known for taming. Like many Alstalain royal houses, there is a crown motif within it. In this case, the 'crown' is supposed to simply be reins, but due to the angle and position, it appears to be a chain-like golden crown.

Colors: Purple, black, gold.
House Orin typically wears purple as a primarily color along with black cloaks with gold trim. The mountainous region that House Orin calls home have trees covered in purple moss which is used as a dye.

Heirloom: Abductor
A two-fanged rider's reaper made from two tips of Zera's claws. A rider's reaper is a weapon originating from Alstalsia. It is similar in design to a scythe on a very long pole, except there are two curved blades, and each one of them sticks out at an angle from the other, creating a triangle-shaped gap between the two. It is a poor weapon in normal combat, but for wyvern riders such as House Orin, it is used to pick up soldiers on the ground from a distance and carry them into the air. One of two things happens, then. One would be that, the victim, struggling to get free, cuts themself apart on the blades; this is uncommon. The more likely result is that the wyvern rider carries the helpless soldier into the sky and drops them to their doom, usually on top of their own army.

As you might expect, being made of godly remains, Abductor is most certainly the strongest of these gruesome tools, but it is far too valuable to use or potentially lose in battle, and so it sits in safety.

Size: Medium
House Orin's upper echelon is primarily wyvern riders, which is a difficult job made harder because of House Orin's choice to tame only the black 'wild' wyverns. However, it takes more than wyvern riders to care for wyverns, and so there are many who serve to take care of the beasts and capture new ones.

Stronghold: Blacknest
Located in the high mountains of the north-east 'wide' pennisula on Alstalsia, specifically the Ruined Bluff, lies the Blacknest, with its 16 tall, wyvern-roosting towers. A hard fortress on a steep mountain with a thin, dangerous path leading to it, the Blacknest doesn't see many visitors. A common saying describing the way of life there is that 'You only walk to Blacknest once. After that, you fly.' which is mostly true. Coming and going is done mostly on the back of wyverns, no doubt due to the convenience, but being able to flaunt the beasts is a nice bonus for House Orin.

House Orin believe very strongly in force-of-will and think that any obstacle can be overcome if you try hard enough; a lesson they utilize in their wyvern taming. The black wyverns on Alstalsia are notoriously wild and ferocious, at least twice as hard to tame as the green cousins they have on Sigrogana and elsewhere. Still, House Orin has and continues to bring the beasts under their control, which is... a very Zeran thing to do. They have a strong appreciation for tradition, believing they define who we are, and as a result House Orin does not change very much from generation to generation.

The act of taming is one of bringing control and peace, and House Orin also prefers that in regards to their country. They believe the boat shouldn't be rocked too much and, in the past, made strong efforts to that effect. The exception to things they enjoy being challenged are they to themselves, and like to find new personal barriers to break and heights to climb.

House Orin has a long tradition of taming the wild wyverns of Alstalsia, as well as other native beasts, to varying degrees of success and failure. They are one of the oldest houses still on the High Council. They have served as a powerful air force for Alstalsia, causing havoc on both land and sea, in wars and internal conflicts. One such internal conflict was the uprising of the fallen Houses Mantra and Ignis. These houses did not sit on the High Council but were still as large as any other House; seeing this as an injustice, they decided to try and remove House Zelag, a much smaller House with a much higher position in court, from their place. House Mantra and Ignis were to rule on the High Council together, but this ended up being a far-off dream. As they marched their forces east, they met strong resistance from House Echor and their Red Knights.

When word reached House Orin, the wyvern riders reinforced House Echor's army and cut down the lesses Houses' forces in a battle known as the Massacre of Silence and Ashes. The extremely one-sided victory left the vocal House Mantra and the firey House Ignis as nothing more than the namesake, and their history ended there. The surviving members joined other noble houses, and so it went on. However, House Ignis and House Mantra weren't the only ones to meet their end that day. With House Orin reinforcing House Echor, they were distracted with quelling the uprising, and this left another noble House, House Hetter, vulnerable. House Hetter, like several other noble families at the time, were artisans that happened to own land with a large quarry of valuable marble. And like those other houses, they lacked one thing; a strong military force. During the massacre, House Suran saw its opportunity and pounced on the defenseless house, slaughtering them all and taking over their lands during the chaos. This gave House Suran more lucrative lands, as well as a seat on the High Council.

House Orin nearly started another internal war between the houses, but wise council told the head of House Orin that doing so would only further weaken Alstalsia. House Hetter was gone, and losing House Suran would not fill the void. If an outside force were to strike while Alstalsia is in chaos, it could have resulted in a much worse fate. So House Orin stayed their hand, choosing to stabilize Alstalsia again, but they have never forgotten or forgiven the transgression. House Suran and House Orin are enemies in all but name. Suran supply ships are often 'randomly attacked' by wild wyverns along the coast, which many assume is House Orin's doing, a theory that brings much annoyance to House Arkime, as the ships and men lost are usually at least 50% theirs.

House Suran does not so openly assault House Orin, but it is the spider's nature to lie in wait for a chance to strike.

Sigil: A skull on the ground surrounded by a crown of flowers.
House Zelag's sigil brings to mind a grim memorial, appropriate for their role as gravekeepers. This sigil is rarely, often only in the Zelag's ancestral halls, due to their passivity.

Color: Black.
House Zelag are often dressed in black, a common mourning color, which also helps hide the ash and various other ruined nature that stain their garments while maintaining the Godly Stage.

Heirloom: Trelnam's Edge
A sword said to be used by one of Alstalsia's ancient heroes, Trelnam Zelag, who also founded the house. The sword is on the level of most enchanted weapons, however being tied to Trelnam gives it an extreme amount of prestige, due to its wielder's role in Alstalsia's founding, and for his bravery, charisma, and foresight. Ironically, it is one of the few Zeran noble heirlooms which was not made from Zera's remains.

Size: Very Small
House Zelag is so few that they could barely fill a house, barely exceeding single digits. Despite this, they are held highly and respected for their history, as well as due to the contributions made by Trelnam during his time. It also shows their lack of ambition; with no army to speak of, the other houses are more trusting of their words, since they often speak in the best interest of Alstalsia as a whole.

Stronghold: Keeper's Terrace
Serving as more of a gateway than a stronghold, this humble stone building houses all of House Zelag and their servants. Directly north of the Godly Stage, it is also the only safe pathway leading onto it, closing off entrance to it with a strong gate wall. It is on this building that the flag of the house, and its sigil decorating it, are seen. Very rarely do these gates open and allow visitors to pass, as the Godly Stage is a sacred place in Alstalain culture.

House Zelag has existed since ancient times and has often served as a mediator between the prideful houses, something that began with Trelnam. Ever since Heaven's Contention, their efforts shifted more towards protecting and maintaining the graveyard of the Gods from those who would seek to alter it, whether that be monsters, thieves, or nature. At their heart, they are merely preservers; they wish for both Alstalsia and the Godly Stage to not wither away. Thus, the times they speak up at council meetings, it is often against things that would 'rock the boat', so to speak. For some of the more ambitious or chaotic houses, they are viewed as old fogeys who are unwilling to take chances and simply wish to live in their ancient era forever.

House Zelag has existed since ancient times, and Trelnam Zelag is often seen as the founder of Alstalsia. He was one of Zera's premiere followers, and almost every powerful group wanted his favor for themselves. Despite this, Trelnam was a humble individual who was extremely careful in his dealings, not wanting to needlessly waste the world and land their God had given them. As a result, much of his time was spent dealing with both matters involving the country's growth, as well as its external security, and playing mediator between Zeran houses that always seemed to be in conflict. This is a role he performed exceptionally well, but it came at a toll to his health. He often fell ill, but continued his duties regardless of his personal well-being.

However, he also understood that this could not continue forever; although he was holding Alstalsia together while alive, it would very easily fall into chaos if he were not around. Thus, he created Alstalsia's High Council, a system where all of the powerful houses would be forced to work together and vote before taking any actions that could have dire consequences. It was put in the very center of the continent so that no one House would have to travel any further than the next to reach it, showing his wish for equality and cooperation. (Despite this wish, House Tyrmela would later move their affairs to the capital...) Predictably, Trelnam passed away from illness at a relatively young age, and his house would shift their role to gravekeepers, as well as shrink their power intentionally to allow the next-in-line of House Zelag to show their founder's sincerity.

Despite this, the House has drawn a surprising amount of negative attention, mainly from those jealous of their illustrious position, and from those coveting their stronghold for themselves. Some have even go so far to think that tending the Godly Stage gives them longevity, which may in fact be true; notably, Trelnam's brother, Garland, took over for his brother after his passing. Garland was only a few years younger than Trelnam, and people who have visited the Keeper's Terrace claim that he is still alive today, despite being well over 200 years old.

The most noteworthy of events that occurred from this is the known now as the 'Massacre of Silence and Ashes', where two Zeran houses, House Ignis and House Mantra, made an attempt to grab power from some of the existing houses. In particular, they wanted to depose House Zelag and gain their position, thereby elevating their status well above the other houses. However, to do so meant they had to pass through House Echor's lands, and their fortress, the Redwall, was one they could not overcome. Both houses were eventually exterminated by House Echor and House Orin's intervention.

Sigil: Three slitted eyes laid out in a pyramid-shaped triangle.
Originally, the three-eyed sigil of the Arkime was painted on their flags, representing a three-eyed sea monster that most say was a serpent. When they became a noble house, however, the official meaning of that sigil became the three Great Lighthouses that the Arkime family built around the coasts of Alstalsia, serving as 'eyes' on the seas.

Colors: Orange, red, black.
The primary color of the Arkime is orange, perhaps as a reference to the house's favor towards citrus. Such fruits are invaluable on the sea to prevent conditions stemming from malnutrition, such as scurvy, and the land the Arkime owns has miles of citrus orchards inside of it. Red and black are common pirate colors, for a variety of reasons, most importantly because the blood-hiding shades demoralize enemies when boarding ships.

Heirloom: Hafgufa & Lyngbakr
The Lyngbakr is the ancestral admiral ship of the Arkime. From the many skirmishes it took part in, the Lyngbakr is a scarred medium-sized vessel, covered on the outside by patchwork leather, which was used to protect the ship from threats such as fire and impact damage. The Hafgufa, on the other hand, is the name of a large ramming spearhead on the prow, whose height can be adjusted by machinery below deck. The Hafgufa was usually hidden just below the water's surface, where it could be used to pierce ship hulls, causing them to sink after Hafgufa is withdrawn. Most of its power comes from the fact that it is crafted from the remains of Zera, making it much stronger than metal and wood, and preventing the water from causing it to rust or float in a way that hinders the ship's movement.

Size: Medium
Although the split between those loyal the Arkime's 'origin' dwindled their numbers, the amount of people to run ships and ports can be quite large, and so new members to the house were recruited, some from fallen houses on Alstalsia.

Stronghold: Bloody Bay
The Arkime have always taken up residence at the Bloody Bay, which is located on the southwest tip of Alstalsia. Traditionally, this position allowed them to more easily attack ships heading to or from Sigrogana and Gold, but now it is more similar to a port town, and it houses one of the Great Lighthouses. Bloody Bay is named for the reddish tint the water seems to have due to a large amount of red coral at the bed of the bay. While the port town is not a fortress in terms of fortification, it is still difficult to assail, as to reach it by land, one must pass through the Stinking Marsh, a large swamp that cuts Bloody Bay's surrounding land off from the rest of Alstalsia. Needless to say, attacking by sea might still be a worse option, because that is where the Arkime have lived and died for a hundred years.

Arkime 'loyalists' will often stay true to the pirate ways, taking what they want from who they want on the high seas, even if that makes them an enemy of the rest of the world. They value the freedom such a lifestyle gives, and many of them enjoy the fact that such a rebellious and confrontational occupation is very different from the dry and cold politics of Alstalsia.

As for House Arkime, they meet somewhere in the middle. The leaders of the House have recognized that continuing a life of professional piracy would eventually result in their ruin, noting that few pirates grow into old age, that Gold's reliance on foreign trade has made their trade ships well escorted, and that House Orin's taming of the wyverns serve as a natural counter to ships on the sea, meaning the number of opportunities for successful pirating have gone down significantly in the last decade and a half, while the risk has gone up significantly. That said, they are still a very wild house, hard to control or negotiate with, and thus the values of each member of House Arkime tends to vary, far more so than any other noble house.

The Arkime were originally pirates that raided ships that sailed through the waters near Bloody Bay, which included a large amount of Sigrogana, Gold, and Alstalain ships. The three-eyes were a very feared threat before long, known for their ruthlessness and brutality. As time went on, their numbers grew, some joining them with few other options due to personal history, being outlaws, or their original noble house being ruined. Eventually, the High Council made the Arkime a very fair offer; in exchange for loyalty to Alstalsia and ceasing pirating, they would be made a noble house, given a large amount of wealth, land, and prestige. This caused a split between the Arkime, those who believed that they should tell the Council to 'pike off', the loyalists. And the ones who realized that piracy's days as a large scale operation were numbered, those now of the House Arkime. Of note, the captain of the Arkime was one of those who sided with Alstalsia.

As part of the deal, the Arkime built three Great Lighthouses on various points of the coast, to serve as protection from attacks from the sea, one of which is in Bloody Bay. Thus, House Arkime manages all sea-based affairs for Alstalsia, including trade and its navy. As for the loyalists, some smaller groups of them are still out there, hiding in parts unknown and raiding ships. They wear bandanas to hide their horns, preventing them from gaining much notice. Others, perhaps the brazenly suicidal ones, still pirate with the Arkime's three-eyed sigil, which causes diplomatic issues from time to time. And still some believe that, even though House Arkime has sworn loyalty to the Council, that some of its members still pirate ships in secret.

Sigil: A pitch black spear with the tip shaped like a Zeran horn.
The sigil of House Tunnin is, in fact, their heirloom, Gae Bolg. Its imagery brings to mind their basic pride as weaponsmiths, as well as hunters, though its lack of subtlety has been criticized by the artistic Zeran society as a whole. Not that subtlety was ever House Tunnin's strong point.

Colors: Green, brown, grey.
These earthy colors represent the Tunnin simply because it is what they wear to help better camoflague themselves in the wilderness where they often hunt the dangerous beasts of Alstalsia.

Heirloom: Gae Bolg
Made from Zera's repairs, this spear is said to be one of the deadliest weapons in the world, and legend states that if you are wounded by it, you are fated to die. Whether or not this is true, many have seen its power firsthand, piercing armor and monster hide as if it were simply air. It is commonly held by the head of the Tunnin tribe in the Darklands. Many have tried to claim it for themself, thinking it would be trivial to seize it from such 'brainless savages', but they are often killed by monsters before they get the chance. And, it's said, the ones who aren't are the 'unlucky ones'...

Size: Large
While not a noble house in the traditional sense, Tunnin villages are often found inbetween the lands of other houses, particularly in dense forests or mountains. Thus, their size can be seen as rather impressive, more numerous than many other noble houses, but unorganized.

Stronghold: The Darklands
The Tunnin do not really have a stronghold in the traditional sense. However, they have lived in the Darklands for as long as one can remember. The Darklands, essentially, refer to the valley south of the Godly Stage. Due to the depth of the land, the land is illuminated by the sun for a smaller portion of the day, commonly giving it long periods of twilight. This area is known for its high activity of magical monsters, but the Tunnin hunt them for their parts and fashion weapons and clothes out of them.

The Tunnin people have one thing that they are commonly known for; their macabre crafting. Gae Bolg was made from the remains of Zera, and while most noble houses have some artifact made from their patron deity, the Tunnin take it to an extreme. They often wear the remains of monsters they hunt, fashion powerful weapons from their remains, and decorate their villages with their bones. The common confusion between trying to identify someone as a Reaper or a Zeran can almost solely be traced back to the Tunnin, who share their taste for treating bones as accessories.

But beyond that, the Tunnin also value strength and respect for the deceased. A weak Tunnin will never survive the lands they live for long, and for those they hunt, they are always worthy opponents. It is not uncommon to hear a Tunnin who comes to the capital for trade to talk up the spear they smithed out of monster parts by pointing to a scar that monster gave them. A surprisingly persuasive argument given such a grim people.

House Tunnin's history is a rather odd one. The Tunnin were, at one point, simply a large tribe of Zeran peoples who lived in the wilds rather than cities. As Alstalsia grew and the High Council was formed, they were more or less forced into the role of a 'noble' house; one, to ensure that they would operate within the interests of Alstalsia as a whole, and two, because the prideful Zerans thought it shameful that their beloved homeland would have so many 'uneducated savages' surrounding their lands. To this day, despite this 'noble' status for the Tunnin as a whole, they are still seen, and treated, this way by many Zerans.

In this way, they are technically a 'noble house' but more in the sense that their people have a seat on the high council, rather than any willingness or effort put into playing the political games of the rest of them. Indeed, House Tunnin do not follow normal lordly behaviors or fashions, and prefer to live in the lands between other houses, particularly south of the Godly Stage, which are notoriously dangerous for the magical monsters they attract. When asked, a Tunnin will likely reply that they 'feel safer' there, rather than around the ambitious highborns...

Despite not living in cities and having access to many conveniences and knowledge bases, the Tunnin are still surprisingly intelligent despite the stigma the other Zerans give them. Rather than simply study, the Tunnin live out what they learn every day, and the highly skilled individuals of the tribe are always willing to share what they know with their fellow Tunnin... but much less so to other Zerans, who dare to view them negatively, and insult their Zeran pride.

Sigil: A metalworking hammer wrapped in a crown of roaring red flames.
The forges of the red knights are worked by the hammers of their sigil, and the metal is heated in its flames. Like many Zeran noble houses, the flames are in a crown-shape, similar to a Zeran's horns.

Colors: Red, brown, black.
As one might expect, red is a dominant color for House Echor, with earthy browns and deep blacks as complimentary colors, perhaps as homage to their origins as farmers. This trio of colors, when talking about the red knights, is sometimes referred to as the colors of 'blood and earth and ash', all things the House is known for dealing in.

Heirloom: Bloodlode
A war pick whose head is said to be made from the first found veins of Echorite in the farms of Seashire, while the pommel and long-handle are remains of Zera. It was created in commemoration when House Echor rose to the level of High Council members, to celebrate their humble origins. As an heirloom, it's more used for its display purposes, but one look at the war pick makes it clear that it would be as deadly as any other Echor-made weapon.

Size: Medium
House Echor is moderately sized, possessing a good balance of economic and military strength, but not having enough of either to be explosively large. Many members of House Echor fall into one of these categories; Knights, who serve as the fighting numbers, or Smiths, who work metal, typically Echorite, for sale. House Echor also has many subjects that serve as miners and farmers, allowing the house to self-provide resources they need.

Stronghold: Redgate
Seated at the northmost peninsula on Alstalsia, the north of the Godly Stage and west of House Zelag lies the Redgate, a large, thick wall that acts as a barrier separating the Godly Stage and the Echorite mines from the rest of Alstalsia, as well as serving as a strong fortification that protects House Echor's citizenry in Greenhurst and the military-less House Zelag from bandits, monsters, and anything else that wishes to do them harm. House Echor themselves have a keep named Stargazer Step high on the Redcliff, overlooking the water, but the entirety of their domain is commonly referred to Redgate, and it's no wonder why; the Redgate is legendary, serving as the tallest man-made fortification in the entire known world, said to be painted red in the blood of the Red Knight's foes.

The Redcliff itself lies beyond the Sea of Stones, a treacherous hilly area where most of the Echorite mines are located, as well as several precious gem deposits. The naming of the Redcliff is very simple; the soil and rocks of the cliff are an earthy red, and Stargazer Step itself has a grand view of the sea and the rest of Redgate.

House Echor is a house of knights, and as such, are heavily influenced by honor and chivalry. They do not typically get involved in the politics and plots of the High Council's other Houses, and openly feel such actions hold Alstalsia as a whole back. As rulers of a mostly self-sufficient domain, full of farms, mines, ports, and military men, House Echor has a wider view of the complications of a variety of trades than any other House on Alstalsia, making them knowledgeable and wise.

However, these qualities also make them well aware of betrayls and transgressions towards them, and the honorable knights very rarely forgive them, instead preferring to use blood as an equalizer. Forgiving the inevitable and punishing the malevolent serves as an apt summary of how House Echor operates, a set of beliefs that have earned them the nicknames 'Blood Knights' and 'House Ichor'.

House Echor was originally a family of farmers with no noble titles or importance. After a violent storm ruined the southern land they originally worked, they were bankrupt and only managed to scrape up enough money to buy land north of the Godly Stage. This cheap land was ill-suited to farmwork, due to the multitude of rocky soil, but there wasn't much choice, and so they began making due as best they could. One day, a farmer struck something other than dirt and stone; a red metal sticking up from the ground. This was how Echorite was discovered, named after the family that found it, and it propelled them into a powerful noble house when its qualities were discovered.

While Echorite, in normal circumstances, is very average, being no better than iron, the metal serves as a neutralizer against magical and godly creatures. Where an iron sword would do very little harm to something with a strong hide, like a wyvern, Echorite can pierce it as easily as it does flesh, making it very valuable against those who fight such creatures. It offers similar qualities defensively, being harder for such creatures to penetrate or destroy armor and shields made from it. The red metal is what the Red Knights got their name for, as they wear armor made of Echorite. Some experts have theorized that Echorite is actually iron soaked in the blood of the gods that did battle on Alstalsia, which would make sense, given its properties.

The demand for Echorite lead it to being very expensive after its discovery, and the Echor family used it to buy the land they own today, among other things. The monopoly they hold on Echorite, as well as their close friendship with House Zelag, eventually propelled them to the position they sit in now.

Sigil: A black crow sitting in a nest of Zeran horns.
House Domraye's sigil, which depicts a crow roosting in a nest of Zeran horns, is less ominous than it seems. The crow is often associated with foresight and intelligence, and as diviners, the Domraye have similar qualities, using their occult magic to steer away from misfortune much like the crow in mythology.

Colors: Silver, black, purple.
The primary, silvery sheen of the Domraye reminds of the polished mirrors they carry with them. Black and purple serve as complimentary colors.

Heirloom: Margeaenne
A nine-pointed standing mirror, it was created by polishing broken portions of Zera's carapace until they were reflective and thin, and is rumored to also have a large shard of the legendary Dragon's Mirror. While this mirror is technically broken, the pieces have been shaped in such a way that it appears to be seamless and fits very tightly together. This mirror is how the Domraye communicate with what they believe to be the second coming of Zera, a goddess named Ereshkigal.

Size: Large
House Domraye's core members are not particularly numerous, but they have much in the way of lower members, in part due to their 'new religion' earning them a lot of supporters.

Stronghold: Evenstar
Located on a tall hill in the west of Alstalsia, Evenstar is a stone fortress with a large central tower in its walls. The top of this tower is a large, flat room where Margeaenne is stored, and it's more similar to a roof than a chamber. Its outside is decorated by a globe of stained glass laid between a sparse stone framework, and it is the most eye-catching part of the entire structure. This globe can retract with some mechanism, opening up the top to the sky, and it's said that the Domraye do this during special ceremonies involving Ereshkigal.

Evenstar is a short distance away from the Domraye-ruled town of Dragonfield, the second most popular town with tourists on Alstalsia, losing only to the capital. Dragonfield is named such due to the history of the location. The field part of Dragonfield is very large, nowadays filled with farms and plantations, but once upon a time, it was simply a field with many rainbow-colored plants. During Heaven's Contention, the field was, at one point, razed by the firey breath of a dragon, which filled the air with a pleasantly smell, rather than the choking, ashy smoke you would expect from such a scene. The plants were revealed to have uses the natives were unaware of, and in common times, they are used to produce spice and incense. On some days, when a strong wind is about, the entire air is filled with a unique, relaxing scent.

The Domraye are the most social of all the Alstalain royal houses, and seeing as how people are more willing to accept your beliefs if they like you, the ones who rise to the highest positions are often those with a lot of charisma. At the top level, however, what House Domraye ultimately values is what Ereshkigal commands, and this varies from time to time. Some whispers from the upper echelon suggest that the true goal is to summon her to Sigrogana, rumors that the other houses and even other factions, such as the Church Knights, take seriously enough to consider the Domraye very dangerous if left unchecked. Added onto the relucatance of most Zerans to accept any but Zera as the true god of Alstalsia and it comes as no surprise that the relationship they share with other Houses is tense or neutral at best.

House Domraye has a long and storied history as diviners, some tales even dating back to before The Enlightenment, where an ancient Domraye ancestor originally sealed the great dragon spirit inside of the Dragon Mirror. This would make sense, considering that House Domraye used a shard of it to create their Heirloom. They rose to the status of royal house roughly 50 years ago, after a large swell of foreign support; similar to the Tyrmela, but in the Domraye's case, it is due more to the religion they preach, rather than diplomatic acumen.

Politically, House Domraye has remained very clean, which has no doubt played a part in the positive image they have, but has given them a less glorified past than the other houses. Still, House Domraye's strength lies in looking towards the future they are hoping to create, rather than the past.

Sigil: A spider sitting in the middle of a web made of Zeran horns.
The sigil of House Suran carries a rather ominous question of if the horns are merely decorative or sinister; does the spider rest on only horns, or do those horns have corpses connected? The only answer one might get from asking a member directly is that House Suran does not rest on its laurels...

Colors: Black, red, white.
Usually decorating themselves in outfits of primarily black with thin, jagged, white lines in complex patterns, and with red jewelry complimenting, one can't help but think of certain deadly arachnids that the nobility have come to be associated with.

Heirloom: Begrabnis der Gotter
This exquisite tapestry is made of finely dyed silk and decorates the main hall of Fairweather. Depicted on it is the history of the Zeran people; from Heaven's Contention, to the death of Trelnam Zelag, to the Massacre of Silence and Ashes. Nearly every major event is covered in the eye-straining level of detail it holds, and if one were to look hard enough, who knows how many spiders they could find hidden in its designs?

Size: Small
House Suran has always been seen as a small house. While that is true to some extent, it is partially an impression given because they operate out of sight. Despite this, one cannot help but feel a certain unpleasant tension when speaking of them; you never know if they might be listening, and gaining the displeasure of ones who stalk from darkness is ill-advised.

Stronghold: Fairweather
The old stronghold of House Hetter, located south of the Blacknest, the home of its bitter rival, House Orin. Its brilliant white marble walls have faded with time into a washed grey, but they at least are no longer covered in red. It stands between the town of Fairweather and the valuable marble quarry that its inhabitants work in.

Some distance to the south is the original home of House Suran, deep coastal caverns that spread miles underground, known as the Sea's Sin. Even this was not theirs; the origins of House Suran can be traced to stealing it from Arkime pirates who had used it to stockpile valuable goods. Now, it is filled with giant spiders that the Suran domesticate and harvest silk and venom from.

House Suran are, primarily, opportunists with little regard for morals. They will patiently wait for a chance to seize something they desire and strike mercilessly when the time is right. This has helped their growth, albeit a slow one, and has earned them a few enemies along the way. That said, they are not mere thugs; their motions always have a deeper scheme behind them.

They are often thought to pass hidden messages through their silk tapestries and clothing that only those who are trained to spot can recognize. This level of secrecy has helped them flourish as both spies and assassins, often killing their targets with spider venom.

Originally regarded as a mild curiosity among the nobility, House Suran's roots are in the southern outlands of Alstalsia. As is not uncommon by the Alstalain people, they successfully attempted to domesticate one of the wild creatures on their harsh continent, namely the large, almost bear-sized spiders that are oft found in the trees of deep forests and deep caverns. This would be all that was known of them until they earned some infamy by finding the Arkime sanctuary of Sea's Sin.

Sea's Sin is a deep coastal cavern that was used by the pirates to stash goods and hide their ships from patrols. This place was south of the forests the Suran were known to stay, though they made no motions that hinted they were aware of the Arkime activity that went on in it. They were, however, and after stealthily observing their movements, Suran assassins infiltrated the caverns at night after the ships left. The few guards were quietly disposed of and fed to the spiders that they would bring there to nest.

Still, the Suran made no efforts to mark the cave as compromised. After all, no prey would willingly jump into a spider's web. The next time the pirates came to dock and unload their goods, they noticed too late the sounds of webbed legs scampering behind them. Now flush with ill-gotten gains, ships, and a crude stronghold, their power would begin to expand.

However, they would not be recognized by the nobility as they were. Their next chance would come during the uprising of House Ignis and House Mantra. Long had the Suran been watching House Hetter, a noble house of artisans who were known for their sculptures and statues. The house held very valuable land, with mines full of marble they used, but had a weak military. Instead, they were on good terms with House Orin, whom they provided the large wyvern statues that decorate Blacknest, and enjoyed their protection.

During the Massacre of Silence and Ashes, however, House Orin would deploy their forces north to help House Echor, leaving House Hetter undefended briefly. The Suran would not miss this chance, and quickly mobilized towards Fairweather, easily scaling its marble walls atop their spiders and neutralizing its small force of inexperienced soldiers. All the members of House Hetter themselves were fed to the spiders shortly thereafter. House Orin was outraged and wanted very much to retaliate, but given the chaos that House Mantra and House Ignis caused was still ongoing, they were convinced by House Zelag not to start another war, as this could prompt foreign invasions while the country was weak, namely from Chaturanga.

Scholars have often speculated that this result was predicted by House Suran before they moved on House Hetter. In any case, with Fairweather under their control, they were officially recognized as House Suran and granted a seat on the High Council, albeit reluctantly. Their animosity with House Orin continues to this day.